Works and Excerpts
Prologue of Barnwell's ninth novel, Practice Resurrection:
PROLOGUE: MAY 1, 1931
Now it was time for penance.
A fake button pressed by President Herbert Clark Hoover in Washington, D.C., officially opened the brand-new Empire State Building in New York City, on May 1, 1931, although some called it the Empty State Building because of its depression-era office rentals.
Chilled gusts of wind and rain from the northeast whipped around the new building as if to test its strength. High on the 86th story Observation Deck, Walter Leeds Patrimos, 49, leaned over its W 33rd Street edge and believed he had the best chance of success there. He looked down. Way down. It was steeper than he had imagined, but he also believed that his spring at that height would not be a fall to harsh brick or asphalt; it would be a dive into the River Lethe, the stream of oblivion.
Patrimos had fair skin, and at that height, the wind whistled uniformly through his paprika hair as if he were already falling.
An influential editor of Journal of Commerce in the Midwest in Chicago, Illinois, he concentrated his last thoughts on two men: John Pierpont Morgan and Calvin Joliard.
One of the richest and cleverest of the Robber Barons in American financial history, Morgan, a mean, comic figure with fierce black eyebrows and a bulbous, pitted nose, was believed by some to be the only man who knew how to run this capitalist country. Morgan believed the same thing, but he died in 1913 the year congress established another attempt at an independent Federal Reserve System to furnish the country with what was called an elastic currency that could stop ruinous bank runs as Morgan’s vast interconnected billions had been able to do several times before the Great War.
Calvin Murphy Joliard was a young and ambitious Chicago banker who was on the Board of the Region 7 Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago by 1928. He purported to have serious doubts about either Morgan’s unquestioned ability to be the only man who could run the country or the ability of the latest Federal Reserve System to do the same, and he was ready to prove it. However, in the fall of 1929, just before Black Tuesday, he disappeared from Chicago without a trace.
In his duty as editor of the magazine, Patrimos learned he had inadvertently helped one of the men and hurt the other in a dangerous way. He believed that the Great Depression that began in America almost immediately afterward was his fault, and his alone.
Electricians engaged real switches and lights began to illuminate the interior. Patrimos took that as the sign to jump.
He patted his wallet in a buttoned back pocket, checked a proof copy of the final edition of his magazine where he had it rolled and secured like a cocoon in an inner pocket of his tweed coat. He removed his wet overcoat, and then his dry tweed coat and folded it inside the overcoat. The bundle was placed at a dry spot on the observation deck well away from the edge.
With a few quick breaths and a jump like heaving up out of a trench in the Great War, attacking the Huns in an insane final push, Patrimos scrambled up and over the scant barriers against an accidental fall. He leaped hard from the building, his hands flinging toward the lower tip of Manhattan in a line running south straight through Brooklyn Heights, Brighton Beach and beyond into the immense Atlantic Ocean.
Gravity intervened as his back oriented to the street below, his arms and legs shooting upward as if they were hanging by wires, a helpless puppet cut free in the last act, falling like most of the country, the wind whistling for real through his hair. He bounced at least once off the walls but continued falling. The strong cold winds curving around the building drove him away from the setbacks and brought him a welcome numbness as he plummeted downward.
His ten-second fall ended with brief thunder when at near ground level he smashed into a surprised Packard at 9 W 33rd Street and lay still, sprawled on its top. The front of his face was not wholly gone and it seemed, oddly, to be smiling. Some few bystanders, hands to their mouths, began to gather and look at Patrimos and up at the top of the new Empire State Building, which they could not see.
Weeks later, after the necessary red tape in New York had run its course, a bureaucrat sent the cremated body, an overcoat, a wallet, a tweed coat and an item in the coat, to Patrimos’s family in Chicago, Illinois, in time for a small ceremony among friends.
The package was sent COD.
Death of the Camel's Child
A contemporary thriller. When a large, unexploded bomb shows up at the IMF in Washington, DC, three blocks from the White House, a search for the terrorists begins. Caught up in the frenzy, a new artificial-intelligence company in Charlotte, NC, becomes a battleground for a man’s search for personal forgiveness. The Camel's Child is a contemporary story about a man who has to deal with a past promise made to his murdered sister and with a present threat to national security that involves his company’s supercomputers. The stakes are high both for the protagonist and for the world itself. It is part urban noir, part American road trip, and part technological thriller.
It was almost midnight in the Queen City. The wet road reflected yellow street lamps and tall thick trees spreading outward over the sidewalks. Carrying a metal briefcase, holding up a red umbrella, and wearing a black raincoat, T.E. Lawrence, né Shaw, walked along Flora Drive in an upscale neighborhood of Charlotte toward Sam Zeki’s house and considered how best he could do this. The bracing smell of the rain kept his head clear. He reasoned that if he got everything he needed the first time from Zeki he would just go ahead and kill him.
Shaw was the same size as the first T.E. Lawrence, five-feet, five-inches tall, and he in fact believed he was Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, the legendary desert adventurer of WW I, although he was an even more determined man and one who lived in a heated desert of his own devising. He also believed that he was so steeped in desert lore that he, like the first Lawrence, was as durable as any camel to be able to do in his desert what he planned to do.
He knew that Zeki had the 1911 Ottoman Empire oil surveys of the Arabian Peninsula, lost after 1918, and he almost certainly had knowledge about where the 1917 letters from T. E. Lawrence to his American friend were.
Shaw was going to get them back.
He knew they belonged to him.
He also knew Zeki would be along any minute now.
The Dungeon Below Bling- Bling High
PROLOGUE: Four Years Prior
There was a bleeding slice across his bare upper chest. Looked like a bright red pencil mark on black paper. Inside the old warehouse, De’Quan Johansson wiped the sweat off his brow. Tall and thin, the color of obsidian, he used to go to school at BBHS. He dropped out when the local Black Knights asked him to join. He would make lots of money, they said, selling crystal meth and cocaine. Make his name too. Bitches all over him. He be kinghenry.
Didn’t quite work. His father kick him out. He slept in the streets when he could not find a girl to take him in. He had some cool left, but not a lot.
He missed his younger brother Donneel, who was at Seymour Middle School. That boy could run and throw a ball! And he wasn’t dumb either.
He did not see Donneel much anymore. But he was sure of one thing. He did not want Donneel caught in the same shit he was in, and it looked like he was going to have to kill somebody to keep that from happening.
Quikie Roe was following him with his own wound just outside the warehouse door. The door squeaked open. De’Quan was in one corner of the big and almost empty warehouse off Bedford and Quail. It was damp and smelled of oil and kerosene. The windows painted over in black. He wondered why they did that. Weren’t windows supposed to let in light?
“De’Quan?” said the voice he knew. Quikie was almost the best of the gang in a knife fight. Had nearly gotten him a few minutes before when De’Quan wasn’t ready.
Quikie was quick as a snake, but not quite as quick as him, which was why Quikie now had a long gash on his own left leg. Quikie had a tattoo of a snake and a rose circling a sword on his left arm below the elbow. De’Quan had gone for the artery in Quikie’s leg and almost got it but not quite.
De’Quan remained silent, reckoning the distance to the rear doors and guessing what Quikie would do. If he could get Quikie to talk some more, make him think on his feet, maybe he could circle to the back and escape, say goodbye to Maureen and keep going to Memphis, maybe. Get cleaned up. Come back cool again.
But there he was because his required cash and sales quota had dropped way low. The gang knew where the cash was going and De’Quan knew they knew. Right up his nose. He was making money, but he was sniffing it, which was making his nose bleed, among other things.
He knew they were after him, but there was nothing else he could do. He had thought of the old warehouse as some last resort, some last place for a stand. He sure wasn’t going to give up. He knew what that would mean. Have the soles of his feet burned off with a clothes iron for starters. Donneel lost for another.
Quikie shouted at him. “De’Quan? You know u done bad, man. You know u don’t snort profits. What kind of businessman does that, works for no profit? The Chamber of Commerce don’t even do that. They do, they fold, drop out of the club, grow embarrassed, don’t get talked about anymore as up-and-comers-under-forty in the newspaper, man. U know that.”
Still silent, De’Quan was almost to the back door.
“Harris and LaShawn are waiting out back, De’Quan. Where u go, huh?”
Shit, thought De’Quan. He wasn’t going easy, though. That was just lucky what Quikie done to him already. He would finish him off and go out the front door where he come in.
“Yo, Quikie, what u waiting for, dog?” hollered De’Quan. “You already dead, same as me! Come on, I give you some more what you already got!”
Quikie chuckled low and menacing. “There u are. OK, let’s do this, u feeling so good. But I still get yo little brother. Blood money, you know, in return for what you did. He run as a mule, pay us back in ten years maybe. I hear he fast.”
Quikie was the only one of the BK gang who could be after Donneel. Under BK gang rules, Quikie claimed the blood money. That was the way money was recovered in a case like this. But blood money could be had by only one member, and that member had to fight De’Quan and live to get it. So if Quikie dead, Donneel free.
It was evening. Fall, the sun almost down. Leaves all colors. People be at home eating, feeling good. Ribs, hash, greens. Damn, he hungry, thought De’Quan.
As he moved around quiet as a spider, a stack of empty cardboard barrels caught his attention. They stood next to the rear door. Now he had a thought how to end this thing.
Quikie was circling toward De’Quan. He was bobbing and weaving. When he reached the backdoor, a cardboard barrel fell off a stack and almost hit him in the head. Quikie reacted to the barrel by raising his free hand to ward it off. De’Quan was right behind the barrel and stuck Quikie near the left kidney while his hands were up. There was a hard grunt.
Quikie squatted and came in low and thrust up under the barrel where he thought De’Quan would be.
De’Quan wheeled back. He could feel a burning in his stomach like somebody had thrown hot tea at him. But he did not hesitate. He rushed Quikie and swept his blade like a long scythe. He heard another grunt and saw Quikie stumble back from him. Blood pumping from his neck and he had to use one hand to cover it.
“F**k u, man,” whispered Quikie and threw his knife sideways at De’Quan. It quivered as it slid under the sternum and into De’Quan’s heart.
“Well, at least…u ain‘t got…Donneel,” snorted De’Quan, gulping for air, as he slowly fell to the concrete floor of the warehouse.
“Maybe,” sighed Quikie, as he fell to one knee. “We see.”
Last thing De’Quan heard.
Barnwell, William (2011-11-27). The Dungeon Below Bling-Bling High (Kindle Locations 87-103). Monje eBook Press. Kindle Edition.
When a group of over-the-hill schemers are working on at least a scheme a month, one of them has to work. Right?
A comic caper in a world of entrepreneurs turned upside down.
Book of the Romes
This novel is a prequel to the Blessing series when an ancestor discovers a living metal, called "Romes" after its discoverer, that can destroy the world, and the generations of the Blessing family try to stop what nevertheless leads to the "Falling" in The Blessing Papers.
The Blessing Papers
Praised by Andre Norton, among others, as an "excellent combination of science fiction and fantasy," the well-received Blessing novels concern a post-apocalyptic future set in a fictitious Ireland (Imram), in which the ability to read and write has been almost lost and strange religions reign. The action and adventure of the four novels dramatize through many twists and turns the rediscovery through the Blessing family of an almost forgotten past as portrayed in the final recovery of the hidden Blessing Papers themselves.
Turly Vail/Blessing discovers that beneath the scientific wisdom of the Blessing Papers lies a catastrophic evil only he understands. How will he be able to safely unlock the precious secret of the Blessing Papers, the sacred prophecies that can bring salvation or doom to Imram?
The Sigma Curve
Turly Blessing makes his way through arid valleys and the Lower Mountains, and one man's courage becomes the final test for the future of all things in the rise and fall of the Sigma curve.
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