by Tony Burnett
Genre: High-Octane Thriller, Sapphic Romance
Naïve but charismatic farm girl, Jacquelyn Benderman, has her life perfectly planned until her town blames her for the accidental death of the local high school's star running back. Feeling like a pariah, she flees to Austin, Texas where her luck seems to change. Her rapid rise to stardom as a blues diva is derailed when an anonymous stalker begins systematically murdering her associates, leaving the police to suspect her. As Y2K approaches, she wrestles with the guilt of falling for her roommate, a Romanian folk singer who survives as a call-girl, while the show band she sings with rehearses for a national tour. Can she protect her new lover from danger? Will the world end at midnight? Is there no hiding place when everyone knows who you are?
What readers are saying about the book:
Burnett has created an unconventional and magnetic character who makes a memorable first impression. Strong characterizations will keep readers engaged in what happens next in this murder tale. — Kirkus Reviews
"Tony Burnett’s novel, Watermelon Tattoo, is one wild ride. This Texas hill country bildungsroman features Jacqui Benderman, a feral, beautiful, and musically talented eighteen-year-old on her journey from daddy Sarge’s watermelon farm to international stardom. Fast-paced, lusty, and chocked full of wry and insightful commentary on self-discovery, the music industry, and religion, this is one great read by a seasoned author.”
—Gary V. Powell, author of Lucky Bastard, Beyond Redemption, and Super Blood Wolf Moon
In his debut novel Watermelon Tattoo, Tony Burnett serves up the fecundity of Texas in temperatures hovering just above triple digits. Part high octane thriller, part love story, the reader moves fluidly between rural earthiness and Austin's scintillating music scene. We follow Burnett's protagonist Jaqui, a gorgeous 18-year-old with an Ella Fitzgerald voice from a tractor seat to the open mic stage and beyond. Her meth-fueled antagonist is never far behind. The author has an eye for detail, an ear for dialogue, but what's so extraordinary is the novel's ease at blending pacing, plotting, and supple syntax. Spinning cones of dust briefly appeared and disintegrated. This season had ended, for melons, for rain, for redemption. Burnett's characters all seem set on a kind of liberation, a release from or a rescue of the self. His body-on-body scenes—and be forewarned Burnett writes of coupling in myriad forms—are breathtaking, some down and dirty, others beautifully transcendent. A thriller that Don Winslow would not be ashamed to claim, the pages turn by themselves.
--Stephanie Dickinson, author of Razor Wire Wilderness
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Sunday dinner, the family all together in a Norman Rockwell print, but the photographer was too lazy to use the dark room. The negative was on display. Dad, mom, son, but no pop culture trivia, no “how was school”, “ what’s going on at work”, “how about those Cowboys?”. Obligatory Sunday dinner is how Langley felt about it. Dad was a virtual ghost in his absence. Mom was struggling just to function. Langley had a life no one cared about. Obligatory. Dad had hired help so Mom wouldn’t have to care for the house. Obligatory. Mom graciously accepted even though not being able to be a homemaker was eating away what was left of her essence. Obligatory. Langley squelching the rumors of Dad’s affair with Jeanine Buckholtz. Obligatory since Wednesday, anyway, when he’d stopped by his dad’s office to… to what? He couldn’t remember. It didn’t matter now.
It was dark, the blinds open. He was halfway to the building when he saw Jeanine come behind and rub Dad’s shoulders. His dad took her arm and pulled her into his lap, kissed her mouth and slid his hand under her skirt. Langley turned back toward the truck, angry, not because his dad was cheating on his mom, not because he had abandoned his family. It was too late for that. Langley was pissed because they didn’t even have the decency to close the blinds.
The vocal void at the dinner table was deafening. The more there was to say, the quieter it became. Screw it, Langley thought. He had important news and nobody wanted to hear it.
“Sara’s pregnant,” he said. It’s not like the room could get any quieter. His dad took another bite of roast. From the corner of his eye Langley saw one side of his mother’s mouth crack a wistful smile.
“When’s she due?” His mother mumbled.
“Not sure,” Langley said. “She’s only like six weeks in. We’re going to the doctor on Wednesday.”
“I’ll talk to the pastor,” his dad said, “schedule a wedding for the end of the month.”
“We’re not getting married,” Langley stated.
“Yes you are.”
“No, not now, anyway. We’ll see after the baby is born.”
“The baby needs a father. You can’t just have a bastard child!”
“I’m the father. I’ll make that decision.”
“You have to get married. It’s the only right thing to do.”
“Don’t fucking talk to me about what’s right. You won’t, can’t, tell me what to do. You’re in no position!”
Before he could react Langley felt his father’s fist against his jaw. It shocked him more than it hurt.
“Stop it!” Marjorie said, “Please, this should be a happy time.” She began to cry, Langley went to his mother, ignoring his father, who seemed to be in shock from his own actions.
“It’s okay, Mom. Everything is going to work out. I should leave now, though.”
“Langley, wait,” his dad said.
Langley turned on his father. “Right now, I’m out of here. I’m not talking to you. I’m pretty sure you don’t want to hear what I have to say.”
Award winning poet and songwriter, Tony Burnett is the Executive Director of Kallisto Gaia Press. He served as President of the Writers’ League of Texas from 2013 to 2017. His poetry, short fiction, and environmentally focused nonfiction appear in over 70 publications. His previous books include the story collection, Southern Gentlemen and a full-length poetry collection, The Reckless Hope of Scoundrels. He resides in rural central Texas with his trophy wife and several rescue dogs who pay him no mind unless hungry. His hobbies include poking wasp nests with short sticks and wandering aimlessly about. He hopes you enjoy meeting his imaginary friends.
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The excerpt is very intriguing. The cover looks great.ReplyDelete