Placed in the top ten on the 2008 Preditors and Editors poll   
Selected as a finalist in the 2008 Eppie awards for mystery novels.
                     

                             Moon Over Chicago

                     
Cover art by mpMann
Here are two reviews the book has received.

Quote:

I loved the undertone of Chicago’s underworld in this tale of Fulton Moon, Private Detective’s tactics to correct society’s wrongs, and to protect the innocent. But as tough as he likes to think of himself, he still has a soft spot in his heart for a pretty face. Much to his chagrin.

Review:

Part owner of the Chicago shoe repair shop, “Moonshines”, 25 year old Fulton Moon has been taken in years earlier by his benefactor, Benjamin Franklin Washington. Although the old man talks up a storm, Fulton rarely listens to his advice… until it’s too late. Like, when Benjie warned him about falling into the clutches of the beautiful Lucy Mathews, wife to the notorious crime boss, J. Arthur Mathews. … But then, a few people turn up dead, and he is forced to give it some thought before his own surrogate family gets hurt.

Then, a Chinese florist, a British mechanic and an ostrich ranch all have something in common. Trouble. Big Trouble. One of the biggest problems for Moon is deciding just who is really running the show. He can’t believe that sweet Lucy could order the shop bombed, have his Toyota totaled, or deliberately plot against the local police. But he and his good buddy, John Kobileski, detective down at the station, have to do some shucking and jiving to all end up on the same page without getting themselves killed in the process.

There is a lot of great background color to this hard hitting, fast moving tale.

JoEllen Conger
Conger Books
    

You find out very quickly in the novel that Fulton Moon is not your average shoe repairman. He also takes on odd side jobs for the right price. Lucinda (Lucy) Mathews had come to Fulton seeking aid in escaping her abusive husband, J. Arthur Mathews. She has video-recorded evidence on a CD that shows her husband, killing florist Russell Armstrong in cold blood.

 Fulton insists that she turn over the CD to police. Lucy fears that Arthur, a rich and powerful businessman, would be able to beat the murder charge in court despite the overwhelming evidence looming against him. Running away is the only viable option she can see for herself. Reluctantly Fulton agrees to help her.

 Fulton’s attempt to hide her is unsuccessful and he is asked at gunpoint to meet with Mr. Mathew’s at his home outside of Chicago. This is where the real story begins to unfold as he is brought into a world of drugs, corruption and treachery.

 Moon Over Chicago is an enjoyable mystery. Readers are treated to a colorful narrative of Chicago as Fulton charges full steam in keeping his friends out of harms way as he aids Lucy in her escape from Arthur Mathew’s. The plot develops at a well timed pace and there are plenty of twists and turns on the way. Along with the action there are plenty of laughs with Fulton’s humorous point of view.

 I highly recommend Moon Over Chicago 

 --D K Gaston

                               MOON OVER CHICAGO

                                        Chapter One

     The door was out of focus.  And it seemed to be lying on its side.  My head hurt and I couldn’t figure out why.  I frantically tried to remember my name.  Someone helped.

      “Mr. Moon?”  A deep voice with vocal cords encased in gravel

asked.  

      Yes, that’s it.  My name is Moon.  The rest of my name is the easy part but I was still having trouble.

     “Fulton Moon?”

     Boy, this guy was good.  Fulton Moon.  That’s it.  I tried to answer but only managed a feeble groan.  That door was definitely on its side.  A pair of shoes appeared in front of my right eye.  They badly needed a shine.  My right eye felt as if it already had a shine.  Those stars that flooded my vision began to disappear.  I was definitely lying on a carpet.  My face felt like Marlon Brando used it for the floor and tap-danced all the way through “Madam Butterfly”.

     One eye focused on an object between those shoes and my stars.  It looked like a tooth.  It was.  A big tooth.  Whoever lost that one would get big money from the Tooth Fairy.  Then I noticed a suspicious vacant spot in my mouth and the greatest part of the pain in my head emanated from that cavern.  I connected the tooth on the floor to that mouth pain.  That was definitely my tooth.  What the heck was it doing out there?

     “Get up, Mr. Moon.”

     Yeah, right.  Not all of the parts of my head worked and he wanted me to use my body.  I didn’t even know if it was still in one piece.  I eased into sort of a half crouch that left my face flat on the floor and my fanny sticking up over my feet. My arms didn't want to work at first, but I finally got them to push me to an all-fours position.  Looking up I spied one of the largest indiviuals I have ever seen.  Just a bit smaller than the Statue of Liberty.  At least 6 foot 8 - and wide.  Double wide.  Easily pushing 275 to 300 pounds.  Not fat.  His T-shirt rippled just from breathing.  The slogan on the shirt advertised Tony's Restaurant.  All the letters were easily read.  The hugh hand that made the 357 Magnum almost disappear was even more impressive.    

    “Was there something I can do for you?”  I knew what I wanted to say but my words came out slowly.  Even I had trouble understanding them.

     “As you can tell, Mr. Moon, I don’t like a smart mouth.  I will ask once again and I would very much appreciate a straightforward answer.  Where is my wife?”  The bald head speaking had a smile on its face.  Somehow it did not make him look pleasant.  I had the distinct impression that if he bent down, his head would fall off.  The man missed the line when they were giving out necks. 

     “Sir, could you please tell me who your wife is?”  I decided to be polite.  My dentist bill was high enough already.

     “Lucy Mathews.  She has been to see you twice in the last three weeks.”  The head had no eyebrows at all.

     “Sir, I know that lady only as a customer.  I fixed some of her shoes for her.”  I remembered I owned a shoe repair business.  “By the way I would be happy to shine your shoes for you.  They could use a shine, you know?  Are you Mr. Mathews?  I would be happy to show you the ticket for the work I did.”

     “She was last seen coming into your shop this morning.”  The eyes narrowed and those hairless brows were, as they say “knitted”.

     “May I get up now?”  I still wasn’t sure I could.

      “Yes, but do not make any sudden moves.”

        Yeah, like I could do that.

        I raised myself up with not too much groaning.  A little dizzy, but I wobbled to an upright stance.  We were in the back room of my shop which I use as storage and a modest office.  I leaned on my desk to steady myself and tried to clear the cobwebs.  I remembered that the bald man had come in to see me and had already asked where his wife was. I had in very bad taste remarked that I had several men’s wives and could he kindly tell me which one was his.  One of those large hams on the end of an arm backhanded me.  My tooth and I hit the floor seconds apart. 

     “Mr. Mathews, I do not know where your wife is at this very minute.  She is not here and is not due back to pick up her shoes until Monday.  I sincerely regret my sarcasm but if you insist upon removing my teeth I must tell you I will report this to the police.”

 

Boy, aren’t we being polite here?  Me out of fear and him out of brute strength.

     “You mean to say that you were not helping her run away from me?”

     Now I have a smart mouth and it took real effort to not say something like “now why would your wife want to run away?” or “a hunk like you would never have any problems with a wife wanting to run away.”  My better judgment told me restraint was more apt to leave my remaining teeth in place.

     “Mr. Mathews, I’m a simple shoe repairman.  People bring in their shoes and I make them well again.  If there is any way that I can help you, believe me and the remainder of my teeth, I would.”

    “Why was your name in her purse and not on a business card?”  His words reverberated in my still groggy head.

     “I don’t have any.  I am small potatoes and can’t afford luxuries such as business cards.”

     The area between his eyes which should have been surrounded by eyebrows furrowed.  I hoped he had begun to have doubts.  The expression on the face changed to less ominous but not less fearsome.

            “Mr. Moon, I found your name in my wife’s purse and I thought you were trying to help her get away.  I even imagined you might be her lover.  I truly am sorry if I got the wrong impression.  I get very upset when someone tries to hit on my wife.  I love her very much.” 

      The weapon disappeared inside his jacket and for the life of me I could not see any bulging where there should have been bulging.  I could see him eyeing the floor where my wayward tooth had come to rest.  “Send me your dentist bill and I will take care of it.  Just mail it to the address on my card.  Do not let me find out you are lying to me.  I am not the one you want as an enemy.”

     The card read J. Arthur Mathews, 160 Harcourt Towers, Suite 104, Chicago, IL.  It listed his occupation as Florist.  A vision of a bunch of lilies lying on my chest reared its ugly image as he turned and walked out of my office.  The word walked is a mistake.  My business is shoes and I notice how people walk.  His gait was at once athletic and heavy.  He slammed his feet down heel to toe but it was still a fluid movement.  Full of power but exuding the confidence of full control.  He had to wear out his heels every other month.  He could be a steady customer.  As I retrieved my tooth I made a note to see my dentist.  Dr. Lipman.  No lie, Lipman is his name.

     “What was that all about, Fulton?  Who was that giant?”  Benjie screwed up his lips as he did when he was puzzled, as I entered the front of the shop.  

     “A florist.  He was looking for Mrs. Mathews.”  Benjie was Benjamin Franklin Washington the only father I have known since I was seventeen. 

     His father owned this shop for 50 years before turning it over to Benjie.  I was learning the repair business from Benjie, when I decided the big bucks were in big business.  My career at Starco, Inc. was ended by a young college kid who had a piece of paper from a college instead of the 15 years experience I had.  Ten years ago I bought the shop from Benjie when he had told me he was not able to handle everything any more with his arthritis.  He calls it ‘arthuritus’.  I forced him to accept my pitiful severance.  Benjie became not only my mentor, but my best friend.    

     “That lady upstairs?”  Benjie’s eyes were bulging.  “What’s he goin’ ta do when he finds out she’s here?”

     “Well, we won’t let him know now will we?”  I know what you are thinking.  I lied to Mr. Mathews.  Actually I was very specific and accurate when I said to him I didn’t at that minute know where his wife was.  Benjie had taken her upstairs and settled her in an apartment.  So I didn’t know exactly where she was.  And I did fix some shoes for her.  That’s how all this started.

     “That smart mouth a yours will get ya in trouble one a these days.”  Benjie left, mumbling and shaking his grey head.  “He don’t look like no florist I ever saw.”  He tilted his head and gave me one of his looks.  The one that says how could you be so stupid.

     My parents were killed by a drunk who only got two years and Benjie took me in.  I was a rebellious white kid, mad at the world.  He taught me more about life and goodness than you could ever squeeze out of any book.  I insisted he remain on as a consultant and that he accept a small salary.  Our building is well over 75 years old but in pretty good condition.  An apartment above the shop housed Benjie and his family for at least 65 of those years.

     About three weeks before, Mrs. Mathews came in to get her shoes fixed.  She heard from a friend that I sometimes help out people in distress.  Not strictly out of kindness, but for a fee.  A hefty fee.  She agreed to pay $3,000 and I said I’d help.  That didn’t seem to be much of a problem until my falling out with Mr. Mathews.

       Boy, am I going to have to rethink that.

     “Fulton, Mickie is here.”  Benjie gets a kick out of stating the obvious.  Mickie burst through the front door all smiles and ready for his chores.  It’s always a treat to see that sleek, black limo stop in front of the shop, eject Mickie and roar off to cause whatever mayhem Mickie’s father got into that day.  That was Antonio Baldacci.  One of the most notorious mob bosses in Chicago.  He was also one of my regular customers possessing no less than 200 pair of handmade, Italian leather shoes.  He wore out the soles of many of them within 6 months of purchase.  Each week at least 3 pair were dropped off by his chauffer, (using the term very loosely) Toby, nicknamed the Thinker, Vigneri.  The name is said to have resulted from the care he uses to eradicate someone for his boss.  I knew from personal experience that thinking is not a strong point with Toby.  However, when it comes to eradication he was supposed to be very creative.

     Michael Baldacci was 22 years old with a brain that only made it to ten of those years.  But a sweeter kid you’ll never met.  I’ve been letting him run errands for me for about five years.  He swept up and runs to the bank for change.  Just stuff like that.  Every task is attacked with care and such enthusiasm that it’s catching.  His father is grateful and gives me 200 bucks a week to pay Mickie.  The arrangement works out well for everyone.

     “Hi, Full Moon.”  Mickie gets a big kick out of his joke about my name every day.  My dad had a weird sense of humor.  I’m just glad my last name is not Butts.  That would make my first name Harry.  Good old dad.

     “How’s it going Bald Acci.”  This ritual began the first day Mickie came to work.  He called me full moon and I asked him what an ‘acci’ is.  We both still get a chuckle each time.  You can’t help liking Mickie.  I remember no time when his round face featured a frown.  His laugh is infectious.  He’s a fun kid.

     “When you finish your Bismarck you can go to the bank for me, ok?”  Mickie likes the Bismarck’s with raspberry filling in them.  His smile is wider on the days the donut place has Bismarcks.  Off he went to find the one with the most icing.

     When I bought the shop I changed its name to Moonshines.  Kind of catchy don’t you think?  I wanted it to be more ‘upscale.’  I have coffee and donuts for my customers and a jar of mints always on the counter.  Oh yes, my partner, Francesca Diverona, Frankie for short.  She did manicures, pedicures, and has four hairdressers, three of them were ladies and onewas still trying to figure it out.  She also had a Masters in accounting.  My accounts never looked better.  Plus, she was a real looker.  Many of my customers developed severe slobber when Frankie sashayed past.  I also kept a hankie handy.  A great figure, dark flowing auburn hair, and emerald green eyes that sparkled more brilliantly than the gems, only scratched the surface when describing Frankie.  A slight limp hints at the fact that childhood polio deformed the right leg.  I first met Frankie when she asked me to make an orthotic insole for her shoe.

       We shared space in the former restaurant building.  It was rumored that Al Capone frequented the restaurant in its heyday.  Of course every place in Chicago tried to claim that same rumor.

     “Hi, Fulton.  I listed a couple of accounts for you that are behind in payment.”  Did I mention Frankie’s voice?  Honey had the texture of broken asphalt compared to the words that flowed from her lips. Gosh, Fulton, what happened to your jaw?  It’s badly swollen.”

     “I had a tooth extracted this morning.  It’s nothing.  Thanks for doing that list, Frankie.”

     Those emerald greens told me she didn’t believe my explanation.

   “Benjie, I’m going upstairs to talk to Mrs. Mathews.” 

     “Git her outta here in a hurry, Fulton.  I don’t want that big ugly white man comin’ back here again.”  Don’t get Benjie wrong.  He was not prejudiced at all.  Otherwise he wouldn’t have taken this white kid in off the streets and gave him all the love he ever needed.  He’s just very descriptive.  He’s stating a fact.  Mr. Mathews happened to big and ugly and white.  Facts were facts.