Shadowridge Press titles in detail...

Peter Atkins
MORNINGSTAR
Trade paperback / 6 x 9/ 258 pages / Publication date / April 2018
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Summer in San Francisco. A killer is on the loose. Twelve victims so far. Men, women, children. All ritually disfigured. Scrawled in each victim's blood, a single word: Morningstar. The citizenry is terrified. The police are powerless. And two innocent people suddenly find their lives swept up in a maelstrom of madness and murder. Shelley Masterton -- her dreams invaded by a dead friend, one of the killer's victims - becomes an unwitting recruit in a plan for revenge from beyond the grave. And Donovan Moon, freelance journalist, receives a phone call offering the scoop of a lifetime - Morningstar is on the line and wants to talk. Inexorably drawn into a nightmare of death, destiny and unholy power - the roots of which go far deeper than the recent string of killings - Donovan and Shelley must find the truth amidst a whirlwind of terror, mayhem, and dark desire. Before it finds them...

HERE'S A PREVIEW OF MORNINGSTAR

CHAPTER ONE

September 21, 1988

It was after the event.
Summer was disappearing in a slow decay of brown desiccation. San Francisco had seen its first fogs and was resigned to more. Along Liberty Street a slight breeze blew, mild in itself but full of the promise of the cold to come. Carried on the breeze was a single passenger; a discarded leaflet from the Castro Theater advertising a series of films by Jean Cocteau.
From his fourth-floor window, Donovan Moon watched the flier’s progress. Watching it was his latest excuse. Stuffing receipts into an envelope for his accountant had been the afternoon’s best—it had taken at least an hour. Tidying his pencils wasn’t so good. There are only so many variations on making three look neat. But this was promising; every so often the leaflet would ground itself or wrap itself around the base of a lamppost, and Donovan, in spirit, would be right there with it—urging it to resistance, encouraging its self-assertion. Each time, though, the wind would find a corner that wasn’t battened down sufficiently and off it would go again.
Donovan, if asked, would reply quite confidently that he was not wasting time. He would explain quite patiently that it was all part of the process. He would insist quite indignantly that he was waiting for an important thing to happen, and then he would admit quite reluctantly that what he was waiting for was the moment when the self-loathing generated by prevarication finally outweighed the fear that kept him from his desk.
The leaflet was now well advanced along the street. Despite Donovan being pressed firmly against the glass of his window, despite his face being distorted into flatness, despite his eyes aching with the strain of being forced so far to the right, the leaflet was undeniably at the edge of his field of vision. And then it was gone. It had failed him. Let him down badly.
“Bastard thing,” he said. “Bastard fucking thing.”
He turned away from the window, picturing revenge scenarios: a stray mongrel pissing all over it; stray stilettos catching and tearing; suffocating and geographically unlikely snow trapping it in place and slowly—very slowly—reducing it to pulp and dirty water. They helped. A little. But his feet were still moving, his legs were still carrying him, and here he was—back behind the desk instead of between it and the window. And there was the chair. And there was the tape recorder.
Moon lowered himself into the chair, pushed it back slightly, and raised his legs to rest his feet on the surface of the desk. His manner was easy and confident. Hell, he’d even light a cigarette before he … no. He caught himself. Matt, his lover, perched on the sofa across the room, face buried in a magazine, had been tactfully silent through the whole of the afternoon’s performance, but Donovan knew the rhythms of his patience intimately. One more unnecessary task, one more act of avoidance, one more cigarette, and … what would it be? The quiet cough? The theatrical sigh? Or even—God forbid—the low-pitched but admonitory use of his name? Fuck it. He snatched at the tape recorder. He turned it on, cleared his throat, and began to speak.
“To begin, a declaration: She was no child of the night. No daughter of darkness, she came to him with spring. In the streets, skin braved exposure and stores closed in sunlight. In homes, windows declared a truce and allowed what was left of the wind into what they’d spent a winter protecting. In classrooms, children began to feel that there might soon be a day on which they might begin to feel that the last day of school could hide from their impatient search no longer, that soon the doors of summer would be opened. In people’s faces, color crept back and in people’s conversations, subtexts of delight, in a thousand different voices, said, ‘Summer’s coming.’
“And in the fields the wasps were waking.
“It was early in—”
“Donovan.”
“It was early in—”
“Donovan!”
Moon switched off the tape recorder but kept his feet on the desk. Looking across the room at Matt and scowling slightly, he asked, “What?”
Matt smiled, said nothing.
“What?” Donovan repeated, his voice a careful mix of inquiry and annoyance.
Matt raised an eyebrow.
“Fuck you and your eyebrow,” Moon barked. “Put up or shut up. What’s the problem?”
“Well…” Matt said slowly and carefully.
Moon raised a warning hand. “But tread softly,” he said, “for you tread on my art.”
Matt seized the opportunity that Donovan’s joke offered and rushed ahead, a conciliatory tone wrestling with a sarcastic one as words tumbled from him. “But that’s it, Donovan. That’s exactly it. It shouldn’t be. Shouldn’t be art. I mean far be it from me, mere broker of insurance that I am, to advise famed journalist D. Moon, winner of—how many Pulitzers is it, now?”
“None. Fuck off. Go on.”
“—as to the correct approach to his latest project…”
“But…”
“But … do you really think Commissioner Schulman is going to care for your purple prose? He’s—”
“Matt, please! I bleed easy.”
“Yeah, yeah. But Schulman, Don, Christ! Those elegant silver hairs hide a hard head. You know that. He’s a street cop who made good, not some college boy.”
Donovan waited a beat or two. He stared at Matt across the uncomfortable silence, his face the perfect blank that he always employed to mask perfect and unwelcome understanding. He was going to play this one to the limit. “So?” he said.
“So … I just think it would help if you’d bear in mind that you’ve been asked to write a confidential report for a police commissioner rather than to provide a sample of overblown style for some creative-writing class. Just the facts, ma’am, just the—”
“So now you’re a literary critic. Jesus! If I’d wanted the ghost of Edmund Wilson, I’d have asked for it.”
Matt hid a smile. He knew Moon’s techniques very well, and recognizing the surrender that sarcasm attempted to disguise, he consciously softened the mood. He let the smile out gently and, in a much quieter voice, said, “I’m glad you didn’t.”
There was a moment’s silence and then Moon slowly returned Matt’s smile. “Yeah, so am I,” he said. He paused, sighed, continued: “And I know damn well you’re right. I think it’s what we in the psychiatric trade call overcompensation. I resent the fact that it’s my accidental role as a witness that made Schulman ask for this rather than my talent—or lack of it—as a journalist.”
“I don’t think it’s that at all,” said Matt, still speaking gently and carefully.
“No?”
“No. I think it’s what we in the psychiatric trade call repression. You’re avoiding the facts because the facts still frighten you.”
Moon let that one hang in the air a few moments. Then he sighed, took his feet off the desk,

.