Imagine if luck were a commodity that could be bought and sold like anything else? S.G. Browne’s latest caper involves just that—P.I. Nick Monday is just one of a few people on earth who can sell you a shot of extra karma.
“But even though people pay good money to acquire it, for those who aren’t born with it, good luck can be unpredictable,” the character says. “Fickle. Which I suppose is why it’s frequently personified as a lady. And like the song says, sometimes it has a way of running out.”
In a starred review, we called Lucky Bastard “A funky little action comedy that whips enough social satire and ethical dilemmas on readers to enlighten while it entertains.” Here’s a short excerpt:
Read more new and notable fiction this month.
It’s my understanding that naked women don’t generally tend to carry knives.
But considering all that’s happened since I woke up this morning, I wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d pulled out a meat cleaver. Or a chain saw.
“Why don’t you put that thing away,” I say, before I realize that was probably a bad choice of words.
From the glint in her eye I can see she’s considering obliging me, so I take a couple of steps back, which is about all of the wiggle room I have, since it’s less than three feet before my luck runs out.
Where I am is the roof of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco after ten o’clock on a late-August night with an angry, naked woman holding me at knifepoint. Which doesn’t completely explain my current predicament, but at least it gives you an idea of what my day’s been like.
A helicopter approaches, the propeller thwup thwup thwupping, the lights cutting through the darkness and fog. At first I think it’s the cops until I see the CBS logo painted across the side.
Great. I’m making the evening news. This is all I need.
Maybe I could have prevented all of this from happening had I paid more attention to my better judgment.
Or found a four-leaf clover.
Or eaten another bowl of Lucky Charms.
I’m not superstitious, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to take precautions.
“This is all your fault!” she says, holding on to the eight-inch carving knife with both hands. “All of it. Your fault!”
It’s at times like this that I wish I’d taken some classes in situational diplomacy.
Even though I grew up in a somewhat lax home environment and had the opportunity to embrace a lot of personal freedom at an early age, I still know how to behave in a civilized manner. Like saying please and thank you. Or turning off my phone in a movie theater. But tact and finesse have never been my strong suits. Not that I have an inflammatory personality. I’ve just never been particularly adept at managing interpersonal relationships. And if any situation called for a little skill and tact in dealing with someone, this is it. But I don’t know if this type of scenario calls for humor or reason. Plus it’s a little awkward considering she’s naked, so I try to keep my eyes above the horizon.
Still, I have to do something to let her know I’m not the enemy, so I give her a smile, one that’s meant to be reassuring. Something to ease the tension and lighten the mood. Not that I’m thrilled to be here. I can think of other things I’d rather be doing. Like sleeping or playing naked Twister. Instead, I’m on the roof of a hotel trying to defuse a tense situation before anyone else gets hurt. But like any naked woman holding a knife, she completely misreads my intention.
“Do you think this is funny?” she says, pointing the knife at me, stabbing at the air. Not in a menacing way, but more like Rachael Ray making a point about how to properly slice eggplant. Only this isn’t the Food Network. And I’m not a big fan of ratatouille.
“No,” I say, shaking my head. “It’s not funny at all.”
A crowd has gathered on Sutter Street, twenty-two stories below, their faces upturned and indistinct in the hollow glow of the streetlights, but even from this height I can make out the media circus pitching its tent. News vans, reporters, floodlights. A dozen cameras trained at the top of the hotel. The CBS helicopter circles us, the cameraman hanging out the open door with a video camera, his lens pointed my way.
I smile and wave.
I feel like I’m in a Hollywood movie, a dark action-comedy, with a little bit of intrigue and personal drama thrown in for fun. Characters die, illusions are shattered, and things get messy. I just wish I knew how this ended. How things wrapped up. My personal denouement. But I forgot to read my copy of the script. So I just wait and hope that someone gives me a cue.
The helicopter circles, the videotape rolls, the people on the street below wait for the scene to play out, and I’m an actor trying to remember my lines.
Lucky Bastard is out this week from Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster.