Excerpt from Bad Country by CB McKenzie, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Bad Country

A Novel

by CB McKenzie

Bad Country by CB McKenzie X
Bad Country by CB McKenzie
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Nov 2014, 304 pages
    Jun 2016, 304 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Linda Hitchcock
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Print Excerpt

Bad Country

As instructed, the man stopped at a certain landmark in the desert, stripped and used the cheap folding knife to cut his dusty khakis and T-shirt into small pieces. He tossed his old clothes bit by bit into a hard wind, unpacked the plastic trash bag and re-dressed in new clothes. He squatted in the skeletal shade of a creosote bush, sliced his last apple and chewed and swallowed each piece slowly then sipped bleach-treated water from a recycled milk jug through the heat of the day. Near sundown he cut the jug into small pieces and threw them and the knife into a steep-sided arroyo, took his bearings and then tore his map into small bits and broadcast these as he walked north. When he neared the meeting place he hustled through slanting shadows and hid behind the large boulder so that he could espy in both directions the sparse traffic on Agua Seco Road. As he waited his eyes strayed toward a solitary cloud towed north by invisible forces. A call and response from a pair of falcons hunting late he took as a good omen.

During the night a vehicle stopped in the middle of the turn-out. Muffled by closed doors and raised windows, the music from the SUV sounded like something the waiting man might hear when he stood outside a cathedral. When the vehicle shut down it was as if a trapdoor had opened on the surface of the world and all extant sound fallen through it. When a door unlatched, the dome light in the cab of the SUV illuminated a passenger in the backseat as a dark face under a white hat. The figure that emerged on the driver's side had on a billed cap, dark glasses and a plastic coat that glimmered in the moonlight.

This is your ride, hombre. The command was a hoarse whisper aimed directly at the hiding place. Levántate. Into la luz.

The waiting man stepped into the glare of the headlights.

Tienes algo? the driver asked.

Nada, the man said. He spread his arms wide with his hands open. He had nothing but the new clothes on his back and the old boots on his feet, had no identification, no keys, weapons, cell phone or any paper with writing or numbers on it. He had no photographs of family, no money, no tattoos or identifiable scars, wore no jewelry and had never been arrested on either side of the border. He did not even know the name of his employer.

Eres Indio? the driver asked.

Si, soy Indio, the man said.

The man lowered his arms and waited for words that made more sense to him.

Has estado esperando mucho? the driver asked.

Si. Todo mi vida.

The bill of the driver's gimme cap tilted down and then up.

I have been waiting my whole life for this too, the driver said.

The back door of the SUV opened and the man moved out of the headlights and toward his ride.

Adonde va? he asked.

Trabajar, hombre, said the driver. We go to work now.


Rodeo and his dog drove over "Elm Street," which was but a collection of ruts and potholes, streambed cuts and corduroy stretches that led from the paved Agua Seco Ranch Road into a small dead end of southern Arizona called El Hoyo, The Hole.

Where the man and his dog lived was supposed to have been a full-service, upscale trailer park with concrete pads radiating like the segmented spokes of a big wagon wheel from the hub of an Activities Center, and wound through these spokes like a gourd vine a nine-hole golf course. But the investment venture had been mistimed and misplaced and so remained as only a concentric grid of blade-graded dirt roads marked at random intersections by unlikely green-and-white street signs now aimed into all compassed directions and bent by gravity to all angles of repose, mostly a collection of unpaid property taxes and dirt off the grid.

The old dog on the shotgun seat whined when he scented blood. Rodeo slowed as he approached the "gates" of his place, two jumbled piles of cinder block on either side of the dirt road with a sign advertising VISTA MONTANA ESTATES—AN ACTIVE LIFE COMMUNITY skewered on a splintered pole like a reminder note to do something later.

Excerpted from Bad Country by Sophie McKenzie. Copyright © 2014 by Sophie McKenzie. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Minotaur. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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