Excerpt from A Killing in Zion by Andrew Hunt, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Killing in Zion

An Art Oveson Mystery

by Andrew Hunt

A Killing in Zion by Andrew Hunt X
A Killing in Zion by Andrew Hunt
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  • Published:
    Sep 2015, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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Print Excerpt

One
SATURDAY, JUNE 30, 1934

"Crime does not pay!"

The deep voice belonged to a slick gent in a tuxedo, who seconds earlier had slunk up to a radio microphone on a stand. A blinking light above the stage cued musicians in a cramped orchestra pit. The house lights dimmed as the music swelled. The theme song relied heavily on violins, with a few horns sprinkled in for sinister effect. The packed studio audience included my wife, Clara, and my two children, Sarah Jane, age eleven, and Hyrum, five. Earlier in the afternoon, the show's producer had asked me to sit on a stool by the stage so I could get a choice view of the actors. The show, he informed me, was being "transcribed" (a word radio big shots used for "recorded") for nighttime broadcast coast to coast on the NBC radio network. He asked if I'd be willing to answer a couple of questions at the microphone at the close of the broadcast. I said I'd be happy to do it, but stage fright ate away at my stomach something fierce, and I don't think I ever stopped squirming on that hard wooden surface under my behind.

A technician in a glass booth pointed at the widow's-peaked announcer, who responded with a nod and read from a script in his hands. When he spoke, his voice came out more resonant than I expected, especially for such a lean man.

"Welcome to Crime Does Not Pay, a copyrighted program, transcribed in Hollywood, USA, presented to you by Bromo-Seltzer, for quick, pleasant relief of upset stomach, nervous tension, and headaches."

I could use some of that, I thought.

Music thundered in the background as he continued: "Each week, Crime Does Not Pay brings you a dramatic reenactment of real-life police cases from across America. Tonight, we are proud to present, from the files of the Salt Lake City Police Department, the Case of the Running Board Bandit." The actor playing me, Lyle Talbot, walked out from behind the curtains and the flashing APPLAUSE light nudged the audience into action. The handsome Talbot bore no resemblance to me-no hint of my gangly frame, ruddy complexion, or unruly auburn hair-but I suppose it didn't matter, this being radio and all. Debonair, in a three-piece suit, with slick dark hair, Talbot held a script and mouthed "thank you" repeatedly. As the applause and music quieted, he closed in on that silvery microphone and read the lines without even glancing at his script.

"My name is Patrolman Arthur Oveson," he said. I bowed my head, containing my embarrassment with a shaky inhale. "I've walked the night beat in Salt Lake City for the past four years. My job: to keep the good men and women of this town safe. I have a beautiful wife and the finest children a father could ever hope for. I can honestly say the last place I ever expected to find myself was on the bad end of that .38 Special wielded by the notorious Running Board Bandit...."

The music flared up again as more cast members poured out from between the curtains and gathered around the microphone.

"Beware of the Running Board Bandit, gentlemen," said the actor portraying Sergeant Noel Gunderson at roll call. "He operates at night, and his method is to crouch low on the passenger side running board of automobiles with his pistol and wait for the unsuspecting driver to get in. When that happens, he pops up like a jack-in-the-box, demanding money. The bandit is armed and dangerous. If you encounter him, exercise utmost caution. That is all."

The actor playing my partner, Roscoe Lund, seemed mousy, with too much pomade in his hair. He bore no resemblance to the genuine Roscoe, whose shaved head, muscular physique, and thick neck frightened off even the most stalwart of lawbreakers. The actor playing him made up for his slight and shifty-eyed appearance by acting the part with a gravelly voice. I had wondered how the scriptwriter, who consulted me months ago by telephone about the particulars of the case, was going to portray Roscoe, a profanity-spewing cop who'd recently given up cigarettes in favor of chewing tobacco and always kept a flask full of some kind of booze in his pocket.

Excerpted from A Killing in Zion by Andrew Hunt. Copyright © 2015 by Andrew Hunt. Excerpted by permission of Minotaur Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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