Excerpt from The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Paragon Hotel

by Lyndsay Faye

The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye X
The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2019, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2019, 432 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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F One F
NOW

New York probably is infested with as savage a horde of cut-throats, rats, treacherous gunmen and racketeers as ever swarmed upon a rich and supine principality.

-Stanley Walker, The Night Club Era, 1933

U

Sitting against the pillows of a Pullman sleeper, bones clacking like the pistons of the metal beast speeding me westward, I wonder if I'm going to die.

The walls of my vibrating coffin are polished mahogany, windows spotless, reflecting onyx midnight presently. I've been watching them for several days. When I wasn't switching trains, which was its own jostling hell and doesn't bear repeating.

Does Salt Lake City ever bear repeating, really?

I don't even suppose I took the fastest route cross-country. So long as I was always moving. I remember fleeing New York, still adrift with the shock. Battling sucking currents of lost love and lost city dragging me under. Changing at Chicago I remember-the hustle, the weight of all that metal, the sheer rank sweat of making the connection. I recall prim forests, sloping hills. Downy wheat tufts, crops we tore through like an iron bomb, and desolate empty skies. Big burgs, shabby shacks, towns undeserving of the word, all blurring into America.

But at night it's been the black window, the white alcove curtain, smells of cigarettes and pot roast and cold cream, and the fever slick coating my brow confirming that I'm going to die.

I'm in shock, possibly. Despair, certainly.

Now it hits me in a crack of panic that I'd prefer death drop by when I'm ninety and not twenty-five, supposing it's all the same to the Harding administration.

Panting, I tug at my hair. The sudden flare momentarily douses the fire in other locales. I wonder when my bunkmate will return to torment me. I wouldn't have taken a sleeping car if I hadn't been forced-acquaintances are dangerous. They pore over your mug out of sheer boredom, make remarks like God, isn't our porter just dreadful, these sheets are barely tucked in. They don't give a knotted cherry stem what you think of the porter, they can't really see him anyhow. No, they hanker to watch you react to them. Then they can journal it, whether you're haughty or humble or hateful. Whether you're all right.

Whether you're not all right, which is ever so much more interesting.

Dangerous, what with death and dismemberment potentially in hot pursuit. I couldn't go full-scale deluxe, though. A private car would have been checked first by someone searching this train, any cadet axman would chart the same course. Private cars, sleeping cars, then public seating. Maybe I ought to lend a hand to the brakeman, trade a few dirty jokes in exchange for a hiding place.

If only I could dangle from the undercarriage like a bat.

The bullet wound deposited in Harlem started reaping interest in Chicago, and now we're well past Walla Walla and it's aiming to make me a swell payout. Last time I staggered to the facilities, it looked like a volcano had erupted, crusted reds and blacks. Now it's eating me alive. I can't sit up in a public car. Has to be a sleeper, has to be this one; I leaped on this connecting train in Denver like an outlaw onto the town's last nag.

My heart isn't beating, it's clenching its fist at me.

Clamp-clinch. Clutch-grip.

Beastly. Tears keep welling up and my throat keeps closing, and no, I say.

You're called Nobody for a reason. Just be yourself. Be Nobody.

Be Nobody, and breathe.

Having died before, I ought to be more sanguine over the prospect. I first died six days ago at the Murder Stable, when Officer Harry Chipchase hustled me out of that gruesome dungeon, snapping, "Run, kid!"

"But I-"

"Damn it, Nobody, hitch a ride to the moon. You're dead to this town now, you hear?" Harry was always dour, but I'd never seen his face turned the color of molding cheese previous. "I swear to you, I'll find a body somewheres. Trust me, kid. You died today. Now, run."

Excerpted from The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye. Copyright © 2019 by Lyndsay Faye. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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