After his unspectacular professional baseball career ends with a knee injury in Toledo, Ohio, Johnny Earl gets busted for selling cocaine. After serving seven years in prison, all he wants to do is return to his hometown of Steubenville, retrieve the drug money he stashed before he went to jail, and start a new life where no one has ever heard of Johnny Earl.
However, before he can leave town with his money, Johnny is picked up for questioning in the murder of Rayce Daubner, the FBI informant who had set him up on drug charges in the first place. Then his former prison cellmate shows up–a white supremacist who wants the drug money to help fund an Aryan nation in the wilds of Idaho.
Five memorable characters, each with a separate agenda, come together in this layered tale of murder, deceit, and political intrigue.
A Brilliant Death
Amanda Baron died in a boating accident on the Ohio River in 1953. Or, did she? While it was generally accepted that she had died when a coal barge rammed the pleasure boat she was sharing with her lover, her body was never found.
Travis Baron was an infant when his mother disappeared. After the accident and the subsequent publicity, Travis’s father scoured the house of all evidence that Amanda Baron had ever lived, and her name was never to be uttered around him. Now in high school, Travis yearns to know more about his mother. With the help of his best friend, Mitch Malone, Travis begins a search for the truth about the mother he never knew. The two boys find unexpected aid from an unlikely ally: an alcoholic former detective who served time for falsifying evidence. Although his reputation is in tatters, the information the detective provides about the death of Amanda Baron is indisputable—and dangerous.
Nearly two decades after her death, Travis and Mitch are able to piece together a puzzle lost to time and the dark waters of the Ohio River. They know how Amanda Baron died, and why.
Now, what do they do with the information?
Jimmy Lee Hickam grew up along Red Dog Road, a dead-end strip of gravel and mud buried deep in the bowels of Appalachian Ohio. It was the poorest region of the state. The poorest county in the region. And the poorest road in the county.
To make things worse, the name Hickam was synonymous for trouble throughout Southeastern Ohio. Jimmy Lee hailed from a heathen mix of thieves, moonshiners, drunkards, and general anti-socials that for decades had clung to both the hardscrabble hills and the iron bars of every jail cell in the region. This life, Jimmy Lee believed, was his destiny.
The only two constants in Jimmy Lee’s life are football and the misery of his situation. When Jimmy Lee wins the school essay writing contest, there are no accolades. In fact, it creates nothing but resentment and doubt.
No one believes this 17-year-old, wrong-side-of-the-tracks kid is capable of creating such a paper. When the school attempts to strip him of the award, his English teacher risks her job to stand up for him, showing him a path away from the cycle of poverty and alcoholism that has defined his family for years.
READ CHAPTER ONE
It is 1971 and fifteen-year-old Hutch Van Buren is growing up carefree in the small industrial town of Crystalton, Ohio. Hutch and three of his buddies are searching for arrowheads when there is an altercation with Petey Sanchez, a troubled seventeen-year-old. The next time Petey is seen, a berry picker finds his body in the weeds on Chestnut Ridge.
Hutch and his friends become ensnared in a web of secrets and moral dilemmas. Even when One-Eyed Jack, a local ne’er-do-well and child molester goes to prison for the crime, the boys keep their pact of silence, each shouldering the burden of truth in his own way as he attempts to leave the past behind.
Thirty-three years later, in 2004, Van Buren is the successful prosecuting attorney in Summit County, Ohio, and a candidate for state attorney general when he learns that he isn’t the only one keeping a secret.
READ CHAPTER ONE