Amazon review: Chevy Summer by Cal Sharp is all hot cars, boys with leather jackets, cigarettes and alcohol, cruisin' for girls and trouble, and finding both. It was the summer of 1963 in Calhoun, a small, hot, humid town that seemed to attract murder like honey attracts flies. It opens with an unsolved murder and races to its conclusion with unrelenting suspense and drama. It satisfied all the reasons that I read a book. He let you into the personal lives of some great characters; you feel like you know them. It was awesome. Add to that his sense of humor and timing, and you have a real winner. He did an outstanding job of keeping the killer a mystery and keeping the reader interested. It wasn't until the very end that I knew the solution to the mystery that began in the first chapter. Brilliant!
My author profile at my publisher, Smashwords.
Carol Palladino was the first dead person I ever saw. "She looks so nice," everybody whispered as they filed by the coffin. I guess she looked OK, but I hadn't known her when she was alive so I had to take their word for it. She had pale skin and long lashes and her wavy dark hair was spread out on the satin pillow. She looked a little like Gina Lollobridgida, and was dressed in a white high-necked dress. She had been strangled to death. She looked a lot deader than people do on TV; it gave me the creeps, and I went back to my seat. Read The Drag Race
The Top 10 Songs of 1963 1. Sugar Shack, Jimmy Gilmer & Fireballs 2. He's So Fine, Chiffons 3. Dominique, Singing Nun 4. Blue Velvet, Bobby Vinton 5. Hey Paula, Paul & Paula 6. Fingertips - Part 2, Stevie Wonder 7. Sukiyaki, Kyu Sakamoto 8. I Will Follow Him, Peggy March 9. My Boyfriend's Back, Angels 10. Walk Like A Man, Four Seasons
The Top 10 TV Shows of 1963 1. Beverly Hillbillies (CBS) 2. Bonanza (NBC) 3. The Dick Van Dyke Show (CBS) 4. Petticoat Junction (CBS) 5. The Andy Griffith Show (CBS) 6. The Lucy Show (CBS) 7. Candid Camera (CBS) 8. The Ed Sullivan Show (CBS) 9. The Danny Thomas Show (CBS) 10. My Favorite Martian (CBS)
Kenny came over later to pick us up. We told Uncle Bill that we were going to Dino's, a hamburger hangout in Bloomburg. Which was true; we'd probably go there after the race. He wasn't real strict with Ricky; I guess he figured Ricky had enough sense not to do anything too dumb.
Kenny had a '49 Ford flathead painted primer gray that ran some of the time. A lot of guys had scored in the back seat of that car - Ricky probably more than most - but I don't think Kenny ever did. The car was famous for rocking back and forth as it sat parked at the dark end of the parking lot at a dance or a football game.
"Those two guys must really hate each other," Kenny said as we sputtered out of town. "What the hell happened this afternoon?"
"Nance was just being a smartass." I said.
"Bad timing," Kenny said.
"Those two go back a ways," Ricky said. "Nance used to date Reba, y'know."
"What!?" I said. Another bit of surprising information from Ricky.
"Yeah. She was kinda going with Nance when Nick first came to town, but when she met Nick, Nance was his-to-ree."
"Well, hell, no wonder he hates Nick," I said.
"And Reba, too," Kenny added.
"Yeah, he never had anything nice to say about Reba after that," Ricky said.
It was only 9:30, but there were already a bunch of cars parked along the side of the road at Longnecker. Kids were sitting on the hoods of their cars drinking beer and radios were tuned to WSAI. Word had sure got out. I had wanted to bring Debbie, but Ricky wasn't with Sherry and she might feel out of place and I didn't know Kenny all that well and I didn't want to say anything.
Joe Crunch sat on the hood of his car with Dodie Ross drinking a beer. She looked mighty fine in her yellow polka dot dress and no shoes. Crunch had on a T-shirt with a monster driving a Corvette airbrushed on it. Ricky said hi to him and he threw an empty beer can at him.
"Crazy motherfucker," Ricky muttered.
Some of the Caretaker showed up, led by Davidson on his orange and black Panhead. They lined up their bikes at the starting line and lit cigarettes and popped brews. They had some girls with them, stringy haired blondes, mostly, wearing black leather and tattoos.
We found a spot to park, between an Edsel and a '55 Nomad, and bummed a couple of beers and settled back to enjoy the show. Much of the talk was about Reba's murder and how rough it was on Nick, especially after his sister and all, and how we all felt sorry for him and wasn't the Ol' Man a sumbitch and they hoped he got what he damn well deserved and he should have stayed in jail when he was there before and the whole Davis family was a blight on the community, except Reba, and we all felt sorry for her.
The weather was nice; not too warm, a few clouds drifting past the moon, stars shining. An owl hooted. A truck went by on the Old River Road. The water in the river made a lot of noise as it rushed over the rocks.
Nick showed up a little before ten; he had his headers unplugged and the Chevy rumbled noisily and sweetly. He eased up to the starting line, listening to the engine as he revved it up a couple of times, and cut it off. He got out, leaned against the fender and lit a smoke nonchalantly. He had on jeans and a black T-shirt and was wearing a silver ID bracelet that I knew Reba had given him for Christmas.
Everybody fell over themselves saying hi to him; even Davidson came over and had something to say.
Then Neal Nance showed. He had his girl friend, Anne Smedley, with him. She looked plenty worried behind her freckles. Nance still looked pissed off. He pulled to a stop next to Nick and climbed out of his car. The crowd became quiet and pulled in closer to the two of them.
Nick stood against his car, arms folded, looking at Nance through his cigarette smoke.
Nance had a 352 Interceptor engine in his black '55 Ford with a four barrel carb, four speed tranny, and mag wheels. Fluffy dice hung from his rear view mirror. It was a goer, but he'd never beaten Nick.
"Gotcher title?" Nance asked stiffly through tight lips. He had on his straw hat Sam Snead hat and wore and a red and green striped shirt with a smudge of grease on the pocket.
"Right here," Nick answered, waving a paper carelessly. Nance dug a piece of paper out of his back pocket and Nick handed them both to me. "Here ya go, Champ. Hold on to these for a coupla minutes."
I felt honored and I put the papers carefully in my shirt pocket.
There was a red Pontiac parked a couple of cars down from Kenny's car with four girls in it. I had noticed them when we drove up; pretty nice lookers. Now a cute little blonde wearing a short skirt and a letter sweater hopped out of the front seat and ran up to Nick and Nance.
"Can I start you guys?" she pleaded in a little girl voice.
"Candy Hamilton," Ricky whispered to me. "Lookit those panties in her hand."
Damn! She did have a pair of red panties in her hand. What the hell?
Nick raised his eyebrows at Nance. Nance looked at Candy and shrugged. She had the job.
Then they got into their cars and started them and nosed up to the starting line, a Caretaker eyeing their bumpers, making sure they were both where they were supposed to be. Nick was on the right lane, Nance on the left. They revved their engines. Candy ran out in front of them, waving the panties in the air. Had she just taken them off? That sure was a short skirt she had on. It was red, too, and billowed out just a little as she ran. The crowd was really going, now, hollering and whistling as the two racers revved their engines even louder. Some of the Caretakers kicked their Harleys to life and rode down to the finish line, which was barely visible at the end of the gloomy stretch of road. I guess they were going to be the judges.
The noise from the two engines was deafening. Candy, quivering with excitement, stood in the flare of the headlights with her panties raised over her head. Every eye was on her, especially both of mine. Her legs were spread apart and her skirt was riding up a little on her thigh as she held her right arm in the air. She licked her lips.
Then she clenched her eyes shut and swept her arm down and the Chevy and the Ford roared off the line, squealing tires and burning rubber past her. Nick took off straight, but Nance fishtailed a little, his tires breaking loose. Too much gas pedal, I thought. Nick was right, Nance wasn't a real good driver. But he got it under control and was a car length behind Nick when he hit second gear. The cars looked like rockets as they zoomed down the dark road, their taillights becoming smaller as they got closer to the finish line. Everybody ran after the cars, cheering and hollering, to get a better look at the finish. It was impossible to tell who was ahead, but as Nance hit third gear his car suddenly hopped up in the air a foot or two. Then he started skidding sideways, to the left, straight toward the group of Caretakers that sat by the side of the road at the finish line.
They all hollered and threw beer cans at him, but he couldn't get the car back under control and he took out the last bike in line as its owner dove to safety over the guardrail. The bike, a custom job with silver skulls painted on the tank, exploded in a million pieces as Nance crashed into it. The collision slowed him down and he slid off the road, ran down a small tree, and banged and bounced against the guardrail, crashing half way through it. When the car stopped, it was poised precariously on the brink of the rivers' embankment, the rear wheels a few inches off the ground. Everyone stood as if frozen, staring at the car, steam hissing from the busted radiator, wobbling at the brink of the thirty-foot declivity into the rock-strewn river. Suddenly Nick appeared, running to the car, yanking the passenger door open. The sight of him broke the spell and everyone started yelling and running to help. A bunch of us tried to hold the car from sliding over the edge while Nick dragged the half unconscious Nance out. He got him out just in time, and, with a screech of metal against rock, the black Ford went over the edge and disappeared into the darkness.
By now a dozen cars had been pulled around and their headlights were aimed at the scene. Nick's car sat idling by the side of the road past the finish line, the door hanging open. Nance lay on the road in the harsh light, blood trickling down his startled white face from a cut on his forehead. His girl fiend, Anne, was bent over him, crying. The Caretaker, "Cockroach" it read on his leather vest, who had lost his bike climbed back from where he had disappeared over the guard rail and was standing by the side of the road brushing weeds and twigs from his clothes and staring in disbelief at his handlebars hanging ten feet off the ground from the branch of a tree. The rest of his Harley lay all over the southwest part of Ohio.
"Holy shit!" Ricky said. "Holy fuckin' shit!"
"You OK, Nick?" I asked.
"You saved Nance's life, man!"
"You got him out just in time. That car is gone forever."
Nick got out his Zippo and used it on a Camel. Nance had gotten shakily to his feet with the help of his girl friend.
"Hey, motherfucker!" It was Cockroach, mad as hell. "You no-drivin' sonofabitch, that was my bike!" He had Nance by the shirtfront, shaking him.
"Hey, man." Nance mumbled.
"You let him alone!" Anne said, trying to push Cockroach away.
"I'll kill you, you bastard!" Cockroach hollered.
"Let him alone!" Anne said.
Cockroach drew back to hit Nance, who cowered behind an upraised arm. He looked cowardly and pitiful, and Cockroach must have thought so, too, because he opened his fist and just slapped Nance disdainfully a couple of times with his big hand, sending him stumbling backwards.
"You got insurance, creep?" Cockroach growled, coming after him.
"Yeah," Nance mumbled through a bloody lip, backing up.
Cockroach, only slightly mollified, still looked like he wanted Nance's ass, but Davidson, hirsute and tattooed, walked up.
"Let him go, 'Roach," he said, hitching up his jeans over his beer belly and stepping between Cockroach and Nance. "Creep's done lost his car, he's hurt." Davidson had a rough, gravelly voice that carried a lot of authority, and he was used to people doing what he said.
"But, man..." Cockroach moaned.
"Creep says he's got insurance." Davidson cast a dark glance at Nance. "Right?"
"Right," Nance mumbled.
"C'mon, 'Roach," Davidson said, putting an arm around his shoulders. "We'll come back tomorrow with the truck and pick up the pieces. You can ride back with me."
Candy walked up to Nick and stood on her tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek and handed him her panties. This drew a big round of applause and whistles. He smiled at her and stuffed them in his pocket and she scampered off.
Somebody gave Cockroach a swig from a half pint of Old Charter and he let Davidson lead him away and he got on the back of Davidson's Panhead and the Caretakers kicked their bikes alive and rumbled off. This broke things up, and everybody hopped in their cars and hollered back and forth telling one other where they were going. I saw Candy going off in the Pontiac with her friends and I wondered where they were headed. I handed the titles back to Nick and he held out Nance's to him with two fingers.
Nance looked at him in surprise, then took it and stuffed it into his ripped shirt pocket.
"Whatdafuck good is it, now?" he muttered.
Nick got into his Chevy and fired it up and Nance walked over to him. "Wha'dja do all that for, man?" he said. He sounded like he was accusing Nick of something.
"Ah," Nick waved it away and put the car in first gear.
"No, I mean it, man. You don't owe me nothin'." Nance looked real uncomfortable, digging at the ground with one penny loafer. "But, thanks. Anne said it was you pulled me out. I didn't know what was going on."
Nick lit a smoke and revved the Chevy up a couple of times, real casual like. "I just don't want my competition gettin' killed off. Looks bad." Then he turned the Chevy around and drove off.