Would you sell your soul to the Devil?… even half-heartedly?
Book title: Devil in the Grass
Series: Yes – Book one in the Jackson Walker Saga
Is the book a standalone? No
Author: Christopher Bowron
Genre: Dark Thriller
Published: March 2016
When his pro football career fails, Jackson Walker returns to his home in southwest Florida to sort out his life. He lands an internship with Republican state senator James Hunter, whose Clean Water Bill puts him at odds with influential members of The Brotherhood of Set, a Satanic cult. They have deep roots in Florida, and are led by the sinister Henrietta LePley.
After Walker begins a relationship with a member of the Brotherhood, he is framed for the horrific killing of two elderly people. To clear his name, Jackson turns to his Seminole family to evade the police and a particularly nasty bunch of malevolent characters who specialize in the disposal of dead bodies. The Everglades provides an ancient and frightening setting for the unfolding action that will prove whether Jackson Walker will pull himself free from the dark evil that lurks there.
What readers are saying
“HIGHLY RECOMMENDED” – The Columbia Review
“Move over Randy Wayne White and Carl Hiaasen. Chris Bowron has arrived!” – Betsy Ashton, author
“A snappy, scary premise executed with skill against the backdrop of the Florida Everglades… Chris Bowron’s debut novel is a gripping read that promises even better things to come.” – Ron Base – Author of The Sanibel Sunset Detective Series
THE GREAT SWAMP HUMMED with wildlife—crickets, frogs, insects, waterfowl, cranes together created a chorus. The night was still and very warm, and the air smelled sweet and musky, except for the occasional waft of swamp sulfur. Mosquitoes and no-see-ums were thick, searching for exposed flesh. A full moon provided ample light for those creatures that needed it, be they man or beast. Three men stood on a low, flat aluminum skiff which moved slowly down the middle of a wide marshy river, leaving a clear trail in the brown-gold algae that covered the water. One of the men stood on a platform raised above the outboard motor. With a long pole, he pushed the craft forward. The figure in the middle of the boat held a flashlight, which he aimed at the grassy bank of the river. The third held a high-powered rifle cradled in his arms.
Jimmy McFadden grinned as he poled the skiff along. “Like shootin’ fish in a barrel, ain’t it. Eric?”
His older brother shushed him. “Just keep the damn boat straight, you dumb bastard.”
Isaac shook his head. He’d been listening to this back and forth banter for most of his forty-five years. Eric had raised Jimmy and Isaac after the death of their parents nearly thirtyfive years ago. It was said to have been a freak accident, but Eric knew the details of their suspicious demise. They drowned inside their car in one of the old drainage ditches close to home. Eric was the only sibling old enough to remember; he had been fifteen at the time. His most lingering memory was standing in the funeral home, greeting the various people who knew his parents and came to give their respects—sugar cane farmers, local businesspeople, and colored folk who lived close to their property. His mother was kind to the Negroes. The faces, though, were blurry—except for one. In the procession of mourners and well-wishers, only the old woman stood out. The old woman, that was her name, at least as far as Eric McFadden was concerned. Eric thought she was creepy. He didn’t like the way she smiled. It was forced, her perfectly straight, brown, stained teeth displayed behind tightly stretched thin lips. She seemed to look right through him, and her breath smelled of stale wine.
“Your parents were fine members of this community, boy. They will be missed.” She placed a hand on his thin shoulder, pulling him in closer to her face and the corrupt smell that emanated from her mouth. “Do you intend to carry on the family business, boy?” Eric didn’t answer; he was too numb. She gave him an envelope, pressing it between his clasped hands. Later that night, he sat alone in the McFadden home’s large and ornate parlor, his parents’ caskets displayed at the end of the room, surrounded by garish-looking flower arrangements. He pulled the envelope out of his breast pocket and opened it. It was full of crisp hundred-dollar bills.
Eric looked back on that moment as a turning point in his life—the day he put his parents in the ground and sold his soul. He often wondered if his father had done the same in his youth. He remembered his daddy talking about the old woman, how she had supported their family for as long as he could remember. He was quick to say, “Never cross her, lad, or you’ll have the devil to pay.” Eric was never sure if this comment was to be taken seriously or figuratively.
Eric had always worked with his father. He hadn’t spent a day in school: as far as the Lee County School District knew, Eric McFadden didn’t exist. His mother taught him to read, write, add, subtract and multiply. Young Eric tagged along with Jed McFadden wherever he went, never questioning his judgment. Morality was not an issue: he didn’t know any better, he simply did as his father requested. When asked to cut the lawn, he did it. Later, when asked to dispose of a dead body with a bullet hole in the forehead, he did it. This was just how things were. His daddy showed him how the great swamp could swallow up a soul without leaving a trace.
The McFaddens and their ancestors were cleaners. They disposed of things great and small, including scrap metal, old cars and trucks, road kill for the county, and dead bodies. If the pay was good, they would kill. As far as Jed could recollect, the business had existed prior to the Civil War. Upon his parents’ deaths, Eric simply continued. His father’s clientele came to him because there was no one else to go to. They came to him with dirty jobs and he took care of them, no questions asked. It was a natural continuation. The McFadden’s best customer was the old woman, who loved her poison.
As Eric’s younger siblings grew older, the roles within the McFadden family shifted. Eric taught the family business to his two younger brothers, which, simply put, was fixing other people’s mistakes. Isaac, the middle brother, used the money he inherited from their parents to put himself through school. Eric figured that at least one McFadden should get an education, and would whip Isaac if he was lax with his studies. His high school marks were exceptional, the highest in Lee County during his graduating year. He was accepted at many exceptional colleges and chose Cornell University in upstate New York, an Ivy League college. He graduated with an MBA after completing his undergraduate degree. Isaac inherited his mother’s taste for clothing and the finer things in life. His style was impeccable, and he was always perfectly dressed for the occasion. For instance, when gator hunting, Isaac would outfit himself in pressed safari khakis and a large brim hat. During business hours, he was seldom seen without a casual suit and tie, Ivy League all the way. Tall with dirty blond hair, his face, like his mother’s, was sharp featured, with a long, hawk-like nose—handsome if you could get past the seriousness of his demeanor. Isaac came home to run the family business, His brothers acquiesced to his exceptional ability to manage their affairs, but only as long as he left them alone to pursue their own idiosyncrasies. McFadden Holdings, Inc. was truly a unique undertaking. They did things that other people did not want to do, or did not know how to do, and were paid very well to do it thanks to Isaac’s business acumen. Cleaners needed to be much more careful these days. It had been easy to dispose of things when his father was around, but the modern world put such questionable dealings under a microscope. Issac understood the value of appearances, and made sure that the brothers were diversified and ran front businesses. Isaac formed a small but successful accounting firm. Jimmy was a taxidermist extraordinaire. Eric ran fishing tours out of Pine Island.
Christopher Bowron’s roots stretch back four generations in historic Niagara-on-the-Lake, voted the prettiest town in Canada. Christopher is the owner of a successful Real Estate Brokerage, Niagara-on-the-Lake Realty. He has a bachelor of arts from Brock University and is a lover of fine wine, sport and a story that takes you away. Christopher has a second residence in southwest Florida where he has spent a good part of his life since childhood. Southwest Florida is the backdrop for his first novel, Devil in the Grass.
Christopher is currently working on a sequel to Devil in the Grass, a thriller called The Intern. Jackson Walker returns to find himself in another paranormal mix up as he attempts to run for the Florida State Senate. Is the Church of Set seeking to derail his bid, or is it new and if possible, more dastardly entity?