One of these people will die from that most Philadelphian of traditions: A poisoned cheesesteak.
This is the opening of the serial-ebook from PS Books, Naked Came the Cheesesteak. Who will it be?
Pants closed his browser. Wow. Where in hell did Travers get all of his information?
Pants wanted to meet him, get the inside scoop from him, and more than that, shake him up in return. He would have considered dropping in at the Pen & Pencil Club to see if Travers turned up there. The trouble was, he couldn’t show his face in the journalists’ club right at the moment.
When he’d first arrived in the city, Pants had spent a lot of evenings in the Pen & Pencil Club, cadging free drinks and even a few meals from the clientelle by claiming to be the nephew of respected journalist Clark DeLeon, until the night that Clark had turned up there himself. It was inevitable, he supposed, that they would encounter each other sooner or later, but he’d been banking on later.
Pants had been right in the middle of telling a couple of cigar smokers at the bar about “Uncle Clark” when somebody tapped him on the shoulder. He’d turned around to find himself facing an older guy with glasses and a short beard. Intuitively he knew something was wrong. Tom Purdom, a music critic who wrote for the Broad Street Review, was standing beside the guy and said, “Look, Vincent, your uncle’s here.” In his memory, the entire club had already fallen silent right, waiting. They knew. They all knew.
Pants had barely made it out of the place alive.
Or could it be skateboarder/weed dealer Arshad Mirou? Here’s a little more about him, from Kelly McQuain:
A crisp, fall Monday morning, and already Arshad Mirou had missed his psychology class, no thanks to SEPTA and the 61 line, the bus always late if it ever came at all. Arshad pushed through traffic on his skateboard instead, dodging pedestrians and the rush of cars, blasting through red lights and swerving past car bumpers with only inches to spare. Arshad felt free, moments like this. Didn’t matter that he was from the mean streets of Strawberry Mansion, where the cracked sidewalks and squat row houses made the world seem composed of anything but strawberries or mansions. Syringes and squats were more like it. Grit and dirt and plastic bags, all of it blowing now like fall leaves in Arshad’s wake.
In the last few weeks, Halloween decorations had sprung up in store fronts and windows. Grinning green witches, cartoony vampires. But no false face could disguise the fact there was a true monster out there.
The Cheesesteak Killer, the TV reporters and news bloggers were calling him—and that monstrous mo-fo was proving bad for Arshad’s business.
Ergo no time, no reason, to stop on Kelly Drive today to sell weed to the rollerbladers, skate rats and college scullers who hung out by the fancy, gingerbread houses along Boat House Row. Nobody was buying much lately, and Arshad knew enough to lay low. Too many of his clients had been tangled up in that mess over the past nine days. First that asshole Hodge, then Joey DeLuca’s idiot roommate and the chick he’d been messing with. A bunch of others, including Hodge’s friend Pants, who’d bought it in some dingy writers’ club in Center City. Spoiled college kids were pushing up daisies all over the goddamn city, and nobody knew what to make of it. He’d followed the story on The Daily Traversty blog, how the cops were hauling in people for questioning left and right, only to let them go when the connections fizzled.
Or could it be one of Philadelphia’s Finest, as written by Victoria Janssen:
Their Rittenhouse condo was quiet when she let herself in; the cat, Mozzarella, was curled asleep on the back of the leather couch. Chelsea stripped off her suit jacket and locked her gun and its holster in the gun safe, placing her badge in with them. Only then did she lay her phone, keys, and wallet on the marble kitchen island.
Arturo sat in the cozy breakfast nook with his nightly espresso, examining the evening’s receipts from his restaurant empire as they rolled in. Chelsea laid her hands on his shoulders and kissed the top of his bald head. “Sell any deconstructed Wagyu cheesesteaks?”
“I’m waiting to find out if Craig LeBan is impressed before I give up on it.” He reached up to caress her hand with his. “I missed the news—any breaks in the case?”
Chelsea slid onto the padded banquette next to him, throwing one leg over his lap. She laid her head on his sho
ulder. It wouldn’t be difficult to fall asleep right here. “More leads, but leads are a dime a dozen, any idiot can drop one. Today an idiot did.”
“It’s following the leads that counts,” Arturo said solemnly.
“You know my rants too well,” Chelsea said.
“Want to hear about some more idiots on Yelp?” Arturo grinned and kissed her. “The case will still be there in the morning.”
“It’s already morning.” Chelsea yawned. “I sent Olive and Laurel home at a reasonable hour, so they can follow up on an interview for me, decide whether to bring the lady in to the precinct.”
“And the mayor? Has he had anything to say to you?”
“Not to me. The Chief, I’m sure. I’m keeping my head down as much as I can. I don’t need politicking along with all the other crap I have to deal with. God help me if I ever make Lieutenant.”
“Don’t worry, I would hire you as a dishwasher in a hot minute,” Arturo said, nuzzling her neck. “I’m imagining you wearing soapsuds right now.”
“Anything besides the soapsuds?”
“That would be telling,” he murmured. “I—“ Chelsea’s cell rang. “Crap,” Arturo said.
“Detective Simon here.”
Find out for yourself by reading the serial novel, Naked Came the Cheesesteak. So, why Naked Came the Cheesesteak, anyway?
Here at Philadelphia Stories, we do all kinds of great stuff. Our regular magazine, featuring writers and artists from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware comes out four times a year. Philadelphia Stories Jr., features some amazingly talented kids comes out twice a year. The Crimmins Award for Poetry. The McGlinn award for fiction. Push to Publish, our one-day writers’ conference. PS Books, our book division. Our readings. Our master classes.
We want even more people to know what we do. To participate. To read. To write. (And yes, to donate. Always, we’re looking for that.) We wanted to come up with something fun that we’d never done before.
What we came up with was a serial novel.
Thirteen Philly area writers each contributed a chapter. Nobody (well, nobody but the final writer) will know how the whole thing ends.
And it’s a murder mystery. Written collectively by writers of all genres, each bringing something different to the project.
Which brings us back to the title.
In the mid 90’s, a group of South Florida writers, led by Elmore Leonard and Dave Barry, wrote a serial novel called Naked Came the Manatee (the title being itself a riff on another serial novel from the late ‘60s, Naked Came the Stranger). The book was serialized in the Miami Herald, then went to a print edition.
We thought we could do that here. A book that made just as much use of the quirkiness that makes up this city as the other book did with South Florida. And we, unlike South Florida, have cheesesteaks. (Well, maybe they have them, but they suck.)
We’re posting one chapter on the Philadelphia Stories website each Monday for thirteen weeks. We started on November 2, 2015. We’ll be publishing an e-book as well, due out Spring 2016.
We’d like to thank our assistant editors, Jon Busch, Emi London, Tiffany Sumner for their help on this project, Ryan McElroy for his great cover art, and Lena Van, our intern, for her help with promotion. And, of course, to the thirteen authors who wrote the book: Diane Ayres, Randall Brown, Mary Anna Evans, Gregory Frost, Shaun Haurin, Victoria Janssen, Merry Jones, Tony Knighton, Don Lafferty, Warren C Longmire, Kelly McQuain, Nathaniel Popkin, Kelly Simmons.
Mitchell Sommers and Tori Bond are co-editors of the book, Naked Came the Cheesesteak.