"Where am I?"
"Brawley General Hospital. Do you remember checking in?"
"I remember driving in a rocket ship. There were some blue lights. It smelled like fish."
"That's Brawley, all right. It's the fertilizer that smells. I don't know what the rocket ship part's about."
"Something bit me."
"A black widow spider. Probably not a good idea to go tramping around barefoot in Slab City like your friends said you were doing."
"My friends? Are they here?"
"I can check if you want. Do you feel ready to see people?"
"In a little whie," Rolly said, feeling sleepy again. The nurse closed the curtains and left. He lay back on the pillow.
He was sitting in a rowboat on a sandy hill. His father was there. They were in the same boat. His father shouted at him, giving orders. His father handed him a ukulele. He said there was a bomb in the boat. His father saluted, then jumped out of the boat and swam away...
Rolly opened his eyes...The monitoring equipment they'd hooked him up to continued to beep at regular intervals, but it seemed less alarming now. The swelling in his leg had gone down, along with the pain...
Three days ago, he'd gone out for Mexican food at 2:30 in the morning. That's when he'd met Macy Starr, at the Villa Cantina. If he'd gone home right after his gig, or just gone to the grocery story, he would never have taken her case. He wouldn't be lying in the hospital in the rotten fish city of Brawley with a black widow spider bit on his ankle. Things would get complicated with Macy now, accounting his hours, parsing them into the personal and the professional. Last night they'd had sex in the Tioga. The spider bite was a message. The message said he was an idiot.
Macy Starr had golden eyes...
Desert City Diva:
A Rolly Waters Mystery
By Corey Lynn Fayman
Looking for a cool book that is, like, totally unique and also shares a part of Americana that you've probably never heard of? (At least I hadn't...) Well, thank Corey Fayman for taking us on a trip to Slab City, and more, in this novel. It not only brings readers a fascinating mystery, but also shares an alternative historical tale that is both intriguing and fun to consider! This had to become one of my favorite personal selections for 2016!
Macy Starr had golden eyes. She had strawberry-blonde hair. It hung down in dreadlocks that surrounded her tan, freckled face like a halo of soggy breadsticks. At this moment, she was drenched in sweat, the kind of sweat that pours off your body when you work a room with bright spotlights and poor ventilation. It was nightclub sweat, an affidavit of her vocation and Rolly's, the sweat that blooms off the bodies of musicians, strippers and stand-up comedians. No amount of antiperspirant or hygienic preparation would hold it back. Macy was a dance club DJ, cranking out beats until the early hours of morning. She'd just finished her gig...Rolly had stopped in at the cantina after his own gig...Under normal conditions, an old-school guitar player like himself and a young beatmaker like Macy would have little to say to each other. They would not have crossed paths. Vera, the hostess, had introduced them. Macy needed help. She needed advice, the kind only a guitar-playing private detective could provide...
"No, dumbass. About that guitar thing. You ever seen anything like it?"
The guitar thing in question wasn't really a guitar. It was a one-stringed instrument propped up oon the booth in between them. It was well made, with a finely finished wood body, a gold-plated tuning peg and a vintage single-coil pickup. You could make some noise with it, but it lacked the refinements and playability of a real guitar.
"I'd call it a diddley bow," said Rolly
"Diddley bow. They started in the South. Sharecroppers would attach a piece of wood to their house, drive in a couple of nails and stretch a wire between them so they could thump on it. Kind of a poor man's guitar. Homemade. Not usually this nice."
|"Your shirt is, uh...kind|
of unusual," said Rolly,
raising his eyes from
"You like Stoner
Macy thought the woman might be her aunt and hoped to find her. The instrument with the picture had been brought and left for Macy by Daddy Joe, an Indian with whom she'd lived when she was small--that is, until she'd run away at 16...
What Rolly discovered as he began to investigate, however, was that there were others who were interested in the Diddly bow itself, while Macy was only interested in the picture. Rolly had gone to talk with a guitar expert and learned that somebody had already been in asking whether he'd seen any in the area. This led to the recognition of the maker who turned out to be an old friend of Rolly's! Which led to the Alien Artifacts store, where he met Dotty, from whom he first learned about the Universal Vibration Technologies and that the Diddly bow belonged to that group... Without going further into the details, I'll just add that this involved a cult, murder of members...and gold...
"I want the guitar player," said the shadow.
He's here with me. You the guy who left the postcard?"
"I must query him. The guitar player."
"Why can't you talk to me?"
"Drummers are nincompoops. They cannot play the proper frequencies..."
The shadow retreated and moved farther up the hill. "I want the guitar player," said the shadow. "I want the Waters."
"The questions are for you," said the shadow. "Not the skin-beater."
"Are you a gold drinker?" the man said.
"No," Rolly said. "not that I know of."
"Are you a Gentling?"
"Same answer, I guess."
The man made a sound like a bird. "Teotwayki! Teotwayki!"
"Teotwayki. That is what it means."
"What does the second line mean?" Rolly said. "Golden eyes key?"
"Golden Eyes has the key."
"The key to what?"
"The Astral Vibrator."
Rolly felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Randy Parker was looking for the Astral Vibrator. It went with the Diddley bow.
"Do you know where I can find the Astral Vibrator?" he said.
"It lives with the Gentlings. The Waters must practice the frequencies..."
But that got interrupted by a "villain...with negative frequencies..." who carried a taser with him...
And at least one death definitely had the Reservation Tribal police involved, including providing housing in their jail for Macy and Rolly... LOL Of course, the policewoman was Macy's adopted sister who she'd not seen since she'd ran away from the Reservation. Now I have to mention one other place where much of the action takes place--Slab City where a number of the main players lived or had lived... and where one of the villains had died in the hot waters...
Where they not only lived off the grid, but had a God mountain, an sculpture location called East Jesus, and also had a range where entertainment took place... And that's where Rolly won his place in Slab City and was chosen to solve the mystery of what had happened 20 years ago...
Because I was reading about so much new "stuff" and trying to keep up--You see, Rolly already had the electronics background and musical experience to easily put the clues together, while I hadn't a clue! On the other hand, both Rolly and Macy were quite shocked with how the book ended! You will be too!
I haven't read the other two books in this series, but I was sorry to see that there was not more on Rolly's actual playing at his gigs, with some specific selections that he might play... I missed this omission since the book got so deeply into aspects of instruments and music, but no references for readers to consider as part of his overall role of PI and guitar player. Hinting, of course...
Do check this one out--you just might want to relocate to Slab City! Highly Recommended.
Q&A Provided by Publicist
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Desert City Diva is your third Rolly Waters mystery. What can you tell us about Rolly and how does this book continue the traditions established by the other novels in the series?
Rolly Waters is a cozy mystery hero living in a crime noir world. He’s overweight, over forty, and lives in a small granny flat next door to his mother. He’s a talented guitar player and musician whose glory days are behind him, so he makes ends meet by working part-time as a private investigator. He doesn’t carry a gun and would probably shoot himself in the foot if he had one. His chief virtues as an investigator are his ability to make friends with almost anyone and an absolute dedication to helping his clients, even when their cases lead him into dangerous situations and criminal activity he never envisioned when he first took it on.
Music has always been a part of all the Rolly Waters mystery novels, but in Desert City Diva it’s become central to solving the case. A special musical instrument and the ‘celestial’ notes it plays are keys to the mystery. It’s the first time Rolly’s had to call on both his musical and investigative skills to solve a case.
2. In Desert City Diva, Rolly takes on a missing person’s case from a golden-eyed orphan and dance-club DJ named Macy Starr. What’s special about Macy and why is the search for the woman who raised her so important to her?
Macy is a willful and independent young woman who’s worked hard to create her own sense of identity. She’s never known her biological parents. She grew up as the daughter of the chief of police on an Indian reservation, but she’s not Native American. She knows nothing of her parents, or where she came from, except that she has some sort of ‘golden child’ status with her adoptive father. That didn’t help much on the reservation she grew up on though, where she was viewed as a bit of a freak. She’s taken that outsider view to heart in her professional life and created different DJ personas she uses to express herself.
Macy is almost completely lacking in impulse control in both her speech and actions. Whatever comes into her head, she says it or acts on it. Rolly finds this attractive. It’s how he used to be. But it frustrates him too, and he knows from experience it can lead to all sorts of trouble.
3. The only clues Macy can provide Rolly are a curious one-stringed guitar called a Diddley Bow and a black and white photograph of a young girl with a man in a baseball uniform. What is the significance of these items, and why did you choose the Diddley Bow as the key to solving the mystery surrounding Macy’s case?
I can’t remember exactly where I learned about the Diddley Bow, but I used it in the story because it’s a simple instrument that non-musicians can pick up pretty quickly to thump out some basic melodies. It’s important to the story because I needed an instrument that the members of a UFO cult could all play together simultaneously. They use the Diddley Bows to play alternate tunings of ‘celestial’ notes that will reflect their ancient heritage and serve as a beacon to interplanetary aliens. I didn’t make that part up. There are people out there who believe this stuff. Search the Internet for information on the Solfeggio Harmonies.
The Diddley Bow is a real musical instrument. It’s a primitive one-stringed guitar that was first developed by sharecroppers in the American South, who were trying to recreate instruments they knew from Africa. The instrument interests Rolly because he’s a Blues aficionado, and Diddley Bows were one of the first instruments used in the development of Blues music.
The photograph laminated to the back of Macy’s Diddley Bow is the only connection she may have to her biological parents. She knows the woman is her Aunt Betty, who disappeared many years earlier and may or may not be her real aunt. Macy doesn’t know who the baseball player is, but Rolly recognizes him at once as a famous major-leaguer and local celebrity.
4. Desert City Diva takes place on an Indian reservation in an area near the Anza Borrego Desert. How integral is this setting to this particular Rolly Waters mystery and why did you place the story in this environment?
We have quite a few Indian reservations in San Diego County. They are much smaller than the Navajo or Hopi reservations of Arizona, but they are true reservations, and as such they are independent sovereign entities with their own government and a police force just like the larger reservations. Many of them are located in the mountains of east San Diego County, which is still largely rural, and the kind of area where UFO cults might develop without attracting much attention. Legal and criminal issues can get complicated, as county sheriffs do not have authority on reservation lands and vice-versa. Many of the tribes have built casinos now, and that provides some tension related to the character’s motivations, as well.
5. Can you describe some of the research you did when you were writing Desert City Diva?
My last two novels were inspired by fortuitous driving adventures with my wife. In the case of Desert City Diva, the drive took place in the southern desert of California where we happened upon two places with rather interesting names – Salvation Mountain and Slab City. The first turned out to be a remarkable monument to one man’s religious passions, and the second is an off-the-grid gathering of hippies, retirees and social misfits who have chosen to live together in an ad hoc desert community where they resist both the comforts and confines of modern society. Most of the residents live in trailers or RVs, which are parked on slab foundations left over from a U.S. Army fort used in WWII. Slab City residents have a library, a café, a modern sculpture garden, and a stage where they hold musical jam sessions every week. Once I found out about those jam sessions, I knew I had to get Rolly Waters out there to play his guitar.
The other thing I did some research on was the concept of sacred harmonies and the use of alternate musical scales, much of which is quite interesting and some of which is quite silly. There was also a bit of San Diego history I had to look into, such as the mini-gold rush in our mountains in the 1870s, as well as local Indian reservations and their history. San Diego County was where the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide took place in 1997, so I did quite a bit of research on that and other suicide cults, to help me understand how something like that can happen.
6. Are you working on another Rolly Waters mystery? If so, what can you tell us about it?
I’ve sent Rolly to the far edges of San Diego County in my last two books, so I’ve decided to bring him back home for his next adventure. Most of the action takes place in and around San Diego Bay. The jumping off point is the very real U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program, which has trained captive dolphins and sea lions to perform tasks such as mine identification, sea floor retrieval and enemy diver detection. The story centers on a Navy diver whose body was never recovered after a training accident twenty years earlier, but who seems to be taking revenge in the present day on some of the people who knew him. It also works in some of the recent controversy surrounding sea mammal captivity at Sea World and other animal water parks. The working title is Ballast Point Breakdown.
"A powerful new voice on the crime-fiction scene" (ForeWord Reviews), Corey Lynn Fayman has made a career of avoiding the sunlight in his hometown of San Diego, California, where he's worked as a keyboard player for local bands, a sound designer for the world-famous Old Globe Theatre, and an interactive designer for organizations both corporate and sundry. He also teaches at various colleges and universities.
Boredom, and a warped sense of literary ambition, led him to conceive of the character of Rolly Waters, the guitar-playing detective first featured in the San Diego Book Awards nominated mystery Black's Beach Shuffle. Unduly encouraged by this early success, or perhaps from a personal need for symbolic revenge against guitar playing show-offs, he set about writing a second Rolly Waters Mystery, Border Field Blues, winner of the Genre Award at the 2013 Hollywood Book Festival.
Unlike his hard-rocking protagonist, Mr. Fayman can only manage a couple of beers before he has to lie down and take a nap. He's managed to stay married to the same woman for more years than either of them probably expected, aided by a shared love for improvised driving adventures and an arid sense of humor. Many years soaking up the temperate climate that Mr. Fayman's hometown is famous for has had no noticeable effect on his attitude.