Sinker Crenshaw, privileged son of a popular game show host, is still recovering from his mother's suicide when he falls precipitously in love with the enigmatic Tara Charles. Romance turns suddenly to nightmare, hurling Sinker and his pal, streetwise astrologer Plato Mims, into a desperate road race against time, an ever-tightening net of calculated illusions, and the long arm of the law...
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, which is *the* book trade journal, said in its Feb. 24, 2003 issue:"The stars are right for astrologer Steven Forrest's mystery debut, Stalking Anubis."
CHAPTER ONE: Tuesday afternoon
"Listen, Plato." Sinker leaned forward, earnest as an evangelist. He was a big man, just over six feet tall. His skin was soft, as if he'd retained most of his baby fat. He had the look of a yuppie Presbyterian. "I'm not just talking about hormones." He glanced at the next table. A bunch of jocks were chattering about baseball. He pulled his chair closer to the thin, dark man. "The first time I saw her, I swear I could feel her when she was still ten feet away."
Plato studied the bubbles in his stein of Guinness. They rose heavenward, brown and flawless, like African angels. "Swing low, sweet chariot," he said.
"Man, you're not listening—"
"I'm listening." Plato sipped his stout meditatively. A Star Trek re-run blared in the background, the TV babble merging with the sounds of the afternoon bar crowd. It was spring break. Good luck. Most of the students were gone. That's why they had a table by the window. "I'm listening. You met this lady at a reincarnation workshop put on by some New Age Cherokee. You were hot for her. You get lucky, maybe she be hot for you too."
"Hot for her?" Sinker exhaled mightily, fingering the spear of clear quartz that dangled over his expensive sweater. "I'm not feeling very heard here. I'm telling you, Plato, when we looked at each other, something happened in me at the molecular level. I felt it." He shook his head. "You used to understand this stuff. Now you're acting like an asshole."
Plato adjusted his glasses, then studied his friend skeptically.
Sinker continued. "Man, I saw her there, on the other side of a crowd. She looked straight at me. I looked straight back at her. That was all it took. It was like instant recognition. We didn't even know each other, but there was this lightning between us."
"This the story of your life or a Britney Spears tune?"
"Look, Plato. We walked right up to each other without a word. We hugged. It was almost spooky. How many times has that happened to you? How many times has it happened in history?"
"Be real," said Plato. "Be cool. You know, love always gets complicated, you give it a couple weeks."
"Plato, I felt my fourth chakra open up."
"You sure it wasn't your fly?"
"I'm trying to be straight with you." Sinker pressed his lips tightly together. His hand passed through his fine, pale brown hair. It was cut conservatively. He was dressed in khakis and an eggshell blue sweater. He peered into his cup of herb tea, then looked fervently back at his friend. "Give me a break. Show a little sensitivity. This is important to me."
Plato laughed, the brown skin around his elfin eyes wrinkling like a crushed paper bag. He'd known Sinker for eleven years, ever since they'd met in their sophomore year at Duke. He knew his friend's ragged edges and skated along them as though he had radar. Another sip of beer, a moment of silence. "I'm only saying keep some perspective, Sinker. You're subject to . . . enthusiasms. You barely know this woman." He put down his stein, licked his upper lip. "Remember when you were gonna move to Costa Rica and grow kiwi fruit?
Sinker glared at him. "That could've worked," he said feebly.
Plato took off his glasses. He used a napkin to clean the lenses. He put them back on, then continued. "What do you actually know about her?"
Teacup halfway to his lips, Sinker froze. "We didn't just meet. That's an illusion. I mean, we're talking about lifetimes--"
"Shit." Plato sighed, cutting him off. He took a sip of beer. He was wearing a Spike Lee sweatshirt and blue jeans. Both had achieved thrift shop chic. The sweat shirt was too big for him. He was wiry and bantam-weight. He radiated sharp intelligence, serious and sardonic.
The waitress arrived, interrupting them. She was an eyeliner redhead with a Jersey accent. "Another round, gentlemen?"
Plato feigned great agitation, putting on his best Eddie Murphy. "Smelling salts! Waitress! You got smelling salts? This Euro-American boy afraid he gonna lose his virginity. He feeling faint. You gotta help him."
Sinker looked skyward, shaking his head.
Jersey took the bait. "Christ, I don't blame him. Lose your virginity today, you don't know what kinda shit you're gonna catch. I'd be pale too."
They both studied Sinker with mock concern. Meanwhile, on the tube, Mr. Data was cool, calm, and quizzical. The bridge of the Enterprise was tense. Nervously, Plato added, "Sinker ain't always that white . . . "
“Cut the shit," said Sinker, exasperated. To the waitress: "Bring me another tea, okay?"
"And another Guinness," Plato swallowed the last of his beer and handed the redhead the mug. "And bring the tab to my main man here. He handles all my financial affairs." She disappeared through a set of swinging doors, still snickering. "Why don't you drink a beer?" inquired Plato when they were alone again. "You falling in love, you gonna need the strength."
Sinker looked at him darkly. "Because drinking beer puts holes in your aura."
Twenty minutes later, they stepped into the North Carolina afternoon. It was April. The air was already warm and sodden, promising another steamroom summer. They walked, not talking, toward the lot where their cars were parked. Sinker drove a new Ford Explorer, a gift from his father, game show host Phil Crenshaw. Count Your Blessings had just been renewed for another season. The old man was feeling generous. Plato had pulled in a minute after his friend and parked right next to him. He drove an ancient, white '73 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia which he had lovingly nurtured back from the grave. He called it Apocalypse Now. Two of the best mechanics in Durham treated it as if it were their firstborn. Plato himself had rebuilt the engine two years earlier. He swore it would still be running when Sinker's Explorer was serving as public housing in Nicaragua.
"I'll wait and make sure that piece of shit you drive starts up," said Sinker. His voice was incongruously quiet.
"Positive thinking, brother," replied Plato. "Don't bad vibe my road machine." Opening the creaking door, he added, "Fear is the mind-killer." He easily folded his slight frame into the tiny Ghia, rolled down the window, and hit the key. On the third try the engine sputtered. By the fifth, it was running. "Purring like a kitten," said Plato over the roar. "What did I tell you?" He pumped the accelerator, nursing the motor up to a steady idle. When he was satisfied it wouldn't stall, he said, "You still want to play racquetball Thursday?"
Sinker nodded, "Yeah, around two." He turned to climb into his car. He had the look of a walking collision-zone between regular meals and the Nautilus machine. His dejection didn't fit the stereotype.
Plato opened his mouth, then closed it again. He watched his friend settle into the driver's seat, fasten his seatbelt. Finally, he gestured for Sinker to open his shotgun window. "About that girl . . . "
"Don't give me any more bullshit about her, all right?"
"No." Plato looked chastened. "Listen, Sinker. I'm sorry. I was having some fun with you. Didn't mean to ruffle your feathers." He hesitated, then added, "You're serious about her, aren't you?"
"Serious as your mother's gonorrhea." It was an old joke, funnier a decade ago than now. They regarded each other, both wordlessly acknowledging the bond of loyalty between them that somehow always came out as taunting and teasing.
"Touche," said Plato, after a moment.
They grinned at each other. Then Sinker said, "Yeah, I'm serious about her." He loosened his seat belt, turned toward his friend in the little Ghia. "Turn off that damned cement mixer, all right? I can barely hear you." Plato cut the ignition. Sinker continued, conciliatory now. "I know what you're saying. I don't know her very well at the personality level yet." He brightened. "But, man, the voices in my head are saying go for it. I got to trust them." Another ten year old joke.
"Trust them then." The Ghia was still sputtering. Plato shook his head. "Damned dieseling." He dropped it into fourth, popped the clutch. The car jerked, then died. He turned back to his friend. "You got to trust your feelings." Sinker nodded. Plato went on. "What's the lady's name?"
"Tara. Tara Charles." Sinker nearly sighed, but he caught himself in time. "She's from somewhere near L.A. Twenty-nine years old. Brunette. A Scorpio—you'll like her. She's intense." Sinker waited. Plato said nothing, so he continued. "She flew east especially for the workshop. Really into alternative healing and stuff. Herbs. Reiki. You know the territory."
"Your territory," said Plato.
"Right. My territory." Sinker smiled.
Once all that had been Plato's territory too. Sinker didn't understand exactly what had happened to change it. Gradually, Plato had turned a little more cynical. Not closed, exactly. Just cautious. Or street-wise. Or something. "Anyway, she's tuned into a lot of Native American stuff. She saw a web site about this Cherokee medicine man I been telling you about, Dancing Eagle, who's doing his thing up in the mountains near Asheville, and she flew in. Had to meet him. Got it in a meditation, she told me."
Plato pursed his lips, nodded. "You're compatible."
Sinker nodded too.
"When do I meet her?"
"I'm seeing her tomorrow night," said Sinker. "I'll talk to her. Maybe the three of us can have dinner next week sometime."
"She's staying around that long?"
"At least a couple weeks." Sinker shrugged. "She's hanging loose. Says she wants to straighten out some old karma with the South."
"Don't tell me—she was Scarlett O'Hara, right?" Plato clapped his hands. "You must've been Rhett Butler. Man, that is heavy karma—"
"Yeah, and you were Steppin' Fuckin' Fetchit."
They both laughed. Several blocks away, a police siren wailed, loud in the Durham night. "Where she staying?" asked Plato as the banshees rounded the corner. "With you?"
"Holiday Inn?" Plato looked shocked. "Some hot romance . . . "
Sinker shook his head. "You fucking Africans don't know a damn thing about romance. It was a European invention, about eight hundred years ago."
"At least we're fucking."
"Oh yeah? Who have you been seeing lately? Halle Berry?"
Plato didn't have an answer.
And Sinker knew he'd hit a little harder than he'd planned.
After a silence, Plato broke the jam. "Holiday Inn for a couple of weeks . . . The lady's cashed out." He nodded approvingly.
"Guess so," said Sinker absently. Money was always a foggy subject for him. His trust fund kept his checking account full. He never thought much about finances beyond that.
Plato fired up Apocalypse Now. In his best Beauregard, he intoned, "Well, my friend, you a White Knight of Southern Manhood. I believe you'll see yo' duty cleah to help protect that little lady from the fiscal predations of our local hoteliers. Make a place for her at your table, I say—"
"You sound like Colonel Sanders—"
"And," Plato interrupted imperiously, "in the warmth of your bed."
"Now you sound like my inner voice."
Plato grinned, then threw the Ghia into reverse. In a moment, he was gone.
REVIEW of Stalking Anubis BY NOEL TYL
An astrologer named Plato: Steven Forrest's novel hero!
Super mystery novels? --Steven Forrest has written one!!
"Our" Steven Forrest -superb astrologer, lecturer, and writer-has just published a mystery novel: "Stalking Anubis." Anubis is the jackal-headed god of death and embalming. Neat, capturing title!
I don't read novels, since I feel I'm wasting my time not reading hard-core information, etc. -But THIS novel, once the words began to reach my retina and get processed in my brain, showed me a world of drama and fun that I welcomed immediately. I had no choice, really: I could not put this book down!!!! Time very, very well spent.
Steven introduces us to a bright, hip astrologer named Plato Mims and his buddy caught up in a macabre occurrence that has you riveted to your chair! When the deed was done in the book, a clap of unexpected thunder filled my office. Wow!
Beyond a great story, with several premises that would sound outlandish if I presented them here in abbreviated form --but are highly engaging and real-- Steven has the "touch" for dialogue and description, the hardest part of writing a novel. The book flows superbly well.
And talk about vivid descriptions and awesome metaphors!!!! Here's a sampling: "Traffic would be as clogged as a pastry cook's aorta; like two good Christians heading for the Policeman's Ball; sex and intelligence are practically natural enemies; as dangerous as The National Rifle Association with PMS; an SUV large enough to account for global warming all by itself; the train was a hundred feet away, brakes squealing like murdered pigs; rust
never sleeps; his car would be serving as public housing in Nicaragua!" --And tons more, making the writing and action vivid and memorable.
The astrology is slim but pivotal, showing, as Steven says, that astrologers are bright people in the mainstream of life; resourceful, creative, reliable. It is not an astrology book, not intended to be one, but the horoscope charts at the end will fascinate you!
This is a grrrrrrrreat read. -Paperback, $12.95
Highly, highly recommended!
SOME COMMENTS FROM READERS
"This one just kept rolling..wit, suspense, plot, characters, heart..the astrological linkage..whew!"
"I loved it, all of it. And I'm a big murder mystery fan- not just Dennis Lehane but Michael Connelly too.Your dialogure was great as was atmosphere, pacing, all of it. I finished it this afternoon (after starting it just yesterday afternoon!) I enjoyed your voice throughout. When can we expect the next one!?"
"The pace never slowed, as I felt wisps of “The Fugitive” breeze by every once in a while, with lots of delectable Steve-isms, and twists in just the right places throughout."
"I wish it had been a thousand pages long!"