Title: Ash and Cinders ( Gabe Church Tale #3)
Author: Rodd Clark
Publisher: Driven Press
Release Date: December 8th, 2016
Length: 249 pages
“It’s just the devil’s share. When life evens itself out and every bad guy gets what’s coming to em’ . . . it’s one of the few balancing things life really offers.”
Gabriel Church has done a bad, bad thing . . . and normally that doesn’t bother him too much. But everything changed when he met Christian Maxwell. Chris became his unholy grail. The thing he sought more than any other treasure, yet still a priceless pearl beyond his reach. Nothing he does seems to solidify any prospect of them being able to remain together, to live that happily-ever-after story. Even if he were to make a promise to stop his killing in the name of God, it would still only be a salty futility to wet and tempt his lips.
Christian Maxwell discovered a damaged soul inside Church, with a goodness plumbed somewhere below the visible surface. He saw pain shadowing his killer like some trailing footprint left moist in the sand. But he failed to recognize each victim, or the costs of every action the fugitive took for granted. He simply pushed those faceless victims to the dark recesses of his mind, hiding them from plain view as if they were discarded things, recollections intentionally forgotten.
The one thing Church knows with certainty is the writer is the only person who really knows him, and the only man other than himself who possibly understands where they are both headed. But life is about to get more twisted and dangerous. It begins with a back woods Deputy Sheriff and that same ill-fated chance that always prevented him from slowing down his pace or finding a peaceful place to rest with Chris Maxwell by his side.
This is the final installment in the Gabriel Church serial killer series.
Much of the first third of this story focuses on the thoughts of the main characters and their recollections of events that occurred previously and thus act as a sort of recap while the reader is made aware of Gabe’s and Christian’s current positions. The lovers are apart again because of Gabe’s murderous actions to protect Christian at the end of the previous story and it appears the CID special agent is getting closer to hunting them down.
We are also introduced to a new main character—a gay deputy sheriff with his own secrets—and it is clear he will have some bearing on Gabe’s destiny.
By the time the story reaches mid-way, things have started to happen that could spell disaster for Gabe. The book builds to an exciting climax where it appears all is lost for the separated lovers. Is the serial killer going to get what he deserves or is luck on his side? I was unsure how this story would unfold and be wrapped up, but I was rooting for these two guys who had broken the law. I wanted them to be together and find their happiness.
Rodd Clark has a distinctive style of narration. He writes in third person, yet gives the narrator an omniscient role too, so the reader is given information that the characters are not always privileged to receive or see the impact of a particular action on their future. We get to delve deep into the minds of the characters with many thoughts, considerations, and remembered past incidences that all have a bearing on the characters’ present position or response to a situation.
There was a lot I liked about this tale. The way Rodd gradually ramps up the tension and suspense is very well done, as is the way he has the reader empathizing with Gabe and Christian. The romance aspect of this story propels it forward. The conversations between Gabe and Christian, especially those on the telephone, are emotional and very moving at times. The love between these two guys is palpable and causes them to act the way they do.
Ash and Cinders
Rodd currently resides in Dallas, Texas. He shares his life with numerous cats, dogs, and his partner of many years. He has many projects under his belt and is working on many others. Always penning his next work, Rodd likes to keep busy with writing and reading and of course his menagerie of critters.
He enjoys the M/M Mystery, Romance and Thriller genres but has varied interests and enjoys many varied types of books. With a dark and distinctively disturbing voice he creates characters that are flawed yet intriguing; such as the M/C of Gabriel Church in his Romantic Fiction “Rubble and the Wreckage”, and carried to the newest chapter “Torn and Frayed”, as well as the third and final Gabriel Church Tale titled “Ash and Cinders”.
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE GABRIEL CHURCH SERIES
Title: Rubble and the Wreckage #1
Genre: M/M Romantic Thriller
Author: Rodd Clark
Gabriel Church knows you can’t take a life without first understanding just how feeble life is, how tentative and weak it stands alone. If you desire murder, you hold a life in your hand. Whether you release it to grant life or grip tighter to end it, it is at your command and discretion. Gabriel is a serial killer with a story he wants told.
Christian Maxwell studied abnormal psychology in college but chose instead to focus on a career in writing. His background comes in handy when he thinks of writing about a serial killer. He can’t think of anyone more qualified to write the story of Gabriel Lee Church, and do so in the murderer’s own words. It’s been done before, but never with a killer who has yet to be captured or convicted.
There was never anything more than a gentleman’s understanding between the two men that Christian would record Gabriel’s life story. The killer did not ask for his complicity in any crimes, nor did he ever ask for his silence. Christian’s interest in the man, though, is fast becoming something more than academic. When the writer and his subject become unexpected friends and then lovers, the question remains: What is Gabriel’s endgame . . . and why does he want his story told?
Introducing my main anti-hero Character
Body build: Toned and big, sexy and dangerous.
Who is the significant other in your main character’s life?
Tell us about this character.
Christian is an attractive and educated man, very erudite and currently in his mid-thirties. He is living as a closeted gay man when our story begins, but finds that he is desperate to connect with someone who can break him out of his destined routine.
How does your hero dress?
Gabriel Church is the anti-hero of the series and dresses rough and casual. It is his body that attracts not the denims and flannel and tee-shirts he is accustomed to wearing.
If you could only hear this character’s voice (but not see him) what characteristic would identify him?
Church is a dichotomy because he appears red-neck illiterate from the outside, but in truth has his deep profound thoughts and belief-structure. His voice is masculine without being wordy, but his control is always sensed and displayed by the few sentences he blurts out. His speech illustrates a subtle wisdom with a serious knife-like edge, because after-all, he has seen and done it all during his lifetime.
How educated is this character?
Gabe is street smart but even with his high school education he shows he is envious of Christian’s brain and intellect. He considers the man an enigma and struggles with the knowledge that his life could have turned out very differently had he been given the same chances at a college education. One that Christian has taken for granted.
Is the character book-smart, self-taught, widely-experienced?
Christian as a protagonist is trained and educated with a background that gives him the leg-up over his peers, where Church is self-taught and possesses than skill of reading people and sizing up his competition.
Does he scrape by, live comfortably, live extravagantly?
Gabriel survived only by his wits, and in a place where a bed with clean sheets is considered a luxury.
What is your character’s viewpoint on wealth?
Christian Maxwell was raised with financial comfort and due to his degree always assumed his life would run according to plan. He is the exact opposite of Gabriel Church who has never known wealth and comfort but sees the futility in such pursuits, namely because he has seen the others he has killed die without fanfare and without their protection of wealth or reputation. The rat-race of others, as Church has called it, it something fragile and easily destroyed in his perception. He holds no interest in obtaining any financial freedom, nor does he expect to ever find it.
On what special skills does your character rely?
Gabe relies on his ability to read others and spot their weaknesses; it may be why he is so fascinated with Chris Maxwell, his polar opposite. Christian doesn’t seem to possess that skill at all, and this creates a symbiotic relationship of Gabe wanting to protect his lover from the dangers he sees so clearly.
Are any of his skills a source of pride or embarrassment, and if so, which ones and why?
If you were to ask Church that question in private he would easily say it was his ability to fuck, and fuck well. He would smile his twisted grin and flash his pearly whites, but in truth the reality was that he considered himself a survivor, regardless of the odds. He lives his life without assistance, makes no apologies and is very much the man’s man, counts only on his own abilities to get from point A to point B.
What is your character’s family like?
Church has a dismal past and walked away from his family long ago. Whereas Christian loves his family but doesn’t seem to express pride in them or their accomplishments. Both men have slipped from the confines of family, but for very different reasons and with very different outcomes.
Is he close to family?
Christian is close to his family, but can go weeks without speaking to them. Church has not spoken to anyone in his family since he left as a young adult. But for him in particular, the ghosts of his childhood haunt him more regularly than he would care to admit.
Does this character see morality as black-and-white, or with shades of gray?
Church can only see in shades of gray. His beliefs seem rigid and morally unyielding, but he is plagued by every decision he makes. Those decisions become questionable only after meeting someone new that he forms a connection with, though he can’t fully fathom that at the time.
How do others perceive your character based upon looks, and is this assumption accurate?
Gabriel is a sexy man with a strong physique, and while others see him as one to objectify he is truly gifted with an ability to cut through the minutia of day to day existence. Heterosexual males may perceive him to be ignorant because of his size and attire, but he has a sharp mind and a deadly accuracy with killing when he chooses too. Women and gay males see him as a sexual being tantalizing them into lusty thoughts. In that aspect their perceptions are correct, but only Christian gives him enough credit for being more than a murderer, or someone worth saving.
Does your character care about what others assume about him?
He doesn’t give a damn how others see him, but he cares that Christian knows him for something more.
If someone from your character’s past showed up, who would he most NOT want it to be, and why?
Easily that would be his younger sister who he abandoned alongside his mother and father when he left the rural sticks of his hometown. He regretted that most of all and that he couldn’t remain close to her, considering her collateral damage in his reach for freedom from his past.
Can your hero keep a secret (why or why not)?
For Gabriel Church, his life is a long line of secrets, he has been tight-lipped since he was a child but felt a unfamiliar wash of needing to unburden himself, but only after meeting a writer who agreed to pen his novel and explain his deadly actions to the world stage.
What secrets does your character know about people around him that he does NOT share?
He saw lust in Christian’s eyes from the very beginning and recognized the man had his own sexual secrets he’d yet to open too. Church understands lust and regularly uses it to his advantage. He knew Chris wanted him from the second their eyes met across the table and he toyed with him like a cat ping-ponging a half-dead mouse between its paws, and all for its own sadistic enjoyment.
What inner doubt causes your character the most difficulty?
His growing belief that every decision he made to kill was wrong, and would prevent him from attaining a life he never thought he wanted until meeting Christian. He only questioned his faith after many long conversations with the writer and seeing the incredulous look in his eyes.
What past event causes your character the most fear?
That the choices he made for his own life would somehow affect someone he’d grown to love. Church left his family, partially to spare them from himself, but he never assumed that additional murders would drag Christian down and swallow him in the undertow as well.
What is your character’s biggest need at the beginning of the story?
To be heard, to have left some mark in the pages of a novel he wanted written about his life.
What are your hero’s biggest hopes and dreams?
Throughout the story Church finds how much he wants to make it someplace safe. To be able to rest for a time with Chris standing by his side and to be able to protect someone he has grown to love and respect. Despite his attempts to reach those goals, his actions to acquire that nirvana only slip through his grasp with all the unwanted heat from his murderous past making it an impossible to reach.
What would help your character face hardship and meet any challenge?
Not having to worry about Christian’s safety. If it were him and him alone, the task might be easy. He could just run and run fast and disappear amid the throng of nameless strangers surrounding him. But he has to consider another person for the first time since he drove out of Tennessee as a young man, and never looked back.
If your character could make any one thing happen, what would it be?
He wouldn’t admit it openly but he would have liked to have taken a different path and never listened to the voices in his head telling him to kill. He would have liked to have met someone like Christian and made a life for himself in that white-washed normalcy of everyday life.
What is your hero’s biggest personal flaw?
Church has many flaws, the greatest might be his bravado and confidence, but Christian has important flaws as well; namely his inability to walk away from such a dangerous figure as Gabriel Church.
When there is a setback, what doubt or flaw surfaces?
Chris allows his lover to make the decisions regarding his own personal safety. He knows he could be considered an accomplice to murder in the very least and may be wanted for questioning in the death of a young woman in Seattle. But it is a matter of trust for him and that faith is equally tested many times for him.
How does your character handle challenges?
Where Gabriel takes challenges head-on, Christian wavers with the morality issue and losing the only person he desires, regardless of his better sense of right and wrong.
What is your hero’s breaking point?
His misconception that he can run and by leaving protect Christian from getting swallowed down by his own crimes, he falsely believes he can simply forget the writer and equate him as the same collateral damage he thought appropriate for his mother and sister.
How emotionally expressive is your character to others?
To most, Church is a stone cold killer, but he allows his façade to shatter while in Christian’s company and exposes his twisted ideologies and warped insights about God and life, and his place in this world.
When (if) he lies or is upset, what gives him away?
His pale, slate-blue eyes, they are the singularly most appealing feature of him and yet become a window that Christian sees inside and displays every weakness he possesses.
Who in his life has the power to hurt this character the most and why?
Church would say it would be God, because finding out he was wrong about his personal mission would be a devastating blow to him. It is those doubts that Christian brings into play by simply listening and without judgement. It is the first indication that Church may have been mistaken all along.