Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wednesday's Special Is...Adamant Stone!

ADAMANT STONE by Stephen Parrish
(Published by Midnight Ink, available 2010)

When the well-preserved body of 17th century mapmaker Johannes Cellarius suddenly floats to the surface of a bog in northern Germany, and a 57 carat ruby rolls out of his fist, treasure hunters from around the globe race to find the Lost Tavernier Stones of popular European folklore.

According to legend, Jean-Baptiste Tavernier was robbed of a priceless hoard while returning from his final voyage to the Orient in 1689. The hoard reputedly includes some of the world's most notorious missing jewels. Among them the 280 carat Great Mogul Diamond and the 242 carat Great Table Diamond, the largest diamonds ever unearthed whose whereabouts are unknown.

John Graf is an Amish-born cartographer who has never ventured out of Pennsylvania, let alone embarked on an international treasure hunt. David Freeman is a gemologist who has done his share of prospecting, but little of it within the boundaries of the law. Between them they have all the expertise necessary to solve the mystery. They also have enough differences to derail even the best of partnerships. And ahead are more obstacles: fortune seekers equally qualified and every bit as determined.

The race spans two continents. The finish line is in Idar-Oberstein, the gemstone capital of Germany. There, in chambers beneath an old church, where unspeakable events took place in centuries past, winners and losers alike find answers to age-old questions about the Lost Tavernier Stones.

Visit Stephen here



Chapter One from ADAMANT STONE

"There's a dead guy out there."

Kommissar Gerd Pfeffer first heard it from the dispatcher, who was quoting the boys who found the body. He repeated the phrase in his mind as he drove to the scene: There's a dead guy out there. It would make an appropriate epitaph, he thought. There had been lots of dead guys out there. There would be lots more.

A narrow, overgrown road led Pfeffer into the Holmmoor, a bog north of Hamburg. Thickets on either side of the road strummed his car in irritating chords. Not far ahead, a gallery of rubberneckers, some with binoculars, peered into the woods. The focus of their attention was half a dozen police officers huddled like marooned buccaneers under a tarpaulin they had erected on an island of stable ground.

Pfeffer parked his car on the road because the rains had turned the berm into a Purgatory of mud-choked grass. The rest of the trip would be on foot, and cautiously: he was crossing from the real world into The Bog.

It was one of the oddest calls he had received during his career as a homicide detective. Two boys had spent the weekend camping in the bog, on a patch of ground that had not yet thawed. Their campfire thawed it, and combined with the heavy downpours of late, as well as the strange temperature fluctuations of a typical Hamburg spring, up the body came.

First, the boys said, the peat began to crack. A fissure radiated slowly outward from the center of the fire, rending the mossy soil along a zigzag path as though etched by a lightning bolt.

Fingers emerged from the crack. The boys saw only their black tips, and thought they were knobby roots, or maybe pieces of glacial till.

The tips grew into appendages. The appendages joined in a palm. When a thumb finally appeared, the boys extrapolated what lay beneath.

They laughed; it couldn't be happening. They rolled on the ground laughing. Their sides ached and their eyes filled with tears, it was so funny. Then the realization sank in that here indeed was a human hand, and following it now was an arm. And soon to come, no doubt, was the rest, some of which—the head in particular—might be too gruesome to behold.

They ran, stumbling on rubbery legs, their young minds filled with images of a root-hairy dead man loping after them. By the time the police arrived the arm had finished sprouting. It jutted straight into the air, flecked with peat, its fingers splayed widely like the comic image of a drowning man counting to five. The police immediately concluded the body was one of the so-called Bog People, dozens of whom—some more than two thousand years old—had sprung out of the ground throughout that part of Germany.

Pfeffer stepped from one clump of grass to another, advancing toward the tarpaulin. Walking on the peat gave him the sensation of unsure-footedness, as though he might sink up to his neck on any step. He did sink—four inches here, eight inches there, nothing there—you never knew. The water, stained by the peat, was the color of strongly brewed tea.

The bogs around Hamburg had been disgorging Iron-Age corpses for as long as Pfeffer could remember. Humic acids in the peat acted as embalming fluids that stained hair and beards red and tanned skin black. Bones decalcified, turning the corpses into leathery bags filled loosely with internal organs and a menu of last suppers, typically barley and linseed gruel. Most strikingly, features were so well preserved that except for the tanning a modern-day public could see exactly what the victims looked like. Could stare them in the face.

They died with quiet dignity. Or cringing in horror, some of them. And the resignation or anguish or shock their expressions communicated at the moment of death, when a relative or friend weighted them down in watery graves, was preserved for the millennia.

As Pfeffer reached the tarpaulin the rain started up again. A young Polizist emerged from under the tarp covering his head with a clipboard. He greeted Pfeffer with a firm handshake, then led him safely around shaking pools of stained water. The other officers remained under cover. They stared in fascination at a lump of soggy human remains.

The victim—for so they were calling the thing—lay on his right side with his right arm stretched out straight above his head. He resembled other Bog People in that his skin had darkened to the value of burnt umber and his woolly hair and prickly beard were the color of rust. And it was clear he had been murdered or sacrificed: deep, angular stab wounds perforated his chest and abdomen.

But his garb was more modern than that of other Bog People, who typically wore only sleeveless capes, probably because the linen used for the rest of their outfits couldn't survive the peat acids. Pfeffer estimated the victim's clothing was from the Middle Ages, or some other time long ago, but clearly not the twenty-first century: he wore breeches that stopped just below the knee, stockings over his calves, and broad metal buckles on his shoes.

So it wasn't an ancient pagan sacrifice after all. Nor was it a recent murder.

An oval signet ring encircled the victim's right middle finger, on the hand that had sprung up on the boys. Bezel-set in the oval mount was a dark stone slab. Pfeffer used his thumbnail to scrape the ring clean of peat. Carved in the slab were the initials "JC" and an image of one woman helping another to place a basket of grapes on her head.

The young Polizist had been watching him closely while he examined the body, and as Pfeffer inspected the ring the young man suggested, "Jesus Christ?"

Pfeffer shook his head. "He would put his own initials on a signet ring, don't you think?"

Squatting in the spongy grass, he surveyed the scene for a moment, then asked, "Have you turned him over?"

"We dug him up and laid him there, otherwise he hasn't been touched. I was waiting for you to arrive before I moved him. You know how bent out of shape the anthropologists get when they find anything disturbed."

Pfeffer thought the way the dead man clenched his left fist was odd, as though he had been holding something dear to him when he died. Furthermore—and this had been fermenting in the detective's subconscious the entire time—there was just the hint of an amused smile on the man's face. But surely that was only Pfeffer's imagination. Or one of those ironic effects of the retarded rate of decay in the peat. People did not, in fact, smile as they were being stabbed. They didn't. Really.

He looked into the man's eye sockets. They had obviously sunken since his death, but it was nevertheless obvious they had been deep-set to begin with and had done their share of glaring at lesser intellects. Pfeffer shivered as he experienced the sensation the cavities were looking back.

"Open it," he ordered.

"Excuse me?"

"The fist. Pry it open."

The Polizist motioned for another officer to step over and help him. As they gently lifted the arm the young man said, "Sir, if I may, are we doing this out of curiosity?"

"Call it professional intuition. I want to see what he held onto for dear life."

"But the anthropologists . . ."

"Open it."

Getting the fingers to uncurl required the use of pocketknives. The glinting red object that rolled onto the ground, before the fist clamped tightly closed again, caused the remaining officers to collide with one another as they evacuated their tarp shelter and pressed in for a closer look. It also sent a buzz into the road-kill gallery, whose frustration over a dearth of news had only festered under the drizzling rain.

If Pfeffer hadn't known better, he'd have guessed the thing was genuine.

The drizzle increased to a steady downpour, and the young Polizist, studying the corpse, blurted out something spontaneously: "As if he had been poured in tar, he lies on a pillow of turf and seems to weep the black river of himself."

"What the hell does that mean?"

"Nothing. Just an English poem I read once. Come to think of it, it was Irish."

Pfeffer took another look at the Bog Man's leathery face. His skull had long since decalcified, leaving the outer skin pinched and distorted. His features were already caving in from rough handling and sudden exposure to ruthless compounds in the air.

It was a smile, Pfeffer was sure of it. The man had known something profoundly amusing the moment he died, so amusing he was still grinning even after being stabbed in the chest. Even after centuries of submersion under the quaking peat.

***

Answer the following question for a chance to win a piece of the Berlin Wall (yes, you heard that right!!):

How would Steve describe the family jewels?
 

81 comments:

Chris Eldin said...

Morning all!
Steve's on Germany time, so we put this up a bit early. Plus, we at the Grill have a handful of Night Owls...
:-)

Let the games begin!!

Charles Gramlich said...

A bit of synchronicity. I watched a show called "link" last night about a fossil primate found in a bog in Germany. No jewels with it though, although it was a kind of jewel of its own

Chris Eldin said...

That's really cool!

Now Charles, don't be shy about the question...
hehehehe!
;-)

Chris Eldin said...

How many people have held the family jewels, Steve? And have you gotten any good offers for them?

Erica Orloff said...

Stephen's family jewels, curiously enough, are shaped like Scrabble tiles.

*****


And congrats. Big congrats, my friend.
E

Chris Eldin said...

Morning, Erica!
Sounds like some Scrabble history there...
;-)

Mark Terry said...

"The condom is your friend..."


Oh, wait. That was my comment on your other bog. Er, blog.

Erica Orloff said...

Chris:
I have been challenging what's-his-name to an online Scrabble game for . . . oh . . . something like three years now. And those jewels of his are shriveled like old tiles--he's been too chicken to play me.

AHHH, but . . . he once told me he'd kill himself rather than lose at Scrabble. Is there such a think as suicide by bog?

E

Christopher M. Park said...

Uh, I think I'll avoid thinking too much about that question. I take it the answer is not "watermelon sized," since he prefers not to be in the grenade pit. :)

But in all seriousness, that excerpt was awesome, and I totally want to read more. Can't wait to get my copy when it comes out!

Stephen Parrish said...

Chris: I just realized this is my very first promotional event. Yer making history!

lennie said...

Who cares about your family jewels when your book is being published?

Chris Eldin said...

Shteef,
It's all about the product.

Stephen Parrish said...

Chris: The family jewels have been passed from hand to hand over the years. Countless appreciative admirers have fondled them.

Erica: Did you bring a Scrabble board with you? No? Talk, talk, talk, talk talk . . .

Mark: My dad liked to repeat that advice, always staring off wistfully. I wonder if he was trying to tell me something.

Stephen Parrish said...

CMP: You overestimate my modesty.

Lennie: Are you THE Lennie, or another one? You're right, I should put things in perspective. The book is everything. Next to the book, the family jewels don't amount to . . . wait a minute, what am I saying? Stop tricking
me!

word verification: bularke

Tena Russ said...

The expression family jewels takes me back to growing up with four brothers, LOL.

Describe Stephen's family jewels? Hard to tell when he's submerged in bathtub water.

A diamond as big as the Ritz? Oh, wait. I think someone else might have said that.

Way to go, Stephen! I knew ye when.

lainey bancroft said...

Stephen is incredibly modest and thoughtful. He'd never describe the family jewels in detail because he wouldn't want to brag or cause other men to feel inferior.

CONGRATS on the book!!!

Stephen Parrish said...

Hard to tell when he's submerged in bathtub water. You looked!

Lainey: my concern for the certain inferiority other men would feel is touching, isn't it?

spyscribbler said...

I love it, Stephen!

I was going to guess "my darlings," but then I was afraid you might cut them.

Gary Corby said...

Hi Stephen,

Congratulations on the book!

I liked the description on the bog bodies.

Stephen Parrish said...

Natasha: You know me so well.

Stephen Parrish said...

Gary: Just yesterday I was skyping with someone who said, "You should meet Gary Corby." I visited your website and loved the description of your book. Your agent's no stick in the mud either. It's great to meet you.

Erica Orloff said...

Stephen:
I brought a board AND send an engraved invitation.

Your jewels are shrinking.
E

Sarah Laurenson said...

Wow! Ok, and now I have to wait for the hardcover to finish reading? Totally not fair.

Precious, priceless, sometimes taken for granted - those family jewels.

jason evans said...

Awesome, Steve!! And I love the Amish connection! We once sold a car to an Amishman. Go figure.

Can't wait for the release!

brianjayjones said...

Boggy, yet adamantinish.

(And congratulations, Stephen. Good man.)

Chris Eldin said...

I love that the best descriptions are coming from the gents.
hehehehe
:-)

Stephen Parrish said...

Erica: I'd suggest therapy for your delusions, except that I think you should prioritize the paranoia.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Hi Steve and Chris,
Wow and wow again. What a spectacularly written excerpt. Normally, I'm the type who goes Ewwww and doesn't want to read about slimy bog bodies and hands rising to the surface and organs floating in boneless bags. Ewww, I say again. But you had me with this one due to your voice and style. I read it all.
As to family jewels, it has to be the mogul and table diamonds.

Stephen Parrish said...

Sarah: If you were really talking about my looks, and just didn't want to admit it, thanks.

Jason: I supposed I could take this opportunity to say any number of things, but I choose to say: when's the next contest, dammit?

Brian: We met on this blog, remember? And now the circle is complete. Sniff.

Michele said...

What a great read, Stephen...I'm loving it already. Congratulations! :)

Moannie said...

I just cant wait...it is going to be a best seller...Dan Brown...who he?

Stephen Parrish said...

As to family jewels, it has to be the mogul and table diamonds.You've definitely put yourself in the running, Tricia. Does everyone understand the rules now???

Sarah Laurenson said...

Of course, Steve. But I have to be careful to not flirt too much not that I am officially married.

But you are precious, my dear. And your writing is priceless.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I don't know. Do we win the chance to hold the jewels or just admire them from afar?

Stephen Parrish said...

Michele: You next. Oh, wait a minute; I have another manuscript ready to go. Okay, you next, after THAT.

Moannie: I'll be happy to give Dan Brown some tips. You, on the other hand, don't need any.

Stephen Parrish said...

Sarah: Jay Leno once did a routine about a guy who was so brash, so cocky, so full of himself that he thought he could turn gay women straight. I wrote to Jay and asked him to please respect my privacy.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Damn. I told Jay not to tell anybody.

Ello said...

Roasting SP's family jewels! Love it!

Hey, didn't he name his book after them?

freddie said...

This book looks really good.

freddie said...

Okay, just read all the "family jewels" jokes. Hahahahahaha!

Stephen Parrish said...

Ellen: The working title, ironically enough, was From Whence the Rivers Come.

Freddie: Welcome, my new Facebook friend! Now that we know each other you can talk about the jewels.

Melanie Avila said...

Ooh shiny.

The book sounds great to. :P

freddie said...

I will probably admire them from afar. : )

Word Verification: reedous

StandsWithAFist said...

In regard to Steve's family jewels: I have always believed it best that when one has worked oneself up for such a close evaluation and handling of previously private and irreplaceable treasures(that may not often see the light of day)
that the only way to a happy ending is to hire a trained professional or entice a self-taught but equally street-wise enthusiast to consult and voice an solid opinion. This then will guarrantee the production of an experience-based and unbiased appraisal that can then be used to openly and confidently promote said assets on the open market and therefore come to a mutually satisfactory conclusion. After all, you can't welcome all interested comers or have just any Tom, Dick or Harriet with their hands so deeply involved in such a personal and potentially explosive transaction, can you?

Stephen Parrish said...

Stands With a Fist: I couldn't agree more. What did you say?

Chris Eldin said...

So, we have a request for a jewel expert.
Anyone?
;-)

Richmond Writer said...

Here ye, here ye, these jewels hath sunk beneath the peat gripped fast in blackened fist. They hath qualities of blood red stone and warn to men, leave them alone.

Aerin said...

Sarah said: "But I have to be careful to not flirt too much not that I am officially married."

Who the hell made up that rule? Now I can't comment on anyone's blog again - ever.

And I had a really insightful comment about Parrish's jewels, too. *sigh*

Chris Eldin said...

Aerin, don't listen to Sarah.
heheheh!

Do post, do post!
:-)

Stephen Parrish said...

Richmond: Well put, except for that "leave them alone" part.

Aerin: Don't listen to Sarah. She's just trying to win my rocks. I mean rock.

Melanie Avila said...

Stephen, I get nothing for calling them shiny?

Stephen Parrish said...

Melanie: Yikes! I overlooked you. Which seems impossible, given your radiant gorjusness.

Shiny works. Shiny will do. BIG and shiny would have been better, but I take what I can get.

Melanie Avila said...

ROFL!

They're quite eye-catching.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

ooooooo, I'm in the running!
**hand waving in the air -- pick me, pick me!**
Disclaimer: In no way is this to be interpreted as sucking up: Stephen, besides diamond-sharp prose, you write a delicious personal profile.

Chris Eldin said...

Steve, If you get tired and need to go rest, we'll all promise to take care of your rocks... Just let us know any special instructions.

hehehehe
;-)

lennie said...

Steve there is only one LENNIE, so therefore, yes it is me. I follow you everywhere, didn't you know that? Just call me stalker! Jewels....I think I get points for looking at real jewels with you in Idar-Oberstein.

Stephen Parrish said...

Lennie: You and I went to Idar-Oberstein together? How could I not remember that?

Remember the Felsenkirche, the Church in the Rock? A passageway was recently discovered that leads to previously unknown chambers beneath the church. The chambers were cut out of the foundation by a seventeenth century coven of witches. The witches would ring a bell at midnight, and because the bell was deep within the rock the sound was muffled and freaked out the townspeople. To this day no bells are rung in Idar-Oberstein, even during Catholic high mass, for fear the witches will return.

Or maybe I made that all up for my book.

Travis Erwin said...

Man I can't wait to read more.

And the answer .. tough enough to ride a galloping stallion, tender enough to win the hearts of ladies the world over, and tactile enough to please said ladies.

Richard Levangie said...

I won't get a chance to read today, as we're in mid-move, and things are going wrong...

But Kristina says the first chapter is fantastic. And that, my friend, is saying something!

Stephen Parrish said...

Travis, you've blown the competition away! Apparently only a real man like you is secure enough to describe another (real) man's apparatus. Are we bonding now? I'm in the mood for steak and beer.

Stephen Parrish said...

Richard: you married a genius with exquisite taste. I wish I were there to help you move.

Gary Corby said...

It's good to meet you too Stephen and I'm looking forward to reading the whole book.

I think Chris may have missed her true vocation as social planner and friend introducer.

Richard Levangie said...

Thanks, Stephen...

And yes, I am (married to a genius with exquisite taste)

Kim Stagliano said...

I would venture that the family jewels have the consistency of marzipan - pliable yet firm and smell vaguely of Stollen.

Now that's what I call a care PACKAGE.

(Kisses, Stephen! My apologies for the, er, inside joke, readers!)

Word ver: brove. Yes, Stephen is also brove.

lennie said...

I too can't believe you forgot about taking me to see all the beautiful things at Idar-Oberstein. Well me, and all the other ERAU staff, but who cares about them now???? I remember touring the church in the rocks, it was so cool. I am not surprised you would use that place in your book, it's awesome. So having been there with you I think that makes me a winner....

Pissenlit said...

Steve's family jewels? OMG!! An awesomely matched pair of rocks! Such quality! Perfect specimens! Look at the size! How many carats do you suppose they are?? And the shape! Flawless cabochons! And colour!...*snickersnort* Okay, I really can't wax poetic about your family jewels anymore...LMAO! *wipes tears*

Great excerpt! :D

Stephen Parrish said...

Kimmy: I'll never think of marzipan the same way again. Or be able to eat it.

Pissenlit: Cabochons? No facets? (I won't ask you how you got your name.)

Stephen Parrish said...

Pissenlit: How did you get your name?

Aerin said...

Wow, I vote for Travis. I think I may have drooled a little.

Aerin said...

Well, the question was - how would Steve describe the family jewels? I was going to answer "Diamonds are a girl's best friend."

Cheryl Kauffman said...

I was going to say Riesling grapes picked at the peak of perfection, but grapes are small and I wouldn't want to insult you. What can I say, I like wine better than jewels so that was the first thing that came to mind.

Stephen Parrish said...

"I think I may have drooled a little."

Don't tease me, I'm fragile.

"grapes are small and I wouldn't want to insult you"

No rock for you! (Wine, yes, when we meet. But no rock!)

Stephen Parrish said...

Okay, I have to wrap this up, because it's after midnight my time and I normally go to bed at nine. I'm not the life of the party. But I cook a mean breakfast!

"tough enough to ride a galloping stallion, tender enough to win the hearts of ladies the world over, and tactile enough to please said ladies."

Ahhhh.

Email me your street address, Travis (stephenparrish@hotmail.com) and I'll send you a chunk of history. (I collected the piece in 1989, during all the "bring down the wall" hoopla, about fifty meters west of Checkpoint Charlie.)

Chris Eldin said...

Thanks Steve!! You've been a great sport!

And thanks to everyone for dropping by!!

Travis, you da man of the hour. Congratulations!!

:-)

Sarah Hina said...

Damn, I just missed out.

But am still very glad I stopped by. That first chapter was a knockout, Stephen. And the comments priceless. :)

Pissenlit said...

Stephen - Pissenlit: How did you get your name?

lol! It's French for dandelion. :)



Congrats, Travis!

Shona Snowden said...

Eerie. A very nice extract.

I missed the show. Pout. Ah, well, all that I know about Steve's family jewels will now forever remain a secret...

Melanie Avila said...

Travis seems to have a knack for this sort of thing...

Travis Erwin said...

Woo hoo!

Who would a think I would be the one to nail, Stephens jewels?

Barbara Martin said...

Congratulations on the book, Stephen.

I am not answering the question.

Sean Lindsay said...

Damn, missed the window. With the rock.

Stephen's rocks have nicknames: Science and the Bible. That's because one of them slew Goliath, and the other wiped out the dinosaurs.