The Story Behind The Heart of the Jungle
Cleaning the attic. Ugh.
I am a gay man. I am a gay parent. My attic is like Hoarders meets Antiques Roadshow meets The Island of Misfit Toys. You have to use your hip and a wide stance to muscle the door open. The previous ten years’ Christmas décor strains beneath the herculean crush of everything you never needed for child rearing.
Where to begin?
My eye was drawn to a lonely banker’s box shrinking in terror in a corner. Somehow, this little guy had been spared the grim fate of its contemporaries. Curious, I clambered over the skeletal remains of my daughter’s recently discarded crib and pulled off the dusty lid. Within were carefully bound piles of yellowing paper. Hmm. Musings and utter nonsense from my idealistic youth—these reams of paper were forgotten shores that I’d long ago abandoned in search of more practical horizons.
The title page of the topmost stack drew at me like a siren’s song. “The Heart of the Jungle”
I vaguely recalled the plot, but it was akin to conjuring the details of a fever dream. Unable to resist the call—particularly in light of the alternative (actually cleaning the attic)—I sat cross-legged on the floor, took up the manuscript, and slipped off the time-hardened rubber band.
“Fate was one twisted bitch, and for some reason, on the night of October fifth, Christian James found himself at the tip-top of her shitlist....” For the next hour, I was held spellbound by this quirky, poorly punctuated text I’d written many years before. I wasn’t enthralled because of the story’s proficiency, but because of its prophecy.
My main character Chris had just lost his two-year-old daughter and partner to an apparent homicide. He’d made a soul-mate connection with a private investigator named Jason Kingsley—a tall, exceptionally handsome fellow with mysterious hazel eyes, a confident demeanor, and a tormented past. (Uncannily like my Jason.) The coincidences grew: From love at first sight, which I’ve since learned doesexist just as I’d described it, to Chris’s uncanny description of the first time he held his daughter—a veritable word-for-word account of how the experience played out for me years later. From the domineering former partner to the anxiety of a courtship happening under less-than-ideal circumstances.... On and on and on.
I could have chosen any of those half-completed manuscripts to take my first, tentative steps into the world of M/M fiction, but “The Heart of the Jungle” spoke to my soul. The novel is fiction—but it’s peppered with truths that I seem to have whispered across time to the Jeremy of the past. It may not be Pulitzer-worthy, but I sure hope it’s entertaining. At least now that you know the “story behind the story,” you can have fun guessing at the bits that actually came true. (Wink.)
My thanks to you for joining me, and to Jadette for giving me the space to share!
Also: The attic is still a catastrophe.
Blurb: The Heart of the Jungle
Chris James is Fate’s favorite plaything. When She took his parents in a car crash, Chris narrowly escaped the grief with his life, and he has the scars on his wrists to prove it. Seven years later, just as his life is finally turning around, Fate smashes his universe once again, taking his partner and two-year-old daughter and leaving behind a bloodbath.
After nearly a year of investigation, with no bodies, no motive, and no clues, the police are giving up. Enter Jason Kingsley, a wickedly handsome private investigator with a troubled past and a disconnected puzzle piece he could never find a place for. Jason has his work cut out for him: his search leads down a road that was never meant to be traveled, where a ruthless and hidden enemy lurks and dark secrets await. With passion drawing them together and sinister forces threatening to tear them apart, Chris and Jason race against time to unravel the mystery and get to the shocking truth that lies behind it all: The Heart of the Jungle.
Excerpt: The Heart of the Jungle
CALLAHAN’S wet lips brought to mind a pair of writhing slugs as they worked over the slimy stub of an unlit cigar. It was a feat of mouth dexterity that the ferociously ugly man’s speech was unaffected.
“Here’s where we’re at.” He splayed the papers in the manila file out as though examining them. “Ten months ago, we get a call from a concerned neighbor. He’s seen some suspicious activity and thinks someone should take a look. A patrol arrives and finds the front door wide open. Inside, it’s a slaughterhouse. There are no bodies but enough blood to virtually guarantee whoever bled it didn’t walk away. With me so far?”
Chris was white and trembling. His stomach lurched as the cloying stench of slobbered tobacco slapped him in the face for the tenth time. Callahan’s barely restrained grin indicated he was enjoying Chris’s discomfort.
Even George MacQuery, the very picture of human composure, seemed unsettled by the recitation.
“Good. Now, in the intervening months, we’ve worked this thing up, down, and sideways. Forensic analysis of the blood at the crime scene positively identified it as belonging to Michael Blake. Minor spatter on the walls was ID’d as the girl’s. Seems like we’ve got a pair of homicides, but we’ve still got no bodies. We’ve got no murder weapon, no stray prints, no suspects, no motive… no nothing.”
George took a deep breath. “Get on with it. You’re suspending investigation. You're closing the case.”
Purchase Link on Dreamspinner Press:
Jeremy's Website & Blog:
Goodreads Author Page: