Chris Towndrow: Tow Away Zone

Today I’m taking part in the blog tour for Tow Away Zone. I’m sharing an extract from the book with thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on the tour and to the publisher for my copy of the extract.

Blurb:

When a travelling salesman with monochromatic vision finds a town that’s not on the map, he must choose between romance and a long-held promise of untold riches.
Beckman Spiers is a grey man in a grey world—and he’s happy with that. After 12 years of routine and grind, he’s again fighting to become Number One Salesman of the Year. Legend has it, Number Ones get so rich, they never work again. With a week to go, Beckman is gaining on his nemesis, smooth-talking Tyler Quittle. When a chance blowout on a deserted Arizona highway leaves Beckman stranded, the mysterious Saul arrives, and tows him to the strange neon-lit town of Sunrise. Here, he meets the glamorous Lolita Milan and his fortunes change. Yet, Sunrise’s small-town charms conceal secrets, and his world becomes one of private investigators and backstabbing business deals. What will he have to do to reach Number One? And what will he do if he wins the race?
In this comedic, stylistic, and mysterious story, meet the most unique characters and get pulled into the colourful world of Sunrise.

Extract:

This extract from the start of the book sees our hero Beckman in a mediocre motel, being jolted from sleep by a phone call which will, unknowingly, change his life.

His cell phone rang. It could have been an air raid siren.

He mentally hauled himself back up the ladder to reality as quickly as he could muster, pushed aside the eye mask, stumbled out of bed with an ‘Oh, snap’, and scooped up the chirruping device from the desk. The off-brand charging cable halted his movement, so he rudely yanked it out and hit the Answer key. 

Amidst the bleary chaos, he’d noted that the caller was “Office”, and his mood nosedived.

Office? On a Sunday? Have I woken in a parallel universe?

‘Spiers,’ he mumbled.

‘Is that you, Beckman?’

He recognised the terse voice. Otherwise, given the time of night and his general humour, he’d have taken pains to point out that (1) this was his personal cell, so who did the caller think would answer?, and (2) the caller had addressed him by name, thereby proving he already understood point (1).

However, Beckman kept it zipped, knowing the caller wasn’t someone who took kindly to such logic or admonishments. 

‘Yes, sir, this is me.’

‘Malvolio here.’ 

Beckman took a calming breath; the words were hardly a revelation.

A Sunday? What fresh hell is this? 

A flourish of downdraft from the meshed duct in the stained false ceiling wafted cool air down his back and raised goosebumps. The room flickered intermittently scarlet or imperial. Or possibly crimson.

‘Yes, Mr Malvolio?’ he enquired.

‘I’ve some good news for you.’

Good? Good! Suddenly, Sunday could go hang.

Beckman waited to hear. And waited. And realised Mr Malvolio was waiting for him to indicate that he was waiting, because what else could possibly be more exciting than to be woken (kind of) in the middle (barely) of the night by a random phone call from your godawful boss, bearing news which doubtless could wait until the first—or ideally second—coffee of the following day had passed your lips?

‘I’m all ears, sir.’ He scratched his balls.

‘Belcher is dead.’

Beckman waited for more detail. And waited. And realised Mr Malvolio was expecting him to say something to indicate a reaction to the apparent Good News of someone’s death. Because what could be more sensible than prolonging a phone call in the not middle of a Sunday night when you’re standing with itchy balls in a cold breeze in a godawful motel room in the ass end of nowhere?

He really wanted to say, “Get bent and call me in the morning, you atrocious slave-driving freak”.

But he liked his job. Well, he did his job. It was the only one he had, and he didn’t want to lose it. 

So he said, ‘Really? How?’

‘He got struck by lightning this afternoon.’ Malvolio said it with the same level of intrigue or sadness as one might when ordering pizza toppings.

‘Wow.’ Beckman was stupefied. ‘That’s a bad break.’

‘Not for you, Spiers. That moves you up to number two, now.’ Malvolio had evidently had enough of this heartfelt wallowing in the untimely demise of one of his workforce and was, unexpectedly, getting down to brass tacks. Or, more likely in his case, gold tacks.

‘Sheesh. I guess it does. Poor Belcher.’

‘Sad to see anyone die while they’re still in the race.’

‘Or any time,’ Beckman suggested. His mind was barely half on the call now.

Belcher’s sales volumes were now deemed irrelevant to the race. One of the riders has dropped out.

‘I suppose so. So, get your hiney moving, Spiers. Number Two position—pretty good going for a man like you.’

Such praise. 

Beckman gave the illuminated screen a hard stare. Not that Malvolio judged him wrongly—Number Two was pretty good going—but to verbally concede such a fact would have been a weakness. So he said nothing.

Would Malvolio take the opportunity to crack the whip further? Beckman mentally wagered his worldly possessions on it.

‘Only five days left,’ the harsh old voice continued. ‘It’s not impossible. You can make Number One. Shoulder to the wheel, Spiers, nose to the grindstone.’

‘Absolutely, sir,’ he lied. ‘I’ll get started tomorrow morning, first light.’

‘That’s what I like to hear.’ Then the phone boop-booped to indicate the line had been hung up.

Beckman stared at the screen in a casserole of a stupor made up of tiredness, disbelief, revulsion, hope and itchiness.

Esmond Belcher is dead. I just got promoted to Number Two on the Salesman of the Year chart.

One week to go.

Could I? Could I really make Number One? Finally?

In a pig’s eye.

He gave his balls a good long scratch and went to bed.

***

Tow Away Zone is available from Amazon.

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:

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