Rick's debut novel and a few copies of are still available, just click HERE for more intormation!
Chris McKessock, part-time sax player and substitute school teacher, is content to drift through life, but that's about to be turned upside-down. An old friend who also happens to be a police detective talks him into helping an undercover operation against a gang of particularly clever drug dealers, hurling Chris into a sordid world of blackmail, cocaine smuggling, and sudden death. When their first solid lead in the case is murdered and an intriguing woman enters his life, Chris realizes he has a personal stake in the outcome.
Set against a background of classic Rhythm & Blues music and contemporary classroom hell, Knock on Wood is told in the wryly observant words of a reluctant and unlikely hero, scrambling to make a living in the wilderness of the New York suburbs and minding his own business -- until life catches up with him.
Here is the story's Prologue:
I was desperately attempting to drive my old junk-heap of a station wagon down a steep mountain road and I had no brakes. None. As if this weren't enough distraction, a beautiful, naked woman sat beside me.
My passenger and I were escaping thugs who had instructions to bring us to their boss. God knew what would happen afterward.
For added insurance against our escape, they'd done something to the brake-line. Having driven off into the morning sun, leaving one of them flat on his back and the other lost in the springtime woods, I assumed we’d managed a clean getaway.
The brakes failed with the first hard tromp as I slowed to catch sight of any pursuit.
The Bear Mountain Parkway, a two-lane roller coaster hugging the cliffs above the Hudson River twenty-six miles north of New York City, winds from the eastern end of the Bear Mountain Bridge to Peekskill, five miles away and several hundred feet lower -- a steep incline when you have no way of stopping.
On the left: trees or rock faces slashed from the mountainside for the road to pass. On the right: a drop straight down to the river three hundred feet below -- unless rocks stick out, in which case you bounce a few times before the end.
The road descends almost continually from the lookout a half mile past the bridge, but doesn't drop really fast until a sharp turn near the bottom. I still had marginal control of my heavy jalopy, but this became more difficult at each turn. I didn't think of using low gear for some braking action until trying it would have meant dropping my transmission all over the pavement.
A low stone wall was now all that stood between a dramatic, though safe trip to Peekskill, and an even more dramatic one-time-only trip into the Hudson River. Occasionally on the river side of the car, trees offered an alternative for stopping. But not much of a choice.
Since it was 7:30 on a Sunday morning, I'd had to dodge only two cars coming up and had screamed past one going down, easily getting close to sixty.
I had to find some way to stop the car. Sometimes the road went up a bit, but even on the longest upgrade, we never slowed enough to jump out -- especially my unclothed companion. The choice was rapidly boiling down to rocks and trees, or the river. We would never make it to the bottom in one piece.
"Aren't you going to do something?" she asked calmly, bracing herself between the seat and the dash, her left foot jammed against the drive shaft hump -- a remarkable person considering the circumstances. In her place, I would have had the screaming heebie-jeebies.
I scrounged through my memorty for anything that might help us. Finally, a constructive thought! I told her, "Get in the back seat and lie down on the floor. There's a blanket you can cover yourself..."
I didn't finish. Avoiding a rock outcrop momentarily required every iota of concentration. The tires screamed their protest. I prayed they wouldn't give up the fight under the strain.
Madly spinning the steering wheel in the opposite direction of the skid, I over-compensated and had to yank back quickly. This happened more and more at every turn. Soon it wouldn't do any good.
She saked incredulously, "You mean I've been sitting here freezing my ass off while you've had a blanket in the back? You dumb..."
Keeping my eyes on the next fast-approaching turn, I said tightly, "So sue me! I forgot I had it in all the excitement. If we crash, glass'll go all over the place. Get in the back and cover up."
Seeing the sense in what I said, she dove over the seat without further discussion.
My brilliant inspirational flash? A dilapidated wood building not far ahead. Beyond it, the road curved to the left, plunging down to water level. If we got to that stretch -- goodnight Irene.
It was the old building or nothing. If I could graze it, we might slow down enough so that I could swerve hard and spin the car around, stopping it. If I struck the building too squarely, it would be as bad as hitting the rocks. I could easily lose what little control I had regardless. But it was our only hope, I cinched up the seat belt, and hoped that crouched between the seats, maybe my passenger would survive.
"Grab hold of something. We're going to have one hell of a bump!" I yelled over my shoulder.
We blasted out of the turn into the final straightaway, the car skewed sideways. The building stood halfway down to the next bend. I managed to staighten out with two hundred feet to go.
My throat dry, my face dripping with sweat from effort and the fear of what lay ahead, I fought the urge to break out in the shakes. A hundred feet to go.
"This is it! Brace yourself!"
Forty feet away, approaching at near light-speed. I dropped off the road onto the dirt shoulder. We passed the front corner of the building. I flicked the wheel to the left and we slid sideways into it.
With a shriek of shredding metal, the left side of the car ripped away, the side mirror vanishing in a shower of paint chips and fractured wood. Both tires exploded.
Immediately after the building, I yanked hard to the right. We might have spun around safely expect our rear end slammed into a rock on the edge of the shoulder. The car flipped.
My passenger cried, "Oh shit!" as she was flung toward the roof. Despite the seatbelt, my head smashed into the corner support of the windshield. I tumbled around like a crash-test dummy as the world exploded into blinding splinters of light.
We came to rest upside down. As consciousness slipped away, my one thought was of failure.
Darkness claimed me.
Interested in the story? This book is only available through this website and is available at a very nice price. Just click HERE for ordering information!
|"...convincing characters and some good local colour."
---Books in Canada
"It's an intriguing tales, full of unexpected corners and personalities. The thought that your substitute teacher might have a life like this would fascinate most people. I read it straight through."
"A good read. The characters are memorable and the action nonstop. Blechta manages to create considerable tension as the story reaches its climax."
Rick talks about how Knock on Wood came to be written:
"My writing career got off to sort of an "accidental start" with this novel. I was at a creative low point and really quite burned out musically and was casting about for something else to do.
I'd always written, whether it was essays, reviews or the occasional magazine article and one night I just sat down at my Apple IIc and started writing about this guy who taught part time in various schools, played in a weekend bar band and pretty well led an aimless existence, (personally, I'll own up to all of these things -- well, maybe not the aimless part), so I knew what I was talking about. For some reason, the story wanted to set itself in the area where I grew up: Westchester County, just north of New York City. The band was loosely-modelled on my all-time favorite band, The Orchids, but contains references to people I played with in my youth.
The interesting thing about the setting is that I grew up at the southern end of Westchester and the story takes place mostly in the northern part which I don't know all that well. Maybe that's a foreshadowing of my penchant for setting stories in more exotic locales than the one in which I live, not that northern Westchester is all that exotic. It is very pretty, though, especially along the Hudson River."
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