Today I have an extract from Fire On The Island by Timothy Jay Smith, courtesy of Skyhorse Publishing.
Firstly, let’s see what the book is about…
FIRE ON THE ISLAND is a playful, romantic thriller set in contemporary Greece, featuring Nick Damigos, a gay Greek-American FBI agent, who is undercover on the island to investigate a series of mysterious fires. Set against the very real refugee crisis on the beautiful, sun-drenched Greek islands, this novel paints a loving portrait of a community in crisis. Nick Damigos arrives on the island just in time to witness the latest fire and save a beloved truffle-sniffing dog. Hailed as a hero and embraced by the community, Nick finds himself drawn to Takis, a young bartender who becomes his primary suspect, which is a problem because they’re having an affair. Theirs is not the only complicated romance in the community and Takis isn’t the only suspicious character on the island. The priest is an art forger, a young Albanian waiter harbors a secret, the captain of the coast guard station seems to have his own agenda, and the village itself hides a violent history. Nick has to unravel the truth in time to prevent catastrophe, as he comes to terms with his own past trauma. In saving the village, he will go a long way toward saving himself. As the people of Vourvoulos grapple with declining tourism, poverty, a refugee crisis, family feuds, and a perilously damaged church, the invasion of an arsonist in their midst may just send the village past the point of no return. Each of the characters is intriguing and crafted with true care that reveals Smith’s love for, and knowledge of Greece, where he has spent some seven years. This new romantic thriller charms in a way reminiscent of Zorba the Greek, while also shedding light on the very real challenges of life in contemporary Greece.
Nothing had prepared Nick for the sheer beauty of the village perched above the purpling sea. Atop the steep hill, the last rays of sunset licked Vourvoulos’s lofty castle walls while necklaces of red-tiled roofs clung to the cliffs below. He pulled the small car off the road and grabbed his binoculars.
His socks collected burrs as he trudged through the dried weeds to stand as close to the cliff ’s edge as he dared in the gusting wind. Through the binoculars, Nick slowly panned the houses spilling down to the water. From a mile away, he couldn’t make out much detail, but after too many hours flying economy class, he was just glad to know that somewhere in that tangle of stone buildings was a bed with his name on it.
He heard the putt-putt-putt of a motor and spotted a fishing boat aiming for the village’s small port. Shifting the binoculars, he searched beyond Vourvoulos’s headland for the black speck of an approaching raft silhouetted against Turkey’s distant shore. Nick didn’t expect to see one. The refugees usually arrived at dawn not sunset, and with winter approaching, their numbers had started to drop; though the traffickers would ensure that they didn’t stop altogether. Misery drove their business, and a few refugees drowned in the narrow channel wouldn’t change that.
Nick was still looking for rafts when he smelled the smoke. The wind carried it to him. He panned the village again, looking for its source and saw nothing. Then he scanned the cove-dotted shoreline. At first he mistook the flames for the sunset’s reflection off a limestone outcropping, but with a second look, he saw the wind pushing the fire quickly uphill in the dry brush. A gust sent sparks into the tops of the tall trees overhanging a lone house.
In its yard, a dog, barking frantically, strained at its leash.
Nick sprinted back to his car.
. . .
Shirley tootled along the coastal road with her back seat filled with nine dead cats. They weren’t exactly dead, only dead-to-the-world under anesthesia from being fixed, as if removing sensitive body parts could be considered a fix. Shirley didn’t think so. A cat meowed weakly and she sped up, wanting her daughter, who came up with the idea of fixing them, to have the pleasure of uncaging the maligned animals when they came to. A second cat meowed, and Shirley accelerated, her tires complaining as she took a curve too fast.
In the same instant, Nick shot back onto the road and, slamming on his brakes, barely managed to avoid a collision.
“Look where you’re going, you bloody fool!” Shirley shouted in English, seeing him screech to a halt in her rearview mirror.
Moments later, he was on her tail, trying to pass on curves with no shoulders and a long drop to the sea. When they reached a short stretch of straight road, Shirley edged over. It was also where she habitually caught the first glimpse of her house, and that evening, she couldn’t see it for the billowing smoke. Forgetting Nick, who was already alongside her, she stomped on the accelerator, leaving him in the wrong lane approaching another curve. He hit the brakes hard, and swerved back behind her.
He was still swearing at the stupid woman when she bounced off the road to park alongside a pickup truck with a swirling blue light fixed to its roof. Nick skidded to a stop behind her.
Shirley scrambled from her small car as fast as her generous body would allow. “Apostolis!” she cried. “Dingo is up there!”
The fire chief was busy directing villagers who’d shown up to fight the fire, some carrying shovels, others hauling water in the backs of pickups. “Are you sure only Dingo is there?” Apostolis shouted back.
Nick sprinted past them, unbuttoning his shirt while clutching a water bottle. “Is Ringo the dog?”
“Dingo!” Shirley shouted after him. “His name is Dingo!”
Nick disappeared in the smoke.
About the Author
Raised crisscrossing America pulling a small green trailer behind the family car, Timothy Jay Smith developed a ceaseless wanderlust that has taken him around the world many times. En route, he’s found the characters that people his work. Polish cops and Greek fishermen, mercenaries and arms dealers, trafficked child and wannabe terrorists, chiefs and tailors: he’s hung with them all in an unparalleled international career that saw him smuggle banned plays from behind the Iron Curtain, maneuver through Occupied Territories, represent the U.S. at the highest levels of foreign governments, and stowaway aboard a ‘devil’s barge’ for a three-day crossing from Cape Verde that landed him in an African jail. Tim brings the same energy to his writing that he brought to a distinguished career, and as a result, he has won top honors for his novels, screenplays and stage plays in numerous prestigious competitions. Fire on the Island won the Gold Medal in the 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition for the Novel, and his screenplay adaptation of it was named Best Indie Script by WriteMovies. His recent novel, The Fourth Courier, set in Poland, published in 2019 by Arcade Publishing, was critically acclaimed. Previously, he won the Paris Prize for Fiction (now the Paris Literary Prize) for his novel, A Vision of Angels. Kirkus Reviews called Cooper’s Promise “literary dynamite” and selected it as one of the Best Books of 2012. Tim was nominated for the 2018 Pushcart Prize. His stage play, How High the Moon, won the prestigious Stanley Drama Award, and his screenplays have won competitions sponsored by the American Screenwriters Association, WriteMovies, Houston WorldFest, Rhode Island International Film Festival, Fresh Voices, StoryPros, and the Hollywood Screenwriting Institute. He is the founder of the Smith Prize for Political Theater.