In the mid-1950s, Jack Dayton flees his working-class prospects in Omaha and heads to Hollywood, convinced he’ll be the next James Dean. But sleazy casting couches don’t earn him stardom, and despair leads to a series of poor decisions that ultimately find him at a cheap motel off Route 66, lifeless at the bottom of the pool.
Sixty years later, Tag Manning, feeling hopeless and empty, flees his most recent relationship mistake and takes to the open road. On a roundabout route to Las Vegas, he pulls over to rest at an isolated spot on Route 66. There’s no longer a motel or pool, but when Tag resumes his journey to Vegas, he finds he’s transporting a hitchhiking ghost. Jack and Tag come to find much-needed friends in each other, but one man is a phantom and the other is strangely cursed. Time is running out for each of them, and they must face the fact that a future together may not only be a gamble… it may not be in the cards.
Holy crap this is a good book!
Jack was alive in the 1950s, trying to make it in Hollywood by being a “good friend” to a low level director in the hopes of scoring a good part. The director’s wife knows about their arrangement and doesn’t care… or does she?
One night, after Jack confronts the director and decides he’s had enough of being put off, he’s going to go back to Omaha and start life as a meat packer or something. His car breaks down and he calls the only people he knows for help, but instead of the director, it’s the wife who comes to “help”. Instead of money or a ride, she gives him liquor and pills and a shoulder to cry on. Suddenly, he finds himself in the pool… dead.
Tag is alive in modern times. But he isn’t sure he wants to be. He has his own secret troubles and he can’t accept happiness because it all eventually falls apart. When he’s stopped on the highway by a mysterious patrol man, his life takes on a dramatic twist and a ghost!
For whatever reason, Jack can make himself be seen and not only Tag but others can see him – but it comes at an energetic cost. He can’t do it forever, but he finds himself longing for Tag’s company. The darkness in Tag calls to Jack and maybe it’s Tag’s redemption that keeps Jack from crossing over, or maybe something else…
The two spend their time in Las Vegas – finding several adventures along the way – as Tag introduces Jack to modern times and the life of a gay man in the 21st century.
Eventually, the time comes for Jack to make a decision – can he stay with Tag? Will Tag be okay if Jack leaves? What will Tag do with his life if Jack leaves?
This story is truly remarkable. It’s like nothing I’ve read before and I found it breathtaking!
Kim Fielding is a favorite author of mine, but for some reason I shied away from this book. Maybe because it felt so dark. And… it is dark. There are times when you wonder if either of these guys has even the remotest of hopes at happiness.
They work through some ugly, gritty and real stuff. Depression. Homophobia. Bigotry. Suicide. Murder. Hauntings. Abuse… it’s in there. But, in Kim’s brilliance, she’s able to find the path to bring them their happiness. In a twist I would never have predicted, these guys find their permanent HEA and it was so very sweet! Such a rewarding ending!
So… I warn you to gird up for some dark times, but strongly recommend you persevere because it is absolutely worth it to get to the other side!
Kudos Kim! This was a fantastic book! (Kudos to the cover artist Paul Richmond – captures the essence of the story so perfectly!)
Highly recommended and hoping we see it on audio one day!
6 of 5 stars
Copy purchased for review