Len Joy is the author of three previous novels, “Everyone Dies Famous” (2020), “Better Days” (2018) and “American Past Time” (2014) and a collection of short fiction, “Letting Go” (2018). In his new book “Dry Heat: A Novel” which will be out Tuesday March 1, the day All-American Joey Blade turns 18, he learns his ex-girlfriend is pregnant, is betrayed by his new girlfriend, and is arrested for the attempted murder of two police officers. Then things get bad. Below is an excerpt from “Dry Heat.”
Excerpted from “Dry Heat: A Novel.” Copyright © Len Joy. All rights reserved. Published by BQB Publishing.
“Dry Heat” by Len Joy
3 P.M. – SATURDAY – NOVEMBER 20, 1999 ROADRUNNER PARK – PHOENIX, AZ
The gangs were always stealing the nylon basketball nets, so the park director had replaced them with galvanized steel chain, which rattled obnoxiously on every bad shot. Joey frowned as his jump shot clanked off the front rim.
“Your shot sucks today, Joey Blade,” Mallory said as she bounced the ball back to him.
“Your boobs are distracting me. Maybe it’s time you started wearing a bra.” Blonde, with a pixie cut that framed her cute little-girl face, Mallory could have passed for a twelve-year-old if it hadn’t been for her huge breasts. She was fifteen, two years younger than Joey, and they had been playground buddies for ten years. She lived with her creepy father in a rundown brick house a block away and escaped to the park most afternoons.
“Come on, concentrate, Mr. All American.” She lifted up her sweatshirt, flashing him as he took his next shot. An airball.
“Aargh.” Joey chased after the errant shot, hip-checking Mallory as he grabbed the ball. He dribbled out to the corner and swished a turnaround jumper. “Yes! No distractions that time.” He pumped his fist.
Mallory smirked. “Better get used to it. You’ll have plenty of distractions when you’re in Lala Land next week.”
Joey was out of time. He had to make a decision about his trip to USC and he had to make it now. He clanked another free throw off the rim.
“What’s wrong, Joey?”
Mallory scowled as she bounced the ball to him. She knew what Joey’s dad was like. Dutch Blade was an unfiltered, heart- on-his-sleeve guy. He could chew someone out one moment and be hugging them the next.
“He doesn’t want you following in the immortal footsteps of O.J.?”
Joey gave her a look. Mallory was always a smartass. Three weeks ago, in his last high school football game, the Shadow Mountain Matadors had defeated Apache Junction, last year’s state champion, 28 to 24. Joey rushed for 264 yards and scored all four touchdowns for Shadow Mountain. After the game, he was contacted by every school in the PAC 10, all promising that he would have a bright future playing football for their university.
He thought it would be cool to have all that attention, but it was really like trying to date five girls at once. Everyone insisted their school was the best choice for Joey. He didn’t like disappointing people and he didn’t want to string anyone along, so he quickly narrowed the search to USC in Los Angeles and the University of Arizona in Tucson.
He dribbled out to the foul line and took another turnaround jumper. The shot was a foot short and wide left.
Mallory scampered over and picked it up. “You can’t blame that one on me.”
Joey tried spinning the ball on his index finger, but he couldn’t keep his focus. “Dutch grew up in Tucson. He loves the Wildcats. He’s always said that if his folks had had the money, he would have gone to U of A instead of Vietnam.” He glided out to the corner again. “Ball!” he shouted. Mallory fired a chest high pass to him and he swished a fifteen-footer.
“Maybe he just wants to keep you close so you can help with the family business,” Mallory said with a faux expression of innocence.
Dutch had started Blade Engine and Crankshaft when he returned from Vietnam. With the help of Joey’s mom, Callie, it had become the largest engine rebuilder in the southwest.
“My dad thinks anyone who goes to California just wants to be a movie star.”
Mallory tilted her head and squinted at him. “You’re pretty cute with that curly hair and those girly eyelashes. I could definitely see you in the movies.”
“Shut up, Mallory. This is serious.”
“What do you want to be when you grow up? A football player? Or are you planning to take over the business?”
Joey gave her the finger. They’d had that discussion before. “I want to be a writer. USC would be better for that, but to my dad, a writer is even worse than a movie star. He doesn’t think it’s a real job unless you’re sweating.”
“So, your big problem is deciding between a free education in California or Arizona?” Mallory arched her eyebrows, suggesting that was the kind of problem most people would love to have. Then she grinned and said, “You want to come over to my place for a glass of ice tea?”
“Uh . . .” Joey stared down at his feet. Mallory was cool, but he couldn’t stand her father. Donny Stewart worked at Blade Engine as a mechanic doing engine installs. He thought he was some kind of comedian. He was always telling stupid, dirty jokes and his delivery sucked. He acted like Joey was disrespecting him for not laughing his ass off. Joey knew Stewart resented him because he was the boss’s kid. Donny Stewart was an all- around creepy guy.
“My dad’s running the install center today.” Mallory said. “He won’t be home for two hours.”
“Ice tea sounds great,” Joey said.
hours minutes seconds
‘Dry Heat’ release date