Jack Wakes Up

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  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-05-05
  • Publisher: Broadway Books
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Washed-up movie star Jack Palms is knee-deep in a Bay Area drug war and it'll take the performance of a lifetime to get him through it alive. In the three years since Jack Palms left Hollywood and kicked his drug habit, he's added fourteen pounds of muscle, read eighty-three books, and played it as straight as anyone could reasonably ask. But the residual checks are drying up, and the ascetic lifestyle's starting to wear thin, so Jack's happy to cash in on his former celebrity by showing some out-of-town high rollers around San Francisco's club scene. Then people start turning up dead, and Jack realizes he's been playing tour guide to a pack of former KGB agents turned coke dealers. Soon he's got too many gunmen after him to count--including a South American drug cartel, a mountain-sized Samoan enforcer, and a mobbed-up strip-club owner with an army of thugs. That's not to mention the gorgeous bartender who may be planning on shooting him in the back and the homicide cop who's just given Jack twenty-four hours to bring down the Bay Area's biggest drug dealer. But the thing that scares Jack the most? He's starting to enjoy himself. From the Trade Paperback edition.

Author Biography

SETH HARWOOD graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 2002, and his short stories have been published in numerous journals and anthologies. These days you can find Seth online at SethHarwood.com, where his podcasts of Jack Wakes Up and its sequels have drawn a devoted following.



Jack Palms walks into a diner just south of Japantown, the one where he's supposed to meet Ralph. As he passes the Wait to Be Seated sign, he wonders if these things didn't come standard issue with Please at the start not too long ago, back when the world was more friendly and kind.

But Jack knows what Ralph and the rest of the people who come to a place like this would tell him: Fuck that.

The diner's built out of an old cable car, with a lunch counter along one side and booths on the other. Ralph sits alone at the last table, eating, hunched over his plate, long brown hair hanging curly around his face, his blue-and-white Hawaiian shirt clashing with the ugly checked wallpaper. He hasn't gotten any younger or prettier over the years: His pockmarked cheeks move like a rabbit's, his eyebrows form a thick mustache over his eyes. He wears wide sunglasses, the kind blind people wear, pushed up onto the top of his head.

Ralph smiles when he sees Jack. "Jacky boy," he says, showing Jack the other side of his booth with a big hand, not getting up. "You look good. Like you added a little weight." He winks. "In a good way."

"Thanks." Jack pats his rib cage. He calculates it's been three years since he last saw Ralph. Three years and then the phone call this morning, asking Jack to come in on a deal.

"You see that game against the Mets?" Ralph starts, saying no one should be allowed to pitch around Bonds, the steroids home-run machine, that the Giants lost because the Mets did just that. Ralph shakes his head. "I guarantee you: They pitch to Bonds, he puts that shit in the Bay."

"Just coffee," Jack tells the waitress, who's come out from behind the counter. She stops with the brown-rimmed pot tilted over the table. When Jack says, "Decaf," it's clear she's not happy about having to go back for the other pot.

"And toast," Ralph adds. "He'll have a wheat toast, darling." The waitress, pushing forty and only a few years from when the days on her feet and gravity will own her, smiles and tips her head. "Thank you." He winks. When she's gone: "You got to have toast or something. So they know we're not camping." He tilts his head, forking more waffle into his mouth.

"Just don't eat it." He shrugs. "I'm buying."

"Right," Jack says. Next to Ralph's untouched water, two butts half fill his ashtray: one coming in and one with his coffee, waiting for Jack and his food, Jack guesses. He's a quarter into his waffle and has a side of eggs and bacon that he hasn't touched. Ralph did a good job syrupping the waffle: buttered it first, went liberal, and stayed away from the fruit flavors-no blueberry or apple bullshit.

"Listen, Jack." Ralph barely looks up, cuts the next quarter waffle into strips. "I'm real sorry about how that shit went down with Victoria. How you handling yourself?" He looks up, pauses from eating.

Jack runs his finger over the rim of his coffee mug. "Getting by, Ralph. Thanks for your concern."

"Because I feel for you about Victoria telling people you hit her." He shakes his head. "That wasn't good." He looks at Jack, like he's trying to get it all figured out right then and there. "You didn't, right?"

"No, Ralph."

"And that wasn't cool that they pulled the money for your sequel, dumped the project." He forks a big piece of waffle into his mouth. "I'm sorry about that too."

"So what's the basics here, Ralph? The big picture?"

Ralph nods. "It's a buy," he says, mouth full, using his fork to point. "Easy and simple: a buy and a sell. One big trade, no small shit or breaking up of product. We each stand to make a couple thou for a few days' work."

Excerpted from Jack Wakes Up: A Novel by Seth Harwood
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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