Dietrich Kalteis has produced another gem with his latest historical crime novel, “Call Down the Thunder,” out this month from ECW Press. Read the description below followed by an excerpt of the novel courtesy of ECW. Find your copy here!
Sonny and Clara Myers struggle on their Kansas farm in the late 1930s, a time the Lord gave up on: their land’s gone dry, barren, and worthless; the bankers are greedy and hungry, trying to squeeze them and other farmers out of their homes; and, on top of that, their marriage is in trouble. The couple can struggle and wither along with the land or surrender to the bankers and hightail it to California like most of the others. Clara is all for leaving, but Sonny refuses to abandon the family farm.
In a fit of temper, she takes off westward in their old battered truck. Alone on the farm and determined to get back Clara and the good old days, Sonny comes up with an idea, a way to keep his land and even prosper while giving the banks a taste of their own misery. He sets the scheme in motion under the cover of the commotion being caused by a rainmaker hired by the mayor to call down the thunder and wash away everyone’s troubles.
Call Down the Thunder book excerpt:
Not getting out of Kansas tonight. The dusk was coming on.
Clara sat on the bumper. The steam had stopped rising from under the hood. Had only been the one truck drive by since she broke down. Likely end up sleeping in the truck.
she heard it, coming from a long way off, raising dust behind it. An old
Packard with the square cab, the headlights high and on either side of the
windshield, the kind of truck they used for delivering the post when she was a
kid. This one painted brown, gold lettering down the wood-
paneled sides. The driver slowed to a stop and leaned across the seat, calling out the window.
Some kind of scorn would likely have the man driving off. Clara smiled and said, “Darn thing started clunking and blowing steam, then quit. Sure be grateful in case you got some water to spare, mister.” Clara sizing the man up, medium height with a hawk nose, bug eyes and bushes for eyebrows and sideburns, looked harmless enough.
“Your lucky day. Water’s my game,” he said, pointing at the lettering down the side.
Eugene Cobb, Rainmaker.
Getting out, he stuck a bowler on his head, came around the front bumper and said his name, looking over the old Hudson, never seen something on the road with this little paint left on it.
“Rainmaker, huh?” She smiled and said her name.
“Spoken with the note of the skeptic, Clara.” Pulling open his passenger door, Eugene took a canteen from behind the seat, giving it a shake and offering it to her.
“You make it?” Taking it, she smiled and had a drink. Couldn’t believe how good it felt going down.
“Pumped it fresh this morning.”
“Let me ask, how you go about making it rain, Eugene?” She drank some more.
Crooking a finger, he wanted her to follow to the rear of his truck, flapping back the musty canvas. Behind some packs and tubs of supplies stood a kind of mortar on a tripod, strapped to the truck’s floor. A simple affair of a tripod base, a long barrel and a bipod mount. The thing painted black with his name painted gold along its barrel.
“That like a cannon?”
“Cannon’s more an artillery gun, fires a flat trajectory. Roundshot mostly.” He climbed up in back. “What I fire’s more of a canister shot, what I call my Cobb-busters.”
“Shoot them where?”
“The sky, of course.”
“Can I ask why?” She drank some more.
“Causes it to concuss, see? Makes it rain.”
Clara looked up at the cloudless evening, the moon and stars starting to show.
“Can see you’re a doubting Debbie.”
“Never seen a fella do it, blast the sky, is all.” She looked at the tubs of sulfur and black powder, bottles of colored liquid, some labeled ether.
“Pack them special, my Cobb-busters.” Reaching a hollow tube with welded propellent fins, his name down the side. Cradling it in his arms, he explained about removing the explosive, how he repacked it, then dropped it in the cast-iron tube, how it hit the firing pin and shot into the heavens, the special blast bringing about the rain. Saying, “I calculate the trajectory, windspeed and velocity, you see?” Smiling, Eugene set the missile back down, pushed a pack aside and came up with a jug, sloshing it around, holding it out.
“Water . . . for your radiator.”
“You make it?” She smiled again, handing the canteen back.
Tossing the empty canteen to the corner, he hopped down, took the jug over to her truck, looking under the folded hood. He scraped remnants of seeds and nuts from the radiator, pointing to where some rodent had chewed through the tubes.
Clara leaned in and saw what he was pointing at.
“Little buggers built nests, see there?”
“How far you figure I’ll get?”
“Was wondering how you got this far.” Shaking his head, he set the hood down. “Need a new hose, at least that.”
“Saying I’m damn out of luck.”
“Well, I can offer you a lift.”
Clara looked up the road, then back the way she’d come, then at him. “Where to?”
Excerpted from Call Down the Thunder by Dietrich Kalteis. © 2019 by Dietrich Kalteis. All rights reserved. Published by ECW Press Ltd. www.ecwpress.com