The Smash-Up

“The Smash-Up” is a re-imagining of ideas from a Fitzgerald novel, set in Colorado in the 1970s. It is one of the stories in my collection coming out next year. You can read it now by sending an email to and joining my email list (you can opt out at any time). Try to guess the famous novel this takes off from!

It started when someone smashed the windshield of Buck Thompson’s Corvette. Glass shattered. And lives.
Buck had brought it in the previous night so we could R & R the mufflers and tailpipes the next day. But the next morning, first thing, we stood, George and Hippie Phil and I, in the cool quiet of the three-bay garage looking at a saucer-sized impact in the passenger side, cracks running in a sparkling web all across the glass. Shards and sparkles had showered down on the dashboard, but not on the seats, or on the gray felt cowboy hat sitting on the passenger seat . . .

In late June Bob Sunshine rolled in, driving a two-donkey, canvas-top wagon with rubber tires. Sunshine was a one-eyed no-patch cowpoke who ambled all over the west appearing at rodeos and church fairs, an oddity and a showman. Of course he had known George and Toni for years. Everyone knew George and Toni, or wanted to.
Bob parked his little conestoga behind the shop, and began turning up at the five o’clock beerfest, where he showed he could sling it with anybody. Sunshine had been in western movies in the forties and fifties, and played a comic ranch hand character on the original Mouseketeers show.
“Even then I was a wiry little SOB,” he told a group of us in his scratchy drawl. “I named my mules after the two sweetest little gals on the show, though truthfully not so little if ye ketch my meaning.”
One of the yokels said, “You mean Annette and, uh…”
“Dor-eeeen,” we all repeated.
George knew Sunshine’s act, and loved playing the straight man. “Uh, Bob… those animals ain’t mules.”
Bob did a stage whisper. “Well, I know that! But they don’t.”
Surprisingly, everybody in the room laughed. Bob sucked you in like that. Bad jokes, veteran timing.
For more than a week, Bob stuck around, and Annette and Doreen thinned the weeds in the fenced lot next door. On the Fourth of July Bob decorated the donkeys and the wagon in patriotic colors, and drove the rig in the parade downtown.
“That’s why I came,” Bob told me. He was helping me clean up the back lot around where his wagon was parked, where the junk cars sat for years.
I wanted to know how a person like him could even exist anymore. “That’s quite a life you’ve got.”
“It’s a life I chose. I almost died in Hollywood. I’ve only got one lung.” He pulled up his shirt to show me slashes of pink over his scant torso.
“Valley fever. It was supposed to kill me but it didn’t. It freed me. I think I’ll take these.” He picked up a disintegrating cardboard box of empty beer cans, and dropped it beside his wagon. “They’ll pay ye for these now.”
“I had always wanted to see the real west.” He swept his hand out. “I’d been a TV cowboy, but I grew up on a dairy farm in LA. I wanted to see the mountains of Utah, the high plains, the red rocks. In fifty-nine I took a bus to Las Vegas, and just started walking. Eventually I acquired the burros. Or they acquired me.”
One of animals honked at us from across the fence. “Hush, Doreen,” Bob honked back. He winked at me. “She’s the jealous type.”
“How far have you traveled?”
“I don’t count the miles.” He squeezed a can to flatten it. “The funny thing is, before too long, I was back to playing the Hollywood cowboy I’d been before. But for real. Up close with people in small towns and along the road. It just evolved into a thing.” He tossed the flattened can onto the tailgate of the wagon.
“It’s strange. Facing death led me to a life I couldn’t imagine before. And then living that life led me back to the character I’d created for show.”
I heard some irony there, or maybe some karma.Just beyond my grasp.
His voice turned extra twangy. “That’s why I always say, be a flapjack. Let the spatula of life flip you so you’ll be golden on both sides, and tasty with syrup. That’s the kind of crap I tell people. They love it, and some of it might even be true.”
I had to smile as I carried and raked and piled. A warm, sunny morning in God’s Country, and Moses or somebody filling me with the wonder of life. Bob disappeared into the hills soon after that. “Me and the mules,” he said. “We got places to go.”

Note: this dialogue and situation is made up, but Bob Sunshine was a real character who roamed the west for years.

Special for our email friends

The print copy of Line in the Sand is coming in December. For you we have a special offer. Buy the ebook now ($2.99) and get a coupon for $5 off a print copy, autographed by your favorite author (or by Fred Andersen, if your favorite author is not available).

Buy at:

Then send an email to: palavrpubl@gmail.comWe’ll give you an e-coupon for five dollars off the print copy (publication date c. 12/15/18).

Winner of the $50.00 Amazon gift card missing!

David McQueen won the drawing for the $50 Amazon gift card by buying A Line in the Sand at the pre-pub price of 99 cents, and joining our email list. But the contact info was incorrect or mishandled. HELP US FIND DAVID! Hints: he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and possibly works for the federal government.

While you’re at it, Line is still on sale for a limited time for .99. And we are offering another $50 gift card to iTunes of Amazon in a drawing to be held Oct. 19. And send an email to to enter the drawing.

A ride any reader will want to take

Reviews are in for “A Line in the Sand” . . .

“a memorable, highly recommended story of killers, cartels, and innocents changed by a series of deadly encounters.” Midwest Book Review

“It’s a ride any reader will want to take, a journey with surprising outcomes.” Readers’ Favorite Reviews.

“If you’re looking for a book that goes out with a bang give [it] a try.” Long and Short reviews of an early version.

Preorder the ebook now for only 99 cents!


A Line in the Sand now on Amazon

pre-order now for delivery Sept. 24.

No fantasy or legends here, no far-away galaxies or mists of a distant time. A Line in the Sand is an unblinking look at some tough, terrible realities that decent people don’t deserve but have to endure anyway. BUT you will find exciting action, complex characters and thought-provoking narratives in A Line in the Sand by Fred Andersen.

“A Line in the Sand” now on Nook

Pre-order the new book by Fred Andersen at B&N.

It’s a story of horrible violence, thrilling action and emotional suspense. Two heavily-armed killers are defeated by a man with a button; a kidnapping takes place in the most strongly-guarded part of the city; a Mexican drug cartel is busted—or did it simply transform itself into something even more evil? And above all, while Mallory have a good time this weekend?

“A Line in the Sand” now available for pre-order: 99 cents

A new suspense novel from Fred Andersen

When are you safe? Who do you trust? Is it ever right to do wrong? These questions drive the characters in A LINE IN THE SAND, the story of four near-strangers who must band together to defeat a vicious and powerful gang, while hiding their actions from law enforcement.

Read an excerpt and pre-order at a big savings. Just 99 cents! Release date September 24. Check it out at:

What should a writer read?

As a mystery/suspense writer, what should I be reading to learn and grow in my craft? The best sellers: Paretsky, Patterson & Slaughter? (Sounds like a bond-trading house). The classics? Definitely, but just how classic: 90s? 40s? Dickens? Deuteronomy?

Well, I guess I just read stuff I pick up and like. And one thing I pick up often to read, in bits and snatches, is Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. Not for its anti-war-bureaucracy-conformity stances, or for its famous conundrums and satire. I read it for the writing, the language, especially the spiraling, inspiring, is-that-even-a-real-adjective? descriptions:

a chaotic bus depot honking with horns, blazing with red and yellow lights and echoing with the snarling vituperations of unshaven bus drivers pouring loathsome, hair-raising curses out at each other, at their passengers, and at the strolling, unconcerned knots of pedestrians clogging their paths, who ignored them until they were bumped by the buses and began shouting curses back.

And callipygous, which I had to look up, and which has a surprisingly specific meaning. (I won’t deny you the pleasure of this discovery).

And then there’s this:

Major de Coverly straightened with astonishment at Milo’s effrontery and concentrated on him the full fury of his storming countenance with its rugged overhang of gullied forehead and huge crag of a humpbacked nose that came charging out of his face wrathfully like a Big Ten fullback.

Charging out of his face like a . . .

Oh, my!

The Advocate’s Dilemma by Teresa Burrell

Attorney Sabre Brown’s day is going well until she walks into her office and finds a dead man sprawled across her desk. When, Bob, her best friend and colleague is suspected of the murder, and Sabre’s minor client has information that might clear him, Sabre has a dilemma. How does she help her best friend without betraying the confidence of the child she is sworn to protect?

New “Lily” Review by Jennie Reads


The book takes place in the long ago days of Hollywood. There is a bombshell actress with a past and a brain as well as the every day guy who is just trying to do the right thing – in between trying to keep a job as a screenwriter and controlling his alter ego Detective he writes about. While there is some sleeping around it is done in the days of “cut away” scenes.

The murder mentioned in the summary happens pretty late in the story but at this point I was nicely pulled into the characters and their entwined secrets.

Jennie Reads: “I read them all so you can read the best!”

Lily Torrence by Fred Andersen