Forrest Carr, a graduate of the University of Memphis, spent 33 years in the trenches of local news warfare. He's worked as a radio reporter, TV reporter, TV producer, and TV news director, leading newsrooms in Fort Myers, Tucson, Albuquerque and Tampa. He's best known within the industry as a proponent of the Viewer Advocacy news philosophy, as set forth in the groundbreaking "Viewers' Bill of Rights." Carr has won or shared credit in more than 90 journalism awards, including a Suncoast regional Emmy for investigative reporting, the national Walter Cronkite station award for political reporting, and a national Edward R. Murrow award for best website. In addition to the mystery/thriller/humor novel "Messages," Carr is author of the sci-fi book "A Journal of the Crazy Year," and co-author of the textbook "Broadcast News Handbook," now in its fifth edition. He resides with his wife Deborah and their two cats Ellis and Mina, a.k.a. Butthead 1 and Butthead Also, in Tucson, Arizona.
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"And what did the boss say?" Regina demanded.
Austin locked eyes with her. "He said our stories need more vagina."
Regina recoiled as if Austin had poked her with a sharp stick. "He said what?"
Austin held his hand up. "As God is my judge. That was the word he used."
What kind of crazy newsroom is this?
It's the kind three friends find as each embarks on a broadcast journalism career at the height of the Golden Age of TV News. In their quest for Truth, Justice, and Ratings, they'll risk it all, battling profit-minded owners, idiotic managers, shady businessmen, out-of-control public officials, and dangerous criminals. Before it's over, one will be in a fight for his job, another will be fighting for his sanity, and the third will be struggling for his very life. Written by Forrest Carr, an award-winning journalist who spent 33 years in the trenches of local news warfare, "Messages" tells a compelling reality-inspired crime story while also providing rare and authentic insight into the powerful world of local TV news and the driven, sometimes tortured people who decide what you'll be allowed to know about the community you live in.
An "accomplished debut novel" written with "smooth skill" and filled will "considerable comic energy and fast-paced dialogue. A spirited, lavishly detailed behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of a newsroom."
-- Kirkus Reviews
"A masterful exposé of TV news. Carr’s novel is engrossing, fun to read and a joy to see play out to its inevitable, tragic, hilarious and scandalous conclusion. Take this book home. You won’t be disappointed."
-- Tim Schwartz, MoCoVox.com
What readers are posting about Messages:
– "Great read! Many laugh out loud moments."
– "Fast paced and funny."
– "Better than Anchorman."
– "Loved it! Hard to put down."
– "Like reading M*A*S*H set in a newsroom."
GET YOUR COPY TODAY!!!
(In this passage reporter Arrow Henley, who's been investigating a string of murders he suspects are all tied to a single vigilante killer, agrees to meet with a stripper he's befriended, who warns him that his life may be in danger.)
When Arrow arrived, he saw that the White Water Tavern was a classic dive, stuffed into what appeared to be a former house sitting in a corner lot. The exterior was covered with wooden siding, with the weather-beaten boards placed diagonally across the facade. A plain white sign that hung where a window should have been announced the name of the place in sprawling black and red letters. When Arrow walked inside, the noise hit him like a battering ram. A scruffy-looking spike-haired band was holding forth in front of a small dance floor, where a packed crowd that looked to be a mixture of college kids, bikers, lawyers, and rednecks writhed, swayed, twitched, and jumped. To Arrow, the music had all the soothing tonal qualities of a bag full of cats being beaten to death with hammers.
He looked about for Charlene, and spotted her sitting at the bar next to a young man wearing a doctor's scrub, who appeared to be trying to chat her up. Catching Arrow's eye, she rose and waved to him. He shuffled through the crowd, making his way to her. He had to admit, she was looking lovely. Hot, in fact. She was dressed tastefully enough in dark gray Capri slacks and a simple pink blouse – certainly no one would have guessed she was a stripper. But she swelled out the blouse just right. And the slacks, while not obscenely tight by any means, did their part in emphasizing her perfect, girlish figure. "Charlene," he not quite shouted, extending his hand. "How are you?"
She took his hand warmly. "I hope I don't come across as a stalker or a groupie," she said, also raising her voice above the din. "But there's something I wanted to share with you."
Arrow laughed. "If you are a stalker, I think I can bear it." He settled onto the bar stool she had saved for him. The guy in the scrub gave him a sour look, and then turned to speak to a bored-looking black-haired woman wearing barbed-wire earrings sitting on the other side of him.
"Nice place you picked!" Arrow shouted.
"I know!" she said. "Sorry about the noise! But at least we're not in danger of having our conversation overheard!"
The band mercifully chose that moment to announce what the lead singer promised would be a very short break.
Arrow dug a finger into his ear. "Man! Do you hear bells ringing?"
She laughed. "No."
He turned his head to her. "Is there any blood coming out?" He turned and showed her the other ear.
"Oh, stop it now! It wasn't that loud."
He looked around. Cigarette smoke hung thickly in the air. Numerous items covered the dark, paneled walls, including mementos of every size and description, illegible signs, miscellaneous photographs, and animal heads. On one small shelf a bowling pin stood next to a boot. A monkey made of coconuts sat behind the bar. Strings of white Christmas lights ran around the tops of the walls.
"I'll hand you this. It's got character."
"It's about the only place in town you can go to hear local music," she said.
"Is that what that noise was?" he asked.
She gave him an "Oh, you," look.
The house music system cranked up with a tune similar to the racket the group had been playing. Fortunately, it wasn't quite so loud.
A youngish-looking woman wearing blue jeans and a dark T-shirt bearing a logo that Arrow couldn't quite make out in the low light made her way to their side of the bar. "What can I get ya, darlin'?" she said, smiling.
"A beer, I suppose. What's good here?"
"That ain't the question to ask," she said.
Arrow laughed. "Okay, what's the question to ask?"
"The question to ask is, 'What sells here?'" she said. "And that would be PBR."
"PBR?" Arrow asked.
"Pabst Blue Ribbon," Charlene explained, raising her glass.
Arrow nodded. "Bring it on."
When the waitress left, Arrow turned to Charlene. "I have to admit, it is good to see you again," he said.
She smiled coyly. "Well, I confess I had sort of hoped you might call me." Her expression sobered. "But I really do have something to tell you. In fact, it has me a little worried."
Arrow frowned. "Go on."
She hesitated. Swallowing nervously, she continued. "Well, a couple of days ago this guy came in with some buddy. He's been in the club before. He wasn't in uniform. But my friend Misty tells me he's a cop. She told me you've done some stories on him."
"It wouldn't have been Cyrus Newman, would it?"
"Misty said his name was Cyrus. His friend called him 'Cy.' I didn't catch the last name."
Arrow nodded. "It's gotta be the same guy. He and his partner, a cop named Larry Roberts, have been beating up on kids in Boyle Park. And there are some other things going on, too."
"Well, I apologize, I haven't actually seen the stories." She smiled. "My schedule doesn't allow for much news watching."
Arrow chuckled. "That's understandable. But please continue. Did this guy bother you?"
"Oh, no, nothing like that. But after a few beers, he was talking kind of loud. The place is noisy, what with the music and all. But I've gotten pretty good at hearing snatches of conversation."
Arrow gave her a sly smile. "You aren't the gossipy type, are you?"
She raised an eyebrow and dimpled a chin. "Maybe a little."
"My favorite type. So what did he say?"
The waitress bearing Arrow's beer interrupted their conversation. Arrow paid for both beers. He was surprised to see how little the drinks set him back; it was no wonder the place was crowded.
"Thank you," Charlene said when the waitress had left.
"Don't mention it. Now – you were saying?"
The twinkle in her eye disappeared. "I heard him mention your name a couple of times. I'm pretty sure he's planning to do something to you."
Arrow creased his brow. "What makes you think that?"
"He said he was going to '$Q!#$@ you up,' is how he put it."
"Wow." Arrow's mouth suddenly seemed very dry, and he felt a little faint. He took a sip of his beer. "You're sure that's what he said? You mentioned it was pretty loud in the club."
She nodded. "I'm sure they had no idea I could overhear them. But those were his exact words. He said it to his buddy at least twice. I heard him quite clearly."
"And you're sure it was Newman who said this?"
"Yeah. The guy named Cy. Very sure."
Arrow pulled his chin. "I see." He paused, considering the implications of what she was telling him. "Any idea who the other guy was?"
"Misty didn't recognize him. But I thought I heard Cy refer to him once or twice as Ollie."
"Could it have been Augey?"
"Augey?" she repeated.
She looked thoughtful. "Yeah, it could. In fact, I think it must have been. I've never heard the name 'Augey' before, which is why I thought he probably said 'Ollie.'"
Arrow nodded. "I know who it is, then."
"What are you going to do?"
He shook his head. "I really don't know. But I sure appreciate the information."
They sat in uncomfortable silence for a moment. But then she drained the rest of her beer, set the glass down, and picked up her purse. "Well, I'm playing hooky, and I've got to get back," she said, "before they fine me."
"Fine you. Really?"
She laughed. "Oh, yeah. They keep us on a short leash."
"Sounds like it. Here, let me walk you out."
As they got up, the band cranked back up again. This tune was a little different from the one that had preceded it, in style if not esthetics. Arrow was pretty sure that its catchy tune, sweet harmonies, and toe-tapping rhythm could be duplicated by revving a jet engine up to full power and then tossing a tire iron into it. He turned to Charlene. "Just in time!" he shouted.
She cupped her hand to her ear. "What?"
He laughed. "My point exactly!"
He walked with her to the parking lot. "Look," he said when they reached her car. "I can't tell you how much I appreciate you bringing me this. So many people, they just don't want to get involved."
She nodded. "But some do." Standing on tiptoe, she gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "Good night, Arrow," she said, locking eyes with him for a brief moment. Then she opened her car door and climbed inside.
Arrow watched her go. Damn, he thought.
Then he turned and went back into the bar to finish his beer and soak in the ambiance.
Driving home that night, Arrow reflected on the events of the day, holding them up one at a time for mental review, and wondering what it all meant. In one day, one of his best friends had been fired, and another was completely screwing up his life. His new news director had proved beyond the shadow of a doubt to be a perfect ass. In the short span of two weeks, his employer, previously a perfectly respectable if not particularly competitive television station, had devolved into a public joke. And now, on top of all that, he had to seriously consider whether some rogue cop might be lying in ambush for him. And he'd only been on the job for a month!
But on the other hand, if all went well, tomorrow or the next day he would succeed in blasting out an exposé that would blow the doors right off City Hall and make his reputation for years to come. He'd be able to get out of Little Rock and go to a Top Ten market, or perhaps even to one of the networks.
But how would he feel about leaving Austin and Felix behind? He was still musing to himself as he inserted the key and turned the lock on the front door of his apartment.
In a break with her usual routine, Maude did not greet him at the door.