If Wishes Were Horses… by Tim Hemlin
Neil Marshall is a graduate student in the University of Houston’s creative writing program and a promising young poet. However, facing a financially and emotionally draining divorce has him worried about more than paying tuition. So to make ends meet, Neil moonlights as a chef for a high society caterer. Just when Neil’s life seems bleakest, his oldest friend, racehorse breeder Jason Keys, is murdered. And Neil becomes the prime suspect. To avenge his friend, clear his name, and rescue a missing championship thoroughbred, Neil infiltrates the dark underworld of horse theft and illegal breeding. Neil’s friends—his attractive writing teacher, his cooking colleagues, and a freckle-faced teenage horsewoman—offer their support. But their cheers quickly turn to gasps when Neil becomes the hunted.
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Tim Hemlin is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire, having studied with poets Charles Simic and Mekeel McBride. He has published in poetry journals, anthologies, and magazines–most notably in Ellery Queen. Currently he has six published novels, two short stories and is included in an anthology.
By day he is an educator; however after teaching ELA for 22 years he decided to put his master’s degree to work and is now a high school counselor. In addition, he is an avid marathoner, fly-fisherman, and outdoorsman. He lives just outside Houston, Texas with his wife Valerie, two dogs and a cantankerous cat.
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Q&A With the Author:
If you could travel to any time in history, when would you visit?
Paris in the 1920s. I’ve always been fascinated with the ex-patriot writers and artists of that time and would love to meet Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein, Eliot, Picasso . . .
If you could have dinner with any of your characters, which ones would you choose? What food would you serve?
Bear, my renegade from The Wastelanders, and C. J. McDaniels from my mysteries. We would have oxtail soup and a few tall pints of Black Silence, a particularly potent dark beer brewed on the Houston Rim. Undoubtedly the beer would loosen their tongues so I could spend hours listening to these kindred spirits swap war stories–both literally and figuratively. I can already hear how C. J. would combat the political rule of the heavy-handed oligarchy called The Water Cartel, to which Bear’s response would be, “Marvelous.”
I bellied up to a stainless-steel table where a large tub of slaughtered wild doves was waiting. One of our clients had gone on a hunting spree earlier this fall and now wanted to serve the birds as an appetizer. But damn, Claudia must be pissed. Carving out a dove’s barely quarter-sized breast was something Mattie could’ve done. The game meat would be tasty sautéed in cilantro butter with a flambé of tequila, and served on a small toast with a touch of sun-dried tomato sauce. Dealing with them now, however, was grunt work.
After the first couple of dozen, I began to change my tune. Perhaps mindless activity was beneficial at this point. Pull skin. Slice one little breast, flip body, then slice the other. Discard carcass. And thus I bone the bird of peace.
Pull, slice, flip, slice, discard. So what did I have? Sleepless nights. Pull, slice, flip. A hothead with a missing horse that I had located. Slice, discard, pull. A tight-mouthed businessman in Chip Gunn and the enigmatic Dover Hill, whose name gave me the willies. Slice, flip, slice. A headstrong girl with adolescent worries. Discard, pull, slice. Her grandfather who knew more than he was saying, perhaps because he was afraid to say too much. Flip, slice, discard. True Grit still missing and Cecil Brenner most likely threatening all kinds of military acts against Texas, or me. Pull, slice, flip. The friendly Lieutenant Gardner unconvinced I was simply an innocent mourner. Slice, discard, pull. And a hungry prosecutor aching to carry an indictment all the way to the lethal-injection chamber in Huntsville. Slice, flip, slice. Toss in a side order of Susan and Professor Winford. Slice, slice, slice. And for dessert, a married Keely Cohen. Discard. ~ Neil Marshall