Disclaimer – I was given a free copy of this book, not in exchange for an honest review, but I’m doing it anyway.
‘After kicking aside a pair of underwear large enough to fit a hippo with glandular problems, that’s when I spotted the tree. The jagged trunk still smoked from lightning, and as the wind changed direction, sour air attacked my nostrils. I pressed my sleeve to my face as I jogged on over. The lone pine sat by the water’s edge, shredded by the gods. A still-flaming branch sizzled on the riverbank. But strangest of all was the crater of blackened earth by the roots. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say a tiny meteor had struck. Roots jutted from the scorched soil like tentacles, and I peeked below at the thing buried in the dirt. Rainwater rolled down the filthy glass. A jar.
My first thought turned to drugs. Could someone have buried paraphernalia for a pickup? Would that attract lightning?
Then (as stupid as it sounds) I thought: silver. Did we have a millionaire Lowback hillbilly hiding treasures outside of town? Parole officer be damned – my hands itched to find out.
I scanned the woods for hikers before hunkering down and pawing at the muck. The dirt came free in globs, gathering beneath my nails, but I soon shimmied my hands around the glass and pulled. The object popped free and I went bassakwards as the thing shot through the air, thumped the soggy ground and rolled as I scrambled to my feet and my treasure barreled toward the tributary.
I bolted and snatched the jar just as it started down the bank to the catfish. Then I caught my breath.
I took inventory of the woods and once more. Only the sparrows and catfish knew my whereabouts, and the hissing rain cloaked my labored breathing. I hobbled to the shelter of a canopy, squatting back-against-bark as I rolled that cold jar about my open palms.
A seamed glass cookie jar – the very thing Pop used as a swear pot when I was growing up. Sometimes I think he cussed just to give me pocket money, the kinda man he was. “Fuck, fuck, shit, cock, fuck, and there’s your candy. Go on up to the store and grab me some tobacco while you’re at it. Like magic.”
“Like magic,” I mumbled, and popped the lid before peering inside.
I expected a rank smell, maybe from a dead animal some psychotic child had shoved inside, but all I found was paper. Lots of paper. My brow creased. I wiped my hand on my jeans before slipping in two fingers and snatching a piece. Then I pulled a tiny, ripped scroll free and found myself surprised at the weight. Someone had shredded a notebook page before rolling the sections into tight little scrolls. The years only strengthened that fold, and once I unraveled a piece, I placed it on my knee and held it open. There lay a single penny taped next to handwriting..
“The fuck is goin’ on here?”
‘A Penny For Your Thoughts’ is available to pre-order at the links below and will be released on 1st June 2019 for your reading pleasure.
Joe, a recovering addict fresh out of jail, finds a jar of penny buried beneath a tree, each old and wrapped in the wish of a young child. At first they amuse him, but he soon realises that the wishes he reads come true – no matter what they are. As he and his friends, new and old, try to figure out how to use the wishes to their advantage they find that everything has a price – and it’s never just a penny.
‘A Penny For Your Thoughts’ is a novel that explores addiction, debt, greed, and secrets that refused to stay buried. It pulls the reader into a fantasy that we’ve all explored at some point – what would you wish for? Except, this novel also forces us to consider the downside – the cost of the wish. Everything has a price, it all just depends on whether we’re willing to pay it or not, and when the wish is really good, we don’t even ask what that price is. Joe and his friends go through all of these and bring the reader with them, funny, gruesome, haunting and all the while steadily increasing in dread.
Joe as a protagonist brings this story to life. Joe has a past, he isn’t necessarily a bad guy, but he isn’t a ‘good guy’ either. He isn’t the hero of this his story or any story really. His drug addiction serves as a mirror for our own addiction to our wants, our own selfishness, and our need for instant gratification at no cost – and as we all no, nothing is ever really free.
As this is the first co-authored novel that I have ever read, I was a little apprehensive about it, imagining that two writers together, particularly if I was to write with someone else, would find it challenging to merge their styles. But Ford and Hayward manage to do just that and form a cohesive narrative. At no point do I remember being pulled out thinking that I’d switched to something that felt like a different writer, a different story, a different protagonist.
I have one pet peeve about this novel that’s irrelevant to most people but I’m going to share it anyway! It’s completely only a thing that would get under my skin, and only recently as I’ve learned that this is a thing – the currency in prisons (American prisons at least) is no longer cigarettes, but ramen instant noodles. As I’ve heard in many documentaries (‘Brooklyn 99’ and ‘To Make A Murderer’) and various forms of journalism, smokes are largely banned and instead, as it’s easy to cook and something everyone and use, ramen noodles are now the currency that prisoners use to barter and stash away. We can all be glad that less people are smoking I guess.
About the Authors:
Matt Hayward is an Irish horror writer and musician from Wicklow with numerous publications under his belt and a Bram Stoker Award nomination. You can find my review of his short story collection ‘Brain Dead Blues’ here. He is currently working on another co-authored novel with Brian Smith and can be found on Twitter @MattHaywardIRE or at his website sundancecrow.com
Robert Ford is an American author with myriad publications under his belt such as his novel ‘The Compound‘ and his short story collection ‘The God Beneath My Garden‘. He also has several screenplays floating around Hollywood that you may see in time. Ford can be found on Twitter @bobford
Links to Pre-order and review (ALWAYS REVIEW!)
How do you feel about wish fulfillment stories? What would you use your wishes for if you found a mysterious jar of pennies buried beneath a tree? Are we all too addicted to instant gratification? Let me know down below!
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