Book Title: The Road to
Cover Artist: Garrick
Release Date: September 19,
Genre: Crime Thriller/Historical Fiction
Themes: Sowing one’s oats; Finding Mr. Right; Acceptance in
Heat Rating: 5 flames
Length: 140 500 words/ 393
pages (paperback version)
It is a standalone book and
does not end on a cliffhanger.
Two years after finishing his tour of duty in the
Occupational Forces in Japan, Damson O’Reilly arrives in Siena, Italy. Sight-unseen at a local
auction, he buys an abandoned Tuscan farmhouse in which he aims to write, paint, and start
a new life.
The house, passed over at auction, becomes an
impulse buy when it’s put up for a final time. He’s prepared for a semi-ruin, happy to turn his
hand to renovating the house—however, what he’s totally unprepared for are three dead
bodies, one of which he stumbles over when he arrives at La Mensola, the name of his
isolated farmhouse on the road between Siena and Montepulciano.
Against the backdrop of a series of grisly murders,
The Road to Montepulciano is the story of a young man, still suffering the scars of war, who,
despite betrayal of trust and surrounded by a complex web of lies, finds friendship, love and
the warmth of community.
I was lying in bed listening to Donati potter around in the
kitchen for a few minutes, trying to make up my mind whether or not to get out of bed. I
checked my watch: half past five. It was still dark outside—it wouldn’t start getting light for
another three-quarters of an hour.
He had to know, I thought, reflecting on the whole of last
evening. He must have guessed that I was queer, otherwise what had happened wouldn’t
have taken place. We’d have washed separately, each waiting in our rooms until the other
had finished, then continued to drink, play cards and behave like kids, but with our clothes
on … or at least our underwear.
Some people just seemed to know it about me, although I
wasn’t aware that I’d ever telegraphed where my preferences lay. A few times during the
war I’d found myself on the receiving end of some very not-so-subtle advances quite out of
the blue, far more forthright than the almost imperceptible, ever-so-slightly charged evening
I’d enjoyed last night. And as for him? Well, I wasn’t sure just yet. There was something
though that made me wonder: a frequent holding of eye contact, as if he was trying to
discover what I was thinking, always breaking away abruptly with a soft smile on his face.
I’d never been able to recognise who was one of the tribe
like some of my bedfellows, although at the same time I’d never been shy to leap at an
opportunity when it offered itself up. But I found it hard to initiate things. Usually I’d wait
until the other person either made a move or gave me a sign that he was interested in more
than passing the time of day.
I’d heard Italian men were basically open to
anything—whether that was true or not, I had no idea. Maybe Donati was just a regular man
who liked a bit of variety every so often—I’d met a few of those—or maybe he was just like
me: lonely and looking for a friend.
Deciding to finally get up, I’d barely thrown back the sheet
and sat up, my feet drawn up and knees splayed while I leaned over, searching for my
cigarettes—which for some strange reason I’d thrown into my haversack last night—when
Renzo walked into the room with a demitasse in each hand. The smell of the coffee made my
He was naked too. It seemed that clothing was to be an
optional extra during my stay … I returned his smile.
“Buongiorno, Damson,” he said, handing
one of the cups to me, then sat in the middle of the bed, one of his legs at an angle, the
knee resting on my foot.
“Buongiorno, Renzo. You. Sleep.
bene?” he corrected my Italian, saying the
words slowly, twirling his finger in the air to encourage me to repeat the correct version.
“In English?” Renzo asked after I’d got it right.
“Did you sleep well?”
When he repeated the words, he made a pretty good fist of
it, so I held out my hand. The shake happened directly over my crotch, mainly because
having finished his coffee he’d stretched out over the bed. It was obvious that my genitals
were right in front of his face, but his eyes hadn’t flicked away from my own, despite his
Cheshire cat grin. This time I was the first to break eye contact, playfully nudging his
shoulder with my foot, then reaching for my cigarettes once more.
We chatted for a while, trying out words with each other
while smoking, Renzo idly playing with the hair trail below his navel while we traded
vocabulary for items in the room. Then, after we’d given each other a lesson on conjugating
the present tense of the verb “to be” in our own languages, I checked my watch. “Is that the
time?” I said in English. I jumped out of bed, pulling on my only pair of slacks and grabbing a
white American T-shirt from my haversack. It was wrinkled, but there was nothing I could do
“No …?” he asked, making a plucking gesture at his waist
with his thumb.
Damn, I’d been so distracted that I’d forgotten. Pulling off
my trousers, I rummaged in my backpack again and found a pair of Y-fronts—they were a
French brand and fairly new on the market. I usually washed my smalls every night, but
there’d been too much going on and it had slipped my mind
Renzo whistled as I pulled them on, watching as I put my
hand down inside the front of the waistband and adjusted myself in the pouch before pulling
on my trousers once more.
“You. Like?” I asked.
He nodded, so I found another pair, still in its packet, and
threw them to him. “Go ahead,” I said, while pulling on my socks, then lacing my canvas
He undid the packet, swung his legs off the bed, put both
feet in the underpants, then, as he stood up, pulled them up, turning to look at his arse in
the mirror of the wardrobe. “Che bel
culo,” he said, winking over his shoulder at
I laughed. That phrase I did understand, and he did have a
very nice arse.
About the Author
From the outback to the
After a thirty-year career as a
professional opera singer, performing as a soloist in opera houses and in concert halls all
over the world, I took up a position as lecturer in music in Australia in 1999, at the Central
Queensland Conservatorium of Music, which is now part of CQ University.
Brought up in Australia,
between the bush and the beaches of the Eastern suburbs, I retired in 2015 and now live in
the tropics, writing, gardening, and finally finding time to enjoy life and to re-establish a
connection with who I am after a very busy career on the stage and as an