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PIECES OF EIGHT
A Spider John Mystery #4
BY STEVE GOBLE
“A stormy gem of a historical adventure, featuring a colorful and violent band of eighteenth-century misfits. Peril on every page, and brimming with heart, gore, and passion.” — James W. Ziskin, author of the Anthony and Macavity award-winning Ellie Stone mysteries
Spider, a decent man forced into the violent pirate life years ago, is finally on the verge of leaving all that behind and reuniting with his wife, Emma, and the son he last saw as a baby. He and his friends—Odin the ancient buccaneer and Hob the young swashbuckler—are working as honest seamen aboard Minuet when the calm journey from England to Nantucket takes a dark turn.
A shipmate is murdered while working aloft, and Spider can’t help but try to figure out who the killer is—even as his friend Odin warns him that getting involved might lead authorities to discover Spider’s own piratical past. Ruth Copper, a beautiful and dangerous recent addition to Spider’s crew, offers some warnings too. Spider John, however, hates unanswered questions. The investigation reveals more than simple murder, and Spider and his friends find themselves fighting against a shipboard conspiracy that explodes into violence. That encounter, along with unexpected developments at home while Spider was away at sea, sets the stage for another killing and a manhunt that sends Spider back into hiding and fighting for his life against cutthroats and thieves. By the time Spider is done thinking and fighting his way through all the obstacles to reach the truth, he finds himself confronted with more difficult life decisions—and wondering whether the pirate life is perhaps the only place left for him.
“A wild ride. Goble’s writing is so vivid you can almost feel the sea spray on your face as the bobbing 18th-century ship sails for Nantucket with captured mutineers in its hold. More Spider John, please!” — Tracy Clark, Lefty, Anthony and Edgar award nominee, author of the Cass Raines Chicago Mystery series, and winner of the 2020 Sue Grafton Memorial Award
“Bodies and blunderbusses abound as Spider John and his motley crew of friends are back in fine form! A rum-soaked ride filled with historical accuracy, whip-smart observation, and mysterious deaths.” — Dan Stout, author of Titanshade
The answers below are written by Spider John Rush, the protagonist of PIECES OF EIGHT and all of Steve Goble’s previous Spider John novels.
1. What is your name? Do you have a nickname?
My mother named me John, and my family name is Rush, but I am known as Spider John. I usually tell people I’m called Spider because I am good at climbing the ratlines when I have to work high above the weather deck — I’m a ship’s carpenter, so there ain’t no part of the ship I don’t know. Anywhere there’s wood, I’m likely to have to work there. But the truth is, I ate a spider once on a dare when I was a boy, and the name Spider stuck on me after that. I don’t always tell people that. People don’t need to know things.
2. Who is your best friend? What kinds of things do you do when you’re together?
It’s hard to choose a best friend, to be honest. Someone is either a friend or not, aye? But my carpenter’s mate, Hob, well, I sort of think of him as a son, even if he’s always dreaming about pirate glory instead of cutting a straight line with the saw. I’m hopin’ to set his head on a straight course, but …
And Odin, well, he’s a daft old cuss and a pirate through to his bones and you can’t believe a half of what he says — won’t even tell me his real name, blast him — but he’s always handy in a fight and he’s followed me into some places no sane man would go. Thank the Lord for crazy friends, I reckon. As for what we do when we are together? Well, we’re usually ducking swords or dodging musket balls, and trying to figure out who killed who and who might be trying to kill us. And drinking. We’re usually drinking.
3. If you have a family, how do you get along with them? If you don’t, are there people in your life that you consider family? How do you get along with them?
My family is Em, my wife, and little Johnny, who was smaller than a rolled-up hammock when I saw him last but he’s probably old enough to dream of the sea himself by now. I miss them terribly, and am doing my best to get back to them. In the meantime, I’ve got Hob and Odin by my side, and Ruth Copper, who — well, that’s complicated. Can’t always tell if she’s trying to get me home to my wife or trying to change my mind about that.
4. Do you have a birthmark? Scars? Where is it? How did you get it?
I lost the small finger on my left hand a while back, in a fight. Sometimes I claim it happened in a carpentry accident. Depends on who is asking, and how much I want them to know. I got a pirate past, you know? Don’t pay to be truthful all the time.
5. When you’re angry, what do you do? Where do you go? How do you deal with your anger?
Depends on how mad I really am, and how sober I am, to be honest. I’ve been known to pick a fight. And I’ve noticed that anger can sometimes cling to you like a barnacle until you go and do something about it.
6. A penguin walks up to you, right now, wearing a sombrero. What does he say to you and why is he here?
Well, that sounds like, um, maybe I’m drunk, and maybe this penguin — that’s a black-and-white bird that lives in the ice and snow, aye? I’ve heard of them, ain’t never seen one. I don’t much care for birds getting close to me, though. Those beaks and claws, and they fly, and those beady eyes. Do penguins fly? I heard they don’t, but I don’t really know. If he can’t fly at me, maybe I could keep away. Is he looking for whiskey? I’m guessing we’re out of whiskey, if I’m seeing a penguin. And what the blazes is a sombrero?
7. What’s the one thing you’re afraid of losing?
A chance at a happy life with my wife and kid, and me not being a pirate.
8. What makes you laugh out loud?
Hob trying to drive a nail into a chunk of wood, or Odin trying to remember what lies he told yesterday so the ones he tells today make sense. Ruth makes me laugh out loud sometimes, too, and to be honest, I feel a bit guilty about that.
9. What’s your favorite food?
Anything that hasn’t been in a salt barrel for months, or isn’t crawling with maggots or covered with mold. But I’ll eat that stuff, too, though, because, well, you have to eat. None of the foul mucky stuff I’ve had to eat so far has killed me, and I reckon starving probably would kill me, so … hand me anything. If I’m hungry I’ll eat it. I had hot, fresh beef once, though, and I might be willing to kill for another bite.
10. What’s the one thing you want out of life that you don’t think you can have? Why can’t you have it?
I worry that some of the things I’ve had to do mean I won’t get the happy life I want. I never wanted to be a pirate, and I’ve told the Lord that many times. I hope he understands and forgives. Some preachers tell me he does. Some tell me he won’t. Anyway, I fret about that, and try to do the best I can. I pray a lot. Not sure I deserve what I want, but I have to keep trying, don’t I?
Steve Goble writes historical mysteries. He is the author the Spider John Mysteries, which combines his love of swords, pirates and murder to follow a pirate detective on water and land. PIECES OF EIGHT (Mar. 16, 2021; Seventh Street Books) is the fourth installment in the series.
A former journalist, Goble now works in communications for a cybersecurity firm as a digital forensics analyst. Goble helps examiners analyze evidence from computers and smartphones to help resolve a variety of civil and criminal cases.
Goble also writes fantasy, horror, science fiction and poetry. He also serves on the board for the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter. An avid craft beer lover, he previously authored a column called “Brewologist”, which appeared on USA Today Network-Ohio, where he resides.
PRAISE FOR SPIDER JOHN MYSTERIES
“Steve Goble’s third installment in his Spider John mysteries takes his pirate-detective into strange waters, or rather land, when he follows a twisted trail in search of a lost shipmate and friend. Treachery, bloodshed, wenches and dark secrets abound as Spider and his one-eyed companion, Odin, face death and damnation to quench their thirst for justice, and perhaps a swig or two of Rum.” — Bradley Harper, 2019 Edgar Finalist for A Knife in the Fog.
“Avast, me hearties, here be an excellent read! Spider John and one-eyed Odin are back with a swashbuckling, page-turning plot and a treasure chest full of the most original characters to ever swagger, steal, and sleuth their way through a mystery. Once again, Steve Goble proves himself a master of piratical prose and mysterious mayhem.” — Susan Spann, bestselling author of the Hiro Hattori mysteries
“Goble adroitly combines action and deduction” — Publisher’s Weekly
“A pirate detective? Ahoy, mateys! Steve Goble presents us with an extremely likable swashbuckler with a brain; a murder mystery whodunit with diabolical twists, fiery damsels, quirky characters, and historical accuracy; and sea-bound action that would make Errol Flynn proud. An immensely fun read!” — Raymond Benson, author of In the Hush of the Night and several James Bond thrillers
“You may have read a locked-room mystery, but never one like this! Spider John is back, and he’s better than ever, solving murder on the high seas with a lusty lot of pirates muddying the waters.”
—Nichole Christoff, award-winning author of the Jamie Sinclair private eye series
“In this second seafaring adventure, Goble lures readers into the pirate-infested waters of the Caribbean, where danger lurks around every spar and where men—and women—must rely on their sharpest wits to survive. Grab your cutlass and prepare for a rousing voyage into another perplexing mystery!” — Alyssa Maxwell, author of the Gilded Newport Mysteries series
“The Devil’s Wind combines top-notch mystery writing with gritty portrayals of pirates that never stoop to clichés. It’s an intriguing, adventurous, and page-turning read.” — Andrew Welsh-Huggins, author of the Andy Hayes private eye series and winner of the 2017 Al Blanchard prize for best New England short crime fiction
Links to Steve’s website, blog, books, etc.: