Review: Salt City – Robert C. Fleet
Mark Cornell wasn’t your every day private investigator. He was a full-fledged college student working the job on the side for a lawyer hoping to make ends meet. Mark dreams of becoming more than what he is now and knows he’ll achieve his hopes if he keeps trying. Yet when the current assignment he’s working on takes a vicious turn, his entire life changes within the blink of an eye.
Witness to Anne Malloy’s jumping out of a window and plummeting to her death six stories down, Mark realizes that there’s more to his assignment than his boss is letting on. The woman’s husband seems to have more secrets than he’d ever imagined and he, himself, is now a suspect in the crime. It doesn’t matter that he’s innocent. The police are only concerned about the fact that he was in the right place at the wrong time. Furthermore, they’re convinced Mark may know more than he’s actually saying, even if he’s been written off as nothing more than a peeping tom.
Intent on discovering the secrets behind the heinous crime, Mark delves into the circumstances surrounding the case itself. His boss is determined to lead him astray in order to keep him in the dark about matters that do no concern him. Mark, on the other hand, can’t leave well enough alone. He needs to know why people are so intent on hiding the facts surrounding Anne Malloy and her family. His curiosity won’t rest until he sets all those ghosts to sleep.
The woman is an enigma, one he can’t quite figure out just yet. As he draws closer to the truth, he soon realizes that he may just be way in over his head. Anne Malloy was never who people thought she was, a certainty her husband and her entire family have gone through great lengths to hide. She’s been dead for quite awhile, much to Marks dismay. As Mark dodges several attempts made on his life, he comes to understand that money will make a person do anything in order to cover the secrets of their past, including throwing a woman out of a six story window in order to make sure she keeps quiet about everything – permanently.
From the moment I began reading Salt City, I was hooked. The story itself was fast paced and while it didn’t have much action, here and there, Robert is able to keep the reader glued to every page with the way he incorporate the character’s dialogue to fully tell the story. Granted there’s quite a few unexpected twists and turns, but that’s what makes a thriller more intriguing, right? I enjoyed the book very much and look forward to reading more of Robert’s work in the future.
Syracuse, upstate New York. The “Salt City.” An apartment building on the edge of The Projects – and Anne Malloy dies, thrown out of a sixth floor window, an apparent suicide, while Mark Cornell watches. Mark was there for a purpose, his part?time gig being to snap incriminating photos for a divorce lawyer who happily takes cases over the phone. Watching the apartment was Mark’s assignment.
But this assignment has a problem: Mark learns that “Anne Malloy” had died months before, leaving behind a grieving husband. So who is this woman?
It’s 1976, before cellphones, internet, and all the easy ways of satisfying curiosities, so Mark Cornell’s search for a name to give the victim makes him a foot soldier slogging personally through the facts. And, as those facts pile up, Mark discovers that he really shouldn’t be playing detective, stumbling across the thin line between commerce and crime.
About The Author:
Robert Fleet took a youth in Texas, Missouri & New York, university education in Syracuse, Amsterdam & London, and then spent the first years of his career as actor-writer with the Chinese “Zignal Theater Ensemble” at La Mama E.T.C. A summer in Poland at Jerzy Grotowski’s Teatr Laboratorium lengthened into extended stay — and writing a Polish-serialized crime novel, Salt City, in order to obtain a visa to remain in the then-Communist country to marry the woman he saw on his first day there: his artistic collaborator-wife ever since, Alina Szpak. In America, Robert’s NYC theater activities included directing children’s theater, Yiddish historical dramas, Irish repertory, full-fledged spectacles, and his own works.
Teamed with Alina, Robert turned to film and video, directing-acting in the 1980 drama “Unveiling,” about life in Manhattan’s SoHo society. Script doctoring a wilderness documentary in California led to production of his own feature script, 1984’s “Brothers of the Wilderness.” In 1984-86, Robert adapted his magic realism novel, White Horse, Dark Dragon (Putnam) into the screenplay for the feature film “White Dragon” (aka “Legend of the White Horse” aka “Bialy Smok”).
Forays into journalism have been published in the Los Angeles Times, Commonweal, and other venues. Robert has translated/adapted plays from the Chinese, Polish, Russian and French originals — often in collaboration. His 1994 novel, LastMountain (Putnam) was nominated for an American Library Association award. In 1999, Robert directed the feature version of “Last Mountain,” co-adapting the screenplay with his son, Stephan Szpak-Fleet. Information on the book and movie @ www.legend44.com/lastmountain
After the L.A. Riots, Robert collaborated with Soon-Tek Oh and the Korean-American “Society of Heritage Performers,” adapting “Contemporary Korean Short Stories” for NPR, writing “Behind The Walls” (“that pointed nowhere familiar from Orwell, Koestler, Pinter, Dorfman…a Godot-like romp” BackStage), and “Don Juan, a tragi-comedy of errors” (“reminiscent of Cyrano” L.A. Weekly). He co-directed “Have You Heard,” one of only three American productions invited to the Theater of Nations Festival ’97.
Screenwriting recently, Robert wrote the shorts “A Good War,” Texas Waltz,” “The Wrong Path,” “Butterfly,” “The First Person” and “Zaufanie (Trust”) – the last two appearing at the Cannes Film Festival. His feature-length docudrama “To Die For Words: the Last Days of Ken Saro-Wiwa” is optioned, with acclaimed director Charles Burnett (“To Sleep with Anger”) committed to direct. In the past few years, two of Robert’s feature screenplays were produced independently: “My Best Friend’s Deception,” a black comedy/mystery (Cinegraphe Pictures, Canada) — and “Player,” a drama, directed by Alina Szpak (Legend 44 Productions – trailer at www.playerthemovie.us).
Acting, recently: In addition to playing the lead in “Player,” Robert Fleet is a familiar face on the festival circuit, appearing in over three dozen shorts. On stage, Robert appeared in award-winning Los Angeles productions of “Cabaret,” “LULU, a Play with Music” and in Stephan Szpak-Fleet’s “Pilate” at the L.A. Theatre Center. He is featured in Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” playing opposite Leonardo DiCaprio and Dame Judi Dench.
A ridiculously undertrained carpenter, Robert has recently renovated his house under the despotic instructions of his producer/director wife, with no assistance from his son. They are owned by several pets.