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The Next Right Thing

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The Next Right Thing

A Novel
Southern California home builder extraordinaire Randy Chalmers has to admit he'd be dead or in prison were it not for his best friend, lawyer, and Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, Terry Elias. A former...
Southern California home builder extraordinaire Randy Chalmers has to admit he'd be dead or in prison were it not for his best friend, lawyer, and Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, Terry Elias. A former...
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Description-
  • Southern California home builder extraordinaire Randy Chalmers has to admit he'd be dead or in prison were it not for his best friend, lawyer, and Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, Terry Elias. A former police officer, Randy narrowly escaped being an evening news highlight during years ravaged by anger and alcohol. Thanks to Terry's coaching and an endless stream of caffeine-fueled AA meetings, Randy's been off the booze for eight years, has a successful new career, and is thriving in a healthy relationship with his vegan yoga-instructor girlfriend. All is well . . . until sponsor Terry, himself supposedly sober for fifteen years, is found dead of a heroin overdose.

    How could Terry, who had dragged so many others from the edge, jump off himself? Convinced that something (or someone) must have pushed him, Randy is soon off on a dry-drunk quest for answers--and possibly revenge. He discovers a trail of dirty secrets that lead to missing persons, shady real estate deals, hydroponic pot farms, and Internet pornography. When his suspicions ultimately connect Terry's death to the activities of a recently appointed Superior Court judge--who just happens to be dating Randy's ex-wife--Randy has to ask himself: Is he really on to something or just suffering from grief and paranoia? Will his increasingly frenzied behavior ruin his current relationship and his chances of regaining custody of his daughter? Will he destroy the life that he has worked so hard to achieve? Will he reach for a drink?

    The Next Right Thing is a hilarious and harrowing combination of thriller and recovery tale, equal parts hard-earned wisdom and old-fashioned suspense.

Excerpts-
  • From the book

    OFFICIALLY, I STARTED DESTROYING MY LIFE that Wednesday morning. But it had been on my mind for a while.As I drove up Pacific Coast Highway past the Laguna Art Museum, I suddenly longed for still-sort-of-disreputable Santa Ana, where there would have been a neighborhood nearby that would better reflect my mood. There's nothing worse than a beautiful town when you've got an ugly head. From every corner of always-blooming Laguna Beach, bougainvillea announced that unhappiness was not an option here.
    It had been almost three weeks since Terry died, and I hadn't done a damn thing but drink espresso and avoid the people who loved me.
    It reminded me of when I first got sober. I didn't want to drink, but I held the idea of drinking close, like a suicide bomb inside my heart. Just bend my elbow and a world of possibilities would open up. Bad possibilities, but possibilities nevertheless. I'd never see my daughter again, but I'd make sure that a few people paid for their sins.
    I could hear Terry's voice: Clamoring for justice again? Is that it, Randy?
    I was waiting for the light beside the Cottage to change, staring into a pack of well-dressed skateboarders pointed toward Heisler Park, when my cell phone rang. It was Wade's number, so I didn't answer. Sometimes you're too lonely to talk to your friends.
    Instead, I drove my F-350 up to Jean Claude's café in North Laguna. Like every other morning these three weeks, I would park my ass in a molded plastic chair beside a molded plastic table and try to clear my mind with double espressos.
    That morning the sidewalk and the shrubs were still dewy. Across the parking lot, surfers were jaywalking across Coast Highway, shrugging into wet suits, blowing their noses into the street. Above the beach access, a gray shelf of fog announced the Pacific Ocean.
    At a table nearby, a couple of rich people waved at me tenta- tively. I vaguely remembered being introduced to them by someone who thought I might design their home. She was too old to be his daughter and too pretty to be his first wife. I'd prob- ably been dodging their calls, but they wouldn't approach me here. I had perfected my sullenness. It was another way that my old life clung to me: sometimes I scared people.
    For three weeks, I'd been pretending I was just a home de- signer and not that earlier, angrier version of myself. It wasn't working. Every day it got harder to pretend I was anyone but myself.

    Jean Claude set down another double espresso on the flimsy table. He was hardworking Eurotrash--a contradiction I liked. Also, the only guy in Southern California who didn't look like he'd grown his goatee yesterday.
    "Ça va?" he asked.
    "Ça fucking va. How about you? Who are you humping these days?"
    "An important man, works for Obama. He's too good for me, though. I want somebody bad, like you."
    One good thing had come out of the past three weeks: I'd fi- nally found a way to describe the sound of my diseased con- science. It was a Styrofoam ice chest wedged behind the seat of an old pickup. The rougher the road, the louder it squeaked, until the noise became unbearable.
    My cell phone rang again as Jean Claude was clearing away my second double espresso. This time I answered: "What the fuck do you want, Wade?"
    "It's not Wade. It's Tom. Wade got into a fight. He wanted me to call you."
    "Tell him that I'm not coming." I hung up.
    They couldn't be anywhere but the Coastal Club, one of the places I was avoiding, a place that I'd been avoiding even before Terry died. I poured my espresso into a sip cup and sped out of the parking lot. Something that...

About the Author-
  • Dan Barden is also the author of John Wayne: A Novel. A native of Southern California, he teaches at Butler University and lives in Indianapolis with his wife, Elizabeth Houghton Barden, owner of Big Hat Books & Arts.

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    Random House Publishing Group
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