Author Eirik Gumeny is here to share an entertaining passage with us from The Greatest Gatsby, his new mashup of The Great Gatsby with werewolves.
EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT OF THE GREATEST GATSBY: OR, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN WEST EGG
I believe that on that first night I went to Gatsby’s house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited to Gatsby’s parties – they simply went. They got into automobiles which bore them all but unbidden out to Long Island, through ash and autumn and ending up at Gatsby’s door. Once there, they were introduced by somebody who knew Gatsby, and after that they conducted themselves according to the rules of behavior associated with an amusement park. Sometimes they came and went without having met Gatsby at all, came for the party with a singlemindedness and simplicity of heart that was its own ticket of admission.
I had been actually invited.
A chauffeur in a uniform of robin’s-egg blue had crossed my lawn early that Saturday morning with a surprisingly formal note from his employer: the honor would be entirely Gatsby’s, it said, if I would attend his “little party” that night. He had seen me several times, and had intended to call on me long before, but a peculiar combination of circumstances had prevented it – signed Jay Gatsby, in a majestic hand.
I will admit to a momentary trepidation: the last two gatherings to which I had been asked had gone strangely to say the least, and I was concerned that the patterns of those events might continue cascading, culminating tonight with my getting into a gunfight in the middle of the road. But the whispered wonderings of Gatsby’s true self were still fresh in my ear, mingling with the music already softly rising – and I had been invited, after all. Attending was only the polite and neighborly thing to do.
Dressed up in white flannels, I went over to his lawn a little after seven and wandered around rather ill at ease among swirls and eddies of people I didn’t know – though here and there was a face I had noticed on the commuting train or from the hazy ruckus of Tom Buchanan’s secret apartment. I reminded myself once more of what had transpired that night and made a solemn vow to try and keep my intake of liquor closer to an acceptable minimum.
With the sun already smoldering along the horizon and casting long shadows through the house, I made an attempt to find my host. But the two or three people of whom I asked his whereabouts stared at me in such an amazed way, and denied so vehemently any knowledge of his movements, that I slunk off in the direction of the cocktail table – the only place in the garden where a single man could linger without looking terribly alone.
That was when Jordan Baker appeared.
She was standing at the head of the marble steps like a statue of antiquity, drawing all eyes and making plain her case for being remembered a millennium hence. The sequins of her plum dress dazzled, coruscating like spilled diamonds as she leaned a little backward and looked with curious interest down into the garden.
I suddenly found it unbearably necessary to attach myself to her before I should begin to address cordial remarks to the passersby.
“Hello!” I roared, advancing toward her. My voice seemed unnaturally loud across the garden. I had meant to be more subtle, trying only to take my place in the queue for her attentions; she was presently giving her ear to two girls in twin yellow dresses.
“I thought you might be here,” she responded as I came up.
“I was invited.”
“I remembered you lived next door to –” Her hand remained, for a moment longer than casually, on the arm of one of the girls, standing close beside her. The girl removed herself quickly as I approached, and she and her companion left like swifts startled into the night. The briefest flash of despondency crossed Jordan’s face.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Friend of yours?”
“I was hoping.”
“I’m sure there will be others.”
“There always are.”
I smiled. “I think you and I may have more in common than we thought.”
“Do tell,” she said, grinning in reply, “and I mean in great detail.”
With Jordan’s slender arm resting in mine, we descended the steps and sauntered about the garden. “Before we get too invested,” she murmured, her eyes averted from me, “on behalf of Daisy, Myrtle Wilson, and Lord knows how many others, I would like to thank you for busting up Tom’s pretty mug when you did.”
I stopped. “You knew it was –”
“I suspected,” she said, crooking her mouth. “Tom made up some cockamamie fiction about being accosted by hoodlums, but a single punch square to the mouth reminded me of a certain winsome brawler I’d met, traveling the country in search of beauty and better angels.”
“Some angels carry swords,” I said.
“Only the ones worth a damn.”
We began walking again. “What does Tom do?” I asked. “For a living. I never –”
Jordan rolled her eyes. “He pretends he’s a Rockefeller, trying to bring back the age of robber barons. It’s all very hush-hush, but he’s the one the monopolies send in to make sure things break their way. Daisy tells me he went round just last year to convince all the oil companies to start putting lead into their gasoline, on behalf not of science but some southern mining concern. And Tom’s at least partly responsible for that lovely graveyard of ash you’ve got bordering West Egg and choking your air – he personally convinced your county man Sprague to allow in all the smokestacks and cinder-yards. He was in the papers for that one.”
“He’s a lobbyist then.”
“He’s a pair of brass knuckles in a seersucker suit.” She patted my hand. “But enough about Tom Buchanan. Leave it to him to ruin a party he’s not even attending.”
A tray of cocktails floated at us through the twilight, and, after obliging ourselves, we sat down at a table with the two girls in yellow and three men, each one introduced to us as Mr. Mumble.
“Do you come to these parties often?” inquired Jordan of the girl beside her. Whether it was the same of the pair that had been close beside her earlier, I was unable to discern.
“The last one was the one I met you at,” answered the girl.
“I like to come,” her companion said. “I never care what I do, so I always have a good time. When I was here last, I tore my gown on a chair, and he asked me my name and address – inside of a week I got a package from Croirier’s with a new evening gown in it.”
“Did you keep it?” asked Jordan.
“Sure I did. I was going to wear it tonight, but it was too big in the bust and had to be altered. It was gas blue with lavender beads. Two hundred and sixty-five dollars.”
“There’s something funny about a fellow that’ll do a thing like that,” said the first girl eagerly. “He doesn’t want any trouble with anybody.”
“Who doesn’t?” I inquired.
“Gatsby. Somebody told me –” The two girls and Jordan leaned together confidentially. “Somebody told me they thought he killed a man once.” A thrill passed over the three of them. The Mr. Mumbles bent forward and listened eagerly.
“I don’t think it’s so much that,” argued the second girl skeptically. “It’s more that he was a German spy during the war.”
One of the men nodded in confirmation. “I heard that from a man who knew all about him, grew up with him in Germany,” he assured us positively.
“Oh, no,” said the first girl, “it couldn’t be that, because he was in the American army during the war.”
“He’s a vampire,” interrupted someone else entirely, a woman moving somewhere between the cocktails and the flowers. “One time he killed a man who had found out that he was nephew to von Hindenburg and first cousin to the devil.” She disappeared behind a towering greenery. “Reach me a rose, honey,” we heard her say, “and pour me a drop into that there crystal glass.”
The first girl leaned forward with enthusiasm. “You look at him sometimes when he thinks nobody’s looking at him. I’ll bet he killed a man.”
“But,” I asked, unable to stop myself, “did he drink his blood?”
She narrowed her eyes and shivered. Her friend shivered too. Jordan laughed loudly, as if I was Harold Lloyd himself.
Our table changed topics soon thereafter, but I sat there still wondering about my host, listening as the other tables around us picked up pieces of the same stories and passed them around in hushed tones, changing details here and there like the children’s game, only with far more sordid and supernatural speculation. But rather than idle gossip or hurtful rumormongering, it felt a testimony to the romantic speculation Gatsby inspired: there were whispers about him from those who had found so little that it was still necessary to whisper about in this world.
The first supper – there would be another one after midnight – was soon served, and Jordan invited me to join her own party, who were spread around a table on the other side of the garden. There were three married couples and Jordan’s escort, a persistent undergraduate given to violent innuendo, and obviously under the impression that sooner or later Jordan was going to yield him up her person to a greater or lesser degree. He did not care for me at all, and I must confess that I did very little to correct him of this opinion – nor, it should be noted, did Jordan.
“Let’s get out of here,” she whispered after a half-hour, her lips all but against my ear and her hand taking mine. “This table is much too polite for my tastes.”
We got up loudly, and she explained that we were going to find the host: I had never met him, she said, and it was making me uneasy. We muttered a few more disingenuous apologies and then, waiting until the undergraduate was looking elsewhere, we made our escape.
Eirik Gumeny is the [insert superlatives here] author of the cult-favorite Exponential Apocalypse series. He’s written for Cracked, Nerdist, SYFY, a couple of medical textbooks and even the New York Times’ Modern Love once.
Born with cystic fibrosis, Eirik still has cystic fibrosis, because that’s how genetic diseases work. In 2014, he received a double lung transplant and technically died a little. He got better.
Forged in the suburban sprawl of northeastern New Jersey, Eirik currently lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he regularly has to fight giant atomic ants with a flamethrower.
OFFICIAL BOOK DESCRIPTION
Experience F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic Jazz Age novel of lost love, wild parties, and the impossible promise of the American Dream the way it was almost certainly never meant to be: with mercenaries, shadowy government agencies, and a much more rewarding love story for Nick and Jordan. Oh, and also? Secret international cabals of werewolf assassins.
Nick Carraway, a traumatized soldier trying to escape his past, moves to Long Island in search of a new – and quiet – future. Instead, he’s drawn into the increasingly tangled orbits of his cousin Daisy, lovelorn and imprisoned by her past; her husband Tom, a jackbooted corporate fixer; the alluring and sardonic Jordan Baker; and, of course, his neighbor Gatsby, a millionaire playboy renowned for his excess as much as the mysteries surrounding him. What follows is a stirring (and still surprisingly familiar) tale of romance, revelations, redemption – and revenge.