By Gwen Florio
Publication Date: March 8, 2016
Publisher: Midnight Ink
When former foreign correspondent Lola Wicks heads to Wyoming for a Yellowstone vacation, she comes across a story that hits close to her past. One Wyoming soldier returning from Afghanistan commits suicide, two others spark a near-fatal brawl, and a woman is terrorized. Lola, accompanied by her young daughter, senses a story about whatever happened on the far side of the world that these troops have brought so disastrously home. But she soon realizes that getting the story must take second place to getting herself—and her little girl—out of Wyoming alive.
“With the chops of a world-class journalist and an unsurpassed knowledge of the Rocky Mountain West, Gwen Florio weaves a compelling tapestry that combines family saga, social consciousness and human frailty, making Disgraced difficult to put down.
—Craig Johnson, author of the Walt Longmire Mysteries, the basis for the hit Netflix drama Longmire
“Gwen Florio achieves what few others can in the field of crime fiction. She creates characters with real depth and places them in a story that is so hard-hitting and believable, it’s easy to imagine it being in tomorrow’s headlines.”
—J.J. Hensley, award-winning author of Resolve and Measure Twice
“Soldiers never really leave the war on the battlefield. Gwen Florio’s new novel, ‘Disgraced,’ shows just what happens when the trauma of combat comes home to a small Wyoming town. What happens in Afghanistan doesn’t stay in Afghanistan, as reporter Lola Wicks–an outsider to Thirty, Wyoming–quickly learns when she investigates some soldiers’ troubled homecoming. Danger lurks on thee pages–and it doesn’t always come from those we think are the enemy.”–David Abrams, author of Fobbit, a New York Times Notable Book
A gutsy series set mostly in Montana
As a journalist, Gwen Florio filed stories from active war zones. As an author, she confers that experience on Lola Wicks, the protagonist of a gutsy series set mostly in Montana, where Lola relocated after being downsized from her newspaper job back East. DISGRACED (Midnight Ink, paper, $14.99) finds Lola in Casper, Wyo., picking up Palomino Jones, a soldier returning from Afghanistan. But no sooner does Pal’s military transport land than one of the vets blows his brains out on the tarmac. That night, two other soldiers pick a fight in a bar and put a man in intensive care. And then Pal turns out to have a full-blown case of PTSD. “This would be the part where people questioned the wisdom of a faraway war that took their healthy children and returned them broken,” Lola says. “But this was the rural West, with its staunch and unquestioning patriotism.” In these parts, all the local boys who made it home are “heroes,” and only a cynical reporter would question their sanitized war stories and wonder what really happened over there. New York Times
A gut-wrenching mystery/thriller
A favor for a friend leads a reporter to a stunning story and life-altering decisions.
Lola Wicks has buried some shattering experiences in Afghanistan deep within her psyche as she rebuilds her life as a reporter in Magpie, a small Montana town. During her furlough, she’s taken her 5-year-old daughter, Maggie, and their border collie, Bub, on a Wyoming vacation while she ponders whether to marry Maggie’s father, part–American Indian Sheriff Charles Laurendeau. Lola’s Magpie reporter friend, Jan, has asked her to pick up her cousin Palomino Jones, who’s just returning from Afghanistan, at the Casper airport. When a shot is fired, Lola hits the floor with Maggie. When the dust clears, she can’t help smelling a story in the airport suicide. Why did Cody Dillon, a returning soldier from the same group as Pal, kill himself in such a public place? Returning Pal to her home, she finds Jan’s cousin, who sports hacked-off hair and filthy clothes, uncommunicative and hostile and probably suffering from PTSD. Lola meets Pal’s Shoshone neighbor, Delbert St. Clair, whose grandson Mike, Pal’s childhood friend, was one of a local group including Cody who all enlisted and went to Afghanistan together. When two other members of the group nearly kill a man in a bar fight, Lola decides to interview the returning heroes and research their backgrounds. The story goes that Mike fell asleep on watch when their vehicle broke down and was killed by an insurgent whom the rest of the group shot to death. There are many versions of that story; are any of them near the truth? The locals, prejudiced against Native Americans, are all too ready to pronounce Mike guilty of dereliction and Lola of sluttish behavior. Ignoring Charlie’s ever more urgent calls to come home, the reckless heroine resolves to find the truth even if she puts herself and her child in mortal danger.
Lola’s third (Dakota, 2014, etc.) is a gut-wrenching mystery/thriller that explores prejudice and the incredible stress on soldiers in a seemingly unending war with no clear goals. – Kirkus Reviews
“Count of three,” one whispered, and the body swung once, twice, thrice, and sailed through the air, thudding beside the dead American soldier.”
The Afghani shepherd died beneath the hard bright light of the stars, his unexpected emergence in the black-and-white landscape of night a stroke of luck for the soldiers, if not for him. Rifles jerked into position. Crack-crack-crack. The impact lifted his body right out of his cheap plastic sandals and slammed it back onto the rocky earth some feet away, his unused rusting AK-47 clattering down beside him. Somehow he yet lived. The sheep blatted and shat and ran this way and that, in the idiotic way of sheep the world over, during the business that followed. Then, a final shot. Two of the soldiers slung their rifles over their shoulders and re-formed the band with quiet, competent movements, the action unnecessary but somehow comforting with its echo of childhood ranch chores. They turned their attention from sheep to the shepherd’s body, hefting it by wrists and ankles, what remained of his head after that last shot dangling almost to the dusty ground, shreds of turban dragging behind. “Count of three,” one whispered, and the body swung once, twice, thrice, and sailed through the air, thudding beside the dead American soldier. Starlight silvered the American’s face. The grin slashed across his neck leaked inky blood. That same black blood covered the hands of the woman leaning over him and stained the ends of her pale hair that, torn free of its military regulation bun, dipped into the corpse’s terrible wound. A voice floated into the darkness above the woman’s head. “Let’s go.” The woman didn’t move. The two soldiers reached down, grasped her shoulders, and raised her to her feet. “We got to get back to the base.” A third soldier kicked the dead Afghani. The body rolled to one side and fell back. The woman shook off the hands and stumbled away. He raised his voice so the woman could hear. “Get over it. Karma’s a bitch.” Her reply a promise, so soft he barely caught it. “I’ll never get over it.”