The Death and Life of Red Henley
By Philip Wilding
A contemporary noir novel set against the decaying façade of 1980’s New York and a religious commune staked out in the Tennessee countryside. But what connects them both and who killed Red and why?
Publication date: January 2019Buy
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Meet Detective Louis Green, the strangely gifted socialite Robert Walker who stalks Manhattan’s upper reaches, the Rev James Bulley sequestered away in his Soho basement calling God down to wash away the sins of the world and Red Henley, a presence rarely seen, but never out of sight.
Red’s murder sets Green on a path of self-discovery if not redemption. As 1980 unfurls, Green discovers a direct line back from modern day New York City to a religious commune in the Tennessee countryside decades earlier and the story of two boys housed there who would experience a horrific tragedy that would become the spark that sets the fire in the towers and backstreets of Manhattan some twenty years later.
As he follows the killer’s trail, Green finds a city filled with murderous deeds, the corrupting influence of absolute power and the madness that both love and faith can bring. With one question remaining: what draws Bulley, Walker and Red together?
As the clouds gather over the city, we find men strung up in trees like broken kites, one pushed from the roof of his own building, another gagged, his teeth broken by a pool ball pushed down his throat. But in this bloody landscape stands Green trying to not only to understand this ever evolving case, but the nature of evil and the intractable battle between the good and the bad within himself. How life is sometimes lived on a plane of existence outside of our own and the everyday magic that can manifest in the most unexpected places.
With the end of the year fast approaching, Green returns to the now refurbished warehouse for a bloody resolution and a reckoning that unites killer and cop in a macabre and almost intimate dance that draws them together before pulling them forever apart.
Philip Wilding is a novelist, journalist, scriptwriter, biographer and radio producer. His debut novel, Cross Country Murder Song, was described, variously, as ‘sophisticated and compelling’ and ‘like a worm inside my brain’. He ghosted Carl Barat’s acclaimed autobiography, Threepenny Memoir, and helped launch the BBC 6 Music network as producer and co-presenter on the Phill Jupitus Breakfast Show. Five years later he and Jupitus fronted the hugely popular Perfect 10 podcast and live shows. As a young journalist he criss-crossed most of the United States with bands like Motley Crue, Kiss and Poison (think the Almost Famous movie but with more hairspray). More latterly, he’s sat down to chat with bands like the slightly more erudite Manic Street Preachers, Afghan Whigs and Marillion. He currently helps create radio for Future publishing and its magazine titles and when he’s not sat near a mic or mixer he runs half-marathons in the vain attempt of finishing one in under two hours. As cynical as he might be, he’s clearly still an optimist.
Rudy Porter had been with his wife, Suzanne, as long as he could remember. They’d been teenagers and then lovers and then married by the time he was nineteen against the wishes of both their parents. Neither of them went to college, they were parents too by the time they reached their twenties. They had two sons; Alix and Mikey, both had graduated college, they’d been his children and he’d loved them, he still loved them. Alix lived in Boston and Mikey had moved south to Florida, he still felt like the centre of their lives if only sometimes as a point on the map. The problem was Suzanne. She’d fallen heavily in the kitchen four days before and hadn’t moved since. He’d placed her in her favourite chair; it had the best view of the TV, and waited for her to wake. He put cups of tea at her side and emptied and refreshed them as they cooled. He held her hand; the colour was running into the fingertips and making them red and purple. Her face was grey, her skull heavier than he could ever remember. He tipped it back against the chair and she sat there as if she were regarding a newly found stain on the ceiling. He missed her more than he could have ever imagined; how could one fall have so irrevocably changed their lives forever?
He sat with her at nights and talked about when they were young and what they both might have wanted from the world. He talked about the time she left him over his teenage jealousies and how he’d discovered a new hollowness inside of himself, that first very real feeling of his heart breaking. His breath stuttered in sharp jolts like a sudden asthma attack in lungs once considered healthy. The numbness of his loneliness spread through his body like the slow recede of snow. He woke daily to the first, sharp realisation of pain. And then one day she suddenly came back with a warning for him to cool down, to trust her and so he did. She took his hand and they walked through their city. The boys grew and left and they both cried and clung to each other, their lives moving forwards in increments. He thought of her in the hat that she wore to Mikey’s wedding, pale blue; the wide brim casting half her face in shadow. He had never seen her look more beautiful and now he was crying as she sat in another shadow altogether, the life ushered out of her, her unseeing gaze staring only upwards as if that was where she was meant to go.
Green had no idea why he was the one they called to the apartment. Later, he’d think it was because of his father’s calling as a priest, that if he could listen and ease the minds of men then perhaps his son had a similar aptitude, a gift, but he was never completely sure why he got the job. Patrolmen had been called to Rudy Porter’s apartment when his son Alix had started to worry about where his father and mother might be. Their phone rang uselessly; Alix imagined it sat there in their apartment trilling with life as they lay asphyxiated yards away, slumped and just out of reach. The patrolman talked to Rudy through the door, but didn’t think crashing through it would help the situation. The man’s nervous reassurances sounded much more weary than they were manic or dangerous. Neither son could make it into town until later that night and there was a stench starting to settle around the doorway and across the building’s landing. Something was waiting on the other side of that door and the patrolman didn’t want to meet its unwavering eye.
- 17th July 2018 She lives!
It seems odd to be poring over the bones of New York City in 1980 when I'm sitting on the slowly lifting and falling dock of a lake on a still Canadian morning. I'm not sure how many years it's been now since I started The Death and Life of Red Henley (three, four?) but I do know that it, like CCMS, started out as a completely different book. Different characters, different ideas, just the notion…2nd September 2017 Spark To The Flame
A few years ago I tried to leave London (in truth, I think I was trying to get away from myself, but that's for another time). I gave away most of my books, my music, my DVDs (the Oxfam shop in Kentish Town, littered with remnants of my past, had a display window that looked the Wilding Bazaar and Emporium, I winced each time I went past), packed up my little flat and headed for an even smaller space…5th July 2017 Red: The World Burns...
What was it Bukowski said, the days run away like wild horses over hills? I have a friend who sometimes chides me for my occasional dramatic flourish (I say occasional), but as the hours and days count down to the deadline for my second novel, The Death And Life Of Red Henley, I'll admit to feeling a little skittish, the odd pulse-quicklening moment as we creep towards the final target as it…26th June 2017 Red Is Dead (Maybe)
Forty-five days in to the Unbound pledge campaign for The Death and Life Of Red Henley seems like a good time as any to marvel/recoil/reflect on the whole thing so far. At ninety days the thing goes dead, apparently, but, pleasingly, at the halfway mark we're at 73%, which is tantalisingly close to our target and could see me with a new tattoo (I have the first novel title Cross Country Murder…16th May 2017 As Not Seen On TV. Death and Life In The American West
So just over a year later after I handed over the manuscript of my second novel, The Death And Life Of Red Henley, to some North American producers (film and TV, but more latterly TV, as that’s where the money is, though not in my case), they’ve handed it back. In truth, I’ve missed her, I’ve gone back over the pages many time, tinkering here, readdressing there, I spent a few months crafting a TV…
These people are helping to fund The Death and Life of Red Henley.