Cherry Punch by Marvin Mason Genre: Contemporary Romance, Urban Fiction
A double cross sends a couple of friends on the adventure for their lives.
A chance run in with an old friend becomes a run for their lives when Sherry Rose and Benny Freeman have a misunderstanding with local drug dealers. Witnessing the massacre of friends of Sherry's double crossing boyfriend leads them to be hunted down by corrupt law enforcement.
Having a near death experience gives them a chance to start a romance they never knew the other wanted.
Will they survive when the bad guys close in on them and finally find the love they always wanted?
As I entered the house, I could see straight through to the kitchen which was brightly. I’d known Cornell for years, also going back to high school before he decided he would have a better education in the street. No matter what degree a street education got a person, I knew the house wasn’t his but Big Nat’s.
Cornell emerged from a back room in a pair of jeans with his boxers sticking out, Air Force Ones, and no shirt. His six foot two ripped frame was a cocoa brown. He gave a smile as he saw me. I assumed he was happy to see what Ray sent me with.
“Cherry, Cherry,” he announced. “To what do I owe this honor, Love?”
My chest heaved as I watched him saunter toward me, his eyes locked on my titties like a lion moving in on a meal.
I slung the bag from my shoulder and held it out for him to see.
Licking his thick crusty lips, this sleepy eyed brother stated, “So, Ray got you muling for him now or what?”
Immediately, I took offense to Cornell’s suggestion that I moved product or weight or was a mule although at that moment I felt like a jackass as he moved closer to me until he was leering down on me. At five foot four, Cornell easily towered over me. His slim physique of complete muscle was ready to pounce on me. He snatched the bag out my hands and stared. I dared to return his gaze, but I gave him a moment before I rolled my eyes toward the television monitor. I really didn’t want him to know how scared I’d suddenly become as he bounced the bag to feel its weight.
“Ray asked me to drop it off,” I answered. “So, I am,” I said as I turned to head for the door. Mission accomplished.
“Hold up,” he commanded. “Where you going, Love?”
At an instant, I stopped. All I could imagine was making it for the car and letting Benny take me as far away as possible.
“Ray asked me to drop this off,” I repeated myself. “And I did.” I turned to face Cornell as I gave a what I thought was a definitive answer.
Cornell shook his pointy shaved head, “No, Love, it don’t work like that,” he said. “I have to check the contents first. Once I’m satisfied, then you go.”
Again, I sighed, then shrugged, “Go ahead then, check out the contents,” I said giving my best cocky stance.
“Alright, Love,” he laughed as he flung the over his shoulder and headed back toward the kitchen.
Big, tall, and bald pressed against me licking his lips like he saw something savory on a menu. “Figures your boy would send you out. Jasper wants him real bad. I don’t blame him for not coming out. Especially with the bounty on his head.”
“Wh-what?” I stammered as I thought about the patrol car posted outside the alley earlier. “What are you talking about?”
“Oh, you didn’t know?” he laughed with the yellowest rotted teeth. His breath was choking me as it fell upon my air passage.
My eyes rolled past him to the girl lying on the couch like a hound dog that was too pooped to hunt. I could only imagine what she was there for with five guys as she was dressed in a low cropped top and a pair of ripped Daisy Dukes with the top button opened. Upon further review I could see she wasn’t lounging where she laid. Sister was worn out. But from what I could only imagine as I glanced d at her weave sitting crookedly atop her head with the lace peeling away from her edges.
“Hey!” I heard Cornell bellow. It scared me half to death. “Bring that bitch back here.”
My eyes floated toward Sleepy Dead on the couch when ‘Darkness’ grabbed my arm and flung me forward. I tried to wriggle my arm free when he tightened his grip. I felt the pressure as his long bony fingers tapped the bottom of his wrist.
He dragged me past a darkened bedroom with shades drawn beyond the window frame with a camera system and unkempt bed in the center. My shoes hit linoleum patches in the kitchen as my feet slid while he pulled me toward an open doorway.
Inside the expanded bedroom was a set up like a chemistry classroom with weights like the one Justice has for truth. I saw plastic baggies of grass that resembled broccoli stems. The baggies were etched with black markings on top reading CP, for Cherry Punch the blend Ray Ray had been moving for years for Big Nat. Except he mixed his with a secret recipe. It was the reason he moved up in ranks with Big Nat forcing he and Cornell to be more like rivals.
In Cornell’s left hand was the black duffle bag I’d brought. His right hand rummaged around as he grimaced at me.
“What’s this shit, ho?” he spat as he pulled out clothing, dirty underwear, Ray’s dirty underwear and tossed it to the floor. “Tell me what’s up, bitch?” he said as he retrieved a folded sheet of paper. He shook the sheet open and briefly glanced at it. He chuckled, then handed the paper to “Darkness’ who pulled me with him as he grabbed the paper. As his eyes fell on the sheet, Cornell dropped the bag to the floor with his eyes on me.
“Well, Love,” Cornell began. “Your boyfriend pulled a slick one on us. But if you cool with his terms, I’m cool. I just need to clear this with Nat, then we a go.”
“I-I don’t understand,” I nervously muttered. “What terms?”
Cornell’s eyes rolled away from me toward me bodyguard. “Give her the note,” he instructed.
The paper waved in front of me. I snatched it to see Ray Ray’s scribbling for handwriting. My eyes grew three times its size as I read the illegible print. If I hadn’t been with Ray as long as I had, I wouldn’t have been able to decipher the words.
A mixture of emotions shot through me. First fear, then regret, but the bitter taste of betrayal shot through me.
Marvin Mason has arrived as a refreshing new storyteller with this fun adventure of young people and African-American Midwest life, the seemingly quiet but oh-so interesting world that molded me but rarely shows up in the media."
Kalisha Buckhanon, American Library Association ALEX Award-winning author of Upstate and Conception, winner of the Friends of American Writers Literature Award. Since his debut Mason has brought you novels such as Expert Witness and Interstate that took his audience on a thrilling ride.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author?
I became an author because it was far easier to get a novel in front of readers than it was to get Franklin Leonard and Lena Waithe to read a screenplay. I have been writing since college, but never took my teachers seriously regarding the craft. I hated editing and would challenge my professors to edit material for me if they saw something they wanted me to submit for publishing purposes. They weren’t to keen on that idea. I became serious about writing after coming thisclose to talking Marc Forrester(Quantum of Solace, World War Z) into working on a screenplay for a movie I had a license for remake purposes in 2001. His rejection led me to work with a variety of independent filmmakers, but I never shared my passion to write with them. I was always brought in from a sales and marketing perspective and I left it there. Megan Joseph and B. Love provided me with my first opportunity, and I have been off to the races ever since.
Where were you born/grew up at?
I was born in Chicago, Illinois and raised in Maywood, Illinois. During my childhood and teen years I grew up around the likes of Doc Rivers, Michael Woodard, and Isiaih ‘Zeke’ Thomas ( except we never called him Zeke at school). Doc Rivers’ brother brought me into my current profession when he was president of the Maywood School Board.
What kind of world ruler would you be?
I would get everybody killed if I were leader. I would want a battle every day. Ask former employees of mine. It was a badge of honor to sit in a meeting with high end executives and say something foul knowing full well I was representing a team. I would fight for my team, mind you, but sometimes I started the fight.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I considered myself a writer the first time I put pen to paper. I don’t know if I consider myself an author as of this writing, but I am diligently trying to get there.
Do you have a favorite movie?
Chinatown written by Robert Towne. The most remarkable screenplay ever, especially when you realize the entire story is from a limited perspective as every scene features Jake Gittes, but he is not narrating the tale as many noirs would have that character do.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
I can imagine Interstate and The Expert Witness transitioned into movies. The Magnificent Mile coming soon would translate as well.
What inspired you to write this book?
I enjoyed my time writing the first episodes of Claim Me and Desire Me Only. I decided to write a series all in one book instead of trying to rush a novella out that felt incomplete from the standpoint it only gave one perspective. I also wanted something noirish for today’s reader.
What can we expect from you in the future?
After Cherry Punch, I tackle The Magnificent Mile which is the name of the more high-brow area off Downtown Chicago on Michigan Avenue.
. Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?
Unfortunately, an incident featured in the book, as with many of my books, did happen. Poor Brother Muhhamad, is all I can say. I wound up take over his class and that student was still in the classroom.
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
Many of the characters in Cherry Punch exist in one capacity or another. Ray Ray, Sherry, and Benny are all based off living breathing humans still in the area. Oddly, we are all about a decade off in age from each other with me being the oldest. And yes, Big Nat also still exists. We are all Maywoodians.
Where did you come up with the names in the story?
Cherry Punch is named after a medicinal strain that can be bought in most weed shops. I was looking to create an urban Pineapple Express and this idea came up. Cornell, and especially Harold Jasper both fixtures in the area. Neither ended well.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
My act two was by far the most adventurous endeavor I have ever partaken. It didn’t take me long to work it out and I wanted that portion to go on forever. I easily could have written another chapter on that arc.
Tell us about your main characters- what makes them tick?
Sherry Rose and Benny Freeman are two nose to the grindstone characters tied to the town they were raised in, but not each other. Then fate officially brings them and their ambitions together. They are like most of the people I grew up with who never stopped working even when social security told them the signpost ahead is where they get off. Cherry has some serious issues about the people she falls in with and Benny is put into the fold by relation.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel?
The Curse of Black Hawk’s Treasure is named after an actual event that took place in Illinois. I found the legend which is also where our hockey team got its name in a Constitution book my district uses every year for our eighth graders.
Who designed your book covers?
Recently, I have worked with three people: Iesha Bree, Moon Bey, and Markayla Blake. Prior to that, I left it to B. Love.
. Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I discovered I am developing the legs to tell longer cohesive stories.
Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Yes, I would like my readers to allow me to change up on the genres. I will not let them down, plus you will always recognize the voice, the tale will just come from a different angle.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
At this time, the readers I have know I do not create comic book characters. My characters and their story arcs are very real, may be too real. I don’t include the fantastic in my novels, but am leaning toward that, but this novel I believe no matter where you grew up, you know these people and their motives. You know what drives them about as much as you know what drives you. You aren’t afraid to see yourself and your story written by someone who cares about those people especially since they look and act like you. Even Ted Sarandos knows some of these people.
Have you written any other books that are not published?
Plenty of screenplays, but most if not all my novels have been published. B. Love has been very generous in allowing her writers to find their voice and their audience.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
Cherry Punch, of course. Beware of the contact.
What did you edit out of this book?
There are numerous back stories I had between Sherry and Benny first meetings. Colonel Parker had me remove them. I wanted to move them, but maybe I will revisit.
Is there an writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
I would love to have had an opportunity to sit down with Elmore Leonard and pick his brain. His transition from Westerns to gritty urban novels where the good guy and the bad guy can be hard to discern and harder to root for whether it be Out of Sight or Hombre. Get Shorty or Last Stand at Saber River, his protagonists and antagonists stand out and could easily switch sides.
What book do you think everyone should read?
Stephen King’s “On Writing” is a book I can honestly say has taught me a lot about believing in my own voice.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
My characters come to me depending on which arc I write first. I can start in the third act and have to have a clue who’s in the book, but when I start at the beginning, I just let the characters introduce themselves as they see fit.
. What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
The amount of time I give to research depends on the story itself. Playdate had tons of notes and articles regarding the subject matter as does its eventual follow up. But Cherry Punch is about life. I have been around for a minute. I know these people, I didn’t have to research them. Same with The Magnificent Mile.
Do you see writing as a career?
I see writing as that opportunity to imbibe in a passion I have had most of my life. I welcome all who support the vision. I welcome all feedback, crosstalk, opinions, and thoughts. I want a community to take a tour through my mind as far as the elements I am willing to share. I’m not quitting my day job just yet, but I love the support I have had in the last year.
What do you think about the current publishing market?
The publishing game has changed so dramatically in the last twenty years. I don’t think I would ever have ventured into the field, but it should never have deterred me from trusting my pen. I thank God the opportunity to share has been provided.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
I forget so much about a novel after I start a new one. I don’t think I have read anything other than Black Hawk. Couldn’t tell you the main character’s name from that book. But I remember Molica. Go figure.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I need silence, but more important, I need rest. I need to be fresh when I write otherwise my story completely drifts off and I have to find its center over and over.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
I try to focus on one novel at a time even when characters from another story are screaming for their moment. I have put novels to the side to write something else. That is pretty much how Interstate, The Expert Witness, and even Every Year, Every Christmas can about. They just spoke louder than the characters I was working with at the time demanding attention.
Pen or type writer or computer?
Pen and paper first, then I move toward the typewriter. During my typing phase is when I get hit with my next novel.
Describe your writing style.
I don’t have a style, it’s like asking Lonzo Ball who he emulates as a guard. Have you seen him shoot?
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I know there is an audience for my novels. I have to develop creative ways to get readers to me. Trust me, I am open to writing anything. I never knew I could write a Christmas novella, but a nugget of an idea hit me hard and fast.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
In 2001, an opportunity will fall into your laps. Trust your vision.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I don’t always understand their motives, but I am moving them along to mesh with their counterparts until they fall in lockstep.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Handwriting a book isn’t long, three weeks tops. Typing it out, forever.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I don’t suffer from writer’s block as of this writing, but I understand not seeing a story from beginning to end which can also be frustrating especially for those that believe in outlining. I don’t completely outline from start to finish. I may write a few notes, then see where the story is going. If I have to rein it in, I will write more notes. I will call it outlining, but I don’t think based off the books I’ve read, I have mastered outlining.