TURNED EARTH: A Jack Broccoli Novel, is now available on Amazon.
I am so happy to see this novel come out at long last. I know I’m supposed to be a serious non-fiction garden writer and all that, but this was way more fun than writing a serious book.
So where did Jack Broccoli come from?
Last year I got in a discussion with some friends in a Facebook group on what book I should write after Push the Zone: The Good Guide to Growing Tropical Plants Beyond the Tropics. I had a few ideas in mind and we were kicking them around, when my artist friend Jeremiah commented something along the lines of “forget that – you should write a pulp novel next. Like TURNED EARTH: A JACK BROCCOLI NOVEL.”
I laughed out loud. What a crazy idea. “I’ll totally write that,” I told him.
“I’ll do the cover,” he replied.
And it was on!
I started writing Turned Earth in bits and pieces at the beginning of 2017. Originally it was just going to be a short novella, perhaps 25,000-30,000 words, but when I told my publisher what I was working on he said, “no – turn it into a whole novel. At least 50,000 words. We’ll publish it as the world’s first gardening thriller.” It ended up over 60,000 words and is a much better story for it.
When my dad died in the middle of the year, I got derailed and the book was shelved for a while, but once I was feeling up to it again, I jumped back in and tied it up.
Once I had a good draft, I sent it to Jeremiah and he created an awesome cover for me, as planned. I also decided to tap my childhood friend Eric Towers for some interior Hardy Boys style illustrations. His five original pen-and-ink pieces were perfect.
The book is ridiculous, immature, nerdy, action-packed, cartoonishly violent and a heckuva lot of fun. It’s also firmly planted in the world of gardening. Imagine Douglas Adams meets James Bond meets a garden nerd and you’ve got the idea. You’ll recognize a lot of sly references to various gardening techniques and figures – but I won’t bore you with any more analysis. It’s a unique and amusing book. My children would ask to read what I wrote every day after I spent a stretch of writing time, trying to figure out what would happen to Jack next.
I hope you enjoy it. A hardcover version is coming soon.
“You have no idea how many ways to kill you are lurking in your garden.
Gardening is just a hobby for most – but for some, it’s a matter of life and death.
Who keeps killing soil scientists and agriculture industry executives around the world? If you dare to ask, you may end up as the next corpse left to serve as garden compost. When gardener Jack Broccoli and his boss are targeted by a radical farming cult, Jack’s entire life is turned upside-down as he’s forced into a terrifying world of international agro-industrial intrigue.
TURNED EARTH is a terrifyingly funny novel by master gardener David The Good and the first in the Jack Broccoli series of gardening thrillers.”
After his workout, Jack had done some weeding, then decided to hunt some new seeds on the ’net for his later season garden. He wanted awesome heirloom types and the local joints didn’t carry much. He’d gotten lost in the online catalogs and ended up impulse-buying three varieties of dent corn, lemon cucumbers, purple carrots and a stainless-steel spade. He wasn’t sure why, but the pictures compelled him.
It was almost midnight now. Even though Jack was fascinated by the soil mineralization PDF he was reading on his phone, his eyelids were drooping. He pushed the sleep button on his phone, then went to the almost dark kitchen. He felt vaguely hungry, so he opened the fridge. Inside was a half-pound of raw bacon, two Celery Stouts, a cabbage and a slightly moldy block of cheddar entombed in greasy plastic wrap.
He took out a stout, the cabbage, and the cheese. He thought about frying the bacon but decided it would take too long. Should I nuke it? No, it’s just not the same.
He hacked the cabbage in half, then cut one of the halves in half. He scraped the moldy edges from the cheese with the same knife. Grabbing the stout, he popped off the top on the edge of the counter with a swift blow of his fist—and promptly shot fizzing green foam all over the tiles. He sucked at top of the bottle, consuming the still-emerging foam, unwilling to waste any more of the precious stout.
Lunging for the paper towel dispenser on the other side of the counter, he accidentally knocked the three-quarters of a cabbage onto the floor. This was immediately followed by a bottle of Sriracha he had neglected to put away after some previous meal. He had also failed to close the bottle, as was now evidenced by a spurting stream of bright red pepper sauce that skittered across the floor and mingled with the fizzing green puddle of ale.
Jack nearly got angry. This was not how he had envisioned his midnight snack. Grabbing a fistful of paper towels, he knelt down on the floor by the cabinets and began vigorously wiping up the mess. He was startled by a voice coming from no apparent direction.
“Jack—we need to make tea!”
Jack stood up, banging his head on the edge of the counter and simultaneously knocking down both the paper towel roll and the rest of his beer, which shattered magnificently. He spun around, ready to fight, and saw Pak Choi climbing out from the cabinet beneath the sink. Pak whistled lowly, looking at the floor. “Wow, Jack—you are a slob!”
Jack said something unprintable and threw the now-soiled roll of paper towels at Pak, who dodged gracefully and winked. “Tea time, Jack!” he said, pulling a black box from under the sink. It had tubes and a wire extending from it. “Look—I also brought some pantyhose!” he continued, holding up a soiled pair of extra-large hose.
“What in the name of Steve Solomon are you doing in my house?” Jack exploded.
“Shh, Jack. Say nothing. Go get compost.”
“Pak, it’s midnight. You’re in my house at midnight. With pantyhose and—is that an aquarium pump?”
“I said say nothing. Compost, now! And a bucket. And molasses. You have molasses?”
* * *
Pak carefully packed compost into the pantyhose, then hung it in the bucket of water he’d filled from the rain barrel outside. “Can’t use tap. Will kill it!” He plugged in the aquarium pump and coiled its hose down into the bucket of water. Lacking molasses, he had thrown a cup of brown sugar into the water “to feed them,” he had explained. The engine’s hum was irritatingly loud in the nighttime stillness.
“You’ve been on Pinterest again, I see,” Jack said. He knew his weird neighbor was a Pinterest addict. Personally, he thought Pinterest was for women and girls, not men.
“There is nothing wrong with Pinterest. I built my vermiculture tower from plans on Pinterest site. Works nice, too, though I skipped the stencil of cartoon worm on side. Was not integral to design. Just whimsy.”
Jack rubbed his eyes and sighed loudly. “Okay, Pak. You came over here to make compost tea. Why?”
“So we can talk.”
“We can talk without a bubbling bucket of microbes in the living room.”
“No, Jack, we can’t. You have internet connection here right now?”
“Why? You think the microbes will be looking for a hot spot?”
“No. Not thermophilic types. We need to disconnect. Where is phone jack?”
“Over on the wall, there.” Jack jerked his thumb towards a mess of lights and wires emerging haphazardly from the back of his desk.
Pak went over and carefully unplugged the connection. “They can hear you through microphone on computer hooked to lines on internet, Jack. See you, too, through built in iPad camera, phone camera, computer webcam.”
“Jack, don’t be dumb. No, they. The reason I am making tea. Also may be bugs in here.”
“Bugs—like, spy microphones?”
“Perhaps literal bugs.”
Jack raised an eyebrow.
“You must know,” Pak continued. “Some carefully modified insects are now used by spy agencies and clandestine organizations. Some are robots, some biological. Used as transmitters.”
Jack grunted incredulously.
“Bubbler will help hide sound of our talk from all of above,” Pak finished.
“Pak, just tell me what this is about!”
Pak steepled his fingers together, leaning forward on the sofa. “First, Jack, I need to know everything about your sphere.”
“Church, work, social life?” Jack ventured.
“No. Shiny sphere you found.”
Jack nodded. “It was in a soil sample I was grinding. I found an arrowhead in a soil sample once—that was cool—and I’ve found nails, brass casings, pottery shards, and even an old agate marble, but this thing looks new.”
“Yes, it is new. Did anything else strange happen this week?”
Jack shrugged. “Not that I can think of,” he said, then he remembered the phone call. “Actually, Pak, I don’t know why you’re interested in all this stuff, but I did get a weird call today. Guy with a smooth voice, but he sounded foreign. He said he wanted to know about our methods. Then he said I was evil and I was going to be executed.”
“This is what I feared, Jack. You are indeed in grave danger,” Pak whispered.
Bought and started.
Nice to see that FC experience (and humor) shining through!
Thanks, WaterBoy. The Friday Challenge was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Before Bruce Bethke, I was flailing about with my fiction writing. He helped me realize I was good enough to succeed and encouraged me to do so.
I’m curious — why no announcement from the publisher, yet? Nothing on their website, no email to the distro list…was this just an oversight, or are they holding off for some reason?
It’s coming tomorrow.
Just ordered – I can’t wait to start reading it tonight! I fully expect it to be a hilarious and fun read. Thanking you in advance, because I know it will be due. You and Rachel are awesome together and independently, and I’m so blessed to have found you.
From drenched central Florida – rainy season came stupidly early.
Rachel tells me my humor is juvenile, but she laughs anyhow. Thank you for the purchase – I’m hoping to write an entire series.
Send some of that rain down here!