In this blistering new novel from visionary author John Jantunen, three young men with a history of violence are on a collision course set against the idyllic backdrop of northern Ontario’s cottage country.
Rene Descartes, a recently released ex-con, is living in a ramshackle trailer only a short distance from Hidden Cove, a secluded paradise where the country’s rich and famous relax in opulent gated summer retreats. A savage attack against Rene by the son of the fourth richest man in the country spurns a brutal act of revenge that will ignite this paradise into a fiery vision of hell on earth. As the flames threaten to engulf rich and poor alike, only Deacon Riis, a small-town reporter haunted by his own past, suspects it wasn’t Rene who set Hidden Cove ablaze but someone with a far more sinister agenda: to write into life the apocalyptic world imagined by the late George Cleary, a local novelist who was convinced that the end of times is now.
About the author
- Long-listed, ReLit Award
- Nominated, PWA Shamus Award
John Jantunen lives with his wife and two sons in Capreol, Ontario. His debut novel, Cipher, was shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize while his second, A Desolate Splendor, was also an apocalyptic thriller. No Quarter is his third book.
Excerpt: No Quarter: A Novel (by (author) John Jantunen)
He heard the first siren just after midnight.
A sharp declaration rearing through the window at his back, like an exclamation point on Nina Simone’s desperate plea from the stereo that she was feelin’ good. He was sitting on Rain’s couch and she was straddled on top, her hips thrusting with the precision of a see-saw and her breasts flouncing a doughy-white within the open flaps of her kimono wrap. She was thirty-nine, fifteen years older than his own twenty-four, and wore every one of those in the lines fraying from the corners of her eyes, both pressed shut not so much in the throes of passion as meditative. He was rolling her nipples between his thumbs and forefingers and she was moaning a staccato burst—“Oh! Oh! Oh!”—which Deacon took to mean she was about to come.
He was on the verge himself and to hold out a moment longer he concentrated on the undulating wail rising from the road running along the base of the granite bluff cresting not more than a hop and a skip from Rain’s back door. Her house was two stories of crumbling brick sided with press-wood slats, their sky-blue dulled and peeling, curls of paint clung to the spiderwebs spun beneath the eaves, its windows barricaded by thick curtains and dark, a neon sign in the mud room’s window advertising Fortune Teller IN/OUT the only thing to say that anyone lived there at all. Not much, really, to recommend it except the widow’s watch on its roof. It afforded as pretty a picture of the quaint little tourist town across the river as Deacon had yet to find and as he struggled to deter his own impulse towards climax he imagined himself standing at the wrought-iron fence enclosing the perch, watching the ambulance swoop onto the silver brace bridge below and wondering whose day had just turned foul.
The siren was then diffusing over the open space created by the river basin at the foot of the falls. For a moment it sounded hollow, remote, before it rose again, echoing against the walls of the red-brick canyon created by the string of storefronts along Main Street.
Rain was imploring, “Harder,” and that snapped him back.
He pinched her nipples with renewed vigour and she gasped. He eased the pressure for one breath—her body clenching against his—and then squeezed again, this time holding and waiting for the gush, all thoughts of the siren banished as it washed over his pubis, the suction of her insides then pulling at him, making Deacon come too.
With a groan, Rain collapsed over top of him, propping her forearms on the back of the couch. One of her breasts hung limp across his cheek, as soft and flabby as a three-day-old balloon, its owner groaning every time he throbbed. In the distance, he heard the faint blast of an air horn: the pumper truck giving fair warning as it exited the fire station on Dominion, one block up from Main. It was shortly followed by the ladder and tanker trucks doing the same, and then he could hear two cruisers screaming down Entrance Drive, the main artery pumping traffic into town from the 11, a four-lane highway so packed with tourists between the May Two-Four and Labour Day weekends it had inspired the Chamber of Commerce to erect a sign on its shoulder proclaiming, Tildon, Your Gateway to Summer.
The police sirens reached crescendo as they came to the clock tower presiding over the intersection where Entrance dead-ended at Main, the cars taking a hard right and their furor fading as they chased the others northward.
Deacon finally went still and Rain let out a satisfied, “Mmm.”
She leaned down, kissed him on the top of the head, and then pulled herself up and off. Cupping her hand over her bush to keep anything from leaking out, she grabbed a tea towel from the green steamer trunk she used in place of a coffee table, tossed it over Deacon’s lap, and hurried towards the stairs rising to the second floor.
While he cleaned himself off, he could hear another siren growing louder from the east: a third cruiser, the celerity of its approach telling him whoever was at the wheel must have been snoozing behind a desk when the call came in and was now playing a game of catch-up. Discarding the towel on the trunk, he told himself he ought to go have a look-see at what all the fuss was about, as much because it would give him an excuse to make a quick exit as because it was his job, as the Chronicle’s only full-time reporter, to take an interest in such things. He’d not yet stayed the night but, of late, his resolve had been slipping. It was only a matter of time before he’d awake in Rain’s bed with the sun squinting his eyes. The smell of bacon would draw him down to the kitchen where he’d find her smoking restlessly over the stove, tending to his breakfast. Then, he’d be powerless but to sit at the table and pick up a fork.
And who knew where that future might have led?
He was tired, though, and a little drunk and even more stoned. With thoughts of bed teasing him through the haze, he thought about how nice falling into his own would feel. He could hear water running from the bathroom at the top of the stairs: Rain showering, which she always did after they fucked—her way, he reckoned, of keeping him from running off for at least a few minutes anyway.
Deacon played along by reaching for the tumbler on the trunk. It was half-filled with liquid the colour of rye, though it was mostly Coke and melted ice by then. He drank what was left in one gulp. Between his legs, his wilted manhood parted the flaps of his navy blue dress shirt. He tried to summon the verve to scrounge for his pants, but all of a sudden he was too tired to do anything but rest his head on the back of the couch, close his eyes, and drift off to the languid sway of the song whispering to him from the stereo of dragonflies out in the sun and butterflies all having fun (you know what I mean).
He was startled awake a short while later by Rain asking, “Who was that?”
Dinah Washington had since replaced Miss Simone and her angry demand of “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby” lent its urgency to Rain’s stride as she walked past, towelling off her hair. She’d gone grey in her twenties, and a couple of years ago she’d started dying it a murky blonde. When that didn’t peel back the years, she cut it into a boyish bob. Last week, she cut it even shorter. She hadn’t dyed it since and the blonde spikes, with their grey roots, had come to resemble a porcupine’s quills.
“What?” Deacon asked, blinking against his drowse.
“On the phone.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your phone was ringing.”
“Pretty sure. Since I keep it on vibrate.”
“I could have sworn I heard your phone ringing.”
She scanned the room, then padded over to where Deacon’s green corduroy jacket lay draped over her Reading Chair, the “reading” she meant having little to do with books though there were three—The Complete Astrologer, Signs for Trying Times, and A Medium’s Guide to the Good Life—artfully arranged on top of a gypsy cloth beside an unlit candle, squat and pink, sitting on a tea cup’s saucer. As she foraged through the coat’s pockets, Deacon took up his boxer briefs from the couch cushion beside him. He’d got one foot into those when she was turning back, holding up his phone.
“There’s twenty-four unanswered messages,” she said.
“You don’t say.”
“The last was from Dylan.”
“What time’s it now?”
“How in the hell—”
Cutting himself off short because he knew there was no point in trying to get an answer out of Rain that did anything but make his head ache. He rooted about the floor for his jeans and had just snagged a leg when Dylan’s voice rang out.
“—ey, Deke,” he was saying through his cell phone speaker. “There’s been some trouble at that rest stop off the 118, just past the rock cut west of Meeford Bay. You know the one I’m talking about. I’m going to be here all night. If you’re heading this way, I sure could use a coffee.” There was a pause, and when Dylan spoke again his voice had quieted, almost to a whisper. “Someone’s been killed. Looks like—” Then there was an angry voice yelling in the background, too loud to be anyone but Sergeant Marchand.
“Oh shit,” Dylan said. “I gotta go. See you if I do. Bye.”
“Sounds serious,” Rain said.
“Three cruisers,” Deacon answered, pulling on his pants.
“That is serious.”
She was smiling in her wry way, and it seemed a bitter rebuke against him thinking it was excuse enough to make another one of his quick exits. Lowering his eyes, he busied himself by foraging through his pants’ pockets, a ploy that lasted until he’d found a stick of the gum he seeded his clothes with for such an emergency. When he looked back up, Rain was walking towards him and biting her lip, like maybe she’d read his mind and was now trying to think of something to assure him that it was alright.
He popped the gum in his mouth and she handed him his phone. As he slipped it into his breast pocket, she leaned close as if to kiss him goodbye. But it was his collar she was bound for. It had become tucked into his shirt.
“You okay to drive?” she asked, pulling it out and smoothing it with the flat of her hand.
“We could take my car.”
Patting his breast, she trailed her fingers down his chest. The gesture had a scripted feel to it, like a mother, in some old movie, sending her son off to war, afraid she’d never see him again.
“You best be off then,” she said.
“No Quarter has the skeleton of a thriller, but author John Jantunen consistently zigs where other narratives would zag, creating a story that is far stranger and disturbing … the connections add a wonderful layer of dread to No Quarter.” — Shelf Awareness
“All in all, No Quarter is a solid read, particularly for those who enjoy their thrillers local.” — Toronto Star
“A unique and extraordinary novel by an author with a genuine flair for character and narrative driven storytelling, John Jantunen’s No Quarter is a simply riveting read from beginning to end … very highly recommended for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections.” — Midwest Book Review
“[An] intense and gripping novel from an author with a well honed gift for narrative driven storytelling, John Jantunen’s No Quarter is a riveting and original story of violence played out against the bucolic and picturesque background of northern Ontario’s cottage country.” — Midwest Book Review
“Jantunen’s adrenalin-rushed, blistering descriptions and revved up plotting burn pretty hot.” — Thrilling Detective blog