Exclusive extract & cover reveal from Matt Phillips

Posted by Fahrenheit Press on

Readers are still raving about Matt Phillips last noir masterpiece KNOW ME FROM SMOKE so we thought we'd spoil you all by releasing his new book YOU MUST HAVE A DEATH WISH in time for Christmas. 

It'll be published on Wednesday 13th November and here's what it's gonna look like...

Another awesome job by the Fahrenheit designers - they always have fun with Matt's books.

And as if that wasn't enough we're publishing an exclusive extract here to whet your appetite...

You Must Have A Death Wish by Matt Phillips


The lawyer came out of the downtown courthouse with a cup of coffee in his hand. One of those paper cups but without the plastic lid on it. He walked down the stairs and stopped on the sidewalk, blew into the coffee. A pained look crossed his face. He was all eyebrows and cheek wrinkles. He took a sip of coffee, looked east down Broadway toward distant sirens. He had a suit on but it looked cheap and too small for him. His belly pressed at his blue button-down shirt, moved aside his striped tie—knotted way too short—and his brindle sport coat. He had a three-day beard and a fat lip. He took another sip of coffee and stared across the street into the hotel lobby.

Moonie Sykes did not expect that the lawyer could see him.

Instead, the lawyer might see the reflection off the lobby window: city traffic passing the building. All the fancy people walking past each other with their briefcases and purses and big important places to be. The shuf-fling bums. Whatever else.

But Moonie could see the lawyer.

Moonie was watching from a leather easy chair in the small hotel bar across Broadway. He had a glass of beer in one hand, a small unlit cigar in the other, and an untraceable Glock 27 subcompact handgun hidden be-neath his too-large polo shirt. It was a small pistol. Easy to conceal and without much weight to it. But it could kill a man. It was a gun show pur-chase—a souvenir from a long weekend in Yuma, Arizona.

The lawyer blew into his coffee again, took a long sip, and headed west down Broadway at a brisk walk. Moonie finished what was left of his beer. He slid the cigar—it was a thin Mexican cigarillo—behind his right ear. He got up and exited the hotel, thinking he was right to pay the tab in ad-vance. Seventeen dollars for two lukewarm glasses of beer. He jogged across four lanes of light, mid-morning traffic, reached the sidewalk and fell in step a hundred feet or so behind the lawyer.

There were no more sirens in the distance.


Moonie followed the lawyer until they reached Santa Fe Depot, a repur-posed transit station that served Amtrak and the commuter train. The lawyer looked over his shoulder—maybe saw Moonie—and entered the sta-tion. It was a building with high ceilings, wooden benches that reminded Moonie of church pews, and a general old city decor. Santa Fe Depot was the end of the line for the Amtrak train and Moonie expected to see more businessmen and foreign tourists. But at this time of day the station was nearly empty with the exception of a small line of travelers at the ticket counter. Moonie stopped in the breezy entrance, waited for about ten sec-onds before he saw the lawyer cross through another open doorway at the end of the station. The air was salty, but dry. As he trotted across the sta-tion, through the wooden benches, Moonie saw the lawyer jump a metal barrier and hop down onto the train tracks and jog north along the rails. Moonie came out of the station squinting at the sunlight. He looked both ways down the tracks, hopped off the platform to follow the dark shape that was moving away from him.

A security guard tried to wave him down and shouted, “Hey, dude!”

Moonie ignored him and jogged after the lawyer. I can’t lose him now, Moonie thought. I have to do it. He’s seen me and if I don’t do it now—if I don’t do it now, it’ll never get done. Sixty yards up the tracks, the lawyer made an abrupt stop. He turned right, darted between two brick buildings. Fifteen seconds later, Moonie made the same turn. The buildings were close together and the city sounds—car engines and horns and more si-rens—filled his ears like a storm. He smelled shit and piss, needed to tiptoe to avoid broken bottles and used needles. The lawyer squeezed through a slit in a rotted wooden fence, made the street and headed north again. Moonie cursed under his breath, tried to run faster. When he pushed through the broken fence and came out onto the street, the smells of piss and shit fading behind exhaust fumes and damp gutters, Moonie didn’t see the lawyer. “Fuck me,” he said and started slowly walking north. There were bars and restaurants along one side of the street, a condominium high rise opposite. Maybe the lawyer lived there? No, he doesn’t live there. You know he lives in Del Mar, or Carlsbad, some fancy place like that. He’s in one of the bars, maybe hiding in the men’s room.

He’s waiting for me.

Hiding from me.

Moonie entered a bar called Hair of the Dog. It was a rundown British-style pub lined with dark wood and staffed by a burly bartender with a po-nytail. The bartender was polishing a mixing tin with a blue towel. There were a few old men at the bar, two middle-aged women whispering to each other at one of the cocktail tables.

Moonie lifted his chin at the bartender and said, “Where is he?”


“The lawyer,” Moonie said.

“He’s probably out fucking my ex-wife,” the bartender said, “because he’s done fucking me. At least, I hope he is.”

Scattered laughter.

Moonie smiled, knew his silver grille put the white folks off—made them think of him as a gangbanger. “You’re a funny motherfucker,” Moonie said. He moved closer to the bar, put a hand beneath his polo shirt.

“That’s me alright,” the bartender said. “One funny guy.”

Moonie brought the Glock 27 out slowly, saw the bartender’s eyes wid-en and then squint. Moonie slammed the butt of the pistol against the bar-tender’s nose. It made a soft thump and the bartender fell forward, slumped against the bar. The mixing tin clanged against some bottles and the big man toppled to the floor. There were some grumbles from the crowd. Moonie said to nobody in particular, “Where the fuck is he?”

One of the women said, “He ran out back, goddammit. Leave us the fuck alone.”

Moonie stalked past the women. He was suddenly self-conscious of his Air Jordans and below-the-knee denim shorts. Fuck it, he thought. Who am I trying to impress? Maybe the gun will impress them. The Glock 27 led the way, seemed to pull him forward into the dark innards of the pub. He imagined they’d seen—maybe used—larger weapons. You never know about people—that was one thing Moonie learned. He entered a long hall-way that smelled of mustard and beer vomit. A sliver of light seeped from beneath a doorway—a shared bathroom by the sign on the door. Moonie approached slowly, listened for movement. He heard nothing. When he reached the door, he put one hand on the cold brass knob, waited.

Moonie said, “You going to come out and face it? Or do I have to bring it to you?”

There was a long silence and then the lawyer’s shaky voice. “Who sent you?”

“A guy on the inside,” Moonie said. “They call him Tank.”

“Christ—there’s no other way? How much did he pay you? A thousand? Five thousand?”

Moonie didn’t answer.

“Huh? How much?”

Moonie shook his head and said, “Get out of there. Take it like a man.” The door knob turned in Moonie’s hand—he stepped back into the hallway and waited for the door to swing open. When it did, light spilled into the hallway and Moonie could see the lawyer’s pudgy form backlit in front of the dirty bathroom mirror. The Glock 27—as if it had a mind of its own—found the lawyer’s head, or the general area where his head should be.

The lawyer said, “It wasn’t my fault, what happened to Tank. I mean, he did it. What the fuck am I going to do?”

Moonie shrugged and said, “I never said it was your fault. Shit, I ain’t in the business of finding fault. But I get hired for a job, I fucking do it.”

And then Moonie Sykes shot the lawyer in the face.


Moonie Sykes, just shy of five-foot-eight with dreadlocks hanging across his yellowed eyes, bought himself a King Cobra 40oz and two beef tamales inside the liquor store on 35th and El Cajon. His car—an ’83 white hatch-back Corolla with tinted windows—was parked facing the boulevard. It was April and it was hot. Ninety degrees. Moonie got in the car, ate and drank and watched the traffic, listened to the whir of tires on pavement and the screech of brakes from the intersection. A police cruiser stopped at a red light. Moonie sipped his beer and watched the cops jaw at each other. The light went green and they turned south on 35th, vanished into the matrix of streets and alleys that Moonie knew so well. He’d lived in this neighbor-hood for most of his adult life, a few years in juvie the main exception. What are you going to do, right? From Moonie’s perspective, everybody—one way or another—has to do some time. You might not do your time in prison, but you got to do it somewhere.

He was about halfway through the 40oz and done with his tamales when a matte black Trans-Am pulled in along the passenger side of the Co-rolla. The driver killed the engine and Moonie leaned across the seat to roll down his window. “What up, God?”

The Trans-Am’s driver, a 39-year-old gangbanger named Godfrey—God for short—puffed a Black & Mild and flashed a bright smile at Moonie. He said, “I’m out here for a heater, Moonie—what you think? You got some-thing I can pick up?”

“You pushing.” It was a question, but Moonie said it with a hard stop.

“Na, man. I’m looking for a new connect.” He said it with a K. “I’m thinking, I need to do some street sweeping.” God puffed more and scratched one cheek with a long yellow fingernail. “I’m staying in Spring Valley now. Had to get out of that mess downtown.” He shrugged and coughed into a fist. “You know, I’m too old for the club scene. It was good while it lasted, but I can’t be down there no more.”

“No shit,” Moonie said. “I used to go down there, man. Drink prices are kuh-razy. Working man can’t but put the shit on credit.”

“You right about that.”

“You got the money though.” Moonie closed one eye and sipped from his 40oz. He knew God from all their years on the streets and this didn’t sound like the man. Not to just give up good territory—and hard-fought, too—because he felt old or whatever. I mean, what the fuck is this? Moonie thought. After a second, Moonie smiled and flashed his silver grille. He said, “You got a religious girl or something.”

Again, not a question.

God said, “I got married, cuz.”

“You’re fucking with me.”

“Until death do us part, motherfucker.”

Moonie finished his beer. He opened the driver’s side door and set the empty bottle on the pavement. He closed the door with an audible click, flicked the air freshener dangling from the rearview mirror—it was a palm tree and it spun first one way and then back the other. “That’s heavy, man.”

“I figured it was about time.”

Moonie said, “And you going to tell me why.”

“It’s about responsibility,” God said. “I mean, shit—what do I got to be afraid of?” He puffed some more and tossed the Black & Mild out the win-dow, looked down into his lap at his cell phone. He flipped through a few numbers, got bored and looked back to Moonie leering at him from the driver’s seat of the Corolla.

“That’s forever though, man,” Moonie said. “That’s a life sentence.”

“Shit. Life, plus eternity.”

“Okay,” Moonie said. “It’s consecutive life sentences then. What I won-der, what happens if that one thing is really the deal? Reincarnation?”

“You mean if there ain’t heaven?”

“Yeah, like, say you come back a dog or something.”

God shrugged and smirked. “I’m just hoping she don’t come back a bear or whatever. I never seen a dog and a bear fuck, but I bet it ain’t pretty.”

Moonie grunted with a thought, tilted his head to one side. “I bet the bear’s the one does the fucking.”

God didn’t know how to respond to that.

For a while, the two men sat in silence.

God lit another Black & Mild and said, “I’m looking for something I can hide on the streets, keep it handy though.”


“I need to hide it, right?”

Moonie nodded. “Shit, I don’t know. I’m just checking, man. Just last week I had a white boy from Chula Vista get all pissed at me because I showed him a bunch of handguns and he wanted one of those fucking long guns.”


“Yeah, modern day white-boy dildo. Crazy fuckers.”

God shook his head. “You ever notice most of those shootings, the school ones, happen in some white suburb? Shit, those motherfuckers got it good out there and they can’t help but raise some crazy motherfuckers.”

Moonie chuckled. “Ain’t that the truth.”

“Way I came up is we only do you if you’re dirty. Hey, once in a while a motherfucker ain’t got good aim—shit happens. But at least we try.”

Moonie nodded and picked at a top molar with his thumb. “Shit, man. You got me nervous about the motherfucker.”

“You just the guy he bought it from. What you worried about?”

Moonie frowned, thought for a minute. “Guilt, I guess.”

God laughed at Moonie. “Moonie Sykes,” he said, “sitting here and talk-ing about guilt. That’s some shit.”

“Man, I got a conscious.”

“Oh, I bet you do.”

“I mean, conscience.” Moonie said the word like it was twice as long.

“Good catch,” God said.

“We doing this?”

God shrugged and puffed. “How much you want?”

“I’ll give it to you for a cool five in cash.”

“Five c-notes?”

Moonie said, “These motherfuckers don’t peddle themselves. Plus, this a clean gun, motherfucker. I’m talking, like, straight factory shit.”

“I doubt that.”

Moonie said, “I get it off a boy works down at the port. You know how hard—”

“Oh, I know you did the legwork, but I’m thinking four is better. Four is more than fair. I can go down to Chippy over by—”

“You want to buy a heater from Chippy, be my guest.” Moonie ran a hand over his steering wheel, scratched one cheek. “I heard Chippy got an ear downtown. Probably you’ll wind up with some gun has a murder on it. Maybe two or three.”

“You calling Chippy a snitch?”

“I’m saying, I heard he got an ear downtown.” Moonie stared at God and thought, Yeah, Chippy is a snitch. What of it? He sniffed the air and smelled smoke, held back a sneeze while he waited for God to respond.

“How about 450?”

Moonie stifled the sneeze. He looked at his bare wrist, mimed checking the time. “Just so happens it’s happy hour, motherfucker.”


Moonie sold God a sand-colored .45. Loaded, too.

Brought a smile to the OG’s face.

Moonie shoved the $450—twenty twenties and ten fives—into his glovebox, drove the Corolla east on El Cajon Boulevard. He slipped in a cassette tape from back in the day: Otis Redding. He weaved through traf-fic, one arm dangling out the driver’s side window, and got on the 15 free-way headed south.

It was rush hour—a whole bunch of miserable motherfuckers coming home from their cubicles. Moonie didn’t usually drive at this time but he had an important meeting down in Imperial Beach and, before that, he had the thing he did for God. The way his schedule worked out today, it got him into traffic. He settled in listening to the music, worked the clutch like a Nascar fan. Brake lights flashed red in front of him for endless miles and Moonie thought, sometimes there ain’t nothing you can do. This meeting down in IB made him nervous. He got hooked up with the guy on the oth-er end—dude who called himself Gato—by a mutual connection. One La-Don Marcus Garvey Charles. A childhood friend to Moonie. According to LaDon, it was a small favor that Gato needed doing.

And Moonie was just the man for it.

“Well, shit,” Moonie said to LaDon the night before in the Heights Lounge. They were sitting in a booth set way back from the bar, LaDon and Moonie both staring at a Lakers game playing on the flat screen televi-sion hanging over a nearby pool table. “He wants me to play the donkey on something. Into Phoenix, maybe. Or Las Vegas. Coke, I bet.”

LaDon shrugged, cupped a big hand around his Budweiser and drank. After the drink, he burped and tapped the bottle twice on the table. “Could be a mule thing, but might be worse. Better, I mean. You know—it could be muscle.”

“You telling me a guy who calls himself Gato needs old Moonie Sykes for some muscle? I find that about as far-fetched as a frisbee in outer space.”

“You want this or not, Moonie?”

Moonie drank his rum and OJ, chewed on the right side of his bottom lip. He was thinking.

“Because if you don’t want it, I got me a couple cousins can do with the cash. For a motherfucker who ain’t got a pot to piss in, you sure-as-shit are choosy about work.”

“I ain’t choosy, motherfucker. I’m selective is all. I’m trying to avoid all that cartel bullshit. Moonie ain’t looking to have his head sawed off and hung from a light pole—you know what I’m saying?”

“They don’t saw, Moonie. They chop.”

“And this is what I mean, LaDon.”

LaDon said, “You know that’s some Tijuana shit, man. Ain’t nobody got their head chopped off up here, not unless they—”

“Oh, it’s coming,” Moonie said. “Read my fucking lips: it’s coming.”

LaDon sighed a long breath, finished his beer in one gulp. He tossed the empty bottle from one hand to the next, began prying at the label with his short-clipped fingernails. “I got this guy’s name from a stripper over at The Aces. I doubt the motherfucker is a cartel man. As always, you got your imagination all worked up, making it seem like you some kind of im-portant.” LaDon set the bottle on the table, shrugged with his palms pointed to the sky. “Who cares what he wants? I’m just trying to hand my boy Moonie Sykes a payday.”

Moonie nodded, slurped from his glass. “Yo, let me ask you something, LaDon.”

“Not about this, because—“

“It ain’t about this. I’m good with this. Gato’s going to see me tomor-row. What it is, it’s about something else.”

LaDon crossed his arms, waited.

Moonie cleared his throat. “Say you go to the doctor, right…”

“The medical doctor?”

“Yeah, man—the fucking medical doctor.”

“Just checking. Go ahead.”

“Say you go to the doctor, right. The man pulls some blood from you, runs his little rat-fuck tests and, next thing you know, he’s calling your ass back, saying you got to come down to the office.”

“About what?”

“About what,” Moonie said, “you don’t know. Man won’t say. What I’m wondering is, do you go back in? Or do you blow it off, let the man’s mes-sage run.”

“What if it’s cancer?” LaDon had a thoughtful look on his face.

“Cancer? Man, what the fuck, LaDon?” Moonie’s face crunched from the edges in toward his nose. “You trying to get me fucking killed?”

“I’m just saying, Moonie. It could be cancer.”

“The fuck it is.”

LaDon shrugged and said, “My cousin Mercy caught the cancer. Maybe about, I don’t know, four years ago? She got the call back from the doctor, went into the office, and that’s how she found out. Did chemo and every-thing. Surgery. The whole shebang. That’s some crazy shit, huh? Got her-self one of them rasta wigs, with the beanie sewed into it? You know what I’m talking about.”

“How’s she doing now?”

“Ain’t seen her in a while—she’s dead.”

“Jesus,” Moonie said. “Here I am asking you for help and you’re talking to me about dead people. That ain’t what I was hoping for, LaDon.” Moon-ie was quiet for a while, then he said, “I don’t know what it is, but I can’t bring myself to go back to the man. He’s got this tone to his voice…It just—”

“You’re scared.”

“I ain’t scared, LaDon.”

“Oh, come on. I know you’re scared, Moonie. Shit, we’re all scared.”

“I ain’t scared of…Of what?”

“Death, bro.”

There went LaDon getting all philosophical and shit. The last thing Moonie wanted to do was contemplate the very nature of his existence. Shit, all Moonie wanted to do was get lit and sell more guns and drugs to get more lit. But everybody has fears—he couldn’t deny that. He finished his rum and OJ as fast as he could, got out of there before LaDon gave him nightmares, all this talk about fear and God and death. And now here he was the next day, merging onto the 94 freeway west, getting flipped off by some hotshot in a silver BMW. He changed lanes and, after about three miles, followed some road signs downtown to make a circle turn onto the 5 freeway south. A minute later he was on the Coronado Bay Bridge, trying not to drive off the fucker while he squinted at the downtown baseball sta-dium and all the bank buildings. Talk about crooks. Moonie knew some, sure. But he didn’t know any as big as the bankers.

Shit, nobody did.

After crossing the bridge, Moonie switched Otis Redding for some Sly and the Family Stone. He cruised slowly through Coronado, a lone black man with dreadlocks and Ray Bans bumping Sly and his Fam all the way past the Hotel Del Coronado and down Silver Strand. He made good time to Imperial Beach and parked just past the pier with its loopy sculpture declaring the city’s name in fat letters. Moonie locked the Corolla and started walking out onto the pier. Beneath his Raiders windbreaker, he carried his Glock 27.

He was going to meet Gato.

The cat.

 (To be continued...)




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