Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Virtue at Market Price (Empyreal Privateer, Book 1) by M.E. Meegs and E. Pluribus Van Slyke

Release date: August 1, 2018
Subgenre: Steampunk fantasy, Comedy

About Virtue at Market Price:


In April 1924, airship pirates descend on the luxury liner S.S. Paris and make off with twenty-odd female captives. When the various authorities appear powerless to act, one man steps forward, pledging himself to recover said booty and thereby render American womanhood secure.

Unfortunately for all concerned, that man is E. Pluribus Van Slyke….

Motivated by his twin appetites for personal enrichment and female companionship, this trans-oceanic con man and cashiered naval officer deftly persuades a succession of equally ignoble characters of his suitability for the task. Then, given command of a decrepit airship, Van Slyke heads into the empyrean with a crew of halfwits, misfits, and felons.

But this voyage into the unknown is doubly so, for it soon becomes obvious the pirates who raided the Paris descended from fictional skies. In this parallel world our would-be hero finds himself at the mercy of rum-running cutthroats and throat-cutting buccaneers. Will he survive his confrontation with the fastidious Jack Tigue, a pirate renowned for his tasteful wardrobe and his habit of eviscerating opponents? Not to mention the anachronistic Jean Lafitte and his diabolical manicure of torture?

Barely. But most dangerous of all is yet to come: Captain Bonnet, the mad pirate of Barbados. For on departing his company, Van Slyke finds himself betrothed to not one, not two, not three, but five of the Mortal Sins! 




I could tell at once from the ugly look the bond broker gave me that I’d overplayed my hand. He sat just opposite, his malevolent mien mixing equal parts indignation and satisfaction: indignation at having been plucked, and satisfaction at having at last detected it. We were playing draw and I’d discarded two duds. When the dealer tossed me my replacements, I palmed a knave and replaced it with the queen of diamonds I’d held from the last hand. That gave me a sister pair with an ace high.

“Get up!” The wily jobber had come prepared. He produced a little revolver from an inside pocket and pointed it in the direction of my now palpitating heart. “He’s got a sixth card on him somewhere.”

By then it was stuffed deep between the seat cushions of the chair I’d only just vacated. But they were a thorough bunch. After having me undress, they tore apart a rather expensive suit. (On that point, at least, I was in luck—unlike the Parisian tailor still awaiting payment.) Then, in a matter of seconds, they dismantled what had seemed a quite solid piece of furniture. When the Texas cattle baron located the jack hiding amongst the upholstery, he announced the fact by calling for a rope.

Egotist that I am, I’d always harbored the expectation that I’d someday achieve some level of notoriety. But being the first man lynched aboard a steamship of the French Line wasn’t exactly what I’d had in mind. Fortunately, the wiser heads among the mob countered with a proposal to call the purser. Not so fortunately, they were quickly overruled by heads of even more colorful imagination than that of the Texan.

The debate turned now on a choice between two forms of punishment deemed more in keeping with the sea-voyage theme: keelhauling, or walking the plank. It was a lopsided vote. The fault lay with an English coal magnate who took a good deal of relish in explaining what exactly keelhauling entailed.

“A rope is brought under the beam of the ship. The victim’s tied to it and then drawn under the boat. There his body’s bashed against the hull by the swells, and then nearly torn in half crossing the keel! If he survives, he’s given another chance.”

“Gets let off?”

“No. Gets another chance to die! He’s sent down the opposite way, then back and forth until all that’s left tied to the rope is a pair of bloody arms!”

Cheers all around. Well, nearly so. For once in my life, I was struck dumb. By the time I’d prepared my rebuttal, my wrists had been bound with a length of cord and a napkin stuffed in my mouth.

Once we were out on deck—me in my union suit and nothing else—the logistical obstacles to their plan became readily apparent. The S.S. Paris was a modern luxury liner and the distance between the boat deck and the keel considerable. They’d already tied one end of a coil of rope to my ankle, but it was hardly likely to be long enough. And then came the not insignificant problem of how to get the rope under the keel in the first place. The coal magnate admitted his ignorance on this point.

So the plank it was. Aided by the light of a full moon, they located a gangway stowed among the air vents and dragged it out to between the davits of two of the lifeboats. It ran about twenty feet and they gradually slid one end out over the sea. When it began to tilt, three of the party’s heavier members got on to act as counterweights.

It seemed to me the joke had been taken far enough, so I spat out the gag. “I should have you know, protests will be made.”

“Not by you, they won’t.” Again, cheers all around.

“My wife, then.”

“Sounded to me like she’d be glad to be rid of you.”


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About M.E. Meegs:

M.E. Meegs began writing epic poetry while still in the cradle, though her first real recognition came only after the completion of her dramatic tragedy, Dolly’s Fourth, and Final, Crusade. Written when she was five, it chronicles the midnight adventure of a favorite doll, which ended sadly in the jaws of a neighbor’s mastiff.

She lives now—inasmuch as any pseudonym may be said to live—with a first-class typewriter and a middling husband, who will soon be in need of a food taster if he doesn’t begin showing a little more appreciation for her literary efforts.

A truly loving soul, she harbors neither children nor pets—fearing the temptation to make sacrifices of them to her tetchy muse might prove irresistible. She does, however, heartily enjoy correspondence.

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