A Death of Honor was the second novel I wrote and the first published. Originally it was a "throw away" idea. I was writing Desperate Measures and had gotten the idea for this bit where a man was investigating a crime himself because the police were too backed up to do it themselves. So I wrote the first chapter and passed it on to someone who was in a writer’s group with me. She was going to write a second chapter and pass it on to someone else, etc. Time went by and I finished DM. In that time I really started thinking about Payne’s predicament, and the woman with the chapter hadn’t done anything with it yet. So I got the first chapter back from her and finished the book.
Incidentally, Trinina was going to simply be a walk on part to show that Payne had lots of baggage. But my wife read the chapter that introduced her and said she really liked her as a character and wondered how she would fit into what I was doing. I couldn’t let my wife down, could I? So I started thinking about that and Trinina really came in and took over the story. It’s a better book because of that.
Locus Award Nominee – Best First Novel
A Locus Recommended Novel
Nebula Awards Preliminary Ballot
A Science Fiction Hall of Fame and Museum Recommended Read
“The science fiction mystery is an extremely difficult genre to handle well, and it’s a delightful surprise when a first novelist pulls the trick off gracefully. Joe Clifford Faust has constructed a compelling mystery… Chillingly plausible.”
“One of the most entertaining, well-thought-out SF/detective novels to come around in a long time… At the close, one feels one has seen a real world, met real people; certainly one has felt real suspense. This is meaty stuff; extremely satisfying.”
“Storytelling that will surely keep readers turning pages.”
“I wish my first novel had been as good as A Death of Honor.”
JOHN E. STITH (author of Redshift Rendezvous)
“A reader once told me that this part made her cry.”
Excerpted from A Death of Honor by Joe Clifford Faust. Copyright © 1987 by Joe Clifford Faust. Reprinted by permission of the author; no part of this excerpt may be reproduced without permission in writing from the author.
“What have you got for the kid?”
Bailey tilted his head to the bedroom and walked away. Payne followed.
“I’m sorry, Payne. I’m stuck.”
“You’re stuck? There’s only an hour left.”
“I tried, Payne. I really did. I tried to shrink one of my old jumpsuits. It turned into soup. I don’t have anything I could change his face with.”
“At least you tried.”
“And now you. What are we going to do? You could stay here if you want.”
“Stop it,” Payne ordered. “I don’t want to put a crimp in your life. I’ll work something out. Maybe I could defect to the Japanese. They still had an embassy here, last I heard.”
“What would you do in Japan?”
“Catch a boat to Australia.”
“Too bad Trinina doesn’t have another paper.”
“Are you expecting one to fall from the sky?”
“In a way. I’ve been doing some thinking, Payne. They’re not going to let Nathan on that boat, no matter what kind of paper Trinina has. The Feds would take the captain on a felony.”
“That’s not covered by international law.”
“Do you think the government cares? So what if Australia stops speaking to us? They let Canada and Mexico stop, and they were neighbors. You think anyone’s going to care?”
“Bailey, we’re wasting time. We’ve got to find some way to smuggle that kid.”
Bailey’s face twitched.
Payne looked at him. Bailey’s eyes were suddenly animated, as if new light were burning his brain.
“Bailey, what’s wrong?”
“Yes,” Bailey cried, his voice an octave higher than before. “Smuggle!” He yanked the closet door open and began tossing out boxes.
“What are you talking about?”
Bailey backed out of the closet with an armload of fiberwood slabs. Across one was stenciled “ICARUS INDUSTRIES SOLAR PANELS (3).” Below it in red were arrows and “THIS SIDE UP.”
“Help me with these. They’re a bear to move.”
They weren’t heavy, but they were large and cumbersome. Bailey was barking orders for Payne to hold or adjust, and raced around the form inserting slats and twisting cotter pins until they were standing around a small crate.
Payne looked at it, horrified. “It looks like a coffin.”
“It’s the only choice, Payne. Nathan would fit right inside. I’m sure. He won’t have much room, but he’ll be able to breathe. If they follow the directions on the crate, they’ll keep this end up and he’ll stay on his feet. Once he’s on the boat, you can spring him. We’ll pad it with some blankets and give him a sandwich and a canteen of water. Maybe a small can to pee in. The bottom’s weighted, it’s not going to tip over. Most importantly, you’ll have the extra paper for yourself. You’ve got to do it.”
“No,” Payne said flatly. “It’s too dangerous.”
Bailey stabbed the crate with a finger. He was pointing at the words “USE NO HOOKS.”
“No,” Payne repeated.
Bailey set his jaw and opened the bedroom door. “Trinina, would you step in here a moment?”
Bailey pointed to the crate. “What do you think? It would free up a paper for Payne.”
Payne watched her face. “It’s too dangerous,” he said.
“Quiet,” Bailey ordered. “Let her make her own decision.”
“It looks awfully rough,” she said.
“We’ll line it with blankets.”
“We won’t know how they’ll move it or where it’s going to end up,” Payne said.
“They won’t be using any hooks.” Bailey looked at Trinina. “You’ve got the deciding vote.”
She ran her hand across the inside of the crate. “I can’t. We’re going to let Nathan decide.” She looked at Payne. “Agreed?”
Trinina disappeared and returned holding Nathan’s hand. She led him to the edge of the crate, and the four of them stood around it. Payne studied the boy. He would fit inside with room to spare.
Trinina knelt and cupped her son’s hand in hers. “Nathan.” She spoke clearly and slowly. “We have a chance for something very good to happen. We can make it so your father can come to Australia with us. Would you like that?”
“Yes,” he said.
“Okay. I want you to listen very carefully, because this is very important. Your father can come with us if you will hide in this box. It’s just the right size for you.”
“We’ll give you food and water,” Bailey said. “And a can to go to the bathroom in. You’ll have blankets to keep warm.”
Nathan considered this.
“It’s going to be very dangerous,” Payne said. “You’re going to have to be a very brave little boy. The box might get bumped, and it might hurt, but you can’t make any sounds. If you talk or sing or cry because you’re hurt, you’ll get caught and you’ll have to go back to Mother America. They won’t let you visit us anymore. You might be in
that box for a long time, so it’ll be very hard.”
“Do I have to go in the box?”
“No,” said Payne. “If you don’t want to, we can do something else.”
“Can you come if I don’t go in the box?”
“No. I might be able to come later, but I might not be able to come at all.”
“You’ll have to be brave no matter what,” Trinina said. “It’ll be two different kinds of brave.”
Nathan moved to the box and looked in through one of the cracks. Bailey pulled the lid off and tilted it down so he could look in.
“Hello!” the boy shouted. Had it been any other time, the three of them would have laughed. When he emerged from the experiment, he looked around at them, his face locked with the firmness of a decision.
“I want to go in the box,” he said.
There was no reaction from the grown-ups. He studied each individual face.
“Hey,” he said. “Why is everybody crying?”