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"Phil Comer, on his 'All Write by Me' blog... Definitely worth a look-see." Chuck Sambuchino, Editor, Guide to Literary Agents, Writer’s Digest Books.

Ruby Cheeks

 A novel by Phil Comer
Ruby Cheeks, a novel by Phil Comer
I’m querying a novel, Ruby Cheeks, and where Ruby treads, trouble follows. Her son Russell Wheeler recounts her cheeky tale. Ruby abandoned him as a child apparently for a tilt-o-whirl circus life only to return forty years later, a painted tart expecting forgiveness and grace. Their quest to banish ghosts of the past leads back to her gothic hometown where innocent queries unleash Southern-fried calamity and "hot up" two cold-cases of murder.

Ruby's childhood friend Sheldon Smoot, a spirit guide, cross-dresses in imperial kimonos, and he knows closets, the ones where skeletons hang. A trio of bejeweled "Easter Egg Ladies" sport vintage haute couture and high pastel hair while dishing secrets and dangling clues to riches. Little in this madcap hothouse is as it appears; the heartrending betrayal and deception that the beautiful young Ruby fled are revealed in sobering flashback. But fate hangs upon an aging diva's pride and her son's unrequited angst, all that separates the two from a dazzling inheritance, belated loves and grace more brilliant than rubies washed from red Georgia clay.

Complete at 110,000 words, Ruby Cheeks is epic, Betty White meets Flannery O'Connor, borrowing an edgy twist from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, a dash of bitters from The Help and a liberal slosh of A Confederacy of Dunces' comic filial gin to pour a stout rickey.

A Confederacy of Dunces, one of my favorite books, won a Pulitzer. Published posthumously, the author killed himself right after visiting Flannery O’Conner in Milledgeville, Georgia. Her place, Andalusia, is just up the road from Sandtrap. John Kennedy Toole had given up hope of publishing, but his book survives as a tragicomic classic.


My beta readers, generally fellow writers, helped mold Ruby Cheeks. Some of their comments:

"Flannery O'Connor meets Rita Mae Brown for cocktails at Tennessee Williams'." (Betsy)

"Genuinely delicious scenes ripped straight from the Southern psyche have you laughing, crying, horrified, awed and engaged all at once. Ambivalence gets no better." (Betty)

"Funny. Sexy. Poignant. Ruby Cheeks is cheeky. The Easter Egg Ladies are pure genius." (Josh)

"This book has a place and will find it. It seems to belong in that literature of Faulkner, Tennessee Williams and David Sedaris, or John Kennedy Toole." (Jonathan)

"Sustained melodrama. The high tragedy is hilarious, except when it rends your heart." (Franco)

"Passed out during Daddy's death scene, I simply forgot to breathe. More, please." (Nelle McFarther, past president Southestern Writers Association)

"Entertaining. Compelling. Unforgettable characters. Sheldon Smoot is a hoot. Dialog throughout TRUE and buddy, that's tough to do." (Cappy Hall Rearick, editor, humor columnist and past president Southestern Writers Association)

Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author, wrote: "Love the voice, the humor, the writing is strong... I think you have something special here."


"Little did I know where it was leading when Ruby Cheeks returned after all those years. But then, I wasn't a particularly apt student of the Greek tragedies. She worshiped old gods, and her life unfolded according to their rules. What moderns deem coincidence, the ancients revered as Fate."

"The beautician's 'pink' rinse came out candy apple henna. For the next two weeks Ruby Cheeks was gonna look like a sharpei jumped the back fence and got with a tie-dyed poodle."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"I stroked my chin and nodded to the mop-headed kid in a hairnet manning the seafood case, 'Give her half-a-pound of guilt-felta-fish.' 

The bug-eyed fellow crinkled his brow into a question mark dotted by the hairnet button, 'Huh? Ain't got none of that neither.'

I said, 'Half-pound of whatever. Nothing too expensive.'

Momma thrust arthritic wrists into the air. 'Oh my cod! Don't you clowns have fish? I've haddock up to here! Right up to my blowhole!'

After years with the circus Ruby Cheeks shoveled a bottomless pit of slapstick dung."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Swathed in buttercup chiffon and saffron toque, the ovoid yellow Easter Egg Lady rose to her feet with difficulty. A foundation girdled ample breasts, epic belly and bumper bottom into one flesh; trussed like a holiday bird teetering on drumsticks, puffy eyelids drew to slits as a pudgy bejeweled hand levitated, rocks side-up; her wattles wiggled welcome."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Young Ruby's brother Luther revered the bloodied butcher knife stroking it in adoration, "'I have been given a glittering blade. Ah! It is made like lightning. Polished for slaughter. We shall make mirth!' Thus spake the prophet Ezekiel." Luther grinned, his white teeth against a face splattered with blood, satisfied with what he'd accomplished.

Annie scolded, "Luther Turnipseed, there is not the least thing mirthful 'bout what you did! You have made a mess in this kitchen! That's what you've done!"

Ruby screamed, "Luther! What did you do to Daddy?"

"I kilt the son of a bitch. What's the matter, Sister? You gonna miss his prick?"

"Shut up!" Annie snapped. "We do not talk common in this house!" She whipped a clean handkerchief from beneath the cuff of her sleeve like a magic trick and covered her nose, "Look at this mess! Oh, mercy! That smell! Brother, I didn't know you knew scripture. Why couldn't you come up with something decent? Wholesome?"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Ruby Cheeks said, 'When we got to the turn, Dub asked, 'Which way's Macon?' I guess I geed when I shoulda' hawed.'

Dub bristled, 'It was dark. You know I don't see good at night. That was East Beach Causeway you put us on, Woman! Not the one for the mainland.'

She crossed wrists primly on her knee, 'You were behind the wheel.'

'You were in my lap,' Dub snorted.

Bewildered I said, 'It's the beach! You drove smack into the Atlantic Ocean!'"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Spirit guide Sheldon Smoot assists Ruby Cheeks and Russell Wheeler on their quest:

"'Grace grows like polished loadstone, first rough. By and by dust, a spark, then her gleam. A perfect reflection drawing everything to her.'

Momma said, 'What kinda fairy dust you smoking, you old fool?'

'Grace is wrought in full measure from sacrifice and suffering. You have endured enough, Ruby Cheeks. All your life you've wrestled demons. Time you tackle angels.'"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Sheldon instructed as he majestically ascended the stairs, 'Give the dust in the Baccarat tumblers a blowjob. Blow 'job' only sounds like work. Miserly pay, the wages of sin.' He paused on the landing and turned flouncing his kimono while pushing up thick glasses with a middle finger, 'Tighten your lapstraps. It's going to be a bumpy flight.'"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"The tip of Cecil Wheeler's boxy tongue moistened his plump lips, 'I walked all over this town looking for this one house. I have found it.'

For once young Ruby didn't play it easy, 'Looks like you did. What is it you want?'

Her mother Ada Louise Turnipseed hovered near the foot of the stairs in the back hall resting a hand upon her abdomen swollen with child.

Cecil dropped his voice not to be overheard, 'I've got to get me some more of you, Girl. If I don't, I'll have a heart attack and die.'

Ruby bit her lip, 'I'd sooner you be alive than dead. Your picture's in all the papers.'"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"'I found a lump,' the child's mother said.

Her tone started a shudder in Russell's stomach that spread to quake his body. He squeezed his teddy bear; it mooed.

'Wha... Wha... What's a lump?' Russell stammered.

'I found a lump in my womb. It's a tumor. I... I felt it just now -- a tumor the size of a small melon. I'm going to die.' Her eyes were glassy; glints of tears streaked her cheeks. 'You'll have to be a big boy and get along without your Momma.'"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

From Ruby Cheeks' ebullient "Preachification" eulogy for Sheldon Smoot, a veteran of Occupied Japan who subsequently cross-dressed as a geisha:

"It's not easy being plural. Hard to pull that off.

Sheldon is not here in this flag-draped coffin we salute today. He flies with the angels. Soars with the gossamer fairies. As he always did.

Sheldon lived his life exactly as his God made him, one kimono at a time, putting one geta in front of the other. Giving the rest of us pause to ponder, 'What hath God wrought?'

God wrought Sheldon Smoot and his ever-present companion Miss Maggie-san.

Both were my sisters. Take off your getas. We stand on holy ground."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Ethan and I kissed. At length I broke back, 'I love you. I'm the luckiest soul alive.'

He rested his chin on my shoulder, 'But, your mother just died. Now Ruby Cheeks is haunting our house.'"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Thanks for your interest in RUBY CHEEKS and for your visit to "All Write By Me”!

Ruby Cheeks, a novel by Phil Comer

Feel free to drop a note to: philcomer [at] aol [period] com.

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© Phil Comer
Disclaimer: Ruby Cheeks is fiction; characters and events are none you or I know.

Text is copyright material of the author. First three photos by Phil Comer, models in first, Jessica Walden and Anthony Ennis, second, Sandtrap crape myrtles (trunks resemble human muscle), in third, model Mary Adriance. Closing Ruby Cheeks photo by Maryann Bates, models Jessica Walden and Anthony Ennis. Unless stated otherwise, links are for information and not the property of the author.