by Ronald DeFeo

Publisher:  The Other Press

Pub Date:  
September, 2011

Format:   Hardcover


Cool, distant, and chillingly reliable, an American-born hit man working in Europe is beginning to tire of his bloody profession. As he wonders for the first time about the world beyond his targets, he develops an unexpected passion for art and architecture. Refreshed and full of energy, he attempts to balance his career with his newfound interests. But when he is sent on the most difficult job of his life, he may be forced to choose between them once and for all.

“Mr. King” is the name his bosses use when they phone this professional contract killer about his next job. His response: “You have the wrong number.” But, of course, they have the right one—the whole routine is just a signal for him to get to an outside booth. Though he is a remarkable marksman and always has been absolutely reliable, he finds himself becoming increasingly distracted from his murderous task. After an unusually prolonged job in Paris and a botched hit in Sussex, he's ordered by his “firm” to take a leave of absence, and is soon whisked away from his London residence and sent to his native New York for a supposed holiday. Back on home turf, he cultivates his growing interest in art and culture, gobbling up books on Georgian architecture, visiting The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Frick Collection, and carrying a postcard of Turner's Mortlake Terrace, Early Summer Morning around with him everywhere he goes. At one point he even visits his childhood home in hopes of reassuring himself of the distance he's achieved from his painful beginnings. Though his profession is exotic, his inner struggle is all too relatable: how to cope with a difficult childhooud, balance work and life, and decide upon a true identity?

Unfortunately, his respite can't last forever, and soon he's sent to Barcelona, burdened with another hit—perhaps the most challenging of his career.
Set in Paris, London, New York, and Barcelona, CALLING MR. KING is at once a colorful, suspenseful tale laced with dark humor and a psychological portrait of a man attempting, against the odds, to become someone else. 


 “Ronald De Feo's Calling Mr. King is the smartest novel I've read in years with a hit man in the leading role. His hit man, a very original, quirky hit man, takes us on an amazing side trip of the world's capitals, the world's art and architecture, which makes this knowledgeable hit man irresistible.” –Barbara Probst Solomon, US cultural correspondent of El País

“A terrific start. First-time novelist De Feo hooks us….The author also has a great premise: that a hired gun’s need for a career change might take him in a wholly unexpected direction….De Feo is definitely a newcomer to watch.”– Kirkus

“Calling Mr. King is an entertaining tale built on what happens when a high-end hit man begins to feel the awakening of an intellectual life. Ronald De Feo invites the reader to play for a while in a seldom-explored part of the borderland between sanity and insanity.” –Thomas Perry, author of The Butcher’s Boy





Excerpt from CALLING MR. KING:

They didn't tell me much. They never do. But they did say that the mark would be on a business trip. Well, what kind of business was all of this? As the time went by, I became absolutely convinced that he knew his days were numbered. And since he knew, he wanted to get a lot of living done before the end. What I was watching then, all of this peculiar energy, was very simply a pathetic attempt at a last fling.
          In my line of work you can't feel sorry for anyone, and I didn't feel sorry for him. In fact, I began to resent him. He was aware of me--not me specifically, of course, but the idea of me in general, a stranger out there who was going to take his life. And he decided to toy with his killer, go out with a certain dignity and courage, throw his zest for life in my face, so to speak. What a fool. There was nothing to prove here, nothing to win at this point. He had lost the moment they had taken out a contract. 
          Maybe he was just plain stupid. I'd dealt with stupid marks before … But this man in Paris was something else again. He had a certain bearing. Thin, trim, with a healthy head of perfectly cut gray hair. You couldn't miss it. It gleamed in the sun like polished silver. You could see he had taste and style--finely tailored, a different outfit each day. A real Continental. A killer with the ladies. Probably a killer, period. There was a certain intelligence, an alertness about him. Yes, this man knew exactly what he was doing. And although he seemed a bit past his prime now and rather harmless, I bet he'd been one clever, nasty bastard in his heyday. After all, they don't want you dead for nothing.


World Rights:  The Other Press

Dramatic RightsContact Lukeman

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