THE BOOK: Reptile Wines
PUBLISHED IN: September 2016
THE AUTHOR: John Hewitt
THE EDITOR: My manuscripts are always reviewed by a respected editor as well as several professional copy editors before publication.
THE PUBLISHER: Pump Island Tales
SUMMARY: When a leading family in California’s wine-obsessed Napa Valley confronts a rebel daughter they call “The Reptile” she launches her own label, and ignites a revolution that’s out of this world.
Wine country tour guide Miles Trout vows to find the truth behind the suspiciously public death of his cousin, Reptile Wines co-owner, Lucky Tarpitz. When the corpse disappears, Miles is pulled into a dark world of loan sharks, money launderers, charlatan diviners and overzealous federal agents. Lucky’s scheming mother Angelina, the high-voltage spark behind Reptile Wines, continually leads Miles astray while Lucky’s distraught relatives mount a nonstop campaign of booby traps and ambushes.
In his crazed search, Miles spends extravagantly on Lucky’s lazy racehorse Love Blisters, dances with a witch and carries on a stumbling love affair with female jockey and former exotic dancer, Pixie Limber.
Then Miles strikes pay dirt by unearthing the hideout of an allegedly dead winemaker and astronomer who’s been inviting space aliens to the wine country. The ATF and FBI have their man, but Miles knows one more place south of the border where Lucky may be resting—but is he dead or alive?
THE BACK STORY: Miles Trout is related to a character in my 2015 novel, One Shoe. The Trout are adept at overcoming upsets and setbacks, while navigating their peculiar circumstances. A little clueless about cause and effect, but endearing to readers and other characters, the Trout’s are an amusing clan, if a little blind to irony.
Reptile Wines was a chance to put Miles Trout up against the self-conscious and a bit pretentious DellaContorni family, and have some fun with the setting in the Northern California Napa Valley Wine Country. The story took a cosmic turn when I read a news item about aliens in the French wine country in 1954.
“On September 15, 1954, a New York Times Paris dispatch said: “A spate of reports of extraterrestrial visitors to France, coming from regions where the wine is more noted for its strength than is vintage, spread yesterday with the speed of a space cadet.”
It went on to say that the storied French wine village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape passed an ordinance forbidding the landing of flying saucers in the area. Since then, none have been reported.
Whether the village council believed this was real, or just treated the news as a marketing opportunity for grape growers, I had a perfect zany plot twist.
WHY THIS TITLE: The title refers to the snaky and conniving DellaContorni heir apparent, Angelina, whose pastime is embarrassing her heritage as she cultivates her bohemian lifestyle. One of her many revenge plans is to form the brand “Reptile Wines” as a competitor to the family cellar. Hence, she is called “the snake” — which is a fine emblem.
WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Reptile Wines is an entertaining escape vehicle for readers who might have a passing or professional interest in the rigid world of wines and vineyards, or readers who prefer to cheer on the successes of an underling in the tourism hustle.
“An outrageously weird yet delightfully charming wine-country tale…Hewitt’s prose, littered with deliciously bizarre dialogue and other vivid details, makes his larger-than-life world fit for the big screen.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Another Hewitt romp, fast-paced and funny!” —Laurie McAndish King, author of the travel anthology, “Lost, Kidnapped and Eaten Alive”
AUTHOR PROFILE: A native of the Los Angeles area, I went to the San Francisco Bay Area to study at Santa Clara University, then earned a masters in journalism at Columbia and later a doctorate at San Francisco State University. I’ve worked as a newspaper, magazine and television reporter, editor, and documentary film producer. Over the past 40 years my films and books have explored a mosaic of cultures and nationalities, drawn from extensive travel in Mexico, Central and South America, Europe, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Reptile Wines is my fifth novel, others include One Shoe, When a Gold Rush is Not Enough (2015), set in the Northern California Sierra foothills, and a trilogy from Mexico’s Baja Peninsula: Drone Baloney (2014), Under the Padre’s Thumb (2012) and Stranger in Baja (2015)
AUTHOR COMMENTS: I find the Napa Valley a fascinating arena for characters that all depend on two industries—vineyards and tourism. When it’s harvest time in Napa, normal life subsides and things get crazy. Also, with 500 wineries in competition within a 30-mile patch of land, there is a great compulsion to do only what has been successful in the past. This conformity allows renegade characters to shine.
SAMPLE CHAPTER: A short excerpt is available at John Hewitt’s website: or read a full chapter via Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature, at https://www.amazon.com/dp/099770540X/ref=rdr_ext_tmb#reader_099770540X
LOCAL OUTLETS: Reptile Wines is available at independent bookstores in the San Francisco Bay area.
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Order Reptile Wines online at Amazon.
PRICE: $13.95 for Paperback and $4.99 for Kindle and eBook, online discounts available for both formats.