The Snake Eater (Brady Coyne Series #12)

The Snake Eater (Brady Coyne Series #12)

by William G. Tapply

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Investigating the murder of a Vietnam veteran, Boston lawyer Brady Coyne uncovers a military conspiracy in this “good, fast read” (Publishers Weekly).
 Daniel McCloud may grow marijuana, but as far as he’s concerned, that does not make him a criminal. A Vietnam veteran still suffering from exposure to Agent Orange, he’s found no help from the government and no relief outside of homegrown grass. When the local police in his small New England town bust him for possession, a friend reaches out to Brady Coyne, a Boston lawyer who usually works with New England’s upper class. Brady is readying Daniel’s defense when the case is inexplicably dropped. He’s just beginning to wonder why when the veteran is found murdered.
McCloud had written a memoir, but the manuscript is nowhere to be found. Someone killed the author to keep it from ever seeing the light of day. As Brady digs into McCloud’s time in the army, he finds that this troubled vet made some enemies in the jungle.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781480427372
Publisher: Road
Publication date: 08/06/2013
Series: Brady Coyne Series , #12
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 273
Sales rank: 335,008
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

William G. Tapply (1940–2009) was an American author best known for writing legal thrillers. A lifelong New Englander, he graduated from Amherst and Harvard before going on to teach social studies at Lexington High School. He published his first novel, Death at Charity’s Point, in 1984. A story of death and betrayal among Boston Brahmins, it introduced crusading lawyer Brady Coyne, a fishing enthusiast whom Tapply would follow through twenty-five more novels, including Follow the Sharks, The Vulgar Boatman, and the posthumously published Outwitting Trolls.
Besides writing regular columns for Field and Stream, Gray’s Sporting Journal, and American Angler, Tapply wrote numerous books on fishing, hunting, and life in the outdoors. He was also the author of The Elements of Mystery Fiction, a writer’s guide. He died in 2009, at his home in Hancock, New Hampshire.  
William G. Tapply (1940–2009) was an American author best known for writing legal thrillers. A lifelong New Englander, he graduated from Amherst and Harvard before going on to teach social studies at Lexington High School. He published his first novel, Death at Charity’s Point, in 1984. A story of death and betrayal among Boston Brahmins, it introduced crusading lawyer Brady Coyne, a fishing enthusiast whom Tapply would follow through twenty-five more novels, including Follow the Sharks, The Vulgar Boatman, and the posthumously published Outwitting Trolls.

Besides writing regular columns for Field and Stream, Gray’s Sporting Journal, and American Angler, Tapply wrote numerous books on fishing, hunting, and life in the outdoors. He was also the author of The Elements of Mystery Fiction, a writer’s guide. He died in 2009, at his home in Hancock, New Hampshire.  

Read an Excerpt

The Snake Eater

A Brady Coyne Mystery

By William G. Tapply

Copyright © 1993 William G. Tapply
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-2737-2


It was the summer's first heat wave, and I was putting my pinstripe away for the weekend when Charlie McDevitt called.

"Coyne," I said. I wedged the phone against my shoulder and sat on the edge of my bed to tug at my pantlegs.

"Hey," he said.

"What's up?"

"Friend of mine needs a lawyer."

"I litigate, therefore I am," I said. "My motto."

"Ha," he said. "I know you. You take on new clients the way Red Auerbach signs rejects off the waiver wire."

"Rarely," I said. "You're right."

"Anyway, this one's criminal, not civil. But he needs you."

"Tell me." I dropped my pants in a heap on the floor. I lay back on my bed and lit a cigarette.

Charlie cleared his throat. "Guy name of Daniel McCloud got picked up this afternoon in Wilson Falls, charged with possession, possession with intent, and trafficking."

"Where in hell is Wilson Falls?"

"Little nothing town out in the Connecticut Valley. More or less across the river from Northampton."

"They holding him?"

"Yes. Arraignment won't be till Monday."

"Was he?"

"What, trafficking?"

"Yes. Was he trafficking?"

"He grew marijuana in his backyard. The cops came with a warrant, ripped up his garden, filled several trash bags. Not to mention all the incriminating odds and ends they found in the house."

"Trafficking includes cultivation," I said. "Fifty pounds means trafficking. That's a felony worth two-and-a-half to fifteen. Must've been a major-league garden. What about priors?"

"One year suspended in '79 for possession. He also admitted to sufficient facts in '76. That's supposed to be sealed, of course, but…"

"But," I said, "the court sees it on his record anyway. Which makes this his third time up." I paused to stub out my cigarette, then said, "Sorry, pal. No deal. Friend or no friend, I'm not defending some drug dealer. I don't need that kind of business."

"He's no dealer, Brady. He grows it for himself. He's sick. It helps him. It's the only thing that helps him." Sure.

"Really," said Charlie. "Daniel doesn't deal. He needs you. This is a favor for me."

"He needs a good criminal lawyer, all right," I said. "So why me?"

"You'll like Daniel. And you're good."

"Christ, you know how much criminal work I've done lately?"

"I know what you can do, Brady. All those wills and divorces must drive you batshit after a while."

"That they do. So what's this Daniel McCloud to you?"

"He's just this quiet guy from Georgia who tried to get some money out of Uncle Sam, which is how I met him. He spent six years in the jungles of Indochina, got himself Agent Oranged, and not a penny for his misery. He runs a little bait-and-tackle shop on the banks of the Connecticut, likes to fish and hunt and hang out in the woods. Prison would kill him. Literally."

"And they nailed him growing fifty pounds of marijuana?"

"Looks that way."

"I don't know what the hell you expect me to do."

"You can start by getting him out on bail."

"Wilson Falls," I said, "is a long drive from Boston."

"So you'd better get an early start," said Charlie.

"Um," I said. "Tell me something."

"What's that?"

"This is one of your pro bono deals, right?"


"He can afford me?"

"I think so, yes."

"Be damned," I muttered.

A cop brought Daniel McCloud into the little conference room in the Wilson Falls police station on Saturday morning. He sat down at the scarred wooden table and looked at me without curiosity, gratitude, anger, or fear. Without, in fact, any expression whatsoever. Except, maybe, patience.

I held my hand to him. "Brady Coyne. I'm a lawyer."

He took my hand briefly. His handshake was neither robust nor enthusiastic, but I sensed great strength in it. He said nothing.

"Charlie McDevitt asked me to come," I said.

"Charlie." He nodded. "A good man."

"He didn't call me until about seven last night. This was the earliest I could make it."

He shrugged.

"I hope you weren't worried?"


"You know…"

"I was waiting." He said it as if waiting and worrying were not activities that could be conducted simultaneously.

"Did you sleep okay?"

"Nay. I didn't sleep at all. I hardly ever do."

"I won't be able to get you out of here until Monday," I said. "They don't do arraignments on weekends."

"I know that," said Daniel. "That's why they waited until Friday afternoon to come for me.

It's that farkin' Oakley."


"The cop who arrested me."

"What about him?"

Daniel jerked one shoulder in a shrug. "He didn't have to wait until Friday afternoon. You see?"

He spoke softly, and I thought I detected just the hint of a Scottish burr mingling into his southern drawl. His voice was almost musical.

I shrugged. "I'm not sure."

"He doesn't like me."

"Why not?"

He shook his head. "I don't know. Maybe it's that my woman is black. See, Mr. Coyne, Wilson Falls is a small town. Everybody knows everybody else. Who they live with. What they grow in their garden. How much they'd enjoy a weekend in jail. He could've arrested me anytime."

"Well, regardless of all that," I said, "the first thing we've got to do is get you out of here. Can you get your hands on some cash?"

"I have some resources." He smiled. He had, I noticed, terrible teeth. They were gray and stubbed and gapped. Several were missing. Later he would tell me, "You sometimes forget to floss regularly in the jungle."

"I'll try to get you out on personal recognizance," I told him. "I doubt if it will work. They'll want to go high. The courts are making examples of their drug cases these days. I'll need to know some things."

"I could use a smoke," Daniel said suddenly.

"Oh, I'm sorry." I put my pack of Winstons onto the table. "Help yourself."

He glanced down at the cigarettes, then looked up at me and shrugged.

"Oh, Christ," I said. "You can't smoke that stuff here."

"It's my medicine," he said, and that's when I first noticed that beneath the table that separated us his right leg was jiggling furiously. I looked hard into his face and saw a tiny muscle twitching and jumping at the corner of his eye. Behind his mask of calm, Daniel McCloud was, I realized, in agony.

"Charlie told me you encountered Agent Orange over there."


"That's how you met him?"

"Yes. We thought our government would want to take care of us."

"And it didn't work out."

"We got nowhere. Charlie tried to help. Good fella, Charlie."


He shrugged. "Sweeney and I. Sweeney's one of my buddies. We were S.F. together, got burned together, and—"

"S.F.?" I blurted.

He smiled. "S.F. Special Forces."

"You were a Green Beret?"

He rolled his eyes. "We wore the farkin' hats. A green beret is a hat, and it's a book and a movie and a song. But it's not a man. We didn't even like 'em. Nobody put 'em on except when they had to. Anyway, Sweeney and I tried to get some medical help from the government. But we didn't have cancer, we weren't dead, or even, as far as they would admit, dying. We couldn't prove what we got was from the Orange. So we had no case."

"And marijuana helps you."

"Aye. It helps the itching and the pain. It's the only thing that helps."

"How do you feel now?"

"Right this minute?"


He exhaled deeply. "It's driving me crazy, Mr. Coyne."

"How much do you smoke?"

"I need six to eight sticks a day."

"My God!"

He shrugged. Daniel shrugged often, I was beginning to notice. It seemed to be his primary form of expression. When he shrugged, he gave his shoulders a tiny twitch and darted his eyes upward. It wasn't a very dramatic shrug. "It's the only thing that'll help," he said.

"What about the trafficking charge?" I said. "Do you sell it?"

He leaned across the table and gave me a hard look. "I smoke it. What do you think I am?"

"A drug dealer, of course."

"Never," he said quietly.

I shrugged. "Charlie told me you had money."

"Aye. I have some. That's not where I got it."

"If I'm going to represent you, I've got to know."

He peered at me, then nodded. "I don't sell it, Mr. Coyne."

"Do you share it? The grass?"

"Aye. With Sweeney. He needs it, too, same as me. And sometimes Cammie. She's my woman. Just a stick now and then. She keeps me company with it."

Daniel McCloud did not fit my mental image of a Green Beret. He stood no more than five-eight, and he looked overweight in his baggy chino pants. His sandy hair was thin and uncombed, his face pockmarked, and his eyes were a washed-out blue. He wore steel-rimmed glasses. I guessed he was in his late forties, although he looked ten years older than that.

He looked like a lot of other country boys I have known who get old early in life.

He also looked like a man with a terrible disease who had spent a sleepless night in jail without his medicine.

"At the arraignment Monday," I said, "I'll have to argue for reasonable bail. I need to know some things."

He nodded.

"How long have you lived in Wilson Falls?"

"Almost twenty years."

"Own your own home?"


"And a business?"

"I've got a shop. I sell bait and tackle, bow-hunting stuff."

"You're a fisherman?"

He smiled. "Aye. I grew up in the outdoors."

"I love fishing myself. Fly-fishing, mostly. Fly-fishing for trout."

"I look at it a little different," he said. "I go after whatever is there, and I catch 'em any way I can. I like to improvise. Same way I hunt. Bow 'n' arrows, snares, slingshots. It's how I was brought up." He closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them, I saw in them for the first time a hint of feeling, something other than the pain, although I couldn't identify that feeling. Wistfulness, maybe. Or loneliness. "My daddy was a poacher down in Monroe, Georgia," he said softly. "He taught me the woods. He killed deer with bows and arrows and spears he made himself, so the wardens wouldn't hear him. They all knew he did it. But he never once got caught. That was the fun he got out of it. That was his sport. Outwitting the wardens. Fishing and hunting weren't sports for him. He was a Scotsman. Knew the value of things. My daddy took game and fish when he needed it to feed us. Never more, never less. He taught me how to survive in the woods. I knew all about survival before I ever got to Fort Bragg. How to eat whatever you could find, how to disguise your smell, how to be invisible, how to distinguish all the different sounds in the woods, what it means when there are no sounds. My daddy made me eat bugs when I was six. After bugs, any kind of meat's pretty good. Better when you can cook it, but good anytime." Daniel shrugged. "He used to tell me, 'Son,' he'd say, 'they make the farkin' law because they need general guidelines. They try to hit an average with it. But that don't mean it's right for a particular person. Maybe a deer a year per man is a good guideline. But it ain't right for us. You've got to figger what's right for you. That's your law.'"

He looked at me and smiled. He was, after his fashion, giving me his defense. I guessed this was a long speech for Daniel McCloud.

"Like growing your own marijuana," I said. "That's your law."

He shook his head. "God's law. Not mine. My daddy told me that if it don't hurt anybody else, and it helps you, then it's God's law you should do it. He never broke God's law. Shit, neither did I. I guess we both broke man's law some. Difference is, my daddy never got caught."

We talked a while longer. Daniel told me what I needed to know to handle his arraignment on Monday. I tried to explain how it would go. "We'll wait around for a long time. Eventually it'll be your turn. They'll read the charges against you. We'll argue about your bail. The judge will set it, and if you can make it you'll be released. Then you and I can start thinking about the probable-cause hearing."

I told him they'd bring him to the district court in Northampton on Monday morning and I'd meet him there. I told him it was a lousy deal that he had to spend the weekend in jail, that if he'd been arrested any day but Friday or Saturday he'd be arraigned and out on bail the next day. He repeated that he knew "that farkin' Oakley" had come for him on Friday afternoon on purpose, because he had it in for him and wanted him to suffer. I asked him if he was suffering. He nodded and said yes, as a matter of fact, he was suffering terribly, and he said it in such a way to make me understand that he was familiar with suffering and tried not to let it bother him. I asked him if I could bring him something. The only thing that would help, he said, would be a few sticks of cannabis.

I told him I didn't think I'd be able to do that for him.

When we stood up and shook hands, Daniel said, "Can you get me out of here?"

I hesitated. Bail would come high. But I nodded and said, "Sure."

The smile he gave me showed me what I hadn't seen before—that Daniel McCloud, survivor of the terrors of the Southeast Asia jungles, was scared.


I arrived at the Northampton District Court on Monday morning for the nine o'clock criminal session. I sat on one of the benches among the lawyers, witnesses, and accused citizens, feeling tired and headachy from getting up early and driving the two hours from Boston to Northampton—a long straight monotonous shot out the Mass Pike to Springfield, then a quick jog north on 91.

I wished I'd had the foresight to sneak a cup of coffee into the courtroom with me.

At the table in front of the bench the clerk shuffled a large stack of manila folders. A pair of probation officers whispered at their table.

About ten after nine a uniformed officer led six or eight bleary-eyed men into the prisoners' dock. Daniel was the last of them. He looked out of place among the others, young men all, the weekend collection of lockups. Sobriety test and Breathalyzer flunkees, I guessed.

I jerked my chin at Daniel. He nodded to me.

His leg, I observed, was jiggling madly.

Then a side door opened and the judge came in. One of the officers said, "All rise."

We all rose.

A voice from the back of the courtroom mumbled, "Hear ye, hear ye," told us the Honorable Anthony Ropek was presiding, and concluded, "God save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."

The judge sat. The officer said, "Be seated." The rest of us sat. The clerk leaned against the bench and conferred with the judge for at least five minutes. High drama.

Then the clerk returned to his table and began reciting names. To each one, the probation officers responded. Usually one of them would say, "Terminate and discharge." A couple of times they said, "Request default warrant." They directed their words to the judge. The clerk, however, ran the show.

It was all routine court business, and it gave me a chance to size up Judge Anthony Ropek. He was small and gray and businesslike as, with an unintelligible word and small gesture, he repeatedly gave his official endorsements to the requests of the probation officers. He was an old-timer, I guessed, still in district court after all these years, which meant that he'd probably been passed over for superior court or federal seats enough times to know that he wasn't going anywhere else. This I took to be a positive omen for Daniel. Judge Ropek didn't strike me as a man with a motive to build a reputation at the expense of an ailing Vietnam vet who grew his own marijuana.

After the probation cases came the weekend motor vehicle cases. All involved drunk driving. Most of them pleaded guilty, were fined, had their licenses revoked, and were enrolled in rehabilitation classes.

We heard a malicious destruction case. A mason with a long unpronounceable Italian name was accused of knocking down the brick walls he had constructed at a new condominium complex because the contractor had fired him halfway through the job. The prosecutor, a young female assistant district attorney, built her case entirely on the testimony of the contractor, corroborated by two witnesses, that the mason had cursed and uttered oblique threats when he was let go, and had thrust his arm from the window of his pickup truck and extended his middle finger as he drove away. Her implied argument, simply, was: Who else could have done it?

Nobody had seen him at the scene of the crime since the afternoon he was fired, the only point the defense attorney bothered to emphasize in his cross-examination of the witnesses.


Excerpted from The Snake Eater by William G. Tapply. Copyright © 1993 William G. Tapply. Excerpted by permission of
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The Snake Eater (Brady Coyne Series #12) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
prpl_reader_services on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lawyer Brady Coyne gets caught up with the case of Daniel McCloud, a Vietnam vet accused of growing pot in his backyard. The case deepens when he is mysteriously acquitted, gives Brady a book he's written and wants published, and several people get murdered. Set in New England, the book has great twists and turns and Brady is an affable main character. Recommended! LS