Set against a 1969 psychedelic love-in backdrop, The Girl From Long Guyland is a psychological thriller shared through the eyes of Laila Levin when decades later, an unsolved murder pulls her reluctantly into her past. A dramatic collision of then and now entwining family, marriage, profession and ethics.
Laila enjoys a successful marriage and a thriving career in Austin, Texas. When her company announces a layoff, she is caught between an unscrupulous CEO and her promiscuous boss. Then news of her college roommate’s suicide stirs up an old love triangle and dark secret from her past.
Suddenly, it’s 1969 again and Laila’s left her sheltered Long Island home for college in Connecticut. She’s tempted by the sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll that rule her generation and gets swept up in a deceptive love triangle and initiated into an unethical hippie family leading to tragedy.
Laila must now juggle the demands of her perplexed husband, her successful career, and her baby boomer past, endangering her survival and challenging her conscience. She learns that the lines between right and wrong are often blurred, and sometimes you have to risk everything to be true to yourself.
The Girl From Long Guyland has been called everything from, Gone Girl in the sixties, to memoir-meets-thriller, and I feel that Kirkus really nailed the theme in their review: “While effective as a page turner, the novel also tells a timeless, universal tale of a woman’s journey toward self-acceptance.”
Lost in Texas
Austin, Texas, 2012
A couple dozen stars and the eye of a yellow moon pierce light through a sky filled with smoke. I look out the broken window to the ground below. Crumpled in the weeds is a lifeless body with red-flecked eyes, a bushy mustache, and sweet smile.
Vapor seeps into the room. I can barely breathe. Ben wraps his arms around me as I weep. Denise lies in a catatonic state perched on the bed. Why is she only wearing her bra and panties?
Chris stumbles inside the room. His eyes glow like diamonds. He cranes his head out the window. “We gotta do something, man.”
“I’ll call for an ambulance,” I say.
Ben gulps, “That’s not a good idea.”
“We have to,” I insist. “For Godsakes.”
He’s dead, Laila,” Chris says.
Tears sting my eyes.
WITH A JOLT, I awake whimpering. The nightmare has infested my dreams for years. It may be time to see a shrink.
The anxiety subsides when my husband Eduardo arrives with a cappuccino and the morning paper. “Are you okay? It sounded like you were crying.”
I clear my throat. “No, no, I’m fine. Just a dream, I guess.” I’ve never discussed these recurring nightmares with him. Eduardo’s got his own problems. He was recently laid off in a corporate downsize and refuses to talk about it. There’s lots of tension in our home right now. Maybe we should both see a shrink.
From our king-size Tempur-Pedic bed, I sip the coffee and stare at a cloudless sky and the sapphire water of Lake Travis. The serenity of the moment is interrupted by the sound of NPR news blaring from my alarm clock. Time to go to work. I shower and dress for a managers’ conference forty miles away.
AN HOUR LATER, I enter a pavilion filled with mounted animal heads and good old boys, and wonder how this counter-culture Long Island girl ended up in Texas. Yes, it’s Austin, home of tree huggers and music lovers, but I’m mystified by the path my life has taken.
The Hobbs brothers, proud owners of the Burnet County Landfill and Exotic Park where LBJ Electric holds its annual manager retreat, greet me with toothy Texas grins and matching Stetson hats. “How y’all doing today, darlin’? Welcome to our home.”
I flash a smile but it pains me to know these men are the proud hunters of the dead animals in the hall. It gives me pleasure imagining their heads mounted next to the trophies.
As I head to a long pine table and retrieve my white-sticky badge with the letters LAILA LEVIN printed in magic marker, Darlene McIntire, dressed business-gorgeous in a navy suit and cleavage-leaking blouse, approaches me and waves. Darlene is an upper-level manager who advocates for women in the company and played a key role in my promotion from Database Analyst to I.T. Solutions Manager two years ago. “Meet me in the little girls room at break, hon,” she whispers. “There’s something I want to share with you.”
During the morning, two hundred LBJ managers and I feign interest in long-winded corporate presentations. One of the executives reminds us that DIVERSITY is one of our company’s “Foundation Values.” Right. As one of only twelve women in the room, I try to look at the bright side: short lines to the ladies room.
A bald guy grabs the microphone and informs everyone it’s time for a break. Conversations revolve around Longhorns and Aggies, and of course, the beloved Cowboys. Go Tony Romo!
With nothing of substance to add to these discussions, I dash to the ladies room where I find Darlene at the mirror applying a fresh coat of mascara. She smiles at me. “Nice outfit.”
“Thanks.” My reflection reveals a contrast of wild curly hair with the Ralph Lauren suit and high-heeled boots I bought at Dillard’s yesterday. Like most in I.T., my preference is jeans and sneakers.
Three coats later, Darlene pops the mascara back in her purse and turns to face me. “Can you keep a secret?”
“Of course.” “John is going to announce his retirement.” John Bell is the LBJ Chief Executive Officer. Rumors of his impending retirement have been rampant for weeks. “I’ve heard talk.”
“That’s not the secret. Bob E. is the heir apparent. Not to be announced today, but it’s pretty much a done deal. And he’s promised me V.P. of Corporate Services.”
I look away hoping she didn’t see my eyebrows jump to my hairline. “Congratulations.” Darlene is important, but not that important. This promotion is a big leap from Human Resources Manager. Certainly not done often in a company like LBJ. “Wow. Didn’t realize you had the seniority.”
Darlene blushes. “Succeeding in the boardroom is not the only way to get ahead.”
Oh my God. She’s sleeping with Bob Englewood, a.k.a. Bob E., the biggest flirt alive. Darlene has a great-looking husband and two kids. Makes no sense to me. But then I’m not that ambitious.
I’m trying to think of a good response when the buzzer goes off over the building’s loud speakers indicating the end of the break. I produce a weak smile and head back to the conference area with images of Darlene and Bob E. spinning in my head. Why did she share this with me?
I take a seat at my assigned table. John Bell, a short, stocky man sporting a bolo tie and a fine pair of ostrich boots, stands onstage tapping the microphone. “Good morning, LBJ managers. It’s good to be here at our annual meeting. I have some important announcements to make today. Before I do, I want to point out the emergency exits, and ask y’all to make sure to turn your cell phones off.” John delivers his big retirement announcement then drones on about the accomplishments of the company under his watch.
I doodle with colored pens trying to digest Darlene’s news, wishing I were anywhere but here.
John pauses, takes a sip from his bottled water, and clears his throat. “While I can’t promise there won’t be another layoff . . .”
The news jolts me to attention. I look around at my compadres who clearly are thinking the same thing. Brace yourself, it’s going to be a big one, and it could be ME this time.
Everyone sits in stunned silence as the sound of a cell phone chimes the Beatles’ song “Yesterday.”
Damn, it’s mine!
My neighbors smirk at me as I rummage through my purse. This cannot be happening. I could swear I turned it off.
Finally, I locate my iPhone, press a couple of buttons, but the melody plays on. Oy vey, my troubles don’t seem so far away. I just switched to the phone from my tried-and-true Blackberry last week. Vainly, I attempt to locate my reading glasses but after endless seconds, I bolt from the room. My face feels red and puffed like a ripe tomato.
On the patio, damage done, I finally locate my glasses and glance at the display, which reads “PRIVATE NUMBER.” Could it be Human Resources calling already?
The voice on the other end says, “Hey Laila, it’s Katie.”
It takes a moment to recognize the New York intonation behind the affected English accent. “Katie, how are you? Gosh, we haven’t spoken in ages. You sound so British.”
“I lived in London for a couple years but I’m back in L.A. now. You better sit down.” Katie B., always the drama queen.
I sit in an antique rocker and stare at the pale blue Texas sky.
Katie clears her throat. “Denise committed suicide yesterday.”
I try to speak but my mouth feels like it’s stuffed with tissue paper. Finally, I gasp, “My God.”
“She was never right after …”
“Don’t say it. Remember the pact,” I say.
“I remember it.”
“It’s kept us safe.”
“We’re gonna have to talk about it. Denise left a suicide note,” she whispers.
Fear fills the membranes of my eyeballs. “Oh, Jesus.”
“I just got off the phone with Chris. A private detective showed up at his house in Denver.”
“I can’t believe that son-of-a-bitch lives in Denver. My sister has lived there for years.” It’s been four decades since I’ve seen or heard of Chris, yet his name causes goose bumps to parade up my arms.
“I’m surprised you’ve never bumped into him,” Katie says.
“Denver’s a big place.” Would we even recognize each other now?
“He googled me and found my phone number. He and Ben think we should go to the funeral.”
“Ben? Did you speak to him too?”
She laughs. “Yes, Jesus still lives.”
I blush at the sound of his name. “What is he like?”
“I don’t know. Same old Ben, I guess.’
“Did they find–?”
She swallows. “No one knows what they’ve found, or what she wrote in her note.”
To think just five minutes ago I was worried about my job, trophy animals, and Darlene and Bobby E. doing the deed.
Katie takes a deep drag of a cigarette. “We could all go to effing prison.”
“In Reznik’s debut novel, a woman confronts long-buried secrets when an old college friend commits suicide … while effective as a page-turner, the novel also tells a timeless, universal tale of a woman’s journey toward self-acceptance. And exciting tale of past crimes and dangerous friendships.” —KIRKUS
“Laila Levin is an IT executive in Austin, Texas with a happy marriage and a successful career, but her life is about to get much more complicated. Laila is forced to confront a dark part of her past that she never shared with her husband … readers, particularly those who remember the late 1960s, will find this an entertaining read.” —PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY
“I love a mystery and I love stories about the late 60s/early 70s, and this book didn’t disappoint. Really fun read.” —Barbara Gaines, THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN
“Great mystery and suspense. Add a star if you were a ‘flower child’ from the sixties —Leslie Goodstein, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
About the Author
Lara Reznik, a native New Yorker, left for the wild west of New Mexico in the 1970s in a Karmann Ghia that she jump-started cross-country. As an English major at the University of New Mexico, Lara studied under esteemed authors Rudolfo Anaya and Tony Hillerman. Ambidextrous from birth, she preferred her right-brained creative side, but discovered she could make a better living with her left-brain skills, so entered the I.T. field.
In 1995 she and her husband Rudy, and their three children, relocated to Austin, TX, where she worked as an I.T. manager for a utility. Since that time, she’s written and optioned three screenplays and two novels.
After the breakout Amazon success of her first novel, The Girl From Long Guyland, Lara left her career in I.T. to write full time.
Screenplays by Lara Reznik:
The M&M Boys
Bagels & Salsa
Dance of Deception
Novels by Lara Reznik:
The Girl From Long Guyland
The M&M Boys