The House Beneath the Damen Off-Ramp by William ClaypoolThe House Beneath the Damen Off-Ramp by William Claypool

The House Beneath the Damen Off-Ramp

byWilliam Claypool

Paperback | August 17, 2015

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The House Beneath the Damen Off-Ramp is set on the gritty west side of Chicago.

It is a tale of suspense and human frailty. As the story begins, the reader is introduced to a young boy of about five, the third of six children, living in poverty. The boy is almost entirely deaf due to neglect of his chronic ear infections. He communicates to his mother and siblings through a combination of signing and monosyllabic words that are often difficult to decipher by his family, and impossible to understand by outsiders. He lives in constant fear of his mother’s boyfriend, a violent character who has repeatedly abused the family. As the story opens, the boyfriend has just entered the family’s apartment.


The young boy sees the boyfriend and quickly retreats to safety within a secret space he has created in the void between two walls of the apartment. While hiding, he feels disturbing vibrations around him and becomes even more alarmed. When he finally emerges from his hiding spot, he discovers that his family has been murdered and he is left alone with their lifeless bodies. Despite the horror all around him, the boy is relieved to see that the boyfriend is gone. He struggles to understand what has happened, all the while terrified of the boyfriend’s return. Overwhelmed with loss and terror, the child flees the apartment into the rainy night.


Fate intervenes to help the lost, speechless boy in the person of JJ Jefferson, a native Chicagoan who’s been living the good life in sunny West Palm. Jefferson has returned to his hometown on an annual pilgrimage back to his roots, focusing on visiting a wild cast of characters from his high school days, which includes a cop, a priest, a disabled jockey, and JJ’s on again/off again girlfriend.


JJ is a successful businessman, yet a little eccentric.  He prefers to camp out in a shack beneath the Stevenson Expressway when visiting, rather than bunk with friends. He sees this experience as a way to reconnect to his humble yet rough upbringing, and to hone the survival skills he learned in the military. It’s beneath this highway off-ramp that JJ stumbles across the bloodstained boy crouching behind a pillar. While definitely not in JJ’s plan, he becomes the boy’s reluctant protector.


JJ assumes the role of overnight guardian until he can deliver the young boy to the authorities. However, by the following morning everything changes, including JJ’s intentions. The action moves quickly over the next few days as JJ’s colorful friends are enlisted to help him protect the young boy, all of them unaware of the peril that threatens them by aiding the helpless child.

Time is of the essence as JJ searches for a way to communicate with the boy and gain his trust so that he can determine who he is and how he came to be covered in blood.  To what lengths will JJ and his friends go to protect the boy? Duty and morality clash while the hunt is on for the killer in this modern story of truth and consequence.



Title:The House Beneath the Damen Off-RampFormat:PaperbackDimensions:238 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.54 inPublished:August 17, 2015Publisher:Meadow Lane PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0986063746

ISBN - 13:9780986063749

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Editorial Reviews

A five-year-old boy witnesses the aftermath of a gruesome murder scene. Overwhelmedby the death of his mother and siblings, the partially deaf-mute lad wanders aimlesslyaround the West Side streets of Chicago. James Joseph Jefferson (aka JJ), a businessentrepreneur with a bit of an eccentric personality, finds the distraught boy coweringby a dumpster. JJ gets his friends Donna, Manny, and Adele involved in caring for thelittle guy. Although they know the killer is at large, the friends are unaware that theirlives are in jeopardy. William Claypool fashions an unnerving page-turner in his thirdrelease.Claypool's unique plot is replete with a colorful cast. Featuring a virtually silent maincharacter, Claypool maximizes on the plight of a young child to develop his literaryfigures. JJ has money, but chooses to live on the street. Manny, wounded from a jockeyaccident, lives in a tank. Adele runs a bordello. And Donna, the most "with it" of thebunch, is JJ's long-suffering girlfriend. A bit of a motley crew, the friends haven't a clueto the impact a young deaf-mute child will make in their lives. Indeed, amid the tenseplot, Claypool gradually yet meticulously creates his dynamic players.Set over an 8-day period, Claypool's third person narrative is nothing less thanunsettling. Although the first several chapters have a plethora of trivial dialogue, whichmay give a slow moving and mundane appearance, there is a definite method toClaypool's madness. Readers will experience the underpinning tension while JJ and hisfriends, oblivious to impending danger, shoot the breeze. Claypool keeps his narrativefluid by utilizing the above-mentioned literary tools while constantly alternatingbetween un-hackneyed character scenes. Attention-grabbing from beginning to end,The House Beneath the Damen Off-Ramp is a perfect read for suspense and thrillerenthusiasts. 5 of 5 stars -San Francisco Book Review