It shows up one afternoon as a blip on the edge of the stratosphere. Space ship X2NEPLA. “X-to-Anyplace,” they call it. The same ship that, before shutting off all communications, had whisked astronauts Darwin Brown and Fyodor Golovin out toward the Libra constellation seven years ago. But suddenly, here it is again, pristine and mysterious.

Just where have Brown and Golovin been all these years? A pair of unlikely astronauts, one had been fleeing thuggish black marketeers and the other was on a suicidal mission to join a dead lover. Hailed as heroes on their return, they’re quickly dubbed the Light Boys for having traveled trillions of miles at speeds approaching the speed of light.

But their story of visiting an Earth-sized planet fifteen light years away doesn’t seem to add up, and they both exhibit peculiar physical symptoms. Where are the pictures? Where’s the proof of Brown and Golovin’s planetary encounter? Where’s the data?

All they have is an odd piece of crystal, the size of a golf ball, vermilion red. It’s cinnabar, like the mercury laden crystal found in the Rockies and the Alps. But it doesn’t match anything found on Earth.

Cinnabar is a tale of adventure, friendship, folly, longing, solitude and the quest for beauty. It explores our deep-space isolation on this troubled planet at the edge of the Milky Way.

Are we alone out here? Of course. In the end, we are all profoundly solitary, they say. This is true not just for ourselves but for the race. As one character puts it, the idea that there are aggregations of life sprinkled around the universe like salt on a cracker is too preposterous to even consider. But still...

Prodigal sons they may be in the eyes of the general public, but the Light Boys are soon treated with icy suspicion by the Strunck Corp, the huge R&D company that sent them on their mission. Irwin Strunck, the megalomaniac founder of the company, wants to try brain-hacking techniques on his astronauts to find out what really happened out there.

The Light Boys and our narrator Mike Brooks, second cousin of astronaut Darwin Brown and a discontented Strunck operative, head for the back country. They end up in The Zone, a devastated fenced-off region in the American heartland that’s now a lawless badlands. Once the site of a senseless war, with a matching zone of devastation on the other side of the globe, it’s a vast region of charred forest and crumbled masonry. Opiate farmers, black market gangs, nudists, cultists, junk collectors and more stake their claims there.

Joining a pack of violent scavengers, led by the powerful, unpredictable Specko, the Light Boys are swept up in a gang war. The object of their violent excursions? Rare music recordings that are traded in the black market, particularly anything by Mozart: Achingly beautiful piano concertos, profound symphonies and the ever popular “Einy Kleiny Knock Music.”

There are run-ins with competing Mozarteans and Strunck’s goons, encounters with wanderers and New Age pioneers, and intriguing glimpses of what the Light Boys found out there beyond our solar system.

Along the way, Brown, little by little, reveals to Mike what really occurred on that seven-year voyage. No, the planet they visited wasn’t the acid-drenched wasteland they had first described, he says. It was an inviting little world with a high-oxygen atmosphere and very human-like humanoid inhabitants, he says.

Why all the secrecy and why the closed-mouth bond between the Light Boys? Is Brown delusional, inventing the encounter with these distant creatures out of his own addled dreams? Or is there some truth to the story?


I’m Ed Newton, a veteran newspaper and magazine writer. The L.A. Times, the New York Post, People and a lot of others.  I’ve always longed for freedom from daily deadlines and from the demands of making a living to write more creatively. There’s always been a novel or a short story underway in my computer, though usually abandoned under pressure from the exigencies of daily life. My family – my three daughters, my wife, my stepson – has badgered me for years to bring my first full novel to completion, even offering to help with this campaign. This time I have a full first draft, beginning to end, and I’m excited about Cinnabar’s prospects. It needs revisions and amplifications. There are some niggling continuity problems. But there are compelling scenes, moments of high suspense, profound character insights. My intention, above all, is to create a page-turner, an electrifying good yarn

I need your help to be able to set the time aside to bring this promising project to life – and to silence the mournful pleas of family members. Please contribute to my Inkshares account here and spread the word.