Thursday teaser: New books from your favorite BestSelling authors

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Fall always feels like the start of a new year, a good time for new initiatives and launching new books—as well as for pumpkin spiced everything.

Your favorite BestSelling authors have been hard at work, and have a tasty selection of new books for you. Take a look, follow the links and think about which titles belong on your gift list—because the holiday season is approaching faster than you want to think.

Barb Drozdowich

The Author’s On-Line Presence: How to Find Readers

Authors: Stop wasting valuable writing time and let Barb break down dry, complex subjects into easy to learn bites without the technobabble.

Get it on

Emily Kimelman

In Sheep’s Clothing: Sydney Rye #9

Sydney Rye is missing, and the Islamic State has a mysterious new enemy. Join the ruthless Robert Maxim and Sydney’s mother in the hunt!

Get it on

Toby Neal

Wired Dark : Paradise Crime #4

Tech security specialist Sophie Ang returns to Maui to solve a series of bizarre threats against a rock star, where she’s tested by a deadly enemy out to destroy everything she loves.

Get it on

Renée Pawlish

The Damned Don’t Die: A Reed Ferguson Mystery #16

A murdered woman’s shy granddaughter hires Reed to clear her name and find the real killer. To complicate matters, romantic sparks fly between her and Cal, Reed’s computer-geek best friend.

Get it on Amazon.

Caleb Pirtle III

Lovely Night to Die: A Special Forces Operation Alpha Kindle World novella.

A deadly assassin must carry out the assignment to assassinate the President of the United States—a mission sanctioned from inside the United States government. If he doesn’t do it, the woman he loves will die.

Get it on Caleb Pirtle III’s Amazon Author page.

 

Last Deadly Lie

The chilling, fearful tale of a small town that has smoldered in the fires of jealousy and selfish greed, then is finally blown apart by lies, gossip and violent death.

Get it on Caleb Pirtle III’s Amazon Author page.

 

Coming in 2018

Toby Neal

Wired Dawn — Paradise Crime Book 5

Security specialist Sophie Ang goes off the grid on Kaua’I to save a young boy, uncovering dark secrets of the jungle as she does so. FBI Special Agent Marcella Scott straps on her Manolos and wades into help, but will they be in time?

Read more about it on the author’s website.

Emily Kimelman

Flock of Wolves — Sydney Rye Book 10

Continue the adventure with Sydney Rye and Blue.

Read more about it on the author’s website.

 

Raine Thomas

Driving Tempo — House of Archer Book 3

A New Adult contemporary rockin’ romance that follows the pulse-pounding Imperfect Harmony and Unsteady Rhythm.

Read more about this on the author’s website.

 

Alan McDermott

A new thriller that will feature readers’ favorite characters from the Tom Gray series and Trojan.

Read more about it on the author’s website.

BestSelling Reads authors are all hard at work on more books that are sure to join your favorites list. Keep coming back to this blog for new announcements about titles, release dates and free previews.

Better yet, subscribe to get these updates in your email.

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Monday musings: Is it 1984 all over again?

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By Caleb Pirtle III

This post originally appeared on Caleb Pirtle III’s and Linda Pirtle’s blog, Here Comes a Mystery, on September 13, 2017.

George Orwell with the cover image of the book 1984

George Orwell with the cover image of the book that made him memorable and famous.

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

So the government is spying on you. I read that somewhere.

So the government is stealing your emails. Read that, too.

So the government is keeping tabs on your phone calls. It’s in the news.

Sounds Osrwellian. That’s what the news reporters say.

Big Brother is watching.

Maybe George Orwell was right, they whisper.

1984 tops bestseller lists in January, 2017. LA Times.

Did anyone ever have any doubts? Maybe this is 1984.  Maybe it just came three decades later than anyone expected.

Readers of great literature, teachers of great literature, and critics of great literature have believed for years that George Orwell, back during the 1940s, glimpsed the future, discovered a dystopian world, realized that Totalitarianism was the most foreboding consequence facing humanity, and spread his fears on a piece of paper.

He described his work as “a Utopia written in the form of a novel.” It would be one of the most significant books produced in the twentieth century. It would be translated into sixty-five languages. It would sell millions of copies.

It was the book that killed George Orwell.

Orwell was obsessed with the conspiracy of a totalitarian government rising up from the ashes of World War II to rule England, rule the world, rule his life. Part of the inspiration for 1984, he once said, came from a meeting that Allied leaders had in Tehran in 1944.

There was Stalin.

And Churchill.

And Roosevelt.

He feared they were consciously plotting to divide the world, then fight to determine who would control it all.

George Orwell was a sad little man. But he was a brilliant writer.

He lived in a bleak world. He had endured the bombing of London. He had survived a world war. A troubled ife in the wartime ruins of the city created a constant mood of random terror and a constant fear that the next bomb would be looking for him.

Bomb damage in North London, June 1944; AIR 14/3701 National Archive

His flat had been wrecked. His was a threadbare existence. He had a wife and a child. His wife died under anesthesia during a routine operation while Orwell was on assignment with a magazine. Her death haunted him and grieved him, and he would never quite recover.

Most of all, Orwell was afraid of the future that his imagination envisioned. He heard the demons in his head. His health was bad. The winter of 1946-47, was one of the coldest ever, and he found that post-war Britain to be even darker, more dreadful, and more foreboding than wartime Britain.  He grew even more morose, a man who, his agent said, thrived on self-inflicted adversity.

George Orwell retired to a wild and isolated landscape in Scotland to begin writing a novel that had tempted and taunted him for years. As he once pointed out, “Every serious work I have written since the Spanish Civil War in 1936 was written directly or indirectly against totalitarianism and democratic socialism.

Now his story would be told on a grand scale.

He hated the process.

Orwell wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom he can neither resist or understand. For all one knows, that demon is the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s personality.”

Then he wrote the words that became known as the famous Orwellian coda: “Good prose is like a window pane.”

He sat down and wrote the first line of the novel: It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

Through the window pain, he could see the bleak landscape of 1984.

His world in Scotland was simple. And primitive. Cold. In the midst of a bitter winter, he had no electricity, and Orwell lived by chain-smoking black shag tobacco in roll-up cigarettes.

He coughed all the time.

He was spitting blood.

He looked cadaverous.

Just before Christmas of 1947, Orwell collapsed with “inflammation of the lungs.” The diagnosis frightened him even more. He was suffering from tuberculosis, and there was no cure for TB. But he couldn’t stop. He couldn’t recuperate. He had a novel to finish.

As he wrote his publisher: “I have got so used to writing in bed that I think I prefer it, though, of course, it’s awkward to type there. I am just struggling with the last stages of this bloody book about the possible state of affairs if the atomic war isn’t conclusive.”

The struggle ended in December of 1948 with the publication of 1984. He thought about calling the novel The Last Man in Europe. His publisher decided on 1984.  He thought it was more commercial, and he was right. He called it “among the most terrifying books I have read.” He was right again.

By January of 1950, George Orwell was dead.

The ordeal had taken its toll.

Orwell would never have to face the world he was afraid to face. He gave his life for a book that gave the world such ominous words as Big Brother, thoughtcrime, newspeak, and doublethink.

And now, as Orwell had predicted and maybe even envisioned, we live in an uncomfortable world filled with conspiracy rumors about Big Brother, thoughtcrimes, newspeak, and doublethink.

It may be new to us, but we all remember who created the world long before, some say, it came to exist.  Within twenty-four hours after the story broke on the alleged NSA’s spying scandal, the sales for George Orwell’s 1984 had surged seven thousand percent.

About the author

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of more than seventy books, including the Ambrose Lincoln series: Secrets of the DeadConspiracy of LiesNight Side of Dark and Place of Skulls.

Pirtle is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin and became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Several of his books and his magazine writing have received national and regional awards.

 

Pirtle was a newspaper reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and served ten years as travel editor for Southern Living Magazine. He was editorial director for a Dallas custom publisher for more than twenty-five years.

Get to know Caleb at his:

And follow him on Twitter @CalebPirtle.

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Is it 1984 all over again?

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By Caleb Pirtle III

This post originally appeared on Caleb Pirtle III’s and Linda Pirtle’s blog, Here Comes a Mystery, on September 13, 2017.

George Orwell with the cover image of the book 1984

George Orwell with the cover image of the book that made him memorable and famous.

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

So the government is spying on you. I read that somewhere.

So the government is stealing your emails. Read that, too.

So the government is keeping tabs on your phone calls. It’s in the news.

Sounds Osrwellian. That’s what the news reporters say.

Big Brother is watching.

Maybe George Orwell was right, they whisper.

1984 tops bestseller lists in January, 2017. LA Times.

Did anyone ever have any doubts? Maybe this is 1984.  Maybe it just came three decades later than anyone expected.

Readers of great literature, teachers of great literature, and critics of great literature have believed for years that George Orwell, back during the 1940s, glimpsed the future, discovered a dystopian world, realized that Totalitarianism was the most foreboding consequence facing humanity, and spread his fears on a piece of paper.

He described his work as “a Utopia written in the form of a novel.” It would be one of the most significant books produced in the twentieth century. It would be translated into sixty-five languages. It would sell millions of copies.

It was the book that killed George Orwell.

Orwell was obsessed with the conspiracy of a totalitarian government rising up from the ashes of World War II to rule England, rule the world, rule his life. Part of the inspiration for 1984, he once said, came from a meeting that Allied leaders had in Tehran in 1944.

There was Stalin.

And Churchill.

And Roosevelt.

He feared they were consciously plotting to divide the world, then fight to determine who would control it all.

George Orwell was a sad little man. But he was a brilliant writer.

He lived in a bleak world. He had endured the bombing of London. He had survived a world war. A troubled ife in the wartime ruins of the city created a constant mood of random terror and a constant fear that the next bomb would be looking for him.

Bomb damage in North London, June 1944; AIR 14/3701 National Archive

His flat had been wrecked. His was a threadbare existence. He had a wife and a child. His wife died under anesthesia during a routine operation while Orwell was on assignment with a magazine. Her death haunted him and grieved him, and he would never quite recover.

Most of all, Orwell was afraid of the future that his imagination envisioned. He heard the demons in his head. His health was bad. The winter of 1946-47, was one of the coldest ever, and he found that post-war Britain to be even darker, more dreadful, and more foreboding than wartime Britain.  He grew even more morose, a man who, his agent said, thrived on self-inflicted adversity.

George Orwell retired to a wild and isolated landscape in Scotland to begin writing a novel that had tempted and taunted him for years. As he once pointed out, “Every serious work I have written since the Spanish Civil War in 1936 was written directly or indirectly against totalitarianism and democratic socialism.

Now his story would be told on a grand scale.

He hated the process.

Orwell wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom he can neither resist or understand. For all one knows, that demon is the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s personality.”

Then he wrote the words that became known as the famous Orwellian coda: “Good prose is like a window pane.”

He sat down and wrote the first line of the novel: It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

Through the window pain, he could see the bleak landscape of 1984.

His world in Scotland was simple. And primitive. Cold. In the midst of a bitter winter, he had no electricity, and Orwell lived by chain-smoking black shag tobacco in roll-up cigarettes.

He coughed all the time.

He was spitting blood.

He looked cadaverous.

Just before Christmas of 1947, Orwell collapsed with “inflammation of the lungs.” The diagnosis frightened him even more. He was suffering from tuberculosis, and there was no cure for TB. But he couldn’t stop. He couldn’t recuperate. He had a novel to finish.

As he wrote his publisher: “I have got so used to writing in bed that I think I prefer it, though, of course, it’s awkward to type there. I am just struggling with the last stages of this bloody book about the possible state of affairs if the atomic war isn’t conclusive.”

The struggle ended in December of 1948 with the publication of 1984. He thought about calling the novel The Last Man in Europe. His publisher decided on 1984.  He thought it was more commercial, and he was right. He called it “among the most terrifying books I have read.” He was right again.

By January of 1950, George Orwell was dead.

The ordeal had taken its toll.

Orwell would never have to face the world he was afraid to face. He gave his life for a book that gave the world such ominous words as Big Brother, thoughtcrime, newspeak, and doublethink.

And now, as Orwell had predicted and maybe even envisioned, we live in an uncomfortable world filled with conspiracy rumors about Big Brother, thoughtcrimes, newspeak, and doublethink.

It may be new to us, but we all remember who created the world long before, some say, it came to exist.  Within twenty-four hours after the story broke on the alleged NSA’s spying scandal, the sales for George Orwell’s 1984 had surged seven thousand percent.

About the author

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of more than seventy books, including the Ambrose Lincoln series: Secrets of the DeadConspiracy of LiesNight Side of Dark and Place of Skulls.

Pirtle is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin and became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Several of his books and his magazine writing have received national and regional awards.

 

Pirtle was a newspaper reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and served ten years as travel editor for Southern Living Magazine. He was editorial director for a Dallas custom publisher for more than twenty-five years.

Get to know Caleb at his:

And follow him on Twitter @CalebPirtle.

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Thursday teaser: Place of Skulls

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By Caleb Pirtle III

AMBROSE LINCOLN watched the ragged edges of night paint the streets below and waited for the dead man to step from the shadows. They were never together, he and the dead man.

They were seldom apart.

They had never spoken.

Their eyes had not yet met.

Death was the only thing they had in common.

Often Lincoln had wondered which of them had really survived and which was destined to roam the earth in search of an empty grave.

The air around him was always thick with the acrid smell of gun smoke when the dead man was near. It burned his throat. His chest hurt. He screamed the first time he saw the man whose chest had been torn away with a hollow point slug from a 9mm handgun, his 9mm handgun. The screaming was no longer necessary.

The past held its secrets in a tightly closed fist, and only on rare occasions did the fingers of another time, another place, loosen their grasp long enough to provide faint glimpses of what was, what might have been, and what did or did not happen on the landscape of a man’s faith or his memory.

On those rare occasions, his beliefs could be shaken, even shattered, and his hopes dimmed or perhaps darkened forever. Only these words echoed from a distant past: he was wounded for our transgressions. And he had no idea who had said them or what they meant or why only those six words had slipped past the ebony wall that separated time between then and now.

Ambrose Lincoln often thought a man was the most content when he was left in the dark, past and present. He might still fear the shadows. He just had no idea what secrets lay enclosed and mostly forgotten within them.

A man was better off, he reasoned, when he didn’t know. Knowledge could condemn him, convict him, and maybe even kill him. He was wounded for our transgressions. He thought he heard a woman’s voice speaking them. But she was so far away, whoever she was, wherever she had been.

Lincoln stood alone in his small, cluttered hotel room with a stranger who had no past, at least not one worth remembering, and a future just as dark and oblique. The stranger was a man he knew well and hardly at all.

The stranger was himself.

Lincoln’s memory programmed everything he saw and heard. Nothing escaped him.

Graveyards were full of men who ignored or overlooked the things, no matter how insignificant, that could get them killed.

Yet his memory had blown a circuit five years earlier, the night he awoke in a churchyard outside the battle-scarred, charcoal ruins of a crumbling little town in Poland – Ratibor he thought it was. He possessed no wallet, no papers, no passport, no name, no memory, no past. All of his yesterdays had become as vacant as the churchyard, his mind as pitch black as the night around him.

Lincoln had closed his eyes and felt himself falling beyond the crevice of sanity and into the black abyss of a deep sleep. He wondered if the grave would be as dark, if he would ever wake up again and why his frostbitten feet hurt worse than his chest.

When morning at last jarred him awake, he lay on a pile of blankets that served as a prison hospital bed and stared for a long time into a cracked mirror that hung crookedly on a green wall across the bare, sterile room.

The confused face of an unfamiliar, broken man with dark, sullen and hollow eyes stared back at him.
It was, he thought, an ugly face, unshaven and scarred, obviously belonging to some pitiful bastard who had been cast into the drunken innards of hades to cut cards with the devil himself. What troubled him most, however, then as now, was the stranger’s face had been his own.

Lincoln closed his eyes and tried to squeeze the blur that was Poland out of his mind. But the biting cold of the snow, the pain that threatened to rupture his lungs with each ragged breath, the smell of gunpowder, the stench of death all lay upon his psyche, as visible to him as the scar on his face.

The scars did not heal.

About Place of Skulls

A man with no known past and no name has been dispatched to the deserts, ghost towns, and underbelly of drug-infested Mexico to uncover a secret that could forever change the scope and teachings of Christianity.

A DEA agent has written that he possesses the unmistakable and undeniable proof that Christ did indeed return to earth again and walk the land of the Aztecs almost fifteen hundred years after his crucifixion on the cross. But has the agent found a relic? An artifact? A long lost manuscript of the written Word? No one knows, and the agent dies before he can smuggle the secret out of an empty grave.

Ambrose Lincoln can’t dig past the charred fragments of his memory, but he must unravel the legend of Quetzalcoatl, the white-skinned, blue-eyed, god figure whose sixteenth century ministry, death, resurrection, and mystical promise to return someday to gather up his people closely parallels the Biblical story of the man called Christ. Is Quetzalcoatl merely a myth, or was he Christ Himself?

Lincoln’s quest to find the answers, he becomes involved in a rogue CIA plot to invade Mexico and wage an unholy war on drugs, financed by operatives working for Hitler’s Germany. He finds himself pursued by the same mysterious assassin who struck down the DEA agent.

Does the artifact actually exist? Who possesses it now? Lincoln battles an unseen and unknown enemy in an effort to survive long enough to discover the truth. If he doesn’t, he knows that death awaits him on the desert sands of a land held sacred for centuries by the mysterious and holy ones.

Place of Skulls is the fourth noir thriller in the Ambrose Lincoln series, which also includes:

About the author

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of more than seventy books, including the Ambrose Lincoln series.

 

Prior to Place of Skulls, Pirtle’s most recent novel is Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever.

Pirtle is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin and became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Several of his books and his magazine writing have received national and regional awards.

Pirtle has written three teleplays, and wrote two novels for Berkeley based on the Gambler series: Dead Man’s Hand and Jokers Are Wild.

Pirtle’s narrative nonfiction, Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk is a true-life book about the fights and feuds during the founding of the controversial Giddings oilfield and From the Dark Side of the Rainbow, the story of a woman’s escape from the Nazis in Poland during World War II. His coffee-table quality book, XIT: The American Cowboy, became the publishing industry’s third best selling art book of all time.

Pirtle was a newspaper reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and served ten years as travel editor for Southern Living Magazine. He was editorial director for a Dallas custom publisher for more than twenty-five years.

Learn more about Caleb on his:

And follow him on Twitter @CalebPirtle

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Thursday teasers: Pick your summer beach reads

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The long weekend is coming up fast, with summer vacation season following immediately. And BestSelling Reads has perfect summer reads for to load onto your e-reader and take down to the beach, dock, hammock or patio for those long, lazy days.

Wine, women, and song — what could possibly go wrong?

A Cass Elliot companion mystery novel by Gae-Lynn Woods.

 

Discover how Cassidy Jones gains superpowers in her first action-packed adventure.

The first Cassidy Jones adventure by Elise Stokes.

 

A con man came to town to steal their money, but a beautiful woman stole his heart.

Book 1 in the Boom Town Saga by Caleb Pirtle III.

 

The past and the present collide with stunning results in the latest Reed Ferguson mystery.

A Reed Ferguson mystery by Renee Pawlish.

 

An artistic voyage in crime.

A James Blake art-crime mystery by Seb Kirby

 

A secret can tear you apart or bind you forever…

A love story by D.G. Torrens.

 

 

One of the boys of summer meets his match in this captivating baseball romance. 

A New Adult novel by Raine Thomas. 

 

Messing with Chris Barry’s crowd will result in dire consequences. 

A Vigilante series crime thriller by Claude Bouchard.

 

Maui is a perfect retirement home for a once-famous singer—until he’s found dead. But is it murder?

Dead Man Lying

A Lei Crime Kindle World mystery by Scott Bury.

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Monday musing: Writing, like life, depends on which road you take

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By Caleb Pirtle III

This post originally appeared in Caleb and Linda Pirtle’s blog on February 22, 2017.

Writing is like life. You can take any road you want. Each has a different story.

Each choice has a consequence you have to live with for the rest of your life.

“WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?” I asked the old man sitting in the back chair at the back table of a writer’s conference.

He looked at me strangely, a puzzled expression on his face.

“Writing?” he asked.

“Writing a novel,” I said.

“Do you know anything about life?” he asked.

“Not a lot.”

He shrugged as though I was helpless, and he was probably right.

“Learn about life,” he said, sipping on a free cup of cold coffee. “Then you’ll know how to write a novel.”

He paused and watched a spider meander aimlessly across the ceiling.

The speaker droned on.

Hadn’t said anything yet.

Doubted if he would.

“It’s all about choices,” the old man said.

“Life?” I asked.

“Novels, too,” he said. “Stories are about the choices we make. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

“What kind of choices?” I wanted to know.

“When I was a young man,” he said, “I could go to work, or I could go to college. I had a choice to make.”

“What’d you do?”

“Went to work.” He shrugged again. “Couldn’t afford college.”

I forgot the speaker.

I gave the old man my full attention.

“If I hadn’t gone to work,” he said, “I would have never gone to Oklahoma City.”

He grinned.

“If I hadn’t gone to Oklahoma City,” he said, “I would have never gone into the Boots and Saddles bar.”

The old man leaned forward, his elbows on the table.

“If hadn’t gone in the bar,” he said, “I would have never met Mary Ann McClure.”

He was cleaning out the cellar of his memory now.

“If I had never met Mary Ann McClure,” he said, “I would have never quit my job and took the train to Omaha.”

“Why the train?” I asked.

“Didn’t have a car.”

“Why did you leave Oklahoma City?”

“Mary Ann McClure was a married woman.” He took another sip of his coffee. “I had a choice to make. I could stay, or I could run.”

“Was she worth fighting for?” I asked.

“She wasn’t worth dying for.”

“You think her husband would have killed you?” I wanted to know.

“He had a choice to make,” the old man said. “He could shoot me, or he could forget it, forgive Mary Ann, and let the whole sordid thing go.”

“He didn’t let it go, I guess.”

“Shot at me twice.”

“Did he hit you?”

“He wasn’t much of a lover, Mary Ann told me. He was an even worse shot.”

“What happened to Mary Ann?” I asked.

“She had a choice to make,” the old man said. “She could stay with him or leave.”

“Where would she go?”

“Certainly not with me.”

“How about divorce?”

“That was his choice.”

“What did he decide?”

“He and Mary Ann took a second honeymoon to Estes Park in the Rockies,” he said. “Love is a wonderful thing. So is forgiveness. They went hiking early one morning. She came back. He didn’t.”

“She kill him?”

“She said he fell.”

“Did they ever find the body?”

“The Ranger had a choice to make,” the old man said. “He could investigate a crime or spend the night with his primary suspect.”

“What’d he do?”

“Never found the body.”

“Anybody ever look for it?” I asked.

“No reason to.”

“Why not?”

“The missing man was never reported missing.”

The old man grinned.

The speaker was through.

And so was he.

I looked at him strangely, a puzzled expression on my face.

“Do you expect me to believe all of that?” I asked.

“Don’t care if you do,” he said. “Don’t care if you don’t.”

His grin grew wider.

He stood up and ambled toward the back of the room for another cup of coffee.

“That’s the choice you’ll have to make,” he said. “When you come to a crossroad, it’s all about choices.”

“How will I know which road to take?”

“Doesn’t matter,” he said. “There is no wrong choice, but each choice has a consequence you have to live with for the rest of your life.”

Those were the last words I heard him say.

I waited for him.

There were other questions I wanted to ask.

But he was like the man on the mountain.

He didn’t come back.

In my Ambrose Lincoln series, Ambrose never knows which road he took until it’s too late.

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of more than seventy books, including four noir thrillers in the Ambrose Lincoln series: Secrets of the Dead, Conspiracy of LiesNight Side of Dark and Place of Skulls. Secrets and Conspiracy are now audiobooks on audible.com. His most recent novel is Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever.

Pirtle is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin and became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. Several of his books and his magazine writing have received national and regional awards.

Pirtle has written three teleplays for major networks. His narrative nonfiction, Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk, is a true-life book about the fights and feuds during the founding of the controversial Giddings oilfield in Texas. From the Dark Side of the Rainbow is the story of a woman’s escape from the Nazis in Poland during World War II. His coffee-table book, XIT: The American Cowboy, became the publishing industry’s third-best selling art book of all time.

Pirtle was a newspaper reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and served ten years as travel editor for Southern Living Magazine. He was editorial director for a Dallas custom publisher for more than twenty-five years.

Get to know Caleb on his:

And follow him on Twitter @CalebPirtle.

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God and the Hurricane, a story by Caleb Pirtle III

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Golgotha Connection, by bestselling author Caleb Pirtle III, cover imageThis is the story of a newspaper, a reporter, an editor, and a storm.

It’s all true.

I know.

I worked at the newspaper.

I worked with the reporter.

I reported to the editor.

I’ll never forget the storm.

The reporter was young, idealistic, full of passion, and had an unquenchable thirst for covering the big story, which he had never covered before.

He was tired of store openings and ribbon cuttings.

He was bored with civic club meetings.

Front-page, above-the-fold by-lines did not come from writing sidebars about voting machine gaffes and poll watcher feuds at city elections.

He wanted to be knee-deep, battling the odds, flying by the seat of his pants, smack dab in the middle, matching wits with a hard-core news story that all the world was watching and waiting for him to write.

The newspaper, if you counted circulation for the morning and evening editions combined, was the largest in Texas.

Revered.

Respected.

More awards on the wall than walls in the building.

The editor was a legend.

He was tough, hard-boiled, and considered every column inch in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as a sacred patch of paper real estate. He seldom smiled. He had a no-nonsense attitude when it came to producing each issue of the daily newspaper. He treated his reporters as both children and enemies.

He spit out words with the hiss of a rattlesnake and the force of a pistol shot.

He could take a bad newspaperman and turn him into a star reporter or out on the street.

It was all up to the reporter.

It didn’t matter to him.

Charlie Boatner, quite simply, was the best damn editor I ever knew.

The storm was a monster.

A hurricane.

The first of the season.

A mean momma named Audrey, and it was headed straight toward the Louisiana coast with nothing but the wind to slow it down, and the wind had been sucked up into the eye of the storm, full of sound and filled with fury, growing angrier with each passing minute.

The editor handed the reporter a map. “There’s a storm coming,” he said.

“Yes, sir.”

“A big one.”

“Yes, sir.”

“It’s headed toward Cameron, Louisiana.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You’ve got less than ten hours to get there. Stop and buy a raincoat on the way.”

The reporter sat huddled with police, firemen, emergency hospital units, and the Salvation Army when Audrey came rushing ashore. The sky was a dark shade of ebony, streaked with scarlet, and sounding, the witnesses said, like a freight train on the loose, always a freight train.

Cameron had been warned. Cameron scoffed. Cameron had seen hurricanes before.

Cameron had been warned. Cameron scoffed. Cameron had seen hurricanes before.

There had been no calm before the storm, only the storm, and when it arrived, there had been no escape. Waves were fifteen feet high when they hammered the coast. Tides had reached eight feet. Roads were swallowed up and lost. Rain was blinding. Floodwaters were teeming with snakes, cottonmouths,–poisonous and deadly. Roofs were rolling down the streets. Buildings lay shattered. Wood had been ripped into splinters. Bricks were lethal weapons in the wind.

Cars parked on the street disappeared.

Houses disappeared.

All signs of life disappeared.

Cameron disappeared.

For two days, the reporter fought his way through floodwaters and amidst the devastation, talking to whomever had survived, and he found so few of them, and they had so little to say. Shock will do that to a man.

At twilight, he dutifully made his way to the only phone he could find still working in the wreckage and called his editor. He hadn’t had time to write the biggest story of his life. He only blurted out what he had seen and heard. He left it up to the re-write man to make sense of it all. The reporter couldn’t.

The third day, the sun broke clear, and the reporter walked through the savaged ruins of a town. Only two buildings had been left standing. One, thank God, had been the old courthouse. Those who survived had been sheltered in the basement and hallways and in  the courtrooms.

He slowly counted the names of the dead. It had risen every hour. And now there were three hundred and eighty-two of them. There would be more.

The reporter wrote his story in longhand on the back of a soggy notebook. He was tired. He had not slept in two days. He was wet. He was beaten down. He was numb. He had been knee deep, battling the odds, flying by the seat of his pants, smack dab in the middle, and matching his wits with a hard-core news story that the whole world was watching and waiting for him to write. He had been swept up in the death, the dying, the destruction, the drama, the emotion of it all.

He called the office. “I have the wrap up,” he told his editor.

“Go ahead.”

The reporter began to slowly dictate what he considered the finest lead he had ever written or read. He said in a calm voice: “God and I stood on a hill this morning, overlooking the ruins of Cameron.”

A pause.

“Forget the hurricane,” Charlie Boatner snapped.

A pause. Longer this time.

The reporter frowned.

“Interview God,” Boatner said. “And send pictures.”

He hung up the phone.

§ § § § § § § 

Caleb Pirtle III, bestselling author of Secrets of the Dead and Golgotha ConnectionCaleb Pirtle III is the author of more than sixty books. He is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He served as sports editor for The Daily Texan and became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing.

Pirtle joined Stephen Woodfin to found Venture Galleries, dedicated to publishing books, as well as provide a venue and forum where other authors can promote and market their novels.

Pirtle has written three teleplays: Gambler V: Playing for Keeps, a mini-series for CBS television, Wildcat: The Story of Sarah Delaney and the Doodlebug Man, for a CBS made-for-television movie, and The Texas Rangers, a TV movie for John Milius and TNT television. He wrote two novels for Berkeley based on the Gambler series: Dead Man’s Hand and Jokers Are Wild. Other novels are Secrets of the DeadWicked Little LiesGolgotha ConnectionFriday Night Heat, and From the Dark Side of the Rainbow.

Pirtle was a newspaper reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and travel editor for Southern Living Magazine.

 

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Love Is a Mystery, by Caleb Pirtle III

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Caleb Pirtle III, bestselling author of Secrets of the Dead and Golgotha Connection

Caleb Pirtle III

As far as I’m concerned, every great story has these elements:

A man.

A woman.

A love story.

A gun.

A murder.

A mystery.

Authors sit around for days, holding their breath, banging their heads against the wall, snapping No. 2 pencils with their fingers, searching through the maze that winds through the back of their minds, slamming into one dead end after another, trying desperately to nail together a plot that reaches out, grabs the reader by the throat, and won’t let go.

It’s tough.

It’s debilitating.

It’s an exercise better off forgotten.

Just walk the streets of your hometown, big or small, listen to the gossip down at the post office, real or imagined, read archived issues of the newspaper from years past.

The stories are there. They’ve been waiting a long time. They’ve been waiting for you to find them.

My hometown was no different.

Tragedy, during the year of our Lord 1939, lurked like a grim shadow in the presence of M. W. McVey, an independent oilman and president of the Kilgore Chamber of Commerce. He had been described in the newspaper as a sportsman from California, was one of the town’s social elite, a man of prominence, an oilman who had the honor of drilling the oilfield’s twenty-five thousandth well in a lot downtown behind the Longhorn Drug.

McVey had borrowed a quarter of a million dollars to drill several wells on town lots, only twenty feet wide and forty feet long, no more than ragged scraps of land barely large enough to hold a derrick.

His wells were jammed together and pumping for all they were worth. But new federal regulations ushered in a new and compromising problem for the oilfield. No one saw it coming, but a revised law ruled that wells must be spaced five to ten acres away from each other if an oilman had any hopes of receiving the money owed him for the oil he produced.

So many of McVey’s oil wells were suddenly earning only a scant fraction of their production. All he had were a bunch of holes in the ground.  And his cash flow began drying up. He began to fear that he would never be able to pay off his debts. He could no longer look at his friends, eye to eye. Frustration set in like poison from a snake bite. He was dying inside but had no place to hide. Not in a small town anyway.

So many wells.

So much money.

And none of it his, not anymore.

He grew despondent.

Then depressed.

His honor had been attacked as only a bad debt could assault it. His pride had been struck down and stepped on. M. W. McVey had been Mr. Kilgore. Now he was a financial outcast.

McVey’s wife and her maid found him unconscious in the bedroom of his home. A bullet had shattered his skull. A .38 automatic pistol lay at his side.

Kilgore was stunned. The questions were the same on every street corner, spoken in hushed tones, particularly among the morning gossips at the post office.

Was his death a suicide?

He left no note.

Or was it murder?

A shroud of stoic silence draped itself around Kilgore, leaving that night a mystery that would never be fully understood. Those who may have known the truth Golgotha Connection, by bestselling author Caleb Pirtle III, cover imageweren’t talking, and those who were talking didn’t know the truth.

In later years, an accountant who had worked closely with the family indicated that McVey had pulled the trigger himself so that his wife could live comfortably on his life insurance. His death, however, could have been an accident, a mistake, or intentional. It still remains an enigma.

Surrounded by the rigors of the boom and the echoes of approaching war, McVey was quickly forgotten, nothing but a faded name in a faded obituary, a story that no one talked about anymore.

The mound of dirt had barely settled down around his grave before the regulations were modified and returned to the way they had originally been before a bullet ended the life of M. W. McVey’s. He had been only six months away from being a rich man again.

The claims on his debts had already been settled for ten cents on the dollar. His creditors no longer had any right to McVey’s oil money.

And the wife he left behind suddenly became a very wealthy widow.

The secret behind her smile has never been answered. Then again, perhaps she smiled only to erase the strain of loneliness, the pain of a broken heart.

It was, of course, a time when the poor went to jail, strangers rode the rails out of town, drifters didn’t hang around for very long, and the rich walked free. A rich widow would never go to prison. She couldn’t. What would she do with her fur coat?

The elements are all there for a great story.

A man.

A woman.

A love story.

A gun.

A murder.

And a mystery.

If I don’t write the damn thing, I should be shot myself.

§ § § § § § § 

 

 

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of more than sixty books. He is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He served as sports editor for The Daily Texan and became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing.

Pirtle joined Stephen Woodfin to found Venture Galleries, dedicated to publishing books, as well as provide a venue and forum where other authors can promote and market their novels.

Pirtle has written three teleplays: Gambler V: Playing for Keeps, a mini-series for CBS television, Wildcat: The Story of Sarah Delaney and the Doodlebug Man, for a CBS made-for-television movie, and The Texas Rangers, a TV movie for John Milius and TNT television. He wrote two novels for Berkeley based on the Gambler series: Dead Man’s Hand and Jokers Are Wild. Other novels are Secrets of the DeadWicked Little LiesGolgotha ConnectionFriday Night Heat, and From the Dark Side of the Rainbow.

Pirtle was a newspaper reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and travel editor for Southern Living Magazine.

 

 

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Vanity, a Short Story by Caleb Pirtle III

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Caleb Pirtle III, bestselling author of Secrets of the Dead and Golgotha Connection

Caleb Pirtle III

Mildred Kitchens was in the vanity business, and Rachel was the most vain woman in town.  Always had been. The face of a cheerleader. The legs of a runway model. Tall. Thin. No matter what she ate, Rachel was always thin. Long auburn hair that draped across her shoulders. A smile that could knock a man dead at thirty paces and usually did.

And Rachel never saw a mirror she didn’t like.

She may have grown a little older.

The reflection in the mirror hadn’t.

And if she held her head just right, and a gentle splash of sunlight touched her face and wound its way through the curls of her auburn hair, Rachel was, as she had always been, the loveliest woman in Crystal Springs.

She knew it.

So did everyone else.

“Look at Rachel,” they would say.

“A beautiful lady.”

“She’s more beautiful every day.”

“Always had such class.”

“And she still looks so young.”

“I wish I knew her secret.”

Only Mildred Kitchens knew her secret. She should. Mildred Kitchens was in the vanity business. She operated a small beauty salon on a back street across the alley and behind the Savings & Trust in the small town.

But she just didn’t do hair.

Not Mildred.

She did faces as well.

And Mildred possessed the deft hand of an artist and was, it was whispered far and wide, something of a magician when it came to mixing just the right combination of powders and lotions – some she concocted herself – lipstick and rouge, eye shadow and sparkle gloss.

An old woman would walk into her salon.

A young woman would walk out.

At least, they felt that way, and the mirror on the back of the shop told them so, and beauty was no longer merely skin deep. When Mildred finished with them, beauty attached itself to the bone.

She didn’t merely hide wrinkles. She erased them.

That’s why Rachel had been coming to see Mildred for so many years.

“Keep the wrinkles away,’ she would say.

The women both laughed.

And Mildred kept the wrinkles away.

They had grown up together in Crystal Springs, Mississippi, had even swapped dolls back and forth as young girls and shared mustard and onion sandwiches.

But they hadn’t gone to school together.

Rachel was white.

Mildred wasn’t.

Rachel graduated from the University of Mississippi with a degree in marriage.

Mildred went into the vanity business.

Some people in town collected stamps and coins and designer dolls.

Rachel collected husbands.

She had buried two, left one outright, and another suddenly showed up at the train station one morning with a suitcase and a bullet hole in the sleeve of his suit coat and bought a one-way ticket West.

“Where to?” the agent had asked.

“Don’t care,” the man said.

“We only go as far as Tucson,” the agent said.

“That’ll do,” the man said.

Rachel only laughed it off. “It wasn’t really a fight,” she said. “It was just a simple disagreement.”

“What about?”

“I wanted him dead. He didn’t want to die.”

She laughed again.

Rachel had said on more than one occasion that she remained in Crystal Springs just so the gossips would have something new to talk about over knitting, quilting, baking, and coffee each morning, trading opinions about which men were worth keeping around and which ones had run out of gas. Men ran out of gas a lot in Crystal Springs, Mississippi.

Mildred Kitchens could always count on seeing Rachel before every party, grand opening, celebration, or social gathering in town. During holidays, Rachel often came in to the salon twice a week, maybe more.

“Keep me beautiful,” she would say.

“I’ll keep you just the way you are, Miss Rachel,” Mildred would tell her.

And Rachel smiled. The way she was happened to be just fine.

Rachel always preferred to be front and center during the most special of occasions, and this one was the biggest of all, a high society collection of fine frocks and Golgotha Connection, by bestselling author Caleb Pirtle III, cover imageneatly pressed suits. It was important for Rachel to look better than the rest of them. She had always trusted Mildred to make her beautiful, and today would be no different.

Mildred added one final touch of rouge. It looked so natural. The lipstick was flawless. And her hair had never looked better. A touch of gray perhaps, but hints of auburn still shone through.

Those who saw Rachel all said, as usual, “She’s such a beautiful lady.”

“She’s more beautiful every day.”

“Always had such class”

“And she still looks so young.”

“I wish I knew her secret.”

Mildred Kitchens stood to the side and out of the way. She kept smiling, which is what a woman does when she’s in the vanity business. Here was a woman who had always reflected her finest work. She was still smiling when she gazed on Rachel’s face for the last time, just before they quietly closed the lid to the coffin.

 

§ § § § § § §

Caleb Pirtle III is the author of more than sixty books. He is a graduate of The University of Texas in Austin with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He served as sports editor for The Daily Texan and became the first student at the university to win the National William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing.

Pirtle joined Stephen Woodfin to found Venture Galleries, dedicated to publishing books, as well as provide a venue and forum where other authors can promote and market their novels.

Pirtle has written three teleplays: Gambler V: Playing for Keeps, a mini-series for CBS television, Wildcat: The Story of Sarah Delaney and the Doodlebug Man, for a CBS made-for-television movie, and The Texas Rangers, a TV movie for John Milius and TNT television. He wrote two novels for Berkeley based on the Gambler series: Dead Man’s Hand and Jokers Are Wild. Other novels are Secrets of the Dead, Wicked Little Lies, Golgotha Connection, Friday Night Heat, and From the Dark Side of the Rainbow.

Pirtle was a newspaper reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and travel editor for Southern Living Magazine.

Stop in tomorrow, February 14 for a very special Valentine’s Day story by Natasha Brown, bestselling author of Prodigy (The Shapeshifter Chronicles Book 1).

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Moon – A Story by Caleb Pirtle III

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Caleb Pirtle III, bestselling author of Secrets of the Dead and Golgotha Connection

Caleb Pirtle III

There was no doubt about it. You could ask anyone who walked the streets of Pitner’s Junction, if perchance the community had any streets. The world was flat. If you stood beneath the third oak tree to the left, just behind cemetery and on the far side of the all-day dinner on the ground and graveyard working, you could see the edge. Every afternoon at varying times of the year, the sun simply reached the edge of it all and dropped off. I know. I was raised on the cusp of Pitner’s Junction, Texas. In fact, the only two things that ever came out of Pitner’s Junction were me and Highway 259. The “world is flat” folks stayed behind. Might as well. Couldn’t go much farther than the sunset anyway.

I kept looking for the edge.

Didn’t find it.

And pretty much forgot about the gospel of my raising until I happened to run across a bunch of stargazers, vortex sitters, and all-around wunderkinds who called themselves, wrapped in a veil of reverence, the Flat Earth Society.

I knew them well.

Didn’t recognize any of them.

But I must have grown up with their kinfolks.

The Flat Earth Society, I’m told, was one of the first organizations that had the audacity and gall to accuse NASA of faking the moon landings.

Didn’t go there, the flat earthers said.

Couldn’t go there.

Too far.

Too high.

Gas was cheap, but there wasn’t enough of it.

And, besides, the solar flares, solar winds, cosmic rays, coronal mass ejections, and Van Allen radiation made such a trip absolutely impossible.

If Flash Gordon hadn’t really gotten to the planets, then Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin didn’t either. Just like Flash and the evil Ming the Merciless, the flat earthers swore, Neil, Buzz, and the boys staged it all on a Hollywood movie lot.

All of America was afraid that Russia would beat us to the moon.

The race for space was spinning out of control.

Cold war prestige was at stake.

So the government did what the government does best.

NASA faked the whole thing.

I heard it differently. Same message. Different voice.

I happened to be in a beer joint on the outskirts of Chatsworth, Georgia, the day Neil Armstrong made that small step for man and giant leap for mankind.  The beer joint looked pretty much the way it was supposed to in the middle of a hot, muggy, thirsty afternoon. Dark. Cool. A naked light bulb hung from the ceiling. Another one above the bar. Sawdust on the floor. It had not been swept out in a while. Maybe never. Keep it dark. Can’t see the dirt. Dust in your throat? Wash it down with a beer.

The room was crowded and far too quiet.

Men sat hunkered over their tables, leaning on their elbows, their gimme caps pushed back, staring, never blinking, at an old black and white television set stuck on the back wall above the bar.

The picture was blurry.

No one cared.

They were watching the once and glorious achievement of their lifetime. A lunar module had landed on the surface of the moon, some place called, if the man on the tee-vee could be believed, Tranquility Base, and they had seen it with their own eyes, which called for another beer.

They had feared a crash. They were afraid they would be watching good men die a long way from home. A devout feeling of hope and pride had been dimmed by the shadow of impending doom. Their pulse quickened. Their nerves quivered. Their shoulders were rock solid tense.

But there it was.

The Eagle had landed, which called for another beer.

The beer bottles were sweating. So were the gentlemen of Chatsworth.

A farmer sat alone at the far end of the bar. He had been withered by time, cold rains, famine, hard work, and an occasional bout with the lovesick blues.  He wore bib-overalls and a straw hat. He had not bothered to remove it. He had been sipping on the same beer for much of the afternoon. He knew all about the advances of technology in a world grown too modern for him. He had broke new ground behind a mule, then astride a tractor. He had watched the world around him slowly change, usually against his will.

He had never embraced change, but he had accepted it.Golgotha Connection, by bestselling author Caleb Pirtle III, cover image

But this was too much.

He nodded toward the television. “That’s not happening,” he said.

The gentlemen of Chatsworth were stunned. Not a sound could be heard, with the possible exception of another beer being opened.

“Somebody’s lying to you,” he said.

Every eye turned toward him.

“Ain’t nothing but a hoax,” he said.

The gentlemen of Chatsworth frowned.

“How do you figure that?” I asked.

The old man took a long, slow draw on his beer bottle, wiped the froth from his mouth, and studied the blurry black and white screen one more time. He spoke with the deep, growling voice of a mountain oracle.

“We can’t get pictures from the moon,” he said. “Hell, we can’t even get pictures from Atlanta.”

The heads nodded. Somebody ordered another beer.

The man wearing the stained white apron behind the bar turned off the television. Might as well, he thought. Couldn’t argue with common sense.

Tune in tomorrow for Charity Parkerson, bestselling author of The Danger With Sinners (Sinners Series) or Paul (Undefeated Series), whose essay, “From 25 to 25,000 – How I Became a Bestselling Author” is sure to inspire all you closet writers!

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