Seems there was one more Jeff Stone story to tell, after all. This is a novella, and a prequel. Coming soon.
The final edit of Lex Talionis is done, and the files have been uploaded to KDP and Createspace. Still waiting on the final cover file for the paperback, before I can order the proof, but everything is on schedule for release on the 6th. Editing is probably the most grueling part of the writing process, especially when you’re trying to squeeze three passes into three weeks, and the manuscript starts at 161k words. The final version comes to around 165k words, only reinforcing its position as the longest book I’ve ever written. As I read through the book three times, I sort of thought of a theme song for this final ride of the Praetorians’ founding team. It didn’t come from any of the music I listened to while writing it; music with lyrics tends to be a bit of a distraction while writing. I wrote it mostly to the soundtracks from all three Expendables movies, along with a bit of a few Western soundtracks, and Bernard Hermann’s score for North by Northwest. Editing mostly happened to the soundtracks from Hell or High Water and Logan. (It’s that kind of book.) But this just seemed to fit the whole thing:
This post is a bit of an apology, truth be told. I reviewed this book a few years ago, on the now-defunct “Hot Extract.” Overall, I found the book to be a decent shooter thriller, and something of a wish-fulfillment fantasy for a lot of shooters who have been in the sandbox and the rock-pile, chasing ghosts and being yanked back by the choke-chain by higher whenever it seemed like they might get somewhere to the shooters and go too far to higher.
So, I’ve been keeping this a little quiet until we got the ball rolling, but Kill Yuan went into production as an audiobook last week. I’ve listened to the first fifteen minutes, and it’s badass. Note, this is not the same narrator who did Task Force Desperate. Cody Parcell, who’s done audiobooks for M. Todd Gallowglass, is taking the reins on this one, and so far, he’s nailing it. Hopefully it should be up on Audible and iTunes in a couple of months. And for the fellow nautically inclined, he will be pronouncing “gunwale” properly. You’re welcome.
Twelve hours later, aching with fatigue and sleep-deprivation, we pulled off and headed to another one of the myriad abandoned houses that we’d picked out as safe houses elsewhere in the city. “Well, that’s interesting,” I said, looking around at the weary, grimy faces gathered in the shadowed living room. At least, I think it was supposed to have been a living room. It was just an empty space covered in dust and debris at that point. We were keeping well back from the broken front windows to avoid being easily spotted from the street. “Nobody saw any police response at all?” I looked at Derek. “I know you were monitoring their comm freqs. Even the IED wasn’t enough to stir ‘em?” He shook his head. “They were aware of it. Several calls came in, from locals and police units. But there was no response from dispatch except to say, ‘Yeah, we know.’” He shrugged. “They knew that the wild goose chases I had them on were probably connected to it, too, judging by a couple of the responses to the bots’ 911 calls. But they still didn’t lift a finger to go into the East Side.” “That is
The sound of pistol shots could only mean that things had just gone very, very bad. Of course, being the East Side, we heard sporadic gunfire all the time. If I had been inclined to wishful thinking, I might have been able to put it down to just another couple of gangbangers removing themselves from the gene pool. But the timing, the direction, and the fact that the explosion we’d been waiting to hear hadn’t gone off yet, disinclined me to such hopes. Bryan was probably dead, and our first diversion was a bust. Strangely enough, I didn’t feel the surge of rage and frustration that I probably should have. I was in the zone, game face on, and I just did what came naturally anymore when things inevitably fell apart. I attacked.
“Damn, these guys ain’t even trying to blend in, are they?” Jack muttered. “No, they aren’t,” I replied from the back of the van, where I was already snapping pictures. We’d done a few recon passes just by driving through the neighborhood, with the passenger looking like he was texting while he took pictures with his phone, but the bigger Nikon provided better quality, and the van meant that we could get better pictures in general. Trying to be discreet with the phone usually meant that the angles were poor. Sitting in the back seat of the panel van, I had a lot more freedom of movement. Right at the moment, my viewfinder was filled with a relatively fit young man with a pencil mustache and immaculately gelled hair, wearing shiny pants, an equally shiny black shirt open nearly to his sternum, and a short, white jacket. A thick gold chain around his neck and mirrored aviator sunglasses completed the image. I couldn’t see from our vantage point, but I was sure there was a pistol in his waistband. The handful of other young men around him weren’t as fancily dressed, though they were still wearing that sort of northern
The wrecked, bullet-riddled cars had been dragged away from the gate by the time we got back. With the uproar in town, the sheriff’s department hadn’t showed up yet, either, though I was sure they were on their way. It was going to take them a while, though. I pulled the truck up in front of the porch and got out. Tom was waiting in the doorway. “Where’s shithead?” I asked. The fury was burning pretty hot by then; I’d been feeding the flames most of the way back from town. It might not have been the healthiest way of coping, but as long as it kept me from breaking down, I was going to stick with it. I had so damned much bottled up grief and fucked-up shit in my head by then that I didn’t dare open that floodgate. That way lay madness and fatal alcohol poisoning.
I hadn’t put my rifle down. Tom grabbed his M1A that had been leaning in the corner as we both turned and ran out of the ops room. Larry and Nick were already in Nick’s big diesel, and Tom and I hauled ourselves into the bed. It wasn’t quite the leap that it might have been a few years before, but we got ourselves situated and braced in a few seconds, before I banged on the roof of the cab with my off hand. Nick threw the truck in gear and we roared down the long driveway toward the gate. It was more a road than a driveway; the gate was almost a mile from the ranch house. Tom and I held on for dear life as the pickup raced over the unfinished gravel track, leaving a cloud of dust behind us. I could hear the shooting even over the roar of the engine and the buffeting wind of our passage. Those boys at the gate were getting some.
You know, a normal person, upon stepping out of a grocery store in a small town in Wyoming and seeing a dark red Crown Vic full of four young men, all Hispanic, all exuding the vato belligerence, two with shaved heads and goatees, watching them intently, might or might not immediately identify them as a threat. If they did, in this day and age, they might dismiss their initial concern as prejudice, and nobody wants to be prejudiced. So, they would try to ignore the mean-mugging and go about their business. To all outward appearances, that was what I did. But I am by no means a normal person anymore. Haven’t been for a lot of years. Most “normal” people would probably call me “paranoid” if they could see inside my head. I would probably correct them, pointing out that I am, in fact, “professionally paranoid.” It’s kept me alive in some very, very unpleasant places. I wasn’t looking at them as I walked across the street toward my beat-up old pickup, but was keeping them within my peripheral vision, watching them without focusing on anything in particular. I learned a long time ago that if you keep your eyes