A Humbling Endorsement

In my previous post, I interviewed Gayle Lynds, New York Times bestselling author of The Assassins and other acclaimed spy thrillers, including The Book of Spies and The Last Spymaster. A former co-author with Robert Ludlum, Gayle also co-founded International Thriller Writers, the major organization for thriller authors.
Gayle just read HUNTER, and here’s what she says about it:
 
“From the first sentence, you’ll be riveted by the explosive journey of HUNTER into Washington, D.C.’s, court rooms, back rooms, and bedrooms. Dylan Hunter, the fascinating eponymous hero, lays bare the dark underbelly of society, wrestles with good versus evil, and pushes the limits of the law. You’ll meet cops and criminals, spies and the untouchably wealthy. With the cold eye of a reporter and the heart of an artist, author Robert Bidinotto has crafted a masterwork of thrills and suspense.”
 
I am speechless…and anyone who knows me, knows that that is a first.

 

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Interview with Gayle Lynds — Queen of Espionage Fiction

 

New York Times bestseller Gayle Lynds is the award-winning author of ten international espionage novels, including The Assassins, The Book of Spies, and The Last Spymaster.

Gayle Lynds - leaning on chin 83

“Reigning Queen of Espionage Fiction”

Gayle’s career began with her short stories being published in literary journals while she also wrote male pulp novels (including popular entries in the bestselling “Nick Carter” and “Mack Bolan” series). Since then, her books have won numerous awards and constant acclaim for their spy-tradecraft authenticity, clever plotting, and indelible characters.

Publishers Weekly lists her thriller Masquerade among the top ten spy novels of all time. Library Journal hails her as “the reigning queen of espionage fiction.” And Lee Child says she’s “today’s best espionage writer.” With the late Robert Ludlum, she created the “Covert-One” series. The first, The Hades Factor, became a CBS miniseries.

A member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, Gayle is co-founder (with David Morrell) of International Thriller Writers, Inc. She lives in Maine with her husband and “two bossy, geriatric cats.”

I had the privilege of meeting Gayle at a writer’s conference some years ago, while I was still in the early stages of work on HUNTER. She generously allowed me to pick her fertile brain and encouraged me to forge ahead and complete the book. Not only that, she introduced me to a former CIA officer who served as a vital source for the novel. For all of that, I thanked her in the book’s “Acknowledgments.” I also bought and read The Last Spymastera dazzling, unforgettable CIA thriller with a serpentine plot and terrific characters. To borrow the title from a famous spy movie theme song, “nobody does it better.”

For all those reasons, I’m thrilled to put Gayle Lynds under the spotlight now at The Vigilante Author. When you’ve read the interview, go grab her books (you’ll thank me), which you can find listed and described on her website, GayleLynds.com. You can also read her intriguing blog posts at “Rogue Women Writers.

(As always, click on the photos and cover images for expanded views.)

 ~*~

The Vigilante Author: Gayle, congratulations on the smashing success of your latest bestselling thriller, The Assassins. [Read the first three chapters here.] The reviews have been fabulous—as usual. The Associated Press raved about it and called you “a master of the modern Cold War thriller.” And the book has won the Founder’s Award from the Military Writers Society of America.

Your focus has always been on spies. So, why write about assassins now?

The Assassins coverGayle Lynds: I became fascinated when I realized most people think of assassins as either psychopaths or sociopaths—monolithic, virtually identical. Not true. They’re as different as any of us are. Plus, there’s a spectrum in sociopathy and psychopathy that allows many people, not just those in the killing trade, to live and work among us undetected. At the same time, I admire anyone with a sky-high skill set.

With those ideas, I was off, creating six assassins, each from a different background—some political, others religious, and one in it simply for the money. All are from the old Cold War days, independent, and expert, or they wouldn’t have survived until today. As they’re hunting each other, it becomes obvious there are high stakes, and one of those stakes is the location of Saddam Hussein’s missing $40 billion fortune. Personally, I’ve always wanted to find it. And I’m not alone—the search for Saddam’s lost wealth is considered the greatest treasure hunt since we went looking for Nazi gold after World War II.

The Vigilante Author: Besides the six assassins, Eva Blake and Judd Ryder star in The Assassins. Their first appearance was in your previous novel, The Book of Spies, which Library Journal named one of the Best Thrillers of the Year. Why did you decide to bring them back in The Assassins?

Gayle Lynds: I’d really enjoyed creating Judd and Eva, and I missed them. As I was wandering around my house envisioning the next book, I realized their stories weren’t finished. That was a mighty fine moment for me. So I happily brought them back in The Assassins to put them through their literary paces and discover who they were now and what they’d do next.

The Book of Spies coverThe Vigilante Author: You’re considered something of an icon in spy fiction. Lee Child calls you “today’s best espionage writer,” while Library Journal says you’re “the reigning queen of espionage fiction.” What started you on this storytelling path?

Gayle Lynds: I suppose you could say I didn’t know any better. Ultimately I blame Kurt Vonnegut. He was a writer in residence at the University of Iowa while I was studying there. I asked him where he’d come up with the terrific idea for his novel Cat’s Cradle, and he said it all started during a summer job he had at a think tank, where “ideas bounced off the walls.”

Since my dream was to write novels, I jumped at the chance a few years later to be an editor at a private think tank that did a lot of government work. There I was vetted for Top Secret security clearance and stepped into an exciting world of research, creativity, hard work—and secrets. Years later, when I was finally able to write my own novels, I found myself influenced by those years. I wanted to write about geopolitics, history, culture, and power. What better place than in espionage? I’ve been doing it now for 20 years, and see no end in sight. I love it.

The Vigilante Author: And so do your many readers! The world of espionage and spies is often seen as being male-dominated. What’s your take on this?

Continue reading

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HUNTER Is Top Audible Espionage Bestseller

 

Who says Friday the 13th is unlucky? On this day, I am thrilled to report fantastic news.

As a result of its inclusion in Audible’s May “2 for 1 Sale,” the HUNTER audiobook has soared up the Audible and Amazon bestseller lists.

HUNTER atop Audible "Espionage Thriller" list

HUNTER atop Audible’s “Espionage Thriller” list

Just before midnight of May 13, 2016, HUNTER stood at #87 among all 238,667 Audible English-language titles (fiction and nonfiction). It also was ranked as the #34 bestseller in all categories for results over the past 7 days.

In addition, it ranked #19 among all “Mysteries & Thrillers” (24,303 titles), #17 in the “Suspense” subcategory (14,255 titles), and—wait for it—#1 in the “Espionage” subcategory (1,779 titles).

Those latter categories are loaded with iconic titles from the foremost authors in the mystery and thrillers categories, including Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, Brad Thor, Daniel Silva, Vince Flynn, Lee Child, James Rollins, David Baldacci, Alex Berenson, Barry Eisler, and many, many more.

 

 

Ad strip on Audible home page 5-13-16

On the Audible home page, an advertising bar for Audible Studios bestsellers includes BAD DEEDS

 

Meanwhile, my newly released BAD DEEDS audiobook also is climbing rapidly up the charts. As of this writing, it ranks at an impressive #118 in that “Espionage” category, out of 1779 titles.

Finally, as a result of these soaring sales, your Vigilante Author has personally climbed up Amazon’s “Author Rank” list. This list ranks authors by their total cumulative book sales, including all their titles in all editions sold by Amazon—ebook, audio, and print. Despite the fact that I have only two novels for sale on Amazon, while many bestselling authors have a multitude, this Friday the 13th I ranked #407 among authors of “Books” on Amazon. I also was the 82nd-ranked bestselling author in Amazon’s “Mysteries, Thrillers, & Suspense” category, and ranked #72 in its subcategory “Thrillers & Suspense.” [UPDATE: At the peak of the sales, my Author Rank hit #260 overall, and #50 among authors of "Thrillers & Suspense."]

This success brings a lot of important visibility to both books, at an opportune time. It will help lay marketing groundwork for the coming publication of WINNER TAKES ALL.

All in all, I couldn’t be happier — or luckier, on a supposedly unlucky day!

UPDATE, May 19, 11 p.m.: The Audible promotion for HUNTER exceeded my fantasies. Over 2,700 copies sold over the four-day sales period. And strong sales have continued during the following days, keeping HUNTER visible on a number of category bestseller lists on Amazon and Audible. At its peak sales moments, the book hit these sales rankings on those lists:

* #1 in Audible “Espionage Thrillers” (for almost 5 full days)
* #7 in Audible “Suspense Thrillers”
* #9 in Audible “Mysteries & Thrillers”
* #6 in Audible “Mysteries & Thrillers” (averaged over 7 days)
* #12 in all Audible categories (fiction & nonfiction) averaged over the previous 7 days
* #25 among all Audible titles (some 297,000 books)

Amazon sells Audible audiobooks, too, and on its site, HUNTER hit the following impressive list rankings:

* #4 in Amazon’s “Audible Espionage Thrillers”
* #6 in Amazon’s “Audible Fiction & Literature”
* #12 in Amazon’s “Audible Best Sellers” — which includes all audiobook titles, fiction and nonfiction

Meanwhile, boosted by the attention for HUNTER, BAD DEEDS continues to steadily climb the Audible category bestseller lists, moving into the top 100 “Espionage Thrillers,” too (it’s at #85 as of this writing).

[UPDATE, May 27: BAD DEEDS has continued to climb the Audible charts. On May 23 it peaked at #54 among Audible Espionage titles, and it’s currently at #56. Among that subgroup of titles published by Audible Studios, it has hit #4 in Espionage Thrillers and #18 among all their Mysteries & Thrillers. Let me add that total May audio sales of HUNTER have surpassed 3,000 copies.]

If feels great to add several thousand new people to the Dylan Hunter audience inside of a week’s time. Now to complete WINNER TAKES ALL and give them a new story to enjoy.

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Special Audible Sale for HUNTER

 

Are you an Audible member, with at least 1+ credits in your audiobook account?

If so, you’re eligible for Audible’s May “2-for-1 Sale.” And better yet: the Audible editors selected HUNTER as one of their featured titles in this month’s sale!

hunter audiobook cover finalIf you haven’t yet heard the HUNTER audiobook, here’s your chance to enjoy my bestselling debut thriller, narrated by the terrific Conor Hall. Only 1 Audible credit will get you both HUNTER plus one of the other specially selected and featured titles.

This sale runs from Thursday, May 12th until Sunday, May 15th at 11:59 p.m. PT. If you are an Audible member with at least 1+ credit in your account, this link will take you to the sale page. If you’re not, the link won’t work.

However, even if you aren’t yet a member, you can join Audible for a 30-day, no-obligations trial membership. And you’ll get either the HUNTER or BAD DEEDS audiobook absolutely free.

Audiobooks are the fastest-growing format in the book industry. And no wonder. You can listen while you drive, commute, exercise, or do chores, turning otherwise boring routines into hours of enjoyment and learning. So, why not give it a try?

To try out Audible and get your free HUNTER audiobook, click here. If you prefer to get the BAD DEEDS audiobook instead, click here.

Not sure? You can listen to the opening chapter of HUNTER here:

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Writing Challenges

Before I began to create fiction, I anticipated that the hardest thing for me would be writing believable dialogue and — for this series of novels — creating a credible romance between Dylan Hunter and Annie Woods. I worried about whether the former would ring true and was terrified that the latter might seem ridiculous. On the other hand, I thought that since I have a pretty logical mind, plotting the stories would be a snap.
 

Well, it turned out to be exactly the opposite. Dialogue flows easily for me. Most of my readers also seem to enjoy the love story of Dylan and Annie, telling me that it seems authentic in its details and nuances.

But plotting these stories turns out to be a huge challenge for me. Getting the plots to flow logically, and at the right pace, takes me long months of tedious work.

The main reason for that is that each of my stories is “theme-driven.” Rather than start out with a character or a situation and build from there, I start instead with some abstract idea, concept, premise, or ultimate “moral of the story.” That then becomes the unifying thread that runs through, and binds together, all the characters, their conflicts, and the events of the story. My characters tend to embody “variations on the theme” or take conflicting sides of the theme. The events of the plot then grow organically and logically from their basic conflicts.
 
Having some abstract theme or point to a story, then developing and integrating all aspects of the novel — characters, conflicts, scenes — around that one central idea, adds a much higher level of complexity and challenge to the plotting. I find it a lot harder to write these kinds of theme-driven stories than I would to write a straight thriller or mystery or romance, where all I’d have to worry about is putting interesting characters into an interesting situation and turning them loose.
 
But the challenge of thematic writing doesn’t stop there.
 
Another dimension of complexity is added when you develop a running “story arc” over the course of a series of novels. By that I mean an overriding plot structure for the entire series, in which each individual novel represents just one adventure in an overarching odyssey that has its own beginning, middle, and destination.
 
Yet another level of complexity arises if you maintain a number of ongoing series characters, each with his or her own individual story arc. If you have just one (or two) ongoing characters in a series, he or she can evolve, and new, temporary characters can be added in each novel, serving that one tale alone. But when you have a continuing cast of characters and aim to hold them together over the long haul, then each one requires his own full storyline, and each must evolve in ways that will keep all of them together.
 
Finally, if in addition to having a theme for each novel, you also impose some broader, overarching, abstract theme upon the entire series, then the complexity from novel to novel can become truly mind-boggling. Each novel has its own individual theme…but it must also serve the broader point of the series. And that has important practical implications. Each change to one element in a single novel can have repercussions that affect and alter many other things in future books in the series.
 
For me, this kind of writing is maddeningly complicated and takes a long time. I’ve described it as akin to trying to juggle and solve a bunch of Rubik’s Cubes simultaneously. That’s why I can’t simply write “seat of the pants,” diving in and just seeing where the characters will take me. Instead, I am a fanatical “outliner,” rather than “pantser” (to use the industry slang). I have to plan out everything — characters, chapters, scenes, the series arc — ahead of time, just to keep things from going off the rails and to prevent me from painting myself into embarrassing logical corners.
 

However, if I do my job right as a writer, you readers will never notice or worry about any of this hidden, underlying “architecture.” You’ll enjoy each story as its own adventure: an investment of a few pleasurable hours with characters that intrigue you, who are doing things you might secretly want to do in your own private fantasies.

Let me hasten to add that there is no “one right way” to write fiction, and I am not implying that my way is superior to that of any other writer. I’m making no comparisons at all — just trying to indicate my own idiosyncratic approach.

For what it’s worth, here is a post on “Methods and Aids I Use to Write Fiction.” It includes a number of recommendations of “how-to” books that I’ve found valuable in learning the craft of writing.

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Promo Teaser for WINNER TAKES ALL

 

Many Dylan Hunter fans ask me, “What is your next thriller going to be about?” I’m still writing WINNER TAKES ALL and aim to have it completed by summer. But for now, let me answer the question with this promotional “teaser”:

***

A murderous conspiracy for ultimate power…

Engaged to be married, journalist Dylan Hunter and CIA officer Annie Woods are eager to put their violent past behind them, for good.

But then an idealistic presidential candidate is targeted for destruction. And a probing reporter is found murdered.

Soon, Dylan’s investigation puts him in the cross hairs of a power-hungry billionaire and a cold-blooded assassin. A deadly conspiracy of dangerous men aims to install their puppet in the White House. And these predators are willing to do the unthinkable to bring America under their total control.

The stakes — political and personal — couldn’t be higher. Because, to stop them, Dylan Hunter must make an irrevocable choice. It’s a decision that will, finally and forever, seal his fate . . . including his future with the woman he adores.

But for now, only one thing is certain:

In a tidal wave of political violence, on the blood-soaked streets of Washington, D.C., the final outcome will be…

…winner takes all.

***

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Glowing Review of the HUNTER Audiobook

 

The Audiobook Blog, an international review site for audio products, has published a glowing review of the audio edition of HUNTER, by site reviewer Victor Dima. He says that the story “is a great one, filled with tense moments, interesting facts, ideas and the right amount of romance. Oh, yeah, and the ending is very satisfying as well.” He continues:

Besides being a great thriller, HUNTER brings together aspects from romance, mystery, police procedurals and espionage…. I was very pleasantly surprised by this fresh take on the vigilante idea. I haven’t read something this good on this topic since Without Remorse by Tom Clancy, which, by the way, is one of my all time favorites….

Conor Hall gives an almost perfect performance with the audiobook, bringing all the characters to life, even Luna the cat. His narration becomes mesmerizing at times and the different voices and subtle accents keep everyone differentiated in the listener’s mind. I think he is the right actor to record this new amazing series of thrillers and I’m looking forward to listen to him again…. HUNTER is a great book with a very compelling story, filled with characters that feel alive and real. Robert Bidinotto delivers one of the most interesting and thought-provoking thrillers released in recent history.

To listen to the opening chapter of HUNTER, click here:

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Interview with Russell Blake — NYT Bestselling Thriller Author

 

Folks, this interview introduction will be longer than usual, because the author I’m spotlighting deserves a proper build-up.

One of the most humbling experiences any writer can undergo is to encounter another writer whose output and success put one’s own to shame. And it’s downright humiliating when that other author began his publishing career the same month you did—but has written and published dozens of thrillers during the same period that you only wrote and published two.

In the hope that I might learn something about literary productivity from a true master of the thriller genre, I approached this man, who has become a legend in the self-publishing field. And he generously consented to this interview.

Russell Blake author photo

Prolific thriller bestseller Russell Blake

Featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Times, and The Chicago Tribune, Russell Blake is The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of around fifty action/adventure and mystery novels. Among his many titles, which you can find at this Amazon link:

The JET series, including:  JET; JET— Ops Files; JET— Ops Files: Terror Alert; JET II—Betrayal; JET III—Vengeance; JET IV—Reckoning; JET V—Legacy; JET VI—Justice; JET VII—Sanctuary; JET VIII—Survival; JET IX—Escape; and JET X—Incarceration.

The Artemis Black detective series, including: BLACK; BLACK Is Back; BLACK Is the New Black; BLACK to Reality; and BLACK in the Box.

The Assassins Series, including: Night of the Assassin; King of Swords; Revenge of the Assassin; Return of the Assassin; Blood of the Assassin; Requiem for the Assassin; and Rage of the Assassin.

Plus: Fatal Exchange, Fatal Deception, The Geronimo Breach, Zero Sum, The Delphi Chronicle trilogy, The Voynich Cypher, Silver Justice, Upon A Pale Horse, Ramsey’s Gold, Emerald Buddha, Deadly Calm, and the forthcoming post-apocalypse series The Day After Never, starting with The Day After Never—Blood Honor.

Russell Blake’s non-fiction (yes, he writes that, too) includes the international bestseller An Angel With Fur (animal biography) and How To Sell A Gazillion eBooks In No Time (Even If Drunk, High Or Incarcerated)—a parody of all things writing-related.

As if this weren’t enough, Blake is co-author of The Eye of Heaven and The Solomon Curse with legendary author Clive Cussler. Blake’s novel King of Swords has been translated into German by Amazon Crossing, The Voynich Cypher into Bulgarian, and his JET and Ramsey‘s novels into Spanish, German, and Czech. His JET stories have inspired “fan fiction” by admiring writers through the “Kindle Worlds” program.

King of Swords coverOh, and there’s more: Blake also writes under the moniker R.E. Blake in the NA/YA/Contemporary Romance genres. Novels include Less Than Nothing, More Than Anything, and Best of Everything.

Having resided in Mexico for a dozen years, Blake says he enjoys his dogs, fishing, boating, tequila, and writing (he wasn’t clear to me about their order of priority), while battling world domination by clowns. This speed-writing demon generously took time from his insanely busy writing schedule to answer my questions during a coffee break while cranking out his latest novel. Really. Buckle in, and prepare to meet a literary marvel. Then visit his website, http://russellblake.com/, to learn more about him and his many books.

~*~

 The Vigilante Author: Russell, thank you for your willingness to share with my readers a bit of yourself, your journey, and your work. I hope they’ll be sufficiently intrigued and inspired to check out your books, which I think they’ll love.

Since you began self-publishing in June 2011—the same month I did—you’ve written an amazing number of novels and sold millions of copies. Your incredible output and success have earned the attention of major media and the entire book industry.

So why don’t we begin by letting you say something about your books. And maybe focus a bit on your latest novel.

Russell Blake: Well, I’ve written about fifty at last count, so beyond saying they’re mainly action thrillers and mysteries, it would take all day. But they’re popular, and continue to sell well, so I must be doing something right.

TheDayAfterNever-Small-200x300As to the latest one, I’m very excited by it. It’s the first novel in a new post-apocalyptic series that I honestly think is some of my best work. Titled The Day After Never—Blood Honor, it goes live April 18th, and should do well in the genre. I have high expectations for this one, higher than for any series since I published JET three years ago, which remains a bestseller for me.

The Vigilante Author: I’ve just started reading your work, beginning with the original JET, which I’m enjoying for its amazing pacing and colorful action scenes. Yet your writing seems varied. What are your preferred genres?

Russell Blake: Action/Adventure, mainly, with some mysteries (BLACK series) and some conspiracy thrillers (Upon a Pale Horse, The Delphi Chronicle, Zero Sum, Silver Justice, Fatal Exchange, and Fatal Deception).

The Vigilante Author: You’ve created a host of interesting characters. For instance, Jet, one of your heroines, is an unusual female spy and assassin, with a background in the Israeli Mossad. What do you do to conjure distinctive heroes and heroines?

Continue reading

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A Romantic Respite from Cultural Corruption

 

This piece in the New York Post offers a bill of indictment against contemporary crudeness and crassness in popular culture. Reading it, I thought I’d briefly share my own perspective.

As a writer of thrillers that present a crusading, romantic vigilante hero — a modern Zorro — I feel completely alien from today’s nihilistic pop culture, especially its fiction, TV, and films.

300_1920-sword

Gore-fests are now common in TV series.

While violence and sexuality certainly are present in my thrillers, I take considerable pains to avoid the gory, graphic, and gratuitous. I prefer to keep the violence impressionistic, the sex romantic, and the language PG-13 (at worst), rather than X- or even R-rated.

My stories deal with rough, tough people doing a lot of vicious and violent things. However, fiction always has dealt with unpleasant subject matter, yet the finest narrative artists have never found it necessary to descend into gore-fests, or to detailed descriptions of degeneracy and perversion, in order to write tales about evil that are compelling. (Think of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, for example.)

Art is all about selectivity in presenting reality. Artists do not have to show everything, let alone dwell on it, in order to focus on the most important things.

Just as good art can inspire and edify us, so can corrupt art dispirit and degrade us. Our minds and souls are trained, habituated, and ultimately shaped by our artistic experiences. A steady diet of the morbid and the ugly shrinks us to the subhuman.

I know many readers appreciate discretion and good taste from storytellers. I like to think they enjoy my books as a romantic respite from the sordid ugliness and dispiriting cynicism that is infecting our society through degrading art.

When the cultural pendulum swings back — as I believe it will, and soon — those artists who haven’t succumbed to trendy sleaze stand to benefit.

 

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BAD DEEDS Audiobook Now Available!

BIG NEWS….

Today, March 29, 2016, the audiobook edition of BAD DEEDS is now available through Amazon, as well as Audible.com, and also iTunes.

And you can listen to a 15-minute sample by clicking here.

BAD DEEDS audio coverI know many of you have been waiting for this book in an audio format. And I got the best production team anywhere. It was produced by Audible Studios, the world’s largest audio download publisher, and narrated — as was HUNTER — by the great Conor Hall.

The second installment of my Dylan Hunter thriller series, BAD DEEDS picks up right where HUNTER left off. Recovering from the traumas they endured in the previous tale, Dylan Hunter and Annie Woods find themselves drawn into a deadly conspiracy that imperils the locals in western Pennsylvania . . . but whose long tentacles reach back to Capitol Hill in Washington. It’s a tangled tale filled with gnawing suspense, explosive action, political intrigue, and passionate romance.

BAD DEEDS has won extraordinarily high ratings from Amazon and Goodreads reviewers, as well as the CLFA 2014 “Book of the Year” Award. You audio fans can now enjoy it as a nearly 15-hour unabridged recording at Amazon on the book’s product page, and at Audible.com, as well as iTunes.

If you are not yet a member of Audible, you can get a free one-month trial membership and download both HUNTER and BAD DEEDS for free! Just click here and read the ordering instructions in the right margin.

And if you haven’t yet heard HUNTER, the audiobook is available on Amazon, as well as on Audible. It’s also available on iTunes. And you can hear a 15-minute audio sample of the book’s opening chapters by clicking here.

Happy listening!

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