WINNER TAKES ALL Is Finally Here!

 

At last!

On December 1, 2017, WINNER TAKES ALL — the third installment in the Dylan Hunter Justice Thrillers series — went on sale on Amazon.

The Kindle ebook edition and the print edition are available now on Amazon. I hope to have the audio edition available in the first quarter of 2018; stay tuned for updates.

WTA is by far the biggest, most complex, most thematically ambitious — and some enthusiastic advance readers say “the best” — book in the series.

It also serves as the rousing climax to what has become an opening trilogy in the Dylan Hunter saga. Filled with surprises, it fleshes out the lives of characters that many thousands of readers have come to know and love. You’ll learn surprising things about Dylan, Annie, Grant Garrett, Detective Ed Cronin, Wonk, and past “minor” characters who play big roles here: Avery Trammel, Ray Lasher, Emmalee Conn, Julia Haight, and many more. And a host of colorful new characters make their appearances.

You’ve waited for it for so long that I’m sure you’ve forgotten what the story is all about. So here’s a teaser:

***

A murderous conspiracy for ultimate power  . . . inspired by today’s headlines!

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

But then an investigative reporter is found mysteriously murdered. An idealistic presidential candidate is targeted for destruction. And a horrific day of unspeakable terrorism rocks Washington, D.C.

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

WINNER TAKES ALL

***

I bet you thought I’d never finish it — right?

I don’t blame you. There were many times over the past three-and-a-half years when I thought I’d bitten off way more than I could chew. During that period, I cringed almost daily at questions from Dylan’s multitude of fans about my many missed deadlines. I tried to explain, then gave up, because it sounded like excuse-making. Maybe it was.

And we all know how Dylan deals with excuse-makers, right?

So, for the past year, I pretty much stopped communicating publicly about the book. I didn’t want anyone — least of all my long-suffering wife — to know I’d reached the point where I met each morning with paralysis and dread, staring at a plot structure that had sprouted and spread like kudzu, harboring within its half-dozen subplots a proliferation of unruly characters who were multiplying like horny bunnies.

How did that happen? It happened because, for me, this single book had to accomplish so many different objectives.

For one, the story had to harvest seeds planted in the first two installments of the series — resolutions about Dylan’s future course, where his relationship with Annie might be headed, and the ominous threat looming over them at the end of BAD DEEDS. More fundamentally, I had to confront and answer these questions:

Continue reading

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Opening Scene of WINNER TAKES ALL

As I work to try to finish the writing of WINNER TAKES ALL during September, for a fall release, I thought I’d whet your appetite with the brief opening scene of the novel.

————————-

“You will soon regret you ever poked your nose into my business.”

He said it to the reporter softly, each syllable precise and distinct.

Then he cut off the call and jammed his mobile phone into the pocket of his windbreaker.

He drew a long, steadying breath.

The past month had been catastrophic. And now this

He rose from the deck chair on his private rooftop terrace at the Watergate complex. Leaving a steaming cup of coffee on the glass-topped table, he threaded through the thicket of potted plants and flowers, to the wall at the roof’s edge. He leaned forward and gripped its cold brass rail.

Fourteen stories below, the Potomac River flowed, a waxen mirror of the slate sky. Across its expanse, the bare, ashen fingers of trees on Theodore Roosevelt Island groped for a fugitive sun. His gaze drifted south, past the pallid Carrara marble of the nearby Kennedy Center, to where the gray arc of the Roosevelt Bridge linked the nation’s capital to Virginia. A chill March gust stung his cheeks and knuckles.

All that he had been working toward, for decades—now at risk. He had to consider, quite carefully, his next steps. To weigh the various options, their pluses and minuses…

Ten minutes later, he decided that the reporter had to die.

 

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A New Publishing Imprint for HUNTER

 

Ever since the publication of HUNTER in 2011, I have believed that the story and its hero are tailor-made for multimedia development — as a film franchise, TV series, and/or videogames.

But when my entertainment attorney explored film possibilities a few years ago, nibbles didn’t turn into bites. And frankly, I’ve been of mixed minds about entrusting my stories to Hollywood anyway, knowing how the film industry mangles so many book adaptations — and also knowing that the Politically Incorrect themes of my novels might be twisted by philosophically unsympathetic producers, screenwriters, and directors.

Which is why I was intrigued when I was contacted recently by Matt Cook, co-founder and CEO of Braveship Entertainment.

Matt is an author himself. He’s also a fan of HUNTER and a long-time reader of my nonfiction. His young, innovative company specializes in bringing stories to multimedia platforms simultaneously, as books, films, television series, videogames, even virtual reality. Staffed with talented veterans and experts in all these areas — and focusing on the thriller, adventure, and sci-fi/fantasy genres — Braveship is raising capital for the development of films and videogames.

Future projects often will be spinoffs from titles in its Braveship Books publishing division, which has been enlisting a stable of bestselling and award-winning authors and their works. The book division is run by Jeff Edwards, himself a bestselling thriller author who also is a big fan of HUNTER.

Matt and Jeff invited me to affiliate with Braveship, in order to explore film and videogame possibilities for my debut thriller. That would mean reissuing HUNTER under the Braveship Books imprint. After much discussion in recent weeks and agreement on terms, I’ve decided to pursue this exciting opportunity.

Over the next several months, HUNTER will bear the new logo, imprint, and publisher information of Braveship Books. Let me assure you that this arrangement can have only upside potential for me and for the Hunter series.

It is rare for an author to partner with highly capable professionals who — by virtue of their own writing careers — understand, respect, and aim to protect the author’s rights and interests. It is rarer still for an author to work with people in the entertainment industry who are true, sympathetic fans of his fiction and its point of view. I’ve found both in Matt Cook, Jeff Edwards, and their team at Braveship Entertainment.

We all hope that this affiliation eventually will lead to a multimedia franchise that can vastly expand the public audience for my Dylan Hunter thrillers. I’ll let you know, as developments warrant.

 

 

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An Update

Almost daily, I receive private (and sometimes public) inquiries about the status of my current work in progress, WINNER TAKES ALL. The delay in finishing and publishing the third tale in the Dylan Hunter thriller series is taxing the patience of his devoted fans, and knowing that only adds to my own stress. I feel I owe readers an explanation, and perhaps a public comment will ease the number of personal email replies I’ve had to write.

The book has posed challenges for me on a number of levels. For one thing, the story must harvest seeds I planted in the first two installments of the series: Dylan’s future course, where his relationship with Annie may be headed, the ominous hints left hanging at the end of BAD DEEDS. Now, that sort of thing would be true of almost any ongoing series, and all series authors face such challenges. In addition, however, I also want the series to remain at least loosely tied and relevant to things going on in the real world. Yet complications have arisen for me because of actual events that have happened recently.

For one thing, there’s been turmoil at the CIA during the past two years, due to a major reorganization. For another, the unexpected outcome of the presidential election surprised everyone. I didn’t foresee either of these events when mapping out my future “series arc,” yet both bear considerably on it. (E.g.: How does the CIA reorganization affect the careers of Grant Garrett and Annie Woods? What does the sudden change in the country’s political leadership and direction imply for the current story, which takes place during a presidential election? How do their implications affect my planned future stories?)

I felt compelled to rethink and adjust the plot structure of WINNER TAKES ALL so that future books will incorporate these facts — and thus seem realistic to savvy readers, rather than go off into a completely made-up, far less credible fantasy world.

However, the greater challenge I’ve had to confront was answering the questions: How can I realistically continue the “career” of a vigilante assassin, over the long term? What could plausibly motivate Dylan to continue on that course? What will that mean for Dylan’s relationship with Annie? Or with ever-suspicious cop Ed Cronin, hot on his heels?

Not only does WINNER TAKES ALL have its own deviously complicated tale to tell; it also must answer all these questions that bear on the series future, too. So, though I never planned things this way when I began to write HUNTER, this new book must resolve issues implied or left open in the first two books — in effect becoming the completion of an opening series trilogy. After this one, the series can continue, moving in fresh directions. But squeezing all of these factors and requirements — plus rapidly changing national events — into a single, fast-moving, page-turning thriller has been a mind-boggling, at times overwhelming, plotting and writing challenge.

Happily, after much pondering and reworking, the book finally jelled for me, and I’ve been making good progress in the writing. But it’s taken far longer than I expected. Right now I’m shooting for a March completion and release, barring any more outside interruptions (and there have been plenty of those, too).

So, to fans of the series, thank you for your continuing eager interest, and apologies for your long-taxed patience. I hope both will be rewarded soon, and that you will feel that WINNER TAKES ALL was worth the wait when it’s finally published.

–Robert

 

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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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