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Stark Shadows

Homicide cop Harry Stark descends into the world of the occult to solve a series of bizarre murders.
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Young, successful men with unblemished reputations— each of them living a contented, "normal" life— are being murdered, one month apart. The killings seem to be unconnected, but are they? Are there dark secrets in the dead men’s pasts? Homicide Detective Harry Stark has to untangle the mystery of the links between these men in a case that takes him and his partner, Noel Harris, on a tortuous and deadly trip into the world of shadows.

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Title Stark Shadows
Author John W. Simpson
Series A Harry Stark Mystery
Genre Noir Mystery
Release November 14, 2017
Designer Charlotte Volnek
Length 191 pages
ISBN 978-1-77127-954-3
Price $5.99
Tags Noir, mystery, police, murder, occult, spies, serial killer


“He knows about us.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure.”

“And he’s writing a book about us?”

“It’s going to be published right before the election. It will kill us.”

“We’ll get an injunction.”

“Come on, Lee, that’s not an option.”

Martyn Waterman took a sip of whisky from a large Waterford old-fashioned glass and made a face. He didn’t like Scotch, and he didn’t drink much. He would have preferred a glass of red wine, but Johnnie Walker Black was the group’s chosen tipple. Seated at the table with him on that early April day in 2001 in the small boardroom of the Albion Club were the members of a group that called itself The Committee, five of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the country: Ross Stephens, chief executive officer and majority shareholder at CTL World Properties, one of the biggest landlords on the planet; Norton Fielding, a chemical engineer, whose PVC plastic processes had made him billions; Brian Ball, a former member of Parliament, and a former professional golfer, who controlled an international sporting-goods empire; Ian Steinhart, CEO and principal shareholder of a company that made children’s car seats; and Lee Brassard, whose holdings in the hospitality industry were so extensive and so complex he needed a full-time accountant to handle his personal affairs. In the past month, he had dined in three restaurants he didn’t know he owned.

“So, what do you suggest we do?” Brassard asked Waterman.

Waterman leaned over the table as far as his substantial girth would allow. “Whatever we do, it has to be something that we know is going to work for now and forever. We can’t have this fellow hanging over us like a spectre. He has to be shut up permanently.”

“Christ, that sounds ominous, if that’s the word I want,” Ball said, stirring the ice in his glass with a long finger, and looking from one to the other around the table with a slight grin.

Waterman leaned back and looked at the faces of the other four, two on each side of the long, gleaming walnut table. As chairman of their little organization, he sat at the end. There had never been any doubt when they established the group that Waterman would be the leader, despite the fact that, if the members were measured by personal wealth, he would place well below the other four. Surprisingly, the richest of them was Brian Ball, thanks to a prodigious inheritance from his father, who had made his fortune in railroads, and which Ball had multiplied many times in the mortgage market. Waterman was the only one among them who was a public figure. The owner of the country’s largest private television network, he was an outspoken advocate of nineteenth-century liberalism and always available to journalists for comment on practically any issue. A literate man, he regularly produced well-rendered commentaries for conservative journals. The others at the table were relatively unknown. Waterman was a controller, a natural leader, an orator and the only one among them who could clearly and intelligently articulate the political philosophy to which they all adhered. And with his control of the television medium, he held more power than all the others’ wealth combined afforded them.

“Gentlemen,” Waterman said, pressing his fingertips together in a steeple, “we, the five of us seated around this table, have been gifted with the greatest opportunity in history to control the destiny of this nation. We are not going to allow a jumped-up petty muckraker to destroy that. We simply are not going to allow it.” He shook his head.

“Let’s just buy the publisher,” Steinhart said. “Then, we’ll own the rights to the guy’s book, and we’ll just kill it.”

“That won’t work, he’d just sue. When you sign a contract with a writer, you agree to publish his work. If you don’t publish it, the contract is void. He’d take it to somebody else. What are we going to do buy up every publisher in the country?”

“Then we’ll buy him off. He must have a price,” Stephens said.

Waterman shook his head with slow finality. “He’s not interested in money. He’s not writing the book for money. It’s his—” he raised both hands mockingly “— legacy. His left-wing, liberal legacy. An ultimate gesture of resentment, his demonstration of the destructive power of the poison pen. Our only choice is to wield a mightier sword before he finishes scrawling the vitriol with his instrument of nihilistic anarchy.”

“Speak English,” Ball said. “What are you saying we should do?”

Waterman shrugged. “Whatever is necessary.” He sipped his Scotch.

“You’re being deliberately vague, Martyn,” Fielding said. “You want someone else to suggest the solution, and then you can say it wasn’t your idea.”

“Norton, this little association of ours is a democratic institution. I am presenting the problem and waiting for proposals to be tabled for all of us to examine and discuss. It’s as simple as that.”

“I’m having no part of violence,” Fielding said.

“Violence?” Steinhart said. “What do you think? Waterman’s going to sit on him while Ball bashes him with a golf club? Violence. Jesus, Fielding.”

“Wait a minute,” Brassard said. “Let’s look at this thing. So, what’s this book going to say, Martyn?”

“How would I know? I haven’t read it. I know what Mackey says is going to be in it?”

“He told you?” Ball said.

“Oh, he told me, all right. He was drunk at a media awards banquet. He leaned all over me in the hallway. Journalists can never keep their mouths shut. They like to talk a story before they write it to try to encourage the response they’re looking for—the oohs and ahs—because when they actually write the thing, it may draw only yawns, but I think that if Mackey produces this book in anything near the way he described it, none of us will be yawning. What’s the book going to say? Well, it’s going to say things about us, about us individually, a series of distorted biographies that will portray us as rapacious vultures, a cabal of evil, self-serving capitalists, running the country from this room. In some cases—” He scanned the table, his gaze pausing for an equal amount of time on each man, and then looking at the ceiling as if averting his eyes from the others to avoid embarrassment. “In some cases, the material may be a little more personal, even more embarrassing.”







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