A Western With Heart and Soul

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It was the fall of 1882. After killing four men in West Virginia, the mute, Cody Williams, and Tompal Banks, killer of twenty-three men by his own estimates, crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky….Tompal swore that they would not kill anyone in this land new to all three, a vow they would break before the next sunset in the town of Mercy…

Ok 280 Steps, you have my attention. It seems every book I have picked up from your company has kept me glued to the pages and has kept me thinking of the book even after the last page has been turned. But with Out of Mercy by Jonathan Ashley, you have outdone yourselves.

This book was a flat-out kick-ass, wild ride through the old west. It is a bloody, pulpy tale that had me hooked from the opening chapter. With witty dialogue, great characters that come to life, and bloody scenes, this book shows you that Jonathan Ashley has writing skills that few others can match.

When Tompal Banks, Cody Williams, and the mute roll into the town of Mercy, Kentucky, they find themselves surrounded by a slew of strange and interesting characters that have hidden agendas and secrets they would prefer stay hidden. The threesome have some merchandise that acquired after a deadly shootout and they now have to stay one step in front of the rightful owners of said merchandise.

One of the greatest strengths of this book is the wide range of characters and how well developed they each are. They each have in-depth background stories and Ashley paints them with vivid strokes of heartbreak, desires, and motivations. As the reader feels they truly know each character, their actions are understandable and help the storylines weave together and allow the story to seem multilayered.

This book started out with a blast and seemed to get better and better as the book continued. I was a little unsure if I would like the book, as I don’t read “westerns”. But I had nothing to worry about; the book was a dynamite read. I will be seeking out more books by this author and I will certainly be keeping my eye in 280 Steps in the future!

Highly Recommended.

Nicely Plotted and Fun to Read

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We all have relationships in our lives that were meaningful at one time and, as time passes, these relationships fade from our lives, leaving memories and often regrets.

Pale in Death by Ed Brock brings this familiar theme to the reader as Mark Freer, cop reporter, finds himself reporting on the beating death of Amelia, a woman he recognizes and was romantically connected to in his not too distant past. While this would cause anyone to question how this tragedy might have turned out differently if their relationship had remained intact, Mark has even more reason to question his choices to end the relationship. While he was dating Amelia he introduced her to Lester Little, who got Amelia hooked on meth. As Amelia’s life begins to spiral out of control, Mark realizes he must break off this relationship if he has any hope of finding the life he is seeking. He leaves Amelia to fend for herself and moves on with his life. While his life turns out fairly well, seeing how Amelia’s life ended he is forced to question his choices and also seeks answers to how Amelia’s life ended the way it did.

Brock delivers a nicely paced thriller that has an interesting cast of characters and is well plotted. 280 Steps publishing is certainly adding some great books to their catalogue and this is a worthy addition. While not particularly noir in its scope, it is a book that is worth picking up and enjoying.

Recommended.

Hashtag delivers on Pruitt’s Promise

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After reading Eryk Pruitt’s first book Dirtbags, I was intrigued to read more from him and see if he could produce a second novel that matched the greatness of his first book. I was thrilled when I saw I was offered the opportunity to get an ARC of Pruitt’s second book, Hashtag. I am please to say that this book not only lived up to the promise of his first book, but actually gives the impression that Pruitt is gaining steam in his writing career. This novel is even better than the first, and anyone who read his first novel would know that this says a great deal about the greatness of this book.

One of the best things about Pruitt’s books is the amazing cast of characters that he creates. Each character is developed nicely and the fact that the reader gets invested into each character makes each chapter exciting to read. No sooner are you finished with a chapter and you feel disappointed that you are leaving an engaging storyline, you reenter another storyline that you have been waiting to return to and you become excited to reenter this world. The end result is a book that seems to fly along like a bat out of hell, taking the reader on a ride they will remember for a long time.

This book has drugs, guns, crime, grit, and corrupt lawmen. In other words, this book has everything a noir book needs to become the talk of the town. 280 Steps publishing has a winner on their hands and this is the type of book that they can put out as a good indicator of the type of books they will publish; kick ass noir that sucks a reader in and leaves them wanting more. Pruitt is poised to become a must read author and has the noir world on a string. This is a dynamite read.

Highly recommended.

A Fun Ride

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The Cost of Doing Business by Jonathan Ashley is the third book published by 280 Steps, and it is the third book I really liked by this publisher. It has certainly put 280 Steps onto my radar.

The plot for this novel made it a must read for me. When Jon, a local bookstore owner, lets his temper get the best of him and he kills a local drug addict, he needs to figure out a way to avoid getting caught for his crime. What is his answer to the problem of not wanting to go to prison? Well to become a big name drug lord of course!

Well, he actually doesn’t set out to become a huge drug dealer, but one thing leads to another and he is in over his head in the world of dealing drugs. Along for the ride is his friend Paul and the two of them get deeper and deeper into a world they never dreamed they would be in.

The book picks up speed quickly and the characters are memorable. I thought Ashley handled the plot well and I was invested in the story pretty quickly out the gate. The book was a satisfying read and put Ashley on my radar to seek out his next book.

Recommended

You Will Burn Through Burn Cards

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Burn Cards by Christopher Irvin is the second book I have read that is published by 280 Steps Publishing and I am already seeing a trend; they are publishing strong, well-plotted books that keep the reader invested from beginning to end. It is great to see yet another small publisher making a name for themselves by publishing some great up and coming authors.

Burn Cards is a quick paced novella that takes place in Reno and shows us that a loser never wins and often pulls everyone around them down into the gutter. Mirna Fowler is trying to claw her way into a better life by working at a salon and saving all her money so she can find a place to go start the life she dreams of. But her gambling-addicted father seems to always be standing in her way and he is always looking to her for handouts and favors. Although everyone around her tells her to cut him loose, the love she has for him seems to always pull her back into his gravitational downspin.

Things go from bad to worse when her father checks out of life, leaving Mirna holding the bag for his huge debt to a local loan shark. After she loses the little bit of money she has managed to save to the collection efforts of the loan shark, she realizes she has to make a desperate move to free herself from the clutches of her dead father and Reno itself or she will end up in the same low places she has always found her father.

“During the day, Reno looks like any other western tourist destination; an aging downtown surrounded by clustered suburban neighborhoods, tracts of fast food and mini-malls…At night, the city is awash in strange colored light that’s visible for miles. Some say you can read the mood of the city by the dominant color of neon. The might be right, it’s been blue for years.”

 

I found Irvin’s ability to bring the dreary Reno landscape to life to be a brilliant part of this novel. He goes behind the bright lights and glittery façade to find the heartbreaking truth of a dingy, tired, vortex-like town that sucks the life out of people before they even recognize what is happening. A fall from the top can be a hard one, but Irvin shows that a fall from a low spot can be equally hurtful and soul wrecking.

The novella was over before I knew it and I wanted more. Mirna could definitely become a recurring character for Irvin and I would be interested to see where he could take her. But in the meanwhile, I will be seeking out previous works from Irvin. That speaks to the true beauty of beginning this blog; I am finding many new authors that have great works out there. I hope I can help shed the light on some of these authors and help others to find the great depth of writing talent that is out there. Seek and ye shall find.

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Eric Beetner seems to have a formula that he has used for every book he has published:

Fun plot + believable characters + witty dialogue + breakneck pace = novel that knocks you socks off.

I am more than pleased to say his latest, Rumrunners, shows that he is fine-tuning this formula. He has written many good books, but dare I say, this book is his best yet, which is saying a lot. His latest offering is being published by independent publisher, 280 Steps, and is due for release on May 12, 2015.

The plot is a simple one that just seems to get more enjoyable as the book progresses. It is amazing how Beetner handles this story in such a masterful manner. It starts like it is shot from a gun and never seems to slow down until the very end.

The men from the McGraw clan have been drivers for the more wealthier Stanley family for the past 3 generations. The McGraws have driving in their blood and are excited to drive any cargo anywhere it needs to go. As the Stanley’s have their fingers in less than desirable dealings, the cargo is usually of an illegal nature. The latest job calls for Webb McGraw to pick up some cargo and deliver it to an anxious buyer who will be using it to cook meth. What should be a simple job goes off the rails and Webb and the cargo disappear without a trace. In an attempt to locate both Webb and their missing cargo, the Stanleys seek out Webb’s son Tucker, the one McGraw who doesn’t want to live the illegal life of a illegal cargo transporter, and tell him he either finds and delivers the missing cargo for them or pays them the 10 million dollars the cargo is worth.

Tucker is out of his league in this world, but he knows someone who can handle this and more. He seeks out his grandfather, Calvin, and together they search for answers to exactly what happened to Webb and the cargo. They rule out that Webb disappeared on his own volition because “Webb operated under a strict code of ethics on an unethical profession.” They both know that Webb lived for the driving, not for making profit off the cargo. Calvin is convinced the answers they seek can be found if they know who to shake down and how hard to shake them down.

As the story unfolds Tucker learns that sometimes our family is not just connected to us through blood, but their genes can be hidden in our blood and give us the ability to do things we never thought we could. As Tucker slowly discovers he is a McGraw at heart, the reader gets to take an amazing adventure with him and an amazingly tough old man.

This book was an outstanding read that can be read in a few sittings. Beetner has some dialogue that made me laugh out loud and he has a great knack for making his characters come to life. He deserves a wide audience and certainly deserves credit for crafting a great book. I highly recommend everyone grab a copy of this book and all of his previous works.