Cheeseburger Gothic

The Stand: separated character arcs

Posted August 28 by John Birmingham

I had reason to breakdown down the chapter structure of The Stand for my End ofthe World project over at Patreon last week. TLDR: I ws worried about the structure of my own epic and wanted to stress test it against King's. The 78 chapter breakdown is here, free to read. But having dne that I then set about teasing out the individual arcs for the main heroes/narrators. A fascinating process which gave me some real insights into the way The Stand works and how I might take a few lessons from that for myself.

The main lessons?

Each of the main characters has a sympatheic cause we can get behind before everyone starts dying. And each has a sepcific narrative role. Stu, for instance, is largely passive in his early arc, but wth purpose. He carries the A/Story of why the superflu got out and destroyed the world.

I thought fans of the Stand might enjoy or benefit from seeing the silo effect I created for each of the main narrators.


STU. “Hapscomb’s Texaco sat on Number 93 just north of Arnette…”. Stu Redmond and friends sitting at the local store, bitching about the world. A car cashes into the pumps. The occupants are sick, dead or dying. An ambulance takes them away.

(STU). “Norm Bruett woke up at quarter past ten in the morning to the sound of kids fighting outside the bedroom window and country music from the radio in the kitchen.” Norm, Hap and Ralph are all coming down with colds. Hap wonders if it might be something more.

STU. “In the dim light that comes over the land just after sunset … Vic Palfrey rose out of green delirium to brief lucidity.” The good old boys in Arnette are dying. Vic is in containment. Guys in space suits everywhere. Stu Redman is also contained, but not sick. His is getting pissed off and scared at being a lab rat. Arnette has been quarantined. People are dying.

STU. “The red light went on. The pump hissed. The door opened.” Stu Redman finally gets some answers. He’s immune. His friends are dead. He trolls Dietz by coughing when he doesn’t get the information he wants. He has his first dream of Mother Abigail and the Dark Man.

“STU Redman was frightened.” His hospital is more of a jail. The orderlies wear guns now. He thinks the surviving doctors are going through the motions. He’s watching the news now, looking fo signs. He sees a few. He thinks about escape.

STU. “That same evening, as Larry Underwood slept with Rita Blakemoor and as Frannie Goldsmith slept alone, dreaming her peculiarly ominous dream, Stuart Redman was waiting for Elder.” Stu escapes.

STU/GLEN “At first Stu accepted the sound without question; it was such a typical part of a bright summer morning.” Stu meets Glen Bateman and Kojack the dog. They have cold beers, sandwiches and become friends. Bateman has theories. They discuss their dreams. That night Stu has a nightmare that he’s back in the lab.

STU/FRANNIE/HAROLD “While Larry Underwood was taking his Fourth of July spill only a state away, Stuart Redman was sitting on a large rock at the side of the road and eating his lunch.” Stu is carrying a rifle now. He left Glen behind. Harold and Frannie ride up on Hondas. Tense meeting, but Stu and Frannie connect. Harold is resentful. Openly hostile to Stu. They eventually partner up and head west, picking up Glen. Stu realises he does want Frannie.


____


FRANNIE. “There was a long rock pier running out into the Atlantic Ocean from the Ogunquit, Maine, town beach.” Frannie Goldsmith is pregnant. Her boyfriend is hopeless. She falls over and bites her tongue.


FRANNIE. “It was late afternoon when Frannie went out back to where her father was patiently weeding the peas and beans.” Frannie is much closer to her dad than her mom. They have a moment that lasts many pages. She tells him she’s pregnant. He is a perfect parent in response. They both know her mother won’t be. They have a real talk about her relationship, how her mother has changed, her dead brother. Family saga time.


FRANNIE. “There was a grandfather clock standing in the far corner of the parlor. Frannie Goldsmith had been listening to its measured ticks and tocks all of her life.” Frannie’s family history told as a tour of her parent’s home. Nasty confrontation with her mother. Her dad defends her. Slaps Carla Goldsmith. It escalates even more. Frannie’s dad comforts her after.

FRANNIE. “The Harborside was the oldest hotel in Ogunquit.” Frannie is staying the hotel, writing a letter to a friend about her troubles. She makes a few phone calls, including one to her useless boyfriend. Her dad tells her that her mother has a cold and is still hysterical. Another call from her father. An ambulance has picked up her mom.


FRANNIE. “There was a strawberry pie in the fridge. It was covered with Saran Wrap and after looking at it for a long time with dull and bemused eyes, Frannie took it out.” Frannie buries her dad. Scenes from around town. Harold Lauder visits. She dreams.


FRANNIE. “There was a small park in the center of Ogunquit, complete with a Civil War cannon and a War Memorial…” Frannie nurses Gus Dinsmore. He dies. She is in shock. She finds Harold, mowing his lawn. They drink warm Koolaid. Harold is sad. But also smart. He suggest going to Vermont, to a government research lab. He paints a sign on the roof of Moses Richardson’s barn. They leave.

STU/FRANNIE/HAROLD “While Larry Underwood was taking his Fourth of July spill only a state away, Stuart Redman was sitting on a large rock at the side of the road and eating his lunch.” Stu is carrying a rifle now. He left Glen behind. Harold and Frannie ride up on Hondas. Tense meeting, but Stu and Frannie connect. Harold is resentful. Openly hostile to Stu. They eventually partner up and head west, picking up Glen. Stu realises he does want Frannie.

—-


LARRY. “Larry Underwood pulled around the corner and found a parking space big enough…” Larry returns to New York, a success who feels like a failure. The city is falling apart around him, but not because of flu. Long recap of his overnight success, after years of struggle. Wayne Stuckey tells him how it is. He’s a chump, surrounded by parasites. Second part of chapter is a long exploration of his relationship with his mother, who loves him, but doesn’t think much of him. The first longer chapter. 6-7K words.


LARRY. “Larry woke up with a hangover…” Up to his old tricks. This time with an oral hygienist. That doesn’t work out. Ugly scene. ‘You aint no nice guy, Larry!’

LARRY. “Larry found a tired-looking black woman on the lobby level…” Larry find his Mom at work. She’s a cleaner in an office building. He is embarrassed by her and for her. She judges him. But she cannot abandon him. She’s got his number. Reduces him to near tears with tough love. He goes to the movies afterward. A man is coughing.


LARRY. “It had been so long since Larry had been in Times Square that he expected it to look different somehow, magical.” Larry is still in New York. His mom has a cold, and stays home from work. He goes out for a walk. Calls a friend. She says everyone is worried about ‘this flu’. When he gets home, his mother is dangerously ill. He rings the hospital. It’s in chaos.


“LARRY Underwood sat on a bench in Central Park on the morning of June 27, looking into the menagerie.” New York is almost dead and Larry might be going crazy. Monster shouters, dazed survivors, ‘Chance of a lifetime, man’. Larry regrets his split with Rudy. He meets Rita Blakemoor. They have a lunch date.


LARRY. “‘I want to get out of the city,’ Rita said without turning around.” She’s right. Manhattan is a charnel house. Larry has noticed she is older, too. They eat eggs and plan an escape. We get the deets on their brief relationship. They kit up and walk. Apocalypse scenes. Things are tense between them. Rita runs away. Larry goes into the dark Lincoln Tunnel. She catches up with him. They exit NYC.

“LARRY woke up at half past eight to sunlight and the sound of birds.” Happy 4th of July! Rita kills herself with pills. Larry acknowledges some relief. He ain’t no nice guy. Leaves her body in their tent. Almost kills himself on a Harley. Sleeps in a park. Feels like he is being watched.

___


NICK. “They set on him sometime after dusk, while he was walking up the shoulder of US Route 27…” Nick Andros, a deaf-mute, is mugged. Comes to in the lock up of Sheriff John Baker. Baker, a good man, investigates the attack.


“NICK opened the door between Sheriff Baker’s office and the jail cells and they started razzing him right off.” Sheriff Baker has arrested Nick’s attackers. The are all in the same jailhouse. Nick has dinner with Baker and his wife. She has a cold. We learn Nick is smart. He communicates via written notes. He writes his life story for Baker. They get to know each other by working together. Dr Soames examines Nick’s injuries. Baker has caught his wife’s cold. He goes home. Nick is in charge of the jailhouse. Baker doesn’t show up the next day. Nick needs to feed the prisoners. Runs into Soames who tells him Sheriff Baker is dead. A dozen people in town have died of this flu. The town is cut off. This is a ‘breakout chapter’. Captain Trips is off the leash now and gathering pace.


“NICK Andros pushed aside one of the curtains and looked out into the street.” Nick nurses Jane Baker. Breaks into a truck stop, takes food. Rides bike to outskirts of town. Decaying bodies on road. Explores town. Most houses silent. A few sick and delirious occupants left. Releases the only surviving prisoner. Sees a newscast abut ‘superflu epidemic’. Outbreaks reported globally. Jane Baker dies.

NICK. “At twenty-two minutes of nine by the clock over the sheriff’s office doorway, the lights went off.” Power fails to the jailhouse where Nick is staying. He is attacked by Ray Booth. Fights him off.

“NICK Andros lay sleeping but not quiet on the bunk in Sheriff Baker’s office.” Still in town, Nick almost dies of an infected scratch. He has fever dreams of Mother Abigail. He takes a bike and rides out of town.

6 Responses to ‘The Stand: separated character arcs ’

Therbs ducks in to say...

Posted August 28
I like the breakdown . Sort of like crib notes for an Eng Lit assignment. I'm sure Mr King would approve.
Haven't read The Stand for a couple of decades or so ever since my copy went walkabout. Now you've made me long for it. Guess that's what Kindle's for.
*click*

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted August 28
I listened to the extended audiobook with Thomas last year. It was great to revisit just for fun.

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Nocturnalist mumbles...

Posted August 29
And not just the character arcs in isolation, the way he overlays and interlocks them is just amazing. The example that always stays with me is the Nadine Cross/Larry Underwood/Lucy Swann triangle.

That is such a goddamn perfect piece of literary watchmaking. All three parties are fully human, all flawed but all desperate to get to what they see as the best end point. All their actions unfold with perfect logic from who they are and what they want, and there's no way to fault any of them when you stand within their own story and see where they're coming from. Even when you see the disaster that unfolds because of the choices they make, where could any of these three basically good people have chosen differently?

Admirable, enviable work.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted August 29
Yeah, that triangle in particular always impresses me because there is no right choice for Larry to make. Either way he goes, with Nadine or Lucy, he ain't no nice guy.

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Dave W has opinions thus...

Posted August 29
I first read The Stand in my mid-teens. And embarrassingly I tend to re-read it every couple of years. In terms of characters I note that King said something along the lines that people kept asking him what happened to So-and-so afterwards, like they'd kept in touch and written him letters.

I guess that's a sign right there that the characters are really well done.

Glen Bateman is my favourite. Cynical, frightened, smart.

And just because I can: M-O-O-N, that spells Nebraska! Laws yes!

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NBlob mumbles...

Posted August 31
One of my favourites. Been to long. Failed to remember 17 d.

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Life on the Line podcast

Posted August 8 by John Birmingham

I stumbled across this obscure treasure because Alex Lloyd, my former editor at Pan Mac, tweeted it out. As he should, it's his passion project. Alex and the rocksteady LoTL crew have been interviewing Australian veterans and packaging up the results as a podcast: Life on the Line.

The most recent ep, the one which drew me in, was a session with Trooper Mark Donaldson VC. I'd read his book, The Crossroad, a couple of years ago and it went straight to the shelf in my professional library.

The interview is fascinating, and hugely valuable if you're somebody like me who writes about military characters while having conspicuously avoided the inconvenience of military service.

There are seventy-eight interviews so far, with vets both male and female going back to WW2. There are episodes which delve into the Great War, but with no living particpants available, as far as I know, these often involve historians and family members.

It's a great collection, avaiable on iTunes.

Or you can check out the website here.

4 Responses to ‘Life on the Line podcast’

jl reckons...

Posted August 8
Read Donaldson's story on Wikipedia. It's not every day that a fellow gets the VC. Bad situation.

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she_jedi puts forth...

Posted August 9
I think Richard Fidler interviewed him on Conversations. It was incredible, he was so matter of fact about the utterly horrific things he went through that earned him the VC. Amazing man.

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jl mutters...

Posted August 12
I looked it up. The very last confirmed WW1 veteran from any country was Florence Green, from the UK. She died at the age of 110 years in 2012. When I was a kid, the Great War veterans were very old. Now they're gone. Kind of like the Civil War veterans when my Grandma was a girl.

The generations come and go, and there is no end to wars. A pity.

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DarrenBloomfield ducks in to say...

Posted August 31
downloaded! Thanks JB

If you're looking for a cracking podcast - I recommend "Lost in Larrimah"

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Thanks to everyone who left reviews

Posted August 7 by John Birmingham

We didnt seem to have the usual problem with the Beast just bulk deleting the first twenty or thirty reviews that dropped on THE GOLDEN MINUTE. But a few peeps had had their reviews denied because... well, I dunno.

The way of the Beast is mysterious.

But all the reviews help. Each one is worth about a hundred sales they reckon. So I'm always grateful to get them. If you've left your's already, this is where I dips me lid.

If you haven't...

8 Responses to ‘Thanks to everyone who left reviews’

Vovchara reckons...

Posted August 7
Sorry, couldn't write a longer review, because... well nothing to bitch about and I am only good at bitching and not so good at a Praise.

https://www.amazon.de/Golden-Minute-Girl-Novel-English-ebook/dp/B07FZJTZX7/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1533628601&sr=8-1&keywords=a+golden+minute

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted August 8
Cheers guv. So weird to see the book on the German site.

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Rob is gonna tell you...

Posted August 8
I was denied being able to write a review because I haven't bought enough on amazon Australia and my American account isn't recognised the same way as it was before the beast of Bezos set up shop in this wide brown land.


The spirit was will willing, but the amazon flesh was on the tilt.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted August 8
*Shakes fist*

BEEEEZOS!!

insomniac would have you know...

Posted August 9
Not sure if this is a thing but have you tried "purchasing" a bunch of books with a zero price on Kindle just to get your personal numbers up?

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted August 9
The Beast would figure that out pretty quickly.

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she_jedi asserts...

Posted August 8
I had a 'Wait, WHAT??' moment when I went searching for the review that the Beast had assured me they'd posted but I couldn't find. But all was good, I just needed to scroll down to the bottom of the list of reviews since mine was an unverified purchase as I'd petitioned Tim Cook for a copy of the Minute instead. Panic over, review confirmed as live. Phew!

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Bondiboy66 reckons...

Posted August 9
I think my little thumbs up got posted - I piggybacked on an earlier review...

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Finally!

Posted July 31 into Books by John Birmingham

Golden Minute has finally dropped on iBooks. Not sure what the issue was, but having given the Fruit Company exclusive pre-order status, I found myself yesterday staring at a content management panel which said the book was available in 51 countries, when it wasn't showing up anywhere.

Frustrating much?

Anyway, it's up now, and it turns out to have been a bit of a gift because it made me rethink my normal launch sequence. The book hit a bunch of best seller lists without any publicity, and now I have my artillery lined up and pre-sighted to begin a marketing bombardment.

Huzzah!

Thanks to eveyne who's bought in so far.

I look forward to your verified reviews.

THE GOLDEN MINUTE

7 Responses to ‘Finally!’

she_jedi asserts...

Posted July 31
Yay! And congratulations on finally setting the Minute free :)

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Bondiboy66 reckons...

Posted July 31
I second that! Now then, about that third story.....

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Therbs reckons...

Posted July 31
Review on its way

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she_jedi mutters...

Posted July 31
I also just wanted to add that the cover art for the Minute is just brilliant, whatever you're paying your artist it's not enough.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted July 31
Quiet you.

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Rob is gonna tell you...

Posted August 1
Only got through the first chapter so far, but I get the feeling you might have planned some camping with your kids and made a dream list of cool stuff you might like to purchase. And then you actually had to go camping and your good lady wife said nah we aren't taking all that.

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Sweet Jane Says mutters...

Posted August 4
You're a very busy person but you're staying on top of your game. The publicity and promotion rounds now begin. It will go smoothly with your experience. Enjoy the SciFi cons!

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The Golden Minute: Launch Day

Posted July 30 into Books by John Birmingham

Used to be that launch day meant a piss up. A publisher shipped thousands of copies of your baby off to hundreds of bookshops. You chose one to 'host' the launch, you invited all your friends, and your publisher spent many thousands of dollars more on grog and finger food than they could ever hope to recoup in sales at the event.

These days not even publishers do that. We all just work the algorithm.

I'll be tickling the Beast of Bezos, and the big Fruit Company and all of the others over the next week or two. But I'll start here.

First up, I've dropped the price of A Girl in Time to 99 cents. If by some miracle you have not bought this awesome title, now's your chance to get it cheap and expunge your undying shame. The link above is for Amazon. But you can get it pretty much everywhere via this universal url.

The new hotness is of course The Golden Minute. I'll write about the book itself tomorrow but you can get it by clicking here. It's half price for readers of the Burger and bookclub members for the next couple of days.

29 Responses to ‘The Golden Minute: Launch Day’

Nocturnalist puts forth...

Posted July 30
Not using Bookfunnel any more? Or did they change their name?

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 30
Bookfunnel is for private freebies.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted July 30
But you do remind me I have to drop a couple of copies in there.

Nocturnalist ducks in to say...

Posted July 30
Ah, useful to know. Thanks!

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she_jedi mumbles...

Posted July 30
Not to sound alamist, but The Golden Minute appears to be missing from iBooks and TIM COOK HAS NOT GIVEN ME MY PRE-ORDER YET WTF JB? I'll try not to panic, I'm sure you have this in hand :)

John Birmingham mutters...

Posted July 30
I have been on this all day, Ms Jedi. It's holding up the entire roll out.

she_jedi puts forth...

Posted July 30
Oh thank goodness. I will wait patiently for you to come to my rescue. I've already re-read A Girl in Time in preparation, so will have to read my current book more slowly so I don't run out of reading material before the Minute drops. #Fangirlproblems.

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Therbs puts forth...

Posted July 30
I'll be doing a phantom launch of Da Minute a bit later today. This will involve Titanic Thunder Lager and Cady Atomic Ale. Might even sign a few Chumley beer mats.

jason would have you know...

Posted July 31
Please provide launch details and I will be there. Anything for a free beer and a signed beer mat.

Therbs puts forth...

Posted July 31
By the time beers were done the coasters were too wet to take ink.
But the beer was good.

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foreverwar asserts...

Posted July 31
I pre-ordered when you put the link up on FB, but it's still not available on iBooks UK.

Ah well, I'll just re-read A Girl In Time while I'm waiting.

Keep up the good work, John.

foreverwar asserts...

Posted July 31
Just checked, and the Kindle version is available on Amazon UK.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted July 31
There's definitely something wrong with iBooks. I'm gonna try get it sorted today, but if you want your copy immediately get your email addy to me and I'll send a link for a free copy via bookfunnel.

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she_jedi mutters...

Posted July 31
So tempting, but i’ll wait so I can give you money for it. Fingers crossed it’s fixed today, good luck John!

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted July 31
It appears to be available.

she_jedi has opinions thus...

Posted July 31
YAAAS!!! Success! Please take my $4.99 with thanks :)

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Robertkocsis mumbles...

Posted July 31
yay!
back from UK so keen to read. Link took me straight to amazon ( a saved preference?) . Is the price listed already the 1/2 price Burger reader amount($3.99) or do we have to do somethig to prove we devour your output?

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted July 31
That's the half price. It'll go up to eight bucks eventually. I'm not publicising it widely. Just here and too my various mailing lists. Once they've had a bite, I'll crank up the ask.

Robertkocsis mumbles...

Posted July 31
Thanks, downloaded and all set once I finish The Outsider, looks good

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Brother PorkChop asserts...

Posted July 31
Made the purchase but sad panda cos its via the Beast. I guess some reviews would be warranted and required as well Mr B?

jl ducks in to say...

Posted July 31
Brother, you'd be amazed how hard it is to come by Amazon reviews. I put my two cents out on my website.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted July 31
Reviews anywhere would be muchas welcome. But they have a particular power on Amazon.

jl mumbles...

Posted July 31
Posted mine. We'll see if it sticks.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted July 31
Thanks. It should. It's a verified purchase.

she_jedi is gonna tell you...

Posted July 31
Review posted on Amazon, but it's not up yet, I think they scrutinise it first :)

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KreepyKrawly puts forth...

Posted July 31
I just bought it from kobo. About bloody time too, been hanging for the next JB book. I'll put a review later tonight (Gotta work now...)

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sibeen is gonna tell you...

Posted July 31
OK, I've ordered the damn thing. What now?

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Rob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted August 1
its worth way more than 3.99 . Hopefully with the direct supply chain system you have set up, you will see most of it for the down payment on that gold plated rocket car, or at the very least some steamed hams.

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted August 1
The price creeps up as the week goes on.

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The Golden Minute pre-order

Posted July 27 by John Birmingham

Just pulled the trigger on the pre-order for THE GOLDEN MINUTE. It's available at iTunes exclusively. Not because I'm a hopeless Apple fanboi. But because I'm a ruthless dealmaker.

There is a discount this weekend. (Although there'll be discounts for book club members on other sites, obvs).

But if you read on iOS. Cady is waiting.

7 Responses to ‘The Golden Minute pre-order’

she_jedi swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted July 27
Tim Cook has taken a pre-order of my money. Now I have to wait three whole days to see Cady and Smith again. The outrage!

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Vovchara is gonna tell you...

Posted July 27
patiently waiting for Amazon here :P

jl asserts...

Posted July 30
Amazon is live in both the US and Australia.

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Dirk asserts...

Posted July 30
It's alive!
NL Bol.com: https://www.bol.com/nl/p/the-golden-minute/9200000096719595/

JB can send ya the link to the book peddlers in your region.

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Therbs mumbles...

Posted July 30
Just got it on Kindle (Oz). Which means happy hour beers with Cady and Titanic after work.

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted July 30
NEW FAVOURITE!

Therbs mutters...

Posted July 30
I didn't wait. Knocked over the prologue and a bit more at lunch while chomping on bourbon chicken.

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