Saturday, September 10, 2016

BOOK SPOTLIGHT + EXCERPT: Sick to Death


Sick to Death
By: Greg Levin

Genre: Suspense, Dark Comedy
Publisher: White Rock Press
Publication date: 9.2.2016
Pages: 305

Knowing you're dying can be murder.
            When Gage Adder finds out he has inoperable pancreatic cancer, things really start to look up for him.  He leaves his soul-crushing job, joins a nice terminal illness support group, and takes up an exciting new hobby: Beating the hell out of bad guys.
            Gage's support group friends Jenna and Ellison don't approve of his vigilante activities.  Jenna says fighting never solves anything.  Poison, on the other hand... When the three decide to team up and hit the streets, suddenly no rapist, pedophile or other odious criminal in the city is safe.
            They are the sickest of superheroes.  Their superpower is nothing left to lose.  But what happens when one of them takes this power too far and puts at risk the lives of hundreds of innocent people?  Where does one draw the line when dying to kill?


Everyone in the subway car gasped when the man with the shaved head slid off his seat and crumpled to the floor.
            Everyone except Gage.  He just leaned back with his head resting against the window, tapping the ivory handle of his walnut walking cane.  As the train rattled around a curve beneath the heart of Philly, Gage ignored the panic and commotion, keeping his eyes on the supine skinhead and on the woman who was now frantically administering CPR to bring him back into the world.
            The woman's rescue efforts were futile.  Gage knew this.  He knew there was no coming back from the two hundred milligrams of sodium cyanide coursing through the skinhead's body.  How the cyanide made its way into the body, well, Gage knew that, too.  And if all went well, he'd remain the only one who knew.  And all usually went well.  Gage was quite good at cyanide.
            And ricin.
            And arsenic.
            Unfortunately, Gage was also quite adept at Gemcitabine.
            And Oxaliplatin.
            And Irinotecan.
            Unless you're an oncologist or the patient of one, you've probably never heard of those last three.
            Over the previous six months, there was only one thing Gage had become more efficient at than killing... and that was dying.
            But for now let's keep things positive and focus on the former.
            The skinhead was the second person Gage had murdered in three weeks.
            It had been a slow month.

* * *

Cue the sirens.  Cue the stunned look on the crowd of passengers as the paramedics zipped the skinhead up in a black body bag, hoisted him on to an ambulance stretcher and slowly rolled him into the 11th Street Station elevator.
            Gage typically didn't wait long enough to see the aftermath of his deeds, to watch the credits roll, but the police had asked those in the same train car as the dead man to stick around for questioning.
            "No, sir, I didn't see anybody touch the man," said Gage when questioned by one of the police officers.  "One minute he was boarding the subway train and taking his seat, the next he was lying on the floor... like he had an aneurysm or something."
            "Did the man have any verbal altercations with any of the other passengers before losing consciousness?" asked the police officer.
            "No," said Gage.  "Nothing like that.  He was just siting there and then suddenly he checked out.  Poor guy."  Gage pulled a white handkerchief from his coat pocket and coughed into it several times.  "Sorry about that," he said, tucking the handkerchief back into his pocket.  "So, will that be all, officer?  I really have to get to my cancer support meeting."
            "Oh, I'm very sorry," said the officer, looking closely at Gage and realizing how sickly he appeared.  The gaunt face.  The pale skin.  The thinning brown hair.  "I won't keep you any longer.  And, uh, good luck to you, sir."
            "Thank you, but my luck ran out a while ago."
            The officer gave Gage a sad, sympathetic smile before walking off to question one of the other passengers.
            With the help of his cane, Gage hobbled over to the subway escalator and rode it up to street level.  He didn't need to hobble; it was more for effect.  People tended to pity hobblers, and rarely suspected them of homicide.  As for the cane, this Gage needed.  You've heard of a concealed weapon.  This was a concealing one.
            Gage stepped off the escalator and onto the sidewalk of Market Street.  It was a chilly two-block walk to the church, the one he'd been going to for about five months.  Before he'd gotten sick, Gage rarely went anywhere near a house of worship - save for the odd wedding or funeral.  Now it was a weekly occurrence.  Every Thursday evening at seven, at St. Michael's Episcopal Church.  No, he hadn't found religion.  He'd simply found a good group of dead people, and it happened to be in a church.  If they had upped and moved the meetings to a synagogue or a mosque or a slaughterhouse, Gage wouldn't have cared less.  As long as it didn't require an extra subway transfer, and as long as his fellow dying executioners - Ellison and Jenna - continued to show up.

About the author:
Greg Levin is an award-winning author of dark comedic fiction.  His first novel... meh, nobody but Greg really cares about his first novel.  His second novel, The Exit Man, was optioned by HBO for development into a TV series and won a 2015 Independent Publishers Award (aka, an "IPPY"), earning a silver medal for Best Adult Fiction Ebook.  Greg's third novel, Sick to Death, is out now and is being hailed by critics everywhere as one of the top three books he has ever written.  Author Craig Clevenger (The Contortionist's Handbook) has called Sick to Death "a tour de force dark comedy."
            Greg resides with his wife, daughter and two cats in Austin, Texas, where he reportedly is wanted by local authorities for refusing to say "y'all" or do the two-step.  Greg is currently working on his fourth novel.

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