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Young Cliff Mills could tell you about bad economic times as well as what could happen when a fellow puts a gun in your face. Cliff is sitting pretty. He works days as a highly-regarded auto mechanic to support his wife and son, and nights on a college degree.

But the big crash happens, and the fabric of the country, and his life unravels. His employer is forced to let him go, jobs become as scarce as dinosaur teeth, a bank failure robs him of his college tuition, and when he finds temporary work for a few days, his employer disappears with the money he needs to pay the rent and avoid eviction. To avoid life in the in the local Hooverville, takes refuge in a small town where his employment prospects are said to be even worse.

Before he can even try to get on his feet, his life is quickly complicated when he discovers he is the only one who seems to notice a series of strange and mysterious goings-on that may include murder.  He quickly finds himself ill-equipped to confront a couple of gangs of bootleggers, one of which is secretly facilitated by local law enforcement only slightly less corrupt than the vicious gang itself. Very quickly, he’s in their crosshairs and nobody wants to listen.

Everything is truly out of kilter.

A Cliff Mills Novel.

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IN SEARCH OF A PERFECT CHRISTMAS contains four lighthearted, sometimes tongue-in-cheek novelettes, where events contrive to make Christmas not quite the perfect experience. At the same time, these stories remember with respect and reverence the events that are the origin of the celebration. They are set in more innocent times, but the search for The Perfect Christmas still travels a rocky road that hasn’t changed for two thousand years.

A Novella

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A lot of things are going wrong in Lt. Blake’s war, especially as Christmas approaches. His hopes of glory in combat are dashed by a new job and a swift promotion. When he sets up his new headquarters in an empty building, dimly remembered as a former saloon, and the best gathering place in the North African city of Casablanca, he is haunted by the big blowup on his last evening with Lillian, his fiancé. And by Lucianne, a woman he glimpses in the streets of the city, who eerily reminds him of her.

It doesn’t help that he thinks he can sit on the sidelines as the French turn on their own heroes and charge them as traitors because they tried to help the American landings come off without bloodshed. On Christmas eve, Blake has a decision to make. Lucianne just needs a little help to arrange her husband’s escape to Lisbon.

A novella. $4.99—Get it for the Kindle

 Ben Maxx is a young man with a dream in the golden age of Hollywood.

He quickly casts aside his new college diploma to follow a haunting desire to make travelogues as he walks in the footsteps of his great grandfather, a renowned world traveler and lecturer who left vivid descriptions of the fabled cities of the earth. To follow the dream, he takes passage  on a ship bound for Rio de Janeiro, expecting a sensuous interlude in a sun-washed paradise.

 But even before he steps ashore, his world is turned upside down. His cameraman and mentor is brutally murdered, and he is quickly faced with the reality of his own lack of experience, and with sudden doubts of his own ability. At the same time, he is ready to fall in love with a beautiful English girl he meets on the voyage. But it seems she only wants to play the role of a good undercover agent and discover what happened to a secret roll of microfilm.

With few resources, Ben struggles to make sense of the murder and of brutal rivalries he discovers ashore. He must not only learn his new trade in a hurry, but quickly discover whether he has the will to take another life that desperately seeks his own. Of one thing he is sure. His long-dead idol is standing by, looking on, offering encouragement. But that is the trouble. That seems to be all he is doing.

A Ben Maxx novel.  $9.99—Buy for the Kindle

© 2020 Douglas Grant Johnson

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