Action Men and Silly Putty follows Jack and Andy as they try to find what is so important about a teddy bear from 1915 that Jack purchases at an estate sale. What was the initial inspiration behind the setup to this fun novel?
This might seem strange, but I don’t know if I can even explain how certain ideas came to me, except that the bear and estate sale set up must have stemmed out of my interest in antiques. I watch both Pawn Stars and American Pickers and refer to them both collectively as “the guys.” I’ll pick up the remote and say, “Let’s switch it to the guys,” and, by that, I mean switch it to the History Channel for one of those two shows. I also have an Antiques Roadshow book at home, and in it, there is a … guess what? 1915 Steiff teddy bear. That is where I drew some of the details for the bear. I suppose that photo of the bear drew me in more than a lot of the other items in the book. How I figured out how to involve this bear in a crazy plot is harder to explain.
It might interest you to know that my Jack Donegal character first appeared in a short story that was not a mystery, featuring Jack and a supporting character, Ellen Danforth, the owner of the Salvador Deli. Andy Westin wasn’t yet even a character which is interesting for me when I reflect on it, because, by now, I’m equally attached to both characters! It was a friend who suggested that I write a mystery. I had already established Jack as a toy inventor before I entertained the thought of him as an amateur sleuth, so the estate sale and the bear was one way to get my characters to stumble into a mystery for them to solve.
Jack and Andy have a unique and often humorous relationship that lends well to the overall lighthearted mystery of the book. What were some themes you were trying to capture when writing their characters?
For a long time, I was interested in the absent-minded professor type character or the eccentric scientist character. I liked characters such as Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Dr. Emmett Brown in Back to the Future and was interested in some real life stories about scientists or inventors in history who had some quirks. My dad is actually a retired scientist and inventor, although not in the field of toys and, as a child, earned the nickname of “absent-minded professor” from his family. Dad and Jack do not share all of the same quirks … but perhaps a few of them. I’m also kind of fascinated with the individualist, and Jack is that. He doesn’t mind being different or dressing in his own unique style. I thought I’d rather make him a confident individualist than an awkward nerd, although he’s definitely still a nerd too by some definitions.
I really wanted Andy to be, more or less, his complete opposite. He’s the sensible, organized, in-the-moment practical guy who also has a kind of humorous way of looking at things. I wanted the balance of the two different extremes, so they can help one another out, as well as the comedy from being a sort of “odd couple.”
I enjoyed the twists and turns throughout the book. Did you plan the novel before writing or did it come organically while writing?
It was more like the second option. The story developed more spontaneously as I wrote, but I might have planned several scenes or chapters ahead when the creative juices were really flowing.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
I am actually working on several things. The next book to come out fairly soon is unrelated to this series but is an illustrated children’s book called The Journey of Digory Mole about a little mole who turns a mountain into a mole hill. I have one other “Action Men” book already available and that is Action Men and the Great Zarelda which is a little shorter, a Kindle book novella. The two guys have a mystery adventure with a suspicious female illusionist. I also have a mystery short story for Kindle, starring a female sleuth, English professor, Grace Darby. That one is titled The Lit Club Mystery. I have several stories in the planning for both mystery series and even hope to do a spin-off series for kids starring Jack Donegal’s niece and nephew. Right now, I have a related mystery serial, Action Men with Duct Tape as a blog on my website, https://susan-joy-clark.com. I will likely publish that as a book when it is complete.
Jack Donegal is an engineer, toy inventor and the head of his own toy company but not a detective until he stumbles into a strange situation. While on a business trip, he stops to purchase a 1914 teddy bear at an estate auction. While still on the auction grounds, armed thugs, who mistake him for a Dalton Starks, seem to think he’s in possession of something they want. Although police rescue him from his first encounter with criminals, Jack and Andy Westin, his marketing manager, roommate and friend, begin to think there’s something special about this teddy bear to make it interesting to criminals. They engage in a cat and mouse hunt with various members of the criminal world, but who are the cats and who are the mice? With the help of their combined wits and various technical gadgetry including toy parts and prototypes, Jack and Andy help bring several criminals to justice. With two personalities like those of Jack and Andy, there is bound to be some silliness along the way in this comedy mystery.
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The Life and Times of Tommy Kaos is the first-person account of the main character’s life from his earliest memory to his incarceration as a teenager. What was your inspiration for this heart wrenching novel?
To show the world about the awful truth of child abuse that society turns a blind eye to.
I understand that this book is based on a true story. What parts of the book were true, and what parts did you take liberties with?
The story is 90% truth, 10% not….we will leave the 10% a guess to protect the actual family and people in the book.
I felt like this novel gave a good view into the life of abused children and how and why they grow up to be who they are. What do you hope readers take away from your story?
To bring awareness, for people to look for signs of abuse. To help with child betterment. For people to listen and love the children of the world. Statistics for 2015 released in January of 2017 from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System says there are 683,000 are
neglected and physically abused yearly in the United States. It’s a shockingly high amount and if I can help one child not become Tommy Kaos
we’ve succeeded in our mission. We’d love to help all the children, everywhere.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
The next book we’ve written is the next book in the Tommy Kaos series. The Life and Times of Tommy Kaos “Hell on Wheels” Book Two and it is currently available.
This true story based on my life growing up was by no means anything close to being normal. No one in my life heard my cries for help. Please, LISTEN TO THE CHILDREN. Their lives are in our hands and with proper guidance will be destined for greatness.
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The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.
Gold Award Winners
Silver Award Winners
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Susan Joy Clark’s Action Men with Silly Putty features two comrades in the toy business on the adventure of a lifetime. Clark’s main characters are best friends who are attached at the hip and one another’s voice of reason. Jack Donegal and the book’s narrator, Andy Westin, set off on their journey to uncover the mystery of a mistaken identity and to find out what the heck is so important about the teddy bear from 1915 that Jack purchases at an estate sale in San Francisco. From their company, Out of the Box Toy Design, to breakdowns of Picasso’s private escapades to the Salvador Dali special–it involves eggs and a toast–Action Men with Silly Putty is filled with eccentricities at every turn and brimming with mystery!
I have always been a mystery fan and jumped in headfirst wanting, wholeheartedly, to love Action Men. I wasn’t disappointed. Jack Donegal, a character with every quirk imaginable, is as interesting a central character as I have seen. He appears as an amalgamation of whimsical leads from a handful of stories throughout the years. Incredibly well-read, dead set on having a plethora of alternatives to the traditional curse words, and a virtual fount of knowledge, Jack leads Andy on a wild ride with Andy doing little to challenge each subsequent request. Clark has given readers a vivid personality in Jack Donegal who is impossible to forget.
It’s fairly clear from the beginning that Jack is the book’s focus, but, for me, Andy sets the tone of the entire story. His obvious frustration juxtaposed with his allegiance to Jack is highly relatable. Readers will find common ground with Andy as he fights the urge to question his best friend while simultaneously appeasing him. I thoroughly enjoyed the repartee between the two and give full credit to Andy for the book’s future success.
Clark is consistent with her depiction of Jack as the absent-minded professor type character. She bestows upon him the same qualities that make one Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory the lovable and appealing guy he is. Andy, faithful to Jack to the bitter end, has some truly fantastic lines. Clark brings laugh-out-loud moments via many of Andy’s thoughts: “I thought of that famous photo of Albert Einstein, the one where he was sticking out his tongue and looking anything but genius, and felt reassured…slightly.”–my favorite line in the book as Andy reveals his never-ending stress over Jack’s idiosyncrasies.
I am giving Action Men with Silly Putty by Susan Joy Clark 5 out of 5 stars. Clark’s success with the business partners-turned-private investigators team of Donegal and Westin is tied up neatly in her narrator. As the solution to the mystery of the teddy bear is pursued through colorful secondary characters and unique settings, Andy simply shines. Clark is eloquent, creates one scenario after another to engage readers in her comedy team’s plight, and helps to define a new niche in the mystery novel. In addition, the path to the mystery’s solution is peppered with pop culture references which will appeal to a broad range of readers.
Pages: 214 | ASIN: B00Y49AUXU
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I found Vatican Protocol to be a grand journey that crosses over the Atlantic to Europe in a search for answers. What was your inspiration for this thrilling novel?
The inspiration was a combination of the terrific novels by Robert Ludlum where multiple plots converged at the end. There are so many questions regarding Nazis, UFO’s, religious and governmental conspiracies I had as much fun doing the research as I did writing the book.
The book follows Sean who seems like a regular man with very irregular friends. How did you set about creating Sean’s character and what was most important for you to get right?
Sean is similar to me. He is the coordinator and orchestrates activities and watches what swirls around him. Because he is somewhat like me, I didn’t want him to be the hero, which would have felt contrived. Instead he brings together his band of associates and keeps the ball moving forward without being the main focus.
I enjoy reading conspiracy theories that involve the church and global cover-ups. What is your favorite genre of books to read and how do you think that influences your writing?
My favorite genres are conspiracy and crime thrillers. I like Michael Connelly, John Sandford, John Grisham, Stuart Wood, James Patterson and many others. I like surprises and interesting characters. I’m also partial to recurring characters from one novel to the next.
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
Since the release of Vatican Protocol I’ve had two novels published. Serial K and Serial K Returns. These are in the crime genre and have both won awards. The next one to be released is named Real Monsters and will be available late Q1, 2018 or early Q2.
Struggling writer and nearly bankrupt Sean O’Shea is searching for the blockbuster story from which he can create a best seller. The goal is to regain his financial independence and self-esteem. When he learns of a horrific 1936 UFO crash in Germany’s Black Forest, he chases the story to its origin. The discovery of insidious Nazi involvement piques his interest and when he unearths secret assassinations of previous investigators, he is hooked. As his probe continues, witnesses are murdered and he becomes the target of deadly agents sent by the most powerful man in the Vatican-The Black Pope. The cover-up is greater than he ever imagined. When he discovers that UFO’s, Nazis, Wewelsburg Castle and the Vatican are connected, he has the killer story he envisioned, though it just may kill him to get it published.
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Dead Air follows Glenn, a security guard investigating the murder of his friend who was shot while on the air at a radio station. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?
Like Beck, my high school best friend owned a radio station. He sold out before being shot, however. The only constant we have is change. Commercial radio exemplifies that change.
Radio was born to play the music that record companies were trying to sell. It soon become the primary form of entertainment for Americans broadcasting the early soap operas. Then came rock and roll. Talk radio attracts a wide range of demographics. Interestingly, I graduated from the same school as Alan Freed, who coined the iconic term Rock and Roll.
Beck struggles to put the past behind him and move forward. The murder at the station was a perfect analogy of transformation as Beck seeks the killer.
Beck is investigating the murder of his friend Zito, who we slowly learn is not who Beck thought. Did you plan this slow reveal of Zito’s backstory or did it happen organically while writing?
Beck and Zito’s friendship started as teenagers. In the decades since school, they have drifted apart. Life leads people down many paths. We become more guarded, reluctant to share the many secrets with those we depended on in youth.
The victim is an important character in a story. Murderers rarely plan to kill without a motive. There must be a reason to want that person dead. All mystery plots boil down to one of three motives, love, greed, or to cover up a crime.
The investigation of any murder, real or fiction, is a slow process. Investigators don’t know the full story immediately. People conceal secrets, they lie. The search is a painstaking pursuit to reveal the skeletons in the closet.
I think of this novel as a whodunit story that puts fascinating characters in interesting situations. Are there any scenes in your story that you had fun writing?
Beck and Irene, his romantic interest/partner, track his missing client to a hunting cabin where she is being held. Nothing in his white-collar career has prepared him for this confrontation. They are fighting through thick woods and underbrush to reach the cabin while carrying guns.
In order to survive, he must physically subdue a hired enforcer and be prepared to kill if necessary. Beck has become a hard ass with a chip on his shoulder. He comes to the epiphany that Irene is the love of his life and he must protect her at all costs.
This is the scene where he recognizes the past is behind him. What the future holds he doesn’t know.
What is the next story that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am writing the second in the Glenn Beckert series, Dead Secrets. In this tale, Beck mistakenly dismisses a missing person case until the body is found on the river bank. Beck endeavors to track the missing time of the deceased’s final hours and find the killer. He is quickly immersed onto the dark web where the secrets of artificial intelligent are a commodity. As a further distraction, Beck’s perplexed by a startling revelation by Irene, creating further conflict for him. He’s searching for a killer in a world where secrets stay secret or you die. Dead Secrets will be available in late 2018.
I have just completed a short story, Who Swiped Bobby Bucco Bear, a Christmas mystery featuring Glenn Beckert. I plan to have this available next year.
Dead Air signals trouble at the radio station. Glenn Beckert discovers his high school best friend is shot in the head while on the air. Beck, the owner of Blue Water Security, is employed to provide security for the station.
He becomes willingly embroiled in the investigation by the not-so-innocent widow. The list of potential suspects is long, gleaned from the numerous extramarital affairs of the victim and widow. The pending sale of the radio station has created friction between his now dead friend, Richie Zito and the major stockholders. Motives for murder becomes increasingly murky after the search reveals an encrypted file on Zito’s laptop.
Beck enlists the help of an old flame, Irene Schade, to break the code, revealing a money laundering network leading to the financial and political powers of his beloved city of Pittsburgh. Their collaboration ignites the flames of passion each had considered extinguished.
A former college teammate, police Lieutenant Paglironi delivers a message to back off. Arrogantly, he ignores his friend’s advice. The threats from less friendly sources are more ominous, forcing Beck to move in an unfamiliar world. A startling revelation from his client forces Beck to deal with his inner conviction of right and wrong, challenging the gray areas of his ethical principles. Betraying his client’s confidence could expose the killer. The alternative is to confront the suspect and take matters into his own hands. Either way his life is in jeopardy.
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If you were waiting to find out what happened to Craig Breedlove, then look no further. Brian Gallagher returns to the mind of Breedlove and his unnatural obsessions in Serial K Returns. Once again, we find ourselves in the mind of a serial killer: we witness the world from his point of view and become intimately aware of what exactly drives him. It’s unclear how much time has passed since the first book and the second, but Breedlove appears to be a bit older than he was the first time he tangoed with the FBI. Ryan O’Callahan and Lea Pucci also make their return in this continuation of Serial K. Their relationship has progressed but how far these two will get in their renewed chase with Breedlove awaits us in this book.
Gallagher is good at making his characters seem like real human beings. Perhaps that is why there is so much profanity when they speak. While there is a certain level of profanity expected from a crime-thriller for adults, and we know from experience that Breedlove doesn’t have the largest vocabulary, it does detract from the tale when reading about FBI agents discussing a case and they are prone to swear every five seconds.
If that’s not something that makes you put down a book, then you won’t be disappointed with what’s left within the pages of this novel. While not perfect, the core of this story is very entertaining. This is not Gallagher’s first novel and his experience shows. The story flows better than the first one. He also cleverly intersects two different characters from two different books into the same world. This is exciting for those who enjoy reading stories that take place in the same universe. It shows a careful sense of world-building to have these two different stories connect on such a base level without feeling forced or contrived.
I felt that there was some unreal character development on behalf of Breedlove in the last few chapters. Breakthroughs in his own perception of the world and how he comes to view the people who are chasing him happen quickly. There is no concrete resolution on what will happen to Breedlove by the end of the novel, this may be Gallagher setting the stage for a third installment of the series, however. So, there might be something to look forward to in the end.
If you like reading edgy stories that push the boundaries than you will enjoy this second piece to the story of Craig Breedlove in Serial K Returns by Brian Gallagher. It’s a gritty diamond in the rough that would have benefited from another edit, but is otherwise very entertaining. The thought process behind Serial K Returns is just as forward-thinking as it was the first time in Serial K. Getting into the mind-space of a serial killer; identifying what drives them and what moves them to kill is not an easy task. This where I believe Brian Gallagher shines, and where Serial K Returns stands out from the rest. This will have you wondering how much of Breedlove do you see in yourself.
Pages: 299 | ASIN: B06Y3JNCSZ
Tags: author, authorlife, authorlove, authors, authorsofinstagram, book, bookaholic, bookblogger, bookclub, bookgeek, bookhaul, bookish, booklovers, bookme, booknerdigans, booknookstagram, booknow, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, booksofinstagram, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookworm, breedlove, brian gallagher, crime, crime fantasy, crime fiction, crime novel, detective, ebook, fantasy, FBI, fictoin, goodreads, ilovebooks, killer, kindle, kobo, literature, murder, mystery, nook, novel, psycho, psychological, publishing, read, reader, reading, serial k returns, serial killer, shelfari, story, suspense, thriller, writer, writerlife, writers, writersclub, writerscommunity, writerscommunityofinstagram, writerscorner, writing
The Life and Times of Tommy Kaos: Raising Hell, by T.L. Henry, is the first-person account of the main character’s life from his earliest memory to his incarceration as a teenager. Tommy, a boy raised in the worst of circumstances, sustains abuse, exposure to alcoholism and drug use, and endures the most unstable of upbringings, From a tender age and following the loss of his best friend–his grandfather–Tommy learns to fend for himself and does his best to protect and shield his sister, May from his mother’s drunken tirades and efforts to exploit them both.
From the first paragraph, I was sure I was reading a journal–a true account of the author’s own life. I found myself checking more than once to make sure I had read the introduction correctly. This book–purely fictitious–transports the reader into a completely different mindset. I didn’t feel as though I was reading; I felt as though I were listening to a boy relating his life story while sitting beside me on park bench–Forrest Gump style. The conversational style of writing makes for a smooth read and is actually quite fascinating.
I quickly lost count of the number of times Tommy and his family were forced to move from one ramshackle home to another in North Carolina within a handful of years. With absolutely no stability and no father figure for most of his life until his incarceration, Tommy is quickly schooled in the ways of the street. Early on, Tommy learns to steer clear of his own mother and the endless string of men she brings home. Both of these aspects of Tommy’s life are incredibly sad and only seem to magnify as the story progresses.
Tommy’s life, as horrifying as it is, is believable. From his earliest encounter with abuse, he takes a turn for the worse and, admittedly, becomes everything to which he was exposed as a child. This unique, memoir-type writing style helps to drive home the sad truth about abused, neglected, and exploited children. As he endures and participates in dangerous and self-deprecating behaviors, he begins to find advantages in them. Several chapters in, I began to realize that I could actually be reading this from the antagonist’s point of view. What began as the tale of a tragic childhood, turned, all too easily, into the life story of a career criminal.
The main character’s cries for help falling on deaf ears were the most painful aspect of the plot. The author has managed to create a storyline that illuminates the tragedy perpetuated by abuse early in life. As much as the reader wants to feel sorry for young Tommy, he/she will feel an overwhelming desire to scream at teenaged Tommy to remember where these same behaviors got his mother. It is a frustrating and heart-wrenching read, but a necessary one.
While the writing style is unique and the conversational tone appealing, I felt the concentration on young Tommy’s sexual obsessions were a bit overstated and became uncomfortable to read after a while. The author does, however, do an excellent job of revealing the impact of abuse and neglect early in a child’s life.
Pages: 132 | ASIN: B01F6ET17C
Tags: abuse, author, authorlife, authorlove, authors, authorsofinstagram, biker, book, bookaholic, bookblogger, bookclub, bookgeek, bookhaul, bookish, booklovers, bookme, booknerdigans, booknookstagram, booknow, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, booksofinstagram, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookworm, child abuse, children, crime, drug, drunk, ebook, exploitation, forrest gump, gang, goodreads, ilovebooks, kindle, kobo, life, literature, memoir, motorcycle, neglect, nook, novel, publishing, read, reader, reading, sex, shelfari, story, teen, The Life and Times of Tommy Kaos, tl henry, trouble, writer, writerlife, writers, writersclub, writerscommunity, writerscommunityofinstagram, writerscorner, writing, YA, young adult, youth
Sometimes the past declines an offer to stay back there. Past lives will often come right around to haunt and demand closure.
Braxton Snow left his village life behind. He often feels out of place in the big city but no matter. He loves his Furlton life. He may have been a village boy but the city has embraced him. His life is not perfect but he loves it still. His private investigation practice feeds, clothes and houses him. He is dating a beautiful white tail jackrabbit. His family would never accept Joanna, to them she would be dinner. However, this is not a matter of concern. His family is not part of his life anymore. She is beautiful, funny and she cares about him, which is all he wants out of a life partner.
Braxton’s life is pretty silent save for the occasional exciting case. One day Catharina Nelson seeks him out for his investigation services and the course of his life changes, unbeknownst to him. The red fox hires him to find Oscar Sullivan. Oscar is an archeologist who is looking into the mystery of the hairless apes which has gone extinct. The case seems pretty open and shut but in the preceding days, it gets more and more complex. For one, Braxton is not the only one searching for this man. This would not be a problem if both parties were on the quest with the same goal in mind.
With the case’s complexity comes danger. Soon, Joanna becomes a target for these dangerous characters. Braxton finds himself back in the hands of the family he abandoned and is not well received. This is a problem not only because of their treatment of him but also because they are a threat to his beloved’s life.
How far will Braxton have to go to save his fiancé? Will they survive the trip through the glacier?
Danny Estes presents a book filled with mystery and suspense. The characters are animals but the reader will barely notice their animal quality. This is due to their deeply illustrated personalities. The story is captivating and gripping and every description is vivid. The opening of the book gives us a look into Braxton’s life and grounds the background so that it becomes believable. You get a sense of his usual routine, which makes the case coming his way much more exciting, because you understand what he’s left behind.
Braxton Snow is written in first person narrative which is quite impactful to the reading experience, but it’s still an easy read that I enjoyed because of it’s unique perspective. The tone is informal and lighthearted. Conversations between Braxton and Joanna are especially heart-warming and so ordinarily special.
Braxton Snow P.I. is targeted at a wide audience exclusive of children. Don’t think that this story if for kids just because there are animals in it. This is a thrilling adult story for anyone who enjoys action, mystery and fantasy along with some steamy romance. This book is an enjoyable read. Definitely deserving of five stars.
Pages: 203 | ASIN: B073TGWGYS
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A wave of crime grasped center stage at the beginning of the volcanic summer. The often abused by police, misused by society, shunned, and stereotyped patrons of the “hood” decided that their reparations would no longer be paid by the normal “Smash and grab”. Gun laws had changed. Stiffer penalties and mandatory time was a constant reminder whenever, The Felony Lane Gang clocked in. Blue collar crime was now at an all time low. White collar crime was their new way of life. Three siblings stormed into a world of destruction when the youngest known as Crackaboi decided to part ways with his modest upbringing. For the love of her baby brother Glory unknowingly stepped into a web of drugs and exotic entertainment. Tjohnnie, the oldest and the coldest felt a need to protect his siblings. After losing their parents to unfortunate circumstances, TJohnnie secretly led two lives. A college football player by day. A counterfeiter and money launderer for the Infamous Seminole Indian Tribe by night. Tired of the gruesome torture for hire jobs, Crackaboi teams up with a longtime friend and brutal killer Lil Turk. Together they mastermind the greatest heist in United States history. Surpassing Al Capone and Jon Gotti, the ruthless duo targeted every financial institution that was federally insured. Their lavish lifestyle enticed other potential members. Dodging the Feds, ducking the local authorities and slaughtering anyone who wandered down their path, they notoriously became known as, ” The Felony Lane Gang”. With crooked cops on their trail, the street rogues decide to take on one last heist. Crackaboi and Lil Turk burglarize a century old abandoned warehouse, in search of a quarter of million dollars supposedly stashed inside an old safe. They embark on a journey that leads to their beloved Glory, on life support fighting to stay alive. A bloody street-war against the Mexican Cartel Assassins and a trail of bodies that lead down a sea of destruction. With ties to the Illuminati and a billionaire oil tycoon, the double steel door safe tightly held secrets that would send chills through a psychopath’s spine.
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