The Arena Man

The Arena Man

by Steve Englehart
     
 

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Legendary comics writer Steve Englehart returns to the adventures of Max August in The Arena Man, the fourth novel in his fantasy thriller series.

Max August was once a regular guy, before he learned the ways of magick and immortality and became a staunch crusader against the supernatural forces of evil. Though immune to the effects of time, Max is not

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Overview

Legendary comics writer Steve Englehart returns to the adventures of Max August in The Arena Man, the fourth novel in his fantasy thriller series.

Max August was once a regular guy, before he learned the ways of magick and immortality and became a staunch crusader against the supernatural forces of evil. Though immune to the effects of time, Max is not indestructible, and now he must face the vast, worldwide conspiracy known as the Necklace.
Max has only a few allies in this fight among them: Pam, an apprentice in the alchemical arts, and Vee, a chanteuse with an uncanny knack for all things magick. But the Necklace is plotting a massive catastrophe fueled by the magical power of a demonic entity; using Black Ops helicopters to massacre tens of thousands of spectators in a domed stadium, re-awakening terrorist fears and destabilizing the U.S. government. Max will need all his magick, and all the help he can get, for him to have any chance to thwart the attack and survive to fight another day.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In a tense cat-and-mouse game that takes place over 12 days, ageless mage Max August wages an ongoing battle against the cabal known as The Necklace. Fighting alongside him are Pam, an alchemical apprentice, and Vee, a singer with magical talent. Arrayed against Max, on the other hand, is a worldwide group that uses Black Ops helicopters and other high-tech gear. The goal of The Necklace? The destabilization and fall of the U.S. government followed by an eventual world takeover. Prolific comics writer Englehart continues his action-packed Max August series (The Point Man; The Long Man; The Plain Man) with a cinematically tough, hard-hitting fourth installment. VERDICT Fans of Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files" and Simon Green's "Eddie Drood" tales should enjoy the action and adventure in this supernatural tough-guy-with-a-heart-of-gold series.
From the Publisher

“Long before Buffy and Angel took up the good fight, long before Dresden began his Files, Max August was out there all alone, our point man in keeping the mundane world safe from the supernatural one.” —Bill Willingham, bestselling author of Fables

“Steve Englehart has created a series of rip-roaring, page-turning, pulp tomes. Think J. K. Rowling meets Ian Fleming. Become an Alchemist! Read Max August!” —Brad Rader, Emmy Award–winning animation artist

Kirkus Reviews
Max August is a magickal superhero. Once upon a time, he was a soldier in the Vietnam conflict and later a DJ, but now, with the aid of magick and the bonus of immortality, Max crusades against the forces of evil. Englehart's (The Plain Man, 2011, etc.) fourth installment in the Max August series opens with comic-book intensity: Every page snaps the camera to a new location as the reader discovers what is happening to every major (and some minor) character simultaneously. With his apprentice and lover, Pam, at his side, Max seeks to discover what happened to the soul of his first wife, Val. They have been looking for her for two years, so she is hidden well. Of course, the reader knows that Vee, chanteuse and student of Cornelius Agrippa's book (yes, the book is her master and mentor), has shed her old identity. Meanwhile, the Necklace (a cabal comprised of links in a chain of corrupt magickal men and woman masquerading as leaders of society) has joined forces with the demonic Belia'al. They are conspiring to cause a natural catastrophe (employing U.S. Black Ops helicopters and magickal doorways) which will misdirect everyone's attention from the real crime. Meanwhile, a diabola, Alexsandra, is posing as the lover of Lawrence Breckenridge, who is the leader (the Gemstone) of the Necklace--although she merely appears to be in his bed, having enough power to remotely manipulate matter--and gearing up for a battle of her own against Belia'al. And then Max shoves a dead body in the Collective Unconscious and assumes his identity in order to infiltrate the conspiracy. Meanwhile, Pam has fallen into the Subconscious and, with the help of mythical creatures, must find her way back to Max with the Key. Englehart's latest is a thrilling ride that will appeal to readers of fantasy and conspiracy alike.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429946209
Publisher:
Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
02/19/2013
Series:
Max August Magikal Thrillers , #4
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
368
File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt

The Arena Man


By Steve Englehart, James Frenkel

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2013 Steve Englehart
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-4620-9



CHAPTER 1

SUNDAY, MARCH 20, 2011 • 5:21 P.M. MOUNTAIN DAYLIGHT TIME

12 Flint Knife (Fulfilling Magick)

Spring 2011 came to Libby, Montana, at 5:21 P.M. Mountain Daylight Time, with the pale sun framed by ominous, roiling clouds. As three black helicopters knifed over the hills above the Kootenai River, the slanting rays caught the blades with giddy intensity, but the black of the choppers was a dead black, with no reflection whatsoever. They looked like three holes in the sky as they dropped to hover two feet off the ground. Thirty men, dressed in similar nonreflective black, poured out and encircled the ranch house at the end of a long snowy road. Each one was carrying a Special Ops Combat Assault Rifle, Mk 17.

Jim Lasher was a Montana rancher. He swung his front door open but stayed partially out of sight, his hunting rifle at the ready. "Whatever you guys are doin', you're in the wrong place!" he shouted. "Get off my property!"

Thirty SCARs opened up on the house and killed Jim, his wife, his three children, and his invalid mother. It took no more than a minute.

Then the thirty men jogged with military precision back to the copters and clambered inside. The machines took off and swung south, over the central part of Libby, where they were seen for a fleeting moment.

At which point, in midair, the Black Helicopters vanished.


SUNDAY, MARCH 20, 2011 • 6:21 P.M. CENTRAL DAYLIGHT TIME

12 Flint Knife (Fulfilling Magick)

Spring 2011 came to Duluth, Minnesota, at 6:21 P.M. Central Daylight Time, exactly one hour before sunset. Peter Quince, the Wizardry link in the nine-member cabal called the Necklace, was in the cellar of the ancient house always occupied by the Necklace's magician, situated on the shores of Lake Superior. Spring marked the return of the Sun to the northern hemisphere, beginning a new round of life, but this far north, it was cold and gray, just above freezing, with a hard rain on the endless expanse of black water and forest. In the cellar, there was no light from the sun, and no life any sun would recognize.

The wizards had lived in the Issac Vernon Hill house with its wide lawn running down to the water and the Minnesota woodland out the back door since Fergus Skøord, the wizard of that time, had it built in 1898. But the wizards had lived in Duluth since Duluth was proclaimed to exist in 1854, so Skøord had the combined wisdom of his predecessors to draw on in designing a permanent residence for the Necklace's Wizard. There was a sanctum sanctorum in the cupola, a living room, bedroom, kitchen with a hidden chamber ... and there was a dungeon. Officially a cellar.

It was wide and deep underground, painted a dreadful muddy blue, and today, with Peter Quince in residence, filled with comatose women. There were twenty-seven of them, laid out on parallel slabs of Oneota dolomite, a local stone much like marble, very solid, highly polished. The woman at the center was Rita Diamante, once the fearsome head of a Miami drug cartel, once a determined aspirant to the Necklace, once Peter Quince's lover — and now officially dead for nearly a year and a half. But Rita was not dead. Her color was pale and gray, marked with green and purple blotches, yet her chest was rising and falling with regularity. Like the others, all Latinas because Rita had been so. They were kept alive the way zombis are kept alive, but wizards had no need for lumbering bodies. They made up a sort of battery, their combined life essence funneling continually into Peter Quince.

On the slab to the left of Rita was the newest woman, Elena, fresh and brown and fighting her bonds. Standing over her was Quince, holding a knife. On the floor by his feet, so she wouldn't kick it away, was a kitchen clock with large numbers.

"Sixteen seconds," Quince said, looking at the floor.

"Fourteen seconds," Quince said, looking at Elena.

"This clock is precise, Master," Quince said, looking above his head.

"But Spring is an aspect of this world, Master. The ritual, with all respect —" Quince said, before suddenly dropping the knife to clutch at his chest, and fall forward, torso crashing onto Elena's stomach, driving the wind from her. Her struggles lessened as she fought to breathe.

Then all at once, he got control of himself, and pushed himself away from the dolomite. "Yes, Master," he mumbled hurriedly, head down. "I'm sorry. I'll do it now." He picked up the knife, threw back his head to roar in a strangled voice — Now! — and drove the knife through Elena's heart.


SUNDAY, MARCH 20, 2011 • 6:21 P.M. CENTRAL DAYLIGHT TIME

12 Flint Knife (Fulfilling Magick)

Spring 2011 came to Chicago, Illinois, at 6:21 P.M. Central Daylight Time, half an hour before sunset. Diana Herring, the Media link in the Necklace, was a gray figure in the light of the gray rain clouds clustered over Lake Michigan. She was calm and her eyes were clear — the Remeron had been carefully prescribed by a doctor whose son would have gone to prison for life if Di hadn't buried the evidence for just such an emergency as she'd found herself in after the summer of 2009. It was then that Max August, the "alchemist with a gun" determined to bring down the Necklace, had compromised her, forced her to become a double agent — and that was not the worst of it. He'd also told her that another member in the close-knit group of nine, the magickal link, Peter Quince, had been possessed by a demon.

So for a year and nine months, Di had helped to run the world, handling almost all the media, living always on the edge of the now that was cable news, knowing one of her allies was a creature from hell and the others would willingly kill her if they knew of her betrayal. It was no surprise that she'd found the best drugs to make her her best self, because there was not the slightest margin for error. All the terrifying what-ifs, all the threats to her very survival, they all stayed outside her daily zone. And Di, to her credit, could deliver breaking news in the midst of an air raid, with no second takes. Her training, her temperament, they were well suited for the life she had to live now.

Here she was, a year and a half later, standing in her high-rise on East Goethe and Lake Shore Drive. Here she was, trusted to run American media.

Max had promised that she would walk free when he took the Necklace down. Before the drugs, she'd had an ever-present lust to turn triple agent and feed him to her bosses, but Max could and would take her with him if he fell. He had the goods on her, and he'd demonstrated, more than once now, that he had power the Necklace couldn't counter. Assassinating him had been their top security priority since 2007, but they hadn't done it. So Max had the whip-hand in this story.

All she had to do to save herself was slip him advance information on Necklace moves. The two times he had interfered with those moves, he had been very good about leaving trails for them to find, showing he came at the threats from some different direction, a direction in no way connected to Di. But she hadn't given him everything. She couldn't, without revealing that the Necklace had a leak, and he was smart enough to know that. So she was the one who decided which things would hurt the Necklace, but not hurt them so often they'd start to wonder why.

In the gray light, she made her latest decision.


SUNDAY, MARCH 20, 2011 • 7:21 P.M. EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME

12 Flint Knife (Fulfilling Magick)

Spring 2011 came to Fort Wayne, Indiana, at 7:21 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, a quarter of an hour before sunset. Ruth Glendenning, the Ops link in the Necklace, crouched over the master plan for the coming week, resting on her palms. It was going on T minus five days, and she had marked the remaining details on onionskin paper in the precise, almost architectural letters she had learned filling out forms in the District of Columbia police force. Eventually, she had risen to commander of the Special Ops Division there, the one that handled broken laws best left unseen. There was a lot of that in the District and she'd been very good at it — good enough to be tapped to leave the force and join the Necklace. In so doing, she became the only black on the council. She professed to be indifferent to such things and probably was. Her only criterion, for the agents she ran and for herself, was the ability to get the job done.

Ruth's normal bailiwick was Carlisle, Pennsylvania, but she and her men had relocated to Fort Wayne for this operation because it was tied so closely to the ordinance they'd be using. She'd done this a number of times before, so Franny Rupp had left a floor of her factory's newest brick building permanently at her disposal.

Now, as the clouds outside grumbled toward an approaching thunderstorm, Ruth added the onionskin to the low fire in her hearth. Within seconds, all written records of the plot were gone, and all that remained resided in her mind.

The objectives had come from Lawrence Breckenridge and Dick Hanrahan, the Gemstone and the Intel link in the Necklace, but the logistics were hers. There were two more flights in the run-up. Ordinarily, her men wouldn't need any extra drill, but with a wizard involved ...

Ruth sucked air between her teeth: that was the part that always bothered her, and always would. She didn't understand what the wizard's doodad did. She had to build it into her calculations based on Quince's description — and he gave a good description of his toys, not a lot of gobbledygook — but until she heard back from the helicopters, she was flying as blind as they were. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, she alone in all the world got to plan ops with "elder doorways" in them. That's what had brought her to the Necklace.

Her radio squawked. "Mission accomplished."


SUNDAY, MARCH 20, 2011 • 7:21 P.M. EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME

12 Flint Knife (Fulfilling Magick)

Spring 2011 came to Fort Wayne, Indiana, at 7:21 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, a quarter of an hour before sunset. Franny Rupp, the Ordnance link in the Necklace, was watching Purdue vs. VCU on TBS-HD with pre-storm lightning flashing outside her office window. March Madness was in full swing, and Franny, like a lot of Hoosiers but also like a lot of people in general come March, was glued to the games and the point spreads. Her family had always been into basketball, their loyalty on the IU/Purdue split given to Purdue since it was northern Indiana like Fort Wayne. She'd followed the Boilermakers since she was four, but the love of her basketball life these days was the incredible Butler Bulldogs, who went to the finals last year and had won their first two games this year by a combined total of three points. They played again on Thursday, against Wisconsin. And thank God it's Thursday, she told herself, laughing at her own joke. Why not? She was on her second Bud since tip-off and she was feelin' fine, even if Purdue was getting its ass handed to it.

She had spent all day and half of last night making sure her birds were ready to fly through that "elder doorway" and fly back out again in one piece. Now she just had to wait to hear how they'd done, and so, Purdue. She liked doing things that any other inhabitant of Fort Wayne could be doing, because she was an inhabitant of Fort Wayne, not appointed to her city like the other eight links. And she was proud of it.

Franny's great-great-grandfather, Johannes Rupp, had been the Ordnance link in the cabal in 1854, when it decided to establish a geographical choke hold around the throat of the United States and call itself the Necklace. Johannes moved his Rupp Works from Detroit to Fort Wayne as part of the plan, and because the Necklace had never once had occasion to complain about his quality of workmanship, Johannes's son John Thomas had succeeded, and then J.T.'s son George, and George's son Randolph, and finally Randy's daughter Frances. No other link could claim any genealogy whatsoever, but Ordnance was always in the hands of the Rupps of Fort Wayne. Always had been, and always ...

Cutting through the beer and b-ball, Franny remembered she was forty-four, with no heir in sight. Fortunately, her radio squawked and broke that up.


SUNDAY, MARCH 20, 2011 • 7:21 P.M. EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME

12 Flint Knife (Fulfilling Magick)

Spring 2011 came to Wheeling, West Virginia, at 7:21 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, just at sunset. Dick Hanrahan, the Intelligence link in the Necklace, reviewed the operation from his bunker deep inside his mansion. He had turned eighty-two in February, but he showed no signs of slackening the pace that had kept him the best-informed man in America since the Korean War. He had joined the Federal Response Council in 1953, straight off running COMINT, and moved up to the Necklace in 1968 when his predecessor, Nelson, had gone gaga — probably Alzheimer's, but Hanrahan's first act was to order second opinions and thoroughly investigate the original doctors. Turned out everything was above board, but it was pure Hanrahan: no stone unturned.

He shifted his butt in his padded chair, trying to find relief from his sciatica. He'd had his own doctors under surveillance for more than twenty years; he knew they were giving him every benefit they could. They were younger, but they were all growing older together so they knew what they would lose if they ever betrayed Hanrahan. His body was strong but it had its flaws now. His mind had none, as it summarized the first quarter of 2011, just ended, with solid satisfaction.

Nineteen years ago, in 1992, Renzo Breckenridge, the Gemstone of the Necklace, made like Kennedy saying America'd go to the moon. Renzo said that in twenty years, we'd hold all the cards, and he was right. A year and nine months from now, December 21, 2012, the day that all the nuts think the world will end ... it will. For them.

This is mop-up time. The presidency belongs to us, all the Republicans and half the Democrats in Congress belong to us, the Supreme Court belongs to us, most of the governors belong to us, the media belongs to us. We're just tightening the screws. You gotta tip your hat to Renzo: he got it done.

No matter where a simple citizen turns, he finds us. Want to get what you vote for? Want to get paid? Want progress on anything that matters to you? Not unless we say so.

People feel it, but they're running out of places to go without it. Every bit of truth they personally know about ends up altered if it hits the media — made shallow and boring, or shallow and fearsome, and either way shallow, so none of it really matters. Soon they'll all be completely alone, and we'll have the corporation we've fought so long to attain.

Corporation America.

The old man with the young brain shifted his aching hip again, so he could lean back in his chair.

The only serious resistance left is Max August, and Pamela Blackwell. But they won't last.

You set the course and you brought the ship home, Renzo.Come the end of next year, the ship will dock, the mission accomplished.

But you won't be Gemstone then.

I will. Because you'll be dead. Like Kennedy.


SUNDAY, MARCH 20, 2011 • 7:21 P.M. EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME

12 Flint Knife (Fulfilling Magick)

Spring 2011 came to New York, New York, at 7:21 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, a quarter of an hour after sunset. Lawrence Breckenridge, the Gemstone in the Necklace, the boss of all bosses, was naked on the king-sized bed in his East Thirty- fifth Street brownstone, sliding his palm along the warm red back of his diabola. She was naked as well, and made of soft flesh, or something very like it. After many years, he could tell the difference, as subtle as her lover's scent. There was a velvety smoothness to it. He knew she wasn't human. He didn't care.

He had come up at the Politics link, recommended by his oldest friend, Dick Hanrahan. It was just under twenty years ago when Aleksandra appeared to him for the first time, and promised that they would rule the world in twenty years if he killed the existing Gemstone, who had not lived up to her expectations. He did, became Gemstone, and everything since then had unfolded as she'd seen it. He had contributed greatly, with his inner knowledge of politics and power, but she was the boss. He didn't care.

Anything he wanted he could have, but there was nothing he wanted more than Aleksandra. On a daily basis, he ran the world, and on many nights, he fucked the most beautiful woman imaginable. He grabbed her shoulder now and squeezed it as hard as he could, fingers pressing deep into perfect scarlet flesh, and she gurgled her delight.

He loved it all.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Arena Man by Steve Englehart, James Frenkel. Copyright © 2013 Steve Englehart. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

STEVE ENGLEHART is known to millions as the writer of over 800 comics for such series as Spider-Man, Captain America, Superman, The Fantastic Four, and Batman. The Arena Man is his fourth Max August novel. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area.


Steve Englehart is best known for writing for such comics series as Spider-Man, Captain America, Superman, The Fantastic Four, and Batman for DC and Marvel Comics, and for his novels The Point Man, The Long Man and The Plain Man. He has been named Favorite Writer at the Eagle Awards, and has also won an Inkpot Award for his comics work. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area, where he is currently working on a new Max August novel.

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