Play Dead

Play Dead

by Ryan Brown


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781439171578
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 10/19/2010
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Ryan Brown is an actor who has starred on the daytime dramas Guiding Light and The Young and The Restless, and has appeared on Law & Order as well as in feature films for Lifetime Television. He is the author of two novels, Thawed Out & Fed Up and Play Dead. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

Read an Excerpt


Three Days Earlier

GAME day.

Cole Logan had awoken and begun working long before the alarm went off. He considered it work even though it was something he did while lying in bed, his eyes closed. It usually took him a good half hour to run through the entire offensive playbook, watching the X’s and O’s shift around his mind like Scrabble tiles. Years of practice had enabled him to visualize with vivid clarity the pass routes of his primary and secondary receivers, to read shifting defenses and assess the balance of the field. He was about to start in on the no-huddle offensive series when the clock radio sounded.

“…was brought to you by Hardware Dan’s on Jenkins and Mason. Find it all at Hardware Dan’s. The time is now six thirty.”

The local announcer went on to wish everyone a “cracking good morning and a happy Halloween.”


So it was. He had forgotten about it until that moment. The holiday was just another thing that had faded into the background over the past few months, when he’d had little time to think about anything other than the X’s and O’s.

“…can expect more clouds, with temperatures much cooler than yesterday’s. Highs in the upper forties with late-afternoon thunderstorms likely to hang around through the evening. Gonna be a sloppy night for football folks, so remember to bring . . .”

Cole clicked off the radio, flung away the sheet, and came up off the mattress on the floor. His knees and ankles creaked as he rose onto his toes and stretched his arms toward the ceiling. He rotated his throwing arm until blood flowed into the gravelly joint.

Stepping over strewn gym clothes, he moved to the door and peered across the trailer’s narrow hallway. Two sets of feet poked out from beneath a twisted sheet on his mother’s bed. A tattoo wrapped around one of the man’s ankles. It looked like either a mermaid or a dragon. Something with scales. It might have been familiar, but he couldn’t be sure. They had all started to look alike lately.

Cole hadn’t bothered to check the time when his mother and the man had come stumbling in last night. He’d heard the front door swing open, some laughter, beers being cracked open. Then came two or three minutes of creaking springs before, finally, snoring.

He shut the door, slipped Guns N’ Roses into the CD player, and put on his headphones. He did fifty quick push-ups as “Paradise City” rang through his head, then he lit a Marlboro and smoked slowly as Axl Rose wailed through “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” When the song ended and the cigarette was finished, he stopped the CD and threw on the nearest T-shirt and Levi’s from the floor. At the dresser, he slipped a silver hoop into his earlobe, then ran gel through his matted black hair.

His little visitor came calling right on schedule, scratching at the window beside the dresser. Black Mona’s cats never slept in. The old woman in the next trailer over had to have three dozen of them now; they seemed to breed like a virus. There were times Cole wanted to shoot the damn things, especially when they appeared early on weekends. He’d have done it, too—shot them dead without remorse.

If the cats had belonged to anyone but Black Mona.

If even half the rumors he’d heard about the old woman were true, he wasn’t prepared to take any chances. In fact, to stay in her good graces, he had even made a habit of feeding her cats a little something when they came around.

He slid the window open a few inches. A gray tabby stood on the cooling unit below the sill. It cocked its head and gazed at him through sleepy eyes. He noticed the eyes were mismatched. One was coal black, the other crystalline blue. A plaid collar hung from its neck with a tarnished copper name tag that read COODLES. That was just one of the things he hated about cats—they always had stupid names.

Coodles blinked, stretched, yawned, and purred expectantly. Cole took mercy. Knowing he would surely come to regret the dependence that would follow, he tossed out what remained of last night’s bologna fold-over from the paper plate beside his mattress. The cat tucked in without so much as a sniff of inspection.

Cole slid the window closed and checked himself in the mirror. He’d take shit for it from school faculty, but he decided shaving could wait one more day. For fear of waking the sleeping couple across the hall, he decided that brushing his teeth could wait too. He smeared toothpaste over his teeth with an index finger, then grabbed his boots and leather jacket. He tiptoed through the trailer, took a pint carton of milk and a Pop-Tart from the kitchenette, and crept out the front door.

The rain-soaked Killington Daily was puffed like a sponge on the front step. He looked at his picture on the front page, taken at a press conference on the practice field the previous afternoon. Ink bled down his face, making him look like a young Alice Cooper in shoulder pads. JACKRABBITS SEEKING ONE MORE VICTORY FOR TRIP TO DISTRICT, the headline read. There was a caption below the photo: Rebel QB Cole Logan continues to prove the skeptics wrong, see story on 6A. Cole already knew the story and knew he’d like his own version of it better. He tossed the paper into the oil drum–cum–ash can beside the door.

The air was bitter and carried a dampness that ate through clothing and seeped into bones like acid. He slipped into his jacket and zipped it up under his chin. He pulled his boots up over wet socks, then leaned against the door, finished off the milk, and ate the Pop-Tart in three bites. He was debating having one more smoke before hitting the road when he heard a noise to his right—wet leaves shifting underfoot at the side of the house. There were multiple footfalls. He cursed. Word of the bologna sandwich must have spread through the local feline population. He feared that tomorrow the whole pride would show up expecting a buffet if he didn’t put a stop to things right now.

He went down the steps, picked up the rain-warped football that had lived in his yard since the fourth grade, and circled a wide arc across the gravel drive. He set his fingers on the laces, hoping one tightly thrown spiral into the middle of the pack would be enough to send the cats scurrying away for good.

But when the side of the trailer came into view, he saw only one cat, just below his bedroom window. It was the same cat he had fed moments before, only now it lay on its back, split open from chin to tail, its innards spilling onto the mud. A narrow ribbon of steam rose from the gaping wound.

The football fell from his limp hands. He spun around in place, not quite sure what he was looking for. A coyote most likely. Maybe a bobcat; they were rare in these parts, but not unheard of. He was more worried that it had been a dog. Mr. Garner down the street had a pair of pit bulls that were known to get loose from time to time. And unlike a coyote or bobcat, a pit bull wouldn’t hesitate to attack a man in the same ferocious manner it had attacked a helpless housecat.

He saw no movement in the surrounding woods, animal or otherwise.

His eyes went back to the cat. He approached it slowly, covering his nose to fend off the smell. Standing over it, he realized that the cat had not been ripped open by animal teeth. In fact, it hadn’t been ripped open at all, but rather sliced. The cut was clean, symmetrical. Nothing jagged. It almost looked to be the work of . . .

The first blow struck him across the back of the neck.

Before the pain even registered, the attackers spun him around, pinning his back against the side of the trailer. A stomach punch robbed him of the chance to cry out. Through swimming spots he saw two men before him and a third in the distance. All three wore jeans, sneakers, and ski masks under hooded sweatshirts.

The biggest of the three planted a forearm against Cole’s neck.

Cole tried to speak but only managed a strangled gasp.

“Keep your fucking mouth shut!” The shorter man picked up the dead cat with a gloved hand and mashed the carcass into Cole’s face.

Cole gagged and pitched forward, spitting gore.

“We’ll do the talking here, Logan,” hissed the taller man. His voice was calm, level. His breath was hot against Cole’s cheek. “Our message is real simple, asshole. If you walk onto that field tonight, you’ll be the next one that gets cut. We’ll gut you like a fucking fish if you even suit up. Understood?”

Cole shook his head, struggling against his restraints.

Another stomach punch halted his resistance.

The arm pressed harder against Cole’s neck. “Today you take a dive, Logan. It’s real simple. You find a reason not to play, or we’ll give you one. And then we’ll go after the rest of the team. Understand?”

Cole managed to draw a breath. A coppery taste trickled down his throat. Through clenched teeth, he told the men to go fuck themselves.

The attackers shared a glance.

A grin parted the taller man’s mouth. “I kinda hoped you’d say that.” His lips brushed against Cole’s ear. “Because there’s nothing better in this world than putting the hurt on a candy-ass quarterback.” He pressed a hand over Cole’s mouth. With the other hand he pulled a hatchet from under his sweatshirt.

His accomplice pinned Cole’s wrist to the side of the house.

The hatchet came up.

“Let’s see you play now, motherfucker.”

Then the blade came down hard on its mark.

© 2010 Ryan Brown

Customer Reviews

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Play Dead 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ignore the editorial review, it's a joke. This book was awesome. Well written from cover to cover. Total page turner. Likeable characters. Had a bit of everything.
Mr. Ahmed Sabree More than 1 year ago
Its great for teens
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Jacob Simpson More than 1 year ago
Not normally a fan of zombies, but this book drew me in. The book was like watching a movie, with a nice mix of humor and creepy and a villain you can't help but hate, and love to do so. Would definitely recommend it to others.
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AJourneyOfBooks More than 1 year ago
I know what you're thinking. Football and zombies? A fantastic and energetic sport combined with the gruesome and not so energetic undead? Well.yeah! When you think about it they're actually pretty similar. In football, players try to kill each other to get control of the ball; zombies.well, they may try to rekill each other to get control of your brains. Stick them together and you've got a winning combination. PLAY DEAD by Ryan Brown was fascinating mainly because I wasn't expecting it, yet it combined two of my favorite things. I love football and I love zombies. I've read a number of stories where the paranormal has been thrown into something pretty well known but this is the first time I personally have seen football hit with the paranormal bug. I'm loving it. The plot for this is pretty straightforward. The Killington High School football team ends up drowning in a river after their bus decided it needed a little bath. Cole, the quarterback and star of the team is the only survivor. Something just isn't right though. Cole has a feeling the accident wasn't truly an accident and he believes that their rivals, Elmwood Heights, is behind the tragedy. So what's a quarterback to do when a major game is coming up and his entire team is dead? Turn to black magic of course! That is some serious commitment to football! The football scholarship on the line may have influenced Cole a bit as well. Successfully risen from the dead, the football team must not only hide their secret from their parents and rest of the town, but fight to actually claim victory in their beloved game as well. There's more than reputation at stake here - their very souls are on the line. Add in a little romantic touch with the coach's daughter, Savannah and Mr. Brown has created a fantastic read. For those readers out there who may be shying away because the book involves football, I'll tell you up front that there are football references within the story. Plays and penalties are explained; famous players are described. I understand the references so I can't make too much of a judgment call as to how easily someone unfamiliar with the sport would be able to understand these references. What I can say, however, is that the general plot of the book will not be lost if you simply skip over the technical passages within the story. Aside from the awesome idea behind this story, my favorite aspect of PLAY DEAD was the writing. The game scenes were described in such a way that it was easy to visualize what was going on. The main characters were developed well and there were even a few side characters that became pretty memorable. Fair warning time: There is a decent amount of cussing throughout the book. Normally that bothers me in a story but oddly enough, it actually flowed well in PLAY DEAD. Who knows, perhaps I'm just predisposed to accepting cussing in football or from the undead. I would recommend this book to any thriller fans out there (and no, I don't mean Michael Jackson's Thriller), football fans, or zombie fans. This is a great book for lovers of the game or those who get a certain tingly thrill from reading about decomposing undead.
bridget3420 More than 1 year ago
When a fatal school bus kills everyone on board except for the school quarterback, Cole, he knows deep in his bones that it was no accident. His team, the Jackrabbit's were determined to beat the Elmwood Heights Badgers and win the district championship. Their dreams were cut short in this tragedy but Cole isn't ready to give up. With a little help thanks to black magic, Cole resurrects his teammates. This is where the story gets really interesting. I read a bunch of rave reviews about this book and I have to say that I agree with every one of them. Zombie fans everywhere will enjoy this fresh look at the undead.
Trebble More than 1 year ago
This is one entertaining book. I quickly became interested even in the football aspects of this book, mainly because he referenced two good QB players. Elway (hey, I am a die-hard Bronco's fan!) and Flutie (my second fave team is the Patriots). So, right there, I knew I would enjoy this book. I also love the cover of this book. Zombie football players. Heh... 101 jokes here people! Oh, and for those not that into football, do not worry. There really is a story around football more than the football game itself. So, yes, this book could have fallen flat and become something that tried to be too serious or too scary, but Ryan Brown pulls it off and gives us a very smart, funny, and interesting book. It also has a strong female lead in Savannah and a small bit of romance thrown into the mix. ;) For those into the fear aspects of the book, yes there are some scary bits, but surprisingly I did not feel that it came from the zombies (aside from a wayward kitty) but from the rival team, the Badgers. It wasn't so scary it kept me up at night, but it was enough that I wouldn't want to drive into Elmwood at night. For those interested in the funny aspects of the story you are introduced to Mona. Mona, the rare gypsy lady who performs the magic, was one of those eccentric ladies who has a million cats. She is the scary lady everyone in town is afraid of, but in this case, she is the comic relief of the story. You'll just have to read the story to find out how. :D So, do I recommend this book? Yes, I do. I give it 4 stars. It is even being made into a movie.
metfan More than 1 year ago
Two high school football teams are about to play for their local championship.But the working-class Killington Jackrabbits and spoiled 'roid-boy punks Elmwood Badgers hate each other.The Badgers will do anything to win,even murder almost the entire Killington team by sending their bus off a bridge on its way to the game.They also savage attack star Jackrabbits quarterback Cole Logan on game day.Cole and head coach Jimmy Hickman are the only ones to survive.Cole seeks revenge for his teammates,and turns to witch/Jackrabbits fan Black Mona for help.But something goes horribly wrong.Now Cole and coach's daughter Savannah Hickman must save his friends and the town.Former actor Ryan Brown makes an excellent debut with a terrific and wildy entertaining thriller. He keeps the story moving swiftly and works up quite a head of suspense. He also creates solid,well-developed characters(Cole and Savaanah make a nicely rebellious hero/heroine)and features some deliciously gory humor. Guys and teens will love this.Great fun!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
nightoutxx More than 1 year ago
Friday Night Lights meets Evils Dead. In his first novel, actor Ryan Brown (The Young and the Restless) delivers a zombie novel about high school football in Texas. While cliche at times, the book makes for a fun read, and if not taken too seriously can at times be funny. As a matter of fact, during my reading of "Play Dead" I often thought that this concept could work better as a movie, given the current climate of zombies in modern day culture. The story centers around the rivalry between the Killington Jack Rabbits, their starting QB, Cole Logan, is the main character, and the Elmwood Badgers. The bad blood turns really bad when the Badgers take a hatchet to the fingers of Logan, and accidentally but semi-purposely send the Jack Rabbits bus off a bridge and into the bottom of a lake during a flashflood. However there's one problem Logan himself wasn't on the bus and neither was Killington's Black Mona, a woman who is known to have "magical powers". Long story short after sacrificing an Armadillo, some toe nail clippings and what not Black Mona, along with the Head Coach's daughter, Savanah and Cole, end up raising the team from the dead. Once raised their transformation doesn't take 100% and you're left with a team full of zombies. Bound to get revenge for his fingers being cut off and for his team being "killed" Logan leads the boys into battle against the Badgers, breaking the Badgers out of jail in the process. Can you see how awesomely badly amazing this book gets? It's a good enough summer read, something to keep you entertained if you're into zombies or football, or both.