The Bullet Catch (Eli Marks Series #2)

The Bullet Catch (Eli Marks Series #2)

by John Gaspard


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781940976433
Publisher: Henery Press
Publication date: 11/04/2014
Series: Eli Marks Series , #2
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.55(d)

About the Author

In real life, John's not a magician, but he has directed six low-budget features that cost very little and made even less — that's no small trick. He's also written multiple books on the subject of low-budget filmmaking. Ironically, they've made more than the films.His blog, “Fast, Cheap Movie Thoughts” has been named “One of the 50 Best Blogs for Moviemakers” and “One of The 100 Best Blogs For Film and Theater Students.” He's also written for TV and the stage.John lives in Minnesota and shares his home with his lovely wife, several dogs, a few cats and a handful of pet allergies.

Read an Excerpt


"It is terrifying. Utterly terrifying."

"That's a strong word."

I considered my word choice. "Yes. Yes it is."

"Is this a new fear?"

Another pause. "Well," I finally said, "it's new to me."

"That's what I meant. Can you name it?"

"What do you mean? Like Pete or Louise?"

This elicited a deeply felt and well-earned sigh. I sensed, not for the first time, that Dr. Bakke regretted taking me on as a patient. However, he was young and his office appeared to be new. The rent payments had to come from somewhere. And so he had — probably, he was now thinking, against his better judgment — said yes. So here I was: a first-time therapy patient in the office of a therapist who was still using metaphorical training wheels.

"Is the fear specific?"


"When does it manifest?"

"Well," I said, searching for the words to describe it, "I feel it mostly when I'm walking across a bridge or standing near the edge on the roof of a tall building. Or on a balcony overlooking a high atrium," I added.

"Ah," he said, at long last taking a note on his unsullied notepad. "Acrophobia."

I shook my head. "No, I've always had acrophobia. I mean, not in a debilitating way. I know what that's like. This is different. Much, much worse. Terrifying, actually."

He stopped in mid-stroke. "How so?"

I didn't answer immediately. "My knees get weak, my head gets light and I am consumed, from head to toe, with panic. Real, palpable panic." I hesitated for a moment, as I had never said this part out loud before. "I get this feeling," I said finally, "when I'm on this bridge or high ledge, there's really nothing stopping me and I should just go ahead and jump."

Dr. Bakke leaned back in his recently purchased, slightly squeaky leather chair. There was the slimmest trace of a smile at the corners of his mouth.

"Is that the first time you've said that out loud?" he asked.

I took a deep breath. "Yes," I said.

"I knew it," he nearly cried out, coming just short of pumping his fist in the air. He sat back in the chair, clearly satisfied with this diagnostic achievement. He made a note on the pad. It was the happiest I had seen him all hour.

"So, to recap, you've got uncontrolled panic, an intense physical reaction, suicidal ideation and a sense you're losing control and might harm yourself if you can't get away from the high location?"

"Bingo," I said. Hearing it read back to me made it sound much more clinical than it felt.

"You'll be relieved to know," he finally said as he finished his notes, "what you're experiencing is not really all that rare and it is certainly treatable."

"Great. What is it?"

"Well," he said, nodding as sagely as a twenty-something therapist can, "there's no clinical name for it, although some call it the Imp of the Perverse. It's when your mind suggests you should do something that really isn't in your best interest."

"Like a voice in your head?" I asked.

"Perhaps. Or just a sudden or overpowering feeling you should do something wrong. It manifests itself in many different ways. In your case, it's most likely an outgrowth of acrophobia. Many experts think it might simply be a reaction to stress." He flipped the page in his notebook, smoothing out the next page before looking up at me. "So, what's going on in your life, Eli? What might be causing you stress?"

"Okay, let's see," I said, as I sorted through where to begin in the rich tapestry which was my life. "I'm a magician, making my living doing corporate events, parties, restaurant work, that sort of thing."

"How's business?"

I shrugged. "Not too bad. It comes and goes." I struggled to generate more information that might be construed as relevant. "So, let's see, I'm thirty-four. I got divorced a year, no, almost two years ago. My wife was having an affair with a co-worker."

"Sadly, not so uncommon," Dr. Bakke commented quietly as he scribbled.

"So I've learned. She's an assistant DA. He's a homicide cop, so you can imagine the romantic possibilities of that unholy union."

Dr. Bakke shot me a glance over his glasses; the look suggested I should stick to the facts.

"Anyway, so we got divorced. I had nowhere to live, so I moved back in with my uncle Harry. My aunt Alice had recently died and they had mostly raised me, so I moved back into my old apartment above his magic store, over on Chicago and 48street, Chicago Magic." I sensed this was more detail than he really wanted.

"And what's that been like?" he said without looking up.

"Not too bad, actually. Harry and I, we've always gotten along really well. He's a magician, too. Very old-school. He was on Ed Sullivan, that sort of thing. Basically taught me everything I know, but, as he likes to point out, not everything he knows. And I've always loved the store. You know, it's home." I paused, not sure what else he needed.

He finished his note taking and looked up. "Anything else going on recently? Anything that might have caused you undue stress?"

"Um, let's see," I sighed. "Oh, well, about six months ago I was suspected of killing a bunch of people, sort of a serial killer thing. Maybe you read about it — it was in all the papers. Three psychics were killed — I know what you're going to say, if they were true psychics why didn't they see it coming? Trust me, psychics don't find that funny. Plus, my ex-wife's new husband was assigned to the case, so that was a hoot and a half.

"Anyway, during the course of the whole thing, I got conked on the head and also fell down a steep incline and got cut up pretty badly. I wasn't the killer, but I gotta tell you, it looked bad there for a while. The upshot was I got a girlfriend out of it — Megan. We were almost killed together, which sort of speeds up the bonding process. But then she felt we were moving too fast, plus, she was in the midst of a divorce and you know how stressful that can be. So we're sort of 'taking a break' right now, although I'm not entirely certain what that means. But we've been on hold for a couple of months and I'm just in limbo, waiting for the 'break' to be over."

I added air quotes and immediately wished I hadn't. I looked over at Dr. Bakke. He had ceased taking notes, although I wasn't entirely certain at what point he had stopped. It might have been around "serial killer," or maybe when I got to "conked on the head." I'm not sure. He turned in his chair, set his notebook down and picked up what looked to be an old-style day planner.

"That's great, Eli," he said very slowly and a little too calmly as he paged through the planner. "Just great. I think I'm going to need to see you two or three times a week. At least to start."


Until the sound of the bell alerted me to the arrival of a customer, I had spent the better part of the next morning fumbling with a deck of cards in my hands, trying not for the first time to unlock the secret of the Center Deal. The Center Deal is a fabled card move in which the magician deals a selected card not from the top or bottom of the deck, but from the center. It's a sleight that had always stymied me and I take only a small amount of solace in the knowledge that I am far from alone in my inability to master the move.

I set the cards down and looked up to see who had come in, expecting to recognize one of the two dozen or so customers who still frequented our brick and mortar shop as opposed to doing all their magic shopping online. Instead I was greeted with the image of a complete stranger who also, oddly enough, looked vaguely familiar.

He was somewhere in his thirties and he wore a baseball cap pulled down over his eyes, which were covered with dark, expensive-looking sunglasses. A mop of dirty blond hair jutted out from under the hat in a random and reckless fashion. He wore a faded Minnesota Twins jersey and even more faded jeans, but the footwear peeking out from beneath his pants cuffs appeared pointed, textured and rich — alligator perhaps, or maybe from a species higher up on the endangered list. If someone had made a pair of boots out of a Komodo dragon, I thought, this is what the result might look like.

"Is anyone else here?" he asked in a hoarse whisper.

"Depends," I said, calculating how much cash was in the register and which nearby magic prop might best be employed as an impromptu weapon.

"Eli, it's me. Jake. Jake North." He pulled off his cap and the dirty blond mop came with it. The glasses came off next, and it was then I was able to put the name with the face.

"Jake? What are you doing here? In disguise? I'd heard you were in town ..."

He cut me off, looking around again to double check for others in the vicinity. It's a small shop and that didn't take long. "Have you got a few minutes? To talk?"

"Sure. Absolutely. What's going on?"

Even though we were clearly alone, he still leaned in close and spoke just above a whisper.

"I need your help," he said "Someone is trying to kill me."

"Okay, start at the beginning."

We had taken a corner table at the coffee shop down the street and settled in with our respective purchases — black coffee for me and a double-soy mocha latte grande for Jake. His precise and arcane instructions to the barista had slowed the process considerably, but with his order in hand he seemed less on edge. He was still in his disguise, which I was convinced was calling more attention to him than if he had just gone with his normal look. But you know actors and their innate ability to add drama to any situation.

"All right," he said, his voice a soft whisper, "So, I'm back in town making a flick."

I nodded. "Sure, I heard something about that. Some low-budget thing, right?"

"Low by Hollywood standards, sure, but it's a real movie and my agent thinks it could be my ticket out of TV and onto the big screen."

Being in films full-time had always been Jake's dream. He and I had met in high school, and although we hadn't traveled in the same circles, our circles did have points of intersection. We're both performers. His path had put him in all the plays at school, while my path put me in all the talent shows. His real break came when he was cast as the lead in a TV series called "Blindman's Bluff," a comedy about a lout who pretends to be blind to impress a girl and then must continue the ruse indefinitely. It hit new lows on the bad-taste index, even by cable standards, and was known for its equal servings of disabled jokes, ethnic slurs and crude sexual puns and peccadilloes. So of course it was a huge hit.

"Anyway," he continued, sucking some of the foam off the top of his coffee, "the movie is a biography of a guy with whom I'm guessing you're at least slightly familiar: Terry Alexander."

I nodded slowly, surprised to hear that name after all these years. I certainly knew the name of Terry Alexander. Any magician with a heartbeat was familiar with the life — and death — of Terry Alexander. "Sure," I said. "Infamously known as The Cloaked Conjurer."

"Yes. And also infamously known as one of the dozen or so magicians who have died while attempting to perform The Bullet Catch."

"In South America somewhere, wasn't it? Peru, I think?"

Jake shook his head. "Ecuador. Toward the end, he was basically doing his act in a traveling circus."

"Wow. His career certainly took a nose-dive."

"Apparently that's what happens when you go on national TV and start exposing magic's greatest secrets." He added a dramatic flourish to those last three words.

"Magic's Greatest Secrets" had been a series of television specials in which The Cloaked Conjurer revealed the inner workings of some of the best magic illusions of all time. Magicians, of course, were outraged at his flagrant disregard for the code of ethics that binds all magicians: the promise to never tell lay people how the trick works.

Terry had broken that sacred pledge and had pretty much been blackballed out of the business from that point on. In desperation he had returned to his traditional magic act and took gigs wherever he could, finally ending up doing a second-rate act in third world countries.

"He got work, though, because he was one of the only performers willing to do The Bullet Catch," Jake continued, "and that got him work in those far-flung performance venues."

"Until someone killed him."

"Yes. Until someone killed him. While he was doing The Bullet Catch."

Jake had a distant look in his eyes. I tried to pull him back. "And you play Terry?"

"Yes," he said, snapping back into the conversation. "It's a challenging role. The script is lousy, so we're diverging from it at every point possible. But I think, in the end, I will have created a fully-rounded character with layers and depth." He took a big gulp of what I was sure was still pretty hot coffee, but he showed no reaction to it. "But what's got me more concerned — much more concerned — is that I'll have to do The Bullet Catch."

"But it's a movie," I said. "I mean, you don't have to do it for real. Right? They have stunt guys and CGI and editing tricks."

"I know, I know," he said with no real conviction. "But I just have this gut feeling ..." His voice trailed off. I wasn't sure what to say to help him out.

"Certainly they've got experts working with you on this?" I finally offered.

"Oh, yeah," he said quietly. "I trained with some of the top magicians in LA for six months. I can do Terry Alexander's whole act, start to finish."

"So why are you so concerned about this one part of the act?"

"Right now, this flick is just a blip on Hollywood's radar. A little Indie about a famous, unsolved crime. But," he said with a mix of anticipation and dread, "if I actually died while doing The Bullet Catch?"

"Yeah?" I didn't like where this was heading.

"Then it will be a hit. A monster hit."

"You've developed some real chops," I said, genuinely impressed.

Our coffee was cold and I had steered the discussion away from Jake's fear of dying and asked him how he was doing the rest of the magic in the movie.

"The producers found some guys at The Magic Castle in LA," he said, casually dropping the names of three well-regarded magicians.

Training from any one of them would have produced outstanding results and I was curious to see what he had learned from this trio of masters. I handed him the deck of cards I always carry and asked for a demonstration.

Jake took the deck tentatively at first, then executed some nearly flawless moves — a slick top change, a false shuffle I hadn't seen before, and some flashy card flourishes that skirted the sometimes thin line between magic and juggling. His work was impressive and he was clearly well-trained, but it was all done by rote. He lacked the craft to be able to deviate and improvise. However, he handled the cards well and comfortably, and for those moments I believed he might actually bring Terry Alexander to life on screen. If he didn't die trying.

"So what makes you think your life is in danger?"

"Well, it was small things at first," he said quietly. "Like when I found out they weren't working with my LA trainers on The Bullet Catch. Those guys know their stuff, but the director said he had another resource in Las Vegas. Turns out the guy the director got is just a buddy of his from college. He runs a shooting range, but has no real training in this. But the thing that really unnerved me was when I saw the shooting schedule. They had scheduled the filming of The Bullet Catch scene last. Dead last."

"Is it the last scene in the movie?"

"Yes and no — it's all told as a flashback from the moment the bullet is fired from the gun. That might change in the editing, who knows. But these things are hardly ever shot in order. And that's the very last scene I'm going to shoot. Last day, last scene, last shot."

"A coincidence?"

"Maybe. But then I was at the director's house in California, doing a read-through of the script with some of the cast, and I noticed a DVD box on the TV. He had been watching 'The Crow.'"

I shrugged. "I'm missing the connection."

"The actor Brandon Lee died while making 'The Crow.' He was shot when a prop gun misfired. It was tragic, but it didn't hurt the film one bit. Some people say it helped to make it a hit."

"And you think the same thing could happen here?"

"Hey, if your job was to sell a movie about Terry Alexander, you'd probably have a pretty tough time of it. Sure, it's an unsolved mystery: Who killed Terry Alexander? But the downside is there's no stars, no pre-sale name value to the property, it's low-budget and under the radar. But if the lead actor gets shot and killed while in the process of recreating the scene where the main character got shot and killed ..."

His voice trailed off and then he added, "That's a film people are going to want to see. Hell, if I weren't dead, I'd want to see it."


Excerpted from "The Bullet Catch"
by .
Copyright © 2014 John Gaspard.
Excerpted by permission of Henery Press.
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.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“The Bullet Catch has a quick pace and dialogue that engages the reader from the first page…I enjoyed the author's smart incorporation of details about the magic industry, as well as Eli's relationship with his much-older uncle, Harry. John Gaspard has written a great character into an original storyline…I will definitely be seeing/reading more of Eli as Gaspard expands this promising mystery series.” — Heather Hopkins, Huntsville Books Examiner at

“Most contemporary writers have difficulty keeping the characters straight for their readers. Not Gaspard. And the dialogue, visual quality of the scenes, credibility and revealed motivation are…magical.This is an instant classic, in a league with Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Arthur Conan Doyle. Sure I am a sucker for mysteries, magic tricks, even filmmaking, but I can't imagine anything better than this (which combines all the three). Wow!” — Rosebud Book Reviews

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The Bullet Catch 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
InspirationalAngel531 More than 1 year ago
Title: THE BULLET CATCH - Eli Marks Mystery Book 2 Author: John Gaspar Published: 11-4-2014 Publisher: Henery Press Pages: 264 Genre: Mystery, Thrillers & Suspense Sub Genre: Amateur Sleuth; Humor; Craft & Hobbies, British Detectives; Cozy Mystery ISBN: 13: 9781940976433 ASIN: B00N11OBX2 Reviewer: DelAnne Reviewed For: NetGalley Rating: 4.25 I received a copy of "The Bullet Catch" from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review. Description From the Publisher: Newly-single magician Eli Marks reluctantly attends his high school reunion against his better judgment, only to become entangled in two deadly encounters with his former classmates. The first is the fatal mugging of an old crush’s husband, followed by the suspicious deaths of the victim’s business associates. At the same time, Eli also comes to the aid of a classmate-turned-movie-star who fears that attempting The Bullet Catch in an upcoming movie may be his last performance. As the bodies begin to pile up, Eli comes to the realization that juggling these murderous situations -- while saving his own neck -- may be the greatest trick he’s ever performed. Books in the Eli Marks Mystery Series: THE AMBITIOUS CARD (#1) THE BULLET CATCH (#2) THE MISER'S DREAM(#3) THE INVISIBLE ASSISTANCE (A SHORT STORY) My Review of "The Bullet Catch": Eli Marks is an unusual lead for a murder mystery. He is a magician with ties to the legal system. His perceptions of murder scenes and crimes in general are different than the norm in that he looks for the slight of hand point of view. Eli's character is well rounded and believable. The story is full of humor. The are two story lines to follow so the reader is kept interested. I found no lagging spots or repeated scenes. "The Bullet Catch" is a fast paced novel filled with twists and turns along with a climatic conclusion of both plots. My rating of "The Bullet Catch" is 4.25 out of 5 stars.
Carstairs38 More than 1 year ago
Be Sure to Catch This Sequel Earlier this year, I listened to the audio version of the first Eli Marks book, and I didn’t find it as gripping as I thought I would. At least at the time. I couldn’t get the characters out of my head, however, and I kept thinking about going back and reading the sequel, so when I won the audio version of The Bullet Catch in a contest, I was absolutely thrilled. For those new to this series, Eli Marks is a magician. In addition to performance gigs, he also helps his uncle with a magic store located in Minneapolis. His ex-wife is an assistant district attorney, and her new husband is a homicide cop, which makes his forays into murder problematic at best, but he can’t seem to help himself. Back in high school, Eli and Jake weren’t close friends, but they moved in the same circles since Eli performed magic and Jake was an actor. Now, fifteen years later, Jake is back in town having made a name for himself in Hollywood starring in a controversial sitcom. But Jake’s time in town is business rather than pleasure since he is filming a movie about a magician who died during the always dangerous bullet catch trick. Only Jake thinks that someone is going to kill him when they film the pivotal scene to gain publicity for the movie, and he asks Eli to use his expertise as a magician to keep that from happening. Jake also talks Eli into attending their high school reunion. While there, Eli runs into his old high school crush. Trish has married the bad boy of their class, the one that everyone thought would be in prison by graduation. However, after they all leave the reunion, Trish’s husband is killed. With Eli’s connections to the police, he finds himself drawn into what is happening. Can he figure out who the killer is while keeping Jake safe? My complaint about the first book was the pacing, but that isn’t an issue here at all. With two plots keeping Eli busy, there is never a moment for things to slow down. The murder is the main story, and it provides some great twists and surprises along the way, but the story with Jake is just as much fun and manages to build some great suspense. Both stories reach fantastic and surprising climaxes as well. I realized how much I had come to care for the characters when I started in on this book. It was great to see them again and get to know them better here. Of course, we meet some well developed new characters as well, and they all get their moments to shine. And Eli’s knowledge of magic adds a great touch to the mystery. I loved his unique take on things based on his expertise. Quite often, the hook of a series is just that, a hook (and I don’t mind it when that is the case), but this time the hook really does add to the mystery. Unfortunately, there is still one flaw here. Eli has developed a huge fear of heights between, a detail I actually loved since I am afraid of heights myself. However, he lives on the third floor, yet his crippling fear of heights never seems to bother him at home. Jim Cunningham is the narrator once again, and he is wonderful at bringing the characters to life. This is especially true of Eli and his various reactions to things. It’s rare I revisit a series that didn’t hook me right away, but I’ve very glad I did with The Bullet Catch. If you are looking for a fun mystery with a unique hook, be sure to pick it up today. I’m definitely hoping to move on to the third in the series soon.