Saturday, May 25, 2019

The Last Van Gogh by Will Ottinger

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March 2019
Black Rose Writing

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Last Van Gogh" received the 2019 Maxy Award for Best Mystery-Detective

brilliant and troubled artist. A lost masterpiece. The desperate search for the

unknown Van Gogh painting disappears from France at the outbreak of World War
Two. A notorious con man later claims he smuggled the immense painting to the
U.S. where it is never seen again. Ninety years later, his two sons, Adam and
Wesley Barrow, discover letters that supposedly confirm the painting's
existence, now valued at $250 million if it exists.

by a dysfunctional childhood and skeptical of his father's tale, Adam at first
dismisses the old letters.

painting's possible existence also attracts the attention of three unscrupulous
collectors, all  former associates of
his  father, one of whom engages a
professional killer to find the painting.

of its existence, Adam teams with Katya Veranova, a beautiful KGB defector and
ex-assassin, as they travel to Holland, Paris, California, and New York on a
desperate mission, forming an intimate but tenuous bond. Tracked by the unseen
contract killer and threatened at every turn, Adam and Kat face increasing
danger in their quest to find the last Van Gogh.



            The ambulance bearing Wes disappeared around
the corner onto Wells Street, siren moaning as traffic pulled to the curb to
let Chicago’s latest casualty pass. They’d removed Vasily’s body after a flurry
of police photographs, Chicago’s finest dispersing the gawkers. The storm
whipped gray curtains of rain off Lake Michigan, washing blood from the
sidewalk as I surveyed the damage.

and blue strobes atop the remaining police cars illuminated my gallery like a
roadside strip club. Inside the shattered window, a desecrated painting hung
askew on the nearest wall, its frame splintered, the canvas holed by bullets.
Beneath the destroyed Expressionist nude, crumbled wallboard fragments littered
my proud new carpet. None of it mattered so long as Wes was alive.

raised my coat collar and retreated beneath the awning followed by a bored
Chicago police sergeant, glass crunching under our shoes. The cop was a street
veteran down to a scarred chin and wary expression, his belly encroaching on
his belt buckle. He removed his brimmed hat and brushed rainwater from the
clear plastic covering, wiping the checkered band with a thick thumb before he
tugged it back on with a street-weary sigh.

            “Looks like you and your brother
dodged a bullet,” he said with a caustic half-smile. Discomfited by my
expression, he said, “Well, he didn’t actually dodge it. The EMT’s said the
bullet nicked the back of his calf without finding bone. Some blood loss but no
permanent damage.”

            “I’ve got to call his wife,” I

            “Sure, in a minute. First, you
wanna tell me what happened?”

            Across the rain-slicked street, the
space sat empty where the Lincoln had waited for us. “We walked out and someone
started shooting from a car parked across the street.”

            The cop contemplated my shattered
window. “I don’t figure the boys from the projects, but you never know about
those crazy bastards.” 

            I shook my head, recalling the
tinted window sliding down. Maybe a loan shark fed up with Wes’s late payments?
“The car was a black stretch Lincoln, the kind limo owners drive.”

            The cop took a cheap spiral
notebook from his yellow raincoat and made a note. “But it could be gang
bangers the projects. They like to cruise the streets at night,” he said. “Lot
of random shootings. The worst call themselves the Deuce’s Disciples.” He
kicked at the glass rubble around our feet. “I think tonight probably was a
screw-up. Mistaken identity or drug deal gone bad.”

didn’t say so but the cop’s reasoning didn’t feel right, a bunch of brainless
bangers shooting up an art gallery from a limousine. Glad to be out of the
rain, the cop made another note and took on the jaded expression of
investigating endless mayhem. Another Saturday night shooting and one more
bewildered citizen he was supposed to protect.

dead guy,” he asked. “Customer?”      

of my artists.” I almost told him about Vasily’s uncle and decided against it.
The police would find out soon enough, and a whole new avenue of investigation
would begin, including my association with Viktor Krushenko. I didn’t want to
think about it.

            The sergeant closed the notebook.
“The detectives will want to talk with you tomorrow.” He frowned at the rain
blowing through my broken window. “Lousy fucking weather. Better get something
over that hole. We’ll keep a man here until you leave,”

            He ambled back to the circus parade
of flashing lights and I went inside, wondering where in hell I’d find someone
to board up a window on Saturday night. I’d lugged the exposed paintings to the
work area, too disheartened to touch the ruined painting. I thought about Viktor
and knew I should call him, but I put it off. Viktor would know about the
attack soon enough and I tried not to think about what might follow. Vasily was
dead and that would bring repercussions for someone. Possibly me.

            I called Barbara and got her calmed
down after a few minutes, explaining Wes was basically okay. She kept asking me
why Wes had been shot but I had no answer. I gave her the name of the hospital
where they’d taken him and said I’d meet her there. Hanging up, I stared at the
jagged hole where my front window once existed. I waved to the cop stationed at
the door and went to my office. Thumbing my iPhone for repair companies I
located one open 24/7. The answering service claimed they’d be on their way
within the hour and I almost believed the voice. Bundled in a raincoat I walked
outside and told the patrolman to go home, that I’d wait until the hole was
boarded up.

pulled up a chair by the front door as the adrenaline ebbed, watching cars slow
to ogle the destruction. Gusts of rain gleefully destroyed my new carpet and I
tried not to calculate replacement cost, wondering if my insurance covered
gunfire. To my surprise a panel truck arrived half an hour later. Two workmen
hammered up plywood sheeting, the rough wooden patch blighting the front of my
beautiful gallery.

owning a car in a city where parking was a mixture of fate and voodoo, I called
Uber to take me to the hospital. During the ride, it occurred to me the
gunshots had been oddly muffled. I hadn’t told the cop, but the recollection
increased my uneasiness. Why would underage gangsters or a shyster bother with
a silencer?


            Wes had been discharged by the time
I reached the hospital. A young black intern assured me the injury wasn’t
serious enough to keep him overnight. In the midst of usual Saturday night
mayhem and need for beds, they’d bound the wound and released him with a supply
of pain killers.

            It was still raining as I called
Uber again and headed for Wes’s apartment. Barbara let me in and I found Wes
with a glass in his hand, leg propped on an ottoman, his smile vacant.

            “Hey, this Vicodin is great stuff,”
he said as if he’d discovered the solution to world peace.

sat on the arm of his chair and shook her head at me with less than fawning
eyes. She inclined her head at the glass in his hand.

            “Water,” she informed me.

            Maybe the shooting would prove a
respite for him. Provide an enforced vacation from his favorite lounges and
liquor stores. Barbara sure as hell wasn’t going to let him mix painkillers
with booze. I pulled up a straight-backed chair from the dining room and tried
to smile.

            “You okay?” I asked.

            “Is Vasily dead?”

            I nodded.

            “Damn. He seemed like a great guy.”


            Wes shifted his weight and winced.
I looked around. The apartment was sparser than I remembered, and Barbara
appeared five years older. She was a lean woman who never worried about her
weight, a great wife to Wes but not my biggest fan. She believed I enabled him
with loans and bail money, short term solutions to his deeper issues. But what
was I supposed to do? Leave him to the mercy of the drunk tank? She loved him
in her own patient way that allowed me to look beyond her faults, mainly her dislike
of me.

hovered over Wes, curly auburn hair and blouse still damp from the rain, her
face wet with tears. “This is quite a night,” she snapped, her voice trembling
as she brushed away a limp strand of hair. “Our home gets broken into, then you
call to tell me Wes has been shot.”

            “You got robbed?” was all I could
think to say.

            “Never imagined the art business
was this violent,” Wes laughed, his eyes swimming with the Vicodin. “Russian
gangsters and artists murdered in the street.”

            “You sure you’re alright?”

            He held up the glass of water. “I’m
fine, but I never needed a drink more in my life. What the hell happened?”

            “The cops aren’t sure.”

            “Great location you picked, Adam”
Barbara said over her shoulder as she strode to the kitchen. “A trendy
neighborhood. You serve Sneaky Pete wine at your gala last night?”

            “C’mon, Barbara,” Wes croaked.

            I resented her criticism. I hadn’t
envisioned a shooting gallery when I selected the location. “You’re clear on
the other side of town and you got robbed,” I reminded her, although the sparse
apartment didn’t appear a likely target.

            “We need to talk about what
happened,” Wes said.

            “I’ll talk with detectives
tomorrow. The cop told me...”

            “Not about the shooting,” Wes said.
“The break-in.”

            “Wes,” Barbara called from the
kitchen, “don’t start again.”

            “He needs to know.”

            “Know what?” I asked.

            Barbara sat on Wes’s chair arm
again and lightly ran her fingers through his hair. “He’s not making a lot of
sense, what with the pills and all,” she said. “Something about a Van Gogh
painting your father claimed to have owned.”

            “He told me about that, but what am
I missing here?”

            “The letters are gone,” Wes said.
“We checked but they’re not here. Nothing else was taken.”

            “You sure the letters were here?”

            “I changed clothes before I came to
the gallery. They were in my jacket.” He looked on the verge of bursting into
tears. “Our one link to the painting.”

            “You’re sure they were stolen.”

            “I’m a recovering drunk, not a
moron,” Wes snapped, slumping back in the chair as the pills worked their

            Barbara shot me a warning look that
hovered between ‘help me’ and ‘get the hell out of here.’ It was obvious they’d
fought a war over a fictional masterpiece that would solve their problems.

            Wes bent forward and winced.
“Dammit, Barbara, it’s real.”

            She searched his haggard face, her
own reflecting defeat fostered by years of disappointment. She started to reply
but looked away.

            “Okay, I’ll agree our old man was
crazy,” Wes admitted, “but he had no reason to lie to us. No money in lying. If
he owned a forgery, why didn’t he pawn it off on somebody years ago? God knows
he always needed money.”

            “This is crazy,” Barbara said.
“What about us? You’re putting this fantasy before everything we’re trying to
do. You’re in no shape to traipse after some painting. In case you haven’t
noticed, we’re almost broke. Where do you think we’ll find money to search for
your Eldorado? You have a portfolio or bank account I don’t know about?”

            “Maybe we can find a backer.” Wes
insisted. I’d heard the same desperation when he discovered a liquor bottle was
empty. He looked up at me. “What about your gangster friend?”

            “Viktor Krushenko is not my

            “He was Vasily’s uncle. He could
help us.”

            “Wes, do you have any idea who
these people are? Where their money comes from? It’s possible Viktor was trying
to get rid of me after our argument. The bastard’s crazy, you saw that. You
heard how unhappy he was about the split Vasily was getting. Maybe he meant the
shooting as an object lesson to me and he screwed up. Either way, he won’t be a
happy Boy Scout when he finds out Vasily’s dead.”

            “We need to find a way,” Wes said,
his optimism bolstered by the pain killers.

            Barbara turned away again and I was
out of arguments. Our dead father was ripping our lives apart yet again, his
sons lost in his dysfunctional shadow.

the Author

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Ottinger spent his early life in Savannah, Georgia. A graduate of Emory
University with a BA in history, he is also a graduate of Northwestern Graduate
Trust School in Chicago.

first novel, A Season for Ravens, published in 2014, was named by Reader Views
as one of its top-three Historical Fiction works of 2014-2015.  The second novel, The Savannah Betrayals, was
published in March, 2018.  His third
novel, The Last Van Gogh, was released in March, 2019 by Black Rose Writing.
Windrow and Greene Publishers in Great Britain earlier published his
non-fiction work on the art of historical miniatures, an art form in which he
gained international recognition as a Grand Master painter.  He authored a magazine column for seven
years, trained and lectured extensively in the financial field, wrote articles
for trust and investment publications, and has spoken to large and small
audiences. He served as president of Scribbler's Ink, a Houston writers’ group.

founder and owner of a wealth management training/consulting firm, he and his
wife also owned an art gallery in downtown Chicago. Both are inveterate fly
fishermen and now live in Atlanta Georgia.




RABT Book Tours & PR

The Holiday Chronicles by Denise M. Wheatley

Naughty Jolly Christmas
Holiday Chronicles Book 1
Denise M. Wheatley

Contemporary Romance 

Williams is an African-American public relations powerhouse who’s
come a long way from the tough streets of Chicago to glamorous Los
Angeles. While she loves her LA life, she hasn’t forgotten her
roots and always goes back home to celebrate Christmas with her
tight-knit family. 

year, however, Sasha’s holiday plans are nixed when she’s forced
to accompany her sexy, notoriously naughty new client, Drake
Lancaster, on the press tour for his upcoming Christmas

furious, yet finds herself overcome with lust when Drake strolls into
her office. She’s surprised, considering she’s never dated a
white man. Drake’s attraction toward her is just as intense, and
the pair partake in a hot, steamy sex session right there in her

Sasha’s promise to keep things all business during the press tour,
their sensual trysts heat up even further while out on the road. In
the end, Sasha must decide whether their cultural differences, along
with her secret painful past and Drake’s playboy reputation, are
worth her risking her heart and career—especially without knowing
whether this is the real thing or a racy fling.

Unconditional Valentine
Holiday Chronicles Book 2

entertainment industry it couple Sasha Williams and Drake Lancaster
are still going strong. Her impeccable publicist skills have kept him
on the A-list, helping Drake land the lead role in a major
Valentine’s Day movie. When filming wraps, the couple plan on
heading to Cabo San Lucas, inviting both their families along to meet
for the first time.

plans go astray when Drake reverts back to his bad boy ways during
filming and gets into a huge altercation with the director. He’s
booted from the movie and replaced by Mitch Morrison, a hot young
African-American actor who’s recently taken Hollywood by

Drake struggles to repair his image, Mitch hires Sasha to help manage
his burgeoning career. The move infuriates Drake, but Sasha insists
it’s a great business opportunity. She doesn’t realize Drake’s
threatened by Mitch’s good looks and charismatic personality and is
worried the pair will bond over their African-American heritage.

stress of it all puts a strain on the couple’s relationship,
especially when Mitch admits to Sasha that he’s developed feelings
for her and she realizes the sentiments may be mutual. With the
pressures of Sasha and Drake’s rocky union continuing to mount, the
anticipation of their families meeting, and Sasha’s elusive
affections towards Mitch, the couple can’t help but wonder whether
their once booming relationship is about to crash. In the end, they
must figure out whether their love is strong enough to withstand
these challenges and carry them through this Valentine’s Day.

N. Wheatley is a lover of romance, happy endings and the art of
storytelling. She used to cry as a three-year old child when her
mother read to her because she so badly wanted to read the books
herself! Once she learned, Denise constantly had her nose in a novel
(especially the ones she’d sneak from her mom’s bookshelf). She’s
been writing for as long as she can remember and draws inspiration
from Chicago, the city where she was born and raised, as well as Los
Angeles, which is one of her favorite places in the world. Denise has
published several books and novellas with Simon & Schuster, Red
Sage Publishing, eXtasy Books and independently, has written
screenplays and teleplays, and has ghostwritten for some of your
faves. When she isn’t sitting behind her computer, you can find
Denise in a movie theater, on a tennis court, watching true crime
television or chatting on social media.

the tour HERE
for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!

Dunskey Castle Series by Jane Stain

Castle Book 1
Jane Stain

Scottish Time Travel Romance 

was the best boyfriend Kelsey ever had, but seven years ago he
disappeared from her life. She coped with her heartbreak by finishing
her doctorate in Celtic Artifacts, and now her career is taking off.
But Tavish is back, acting like a stranger who knows more about
Celtic artifacts than she does. He's been on staff at every one of
her job sites in Scotland, wearing that stupid sexy kilt.

Castle Book 2

just got her dream job in the highlands of Scotland. Where her
friends ply her with celebratory champagne, throw a plaid cloak over
her business suit, and take her to the 14th century to do original
research on the dig site. She meets gorgeous highlander Seumas
("Shaymus") there, and — wait, is this a good idea?

Castle Book 3

was on top of the world. He had a hot girlfriend. She knew about time
travel, so he didn't have to keep secrets around her. So why did the
sight of his old friends Amber and Kelsey make him uncomfortable? His
girlfriend kept telling him to forget about them. But he couldn't. He
wished he knew why.

of the Celts
Castle Book 4

dons a Roman helmet left among her ex's things and is transferred to
the Pictish Celt side of Hadrian's wall -- flat on the ground and
tripped over by Breth. The naked woad-painted warrior is being chased
by Romans who caught him scouting their fort. She earns his trust by
grabbing an injured Roman's sword, fighting beside Breth, and saving
his life. He takes her to his clan, where she sees druids in their
sacred grove imparting magical protection by painting the warriors'
nudity with muscle-activated woad pictures.

of the Picts
Castle Book 5

phone calls from Kelsey, Jaelle thinks her first time travel
adventure was a dream, but a new museum display shows a stick figure
she remembers drawing with her fingernail file on the top stone of
Hadrian's Wall. Whoa, that means her time travel and meeting of the
dazzling warrior Breth and their fight with the barbarians at the
Roman fort really took place! She needs to get back to Breth!

of the Druids
Castle Book 6

first time travel assignment was challenging. Sure, she had her magic
dagger, but he wasn't cooperating.

felt anxious about this meeting. A summons to the sacred grove had
always meant the druids would perform their woad magic to prepare him
for battle. So he was in no way prepared to make the acquaintance of
the woman he found there with them. Deirdre was beautiful, and a
warrior, and from the way she was flitting around the grove, she was
the most powerful druid he had ever heard of in his life.

Castle Book 7

friend tricks her into time traveling to 15th century Scotland. A
gorgeous highlander Jessica is sure is out of her league invites them
to stay at his manor house.

knows he should keep his mind on training the militia for the battle
that is sure to come soon. And after all, Jessica is just passing
through his town. But she is so compassionate he feels his heart

Castle Book 8

has a magic dagger that gives her orders and sometimes stifles her
speech. It wants her to find some artifact here in 1400s Scotland and
give it to some druid friends. 

wants to get to know Taran. But the dagger whispers that Taran is in
the way.

life in a small town in Scotland was disrupted six months ago with
the arrival of Lauren and the other two lasses. Lauren knew the way
mechanical things worked in a way most astonishing. He never tired of
hearing her explain. But to find out she has a magick dagger that she
is in danger of losing her self control to? That shocks him.

Castle Book 9

and Katherine are two bullheaded people trying to "out stubborn"
each other. They've been verbally sparring in Medieval Scotland for
the past year. He's never met a headstrong woman before, and he is
such a stubborn male! When chance throws them forward to Katherine’s
time, he is the fish out of water. Understanding blooms, as does

Castle Book 10

boss at Celtic University plonks an iron bracer on her desk. It
brings up one of Kelsey's magic druid dreams. In it, Sarah's ex,
Michael (Meehall in Gaelic), used this bracer as a time travel
object. And was a kilted highlander in 1700s Scotland.

lunch, Sarah's friends say they’re calling in sick tomorrow to
attend a local fair. They want her to call in sick too.

isn’t keen on giving the bracer back. She wants revenge on Meehall
for breaking up with her and decides to use the bracer to have a bit
of fun.

tells her friends they don’t have to call in sick. She’s taking
them back in time.

one!” they tell her, laughing.

Castle Book 11

arrives in the 21st Century with Eoin (John) in the darkness of the
Celtic University night. Ciaran is delighted to run into Nadia and
wants to stay and visit, but Eoin drags him away from her. Eoin is
extra grumpy, saying the Murrays need an edge because the Cameron
Clan is planning something big. Eoin sneaks the two of them into a
storage basement and seems inordinately glad to find a particular
halberd there.

remembers the kilted warrior Ciaran from her experience in 1706
Scotland and secretly has a crush on him. Wherever he and Eoin are
going, she bets it will inspire her story for Celtic University's
historical society paper, especially if they are time traveling. She
sneaks into the back of the cart Ciaran and Eoin are driving and
hides under a blanket.

Castle Book 12

was captured during her last time travel adventure. But her friend's
husband's life hangs in the balance. And this ring she found is
giving her courage. Probably too much courage for a modern woman in
1706 to have.
is glad to see Ellie again. Her friend married his cousin and stayed,
when Ellie went back to their time. But he keeps his distance. Many
will die in the upcoming battle, maybe including him.

of the Fae
Castle Book 13

and her friends ride a whirlwind onto a seacliff and panic. What

area is crawling with Highlanders who say they’re fighting the
guy. The one they met at the Renaissance faire. They need to find

or Faeries
Castle Book 14

frowned. "Dinna ye think it wrong, tae grab the faerie axe by

batted the air as if what Marybeth had said was dismissible. "The
faeries gave it tae Ciaran, who gave it tae John. Kelsey stole it
from John. 'Tis na wrong for John tae steal it back from

stuck his chest out and his chin up in a show of bravado. "Kelsey's
gotten full o’ herself, syne she went off tae Celtic University.
That, or she has been brainwashed by all those Druids. We used tae be
friends, but now she's gone tae far. We wull be taking that axe back
from her sae we can save Donnan. End o’ discussion."

for the Clan
Castle Book 15

worries the faeries are about to kill her. She has to escape and warn
Connell. His Highland clan could be separated by time forever. Can
they make the druid curse help them?

worked at the Renaissance Pleasure Faires at Paramount Ranch Agoura,
Devore, and Black Point Forest from 1987 to 1993. She started as a
peasant, then auditioned and made it into the Washerwomen, and then
was a sea dog. She also hawked for Belle Star's perfume wagon and The
Dye Spot clothing booth. Jane Stain is a pen name.

is in her fifties and has been influenced by the writing of Diana
Gabaldon, Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Harry Harrison, Jane Auel,
Ray Bradbury, Ursula K LeGuin, Robert Jordan, Stephenie Meyer, Terry
Goodkind, and many more great authors.

the tour HERE
for exclusive content and a giveaway!