A Stand-Alone Novel
A BET TURNED DEADLY is Alice Zogg’s first stand-alone mystery novel. It is a work from the point of view of a man.
Jacob Barrstein and his friend James Eaton have a $1000 bet going. James claims that a group of 21st Century people cannot last a week without smartphones, computers, tablets, GPS’s, etc., while Jacob aims to prove him wrong. They organize a camping trip with 12 people up in the Angeles National Forest Mountains, allowing no electronic devices. When they suffer severe hardship and are stranded on the mountain with no way out, Jacob goes for help on foot and never returns. Six months after his disappearance, hikers stumble onto his remains, and the case changes from a missing person’s file to a full-blown police investigation. Once events are brought to the surface, another member of the group is killed.
The unexpected ending of A BET TURNED DEADLY is something the reader will not easily forget.
A Bet Turned Deadly is available in paperback, hardcover, and e-book format at
www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com
Publisher: Aventine Press (August 2014)
Hardcover ISBN number: 978-1-59330-861-2
Paperback ISBN number: 978-1-59330-860-5
eBook Edition ISBN number: 978-1-45662-304-3
List Price – Hardcover US$27.50
List Price – Paperback US$14.95
eBook Price – US$4.99
Excerpt from Chapter 1
Being an author, a fiction crime writer to be exact, I was approached more than once over the last several years with a possible book deal for the real life murder in which I had been involved. Until now I declined the offers. I wanted to forget the horrible experience and I also felt responsible for my friend’s death. If I had not made the damn bet in the first place, none of the events could have happened and he would still be alive. I also had qualms about making money out of the disaster. I wish it was that simple. As it stands, I cannot get the tragedy out of my mind. The killing of Jacob has even affected my writing, stifling my creativity. My psychiatrist tells me that I need to write about the incident in order to get closure. So I’ll give in and put the sordid events down on paper.
All of this happened years ago, when we began to rely heavily on electronic devices but before technology was at today’s advanced state. For instance, the self-driving cars were not yet in circulation, nor could the exact time and location of major earthquakes be predicted 15 minutes prior to their occurrence.
Let me first introduce myself. My name is James Eaton. I was thirty-five years old then, a mystery writer, married without kids. And yes, it all started with the cursed bet.
My friend Jacob Barrstein and I were hanging out at our favorite L.A. sports bar one evening at the beginning of February, over eight years ago, where he kept texting back and forth with his girlfriend, Holly, while obviously researching something online. It was irritating as hell; his preoccupation interfered with our conversation.
When he finally tucked the phone away, I said, "We can’t even function without our gadgets. Life has become one big technological mess."
He shrugged and replied, "Oh, it’s doable. Our parents lived their first 30 years without computers, smartphones, tablets, GPS’s, and the like."
"I disagree. I bet you a thousand bucks you can’t find a dozen people who are willing to give them up for just a week!" I insisted.
We talked about other stuff that evening; our main subject being the NHL hockey teams, and how well the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks had played lately. Jacob had gone to UCLA and rooted for the Bruins, whereas my college days had been spent at USC, which naturally made me a Trojans fan. We hassled one another during football season, all in good fun. As for baseball and basketball, we both cheered on the Dodgers and Lakers, and kept an open mind about soccer.
Before we went home that evening he said, "How about getting a group together and spending a week away from civilization? No gadgets allowed."
"That’s being done all the time on reality TV," I replied.
"Oh, those shows are staged. I’m sure they have medical teams on stand-by, and how ‘rugged’ can the situation get with camera crews following people around? No, our adventure will be just man versus nature!"
"You’re serious about this?"
He grinned and said, "I want to win the thousand dollar bet! Besides, it’ll be fun."
I was skeptical and pointed out, "Even if you find a dozen people willing to give it a try, how are you going to enforce the no-gadget thing? I mean, they may have good intentions, but when put to the test, lack the needed discipline."
"Don’t worry! I’ll lay down the rules beforehand, making sure everyone understands them when committing to our venture."
"When you said ‘a week away from civilization,’ what exactly did you have in mind?"
"A camping trip, of course. The old-fashioned way in the wild, without any campers or motorhomes; just simple tents."
I stayed silent, watching the hockey game in progress on the big-screen TV. I tried to come up with more objections to Jacob’s idea but could not think of any.
After a couple of minutes he said, "So? Are you in?"
"I guess," I replied.
He extended his hand and I shook it, sealing the pact.
Within the next few weeks, we planned a camping trip with roughly 12 people, choosing an isolated spot in the rugged Angeles National Forest, away from any public campground. Or rather, Jacob planned it and I gave my consent, and between the two of us we would finance the entire excursion. He posted the idea on Facebook, mentioning that the first ten "friends" who responded would get a free mountain camping trip. He explained that the point was to have a "roughing it" experience in the wild without any help from electronic gadgets. He stated on his Facebook post, "Don’t bother to apply if you are not willing to camp in the true pioneer spirit. Sneaking in any kind of 21st century electronic devices, such as computers, smartphones, tablets, Nintendo DS’s, electronic games and anything else along that line, will get you kicked out."
Working as manager at Jock Master Sporting Goods, my pal was able to rent tents and other equipment at a ridiculously low price. We picked the first week in April to execute our bet, which gave us two months to get organized and provide our "guests" with ample time to prepare for the trip.