Posted in Medical Thriller, Sports, Spotlight, suspense on November 17, 2013

Today we welcome author Dustin Stevens to StoreyBook Reviews.  He has quite a few books out and contacted me about reading Catastrophic.  I will be reading and reviewing this book in the coming month, but wanted to highlight this book for anyone that likes suspense/thriller books that tie in sports and the medical field!  If you get a chance, check out his book!  He sent me the first chapter to share with you and I noticed that if you have a Prime account on Kindle you can borrow the book for free!




College phenom running back Tyler Bentley is the ultimate success story. The son of a single mother from a wayward stretch of highway in Western Wyoming, he heads to Midwestern football powerhouse Ohio Tech and
becomes a star, MVP of the Centennial Bowl, runner-up to the Heisman Trophy.

He is also the ultimate fall from grace story when a freak play occurs, leaving his knee shattered.

Seeing an opportunity, the SynTronic medical corporation convinces Tyler to use their newly-designed KnightRunner knee replacement, promising him that he’ll be back on the field long before the upcoming season. Everything they promise comes true  up until the product malfunctions, costing Tyler his career and his  leg.

Now, leaning on the help of his one-time teacher Shane Laszlo, Tyler must take his battle from the gridiron to the courtroom. Laszlo, an Ohio Tech alum himself just a year removed from law school, has his own score  to settle with SynTronic, an incident occurring years before with repercussions  far greater than the loss of a limb.

Together, they will go into the biggest case Ohio has ever seen…

Chapter One

The law firm of Webster, Banks & Cohen, like most firms of its ilk around the county, had a well-defined hierarchy. Unlike all the others though, it assigned offices in ascending order of seniority.

The first floor was comprised of the palatial offices of Martin Webster, Jack Banks, and Howard Cohen, though they were rarely, if ever, seen in them.

The second floor was subdivided into six offices, each of them filled with the first hires of the firm forty years before. Two of the men had already retired into schedules similar to the founding members, while the other four still at least pretended to be working most days.

The third floor was split into ten offices, the second-year hires, followed by eight floors with fifteen offices each. All of those offices were filled with people that had been with the firm a minimum of twenty-five years. Every one of them still showed up a minimum of five days a week, many still working the same long hours they had when they started.

Somebody had to keep their trophy ex-wives in the lifestyles they’d grown accustomed to.

Above those eleven were fifteen more floors, all belonging to the firm. Levels twelve through twenty-four consisted of attorneys ranging from those on the cusp of making partner to those just a few years removed from law school. Grouped in teams of three to five, each one had their own receptionist and paralegal, a veritable free standing entity unto themselves.

Way up on top, the twenty-sixth floor was reserved for the rookies. Every single attorney that had ever working for Webster, Banks & Cohen started on the two-six, a fierce testing ground for new hires.

The entirety of the two-six was one large room with a tangle of desks strewn about. On their first day the new hires were assigned to a particular desk, but where they put it and how they chose to interact with the room was left up to them.

Corporate America’s truest Rorschach test.

Some angled for the windows, taking advantage of the fact that their firm was the only one in the city that didn’t bury them in the basement. Others chose the middle of the room, displaying their bravado for all to see and daring others to challenge them.

On his first day, Shane Lazlo chose the corner.

Not the one closest to the door or the one where two banks of floor-to-ceiling windows intersected, but the far corner.

As others sought out the coveted positions that first day, shoving their heavy old desks into position while wearing expensive designer suits, Shane nudged his into the darkened corner and began unpacking his bag. By the time some of his smaller coworkers had managed to post up just where they wanted, he had already read through the employee handbook and was moving on to the standard stack of first day documentation.

Cradled by dark brown brick to his rear and left, Shane positioned his desk tight against the side wall. It afforded him a good view of the room and even a decent sightline to the windows should he so choose.

Strategically speaking, it was an excellent move. On the social scale, it was closer to self-imposed exile.

That fact had failed to register with Shane the day he chose the seat. Not once in the months since had it done so either.

Most days Shane was the first person to arrive at the two-six, finding his spot in the corner long before anybody else bothered to come in. He wasn’t much of a morning person, but his preference for the quiet solitude of dawn made up for it.

Some nights, like this one, he was the last to leave as well.

Not a single light illuminated the enormous expanse of scattered desks save the small lamp on the corner of his and the laptop screen in front of him.

New Year’s Eve, a night when most people in Boston were at the North End enjoying dinner with family or at Faneuil Hall having drinks with friends, Shane sat alone in the semi-darkness. He had no family to speak of and only a few local friends, making it easy to dodge the handful of half-hearted invites tossed his way.

Not that he had much to celebrate these days anyway.

Just six months removed from law school, Shane was twenty-six years old and over a hundred thousand dollars in debt. The firm required seventy billable hours a week from him, which in actuality was more like ninety. The only person he had waiting for him at home each night was a temperamental cat.

The sadistic irony of being a twenty-six year old cat lady was not lost on him.

Ten months before, when the offer to join Banks, Webster & Cohen first came in, Shane jumped at the opportunity. The chance to practice environmental law with a renowned firm caught his interest within seconds. The chance to one day make the type of money they were telling him was possible sealed the deal.

Within weeks the new car smell of the whole thing began to wear off. By Thanksgiving the closest he’d been to the environment or big money was wandering into the Public Gardens by mistake on his way home one evening.

With a heavy sigh, Shane tossed his pen down on the desk and rocked back in his chair. He unknotted his tie and let it hang down from either side of his neck, placing his fingertips along his temples and kneading in slow, even circles. After several long moments he dropped his hands to his side, leaned forward and slid open the bottom drawer from his desk. He withdrew an ancient clock radio and plugged it into the wall behind him.

Brought it in special for the occasion, Shane adjusted the dial through a sea of static before finding what he was looking for. Clear and even, the familiar graveled voice of Ron Rickshaw floated out from the speakers, filling the desolate two-six.

“Yes sports fans, what we saw here in the first half was a performance for the ages. Ohio Tech running back Tyler Bentley, fresh off a top five finish in this year’s Heisman race, making a strong case that he should have been the one hoisting that trophy at the Yale Club three weeks ago.”

Jumping in was Rickshaw’s on-air sidekick, Ken Lucas. “It’s a shame that the folks tuning in this evening are listening on the radio instead of watching a television, Ron. I just don’t know that we can do Bentley’s performance justice. Coming out of the backfield for the Crimson Knights Bentley had rushes of 67, 45 and 38 yards, finishing the half with two hundred yards on the ground and three touchdowns. Forget the Heisman, this guy’s making a strong case that this could be his last game in a college uniform.”

“All week Bentley has been dodging questions about foregoing his senior season and turning pro,” Rickshaw said, “stating he will not address those issues until after the Centennial Bowl. I tell you from the way he’s carrying the ball right now, I can’t imagine there are too many college coaches out there that wouldn’t help him pack up his dorm room.”

“This performance comes as no surprise to Crimson Knights fans out there though, Ron. This is what he’s done pretty much all season for Coach Bob Valentine’s club. Over sixteen hundred yards on the ground, another five hundred receiving, a dozen touchdowns, he’s even passed for one and returned a kickoff for another. About the only things this kid hasn’t done yet are tear tickets and hawk programs.”

Rickshaw chuckled at the comment, his husky voice rasping out through the speakers. “Right you are Ken. Let’s take it down to the field for a moment and get the word coming out of the locker room from sideline reporter Sue Barnes. Sue?”

Shane took a long swig from a paper cup of tap water on his desk and rocked back as far as his chair would allow. He put the soles of his loafers on the corner his desk and smirked.

“Atta boy.”

Unlike his co-workers, who reminded every day him of their Ivy League pedigree, Shane was a card carrying alum of Ohio Tech University. In total he’d spent seven years on campus there, enjoying the price breaks for local students and the life that accompanies a college town during football season.

Tailgates, student sections, road trips. Shane had done everything and regretted nothing.

“Thanks Ron,” Barnes said. “I spoke with Coach Berg of the Virginia State Falcons and he said that his team had to find a way to contain Tyler Bentley. Coming into tonight they had planned to try and take away all other options for the Crimson Knights and force Bentley to beat them. Right now their plan is quite the opposite. Stop Bentley and force everyone else to beat them.

“On the opposite side, Tech Coach Bob Valentine said they have no need to change up what they’re doing. Remaining on the ground they’ve been able to control the clock and the tempo of the game while building a comfortable lead. If it’s not broke…

“Back up to you guys in the booth.”

“Thank you, Sue. With that we are all set to begin the second half. Darkness has fallen over Bill Irwin Stadium here in Miami and the temperature has dropped into the high-60’s, a perfect night for football as Virginia State kicker Drew Lenton gets ready to kick us off.

“Lenton draws back his standard eight yards and two to the side, has the referee’s whistle, and we’re under way here in the second half. Ohio Tech returner Maurice Welsh settles under it just shy of the goal-line and has a bit of a crease, returning it to about the thirty-one, make it thirty-two yard line for the Crimson Knights.”

“Knowing that Virginia State will be crowding the line and bringing eight or nine guys into the box to try and contain Bentley,” Lucas interjected, “it’ll be interesting to see if Tech tries to open it up here. Maybe catch the defense edging forward and pop a big one right off the bat.”

“First play from scrimmage Tech quarterback Nate Simmons takes the snap and drops back,” Rickshaw said, “and he finds tight end Brent Hanson over the middle. Hanson breaks one tackle before being drug town by a host of Falcons. That’s good for an eleven yard gain and a first down.”

“If Virginia State is going to commit that heavy to stopping the run,” Lucas said, “they’re going to be susceptible to that all night long. Their only hope is they can get enough pressure on Simmons to keep him off balance, otherwise this could be a very long night for the Falcons.”

Rickshaw continued with the play call, not bothering to comment on Lucas’s analysis. “First and ten from the Crimson Knight’s thirty-three. Simmons takes the snap and hands off to Bentley up the middle for a gain of seven. State was pressed up hard onto the line, but Bentley was still able to squeeze through to the second level.”

Shane finished the water, sat the cup on the desk beside his computer and checked his watch. “One more play and then back to work. I might even make it home for the fourth quarter.”

“Right now Tech has State back on its heels. The Falcons have no idea what’s coming and no way of stopping it even if they did,” Lucas announced.

“Here on second down Simmons takes the snap and pitches it out to Bentley, swinging hard around the right side,” Rickshaw said. “Nifty spin-move to avoid the first man, crosses the line of scrimmage and—

“Oh! He just got leveled at the forty!”

An audible groan from the crowd broke like a wave through the radio.

“Oh my Ken, this does not look good. Tyler Bentley went down hard and he is not getting up.”

Shane leaned forward and rested his elbows on the desk, turning the volume up a little higher and staring at the radio.

“I’m taking a look here on the replay,” Lucas said, “as State safety Harris Burton comes flying in and…” He let his voice trail off, offering a slight gasp as he sucked in a breath of air between his front teeth.

Folks,” Rickshaw said, “I know you can’t see this right now and be thankful for that. Burton almost put his helmet through the knee of Tyler Bentley. This does not look good.”

“Oh my, Ron,” Lucas said. “As you can see on the replay, it’s a legal hit. Burton works off a block and throws himself at Bentley, whose foot is planted. Boy did he take a shot right there.”

Shane slid back in the chair and rested his chin on his chest. He closed his eyes and returned his fingertips to his temples, massaging them in even circles.

“The angle that his knee is in just after Burton connects is difficult to watch folks,” Rickshaw said, a certain measure of sorrow in his voice. “Now they are calling for the stretchers.

“We can only hope this looks worse than it is.”


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About the author

I originally hale from the Midwest, growing up in the heart of farm country, and still consider it, along with West Tennessee, my co-home. Between the two, I have a firm belief that football is the greatest of all past-times, sweet tea is really the only acceptable beverage for any occasion, there is not an event on earth that either gym shorts or boots can’t be worn to, and that Dairy Queen is the best restaurant on the planet. Further, southern accents are a highly likeable feature on most everybody, English bulldogs sit atop the critter hierarchy, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with a Saturday night spent catfishing at the lake.

Since leaving the Midwest I’ve been to college in New England, grad school in the Rockies, and lived in over a dozen different cities ranging from DC to Honolulu along the way. Each and every one of these experiences has shaped who I am at this point, a fact I hope is expressed in my writing. I have developed enormous affinity for locales and people of every size and shape, and even if I never figure out a way to properly convey them on paper, I am very much grateful for their presence in my life.

To sum it up, I asked a very good friend recently how they would describe me for something like this. Their response: “Plagued by realism and trained by experiences/education to be a pessimist, you somehow remain above all else an active dreamer.” While I can’t say those are the exact words I would choose, I can’t say they’re wrong. I travel, live in different places, try new foods, meet all kinds of different people, and above all else stay curious to a fault.

Here’s hoping it continues to provide us all with some pretty good stories.

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