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Gray Mountain: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

John Grisham
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13,505 customer reviews)

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Book Description

John Grisham has a new hero . . . and she’s full of surprises

The year is 2008 and Samantha Kofer’s career at a huge Wall Street law firm is on the fast track—until the recession hits and she gets downsized, furloughed, escorted out of the building. Samantha, though, is one of the “lucky” associates. She’s offered an opportunity to work at a legal aid clinic for one year without pay, after which there would be a slim chance that she’d get her old job back.

In a matter of days Samantha moves from Manhattan to Brady, Virginia, population 2,200, in the heart of Appalachia, a part of the world she has only read about. Mattie Wyatt, lifelong Brady resident and head of the town’s legal aid clinic, is there to teach her how to “help real people with real problems.” For the first time in her career, Samantha prepares a lawsuit, sees the inside of an actual courtroom, gets scolded by a judge, and receives threats from locals who aren’t so thrilled to have a big-city lawyer in town. And she learns that Brady, like most small towns, harbors some big secrets.

Her new job takes Samantha into the murky and dangerous world of coal mining, where laws are often broken, rules are ignored, regulations are flouted, communities are divided, and the land itself is under attack from Big Coal. Violence is always just around the corner, and within weeks Samantha finds herself engulfed in litigation that turns deadly.


Editorial Reviews

About the Author

John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. One day, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl's father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987. His next novel, The Firm, spent 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and became the bestselling novel of 1991. Since then, he has written one novel a year, including The Client, The Pelican Brief, The Rainmaker and The Runaway Jury. Today, Grisham has written a collection of stories, a work of nonfiction, three sports novels, four kids' books, and many legal thrillers. His work has been translated into 42 languages. He lives near Charlottesville, Virginia.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

1

The horror was in the waiting--the unknown, the insomnia, the ulcers. Co-workers ignored each other and hid behind locked doors. Secretaries and paralegals passed along the rumors and refused eye contact. Everyone was on edge, wondering, "Who might be next?" The partners, the big boys, appeared shell-shocked and wanted no contact with their underlings. They might soon be ordered to slaughter them.

The gossip was brutal. Ten associates in Litigation terminated; partially true--only seven. The entire Estate division closed, partners and all; true. Eight partners in Antitrust jumping to another firm; false, for now.

The atmosphere was so toxic that Samantha left the building whenever possible and worked with her laptop in coffee shops around lower Manhattan. She sat on a park bench one pleasant day--day ten after the fall of Lehman Brothers--and gazed at the tall building down the street. It was called 110 Broad, and the top half was leased by Scully & Pershing, the biggest law firm the world had ever seen. Her firm, for now, though the future was anything but certain. Two thousand lawyers in twenty countries, half of them in New York City alone, a thousand right up there packed together on floors 30 through 65. How many wanted to jump? She couldn't guess, but she wasn't the only one. The world's largest firm was shrinking in chaos, as were its competitors. Big Law, as it was known, was just as panicked as the hedge funds, investment banks, real banks, insurance conglomerates, Washington, and on down the food chain to the merchants on Main Street.

Day ten passed without bloodshed, as did the next. On day twelve there was a flash of optimism as Ben, one of Samantha's colleagues, shared a rumor that credit markets in London were loosening a bit. Borrowers might find some cash after all. But late that afternoon the rumor had run out of gas; nothing to it. And so they waited.

Two partners ran Commercial Real Estate at Scully & Pershing. One was nearing retirement age and had already been shoved out. The other was Andy Grubman, a forty-year-old pencil pusher who'd never seen a courtroom. As a partner, he had a nice office with a distant view of the Hudson, water he hadn't noticed in years. On a shelf behind his desk, and squarely in the center of his Ego Wall, there was a collection of miniature skyscrapers. "My buildings" he liked to call them. Upon completion of one of his buildings, he commissioned a sculptor to replicate it on a smaller scale, and he generously gave an even smaller trophy to each member of "my team." In her three years at S&P, Samantha's collection had six buildings, and that was as large as it would get.

"Have a seat," he ordered as he closed the door. Samantha sat in a chair next to Ben, who was next to Izabelle. The three associates studied their feet, waiting. Samantha felt the urge to grab Ben's hand, like a terrified prisoner facing a firing squad. Andy fell into his chair, and, avoiding eye contact but desperate to get things over with, he recapped the mess they were in.

"As you know, Lehman Brothers folded fourteen days ago."

No kidding, Andy! The financial crisis and credit meltdown had the world on the brink of a catastrophe and everyone knew it. But then, Andy rarely had an original thought.

"We have five projects in the works, all funded by Lehman. I've talked at length with the owners, and all five are pulling the plug. We had three more in the distance, two with Lehman, one with Lloyd's, and, well, all credit is frozen. The bankers are in their bunkers, afraid to loan a dime."

Yes, Andy, we know this too. It's front-page. Just get it over with before we jump.

"The exec committee met yesterday and made some cuts. Thirty first-year associates are being let go; some terminated outright, others laid off. All new hires are deferred indefinitely. Probate is gone. And, well, there is no easy way to say this, but our entire division is on the block. Cut. Eliminated. Who knows when owners will start building again, if ever. The firm is unwilling to keep you on the payroll while the world waits for loose credit. Hell, we could be headed for a major depression. This is probably just the first round of cuts. Sorry, guys. I'm really sorry."

Ben spoke first. "So we're being terminated outright?"

"No. I fought for you guys, okay? At first they planned to do the pink slip thing. I don't have to remind you that CRE is the smallest division in the firm and probably the hardest hit right now. I talked them into something we're calling a furlough. You'll leave now, come back later, maybe."

"Maybe?" Samantha asked. Izabelle wiped a tear but kept her composure.

"Yes, a big fat maybe. Nothing is definite right now, Samantha, okay? We're all chasing our tails. In six months we could all be at the soup kitchen. You've seen the old photos from 1929."

Come on, Andy, a soup kitchen? As a partner, your take-home last year was $2.8 million, average at S&P, which, by the way, came in fourth in net-per-partner. And fourth was not good enough, at least it wasn't until Lehman croaked and Bear Stearns imploded and the sub-prime mortgage bubble burst. Suddenly, fourth place was looking pretty good, for some anyway.

"What's a furlough?" Ben asked.

"Here's the deal. The firm keeps you under contract for the next twelve months, but you don't get a paycheck."

"Sweet," Izabelle mumbled.

Ignoring her, Andy plowed ahead: "You keep your health benefits, but only if you intern with a qualified nonprofit. HR is putting together a list of suitable outfits. You go away, do your little do-gooder bit, save the world, hope like hell the economy bounces back, then in a year or so you're back with the firm and you don't lose any seniority. You won't be in CRE but the firm will find a place for you."

"Are our jobs guaranteed when the furlough is over?" Samantha asked.

"No, nothing is guaranteed. Frankly, no one is smart enough to predict where we'll be next year. We're in the middle of an election, Europe is going to hell, the Chinese are freaking out, banks are folding, markets are crashing, nobody's building or buying. The world's coming to an end."

They sat for a moment in the gloomy silence of Andy's office, all four crushed with the reality of the end of the world. Finally, Ben asked, "You, too, Andy?"

"No, they're transferring me to Tax. Can you believe it? I hate Tax, but it was either Tax or driving a cab. I got a master's in taxation, though, so they figured they could spare me."

"Congratulations," Ben said.

"I'm sorry, guys."

"No, I mean it. I'm happy for you."

"I could be gone in a month. Who knows?"

"When do we leave?" Izabelle asked.

"Right now. The procedure is to sign a furlough agreement, pack up your stuff, clean off your desk, and hit the street. HR will e-mail you a list of nonprofits and all the paperwork. Sorry, guys."

"Please stop saying that," Samantha said. "There's nothing you can say that helps matters here."

"True, but it could be worse. The majority of those in your boat are not being offered a furlough. They're being fired on the spot."

"I'm sorry, Andy," Samantha said. "There are a lot of emotions right now."

"It's okay. I understand. You have the right to be angry and upset. Look at you--all three have Ivy League law degrees and you're being escorted out of the building like thieves. Laid off like factory workers. It's awful, just awful. Some of the partners offered to cut their salaries in half to prevent this."

"I'll bet that was a small group," Ben said.

"It was, yes. Very small, I'm afraid. But the decision has been made."



A woman in a black suit and a black necktie stood at the quad where Samantha shared a "space" with three others, including Izabelle. Ben was just down the hall. The woman tried to smile as she said, "I'm Carmen. Can I help you?" She was holding an empty cardboard box, blank on all sides so no one would know it was the official Scully & Pershing repository for the office junk of those furloughed or fired or whatever.

"No, thanks," Samantha said, and she managed to do so politely. She could have snapped and been rude, but Carmen was only doing her job. Samantha began opening drawers and removing all things personal. In one drawer she had some S&P files and asked, "What about these?"

"They stay here," Carmen said, watching every move, as if Samantha might attempt to pilfer some valuable asset. The truth was that everything of value was stored in the computers--a desktop she used in her space and a laptop she took almost everywhere. A Scully & Pershing laptop. It, too, would remain behind. She could access everything from her personal laptop, but she knew the codes had already been changed.

As if sleepwalking, she cleaned out the drawers and gently tucked away the six miniature skyscrapers from her collection, though she thought about tossing them into the trash can. Izabelle arrived and was given her own personal cardboard box. All others--associates, secretaries, paralegals--had suddenly found business elsewhere. Protocol had been quickly adopted--when someone cleans out a desk, let them do it in peace. No witnesses, no gawking, no hollow farewells.

Izabelle's eyes were puffy and red; she had obviously been in the restroom crying. She whispered, "Call me. Let's have a drink tonight."

"Sure," Samantha said. She finished stuffing it all into the box, her briefcase, and her bulky designer bag, and without looking over her shoulder she marched behind Carmen down the hallway and to the elevators on the forty-eighth floor. As they waited, she refused to look around and absorb it one last time. The door opened and thankfully the elevator was empty. "I'll carry that," Carmen said, pointing to the box, which was already increasing in bulk and weight. "No," Samantha said as she stepped inside. Carmen pushed the button for the lobby. Why, exactly, was she being escorted out of the building? The longer she pondered the question the angrier she became. She wanted to cry and she wanted to lash out, but what she really wanted was to call her mother. The elevator stopped on the forty-third floor and a well-dressed young man stepped in. He was holding an identical cardboard box, with a large bag strapped over his shoulder and a leather briefcase under an arm. He had the same stunned look of fear and confusion. Samantha had seen him in the elevator but never met him. What a firm. So mammoth the associates wore name badges at the dreadful Christmas party. Another security guard in a black suit stepped in behind him, and when everyone was in place Carmen again pressed the button for the lobby. Samantha studied the floor, determined not to speak even if spoken to. On the thirty-ninth floor, the elevator stopped again, and Mr. Kirk Knight got on board while studying his cell phone. Once the door closed, he glanced around, saw the two cardboard boxes, and seemed to gasp as his spine stiffened. Knight was senior partner in Mergers & Acquisitions and a member of the executive committee. Suddenly face-to-face with two of his victims, he swallowed hard and stared at the door. Then he suddenly punched the button for floor number 28.

Samantha was too numb to insult him. The other associate had his eyes closed. When the elevator stopped, Knight hustled off. After the door closed, Samantha remembered the firm leased floors 30 through 65. Why would Knight make a sudden exit onto 28? Who cared?

Carmen walked her through the lobby and out the door onto Broad Street. She offered a meek "I'm sorry," but Samantha did not respond. Laden like a pack mule, she drifted with the foot traffic, going nowhere in particular. Then she remembered the newspaper photos of the Lehman and Bear Stearns employees leaving their office buildings with boxes filled with their stuff, as if the buildings were on fire and they were fleeing for their lives. In one photo, a large color one on the front of the Times's section B, a Lehman trader was caught with tears on her cheeks as she stood helplessly on the sidewalk.

But those photos were old news now and Samantha did not see any cameras. She set the box down at the corner of Broad and Wall and waited for a cab.



2

In a chic SoHo loft that cost her $2,000 a month, Samantha flung her office crap at the floor and fell onto the sofa. She clutched her cell phone, but waited. She breathed deeply, eyes closed, emotions somewhat in check. She needed her mother's voice and reassurance, but she did not want to sound weak, wounded, and vulnerable.

The relief came from the sudden realization that she had just been freed from a job she despised. Tonight at seven she might be watching a movie or having dinner with friends, not slaving away at the office with the meter running. This Sunday she could leave the city with no thoughts whatsoever about Andy Grubman and the pile of paperwork for his next crucial deal. The FirmFone, a monstrous little gadget that had been glued to her body for three years now, had been surrendered. She felt liberated and wonderfully unburdened.

The fear came from the loss of income and the sudden detour in her career. As a third-year associate, she was earning $180,000 a year in base salary, plus a nice bonus. A lot of money, but life in the city had a way of devouring it. Half evaporated in taxes. She had a savings account, one she halfheartedly acknowledged. When you're twenty-nine, single, and free in the city, in a profession where next year's package will exceed this year's salary plus bonus, why worry too much about saving money? She had a friend from Columbia Law who'd been at S&P for five years, had just made junior partner, and would earn about half a million this year. Samantha had been on that track.

She also had friends who jumped off the treadmill after twelve months and happily fled the awful world of Big Law. One was now a ski instructor in Vermont, a former editor of the Columbia Law Review, a refugee from the bowels of S&P who lived in a cabin by a stream and rarely answered his cell. In just thirteen months he had gone from an ambitious young associate to a mildly deranged idiot who slept at his desk. Just before HR intervened, he cracked up and left the city. Samantha thought of him often, usually with a twinge of jealousy.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1200 KB
  • Print Length: 386 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 038553714X
  • Publisher: Doubleday (October 21, 2014)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00JYWUHO4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #312 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
493 of 549 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Retired teacher October 21, 2014
By Reader
Format:Kindle Edition
Always a fan of John Grisham for his finely etched characterizations and ability to draw the reader into the courtroom drama of which his books are based. This book reads more like a docu drama. I did not like Samantha the female protagonist, who seemed a flat cardboard person who is self absorbed and shallow....bored with her job in a big law firm until she is unexpectedly let go due to the stock market crash. Then she is introduced to a world of the Appalachian "real people" through her volunteering at a free legal clinic and consequently becomes aware of many issues involving hardcore poverty and the huge environmentally devastating coal mining industry. Do not expect an armchair reading the usual Grisham novel generates....I put it down several times tired of the characters and being preached at about a thinly veiled attempt to spread the word of governmental collusion with the coal industry.
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285 of 316 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Who Wrote This? October 24, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I kept waiting for the excitement to begin....never happened. Main character Pollyanna and weak. Very sorry I spent time and money on this book. I have read all of his books and can't believe it is the same author.
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256 of 285 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Didn't end October 23, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Jeez, no ending. It just stopped. I feel ripped off, for the price of the book plus the time invested in reading it
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297 of 333 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars empty plot poor effort on Grisham's part October 25, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Really, no ending. Just a wandering diatribe. I'm a Grisham fan but I was never "involved" in this book. Shallow characters, unresolved issues. As a male author with a female main character I have to say he shouldn't try this again. She was one hundred percent vanilla. I'm still wondering what the point of the novel was. Read Sycamore Road but don't bother with this.
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154 of 173 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This was the most boring book I have read in years October 25, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This was the most boring book I have read in years. The characters were uninspiring and dull and it did not feel as though Mr. Grisham had written this book as I have read all his previous books and loved them. I did not finish the book and I would not recommend it to anyone. A complete waste of one's time
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156 of 176 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't waste your money October 24, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'm almost halfway through this book, and NOTHING has happened, except for endless exposition about the evils of coal mining, which, while true, is no substitute for an actual plot. Don't waste your money!
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190 of 219 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars No Thanks for Doubleday. October 25, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Obviously, no editor at Doubleday had the balls to tell their mega-author that the company does not publish unfinished manuscripts. Clearly, the guaranteed millions and the sound of ca-ching at the cash registers overcame any scruples about serving their readers’ interests. Thus, there is John Grisham’s 29th novel, Gray Mountain, to consider.

Samantha Kofer, a twenty-something attorney, gets bounced from her success tracked, but mind-numbing, job at a huge Manhattan law firm by the Lehman crash. She finds herself cast out to backwoods Appalachia working as an unpaid intern for a legal services firm. For a full half of the book the author relates her introduction to real people and real law. If there’s a plot beyond this life lesson, the reader can’t divine it. Then on page 209 a chapter ends with, “On November 24, three days before Thanksgiving, they found him dead.” Let the story begin. The reader can assume Grisham has spent half his book setting the scene and putting the necessary characters in place. The dead man, Donovan Gray, is a victim of aviation sabotage. He was the knight-errant in battles with Big Coal and their corrupt lawyers. They screw everybody. He fights back. The good guys have Samantha’s dad, a disbarred lawyer with decades of experience suing airlines over crashes. Nothing aviation gets past him. He even provides venture cash for small lawyers to sue deep pocket opponents. The bad guys enlist the corrupted FBI to do their bidding, but the good guys have Samantha’s mother, a well placed official in the Justice Department. Everything seems to revolve around another Grisham document caper. Stolen documents that can prove crimes committed by the coal company are now in the possession of the recently murdered, Quixote-like lawyer’s “firm.
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88 of 99 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Huge Disappointment October 24, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have to say, John Grisham is my favorite Author of all time, but this book has to be his worst book yet. It has a great story line but it puters out real quick and not enough courtroom auction or drama, more of a romance which disappoints me. The ending was horrible, I thought maybe my Kindle has just cut off the rest of the book only to find out that it really was the end...very disappointed and hope he gets back to the great level of book we desire from him, i will continue reading unless his next book turns out to be as bad as this one was.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Coal Country Novel
Very descriptive about life in Appalachia. A thrilling tale of mystery weaved into the education of a legal novice and her development into being a trial attorney.
Published 2 hours ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great novel!
Seems odd maybe to read only one author. But I love the legal drama he creates with each novel reading like a true story about the characters lives. Read more
Published 3 hours ago by Debby Barnhart
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Brings the reality of the fever with regard to strip mining and the physical conditions of the workers of underground mines.
Published 6 hours ago by nina h long
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazon can choose a headline.....
A really great story- showing the hard lives of miners and their families in Appalachia, and the ruthlessness of the wealthy, greedy network of mine owners and the legal forces on... Read more
Published 6 hours ago by elizabeth c. isley
4.0 out of 5 stars Grey moutain a not miss
Once again Grisham spins a great story. Good throughout!!!
Published 7 hours ago by Benjamin f. jones
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
This was not one of John Grisham's better jobs. It was ok and at times suspensefull.
Published 9 hours ago by clarice crowe
3.0 out of 5 stars Had a little difficulty getting into the book to begin ...
Had a little difficulty getting into the book to begin with, but as it continued got caught up into the story. Read more
Published 9 hours ago by Susan Schaffer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
this was a very good read
Published 11 hours ago by georgia kelly
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
An excellent book although Grisham has written a few that are better
Published 13 hours ago by Thomas M Schenfeld
2.0 out of 5 stars OK but not great. Medicore for Grisham
OK but not great. Medicore for Grisham. Certaily not in the realm of Baldacci, Ludlum, or Clancy. i have read better Grisham novels.
Published 14 hours ago by Vaughn Pulsipher
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More About the Author

Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, John Grisham was working 60-70 hours a week at a small Southaven, Mississippi law practice, squeezing in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby--writing his first novel. Born on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker, John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he didn't have the right stuff for a pro career, he shifted gears and majored in accounting at Mississippi State University. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade in Southaven, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. One day at the DeSoto County courthouse, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl's father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987. Initially rejected by many publishers, it was eventually bought by Wynwood Press, who gave it a modest 5,000 copy printing and published it in June 1988.That might have put an end to Grishams hobby. However, he had already begun his next book, and it would quickly turn that hobby into a new full-time career. When he sold the film rights to The Firm to Paramount Pictures for $600,000, Grisham suddenly became a hot property among publishers, and book rights were bought by Doubleday. Spending 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, The Firm became the bestselling novel of 1991.The successes of The Pelican Brief, which hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Client, which debuted at number one, confirmed Grisham's reputation as the master of the legal thriller. Grisham's success even renewed interest in A Time to Kill, which was republished in hardcover by Doubleday and then in paperback by Dell. This time around, it was a bestseller. Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, Grisham has written one novel a year (his other books are The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, The Broker, Playing for Pizza, and The Appeal) and all of them have become international bestsellers. There are currently over 225 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 29 languages. Nine of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man.

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$11.99 for the Kindle version??
To the contrary, not running dogs FOR wall street suits. More like FOR Occupy Wall Street as he goes after Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, Racist America, the Gun Industry, etc. I just want a good story, not a political diatribe from either the left or the right.
Oct 5, 2014 by L.A. East |  See all 6 posts
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