Friday, December 30, 2022

Blog Tour: The Very Dead of Winter



A Sinner's Cross Novel, Book 2

Historical Fiction

Date Published: 07-04-2022

Publisher: One Nine Books

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On the eve of what will be known as The Battle of the Bulge, the survivors of Sinner's Cross are scattered all over Europe. Halleck, the tough Texan who drives men like cattle, finds himself surrounded in the snow-blanketed forests of the Eifel Mountains riding herd on greenhorn soldiers; Breese, the phony hero with a chip on his shoulder the size of Rushmore, embarks on a bloody mission of redemption behind enemy lines; Cramm, the one-eyed, one-armed German staff officer, tries to balance duty against his lust for vengeance against those who crippled him. Three men separated by war will once again converge... in The Very Dead of Winter.

Winner of the Literary Titan Gold Medal and the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award.



...he headed back the way he’d come, but with each step his tread became heavier and heavier still, until at last he felt he could go no further and sat down on the first object that presented itself—in this case, an empty fuel drum that had rolled clear of the stricken American tank. The last of Genschler’s howitzers rolled past, driven by muscle and blasphemy, their wheels cutting like circular saws into the slush, and Cramm found himself almost alone on the battlefield, with nothing but his pipe for company. He was still sitting there, listening to the sound of his heart over the ringing in his ears, when the distinctive sound of horses moving at canter through the trees caught his attention. This in itself was not unusual, for the German army moved literally on horsepower, but the hoofbeats were not rhythmic, and there was no accompanying sound of wagon wheels. Half-curious beneath the weight of his exhaustion, he looked up and saw Colonel Bix approaching through the gently falling snow on a huge broad-chested stallion, leading a second, riderless horse that clopped close behind. Bix sat perfectly erect in the saddle, his gold-spurred jackboots firmly in the stirrups, a figure out of the past.

All that’s missing is a sword.

The colonel rode close enough that the steam that billowed from his mount tickled Cramm’s face. For a long moment, Bix simply stared, either in wonderment or disgust—it was impossible to say. “I ought to have you put under arrest.”

Cramm, puffing stolidly on his pipe, did not immediately reply. Instead he remained seated on the oil drum and watched the Sherman burn.

“Come to your feet when I’m addressing you!” Bix roared.

Cramm took another puff. He had removed the ill-fitting helmet, and snowflakes had settled into his hair and scarf and into the creases and folds of his greatcoat. Keeping the stem of the pipe between his teeth, he removed the Colt from its holster and weighed it on his palm. “I fired this today. All six rounds. Didn’t hit anyone though. I don’t suppose I’ll ever hit what I’m aiming at again.”

Bix continued to glare. In those rheumy eyes and heavy, judge-like features, all the more impressive because of the upturned leather collar behind them, there resided neither pity nor patience, so Cramm stood up, reholstered the pistol, and reluctantly lowered his pipe. “I was once the best shot in the Eleventh Cavalry Regiment, you know. I could hit a bullseye from horseback at a full gallop.”

“I’m not interested in what you could do, Cramm. What I want to know—”

“Respectfully, Herr Oberst: I already know what you want to know. I’m your intelligence chief. It’s my job.”

“To gather intelligence! Not go gallivanting into battle like a green lieutenant looking for an Iron Cross!”

“I don’t want an Iron Cross, Herr Oberst, and I came forward with the troops under the direct orders of General Reinscheid.”

“General Reinscheid certainly did not intend for you to participate in the actual fighting.”

“The commander of this battalion was out of action. As senior officer present, it was necessary for me to take over. It is imperative we capture Auw before the Amis dig in there.”

“Don’t lecture me on tactics!”

“I apologize. But the urgency is real.”

“So it is. But if you were to be captured—”

“An officer of the General Staff does not surrender.”

Bix leaned low in the saddle and thrust his considerable nose to within a foot and a half of Cramm’s; at that distance, Cramm could see each overstrained pore. He wondered, fleetingly, about the colonel’s ancestry. Some Frankish blood in that family tree, perhaps. Frankish or Italian. Certainly no pure-bred German ever boasted a conk like that. “Oh? And just how do you intend to shoot yourself with an empty pistol? Will you ask the Amis to help you reload it?”

Cramm opened his mouth and then slowly closed it. The ghost of a defeated smile haunted one corner of his mouth.

“Ah!” Bix said, baring enormous cigar-yellowed teeth. “It seems you don’t know everything after all!”

I know what you had for breakfast, and you should have had a mint afterward. “Indeed, Herr Oberst, I have much to learn.”

“And your first lesson, Cramm, is that those purple stripes on your trousers do not bestow either infallibility or omniscience!”

The colonel pointed his riding crop at the second horse, a roan-colored mare whose shy and remarkably feminine-looking eyes gleamed from within an ungroomed mane. Cramm, who hadn’t ridden since before the bomb had taken his arm, hesitated for a moment; then, using his left hand, swung defiantly into the saddle. Bix turned his stallion about, and the two men rode side by side through the falling snow. A machine-gun platoon marched past them Indian file, bipods braced over their shoulders, ammunition boxes swinging; the scar-faced sergeant at the head of the column took his hand from the butt of his machine pistol and touched the rim of his battered helmet in salute. Returning the salute with a nod, Cramm said, “Herr Oberst, if I may pose a question so as to improve my understanding, why is the divisional chief of staff in the forward battle area himself? Certainly not to collect me. That really is a job for a green lieutenant.”

 “Because I know you, Cramm. You spent too much time with Rommel and picked up his bad habits. Arrogance. Indiscipline. Vainglory. You expect obedience from your subordinates, but you do not offer it to your superiors. It must be exacted from you. Well, I have dealt with your kind before. If dragging you around by the collar like a misbehaving child is what is required to make you perform your duties correctly, then that is exactly what I will do.”

Cramm replaced the pipe between his teeth. “My governess never had much luck in that department, Herr Oberst, but I wish you better luck.” 

About the Author

Miles Watson is the x15 award-winning author of the CAGE LIFE and SINNER'S CROSS book series as well as the short story collection DEVIL'S YOU KNOW. A veteran of both Hollywood and law enforcement, his first and last passion is writing, and he intends to publish in every genre before he cashes in his chips.

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