Friday, March 29, 2019

#BookReview & #Excerpt for The Old Man's Request by Joab Stieglitz!! @JoabStieglitz #Historical #Suspense @pumpupyourbook #books #reviews #bookworms

THE OLD MAN'S REQUEST by Joab Stieglitz, Historical Suspense, 117 pp., $11.99 (paperback) $2.99 (Kindle)


Author: Joab Stieglitz

Publisher: Rantings of a Wandering Mind

Pages: 117

Genre: Historical Suspense

An Innocent Favor for a Dying Old Friend…

Fifty years ago, a group of college friends dabbled in the occult and
released a malign presence on the world. Now, on his deathbed, the last
of the students, now a trustee of Reister University enlists the aid of
three newcomers to banish the thing they summoned.

Russian anthropologist Anna Rykov, doctor Harry Lamb, and Father Sean
O’Malley are all indebted the ailing trustee for their positions.
Together, they pursue the knowledge and resources needed to perform the

Hampered by the old man’s greedy son, the wizened director of the
university library, and a private investigator with a troubled past, can
they perform the ritual and banish the entity?




June 18, 1929

Final papers in hand, Anna  emerged from the Edison science building and
made her way toward Olson Street to catch the trolley to the house she was
renting on the other side of the river. She was petite, with dark bobbed hair,
and smooth pale skin, and wore a fashionable blue, knee-length skirted suit,
white blouse, and a loose, black necktie which flapped gently in the breezes
blowing eastward off the slow-moving Woolley River.
It was another typically beautiful day,
warm and dry, in Wellersburg.  About
halfway across the quad, she spied Father O’Malley approaching hurriedly.  “Hello. Father,” she said with a smile, her
Russian accent revealing her origins. “Is it not a fine day?” O’Malley, a tall,
slender man with short, curly brown hair, usually had a warm, engaging smile,
but today his expression was grim.
“Jason Longborough is in the hospital
again,” O’Malley said. “It doesn’t look good, and he’s asked to speak to you
with some urgency.”  Anna was concerned
and a little surprised. The ailing trustee of the university had been her
champion in the faculty selection committee last summer, but she had neither seen
nor spoken with him since that time. He was directly responsible for her
appointment to fill Dr. McMahon’s chair for three years while he and his team
were on their expedition to Australia. Longborough was also instrumental in
Father O’Malley’s appointment to the Ancient History department to fill similar
vacancies during the Egyptian expedition, which was to occur concurrently.
“Of course,” Anna replied without
hesitation, “I will just drop off these papers in office.”
“He may not hold out that long. Please
come with me now. It may be your only opportunity.”  With that, the priest took the pile of exam
papers from her and led the way toward the Reister University Hospital.

Anna was born Tatyana Trevena, the sole
daughter of poor Russian immigrants. In exchange for passage to Brooklyn, the
sixteen-year-old was married to the much older, exiled Fyodor Rykov shortly
after their arrival in America in 1912. Rykov was an old world man. He treated
his young wife as his property and she lived in submission to him until he died
of a heart attack two years later.
Tatyana inherited a modest fortune.
Wanting to be more American, and having the means to do so, she adopted the
name Anna and attended Columbia University, where she studied Anthropology. She
completed her degree in three years and went on to pursue a doctorate. In 1924,
she did field research for the Russian archaeologist Aleksey Sergeyevich Uvarov
in Gnyozdovo, a part of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, the site of
a ring of 10th century Viking settlements.
Upon returning to the United States in
1926, Dr. Anna Rykov, expert in the Varangians, or Russian Vikings, found that
there was little interest in a female professor, especially one of Russian
descent, who had done field work in the Soviet Union and could have potentially
been a Bolshevik. When Jason Longborough reached out to her with a temporary
position at Reister University filling in for tenured staff while they were on
a three-year expedition, she gladly took the offer.
There were many new instructors at
Reister. Among them, Anna met Harry Lamb and Sean O’Malley. Dr. Lamb had just
completed his residency at Reister University Hospital and was teaching Basic
Anatomy to first year medical students. Father O’Malley was well-versed in
Middle and Far Eastern history and served as an Ancient History instructor.
Anna, Harry, and Sean were all new to the area, and the three quickly became
friends exploring their new home together.
She was enjoying the small college-town
life in Wellersburg and its uncrowded streets. The people of Wellersburg were
courteous and friendly, even to a Russian immigrant, on account of the more
cosmopolitan influences of the university. She enjoyed the peace and
tranquility of a small town where everyone knew everyone, and no one locked
their doors.

The hospital room was small and dark,
illuminated by a lone window on the far side of the room. Jason Longborough lay
in his bed. The withered old trustee was frail beneath his shock of gray hairs.
He had looked much stronger when Anna had seen him last. Now his yellow
complexion and paper-like skin clearly indicated his infirmity. Dr. Harold Lamb
stood over the patient, taking his pulse. Lamb was taller than average and
muscular, with broad shoulders and short, black hair neatly parted on the
right. He wore a blue, pinstriped suit and a yellow tie under his lab coat. The
doctor smiled slightly when the two entered the room. Longborough was alerted
to their presence by the closing of the door.
“It was good of you to come,” the patient
said with some effort. “My time draws to an end soon, and there is a grave
matter from my past that must be addressed.”
Some strength returned to his voice. “I fear I have become too feeble to
attempt it myself, and wish to enlist your services in this matter.”  He sighed heavily.
“How can I be of service to you, sir?”
Anna asked. While she was indebted to Longborough for her position at the
university, she was hardly acquainted with the man. What could a businessman
like Longborough need of an archaeologist?
“Sit. I have a story to tell you.”  He gestured to two chairs by the side of the
“I’ll be back to check on you later,” Dr.
Lamb said as he started for the door. Suddenly, with uncharacteristic
dexterity, the ailing trustee reached out and grasped his wrist.
“I wish you to aid me as well,
Doctor.”  His gaze was fixed on Lamb’s
eyes. The physician left the room, and a moment later brought a chair in from
the hall.
“I can spare a few minutes, but then I
must complete my rounds.”
“This is not a long story.”  The trustee cleared his throat and Anna
poured a glass of water for him. He took a few sips from it, and then cleared
his throat again. “Back in the spring of ‘71, when I was a freshman here at
Reister, I came upon an interesting upperclassman named Brent Hanke, an amateur
occultist.”  He coughed painfully.
“Five of us formed a group to explore the
secrets of the unknown. We called it ‘the Cabal.’ It was quite innocuous at
first, but after a while other students became disturbed by our activities, and
so we bought an old farmhouse in Stuckley for some privacy.”  He coughed again and took another drink of
“It was at the farmhouse that things grew
out of hand. Brent Hanke’s family was in shipping, and as a result, he was able
to obtain rare and unique items from the Old World. He used these trinkets to
keep us interested. Among these was a small gold box of Russian origin,” he
indicated a length of about eight inches with his bent fingers, “that contained
a piece of amber. According to a ritual he found in an ancient tome, this amber
could be used to contact a powerful oracle. Being precocious lads, we set out
to cast the spell at the farm and seek our fortunes.”
Longborough’s subsequent coughing fit
caused the onlookers to jump, and Dr. Lamb went to call a nurse, but the old
man recovered quickly and motioned for them all to sit again. After a few
fairly deep breaths and another drink of water, he continued his tale.
“It was clear that night in March of 1871.
I remember the full moon illuminating the living room of the farmhouse so
brightly that Brent was worried that there might be too much light. Still we
continued, lighting the fire in the fireplace as well as several candles, and
drawing a pentagram in chalk on the floor. In the center, Brent placed the
amber. As designated observer, I sat in a corner and wrote down the events of
the evening in my journal. The others sat in a circle and recited the
incantation while Brent threw some foul-smelling powder into the fire.”
“This continued for nearly two hours.
Finally, something happened. A plume of smoke arose from the amber and it began
to melt. Then it came!”  Longborough
began to hyperventilate. Dr. Lamb sprang to the bedside and adjusted his
position, putting the patient’s head back to open his throat. After a moment of
coughing and wheezing, Longborough recovered.
“It was insubstantial.”  The trustee’s voice was still agitated.
“Barely perceptible in the moonlight, but it was there. And it made a horrible
growling sound. Brent threw some of the powder on the creature, and all chaos
broke out. Most of us were paralyzed by the sight. John Dalton, however, rose
to his feet and stepped forward to embrace the entity. The creature grasped his
head in its indescribable appendages and twisted it with a terrible snap. Then
it threw the head back to land in Homer Cunningham’s lap. Homer's face turned
white and he began making that chirping sound.”
Longborough stared off into space for a moment.
“Roger Furlong apparently doomed us all,”
he continued after a pause. “He destroyed part of the pentagram. Free from the
bonds of its confines, the creature burst from the house with the force of a
hurricane and was gone.”  He stopped to
catch his breath. “Nevertheless, Hanke believed there was still hope. The spell
bound the creature to the house, so it would have to return, and the many
glyphs and warding symbols Hanke had previously carved into its structure
allowed the creature to only inhabit the attic.”
“Mr. Longborough,” Doctor Lamb said with
skepticism, “this kind of superstitious fantasy is probably what caused your
condition in the first place. You were probably enjoying the effects of some
hallucinogenic drugs this Hanke character threw into the fire.”
“John Dalton was found decapitated the
next morning.”  The aged and frail patient
bore down on Lamb with a look of rage. “We staged an accident with a carriage
and said he was run over. The authorities believed us, and they took Homer
Cunningham to the Old Oak Sanitarium. He was never released. Brett said that if
the spell is cast again in reverse, the creature could be destroyed, or at
least sent back to where it came from . That is what I want you to do.”
“Still,” Dr. Lamb continued, “you can’t
expect us to believe that reciting some ancient poetry will lay a ghost to
Anna was divided. The story was completely
unbelievable, especially by a scientist such as herself, but how could she deny
the request of a dying man?
“You want us to cast this spell?” Father
O’Malley asked indignantly.
“Yes,” Longborough said, his features calm
and sharp, “I do.”
“By all that is holy, that is the worst
kind of sacrilege.”  But Sean O’Malley
was not a typical parish priest. He was a Professor of Ancient History
specializing in the Dark Ages. His training had been under the tutelage of
Father Christophé, the exorcist from Martinique regarded as the Church’s
leading “expert” on the activities various “nameless cults.” O’Malley was more
than prepared to accept Satan’s intervention in the sorry affairs of this once
gullible youth. The sly smile from his lips surprised his two colleagues.
Finally, he said, “But I accept your request.”
“Are you crazy?” Lamb exclaimed. “This
delusion has gone far enough. It’s nearly killed this man. Father, I think we
should let this matter, and this patient, rest.”  He rose and started off to return his chair
to the hall.
“What difference does it make?” Anna asked
in earnest. “Mr. Longborough believes that there is threat to all in Stuckley.
If it is just a fantasy, then all that will come of it is the easing of his conscience
for the unfortunate incident with his friends.”
“Then you’ll help me?” the old man
inquired of Anna with hope in his eyes.
“Yes, sir,” she said, holding his hands in
hers. “I owe it to you for all you have done for me.”  He smiled.
Rykov and O’Malley cast questioning
glances at Dr. Lamb. He looked at them incredulously, and then back at
Longborough, who returned his gaze with a pitiable look. After a moment, he
sighed and said, “O.K., I’m in. But nothing is going to happen. You’ll see.”
“You don’t understand,” the patient
started. “You must believe in the innate power in all of us. You must tap into
that power to perform the ritual. Only if you are committed will the spell be
successful. If you fail, the creature will be released from the house!  The little remaining power I can still muster
won’t be able to keep it there much longer. Whenever I let my guard down, it
got out and killed someone.”  He started
to gasp and wheeze. Immediately, Dr. Lamb burst from the room to get
Longborough indicated the drawer of the
nightstand beside Rykov and she picked up a locked metal box from it. Then he
removed a key from around his neck and handed it to her.  “Take these,” he said with the last of his
breath, “it is all the help I can give you.”
With that, his breathing became erratic. Moments later, Lamb returned
with some orderlies and a nurse and ushered the pair from the room.

My Opinion:

This was a fast, fun, and spooky book being that it is a Novella in length, I wanted to see where the story would go. I am glad I did. We meet Anna who is a Russian immigrant that comes to American in the early 1900s and is wed to an older man. He passes away, leaves her some money and she uses it to go to school to become an anthropologist. Which at that time a lot of women didn't even go to school but she had the money to do it and she liked it. Then she gets a request from one of the board members and that is where the story gets interesting. He asks her to help him keep "something", locked up in an attic. He also asks two other people. So we have some occult things going on. It's set in a historical setting of the 1930s and a creepy aspect to the story. This book had me at page one. I totally enjoyed the writing and POV. This book was well written and flowed nicely. I didn't get bored and since it was a novella I was able to read it in one sitting. I will have to get the next in this series to see where this continues to go.

I give this book 4 of 5 of stars!

Joab Stieglitz was born and raised in the Warren, New Jersey. He is
an Application Consultant for a software company.  He has also worked as
a software trainer, a network engineer, a project manager, and a
technical writer over his 30 year career. He lives in Alexandria,

Joab is an avid tabletop RPG player and game master of horror,
espionage, fantasy, and science fiction genres, including Savage Worlds
(Mars, Deadlands, Agents of Oblivion, Apocalypse Prevention Inc, Herald:
Tesla and Lovecraft, Thrilling Tales, and others), Call of Cthulhu,
Lamentations of the Flame Princess, and Pathfinder.

Joab channeled his role-playing experiences in the Utgarda Series,
which are pulp adventure novels with Lovecraftian influences set in the

Website Address:
Twitter Address: @joabstieglitz

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  1. Nice spooky past, short book is good

  2. The cover looks good -- I like spooky houses! Just from the summary I probably wouldn't have picked up this book, but your review makes me think I'd like it.

  3. I like the idea of a quick and easy read that is still compelling. This one sounds good.

  4. This looks like an interesting book!

  5. The story sounds both interesting and spooky.

  6. A creepy house on the cover gets me every time!

  7. Nice cover...sounds like a great suspense.

  8. I love the cover. Thanks for the excerpt and I am glad this was a fast, spooky read!

  9. This sounds creepy and like a real page turner.

  10. This sounds like a fun way to see if you'd like this author's books!! I love it! Thanks for sharing Mary ❤️

  11. Just like the old to leave the next generation to clean up their mess.

  12. Oh my, that cover. Is that a severed head? Makes me want to find out, lol. Thanks for posting!


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