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The Killer in the Woods by Rick Van Etten - Book Tour

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The Killer in the Woods

A Robert Vance Novel

Book One

Rick Van Etten

Genre:  Crime Fiction/Mystery

Publisher:  Proud Point Press
Date of Publication:  June 1, 2020
ISBN:  978-1-7348269-0-6
Number of pages:  254
Word Count:  78,000
Cover Artist:  Eric Labacz

Book Description: 


Robert Vance is a magazine editor who works from home and lives in a house full of books. His neighbors think of him as a quiet, unassuming man. His passion for pheasant hunting with Preacher, his German wirehaired pointer, is typical of sportsmen living in the Midwest. But what isn’t so typical—and what his neighbors don’t know—is that occasionally Robert hunts something besides pheasants.

Robert hates bullies and injustice. When someone has a problem with either, he or she can hire Robert to make the situation right.

But Robert isn’t—in his own mind—just a contract killer. He lives by a set of rules that dictate who, where, and why he can kill. So when a well-meaning citizen discovers Robert’s latest target and winds up being charged with the killing, Robert must take steps to ensure the man’s freedom.


Chapter 1

The money is
good, but that’s not why I do it.

Kill people, I
mean. That’s what I do, and I’m very good at it. And yes, the compensation is
usually more than adequate.

But don’t start
jumping to conclusions. I’m not a spook. I’m not some ex-Agency, ultra-ultra-deep-cover,
government-trained assassin who got my start in the military and, having
discovered a unique talent, couldn’t let it go. Nor was I ever encouraged by my
“Uncle” to put my special skills to use for the common good, in which capacity
I might still have the occasional brush-up with colleagues who might or might
not be among the so-called good guys and might or might not be people I should

No. I don’t play
at espionage. I don’t call secret phone numbers and get my orders from people
who use lots of acronyms and won’t allow their names to be spoken aloud on an
open line, and I don’t have hidden files tucked away somewhere that I can use
as leverage if I find myself running afoul of a power player. I never served in
the military, and the extent of my contact with the government consists of
filing my income taxes every year, renewing the registration on my SUV and
voting in the occasional election. The few times I’ve been called for jury duty
I’ve managed to get myself excused.

Sounds pretty
dull, doesn’t it? You’re right; it is. And that’s by design.

If you saw me on
the street or in a restaurant or a shopping mall or an airport—and there’s a
reasonable chance you have seen me in some of those places—you’d most likely
give me no more than a passing glance. There’s quite a bit about me that’s just
plain average—size, looks, clothing. I wear glasses, and my hair is getting
thin on top.

I dress
comfortably and rather conservatively. I recently became eligible for Social
Security—I’m old enough to have served in Vietnam, but I was in college at the
time and my number in the draft lottery was high enough to keep me there.

I don’t go out
of my way to attract attention, but neither do I live an introverted, reclusive
life. I’m not married, but I date casually, and I occasionally get invited to
parties and cookouts and can hold my own in a conversation on a variety of
subjects. People usually laugh at my jokes, and I keep myself reasonably well
informed about most current events. I read extensively, and my house is full of

I also have a
Browning gun vault full of shotguns, but those are primarily related to my
regular job—I’m the editor of an outdoor sporting magazine, a “hook and bullet
rag,” as such publications are irreverently referred to within the publishing
industry. I’m a bird hunter by avocation, and a six-year-old German wirehaired
pointer named Preacher—for Clint Eastwood’s grizzled character in the movie
Pale Rider—shares my home.

Sometimes I use
one of my shotguns for something besides upland game or waterfowl. That’s a
safe enough practice, as I’ll explain later. When a shotgun is too large for
the job at hand—when it’s necessary to get up close and personal to the target,
in other words—I’ll occasionally use a handgun. But I never keep these after
the job is finished. That’s Rule Number 3.

I travel a good
bit for my job—I get quite a few invitations from advertisers throughout the
hunting season, and by taking advantage of these invitations I’ve hunted in
many locations and at many top-drawer facilities around the world.
Sometimes—not frequently, but once in a while—my two jobs overlap. The
advertiser picks up the tab for my hunt (in exchange for some editorial ink),
and by staying an extra day or two—usually on the pretext of visiting an old
childhood friend or a seldom-seen relative and always at my own expense—I
manage to take care of the other assignment while I’m at it. It doesn’t happen
that way very often, but it’s convenient when it does.

OK, so if I
really don’t do it for the money, why do I do it?

There are two
things I can’t abide in this world—a bully, and injustice.

The two often go
hand in hand, and when I encounter either, I bristle. When someone else has a
problem with either, he or she will sometimes seek me out to make the situation

Over the years,
I’ve become very good at this. And that’s my real motivation—the feeling of
satisfaction that comes from having done a job well, righted a wrong, balanced
the scales or eliminated an oppressive threat.

It’s my way of
leaving the world a little better place than I found it.

About the Author:

Rick Van Etten is a former college English instructor, corporate communications professional and retired magazine editor whose numerous articles and features have appeared in Gun Dog, Wing and Shot, Sports Afield, Ducks Unlimited, Game and Fish, Petersen’s Hunting, Farm and Ranch Living and Reader’s Digest. An Illinois native and lifelong upland bird hunter, Rick now lives in Iowa with a middle-aged Irish setter and an elderly tortoiseshell cat. The Killer in the Woods is his first novel.

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  1. I LOVED this book and cannot wait for the next one in the series (and the next and the next...and the next!)


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