Cocaine Zombies, by Scott A. Lerner: White Powder and Black Magic

A femme fatale plus a little black magic and a lot of white powder make for one deadly combo …. Cocaine Zombies ($13.95, 206 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-903-9) is a paranormal suspense thriller by first-time novelist Scott A. Lerner.

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“Just before Halloween, I thought it only fitting to tell you about a wonderfully written and fun— albeit somewhat scary—new novel by local author Scott A. Lerner…. The three best things about this novel are its fast pace with short chapters, Sam as the likable hero and the humor. ‘I wanted to write a book I would also like to read,’ Lerner said. ‘The characters would talk and act like real people. It would be realistic, but at the same time, larger than life. I didn’t want it to follow the same old tired formula.’ He succeeded.”  Read more ….

—Margo L. Dill, The News-Gazette

“A riveting thriller with plenty of twists and turns, very much recommended.”

—Midwest Book Review

“As this paranormal suspense novel took off, I was unable to put it down. I read until I was so sleepy I couldn’t keep my eyes open, excited to wake to pick up where I left off. “Cocaine Zombies” by Scott A. Lerner is such a great read. I recommend this book to those who like a paranormal thriller without all the frills. As I came to the final page of the book, I was more than excited to see that Scott is working on its sequel and hope that he sends it my way for review.”

—Jennifer Hass for Reader Views

“Downstate Illinois has produced such literary giants as David Foster Wallace, George Will, Dave Eggers, Roger Ebert and now Scott A. Lerner. If there is a Pulitzer Prize category for Paranormal Suspense Thrillers a nomination for Cocaine Zombies is certainly in order. Lerner’s first-person, hard-boiled narrative—peppered with dark humor and historical and geographical facts pertaining to the Champaign-Urbana setting in which his story unfolds—slyly echoes the work of Jim Thompson, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Fellow Champaign Central High School alum Lerner has crafted a gripping tale, rife with colorful characters, to create a minor masterpiece of modern fiction.”

—Don Gerard, Mayor of Champaign, Illinois

“Scott Lerner has created an everyman hero out of small-town lawyer Sam Roberts. Giving Sam a dry wit and gracing him with snappy dialog, Lerner sends him full tilt at the forces of evil that have invaded his humdrum life in Urbana, Illinois. Sam might see himself as a middle-aged schmo, but in Lerner’s deft hands, that schmo and his sidekick Bob stumble toward saving the world as we know it. Cocaine Zombies is a blast!”

—Molly MacRae, author of Last Wool and Testament, Lawn Order, and Wilder Rumors

“Sam is a character who is easy to root for. He’s smart (there are some great-accurate-legal scenes), funny without being sarcastic, brave without being reckless, and at the end of the day just wants to go back to his one-man law firm and resume his boring life. He’s gonna have to go through a lot to get there, however, and it’s a very entertaining journey.”

—Book Reviews by Elizabeth A. White

“Ladies and Gents, allow me to introduce you to my new best friend: Scott A. Lerner. At a time when I, an avid reader and bookworm extraordinaire, found myself quickly approaching the point of being burnt out after reading book after book until the pages seemed to blend together – I stumbled upon this gem and have found myself putting my game face back on…. Sam is a down to earth lawyer with a sarcastic wit that had me laughing out loud several times while reading. His friend Bob was a man after my own heart – a modern day hippie of sorts. I couldn’t help but picture actor Zach Galifianakis as Bob. Both of these men appealed to me because of how down-to-earth they were but also because they were so flippin smart!”

Not Now … Mommy’s Reading

“I couldn’t put it down …. it’s full of suspense and murder …. This book is by far one of my favorites …. It will send chills up your spine and make you wonder about that little world of voodoo.”

This and That Reviews

“In Cocaine Zombies, Lerner takes the standard legal thriller and throws the rules out the window. With a deft hand and a cutting sense of humor, he crafts a paranormal tale that is both entertaining and disturbing. The triumph of this book is that Lerner takes what could have been a cheap, low grade style thriller and turned it into a subtly nuanced, entertaining read. A job well done.”

—Mark Everett Stone, author of the BSI Series and The Judas Line

Samuel Roberts, a small-town lawyer in Urbana, Illinois, is contacted by a prospective client accused of selling cocaine. Nothing Sam hasn’t handled before. Or is it? Thomas is accompanied by a mysterious and exotic beauty named Chloe. Who is she, why is she paying for Thomas’s defense, and why is the accused so antsy around her?

Soon after Sam takes on the case he is plagued by terrible nightmares. Only, in these nightmares, when he dreams of death, people die. Realizing that he is out of his depth, Sam enlists the help of his friend, Bob Sizemore. Bob is oddly insightful about the supernatural and deeply suspicious of big business and the government. Sam and Bob soon discover that a major German pharmaceutical company has been using human guinea pigs to test a highly addictive and dangerous derivative of cocaine first developed in Nazi Germany. Combined with ancient herbs provided by a Voodoo priest, the substance has become increasingly addictive and dangerous.

After Thomas’s head shows up in Sam’s refrigerator, suspicion naturally falls on him. Now he has no choice but to face the forces of evil head on. But how do a small-town lawyer and a computer geek defeat an enemy with the power to enslave mankind?

Says Lerner: “I wanted to write a novel with enough truth in it to make the largest stretches of the imagination seem plausible. I also wanted it to be fast-paced and fun, with a story and a premise that would remain in the reader’s mind long after turning the final page.”

Author and attorney Scott A. Lerner resides in Champaign, Illinois. He obtained his undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and went on to obtain his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. He is currently a sole practitioner in Champaign, Illinois. The majority of his law practice focuses on the fields of Criminal law and Family Law. Mr. Lerner lives with his wife, their two children, and their cat Fern. Lerner collects unusual antiques and enjoys gardening, traveling, reading fiction and going to the movies. Cocaine Zombies is his first published novel. Coming soon, the sequel: Ruler of Demons. Click here to find Scott online.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

The house reeked with the metallic odor of blood mixed with urine, sweat and rotten meat. I fought back the urge to vomit. From the rafters I could see the hanging carcass of a headless goat. Below it was a large copper cauldron to catch the blood. The contents of the cauldron were moving, and I involuntarily shuddered when I realized the small ripples were caused by maggots. The head of the goat was gone and a large butcher’s saw lay on the floor. Mercifully the entrails of the goat had also been removed. Everywhere I heard the soft hum of flies.

Hanging on the back wall was an African mask. It looked ancient. It was carved from a single piece of dark black wood. The face was half animal, half human. On either side of the mask two large wooden snakes were crawling. A slit had been cut in the wood for each eye and another for the mouth. The wood was dull and covered with a thin layer of dirt. The teeth in the visage were sharp and pointed. It lacked the friendly decorative look one finds at the local Pier One Imports. This mask was intended solely for ceremonial use.

In the far corner nearest the kitchen door stood a statue of The Virgin Mary. It was white plaster, the type one would expect to find as a lawn ornament in Mexico City. Next to the statue was a porcelain dinner plate containing a bloody piece of meat. I guessed it was the heart of a small animal, but I wasn’t going to get close enough to check. The entire room was bordered by candles, which provided the only light other than from the windows.

Blood was everywhere. Footprints painted the floor with various shades of red. Some were small enough to have been made by a child; others might have belonged to Thomas. It looked as though twenty people had been dancing in a large circle.

The only furniture was three plain wooden chairs, one of which was broken, and a small table with a dirty towel for a tablecloth. On the table was a crucifix, a few old square-cut nails and a wooden bowl half-filled with shotgun shells.

“You don’t have a bathroom by any chance?” I asked, breaking the awkward silence.

“No,” he said, putting the shotgun down. He must have noted the relief on my face.

“You know, it’s illegal to own a gun with a felony conviction,” I said.

“That is the least of my problems,” he said. “My dumb ass lawyer already killed me, so what do I care about anything else?”

“Anyone I know?”

“Why don’t you get the fuck out of here so I can talk to my ancestors before I get to see them firsthand?”

“What did I do?”

“You talked to me without Chloe. I’m nothing alone, I live only to serve her. I took a blood oath that covers my family, my daughter, my girlfriend. They are all dead now.”

I tried to change the subject, “I got the lab tests back.”

“So?”

“You were selling cocaine, but it was cooked with something else.”

He went through a door and returned with two bottles of cold beer. He must have had a cooler; I was sure this house didn’t have electricity. I took a beer, even though the thought of ingesting anything from this house made my skin crawl. I tried not to laugh when I noticed it was a Dixie Blackened Voodoo Lager.

“The chemist in Springfield can’t identify the substance,” I said.

“Then talk to the chefs,” he said, “but they are people you don’t want to fuck with.”

“It’s Chloe, isn’t it? Why don’t you tell the police and make a deal?”

“You don’t have a clue as to how far out of your depth you are. Chloe is not human and not a chemist.”

“Well, maybe she can identify who the maker is?” I offered.

“There are worse things than jail. Some worse than death. I will find out soon and firsthand. I suspect, so will you,” he said, ignoring the question.

“The crack you were selling contained almost no cocaine, so maybe the State will go easy on you.”

“Do you think I care? Unlike you I know who and what we are dealing with. That knowledge provides no comfort, only terror.” Thomas’s voice was trembling.

“Then tell me. Let me help.”

He handed me a leather pouch tied with a leather thong. It smelled of herbs and death. “This may keep you alive until you get to your car. Put it around your neck.”

I did as I was told. I had more questions, but when he picked up the shotgun again I could tell I was being dismissed. I put down my beer and got up. As I headed for my car, I knew I wouldn’t see Thomas again.

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