Grizzly Season by S.W. Lauden

“Why the hell can’t you stay out of trouble?”

That’s a question Greg Salem asks himself as often as it is posed to him. Having found himself up to his eyes in danger and drama following an on-the-job shooting (Bad Citizen Corporation), the former punk rock legend/East Los Angeles police officer is taking some time away from things to try and get his head back on straight.

Along with friend and former bandmate, Marco, Greg retreats to a cabin in the Angeles National Forest. Of course, not being able to stay out of trouble, it’s not long before he and Marco unwittingly stumble upon a marijuana growing operation deep in the forest. Unfortunately for them, the operation isn’t run by peace-and-love potheads, but a man who calls himself Magnus Ursus and who runs his operation, Grizzly Flats, with an iron fist and cult-like loyalty from his group of followers.

Turns out Magnus has been watching Salem, and attempts to strong-arm him into helping with the scheme Magnus has to get rich by unleashing into the drug scene the uber-potent strain of marijuana he’s been cultivating. As Salem quickly comes to understand, Magnus is not one to take no for an answer, and Salem barely escapes from Grizzly Flats, having to leave Marco behind in the process. What Magnus doesn’t understand is that Salem’s nobody’s fool, or pushover, and that he will do anything he has to in order to protect friends and family. The resulting showdown careens from Grizzly Flats deep in the Angeles National Forest to the California coast, leaving a trail of destruction everywhere in between.

S.W. Lauden’s debut novel, Bad Citizen Corporation, burst onto the scene in November of 2015 and made quite the splash, with good reason. In Greg Salem, readers found a complicated protagonist with a fairly unique background, one around whom Lauden built a complex mystery he made both the readers and Salem work to get to the bottom of. What’s most impressive about Grizzly Season is not that Lauden was able to duplicate the storytelling of his debut effort, but rather how drastically he shifted gears in his setting and story approach without missing a beat.

When Magnus first appears, he seems to be a straightforward representation of middle-America’s worst nightmare about drugs and the attendant crime that surrounds them come to life. If only it were that simple. As events unfold, Salem and the reader come to understand there are machinations at work that are more far-reaching than initially perceived, and Salem is forced to dig deep and go hard in his attempt to pull everyone’s bacon out of the fire.

To Lauden’s credit, he doesn’t make it easy for Salem, even allowing for some rather serious failure along the way—failure that’s not merely there as a setup for Salem to bounce back from, but that can’t be undone and which will fundamentally (re)shape Salem moving forward. Fortunately, Salem is in Lauden’s very capable hands, making this a series you’ll definitely want to keep up with.

Grizzly Season is available from Rare Bird Books.

S.W. Lauden’s short fiction has been published by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, WeirdBook, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. Lauden’s novels Bad Citizen Corporation and Grizzly Season are available from Rare Bird Books. His standalone novella, Crosswise, is available now from Down & Out Books.

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