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Imagine an offer of sixty thousand dollars, the "Prize of Your Life," and an all expense paid, two-month retreat in Aspen, Colorado.

 George Russo is invited to participate in a writing competition sponsored by an agency that represents new authors.  It is so intriguing and he is so destitute, he had to accept. 

Lured to Aspen, the ten contestants instead end up in a ghost town with a preserved hotel on the high-desert prairie.  A hundred miles from nowhere, with no communication or transportation, their basic needs have been supplied.  Faced with extreme conditions, total strangers must band together and try to survive for two months, while writing a winning manuscript.

THE CONTEST takes you on a non-stop ride as George recounts a chilling story he lived through to a private investigator, retired homicide detective, Sergeant Rico Sanducci.  George is in a private mental institution, and Rico can’t figure out if George's story is true or a manifestation of his psychosis.  George swears by it, but the police say they can’t authenticate any of it, and no one believes him.

"To say this was a strange case would be like saying the sun rises in the east.  If his story is true, they were like rats in a cage, with the captors constantly poking them with sticks.  The decisions they had to make—the ethical choices alone would make anyone question their own moral compass.  Was it some kind of social experiment, a sick joke that got out of hand; or more like I believe, an organization that preys on vulnerable people?" - Rico Sanducci, P.I.

 REVIEWS

Teller County News  Posted: Thursday, November 10, 2011 2:30 pm 

Timothy Braun’s latest book, “The Contest,” is the direct opposite of his last work of literature. 

The previous book, “When Angels Cry: The Story of Arielle,” was about an angel come to earth. “The Contest,” meanwhile, is a gritty mystery that has a lot more of the Devil in it and keeps its readers guessing even beyond the book’s ending. 

George Russo is an aspiring writer whose novel has been rejected more times than he would like to admit. He is confident that his book is good and could be a best seller but agents won’t even take a look at it. Just when he hits rock bottom — out of money and living in a worse-than-ratty New York City hotel room, he gets an invitation to enter a writing contest with a prize of $60,000. 

At the end of his rope, he jumps at the chance despite several misgivings and he is selected as one of the 10 contestants. Thus begins Russo’s trials as he endures two months in a ghost town in the middle of unidentified nowhere with limited power, water and food and a murderer who leaves vicious poetry on the graves that he leaves in his wake. 

The book is slow starting but once all the contestants come together, it catches the imagination and turns into a page turner. The contestants, however — seven men and three women — are as flawed as the contest they’ve entered. Russo, Stewart and Paul are the most likeable, Harry is an unmitigated jerk — the other contestants have worse names for him — and Dorothy, despite her issues, turns out to be a pretty good companion. 

Readers should be aware that true to its nature, this book’s language is as far from angelic as its characters. 

Braun brings his law enforcement background into play in this tense mystery. Who are the contest’s patrons, why are they so cruel and what do they want? Russo wants to know and by the end so will readers. 

Braun, the real-life author, splits his time between Cripple Creek and Corpus Christi, Texas. He has been a crypto-analyst for the Army Security Agency, a detective sergeant in a Massachusetts police department, owned and wrote for the Gold Camp Journal in Cripple Creek and served on the Cripple Creek-Victor RE-1 School Board. He is currently working on a sequel to his first book, “When Angels Cry: In the Line of Fire.”

 

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