WHY YOU SHOULD “KETCH” SAMANTHA KOLESNIK’S DEBUT NOVEL “TRUE CRIME” FROM GRINDHOUSE PRESS

TRUE CRIME Front cover

TRUE CRIME
Samantha Kolesnik
Grindhouse Press
January 15, 2020
reviewed by Brian James Lewis

When I first saw author Samantha Kolesnik’s Twitter post about her upcoming novel True Crime from Grindhouse Press, I was immediately intrigued. For starters, there’s the boss cover that makes the book look like a gritty tabloid. Photos of victims and crime scenes, the headline, even a nod to a certain Mr. Ketchum…Cool stuff indeed! But a great cover doesn’t mean “jack” if the story inside can’t stand up and deliver, right? Well never fear, dear readers! True Crime kicks some major ass! Kolesnik and Grindhouse Press give us a FIVE STAR read that none of us will forget any time soon. Let’s check it out!

Suzy and her big brother, Lim, live in a cruddy rental house with their mother. This ain’t no cuddly “we can do it” kind of family and there’s nothing homelike about the place they’re all stuck in. Especially Suzy, who’s like a fly stuck in a web woven long before she even existed. And guess, who the spider is? Her abusive bitch of a mom who has zero qualms about taking what she wants when she wants it. Give in or suffer the consequences. Just ask poor Alice, the permanent houseguest. But Suzy is finally pushed too far and fights back, killing her mother.

Except she can’t finish the job alone and that’s where Lim comes in handy. Not only is he a huge hulk of a man who could kill anyone with his bare hands, but he also possesses a lot of street smarts that Suzy lacks. Switching cars and getting money for gas are just jobs that need to be done. So is killing. Lim is a man of few spoken thoughts who doesn’t display emotions. But it seems like no matter what happens, he’s got little sister’s back. At least until they make it to a funky county fair where Suzy tries to do something for Alice and makes Lim so pissed off that…something happens to change their fortunes forever.

In contrast to her brother, Suzy wears her emotions on her sleeve. Often much more than she’d like people to see. But it’s never been about what she wants, so why should that change? Whatever little moments she’s enjoyed, have been stolen. Always forced to sneak around, Suzy is letting all the fear and pain pour out of her broken self and into her victims. Or are they really victims? Some of the people they meet on the road seem just as capable of doing damage as Suzy and Lim, but they’re more sneaky about it. That’s an important part of this book, unearthing the truth and pulling it out of the shadows. Suzy’s been pushed so far that everything inside her is broken and there’s no way to make them ever be right.

Once separated from Lim, she’s fostered off to a righteous couple who are going to “fix her” with all the love in their hearts. The local church honcho thinks that he’s going to convert Suzy into a fine, upstanding, young woman. But that’s not how things work in reality. People’s brains aren’t like computers where you can replace components, wipe harmful memories, and turbo charge thought processes. During her rehabilitation, opportunities come and go, but Suzy figures it’s just a waiting game until Lim gets out of prison. Then something changes all that and ruins even the small amount of comfort Suzy’s found in her substitute hometown. Mix in a surprise visit from Alice, a career criminal, an old man and his watchdogs, and you get an unexpected ending to this novel. Or is it a beginning? I guess that’s up to you to decide.

As you can see, True Crime has a lot going on and is a super impressive debut novel from Samantha Kolesnik. Combine that with the skill and quality of Grindhouse Press releases, and it’s a FIVE STAR ratings kind of day! Powerful prose that was so detailed it felt like nonfiction! I half expected Lim and Suzy to come barging in my door. There was a similarity to S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders in feel, but not the same family dynamic. Lim and Suzy are the other kids who no one ever thinks about much. They live tortured lives in obscurity, but share that hurt feeling of being misunderstood and knowing that you’ll never change enough to make others accept you. Cruelty is never wasted. It just gets stored up like a bomb and when something sets it off…Look Out!

Thanks for checking out another review from Damaged Skull Writer! If you’d like more information about Samantha Kolesnik, check her out on Twitter @sam_kolesnik or at her site http://samanthakolesnik.com ! Also please check out Grindhouse Press for some of the best reading you’ll find anywhere on Twitter @GrindhousePress and on their site http://grindhousepress.com They have some nifty merch for sale, too!

Happy Publication Day!

TRUE CRIME is an excellent book that really kicks ass! This a book people will be talking about for years to come. FIVE STARS! Highly encourage everyone to get a copy today!

Grindhouse Press

TRUE CRIME Front cover

#058 – True Crime by Samantha Kolesnik

Paperback click here

Kindle click here

Suzy and her brother, Lim, live with their abusive mother in a town where the stars don’t shine at night. Once the abuse becomes too much to handle the two siblings embark on a sordid cross-country murder spree beginning with their mom. As the murder tally rises, Suzy’s mental state spirals into irredeemable madness.

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THE THIRD CORONA BOOK OF HORROR STORIES IS AN AWESOME READ THAT WILL CAUSE NIGHTMARES!

Third Corona Book of Horror Stories

THE THIRD CORONA BOOK OF HORROR STORIES
Edited by Lewis Williams
Corona Books
October 1, 2019
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Once again, Corona Books rises above their previous excellent collections to give readers an even better Third Corona Book Of Horror Stories! How do they do it? Well, I think the person best qualified to give you that answer is editor Lewis Williams, but I hope that he’ll like the paraphrased version I offer: The 19 stories inside this volume were selected from 824 submissions by authors just like you and me. No big names here, BUT I dare anyone to read any of the Corona Books Of Horror Stories and not come away wanting more! Besides that, is the effort that Lewis and his team have put into making their books the best possible experience for both readers and authors. Not only do you get great stories, but you also get author bios, websites, and Twitter handles, so you can follow those that really gave you a fright! I could go on and on about how great Corona Books are…I mean, there’s also The Corona Book Of Science Fiction, The Corona Book Of Ghost Stories, and those limericks…But right now, let’s peek in on some of those 19 stories! It’s okay to be afraid…

Does anyone here love doing dishes? If so, please report to my residence, pronto! Otherwise, let’s take a look at the story that kicks off this collection, Suds And Monsterss by the talented Christopher Stanley. Gavin is forced to do a mountainous pile of dishes by his nasty troll of a stepmother who delights in making life miserable for everyone. Yuck! While her actions could be a horror story in themselves, Stanley’s creativity gives us something much larger to fear. Or, wait, maybe cheer about? Dig in, fellow horror lovers, you won’t believe what’s writhing below those soapsuds. But be careful. it’s HUNGRY!

For many people, especially in the country I live in, bigger is better. We eat “Big Macs” from a fast food joint that claims to have served the most people. For years Americans drove cars that were huge, gas guzzling, tanks. Big cities such as New York, Nashville, and possibly the most ridiculously flashy place on Earth, Las Vegas, are dream destinations for many. These days, many folks are seeing the value in small. Smart cars, tiny houses, and flash fiction are all good examples of that. Editor Lewis Williams’ Cancer The Crab is 500 words long. And yet, in that small amount of words, he’s able to show us karma. Humans can be cruel and appear to get away with it, but do they really? Good piece! Extra words unnecessary.

Of course, if you want to see revenge in a much more graphic and as the author himself puts it, “testicle shriveling” way, then you’ll want to read The Debtt by John Haas. When Gary takes the rap for his former friend who killed a young boy while driving drunk, he suffers the hell of going to prison. However, a deal had been made, and once he’s released back into the free world Gary looks forward to enjoying life. He’s “paid his debt to society” just like the judge said, right? But it turns out that his true payments are just beginning. Gary might’ve thought that prison was hell, but that’s all about to change when he wakes up after another big drunk. Not only is he strapped to a table in an operating room, the surgeon is someone Gary recognizes. It’s the dead boy’s father.

Do you like to spend time in antique shops? Perhaps you enjoy the challenge of going to jumble sales and finding unique items that turn out to be worth a mint? In Sue Eaton’s The First Circle, Meg and her husband are wandering about such a place, when he finds something that delights him. It’s a walnut that’s been turned into a tiny work of art. Meg is repulsed by all the tiny faces carved into the nasty little item, but her husband wants her to buy it for his birthday. The idea of having to see it daily doesn’t attract her, but Meg’s husband is hard to buy gifts for. So she pays the rather high price and off to lunch they go, problem solved! If only that were true. Turns out it’s just the beginning of a long journey for Meg. Even though her husband agrees to put the nut with a thousand faces in a high spot where she can’t see it, the evil thing keeps finding her. Every time she touches it, the “kernel from hell” bites her. Soon Meg finds herself changing for the worse until her husband rushes her to the hospital. Will the doctors be able to save her, or is she lost forever?

Okay, now it’s time for me to reveal the story in this collection that blew me out of the water. It’s Lily’s Kids by Florence Ann Marlowe! This is the one that made me go “holy shit!” and lose my appetite for a few days after reading it. At first, the reader is taken on what seems a relatively normal after church stroll. Just a brother and his little sister checking out a rarely visited area of town in hopes of seeing something out of the ordinary. Jimmy’s at that age where boys want to impress other boys, so he desires a unique find. Well, it’s BINGO time, bitches! Maybe it’s not a smashed flat snake, but what Jimmy and his sister Katie find is sure different. There’s a trio of freaky kids living in an old barn and there doesn’t seem to be a healthy parent available to take care of them properly. While Jimmy quickly realizes that things are seriously out of order, Katie is too young to understand. She thinks it’s all a game and makes promises to the ghostly children that she can’t possibly deliver on. Or can she? Boy, Girl, and Lady hope so. Jimmy is confused, then terrified, when his sister suddenly disappears. He thinks he knows where he can find her, but will he be too late to bring her home? Excellent story!

By now, you probably have a pretty good idea of how I feel about The Third Corona Book Of Horror Stories. But just to be sure, let me lay down the numbers. FIVE BIG STARS! Highly recommended to everyone! This is a short horror fiction treasure trove with special bonus content of author bios and contact info. But Corona Books doesn’t just stop there! They also present an honor roll of really cool authors that almost made it into this volume. Many of them are in Books one and two, which I highly encourage you to check out! Overall, The Third Corona Book Of Horror Stories, is a great read that will chill your bones. Want more information about this great independent press? Then go to: www.coronabooks.com and www.lewiswilliams.com Thanks for reading Damaged Skull Writer. See you soon!

HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM DAMAGED SKULL WRITER! THANKS FOR READING AND MAY 2020 BRING GOOD FORTUNE YOUR WAY!

New Year's Royal Typewriter

Hello Friends! It’s that time again. The new year is upon us and this one heralds in a whole new decade. That can be exciting or terrifying, depending on what your plans are. Currently I’m working on having a great 2020 and bringing DAMAGED SKULL WRITER back up to where it was. Very much looking forward to a year of reading your great books and also getting more of my writing and poetry out into the world! This year I was able to get 118 submissions out, with a decent number of acceptances, including short horror stories in two anthologies from HellBound Books! Ghosts Spirits and Specters just came out this December and also The Toilet Zone which was released in late summer. Both are excellent collections that I highly recommend! I also enjoyed being in Putrescent Poems from 42 Books, the Hard Boiled issue of Weird Mask Zine, having a poetry feature in The Hickory Stump. 2019 brought so many great books to review and I am catching up as quickly as I can! Thanks to everyone who checked me out this year, especially those who’ve become friends. I’m sincerely appreciative and wish you all the very best in this Brave New Decade! Whatever you do this year, KEEP THE FIRE BURNING

Burning Skull w flashing eyes

“PEDDLER’S BARGAIN” BY JOHN W. DENNEHY IS A TERRIFYING NOVELLA IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING!

Peddlers Bargain cover shot

PEDDLER’S BARGAIN
John W. Dennehy
Macabre Tales Publishing
December 17, 2016
reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Hello readers! It’s been a long time, but Damaged Skull Writer is on the mend. Things might be a bit wobbly at first, but like a newborn demon on a tricycle, I’ll be setting things on fire in no time! For my first review back, I thought a novella would be just the right size. So I chose Peddler’s Bargain by one of my favorite writers, John W. Dennehy.

Brad is a handsome devil that the ladies find attractive. He’s also a well-known attorney who’s known for winning cases and earning six figure salaries. Hmm…are we sure that this is a horror story? Upon taking a closer look, the answer is yes. Times are hard for Brad. He’s currently unemployed and his marriage is dangerously close to going down the toilet. True, many people have faced these issues and won, but this isn’t Brad’s first trip down the road of regret. In fact, it appears that he’s a regular. There’s also something or someone chasing him and there’s the feeling that its intentions aren’t good.

While Brad is killing time before an interview that might just save his ass, a man joins him at his table. The very unique looking fellow makes Brad what sounds like a very generous offer. He’s willing to help Brad out with his worst problem in exchange for some sort of payment. The only downside is that the payment type won’t be revealed until Brad’s request is granted. Despite his misgivings and the appearance of a ghastly specter, Brad decides to take the Peddler’s Bargain. Hell, things couldn’t get much worse, right?

Dennehy does a good job at having us think that Brad might turn out a winner. The peddler does fulfill the request, but the cost is extreme and shocking. Once Brad is on the subway train from Hell, the rocket boosters kick in, making you scream as the grisly finale unfolds. You want to look away, but you can’t. Those bugs! The Hatchet! Blood and bone! Good luck having “sweet dreams” after reading this nightmare causer. I’m still creeped out!

“So what’s the verdict?” You ask. This juror rates John W. Dennehy’s Peddler’s Bargain FIVE STARS! I honestly did not sleep much the night I read this cool novella from Macabre Tales Publishing and I don’t think you will either. But that’s exactly why you should pick up a copy today! From Clockwork Universe to Pacific Rising, Dennehy’s work shows us that we are who we make ourselves and regardless of environment, our choices are our own. Peddler’s Bargain is a great little book that can be purchased from your favorite bookseller, my copy arrived quickly from Amazon.com. For more information about this excellent writer, go to his website http://johnwdennehy.com

Thanks for checking out Damaged Skull Writer and reading this review. Stay tuned for more fun to come in 2020! A new decade with more dedication to writing and reviewing. Happy New Year Everyone!   

HAPPY RELEASE DAY TO HELLBOUND BOOKS NEW RELEASE “GHOSTS, SPIRITS, AND SPECTERS!” WHICH INCLUDES MY SHORT HORROR STORY “NEVER SAY NEVER!”

 

GHOSTS SPIRITS AND SPECTERS COVERSHOT

HELLO HORROR FANS! HELLBOUND BOOKS HAS JUST RELEASED AN EXCELLENT NEW ANTHOLOGY! GHOSTS, SPIRITS, AND SPECTERS VOLUME ONE FEATURES WORK BY MANY GREAT WRITERS, INCLUDING YOURS TRULY! COMPILED AND EDITED BY THE DARK POET PRINCESS, XTINA MARIE, THIS COLLECTION OF 18 STORIES SPANS 444 PAGES OF ETHEREAL, GHOSTLY, AND DOWNRIGHT TERRIFYING REAL ESTATE BROUGHT TO LIFE BY THE FEVERED MINDS OF:               

KEV HARRISON
NIKKI D. FREEMAN
MICHAEL J. MOORE
SARA CANNAVO
DJ TYRER
ERIC NASH…AND MANY MORE!

THE HOLIDAYS ARE FAST APPROACHING AND GHOSTS, SPIRITS, AND SPECTERS WILL MAKE A MOST EXCELLENT GIFT FOR YOUR FAVORITE HORROR FANS. IT’S ALSO A GREAT GIFT TO GIVE YOURSELF AS A REWARD FOR GETTING ALL THE PRESENTS WRAPPED. PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK BELOW FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THIS TITLE AND ALL THE GREAT OFFERINGS FROM HELLBOUND BOOKS! AVAILABLE NOW FROM AMAZON.COM AND YOUR FAVORITE BOOKSELLERS. WISHING YOU A JOYOUS HOLIDAY! SUPPORTING INDEPENDENT WRITERS AND PRESSES WILL PUT YOU ON SANTA’S “NICE” LIST FOR SURE.

http://www.hellboundbookspublishing.com/ghostsspiritsandspecters.html

 

Sonora Taylor Delivers A Masterful Collection of Short Horror, Flash, and Dark Poetry With Her Most Recent Collection LITTLE PARANOIAS!

Little Paranoias cover shot

 

LITTLE PARANOIAS
Sonora Taylor
October 22, 2019
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Let me just be upfront. I really hope you’ll read the entire review, but I’ll sum it up for the busy folks right now: Little Paranoias by Sonora Taylor is an excellent book that rates a BIG Five Stars and I definitely recommend that you purchase a copy today. Each story is unique and powerful, offering a bird’s eye view into the author’s imagination. So don’t dilly, or dally. Visit your favorite bookseller today!

Okay, that was the high speed review of Sonora Taylor’s fab new collection Little Paranoias. Now the rest of us who enjoy immersing ourselves in books can get on with it! Sonora grabs our attention right away with Weary Bones, a great mix of horror, science fiction, and love. Imagine a horrible rainy night and a lone man watching TV safely inside. Suddenly the doorbell rings. The man gets up wearily, opens the door, and finds himself face to face with a skeleton. Yikes! Right? Nope, not this guy. Instead he opens the door wider and invites it in. Hey, this is kind of different! It’s also a perfect intro to Sonora Taylor’s work and a book that delivers the unexpected again and again.

Another great story in this collection is Hearts Are Just “Likes”. Social media is HUGE these days. If you can’t be Googled, then for many folks, you might as well not exist. From teenagers to grandmas, everyone has some sort of online presence. There are even professional bloggers who make a living from their blogs. But, this sort of career is not without hazards, as Hailey finds out when she gets into a physical relationship with another popular blogger. At first, things seem rosy, but then somebody gets greedy. Trouble comes to call and it turns out to be a big fan of Hailey. Chilling!

 SEED Is a tale that makes you think. What if all the things we take for granted disappeared tomorrow and we had to survive on sheer determination? No electricity, no smartphones, nothing. Just the clothes on your back and whatever foodstuffs you can gather or hunt down. You can die at any time in mysterious ways and disappear overnight. Aidy lost her husband when he went off to Home Depot for gardening supplies and is very lonely and depressed. What’s the worth in pursuing life if you’re going to die any minute? But when she crosses paths with Evan, a unique person who’s doing more than just surviving, she wakes up. Evan makes her laugh, gives her hope, and a reason to live. Love blooms, but how much time is left for them? I just wanted to add this for the Damaged Skull Writer version of the review. I really enjoyed the artfully detailed sex scene included in this story. Sex when practiced in a joyful way by consenting humans, is indeed a beautiful thing and celebrates the fact that we are still animals, not life sucking plants.

And Little Paranoias also contains many more great pieces for you to enjoy. There’s poetry, short stories, and flash fiction that’ll blow your mind! I really dug Hollow. Some things are magic, like Mrs. Sassafras-the doll of no judgement. But there are monsters who enjoy ruining special things. Why they do that isn’t always clear. But one thing is: they must be stopped. Awesome reading experience! Five Stars and a current resident on the “Wall of Fame!” For more information about Sonora Taylor and her other works, visit www.sonorawrites.com Thanks for reading!

Pardon Us We Are Having Technical Difficulties-A Quick Explanation For Damaged Skull Writer’s Erratic Performance As of Late

Big Damaged Skull

Basically, I’m going through a divorce and it is sucking up a great deal of my time. We’re doing our best to sort things out simply, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy or fast. I don’t want to dwell or wallow in self-pity, I just wanted everyone who has submitted work for review to know why things have slowed down so badly. Hoping to be back to my regular Horror writer and reviewer self in a month or two. Will certainly post when I can. Thank you for understanding and I hope that things are going well in your personal lives! Also, congratulation to all the recent newlyweds-May this never happen to you.

LOOKING FOR A GREAT HALLOWEEN READ? FRED WIEHE’S “THE COLLECTED NIGHTMARES!” STARTS WITH A STORY HAPPENING ON THE NIGHT WHEN A SOUL CAN GET REVENGE!

The Collected Nightmares cover shot

THE COLLECTED NIGHTMARES
By Fred Wiehe
Black Bed Sheet/Diverse Media
May 8, 2019
Reviewed by Brian James Lewis

Hello there, horror fans! Are you familiar with the saying, “No Rest For The Wicked?” Well it seems to be a maxim that Fred Wiehe applies to his work. He may not be wicked, but he definitely knows how to write about those who are. The Collected Nightmares, recently released by Black Bed Sheet Books, is vast! We’re talking nearly 500 pages that include two novellas, twelve short stories, and seventeen poems. This author is not one to rest upon his laurels. The reason? Pain caused by an accident and the acid rain that lands on the injured party in multiple forms, all of which Wiehe has noted for us in the heartfelt intro.

This might sound odd, but I especially enjoy works written by those who deal with pain on the daily. It isn’t because I’m some cruel bastard who gets a cheap thrill from the suffering of others.  No, it’s more the feeling of meeting another member of the tribe I belong to as well. Suffering chronic pain puts a drive into a creative person like nothing else. Not even love can surpass the determination to leave a legacy and the chance to escape into another world, like the misery of pain does. Next to that is the anger hanging onto pain’s coattails. You’ve got to express that shit somehow or go mad. Wiehe’s fierce prose and valiant poetry are red hot with that expression. Ready to dig The Collected Nightmares? Then hold onto your hats, we’re going in!

Pretender starts us off on the right foot as we follow author Frank Lester who is running late for his own book signing on Halloween. At first, he is jazzed about being in Barnes & Noble, but elation dies quickly when someone tells him that his father dropped by. Many of us would be cheered by the prospect of at least one friendly face in the crowd, but that’s not the case for Frank. His father is dead, so how the hell could he pop into any store, let alone talk to a clerk? Looks like somebody has attempted a prank in very poor taste, but why? As the story progresses, spirits and Halloween customs assert themselves. Could a mask help Frank escape what’s coming after him? Perhaps giving out Soul Cakes in the more modern form of candies will appease the demons? Frank keeps hearing, seeing, and smelling clues. Is it just his imagination or signs of impending doom? Just when you thought Halloween was scary enough, Wiehe shakes your sanity. Intense!

Right after that fine piece of fiction, we read Penny’s Song the first of many poems in this volume. Short, sharp, and frightening, Wiehe’s poetry adds much flavor to The Collected Nightmares.  These are powerful poems that tell us a lot about Fred and definitely express some of that anger I mentioned. A good example is Not Dead which features the phrase:

The pain is always a part of me
Never gone
From it I am never free

There’s a lot more to this poem that I want you to read and appreciate. This is one of the best and most direct poems about what it’s like to keep your life, but not yourself as the result of events beyond your control. That, friends, is real life horror. We don’t want others to feel sorry for us. Hell, we don’t even know how we feel about you. Just understand that we are different now and there’s no chance of turning back even if we could. Rebirth and Succubus are full on terror about creatures of the night.

Shoot Me is a frightening flash piece that will surprise readers and is a heartfelt piece of writing. The Collection is a great slam against those bullies and mean people mentioned in the introduction. It’s a pleasure to see that their money can’t protect them and their bullshit reputations all the time! There are creatures out there who only want one thing, no substitutions. You can whine all you want, Mr. Applebee! See you soon! My Only Daddy is a frightening tale with a sharp twist. The narrator becomes alarmed when his son starts talking to people he can’t see and acting out. Surely this is not the little boy he and his wife raised? Well, his wife is gone now, due to mysterious causes. While the man is doing his best, his son ramps up the odd behavior. A stop must be put to this and there’s only one way to do it! But was it the right one?

One story in particular, really stands out as a frightening fable about those who hurt others for fun. The Reckoning is beautifully written with just the right amount of terror mixed with a very important message. When a group of girls who take lessons at a riding stable start insulting the girl who works there cleaning stalls, things get out of hand fast. Yelling turns to violence and it looks like somebody might even die. The stable’s owner jumps into action, but instead of shouting at the girls or threatening to tell their parents, he insists they listen to a story. This isn’t just any old fairy tale, either. No way, this is a true story and what it reveals is chilling.

The Collected Nightmares is a genuine 5 STAR READ! Fred Wiehe should feel damn proud of what he’s accomplished here and we’re fortunate that he’s decided to stay among us and challenge our brains with his words. I really enjoyed his twisted tales and think you will, too! Fred Wiehe is a professional author and a member of the Horror Writers Association who’s written many popular books including Aleric: Monster Hunter. Be sure to follow him at: http://www.fredwiehe.com with manyBlack Bed Sheet Books has done a great job in producing such a powerful read and I also really dig the cover art. Want to learn more about them and the other cool titles they offer? Then visit their website at: www.blackbedsheetbooks.com They even have the only authorized biography of the legendary Vincent Price by the master himself!