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Black Lens: Part XVIII

Story by Ken Bruen and Russell Ackerman

Ken Bruen is one of the most celebrated crime novelists of our time.

Black Lens is his most secret project.

Read on as the unveiling continues.

Every Wednesday on Mulholland Books.

With art by Jonathan Santlofer.

Fade in…

Read Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10Part 11,Part 12, Part 13Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, and Part 17.





Before his final release, at the age of 32, Ransom, met, in the joint, a former inmate of



Key member of Ma Barkers gang.

His seed of delusion/ grandiosity was cemented by Alvin Creepy Karpis, an accomplished blues guitarist.

Ransom saw, rock music as his ticket to the promised land, leading inevitably to Brian Wilson and the horrendous fallout of that relationship.

The final preparations for his parole were being hammered out, though one of his female followers had recently been denied parole. He was delighted, shouted

‘Bitch is old, so sixties.’

His lawyer, yet another new one, was advising him. This guy, named Maddox, Manson’s mother’s name, was a different deal to the faceless others over the forty years. This cat seemed fully aware of the kind of fame, book deals, and notoriety that would come from being the guy who got Manson out.

Thirty nine years old, with a growing coke habit, he was in Ransom’s eyes, Cool. And

He knew how to play the second rate psychopath.

Ransom usually had book on the run, if he ever read them, who knew? Today it was

The Devils’ Mambo


Jerry Rodriguez.

Ransom said in a very bad Brit accent

‘See, this book, it is the bollix.’

Which was exactly this kind of mad rant that his lawyer was trying to rein in, least till the parole hearing and if he got sprung, let the lunatic out there and his lawyer, was like,

‘See you sucker.’

But, till then..

He was growing tired of the first step in his Free-Ransom strategy:

Flagrant flattery.

And every convict’s favorite:

Gifts from the outside world.

Which could get expensive but

Ransom loved gifts, you’ve been ion the joint for forty years, you’ll cling to any bit of fake affection.

Maddox reached into his battered briefcase, it had once been pristine but c’mon, who’s going to trust a lawyer with a flash new bag. So he’d, If not hung it out dry, certainly left it stewing on his window sill for a week.

Got that retro authentic gig up and flying. Said to Ransom

‘I brought you a present.’

Handed over the book, some second rate novel by some former law enforcement officer turned so-called writer.

Ransom peered at the cover, went in that high pitched squeak, which meant

‘Uh-oh, Ransom is not a happy camper.’

And a disgruntled psycho was not a pleasant guy to have sitting five feet from you. He shrilled

‘The last book I read by a cop they got it all wrong.  I know because it was about


Maddox sighed, snapped

‘Listen up.’

Like he’d slapped Ransom. Not even the wardens spoke to him like that, least not twice. Maddox had one thing in common with the crazy, he’d invented himself. Coming out of a 2nd rate law school, in Hoboken, he’d realized you needed to be larger than life, thus his cowboy gig. Not quite at the Stetson stage yet, but getting there, the hand tooled boots, 501’s with a large Lone Star buckle. He never outright said he was a Cowpoke, but threw the shat out there, let them, like the best lies, make their own way.

And how often did a cat get to belittle a mass murderer, said

‘You want this parole to go through, you better start singing a whole other tune pilgrim.’

Ransom was stunned.

Maddox emboldened, continued

‘You’re a B-feature horror show, and if you want the good folk on the board to release you, you’re goanna have to saddle up and fly right partner.’

Ransom had a zoned look. Maddox thought

‘Way to go dude, high and fucking time someone took you off that lofty perch son.’

He stood, his boots scraping satisfactorily on the floor, reached over, stabbed his finger on the book, said

‘Get with the program mister.’

He lived in a small holding of land he’d rented from a former Presidential Aide and that he called

‘Little Ol dude ranch.’


Ransom thought he was having a coronary, such was his rage. He made a supreme effort to rein it in, asked the day warden

‘Officer, may I use the phone for a local call?

Ransom and manners were rarely in the same building, never mind the same sentence so the warden, surprised, agreed.

After, Ransom sat in his cell over and over, chanted the mantra:




The program


Ken Bruen has been a finalist for the Edgar and Anthony Awards, and has won a Macavity Award, a Barry Award, and two Shamus Awards for the Jack Taylor series. He lives in Galway, Ireland. Learn more at

Russell Ackerman is Guillermo del Toro’s Development Executive. He is currently working on the film MAMA to be directed by Andy Muschietti, DROOD based on Dan Simmons’ novel of the same name, adapted by Brian Helgeland, and MIDNIGHT DELIVERY written by Neil Cross, all set up at Universal Pictures. He lives in Los Angeles.