Point Blank

a Short Tale of Macabre Family Faults

If you can't stand the pressure... ask your mother to stop pointing the gun at your head.

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Point Blank

If you can't stand the pressure... ask your mother to stop pointing the gun at your head.

Steven is a writer, by all accounts of self-proclamation. But no artist can be expected to work under serious pressure, especially not when the pressure consists of his own mother indenting his tender skull with the muzzle of the pistol held in her hand.

Suddenly, it's write or die for Steven. He better tap away on that typewriter or expect to be extracted from the land of the living before he's had the opportunity to finish anything he's ever written. Not to mention that his recently departed Father lying on the floor beside him should supply enough motivation.

When Steven manages to frustrate his murderous mother to no end, his wish made under duress actually comes true. Mother's vanished... along with all evidence of the foregoing incident ever having taken place.

Is his beloved father really dead? Is his own mother now a criminal on the run? Can he truly never cure his lifetime disease of writer's block?

Only one person can uncover the truth and set the world to rights again. That would be Tim, Steven's much more successful, though younger, brother. If only Tim would actually believe Steven's retelling of the frightful situation he's just managed to survive.

Someone's got to fix the latest family faux pas. And everyone in the family knows it can't be Steven.

In the dead of night, two brothers battle sibling rivalry, serious mother issues, one heinous surprise after another, and a lifetime of family strife to get to the bottom of it all and uncover what's been lying beneath all along.

Just start writing. That's what my mother said to me. As if it's that easy.

Especially when there's a gun to your head.

"Can you just... point that thing somewhere else!"

She didn't hear me. Or she didn't care. I could feel the muzzle burrowing its way through my mop of muddy-colored hair and about to bite right through my skull.

"I can't write under pressure!"

The muzzle pressed harder. "You're a writer," my mother seethed between yellowing teeth I thought I could almost smell. "Just write, goddamnit!"

It's not that easy, of course. Any writer could tell you that. But it wasn't just any writer my mother held hostage and threatened the life of. It was her least favorite son.

And I'm not as professional a writer as she seems to think I am.

"You..." she continued, to my deepening despair, "will... write it... or... or it's all over for you in two seconds."

Two seconds passed before my mind under duress caught up with the meaning of her sentence. My fingers still couldn't start typing out a new one.

It doesn't work that way, but I never could get my mother to understand the writing process. Or how my chosen career—if I could call it that considering I couldn't get anyone else to recognize it as such—deserved to be taken just as seriously as my brother's.

"Move... your... fingers!" Each word pressed further into my brain in time with the gun held shakily in my mother's speckled hand. I imagined a bright red circle being seared permanently into my flesh like the handiwork of a branding iron. At the very least, I must already have a bruise.

The slap across my head with the butt of the pistol I didn't expect. I didn't even realize that's what happened until I came to four hours later.

Mother was gone. So was my father's gun.

For the life of me, I couldn't spot the wound I would've sworn was visibly stamped on my skull as I parted my hair time and again for a better view in the gilded mirror above the fireplace mantle. No matter. I'd remind my mother of her excessive force and exaggerate its effects for the rest of my life.

If she let me live it.

"I don't believe you."

I watched my brother pour some ambiguous dark liquor from a crystal decanter into a matching short glass. His tie was perfect, tight around his neck, even though it was around ten at night.

"Scotch?" he offered politely.

"Uh, no. Timmy, I'm serious." I even used my serious voice.

Tim immediately turned around to face me. "Don't call me that. Especially at a time like this."

"So, you do believe me!" The relief was instant.

"No. But..."

"Just... look in the den!"

My brother drew the glass to his lips, taking either the smallest sip of the supposed scotch or just pretending to. "I'm not going all the way out there."

"I just came from there!"

"Yes, but you drive like a maniac."

It was useless. Tim always took our mother's side.

"Fine. I'm just going to have to deal with it myself... I guess!"

"Whatever, Steven. But I'm not going to fall for another one of your stories."

The word just seethed off the tip of his tongue before he drowned it with another impossible-to-confirm swallow of liquor.

"Even if it was just a story, I would be typing it out right now, not driving all the way down here to tell it to you and watch you roll your eyes at me!"

"Everyone knows you don't actually write." My brother's unfailing cool collectedness and fractional body movements always pissed me off.

"What do you think I own a typewriter for?!"

"I don't know. You like the sound of it as you absentmindedly poke at the keys, I guess."

"You're... I can't believe you're my brother," I fumed as my shoulders dropped in familiar defeat.

"I can't believe it either." In one tip of the glass, the dark liquid was gone.

I slammed the door behind me.

I paced, following the familiar path worn in the Indian rug that stretched nearly the full length of the library. The same rug I found myself sprawled over earlier in the evening.

I should've been writing. That's all my mother wanted. She could return any minute, make her demands again, bring heavier artillery. I wouldn't put it past her to have access to it. She was a resourceful woman.

When I heard the heavy front door open and close and the click-clack of her stubby heels on the marble floor in the foyer, I jumped to action, actually surprising myself for my sudden ability to make a succinct decision. The closet behind the bookshelves on the far wall of my father's library was much smaller than I thought. ....

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Listen to a sample of the story...

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Narrated by:

Derek Shetterly. Shetterly is an American voiceover and narration talent with over 25 years of experience. He holds a BA in Radio/Television Production with a double minor in Theater and Spanish and has been awarded the Addy Ward for radio voice work, Gold Summit Award for Broadcast "Best of Show," and the Oregon Association of Broadcasters "Best Commercial Spot." He has produced and narrated over 770 audio books. (Site, IMDB)

Editorial Reviews

Readers Favorite 5 Star SealPoint Blank: A Short Tale of Macabre Family Faults is a short story murder mystery written by Justine Avery. Michael never realized that she was this insane, though she had terrorized him his whole life. Now, with the gun pressing down into his skull, he could smell his mother’s fetid breath as she demanded that he write his father’s last will. He was a writer, after all, she had gloated, until she had finally given up and slammed him into unconsciousness with the butt of her gun. Michael, the would-be writer, was a disappointment to his parents, unlike his younger brother, Tim, who had a real job, a wife and a family. When he regained consciousness, Michael rushed to his brother’s house to tell him what happened, but Tim was skeptical of course, and refused to take the drive. When Michael reluctantly returned alone to the estate, he was horrified when he heard his mother returning to the library, and quickly hid in the concealed closet he’d known about since he was a child. She was dragging something heavy and in his mind he conjured up the horrific image of his murdered father.

Justine Avery’s dark short story, Point Blank: A Short Tale of Macabre Family Faults, is a disarmingly clever black comedy about a would-be writer with a lifelong writer’s block and his long-suffering parents. Michael and Tim’s mother is convincingly terrifying, and Avery’s descriptions of her are bound to provoke shudders in the most hardened horror fans’ hearts. This well-written and atmospheric story is suspenseful and well-plotted. You can feel the despair and cold chill in the large estate house, and sense the dread Michael feels at the approach of his mother. One can’t help but wonder how he had managed to stay sane in that house for his forty plus years, a captive audience for his mother and father, who remind him all too vividly of his failures. Point Blank’s rich images are stark and unforgettable, and the story is a sterling example of just how good horror can get. It’s highly recommended.

Reader Reviews

My first response: Justine Avery, YOU are one twisted person! This novella was everything it was touted to be... yet... still.... it caught me unaware and chomped off my head with that final twist! My second response was to ponder: I wonder what YOUR motivation was... then my final thought: NO, never mind, I don't want to know! BRAVO!

an eerie tale of familiar dysfunction!

an eerie tale of familiar dysfunction! After years of tension, two sons ban together when they discover that their mother has killed their father. Their attempt to avenge their father's death goes left when they realize they may have made a big, big mistake. a creepy read with some humorous moments.

Point Blank- On Point

With delightfully and cleverly masked cliches and nuances of suspense, "Point Blank" unravels itself much like a film. Adding exposition and detail to the past as it races forward to the climax, this novel makes one question whether there is some truth behind the twisted piece of fiction being read. It flows at rapid fire and twists in manners most sinister. I highly recommend this piece to anyone who is looking for a book with SATISFYING answers to nailbiting cliffhangers.

Tense yet funny

This is my favorite book by this author Justine Avery. This short novel really packed a punch. There were some real twists and turns and the protagonists Steven was a loveable loser. Being the black sheep of his family and a self proclaimed writer that hasn't produced anything in 40 years, Steven lives at home with his mother that treats him like dirt and his dad who is more of the strong silent type. When Steven witnesses sommething brutal he completely panicks and immediately enlists his younger brother with whom there is a very strained relationship. As the two uncover what really happened the brothers finally see eye to eye. The ending has a twist, as to be expected with Avery's work. I enjoyed this one quite a bit. I would love to know more about these characters. I would definitely recommended this book, it's a quick thriller with humor.

Avery hooks you from the onset again with the lure of mystery. Immediately you are questioning the situation, the validity of the main character, and by the end your own sanity! More so than other works of Avery's this has a thriller feel, with gory twists and turns around every corner (or under every rug). Justine Avery certainly never disappoints.

Great book and plot!!! Great read!

This book would be a great movie, however it was too short for a movie, however the perfect length for someone who wants to read and doesn't have a lot of time. Great plot. Details were pretty good too. I don't want to spoil the book with details, however the turn that it takes is very surprising. And as I discussed this book with a friend today they even said what family would do that?!

The beginning of the book was very confusing, just stay with the book it is well worth the read. I will be recommending this book to others. Enjoy!


Amusing & Fun

I enjoyed the dark humour that was interwoven throughout the story.

A nice short read to keep you entertained and drawn in.

Another Gem from Justine Avery!

Point Blank is my second Justine Avery book in as many days and I can't get enough of her writing! She is an exciting writer who keeps her readers on their toes throughout the entire story. Taking this journey with Steven seemed so life like, which made the twists throughout the book feel even more real, something that I haven't felt from a writer in a long time. Each of the characters is eerily similar to people that I know in real life, Avery is truly fantastic at developing characters in such a short amount of time, I can't wait to see what she is able to do when she finally writes a long novel!

This book is fast paced, action packed and full of unexpected twists! A very dysfunctional family has a horrendous night in which everything changes, especially for the two brothers who've hated each other all their lives. But everything is not as it seems.

Great read!

This book was a great read. I was unsure of the plot in the beginning but as I continued to read I found myself eagerly turning the pages to find out what happened next. The writing style will keep you on the edge of your seat. If you're looking for a quick read that will immerse you in a story, do yourself a favor and buy this book!

Absolutely shocking , once I started reading I could not stop with an ending that completely surprised me. This short tail had me feeling so many mixed emotions while at times having me on the edge of my seat. The pain I felt for the brothers was enormous. Looking forward to reading more short stories by Justine Avery hopefully about the Macabre Family.

This book was a crazy ride from the beginning until the end. I genuinely could not tell what was going to happen next; I enjoyed this part the most since making the book feel as a movie is something that I feel takes talent. As for a deeper meaning, I think that a person could find a couple different ones in the story. The characters all seem to have their own different perspectives on the situation; they also seem to have their problems or shortcomings that are presented throughout the book. I found the first topic of the book to be the most interesting; mainly because, I enjoyed how it was brought up through out the story and used at the end. Overall, I enjoyed this book very much and would recommend it someone looking for a short but eventful read

Such twists!

This story entrapped me from the first page to the last. Because I've read "Out There" (another book by this author), I was waiting for the plot twist. However, I was still surprised multiple times throughout this story, including the end! The creativity in this author's mind is just incredible. You can't just read part of the story so if you are about to start this book, please have the time to finish it in one setting.

Great job! Amazing short story with many plot twists and an incredible ending!

Awesome read

Very intriguing and the book just grabs your attention easily

A super fast, super creepy read perfect for campfires, this book was a chilling quick story by an interesting writer. The creepiness is a little bit out there but not so much that the story loses any momentum. The characters tell the entire story and the author organizes it with snappy dialogue that makes it truly easy to read. It's interesting that this book could have been written as a Twitter story! No theoretical drag or over explaining, just a quick macabre experience between siblings and parents. The Clue references will crack you up.

This book is on POINT

This piece of literature is an amazing quick read! It's a novel that you can jump in, read, and get hooked immediately. The theme of a family divide is prevalent throughout, and I was constantly amazed at the multiple redirections of the story that helped me be an active reader. I read this on my phone, and found myself begging for bigger pages so I could read it faster and I would love to read more from this author.

You may find yourself easily pulled in by this short story and reading it all the way through within an hour or two. It is filled with dark humor and several twists that you will not see coming. The ending is the biggest shock of all. This story follows the life an extremely dysfunctional family. As you get sucked into trying to figure out what's going on, you also follow the struggling relationships between all the family members. I didn't like the mindset of the main character and how he was always pitying himself. I don't have a lot of patience for that personality. The whole book was a little to dark for my personal taste, but the narrative kept moving and the book was intriguing enough to read past those things. Overall it is a well written, entertaining and dark mystery.

Short but Great!

I loved the cover and synopsis but when I saw that it was basically a short story, I wasn't sure I would get into it. That couldn't have been further from the truth! Reminding me of Stephen King's Misery, Justine Avery's Point Blank was one of the best I've ever read. Can't wait to read more from her!

Never Saw The Ending

This books was pulling and tugging at every word. It started out like I was reading an unfinished manuscript from a new writer until I realized this was the story. It all seemed unreal, but real at the same time. I guess I can relate to the main character a bit.

I saw where the story was going but did not foresee the ending. The ending was definitely a carefully hidden surprise. Another good quick read that was an easy page turner.

Delightfully twisted and with a dark sense of humor, "Point Blank" let you wanting to know more about this family from the very beginning. While there is the mystery of what happened, the real hook is the relationship between the family members--what has led them to this situation? What has created the intense dislike between the brothers? Avery reveals information and twists along the way but manages to withhold just enough until the very end to keep you reading, wanting to know everything. The dark humor that continues throughout doesn't just lend levity, but helps engage the reader more. After all, in a situation like the one Avery puts her characters in, you'd probably use humor as a coping mechanism too.

This story is a short psychological mystery thriller that will keep your attention. I couldn't stop reading. It's length is great too, it can be a quick thriller to read while waiting for an appointment. Anybody who likes to write will instantly connect with the main character and his inability or issue with getting the words onto paper. A must read and the price is good too.

It is impossible to pin down the alchemy that turns Justine Avery’s “Point Blank” into an overwhelming success. It was a beautifully twisted, chilly thriller that pulls the reader in and doesn’t let go until the last word of the book. The text grows on you from the very first page and I guess it is the simplicity of the plot that makes it worth a read. Its suspense keeps the reader on the toes.

Avery’s story opens with the introduction of a wicked mother pointing a gun at her son (Stephen), and revolves around Stephen‘s family problems and his motivation to write. Stephen tries to make his younger brother, Timmy, believe him about their mother’s wickedness but he won’t listen. Unaccepted by his own brother, Stephen faces humiliation and lack of faith. He finds himself alone and scared.

Avery’s narration makes the reader to live in the story with Stephen, enjoying in suspense as the story unfolds. It will take you on a rollercoaster ride to identify your inner calling. Unlike most of Kindle’s paid books, “Point Blank” is worth a read.

Justine Avery’s Point Blank is a short horror story about a would-be writer named Steven. I won’t give anything away, but Steven has family problems of the worst kind.

The narrative itself is extremely interesting, and each of the many twists sends you on a new chase. I believe the scenes fly by too quickly and leave the reader a bit out of breath. I would like to see some of the motivations more clearly developed, and get a little better grasp of setting.

That said, the story is gripping, and the author did an excellent job of stealing my attention for a half an hour. I would recommend the story as is, but would love to see this as a full-length novel.

From beginning to end, this short story will keep you guessing the entire read. Thrilling and suspenseful, and never a boring moment. Good read, will recommend!

I absolutely loved this short work by Justine Avery! Although it was short, the gripping plot and in depth character development kept me glued to the pages, unable to break away from the story for a single moment. The way the author presents the story, it grabs you quickly and forces you to begin asking questions of the characters' motivations and true intentions from the first few pages. Full of twists and turns, it delivers everything you could want from a short story, from the first word to the last. Shocking! Exciting! Dark! If you like the type of story that makes you want to leave the light on, and not because of something under the bed or in the closet, but instead because of the people in the next room, don't skip this short read! Highly recommended!

"Point Blank: (as Short Tale of Macabre Family Faults)" is a very dark, and cleverly comical, short horror story from author Justine Avery. Like all of Justine Avery's short tales, her description and attention to detail, is overwhelming at first, drawing you in, quickly and powerfully. Michael is a failed writer, living with his parents, suffering through their constant disappointment at his shortcomings. Michael's mother is evil personified. Threatened by gunpoint to write his father's last will, Michael's mother finally knocks him out with the butt of the gun. Tim, Michael's more successful brother, doesn't believe his story. Upon returning home to his family's estate, Michael is confronted with an even more sinister situation. Is his mother as evil as he believes? Author Justine Avery has once again created a mystical world of, in this case, horrific intensity, juxtaposed with a subtle sense of black comedy. Twists and suspense add a sense of pace to this story that will be over before you're ready, leaving you begging for more.

Every family has problems and parents will go to great lengths to help their children. This dark tale brings both of these truths to the forefront in a twisted and excited manner. There is no predicting what will happen next when a writer with writer's block is confronted by these truths. Justine Avery provides her reader with an exciting tale in a Poe-like macabre fashion. I couldn't put this book down.

Great read!

Point Blank by Justine Avery sounded like a good read just from the title. I was very happy when it turned out to be a great read! It took a few pages before I really got into it but it picked up fast and got to the exciting parts quickly. It was full of twists and turns and kept me in suspense the whole time I was reading it. I felt like I was actually living the story with Steven. The ending definitely threw me off but I loved it and it wrapped up the whole story and all the characters and what they were going through at the end.

It was short and didnt take very long to read but it was long enough that all the details were there and all the loose ends of the story were wrapped up and explained. I definitely recommend reading this if you like suspense and things that keep you guessing until the end.

Perfectly macabre

Justine brought her signature style in full force with this wonderfully dark short about a twisted family dynamic. You won't believe the climactic ending that is sure to leave jaws dropped once more. Definitely recommended.

Fun, Twisting Plot and Dark Humor

Steven and Tim, forty-something brothers, have a less-than-cozy relationship with their parents. Mom, in particular, has a penchant for poor hygiene and domineering, emotionally abusive behavior. Tim, the successful, independent younger brother, openly despises Steven, who lives with their parents and repeatedly tries and fails to become the next great American author. Steven's lackluster career prompts mother dearest to force him to write at gunpoint- this happens on page one, and the action, suspense, and dark humor continue until the last page.

Justine Avery's written a concise but engrossing story about the lengths to which a family will go to chase success. "Point Blank" is the perfect length for a suspenseful read during a lunch break, before bed, or any time you want to escape reality for an hour. Avery's descriptions allow the reader to see (and smell) the events in the story, and her dialogue is dark without becoming unbelievable. This story is a twisted mystery in the best possible way.

Like a game of Clue this story has everything. Drama, sibling rivalry, and murder. Justine Avery takes you on a ride full of twists and turns while exploring the extremes that a family can push us to. Point Blank is the perfect short. You don’t want to put it down!

At first, I couldn't tell if the central character Steven was insane or telling the truth, but then the story unfolded and it answered my question. The sibling relationship between Steven and Tim is a bit sad but realistic. This book could have been three times as long with extra fluff and back-stories, but it wouldn't have made as big of an impact as it did. The mother sounds horrible; I can't believe they put up with her for so long. It was fast-paced, breathless and exciting so I had to finish it in one sitting!

This short tale was an excellent read. I read it right before bedtime and I was fascinated from start to finish. The characters were developed excellently and some of the events in the short tale could easily be related to life today. I would highly recommend this book to anyone that is interested in a quick read because you will be fascinated. Also after reading this short tale, it has inspired me to possibly start writing some of my own. Plus, it also left you with the thought of wanting more in the story.

I wasn't completely sure what to expect with this story, but as I began to read I was intrigued to find out how the book would conclude! Definitely an interesting, quick read with descriptive language and some relatable topics regarding family dynamic!

Insanity and Comedy

Point Blank starts off unbelievably, continues in the same way and ends, well, unbelievably! Justine, does it again with her short, quick reads that are so thought provoking. This story could never happen in “real life,” or could it? And if it did, would you laugh, cry, let out a blood curdling scream or simply ignore the entire event? This story has a little bit of every emotion known, pick it up! Once you recover from the ending, I think you will have a good belly laugh or you could go insane! LOL

The author will drag you through dark mind games with this short narrative. The ending seemed to me to be reminiscent of Agatha Christie's work, a shocking twist unforeseen. Altogether a fantastic work.

‘Point Blank’ is one of my favorite stories by Ms. Avery. This mystery grabbed me from the very beginning and wouldn’t let go. Every time I thought I saw what was coming next this masterful author would throw me a curve. The brilliant plot kept me on the edge of my seat not wanting the story to end. If you love believable, unpredictable mysteries, this book is for you.

Another great work by Avery!!

A wonderful and great piece of literature. I discovered this author a couple of days ago and this is the second novel I read for her. Like the previous novel, I could not stop reading until I reach the end in the same single sitting. This story proves the unique style of the author although the topic of the two stories was so different. I liked how she writes in a way that makes you feel you watch a movie, so attracted to the flow of the events and this story kept you waiting for a surprise after a surprise. Although it is a short novel, but you can feel how much effort was given to write it this unique way. I don't want to give all my thoughts about the story itself so that you can enjoy the twists as much as I did, but there is no doubt you will keep reading and expecting new twist till the very end of it. One of the best stories I read in a while, deep insights into ill relationships within a family and how the main character was severely affected and how abnormal family relations can cause a person to lack enough confidence to proceed, in my opinion so many people suffer the same as Steven did in the story.

Point Blank is novelette by Justine Avery. This story is a tremendous exploration of the dark side of family dynamics and our own minds. I have read another of Justine’s novelette: The End, much like in that story, in this one Justine is able to show how her great detail in writing brings life to her characters. She is unafraid of delving into the grotesque and uncomfortable. Her writing makes you believe that the story has happened or is happening in real life. The story is over only a single night and yet we are given great depth in our character; learning about past histories, relationships, dreams… The feelings of our main character are often very relatable, despite the incredibly harsh reality he lives in. His struggles with writer’s block, difficulty with his family relationships, and struggles with his dreams for the future and fear of failure are particularly felt and are easy to connect with. Justine also has a fantastic ability to create stories and end them in the most unexpected way and yet fitting the story and making it have that much greater of an impact. Her writing is beautiful and her imagination incredible and dark. I would highly recommend this story and Justine’s writing in general. I am excited to find more of her work to read.

I genuinely loved this book! It had me on the edge of my seat the entire read and although it's short it has a really interesting premise, character development, great imagery, and some crazy plot twists to keep you glued. I often found myself feeling like I was witnessing the scene, not just reading words on a page. It shocked me, made me shiver at times and laugh at others, and I have to say I was a little sorry when it ended. The theme of redemption- the redemption of the narrator's difficult childhood, of his dreams of becoming a writer, of his relationship with his brother and of his character- is strong throughout the story, and ties it up nicely in the end. If you're looking for a fun, quick read, I definitely recommend this one!

We all suffer when we want things to be different than they are. This is the root of all suffering -- not accepting what is -- not accepting ourselves even when we are at our worst. Justine Avery's "macabre family tale" depicts well the agony of resistance and non-acceptance and the horrible mistake of using force or scare tactics to try to deal with it. In her story, the use of force is projected onto the evil mother figure who holds a gun to her son's head to try to force him to write. (Don't we all hold a gun to our heads every time we judge ourselves?) She is the one who can't accept anything, from her son's writer's block to her husband's meekness to her own self. She is the one who is depicted as a loveless, evil, person while the father is depicted as her opposite -- at least initially. The story is a nail-biter, full of murderous twists and turns and all the ugliness that results from sick family relationships filled with judgment and lack of forgiveness. Justine Avery is a compelling storyteller and one who keeps me awake well past my bedtime and I love her for it.

Even the twists have twists! You know a story is good when you intend to read the first page and save the rest for later but fail to put it down until finished. Justine's style of writing never fails to grip me, love the plots, the humor and the attention to detail. If you have read other Justine Avery stories then you will love this, if you haven't read the others then you will want to after reading this!