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THE HITCHHIKING EFFECT spans Gene O'Neill's thirty-year-plus writing career, including his first major sale, "The Burden of indigo," to the The Twilight Zone Magazine. In time, O'Neill would develop this short tale of a dyed criminal's search for salvation, into a full-length novel, eventually resulting in the much-anticipated four-book Cal Wild Chronicles, set in post-apocalyptic California.O'Neill's autobiographical introduction candidly explains the significance of this collections title. Four Stoker Award finalists are included among these brilliant, gritty stories, including "Balance," a Marine vet's struggle to keep the world balanced; RUSTING CHICKENS, a Marine's return to a home possibly more dangerous and surreal than his deployment in Afghanistan; THE CONFESSIONS OF ST. ZACH, the first book of the Cal Wild; and an intriguing novelette, THE HUNGRY SKULL: a jump-pilot, half-man, half-machine, defines what character is--with a shocking ending. A novelette of supernatural obsession, FIREBUG was written especially as an end note for this retrospective, a signature event in Gene O'Neill's award-winning career.