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The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man

  • The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man

    A novel by W. Bruce Cameron serialized exclusively for AARP Members

    A novel by W. Bruce Cameron serialized exclusively for AARP Members

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Illustrations by Steve Vance

Dear Reader,

I assumed I would be a best-selling author by the time I was 22 years old because I had done all the hard work necessary for such an achievement: I had majored in English. I had spent hours and hours pouring over books with the same focus as a microbiologist searching for germs, wringing deep implications out of the simplest of sentences. (Example: “I know it says ‘Call me Ishmael,’ but what does that mean?”)

Alas, it turns out that one needs more than a C+ in Melville to get a book published. Bewildered by the cold rejection of the publishing houses of the time, and unable to convince my parents that while I typed unmarketable manuscripts they should rent me an apartment, buy me a car and find me a wife, I was forced to do something I had never intended: I had to get a job.

There are a great many careers for which an English major is completely worthless. In fact, one could argue that all an English major is qualified to do is to teach, thus creating more English majors. Locked out of an economy unimpressed with the fact that I had been the social chairman of the Sigma Chi house, I took the only opportunity afforded me by employers. I became a repo man.

Making my living as a legal car thief exposed me to an entirely different set of circumstances than what I had encountered in my studies. (Example: “I know you said if I took your car you would shoot me dead, but what did you mean?”) To succeed as a repo man, I needed to overcome my natural inclination toward cowardice and deploy the only effective device in my intellectual toolbox: stupidity. I just didn’t believe anyone would want to harm me. Wasn’t I social chairman? Hadn’t I read Melville?

I did, of course, understand what a gun was, and when they were pointed at me, I did realize that I was not earning the same sort of welcome I had received while, say, hosting keggers for Kappa Alpha Theta. I also understood the connection between the punch I had just received and the pain signals that cheerfully arrived in my brain. When this happened, I knew that a customer had grown displeased with my kind of customer service.

Along the way toward becoming a successful repo man, I realized I was part detective. Often when people have run up debts that they cannot pay, they will decide it’s just easier to get in the car they are not paying for and vanish. But dropping out of society is not as easy to do as you might think. Very often there are disgruntled friends who have loaned you money, a relative looking to betray family secrets in exchange for a $20 bill, or a girlfriend who found out about your other girlfriend. Asking questions and sifting through the evasive answers eventually led me to track down a lot of people and relieve them of the burden of their transportation.

At some point, I started writing a story about a repo man who becomes an unwilling investigator in murder mysteries. This never actually happened to me: the closest I came to a murder would have had me as the victim, and there would have been no mystery at all as to whodunit. I would have been a willing victim of my own stupidity. But I love thrillers, and being a repo man offered up an endless supply of thrills.

This is how my Repo Madness series was born. Stitched into the life of the fictional Ruddy McCann are real events that happened to me while I was putting my life on the line so that a lender could recover a $400 automobile. I suppose you could say that Ruddy is based on me except I’m not 6 foot 2, I was (unfairly) never considered in the running for the Heisman Trophy, and though I was born in northern Michigan, I haven’t lived there in some time.

The Repo Madness series consists of the first novel, The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man; the second, Repo Madness; and a prequel short story, called the Midnight Dog of the Repo Man. If you are familiar at all with my work, I hope it is because you have read one of my dog books and not because you saw me backing out of your driveway in what had been, up until that precise moment, your Buick Regal.

If it turns out you are one of my former customers, I hope we can agree that time has healed all wounds and we can now share a good laugh about it. There’s a laugh or two in my Repo Madness series, so I hope you’ll read the books and be in less of a rifle-pointing mood than you were at the time of the whole Buick incident.

When I take questions at book signings, I am invariably asked when I will write another novel featuring Ruddy McCann. I always respond, “This is a two-book series. So far.”

—W. Bruce Cameron

A Slow-Burn Mystery

Serialization — releasing a book in sequential installments, often in magazines and newspapers — has been used to build suspense for hundreds of years. Every day over the course of several weeks, two new chapters of W. Bruce Cameron's The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man were released here. Serialization took advantage of the book's natural chapter arcs — and helped build the mystery before unraveling it. 

All of the chapters are available to read now. Click on the table of contents below to access them, or scroll down the page for a profile piece about the author and brief introductions of each chapter, with illustrations by Steve Vance.

Check out more free books from AARP Members Only Access.


Meet W. Bruce Cameron

Laugh along as you learn more about The New York Times best-selling author and his acclaimed Repo Madness trilogy and beloved dog stories. Plus, find out why he takes his success in stride.

Prologue and Chapters 1 & 2

I’m afraid. I’m afraid, and I don’t know why. I glance around out my windshield. If I’m in any danger at all it’s from this road I’m bouncing along on, a rutted indentation in the leafy... Continue reading

Chapters 3 & 4

In the shocked silence following Jimmy’s fall I tracked his trajectory back to its source: a nasty-looking guy I hadn’t noticed coming in, with long, black hair and a goatee clinging to a... Continue reading


Chapters 5 & 6

On the way to Traverse City Kermit checked his mobile phone every ten minutes, announcing over and over “no signal here,” and “weak signal here” as he frowned at it. “That’s why I leave... Continue reading

Chapters 7 & 8

Alan had been like a loose tooth—irritating and constantly demanding attention—but when it is finally gone the hole it leaves behind is, in some ways, worse. I sat in my living room, watching... Continue reading

Chapters 9 & 10

Alan and I spent the half-hour drive from Suttons Bay to Traverse City with me trying to bring Alan up to speed on all the events of the past eight years—not easy to do when you’re from... Continue reading


Chapters 11 & 12

“My name is Nathan Burby,” he told me, holding out what turned out to be a professionally soft, dry, funeral-director hand. I stared at him, astounded. He was several inches shorter... Continue reading

Chapters 13 & 14

My words hung in the air for what seemed a full minute. Strickland hid his surprise behind those steely eyes. He nodded: I’d traded him enough information for him to make the phone call... Continue reading

Chapters 15 & 16

Katie spotted me and came right across the floor without hesitation. She held out her hand like we were going to have a business meeting, and I took it with a little disappointment... Continue reading


Chapters 17 & 18

The Black Bear was like an easy chair in my mind: worn, comfortable, familiar. When I opened the door the shock made me blink. Becky had been busy. She watched me approach her across... Continue reading

Chapters 19 & 20

Strickland left me sitting in the tiny lobby of the sheriff’s department for half an hour in what was probably some psychological, “I’ll show you who’s boss” type of manipulation... Continue reading

Chapters 21 & 22

“Ruddy! Take it easy, you’re okay, you’re okay,” Alan urged. I realized I had been shouting incoherently. I clawed my way out of the snowbank, which had thawed and frozen... Continue reading


Chapters 23 & 24

I imagined her in her travel trailer but she was standing in the house doorway, framed in yellow backlight, so graceful and feminine my mouth went dry as I pulled up in my truck... Continue reading

Chapters 25 & 26

Financially choking on the bounces from the bank, Becky had finally figured out how to call the person who had been sending us the credit card numbers—not the contact number... Continue reading

Chapters 27 & 28

Strickland was quiet for so long I was afraid he was thinking of just pulling his weapon and shooting me. Finally he cleared his throat and spoke very quietly. “Why do you think these two men... Continue reading


Chapters 29 & 30

I came awake in darkness and in the middle of a gasping, choking spasm. Water flowed from my mouth and nose, and for a panicked moment I couldn’t breathe. Coughing... Continue reading

Chapters 31 & Epilogue

After I had trudged halfway up the hill I thought of something and reversed course, dashing back to the tow truck, the steep declivity turning my gait into ridiculous, Superman-sized... Continue reading

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