Literature In Los Angeles

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In LA NOIR on March 31, 2010 at 3:27 pm

1. Hot Air

The patio was a small rectangle of white concrete and red brickwork baking in the afternoon sun. It was wedged between the house and a steep hillside behind. At the far edge of the patio, a long row of terra cotta pots were lined up. Each clay pot was filled with dirt and contained a sprig of broken plant material, long dead. A small birdbath sat silent in the far corner, its concrete basin cracked and broken, dry as a bone.

On the other side of the terra cotta frontier, lay the steeply rising hillside, an unexplored world of brown dirt and native oak trees. The three-year drought had killed off all but the hardiest scrub brush. Even the leafy swords of a large yucca plant were losing their battle with the hot, dry air.

I opened the sliding doors in the back of the house. A blast of hot air hit me in the chest. The glare of sunlight reflecting off the white concrete blinded me. I stepped outside. 

Our old teak picnic table, once used for tall drinks and stuffed olives had been abandoned and was now pushed into a corner against the house. A small roof overhang created a dark refuge of cool shade directly over the table.

I put my glass of ice water down and tried to brush off some of the dirt that had accumulated on the bench behind the table. I sat down anyway, pulled my knees up under me and leaned against the cool green stucco wall of the house.

My water glass was sweating in the heat and cool to the touch. The drink was calm and refreshing and I gazed up at the top of the hill. Barely visible behind several large oak trees was the rectory of the local parish. A handsome young priest lived there with a pretty blond wife, four young children, a golden retriever and a pool.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

A crashing sound through the trees high above broke through my thoughts.
Whatever it was moved quickly, descending straight towards me, arms swinging recklessly at his side. Sunlight glinted off the metal of something small held in his hand, in a tight, not so reckless grip. 

I made myself small against the house and watched Dave, my neighbor, imitate a steeple chaser trying to clear a pasture fence. He jumped over the line of terra cotta pots with a punishing landing onto the patio concrete. He had a rod in hand, but I was pretty sure that he wasn’t there to offer me comfort and guidance.
I shrank into the dark patch of shade against the house, pretending to be invisible.

He cried out in pain and rubbed one knee, hunched over, panting in the bright sunlight.
Dave’s brown hair did as it was told and covered his head but his stomach rebeled. Folds of shameless fat escaped from his tight white shirt.
His yellow/green eyes, shaped like upended teacups, looked almost intelligent. His eyebrows weren’t helping. They were thick and black and professionally shaped and I could see rivulets of sweat and dirt rolling between his eyes and down his nose. If he were ever going to work again as a stuntman he was going to have to do better than simply groom his eyebrows and bleach his straight white teeth.

Finally he caught his breath and straightened his back up. He looked quickly around the patio, and with a deep oblivious sigh walked directly in front of me, and then around to the side of the house. He let himself out by the side gate and I heard him lift the latch, and then jiggle it from the other side. I didn’t move.

A small brown bird landed on the crack in the concrete birdbath and poked its tiny beak into the hole. It moved its beak back and forth and then rose into the air, stumbling off in the heavy afternoon heat.

 2. Midnight Blue

I didn’t seem able to move. I was thinking.
I wasn’t thinking about Dave. Dave was a distant memory; easy come, easy go. I was thinking of my mortgage. I was thinking of the balloon payment that was due, and the money I didn’t have. And most of all, I was wondering if and when my husband would ever come home.

The sun had finally fallen out of the sky but that hadn’t done much to cool down things. The backyard was a hot oven and now it was quite dark. I sat in the same position as earlier in the day, crouched behind the picnic table.

A long low howl from a dog started up in the distance and then suddenly fell quiet. A door slammed somewhere down the street, and the traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway reminded me of the roar of ocean waves. Sweat from the day clung to my shoulders like an old damp shawl pulled from a dumpster, and my water glass was empty and dry. I ran my tongue over my teeth looking for a drink.

I heard the sharp yelp of a woman and then footsteps running. A car motor started and roared away into the distance and then I went back to listening to the silence.

It must have been close to midnight when I heard sounds coming from the front of my house.
Someone started a conversation with my doorbell, and it turned into an argument. When I couldn’t take the pounding on the door anymore, I hauled myself up, opened the sliding glass doors, went back inside the house, walked down the front hallway and opened the front door. 

“Dave?” I didn’t recognize him. He must have gone home and showered after I last saw him because he was cleaned up considerably.
His black hair was damp and smelled freshly washed and it was slicked neatly down behind his ears. He wore a dark blue silky shirt ducked neatly in around his thick waist and he wasn’t sweating. His long arms hung loosely at his side and I didn’t notice a metallic glint anywhere.

He showed me his bleached teeth and examined me with sad eyes. 
“Andy in?”
“No,” I said.” I looked steadily for a moment into his eyes, and then slowly started to close my front door. 
He must have misunderstood, thinking that I said, “Come on in,” because he stuck out his long arm and pushed my front door back open.
“He’ll be back in 5 minutes!” I said. I tried to think if I had shared with any of my neighbors the news that my husband Andy had taken an unofficial Spring Break from our marriage, AWOL since April. 
“What do you want anyway? Stop it,” I said. Dave was walking into me, backing me down the hallway. I abruptly stopped and he ran into me. “Go home, Dave. There’s nothing for you here.”

“I need your car, Tracy.” He said. 
“I like dancing with you swell, Dave, but shove off and find your own car.”
“I don’t have a car. Sandy took it.” His eyes were sad again. His lips looked thin and squeezed together and his upper lip was perspiring. “Help me, Tracy.” 

He was too large to push so I let him go by. He rushed into my living room and looked surprised at all of the books in the bookcase. 
He went over to the wooden entry table with the glass top, and using one hand, he started to rummage through the piles of mail looking for my car key. 
His other hand was wrapped around something. I couldn’t quite make out what it was because it was stuffed in his pants pocket.

He stopped to admire the cover of one of Andy’s GQ magazines.
“Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?” I said, calling his bluff.

Ten minutes later, I was behind the wheel of my metallic green Volvo, backing out of my driveway with Dave and his little Beretta compact pistol next to me in the passenger seat.
I turned right off Sunset, heading north on PCH, following the coastline. We were going to Santa Barbara, Sandy’s hometown. 
Dave thought Sandy might be there.

Photo by Ramona Candle

3. Champagne Cupcake

It was quiet in the car. Peaceful. It was almost as if we were out on a date, except that I was married to someone else, and Dave held a gun at my side.
Other than that, it was a romantic evening with the ocean on one side, the mountains on the other, and a peaceful hum in the summer night air.


Sandy was Dave’s wife. They moved into the neighborhood only a few months ago and I didn’t know her well. Sandy was drop-dead gorgeous – platinum blond – or Champagne blond as some like to say.  And if you believe the rumors, she was once a Playboy bunny.

I can’t vouch for the Playboy part, but it’s pretty much fact that Sandy was once a pinup girl.

I saw her once. Leaning against her bed. Sprawled on a fluffy white rug, wrapped – more or less – in a thin power blue blanket, and not much else. All rosy and round – like some kind of a pink Champagne cupcake. The painting was 1/3 to scale on canvas. In oil. Some artist had painted her for a magazine cover, she said.

She’s the type of woman who could make a man hungry just by looking at her.

We drove past the Malibu Colony. The street lights thinned out considerably, and then, suddenly, they disappeared. After Zuma Beach, where the Coast Highway runs next to the ocean, I couldn’t see the water but I could feel its immense black expanse next to me as I drove. There were a few stars in the sky reflecting their lights off the ocean waves, twinkling, keeping me company.

“Why did she leave?”  I asked just to be saying something.

A small silver convertible with four young joy riders out on a hot dark summer night whipped past us going close to 100 mph. Suddenly, their bright lights blinded me and I held onto the steering wheel tightly, taking it on faith that the road continued straight. Then, the car was behind us.
We were alone again in the dark. I looked at Dave. A large tear was slowly winding down his cheek.

“I loved her,” he said. I thought for a moment that he had a candy jawbreaker in his mouth. He was moving his jaw back and forth hard enough to crack his molars.
“She was cheating on me. God damn Priest.” His wet sad face had the soft vulnerability of an uncooked biscuit. 

I kept to myself and we drove on in silence.

4. Light in the Darkness

North of Oxnard, after on particularly long stretch of empty highway, an oasis of light loomed up in front of us, promising not only gas, but something to eat. My fingers were numb from gripping the steering wheel.

“Hey, Dave…” I said. I felt him grinding his teeth, listening.
“We need gas.” 

The teeth grinding never stopped. I gripped the steering wheel tighter; my fingers felt tingly.
“Don’t worry. I have a debit card in my purse. I’m going to stop and fill up the tank,” I said.

I took his silence as agreement and I pulled the Volvo into one of the self-serve islands in front of the minimart. A garish inhuman white light illuminated the empty pumping islands; no other cars or people were in sight. I saw the clerk in the shadows of the store window, peering out trying to see who had driven up.

With a push of the button, I turned off the keyless car engine. I removed the key from the slot, and I opened my car door.   
“Wait…” Dave’s voice was scratchy and hoarse, out of practice. “Give me your car key.” 

I handed the key to him, filled the tank and when I finished, I got back into the driver’s seat and looked at him. “Don’t you want to get a snack or something? You don’t look well.”  I said.

He didn’t look well. He looked pasty and his thin closed mouth was tightly clenched.
“At least get out and stretch your legs a little,” I said.

He took my cell phone from the side cup holder where I had stored it, and his gun from his pocket, and he put both in the glove compartment. I had to show him how to lock the compartment, and then he opened his door and got out.

Leaning into the car, he asked: “Do you want anything?”
“Chips and a Coke. Diet,” I said.

I watched him walk toward the mini-mart and open the door to the store. Holding the door open, he turned back and looked at me. He made a show of pushing the remote “auto lock” button on the car key for me to see, locking me in the car, chuckling to himself. We both knew that I could open the car from the inside but obviously, I wasn’t going to just to run off in the dark on foot, alone. Dangling the car key in his hand, he grinned. He looked happy for the first time that day.

Wise guy. I smiled back with a sad smirk. At least he was happy. 

I watched him as he turned and walked into the store, past the clerk at the front register, and then, he disappeared into the shadows.  When I couldn’t see him anymore I grabbed my purse, and emptied my wallet of everything except $50. I leaned across the passenger seat, opened the passenger door, and chucked my wallet out. It landed next to the gas pump where Dave might find it if he thought to look.
I put my seat belt back on, and started the car by pushing the Volvo’s start button. I pulled the car out of the station and onto the road as quickly as I could.
Too bad Dave didn’t know that I kept a spare car key in the glove compartment and that it worked remotely from anywhere in the car. Too bad.

I headed south down that long dark road with a full tank, no money, and a cell phone locked in the glove compartment, out of reach. Just me and my car, and the open window.
The cool breeze on my face felt like freedom.

I approached LA and the lights of the city increased. A plane was in the sky above me. Quiet at first, and then with a roar, it passed overhead. The sound died away and I imagined the passengers buckled safely in, reading magazines or watching the TV while they cut through the air, gliding through the darkness, going home.

5.  Home

I turned left off the Coast Highway and up towards the hills. My gas gauge said “empty” but it didn’t matter; I was home.
I parked my car and watched a little bird land on the low branch of the Sycamore tree in front of my house. He hopped on one foot, gave a long piercing chirp and then fell silent. In front of the tree, an emaciated coyote, head down, tail tucked between his legs, scurried up the street, heading for the mountains behind the houses.
Most of the sky was a still a dark velvet blue but in one corner there was a growing glow of light. The air was still and warm. It was going to be another scorcher.  

I opened the sliding glass doors to the back patio and I walked outside. An acrid smell of wet wood and a recent fire was in the air and the terra cotta pots were covered with a thin layer of ash.

A lonely little bark came from under the picnic table. It was Dave and Sandy’s pet bulldog, El Cid, covered in ash, cowering.

Investigators showed up later that week to tell me that someone had torched Sandy and Dave’s house on the night they went missing, and to ask if I knew who did it.

I never did see Dave or Sandy again.
I did see the Priest. He came knocking at my door asking for Sandy, and he told me a tale of careless love and jealousy, and loss of faith. I recently heard that a new priest – this time without a family – had moved into the parish rectory.

These days, I keep El Cid and Dave’s little Beretta handgun close; one’s for company and the other is for protection, not necessarily in that order.

Story and image by Ramona Candle.


In LITERARY FICTION on March 26, 2010 at 4:21 pm

All your life you’ve never seen
a woman taken by the wind
Takes to the sky like a bird in flight and
who will be her lover?

― “She was walking down the street as I was driving up on Western and Wilshire.
It was 1976.”

His voice is white.
White and firm as his strong, attractive head.

― “She was gliding over the sunset hour.
She walked into my life from an arch of fire.
She trapped my eyes in the density of that curve, where the sun twists its rays in the last moment of their tango.”  

Our Italian waiter looks at our hands on the table.
I see what he’s thinking. He’s wondering if with Jeff’s status he could find a way into my hands too.
Jeff doesn’t perceive any of the on-the-spot screening on his houses, women and business and, simply, he goes on:

 ― “On the walk side of that late afternoon, Hollywood was delivering me its prime time, baby… and, I didn’t hesitate to catch it.”

She rules her life like a fine skylark
and when the sky is starless

 ― “The first evening we met her scent was as promising as heavy clouds running in a dark heaven that has seen no rain for a long time. I had called her down here to the beach at Giorgio Baldi’s… this was already the restaurant you had to show up at, if you were in the business….”

Our pizza-soccer-mandolin guy is now searching the answers to his existence in my thighs.
Jeff maintains his blindness:

― “….we spent hours pretending to unfold each other’s secrets in the velvetiness of the red wine, until the dizziness let our undressed illusions sink in the chant of these waves…. Of her tan body I remember high heels supporting its crystal strength, as black as the butterflies playing with the moon’s reflections through her indomitable hair.”

As Jeff’s memories get lost in his whiteness, his fingers search for a tighter hope in mine:

― “She was so different from any other woman. She was such a lady.
She was like you, baby….”

She is like a cat in the dark
and then she is the darkness

Our annoying food and beverage attendant steps out of his favorite corner of espionage to take the orders.
When we are done, my doubts find the courage:

― “…when did that red wine of your reciprocal euphoria become the lonely company of her private affliction?”

― “…she just stopped smiling.”

― “…out of nowhere…?”

Jeff’s eyes look for the door through the candle lighted whispers in the dining room.
After a brief moment that feels too long, they end on our tablecloth:

― “We were recording that famous song in the studio….”

― “Which one? …you recorded hundreds….”

― “Rhiannon.”

― “Rhiannon like, me…?”

He softly moves his Ray-Bans around the bread basket.

― “At some point, I was hanging out with the woman who wrote it….”

― “…you mean hanging out like hanging out or hanging out like fucking each other?”

Jeff lets his head fall to the table as if he will never raise it up again.
I wonder why the remaining romance in the room isn’t screaming at him yet.
All of a sudden. Screaming at him.

Apparently, Giorgio Baldi Restaurant’s romance has always been too busy playing itself out to notice anything than its own projections.
Jeff’s head is shacking:

― “…she found out when she was pregnant of you.”

― “…and, she decided to call me like that song…?”

― “She said Rhiannon was the witch who took her love away from her and so Rhiannon was the fairy who was going to take it back.”

― “…and that Rhiannon was supposed to be me?!”

I’m afraid my voice is too loud and I automatically turn toward our self-declared macho’s status.
He cannot even hold the giggling anymore.

Would you stay if she promised you heaven?
Will you ever win?

― “Dad, how did you make her that sick and desperate? Please….”

― “You were such a quiet baby…. Maybe you knew our mess and you were trying to fix it by turning into an angel.”

― “Maybe. Clearly, I failed.”

― “No baby, don’t say that…. She lost. I lost.
You, you are not us—you’re just the best part destiny could save of us.”

Our server delivers the check.
For Jeff, just one more.
As he puts his money in it, I stand up and walk out of our song.

Story by Liliana Isella.

GypsyWears Advertisement


*Song by Fleetwood Mac, Rhiannon



In LITERARY FICTION on March 17, 2010 at 3:09 pm

In memory of Juliana Redding (Tucson, AZ, December 31, 1986 ― Los Angeles, CA, March 17, 2008)


Los Angeles, March 17, 2008
5.33 p.m.

You know I’m a dreamer, but my heart’s of gold…*

Tomorrow, manicure.
Bitten nails don’t look good ― not on camera.

Do you remember Melissa’s fingers?
She was playing the piano forever.
Her runaway notes heart-painted those fuchsia sandy afternoons, the iced sky mornings, the violet windy sunsets and the warm starry nights.
They sharpened the mountains’ rocks, perfumed the petals’ wilderness, aired the palms’ spikiness and dew dropped the tricky cracks of my land of dryness.

Her music saved that stillness from falling into a dead corner of my eyes.
If I try a closer smile to the mirror, they are still the window on those desert’s years, GiGi, ‘cause all our dreams keep in our eyes the first place we dreamt of them. So was this ocean, these hills of fame and, yes… you too, puppy puppy!!!

You know that I’ve seen too many romantic dreams… *

Richard, too. He landed into my eyes a long time ago.
Melissa flew him into my bones.
It took my heart no time to recognize his forceful steps, last week.
The black paint of his long beard of secrets, half hidden under the nonsense of that funny hat, perfectly matched the vintage light of the breezy Brooks Avenue.

“Nice Ray-Bans.”
Just the time for his bold confidence to overtake my disorientation and I was already lost into his freedom.
He’s as wild as my Arizona flowers.
He’s from a different world ― that’s why he lives in his own. That’s why, at night, he lays his torments under that palm tree in the sand of Venice.

“There’s something circular about him, like moths fluttering in the clear Arizona nights.”**
This phrase’s the silver screen Melissa’s piano made me play Los Angeles on, waiting for Richard to make his entrance.

Yesterday at the beach I asked him if he was happy, the day those fuchsia, fully blossomed lips nestled on the veins of his neck.
His eyes first stretched down to the right to reach The Kiss of Death tattooed on his skin; then, they came back into mine: “Yes.”

That was the most ferocious and the most melancholic yes that ever kissed my days.
That’s the kind of yes that comes with forever.

They are knocking at the door all at once, GiGi.
My dreams are here, even if I leaf through the pictures of these fashion magazines and I wonder if the girl on them is really me… it seems like this life is happening to someone else, sometimes.

“Our life doesn’t really belong to us.”
That’s all my eyes say, when they look back at me from those magazines.
That’s all you get to learn, here in LA.

I’m on my way, just set me free, home sweet home….*

By the way, who’s playing the incredible piano in this song?
Melissa would know it. Richard must know it too. That rucksack where he keeps all he has is so full of music….

Where are you looking at, GiGi?!
Did you hear the same noise I did?!
Let me go check the door, babe….
Mommy will be right back.
I promise.
Right back.

Story by Liliana Isella.


*Song by Motley Crue, Home Sweet Home

**Excerpt from Bret Easton Ellis’ book The Rules of Attraction



In INTER-REVIEWS on March 15, 2010 at 3:36 am

Interview with bestselling author Nic Kelman on the connection between his writing and photography.

Tokyo by Nic Kelman

LILA: As a writer, in your novel Il Comportamento della Luce (The Behavior of Light), you explored and analyzed the physics of light under an interesting perspective. How is your relationship with light as a photographer?

NIC: Light is everything as a photographer and I think one of the things I try to work on in my photography is being able to not see the objects, but the light.  We are so used to accepting and categorizing what we see as the objects we identify in our field of view that it is sometimes hard to see above and prior to that to the light that must come before the object.  So I guess, as a photographer, I try to constantly look for the light that I know is there before the object and remove it from the object, find it before the object’s definition takes over, and then attempt to capture it in its more pure form.

Bangkok by Nic Kelman

LILA: In girls, your focus as a writer was mostly on the obsessive, materialistic attractions that rule social relationships in the Western society. As a photographer, your interest seems more on catching evanescent and melancholic details of objects and cities. How would you explain this difference of attention?

NIC: This is a very good question and one I haven’t really thought about before even though that distinction is correct. I think what it comes down to is that I find the abstraction of reality more “pure” an expression of reality. However, ironically, even though the use of language is the most abstract art form, it is also the most difficult tool with which to create abstractions. Perhaps this is because the very purpose of language is to remove abstraction from reality and to create definition of the world around us? Regardless, I find in-camera photography fascinating for its very ability to capture something that is concrete, that must have existed in the material, sense, that must have been palpable, and somehow make it seem unreal or dreamlike. Art, to me, is primarily the abstraction of reality through the artist’s personal lens, but when the lens is words, that abstraction must be more concrete than when the lens is, well, a lens… So in the latter case, I think I like to make the most of that advantage.

London by Nic Kelman

LILA: If you put together your experience as novelist and screen writer and your fine “camera eye,” your next step might be directing a movie… ever had any thought about it?

NIC: Definitely. It’s a big step though and one that, honestly, is very, very different from the other forms. Directing is about collaboration and making the most of what you have from many sources. In writing you have almost totalitarian control over what you produce and in photography there is just you, your camera, and the light. I’m not sure I can manage more than that!

Images by Nic Kelman.
Interview by Liliana Isella.


In LITERARY FICTION on March 2, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Sunset Strip, Hollywood

Each floor is fitted with its own art installation and if you look inside you can see the beginning of The Simpsons on a loop.

You breeze through the lobby and head straight out to the hotel bar.  

C to F list actors float around in the pool while the B list eats on the terrace below the pool.

The A list owns houses in the area and will put up a wayward relative, but the A list usually comes to the hotel only for its fabulous parties.

I stand behind the desk and apologize for the elevators not working properly. I also sneak down to the smoking area on P2 to light a cig of my own.

I’ve never worked in a hotel with anything better than an AAA rating. This hotel has four stars.

The women are powerful and sexy.
That short little Latina cutie comes to mind, what’s her name, oh yea, Salma Hayek; she’s not here today, but there are others.

Of course we always have the brainless floozies on a free ride.
A lot of hookers but only one male stud, this season.

It’s early spring but the sun is blasting away at us up here on the Sunset Strip.

Around the middle of my shift, my name is put in a hat and tossed about with other co-workers’ names; then, our manager picks a name and reads the name and he is purposely not telling us the name and he crumples up the paper and puts it in his pocket and finally says my name.

I’m the page and have to deliver packages that have not been picked up.


101 Dirty Hot Hotel Stories by Jack Appleford


Most of the rooms are empty; others answer their door rather quickly and give me a dollar and I move on.

I come to one room where some girls are laughing and giggling and the TV is turned up so loud and I think I hear them tell me to come in; so I do.

They’re gorgeous body lies twisted on the bed.
They’re still eating each other out and I try to keep it “business like” and deliver the package.

Brunette tells me there should be three packages for a good time. Her accent is thick and I don’t understand, so I get a little closer and hope to understand.

She tells me again that she needs three packages to have a good time. She says she has two and only needs one more.

I understand all of the sudden. I hand her the Fed Ex, ask for a signature.
I tell her this is the only package she’s getting from me.

The scent of sweat and pussy are all over the room. Their serpen-teen bodies are glistening and writhing a little, still.

Brunette laughs and says she’ll sign for it and while she signs her Blondie friend starts to stroke my pants and I’ve already got a raging hard on.
Hotel creeds fly through my mind and while I’m trying to think of an answer she has my cock out and is jacking me off.
Brunette slaps her hand hitting my cock too and she lets go.
I turn and put my cock back in my pants and leave and remind myself not to get too close to the animals.

I continue on to deliver packages and come back to the front desk to tell my story to the staff.

They tell me it’s no big deal.
One of the bellmen is upstairs fucking somebody he just met.
The maids are fucking each other in the maids’ closets and in the spare rooms and filming it, sometimes, for porn sites.
It’s amazing any of the rooms get cleaned. They get paid more for fucking than they do for cleaning the rooms.

I’m told that I really don’t know the half of it and to just fucking relax and keep my mouth shut and the show will go on.
I tell them OK.
They tell me the show has been going on for 10 years now.

Nothing makes sense but then the phone rings and somebody comes up to the desk.

I stand there and zone out in the restaurant entrance.
Some girls wave at me from the lobby; they’re dressed in hot pants and bikini tops. I realize it’s the girls from upstairs and they make a funny hand motion; my co-worker sees it and laughs. They go out to the pool.

The pool sparkles and bodies splash around. Somebody has an alligator floatie.
There is a topless woman in the shallow end with floaties and really big sunglasses on. Her drink is kind of floating too, in a weird way.
She holds it just under the water and will tell you it keeps her drink cold.

I get off work, go home and masturbate.

Story by Jack Appleford.


Short story from 101 Dirty Hot Hotel Stories by Jack Appleford.
The full book is available on Kindle or Kindle Application for Smartphones.

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