eBook Price Promotion: The Prisoner’s Dilemma – Sean Stuart O’Connor

May 15th, 2013 | By | Category: Book News

eBook: 978-1-78099-626-4 | $0.99  |  £0.99 for ONE week only from 15/05/13 - 22/05/13 on all supported platforms

What a great first novel...a real pleasure to readWilliam Boyd


Over 20 positive customer reviews on Amazon alone!

978-1-78099-741-4 (Hardcover) £12.99 $22.95

978-1-78099-740-7 (eBook) £6.99 $9.99 (normal eBook price will resume after promotion period)


A claustrophobic and fast-moving game of cat and mouse, as three ruthless men and one woman drive relentlessly towards their destinies.


The far north coast of Scotland. Spring 1745.
It begins with a murder. But is it a murder when someone is forced to kill his brother, so that he might save his own life?
The guilty man is a nobody, a poor fisherman. The person who arrogantly and unthinkingly makes him commit this terrible act, simply to see how he behaved, is the richest man in Scotland, one of Europe’s leading astronomers, a great aristocrat and clan chief – the Earl of Dunbeath.
How this opening scene unfolds leads Dunbeath to invent his ‘game of life’ – the Prisoner’s Dilemma. He invites his old friend, David Hume, to Caithness to play the new game with him to ‘…prove to you mathematically and empirically the interaction of good and ill, of co-operation and selfishness.’
But into their planned discussions blow two survivors from a shipwreck who will turn their thoughts and their lives upside down - the beautiful and brilliant Sophie Kant and the calm, charismatic captain, Alexis Zweig.
What follows, as the greatest political, scientific and philosophical questions of the age sluice wildly through their tiny speck on the map, is a claustrophobic and fast moving game of cat and mouse as the characters drive relentlessly towards their destinies in life and death, love and betrayal and the passion they each have to achieve their different ambitions.
As the pace of the narrative quickens the scene is set for the final astonishing and unexpected outcome.
Under the game playing, the deceits and feints, the science and the philosophy, is a simple tale of three utterly determined and ruthless men struggling to the death to succeed in the race for an extraordinary woman.
Which of them will win? How? And why?


‘Come and play my game of life with me! I call it The Prisoner’s Dilemma.’


Sean Stuart O’Connor spent over twenty years as an advertising executive before becoming an entrepreneur, investor, corporate advisor and packager of private equity projects.
He has been the chairman of four public companies and a number of private ones, the founder of several successful businesses and a director of a wide range of these and other companies.
The Prisoner’s Dilemma is his first novel.



There was a second’s pause before Dunbeath took a step towards him and put his pistol to the boy’s head. He ground it into James’s temple as he hissed at him in a low, urgent whisper.

‘Do it. Or die here now. You’ve broken into my home. Who would ever say I was wrong to shoot you?’

James realised he had no choice if he was to survive. He moved mechanically over to the wall and put his foot on the lower of the stones. Then, with heart-sinking desperation, he levered himself up onto the surface of the higher level, first on his knees and then, with manic concentration, onto his feet. As he did so he had to lean outwards and he saw with sick terror the horrible sight of the drop to the sea below. He slowly straightened upright, every part of him concentrating on stopping his legs from shaking. Blood pounded in his temples, his senses scattered, his head spun.

‘Turn to face me,’ Dunbeath ordered.

Even in his shattered state James knew that the slightest wrong move would send him over the edge. He shuffled to one side, his knees bent and his feet making tiny movements to bring himself round. Terror was quickly overtaking him and as his mind solidified, so his limbs softened. Eventually, he succeeded in turning round.

‘Now you,’ snapped out Dunbeath, swinging the pistol to point at Alistair.

The younger man could take no more. He’d seen James’s terrible climb and there was nothing left in him that could make him follow his brother’s lead. He began to whimper, now deaf to Dunbeath’s voice.

‘Wait here,’ said Dunbeath sharply, and stepped backwards into the observatory with his pistol still raised. Without ever
taking his eyes from them he felt for the back of a chair and then dragged it outside behind him.

‘Here. Climb up on that. Get on this stone here.’


Like James, Alistair could see no way out. Shaking violently, he stood on the chair and, by holding its back rail, he edged a foot forward onto the battlement’s surface. Then he closed his eyes and lifted his other leg. He was now facing out to sea and he gibbered to himself as he slowly inched round to face Dunbeath. The earl seemed to inspect his work and then barked out his next command.

‘Now, each of you, take the other man’s hand. Go on. Both of you do it. Get hold of his hand!’

James and Alistair lifted their arms towards each other and linked hands. As they did so, Dunbeath pulled the chair back and threw it to one side. A hundred feet below them the surf roared ever louder with the pull of the incoming tide but, in their terror, the brothers heard nothing – they knew only that the slightest movement from either of them and they would fall.

‘I’m going to give you some choices’ said Dunbeath dispassionately.

He had suddenly become a man of science, explaining an experiment.

‘Listen carefully. You know I have only one ball in my pistol. If you both jump at me I could only shoot one of you. I might even miss. No doubt if I did you’d overpower me and throw me over that wall you’re standing on. But if you don’t want to try that then you can simply ask to get down and I’ll take you to the sheriff in the morning. I see from your empty sack that you’ve taken nothing so you’ll probably only get a light sentence, just for breaking into my property. Possibly a short spell in jail.

‘But, concentrate now…’ Dunbeath’s voice rose in emphasis, ‘…if one of you steps down and pulls the other one off the stone, and he falls, then you have my word, that man can go free.’

He took a step back from them and his lips tightened into a satisfied smile.

James and Alistair began to plead, first with Dunbeath and then with each other.

‘Ask to get down Jamie… give ourselves up,’ stammered Alistair, his body shaking in the wicked cold of the wind.

‘No, you fool,’ said James urgently, ‘jump at him! Come on, let’s jump at him. We can do it together.’

Dunbeath seemed completely oblivious to their argument and continued to stand quite still, pointing his gun in silence. Long seconds passed as he waited patiently. For all the world, he seemed no more than a gentleman scientist, fascinated to see the result of chemical reaction.

As the cold black of the pistol’s muzzle pointed at first one and then the other of the brothers, their heads pulled back in horror. Too terrified to be aware of what he was doing, Alistair lost control of himself and leaked noisily onto the stone of the wall.

Possibly prompted by this, Dunbeath’s manner changed in an instant. His features hardened and his temper flared.

‘Choose!’ he now shouted at them angrily, ‘what will you have? Choose!’

The earl had passed from cool control to manic fury in just a few seconds and he now began to step rapidly from foot to foot as if scarcely able to contain himself.

‘Come on! What’s it to be, gentlemen? Life or death?’ He was screaming now, the rage that had flashed up in him almost as mind shattering to the brothers as the prospect of the sea below.

James looked across at Alistair. He was about to urge him forward again when he noticed for the first time his brother’s sodden clothing and the moonlight glinting on the puddle he’d made in front of him. It was then, at this sight, that something gave in his deranged terror. In a second his fear went out of him and, instead, an extraordinary calmness came over him.

James was quite cold now as he looked again at Alistair’s desperate, twisted face. He saw his brother’s stretched skin and starting eyes, wasting his time pleading for his life with this halfcrazed man. As he looked at him, James felt as if he had left his body and was floating gently above where they stood, looking coolly down on the whole insane conflict. It all seemed so suddenly clear to him – how he had always led the way with Alistair, forever caring for him and fighting his battles. He felt as if he’d been carrying him all his life. Now he’d pissed himself. What a pathetic weakling he was. Well, he’d give him one last chance to be a man. He would pull his arm to make him attack Dunbeath. And if he fell? Then he should have fought harder. Shown more spirit! How typical it would be of him if he fell over the edge.

If Ally jumped forward when he pulled him, James thought, then they might have a chance with Dunbeath. But if the boy went over the edge? So, he’d go free himself. It was absolutely obvious to him now. Either outcome suited him, the best thing he could do was pull.

James looked away and then jerked his arm, wrenching Alistair towards him. As he did so he leapt forward from the battlement.

But Lord Dunbeath was ready for this and stepped quickly backwards, the pistol still outstretched. Like James, his eyes were on Alistair. Both of them now watched, fascinated as, in a moment of sudden quiet, the boy’s face crumpled in incomprehension and his fragile balance was lost forever on the slick stone of the battlement. There was a slight scrape as his legs went from under him and then he fell heavily, bringing down an arm on the block that James had just stepped off. The two men heard the hideous slap as Alistair’s hand struck and then slid off the wet surface. There was no cry at first and the boy only gave a small grunt of surprise. But then, as he fell, twisting, down towards the sea far below, he let out a long and despairing scream.

There was a deep, black silence. Too stunned to react for a few seconds, James simply remained unmoved, frozen in mute shock. Then he flung himself at the battlements and stared down into the dark roar of the sea.

‘Alistair! he screamed. ‘Ally!’ He shouted again and again, his voice becoming weaker with each cry. At last, with an agonised sob, he fell to the tower’s floor, his head in his hands, whimpering in his utter self-loathing.


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