Devil Wind by Deborah Shlian and Linda Reid

by Derek Gunn

December, 1999. Ten days before the new millennium, Already on edge with Santa Ana “devil wind” fanning fires threatening to engulf the city and Y2K looming, Sammy’s callers imagine Armageddon- the perfect setting for a rogue CIA operative to manipulate fears as cover for his deadly plot.

Not having read ‘Dead Air’ I was unsure if it would hinder my enjoyment of ‘Devil Wind. I need not have worried. Although I will now have to read Dead Air, it is purely because I have come to really enjoy this trouble-attracting investigative reporter. Sammy Greene is smart, attractive and prone to attract the worst kind of attention. She has come to LA and in no time at all has many of its least desirable denizens trying to stop her. The authors skilfully reveal enough of the back story as the reader moves through the story to give you enough information on recurring characters.

The winds of the title play a huge part in this story. I have never been to LA during these winds but feel as though I have after reading this novel. The sense of impending danger with fires raging in the hills and the winds whipping through the city serve as an excellent counterpoint to the growing sense of foreboding in the novel. The atmosphere drips with authenticity and the characters jump off the page and grab your attention.

This is a story of power, wealth, greed and murder. A high priced call girl is murdered, a rogue CIA agent plots with terrorists, the world is on the edge of meltdown as Y2K approaches and Sammy Greene is caught up in another deadly investigation.

There are many moments in the story that I loved. I don’t want to give too much away so I will be vague. The fires in the hills burn a body so badly that the body is mistaken for Ana Pappajohn, daughter of Gus Pappajohn from the first novel. Later in the story Ana wakes in the park with the taste of ash in her throat surrounded by the very homeless people that our intrepid investigator, Sammy, was reporting on at the beginning of the novel. It’s these subtle touches that really brought this novel to life for me and pull all the threads together. There was nothing forced in the way Sammy falls into the investigation and each clue runs logically into the next.

Set during the last few days of 1999 the authors use the timing to craft a credible and frightening story around the oncoming Y2K bug that kept us all awake eleven years ago. There are frequent comments about Y2K drills, impending catastrophe and the like that were common place at the time.  It is easy to forget, but the turning of the Millennium was a turbulent time and the authors catch the mood perfectly and really bring home the realities of that time.

I was lucky enough to get both of the authors to take the time to answer a few questions;

I see both of you have experience in writing non-fiction individually but have you always written together for fiction or have you written anything else before the Sammy Green novels?

The Sammy Greene (with an e) novels represent our first collaboration. Deborah has written 4 previous novels- one romance by herself and three thrillers (“Double Illusion”, “Wednesday’s Child” and the Gold Medal, Florida Book award winning, “Rabbit in the Moon”) co-authored with her husband, Joel. Linda was a staff writer for the TV series “Family Medical Center” and has penned a Science Fiction novel titled “Where Angels Fear to Tread/Renegade Paladins” which won the 2010 Mensa Sharp Writ Book Award.

How have you found the transition from non-fiction to fiction?

Deborah spent most of the 25 years she practiced medicine writing nonfiction articles and books, so making the transition required learning how to write in a totally different style. But her experiences in medicine eased that transition by providing themes and ideas from which to draw. Linda has been an essayist for the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Woman’s Day, Salon, and other media, capturing and sharing the drama of true stories.  She and Deborah both believe that art imitates life, and that medicine allows us a glimpse of humanity without its masks.

Was it a conscious decision to set the books just before the Millennium or did that happen while writing? Devil Wind is particularly dependant on that timeline so were you plotting the second one as you were writing the first?

We’re plotting the fifth and sixth books now! We hope readers will travel with Sammy though her life’s journey. The timeline we’ve chosen allows us to season our thrills and suspense with perspective that comes from reflecting on the past and its impact on the present.

Once we developed the Sammy Greene character, we (or rather she) decided that she’d make a good protagonist for future adventures. Linda had been a radio and TV broadcaster during and after medical school and was very familiar with the arc of talk radio i.e. in the 1980’s and 1990’s talk radio was usually local and balanced across the political spectrum. Today we have nationally syndicated shows that tend to be very polarized politically. We wanted Sammy to represent the early pioneers of talk radio- especially women like Barbara Whitesides who we’d both listened to while driving to work in Los Angeles during those years. (Incidentally the real Barbara Whitesides is the voice for the Audiobook versions of “Dead Air” and “Devil Wind”). So “Dead Air” takes place in 1994. When we started plotting book #2, we decided that LA in 1999 just before Y2K would be a perfect setting and time for our story in which a more mature Sammy rides the wave of fear that swept our nation, trembling before the possibility of an impending technological apocalypse.

How do you write? Do you have a ritual, do you plan out every detail or do you see where the story leads?

Since this is a collaboration, it’s important to do more planning than either of us might do if we were writing alone. We try to develop a fairly detailed outline first and then take turns writing the first draft of particular scenes. We send chapters back and forth by email, edit them, polish them and make sure they are written in a common voice. If we hit a bump, we call each other to smooth it out. As we write, our characters begin to talk to us. For example, in “Devil Wind”. Actress Courtney Phillips “demanded” more of our attention and suddenly became a much more important part of the plot than we’d originally intended.

You have certainly escalated the setting for ‘Devil Wind’, from College Campus to LA. What thrills are you planning for poor Sammy next?

We have started writing book #3 in which Sammy flies to glamorous Greece to visit her old friend Gus Pappajohn. Needless to say, the two will team up again, this time to solve an ancient mystery.

If you were given one paragraph to convince people to buy your novel what would it say?

Los Angeles, City of Second Chances, is where Brooklyn-born Yiddish-spouting radio reporter Sammy Greene stumbles on the murder of a glamorous call girl among the glitterati of Hollywood.  Partnering with her former nemesis, retired Boston cop Gus Pappajohn, who believes the victim may be his estranged daughter, Sammy exposes the seamy underbelly of Tinseltown on the cusp of a global apocalypse as the searing devil wind turns the City of Angels into a fiery inferno. A non-stop thrill ride, action-packed page-turner, “Devil Wind” will blow you away.

In between work and writing do you have any time to read? Who do you enjoy most?

Deborah still works as a healthcare consultant, takes care of her 92 year old dad and does volunteer work, but remains an avid reader of both fiction and nonfiction. She reads just about every book by ITW members! Favorite “literary” authors include Margaret Atwood, Barbara Kingsolver and Pat Conroy.

Linda is the mother of three teens and a full-time physician administrator, so her little spare time is usually spent working on her next books.  However, she does try to read mysteries and thrillers, and is a fan of Joanne Dobson (Karen Pelletier mysteries), Gayle Lynds, Dennis Palumbo (Daniel Rinaldi mystery), and Kathy Reichs (Bones).

Do you have a website or blog where people can keep up to date with news etc?

Yes, Sammy has her own website where you can link to her blog and read reviews, excerpts and reading group questions. Deborah has her own website for all the books she has written including the Sammy Greene novels. She also has a newsletter and invites anyone interested to contact her her a free copy at shlianbooks@gmail.com

Linda has a website for her Zygan Emprise sci-fi/fantasies at

All of our Audiobooks can be downloaded as MP3 or purchased in CD format at SpokenWordInc.com

I really liked this novel and finished it in no time. The dialogue is tight, the characters come across as real and the threats are very credible. This looks like being a great series with the authors plotting books five and six already and the third book well on the way to be completed. With the authors being so busy I don’t know how they find the time to write but I’m glad they do. Personally I can’t wait to read about Sammy and Gus in Greece. There are a lot of books in this field but few of them come close to this series. I have already added it to my ‘must read’ list and will be first in the queue when the next one comes out.

Do yourself a favour and pick this one up. You won’t be disappointed.

Derek Gunn

Derek Gunn lives in Dublin, Ireland with his wife and three children and is the author of four novels. His post-apocalyptic thriller series, Vampire Apocalypse, has been widely praised on both sides of the Atlantic. Derek's first book is currently in active development as a major movie. Graphic novel rights to Derek's Vampire Apocalypse series have been picked up by a US indie publisher - the first graphic novel is due out in 2011.

Visit Derek at: www.derekgunn.com.

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