In SHADOW KNIGHT’S MATE, Jay Brandon offers a tightly structured and thematically layered conspiracy thriller that pulls out all the stops. Jack Driscoll is a member of The Circle, a covert organization ostensibly protecting US interests for two centuries. When the organization is attacked by an unknown antagonist, what appear to be doubles of Jack are sighted in Europe. While he tries to combat the subversions occurring around him he meets Arden, a girl whose motivations remain as shadowy as the narrative.
Tell us about SHADOW KNIGHT’S MATE.
In the book, Jack Driscoll is a young member of a very secretive, loosely organized group known as The Circle, which has operated behind the scenes for generations, protecting American interests. They work through subtlety and suggestion. As Jack says, “None of our members has held elected office in more than two hundred years. Not even a local school board. Actually, two of our members were First Ladies of the United States, but not the two you would think. Very few of us were CEOs, either. More commonly we were the assistant to the Human Resources Director. These were the people to whom presidents and CEOs turn in times of crisis. Mycroft Holmes, not Sherlock.”
But in SHADOW, they seem to have been discovered, as several of their members are attacked at the same time America is. And someone is targeting Jack directly, with impersonators of him appearing around Europe. Jack goes to Europe to investigate, taking with him (against his will) Arden, the youngest and most accomplished member of The Circle. Even in this group of geniuses and world-class networkers, she scares people with her abilities to read people and make connections. And Jack isn’t sure of her intentions.
To what extent does conspiracy feature in your writing?
Most of my novels have been legal thrillers, starting with the Edgar-nominated Fade the Heat. So there have been conspiracies in those novels—a suspense novel needs conspirators—but they’ve been on a smaller scale. In SHADOW the conspiracy is global, reaching everywhere. Trying to uncover the conspiracy is like a chess match for Jack (hence the title), getting to know the opponent’s mind while trying to uncover him. Suspense novels lend themselves to conspiracy theories. They’re fun, frankly, when they’re fictional.
Do you think we live in an age of surveillance and how has this impacted on our liberties?
The fact that we are all under scrutiny all the time is turning into the central feature of the twenty-first century. Our emails, credit card usage, phone calls, even our movements through the physical world are all subject to scrutiny, not only by our government but by hackers and crooks of every stripe. When our government can target very precisely individuals for drone strikes, the level of suspense in daily life has been heightened enormously. But it’s more subtle and scarier than that. If a powerful foe targets someone, he or she can learn almost anything about that person. It’s very frightening—but good for suspense writers.
What else is on the cards for you this year?
I recently appeared at the Texas Book Festival, one of the largest in the country, and always a great experience for a writer. There’s another round of signings and radio interviews in the next month or so. As a writer, I’m writing a prequel to SHADOW KNIGHT’S MATE and making notes for a sequel. I love these characters—Jack, his best friend Rachel Green, Arden—and I’m curious about what they’re going to do next.
Jay Brandon is the author of 17 novels. His latest, SHADOW KNIGHT’S MATE, was published in October of 2014. Bestselling author Sharyn McCrumb calls it “a wonderful novel,” and adds, “Jay Brandon does for politics what Dan Brown did for religion.” Jay is also an attorney, now with the Bexar County (San Antonio TX) District Attorney’s office after years in private practice. Because of this background, many of his novels are legal thrillers. One reviewer, in fact, said that he invented the legal thriller. He holds a Master’s degree from The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, where he studied with John Barth.
His novels include Deadbolt (Editor’s Choice Award, Booklist), Fade the Heat (Edgar award nominee, published in more than a dozen foreign countries, Loose Among the Lambs(Literary Guild Dual Main Selection), and Local Rules (Reader’s Digest Condensed Books), as well as the Chris Sinclair series of legal thrillers. Jay has written many short stories as well, including “A Jury of His Peers,” reprinted in THE BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2010.
To learn more about jay, please visit his website.