Up Close: Christopher Reich

Christopher Reich Returns to His Roots
with Crown Jewel

By Guy Bergstrom

Bestselling author Christopher Reich introduces a new hero in his ninth thriller CROWN JEWEL—Simon Riske, an ex-thief turned investigator with a taste for fast cars, high-end gambling, and trouble. The novel takes place in Europe, a place Reich knows well.

While traveling the globe for research on book #10, Reich took some time to answer a few questions from The Big Thrill.

CROWN JEWEL features high finance and Swiss bank accounts, bringing back memories of your debut, Numbered Account. Does it feel like coming home, especially since you lived in Switzerland and worked in finance?

I like to set my stories in areas I love visiting or would like to live. Monaco and St. Moritz, two of the sites in CROWN JEWEL, fit the bill. Having a Swiss father, I spent much of my childhood in Europe, and, of course, my first job was with the Union Bank of Switzerland in Zurich, the setting for my novel, Numbered Account. It’s natural for me to place my characters in these locales and fashion stories based on the people who live there.

As money is the root of all evil—and thus, often figures in my thrillers—it’s natural that Swiss bank accounts play a part.

What attracts you to thrillers and excites you about telling these stories—why not mysteries, fantasy, or another genre? What message do you think thrillers tell the world?

Why thrillers? I don’t think I could write anything but. While I love non-fiction, my life isn’t complete without a great thriller on my nightstand.

The Day of the Jackal, Jaws, and Papillon provided my formative reading experiences.

Funny story: One summer, I was sent to a tiny town in the center of France to learn French. On arrival, I was instructed to hand over anything I owned written in English. We’re talking total immersion. I did as I was told, except for one important item—my copy of The Bourne Identity, which I tucked into the back of my blue jeans. Nothing was going to tear me away from that book. Of course, I write thrillers!

As for a message, I’ll say this: It’s never easier to educate your reader about any subject than when you have him turning the pages pell-mell. These days the best example I can give is Dan Silva’s books. Great page-turners that deliver a walloping political message.

You’ve clearly traveled a lot and that shows in how you describe the settings. How did you research some of the other parts of the book: playing baccarat, racing high-end sports cars, spy craft, and the other feats and skills of your hero and villains?

Research is the best part of the job. The hard part comes the day you sit down at your desk to begin the writing and know you have six or nine months ahead of a brutal slog. When I began the Riske series, I spent a few weeks in London reacquainting myself with the lay of the land. I’d done research there for my Rules series.

This time I spent time with one of the city’s leading Ferrari restorers, Joe Macari. I have plenty of friends at Scotland Yard and always invite them for a pint. Stories flow as easily as the beer. For CROWN JEWEL, I reached out to contacts in the gaming industry.

As for knowing Monaco, it helped that I spent two summers in Cap D’Ail right next door. People love talking about themselves. If you want to learn about someone or something, just ask. And then listen.

Christopher Reich

How has the business of writing and publishing changed from when you wrote Numbered Account to now?

Documenting the changes in the publishing industry since I wrote Numbered Account would take up every last column inch of this month’s magazine. We all know the big ones: Fewer publishers. The decimation of the paperback market. Decline of newspaper advertising to spread the word. Increasing fragmentation.

But the bottom line is the same: Write a good book and readers will follow. “If you build it, they will come.” But build it really, really good.

Clearly, Simon Riske is inspired by classic heroes like Bond and Reacher. Where do you get inspiration for your villains, and what makes them special and different?

The secret of a great thriller is a great villain. (Funny that I forget that sometimes.) Iago. Moriarty. Szell. Pennywise. Voldemort. Lecter. Case closed. I like to base my villains on real people. This prevents me from becoming cartoon-ish or just plain ridiculous.

The primary villain in CROWN JEWEL is based on a Serbian war criminal named Arkan, who later became a mafia boss and was gunned down in the late ’90s. Arkan was on the news a lot when I lived in Switzerland. I never forgot him. He was one bad-ass dude. I didn’t have to stray much from reality to nail his character.

What’s something about you, or your books, that nobody knows?

I am probably the most inefficient writer on the planet. I write longhand on legal pads, then type in my daily quota on MS Word. The problem is that my penmanship is awful, and that I tend to re-write even as I’m transcribing my work. The result is a slow-moving train wreck.

I can dash off six pages in two hours, then require five hours to type them in. Help! Oh…I also have the ability to read people’s minds. Also, invisibility. That count?

Do you plan on more books featuring Simon Riske and his world?

I hope I’m just beginning. I’m already deep into book three, The Matterhorn Memorandum. Interestingly, it starts in the Far East. At some point, Simon takes a left turn and ends up in Switzerland…or Pismo Beach. Not sure yet.

 

Guy Bergstrom

Guy Bergstrom is a speechwriter and award-winning journalist. He wrote a thriller (FREEDOM, ALASKA) that won an award at PNWA 2013 and can be found on twitter @speechwriterguy or at his blog, redpenofdoom.com.

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