Born into the wealthy Simpson family, free-spirited Willow is determined to make her own way in life. Cooking is her one true love, and she is content to keep it that way. Romance has never been on her agenda, but she suddenly finds herself in the middle of a deliciously decadent love triangle. With two gorgeous men vying for her attention, she vows to keep her distance from both, but the tantalizing chemistry is hard to ignore.
Unfortunately, it seems that someone wants to get rid of Willow, making her already tricky situation that much more difficult. One crazy night changes everything, and Willow’s life is turned upside down. Between thwarting her own murder plot, keeping her divinely tasty admirers at bay, and trying to stay on the good side of her finicky cat, Omelet, Willow’s plate is full. With far too many cooks in the kitchen, will she be able to stay alive long enough to figure out who wants to kill her?
Author Heidi Renee Mason spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel, LOVE AT FIRST CREPE:
Raised by a family of survivalists, FBI agent Mercy Kilpatrick can take on any challenge—even the hostile reception to her homecoming. But she’s not the only one causing chaos in the rural community of Eagle’s Nest, Oregon. At first believed to be teenage pranks, a series of fires takes a deadly turn with the murder of two sheriff’s deputies. Now, along with Police Chief Truman Daly, Mercy is on the hunt for an arsonist turned killer.
Still shunned by her family and members of the community, Mercy must keep her ear close to the ground to pick up any leads. And it’s not long before she hears rumors of the area’s growing antigovernment militia movement. If the arsonist is among their ranks, Mercy is determined to smoke the culprit out. But when her investigation uncovers a shocking secret, will this hunt for a madman turn into her own trial by fire?
Award-winning author Kendra Elliot took time out of her busy schedule to discuss her latest release, A MERCIFUL TRUTH, with The Big Thrill:
When a top-secret weapon goes missing on Colonel Maggie Black’s watch, her honor and her career are on the line. There were airmen who said the Air Force’s best female combat pilot would never be the same after losing her arm in Iraq, but state-of-the-art prosthetics have made Maggie better than new, and she’s not about to lose what she battled so hard to regain.
But finding her experimental missile won’t be easy—thanks to the revenge-fueled ambitions of Asdrubal Torres, whose hallucinatory encounter with the Great Spirit challenges him to refill Lake Cahuilla, the ancient inland sea that once covered much of southern California. To fulfill his blessed mission, Torres needs wizardry and weaponry, and the Great Spirit provides both: Magic, in the form of a celebrated shaman’s basket returned to the tribal museum by San Diego reporter Jordan Scott; Might, in the form of Maggie Black’s top-secret weapon that falls from the sky.
From that moment, it’s a race against time for Maggie and Jordan, who together must stop Torres from destroying Hoover Dam—and turning the Colorado River into a tsunami that would kill hundreds of thousands and wipe out the Southwest’s water supply. In the final showdown, it’s Maggie who must disarm the stolen missile’s trigger—one-handed or not—and save the day.
Author by Jack Getze took time out of his busy schedule to discuss his latest release, THE BLACK KACHINA, with The Big Thrill:
Rachel Carver blames herself for the death of an innocent woman in her last case as a special agent for the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. Unable to accept her superior’s attempts to cover up the incident, she turned in her badge. But when a former partner asks her to consult on a new murder case, she reluctantly agrees, traveling to a small mountain community, where she’s tasked with leading a group of detectives on a hunt for the killer. What seems to be the act of a loner proves to be much more as Rachel’s team comes under attack—and a detective is killed in the fallout. Rachel’s old employers at the SBI step in to take over the investigation, but Rachel, convinced they are on the wrong track, continues to work the case alone. As she delves into the town’s past, she discovers a secret history that connects the victims—one that makes her the target of a man who would kill to keep it a secret.
J. R. Backlund, author of AMONG THE DEAD, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his debut novel:
It’s the year 2147. Advancements in nanotechnology have enabled us to control aging. We’ve genetically engineered mosquitoes to feast on carbon fumes instead of blood, ending air pollution. And teleportation has become the ideal mode of transportation, offered exclusively by International Transport—a secretive firm headquartered in New York City. Their slogan: Departure… Arrival… Delight!
Joel Byram, our smartass protagonist, is an everyday twenty-fifth century guy. He spends his days training artificial-intelligence engines to act more human, jamming out to 1980’s new wave—an extremely obscure genre, and trying to salvage his deteriorating marriage. Joel is pretty much an everyday guy with everyday problems—until he’s accidentally duplicated while teleporting.
Now Joel must outsmart the shadowy organization that controls teleportation, outrun the religious sect out to destroy it, and find a way to get back to the woman he loves in a world that now has two of him.
Author Tal M. Klein recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss his debut novel, THE PUNCH ESCROW:
CAROLINA CRIMES: 21 TALES OF NEED, GREED AND DIRTY DEEDS is a collection of short stories by crime writers living in North and South Carolina, members of Sisters in Crime. The Triangle (Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh, NC) Chapter of SinC issued the challenge to members to write stories about addiction or obsession and crime. Who knew that the responses would be so varied or that ice cream, a game of Solitaire, or silk fabric could provide motives to commit murder? Or that golf clubs, stiletto-heeled shoes, and microwave ovens could provide the means?
These stories remind us why we love crime fiction, and why it matters. They provide us with the cold revenge of imagination, the hot passion someone could kill for, and the sense of justice a community demands. They remind us we never know exactly what our next-door neighbor may be capable of, or for that matter, what we, ourselves, harbor in the deepest corners of our hearts and minds. The humor is dark. The suspense is shudder-producing. The horror delivers goosebumps. And by the time we turn the last satisfying page, we know more about what it means to be human.
Suspended for negotiating with an armed lunatic, rookie cop Marti Coldwater is feeling lost and unappreciated. But her day is about to get a whole lot worse when her car is run off the road by a strange, falling military craft and she rescues the lone passenger—a young British amnesiac who thinks it’s 1944.
Soon, she and her newfound companion are relentlessly pursued by murderous men in suits and a sinister Nordic assassin with a singular mission—capture the stranger and kill anyone who’s seen him.
When she uncovers a plot threatening the entire planet, Marti is thrown into a world of highly classified government programs and astonishing alien secrets. Now, her only hope of saving the world is to try to recover the memories of a man who may be the most dangerous of all—the man who calls himself Atticus.
Author J. B. Manus spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel, ATTICUS:
But after a full-scale bloodbath of a firefight at the Dartford Crossing, they realize that they haven’t got any average prisoner on their hands. This one knows something, and that something has the CIA after them. And worse…
Riz and Holly will have to ditch all their hi-tech gear and use their survival smarts to evade their hunters, as the road trip turns into an epic pursuit across the landscape of southern England, using half-remembered stay behind networks from the Cold War and further back still… and as they dig themselves in and out of trouble on the way to a final showdown in a sleepy market town, they realize that the man they’re escorting may also figure in their history, too…
The Big Thrill had the pleasure of interviewing author Charlie Flowers about his latest novel, THE BOLDEST MEASURES:
Hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste: Our impressions of the world are formed by our five senses, and so too are our fears, our imaginations, and our captivation in reading fiction stories that embrace these senses.
Enclosed within this anthology are fifteen horror and dark fantasy tales that will quicken the beat of fear, sweeten the flavor of wonder, sharpen the spike of thrills, and otherwise brighten the marvel of storytelling that is found resonant.
Editor Eric J. Guignard and psychologist K. H. Vaughan, PhD, also include companion discourse throughout, offering academic and literary insight as well as psychological commentary examining the physiology of our senses, why each of our senses are engaged by dark fiction stories, and how it all inspires writers to continually churn out ideas in uncommon and invigorating ways.
Featuring stunning interior illustrations by Nils Bross, and including fiction short stories by authors such as Ramsey Campbell, Richard Christian Matheson, and John Farris, THE FIVE SENSES OF HORROR is intended for readers, writers, and students alike.
The Big Thrill had the opportunity to discuss THE FIVE SENSES OF HORROR with the anthology’s editor, Eric J. Guignard:
For over four decades, Steve Rasnic Tem has been an acclaimed author of horror, weird, and sentimental fiction. Hailed by Publishers Weekly as “A perfect balance between the bizarre and the straight-forward” and Library Journal as “One of the most distinctive voices in imaginative literature,” Steve Rasnic Tem has been read and cherished the world over for his affecting, genre-crossing tales.
Dark Moon Books and editor Eric J. Guignard bring you this introduction to his work, the first in a series of primers exploring modern masters of literary dark short fiction. Herein is a chance to discover—or learn more of—the rich voice of Steve Rasnic Tem, as beautifully illustrated by artist Michelle Prebich.
Included within these pages are:
– Six short stories, one written exclusively for this book
– Author interview
– Complete bibliography
– Academic commentary by Michael Arnzen, PhD (former humanities chair and professor of the year, Seton Hill University)
– … and more!
After 11 novels featuring private eye Nick Polo—the latest being POLO’S LONGSHOT—and 22 books overall, you might think Jerry Kennealy has this author thing licked. He’d be the first to tell you otherwise.
“I’ll never get it licked, but this was a fun book to write: expensive wine, glider crashes, and interesting characters,” Kennealy said. “And, as in all of my books, it never would have been written without the help of my Shirley, my beautiful wife and in-house editor. She’s a very detail-minded person. I’m not. So, I ramble along and she will come up with some interesting findings, like, ‘Jer. The character Polo is talking to on page 223, died on page 110.’ Oops.”
This time around, Polo is enlisted by billionaire Paul Bernier to find a kukri, a priceless golden jewel-encrusted 14th century dagger, designed by the Emperor of India. The dagger has a long, bloody history, passing between warlords throughout the ages, including Saddam Hussain. The search has Polo bumping heads with Bernier’s vindictive stepdaughter, his eccentric household staff, a Miami con man, a crooked private investigator, a drug dealing nightclub owner, a New York Mafia Don, and two vicious murderers.
What is it about Nick that keeps drawing you back to him?
I like the character. Polo is tough and savvy, but he’s also compassionate, and has a bit of a laidback, live-and-let-live attitude, something that I find is all too rare today.
By Rick Reed
In J.D. Trafford’s LITTLE BOY LOST, his fourth legal thriller, Attorney Justin Glass’s practice is housed in a shabby office on the north side of Saint Louis. He isn’t doing so well that he can afford to work for free. But when eight-year-old Tanisha Walker offers him a jar full of change to find her missing brother, he doesn’t have the heart to turn her away.
In his search, Glass confronts issues of race, power, and poverty in a city coming apart. As simmering racial tensions explode into violence, Justin finds himself caught in the tide. He gives voice to the discontent plaguing the city’s forgotten and ignored, and vows to search for the killer who preys upon them. LITTLE BOY LOST tells the story of what happens when troubled boys go missing and nobody, including the police, bothers to look.
Award-winning author J.D. Trafford, described as “a writer of merit” by Mystery Scene magazine, has topped numerous Amazon bestseller lists, including reaching #1 in the Legal Thrillers category. IndieReader selected his debut novel, No Time to Run, as a bestselling pick. Trafford graduated with honors from a top-twenty law school, and he has worked as a civil and criminal prosecutor, as an associate at a large national law firm, and as a nonprofit attorney. He’s handled issues of housing, education, and poverty in communities of color. Prior to law school, he worked in Washington, DC, and lived in Saint Louis, Missouri. He now lives with his wife and children in the Midwest, and he bikes whenever possible.
LITTLE BOY LOST received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, and is now available for pre-order, and due to be released August 1, 2017.
In his new release, BAD APPLE, author Barry Ozeroff skillfully combines action, suspense, and complex characters to create a tightly-written, fast-paced police thriller—with a thought-provoking twist. The talented author of four published novels, Ozeroff recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss his latest release, his own exciting career in law enforcement, and his advice for aspiring crime authors.
Congratulations on the recent release of BAD APPLE. No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
There are really two stories being told in BAD APPLE: the current story of DJ Appleby’s fall from grace and flight from justice, and the heartbreaking backstory of his childhood, which explains exactly why he is the way he is. I intentionally blurred the lines between good guy and bad guy in order to create either a bad guy you hate to love, or a good guy you love to hate, depending on your point of view.
Eyes are everywhere. Multi-millionaire, high-tech icon, Michael Romanov demands total compliance with this mantra from his three model children and his unstable wife. When he discovers her flirting over coffee in a very public place with an obvious loser, he makes certain a see-all, tell-all witness never breathes a word.
After living fifteen years with a sociopath, AnnaSophia Romanov knows exactly what her abusive husband is capable of. When he comes under suspicion of murder, she struggles to save her children, her ailing father, and herself.
THE DISPENSABLE WIFE author, A B Plum, recently discussed her latest with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
A realization that dysfunctional families come in all guises and socio-economic levels.
FATAL FORGERIES is the fourth installment in the Bodies of Art mystery series by USA Today bestselling author Ritter Ames.
In this new release, art recovery expert Laurel Beacham steals stolen art and returns it to the rightful owners—and Ames wastes no time getting into the ation. The first scene is an anxiety fueled mash-up complete with a sexy blonde (Laurel), Lycra cat suit, dimly lit quarter moon night, crossbow, five-hundred-year-old-golden-stone balustrade, night-vision goggles, rappelling, a single isolated gun shot, human security patrols, and dangerous security dogs.
FATAL FORGERIES is about art recovery—but it’s about much more than risking your life to return stolen property. It’s about the challenges and joys of being a team member. It’s also about the anxiety of being a team leader in a world where there is never enough accurate intel and where no good theft goes unpunished. The tension ratchets up when Laurel’s personal and professional worlds collide. Her overtaxed team is divided, but must set aside their differences and perform at peak capacity—or they could become the next fatalities.
Thanks to The Big Thrill, I had the opportunity to ask Ames questions I’m sure both writers and readers will find enlightening.
Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple: an attorney and a therapist. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.
The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact.
Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples. And then one of them breaks the rules. The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life.
THE MARRIAGE PACT author, Michelle Richmond, spent some time discussing her novel with The Big Thrill:
Award-winning author, Pamela Crane, juggles four kids, a book-editing career, rescuing horses, and a writing addiction. With that chaotic combination, she lives and writes on the edge. Her latest novel, THE ART OF FEAR, has been termed, “An intricate literary thriller that will twist your brain and leave you breathless.”
Ari Wilburn’s life ended long ago—the day she let her little sister die in a tragic accident. Crippled with self-blame and resented by her parents, Ari stumbles through life…and into an unlikely clue that casts doubt on whether the death was accidental. A psychological wreck, Ari joins a suicide support group where she meets Tina, a woman who escaped from the sex-trade—and has her own inner demons. Suspecting foul play in her father’s death, Tina drags Ari into a dangerous game with the killer. Faced with a murderous wake-up call, and desperate to salve her conscience, Ari’s investigation fuels the killer’s desire to see her dead.
THE ART OF FEAR delves deeply into the psyche of the characters. I caught up with Ms. Crane and dug for the motivation behind her compulsion to dissect the characters and bring them—especially her villains—to life. “I grew up a wallflower,” Crane says. “A shy girl who spent more time people watching than talking.” In observing others, she became fascinated with what makes people choose certain behaviors. “What makes people from similar backgrounds grow up with such severe differences in how they think? A child predator, for example. While the rest of the world groans and grimaces at what he finds appealing, somewhere along the line his urges became ‘normal’ for him. It’s those types of psychological influences that intrigue me, because behind every villain is a human.”
When an old acquaintance of Van Shaw’s late grandfather—a terminally ill ex-con—shows up in Seattle, he offers the broke veteran a money-making opportunity that sounds like a thief’s dream: an easy fortune in gold, abandoned and nearly forgotten after its original owner died. The grandson of a career thief who taught him all the tricks of his trade, Van knows that nothing is ever quite as easy as it seems. The safe holding the fortune turns out to be a trap—deadly bait set by a malevolent player armed with tremendous resources, an army of hunters, and a lifetime of hatred. For Van, every day above ground is a good day, and all the better if he can stay on the right side of the law, even though crime is his gift . . . and in his blood.
Glen Erik Hamilton discussed his latest thriller, EVERY DAY ABOVE GROUND, with The Big Thrill:
Rob Ramer was the perfect husband until he committed the ultimate family faux pas—he shot his sister-in-law to death. Believing himself under attack by an intruder in his home, he fired back. However, when e-mails are discovered between Rob’s wife, Brooke, and her sister plotting his murder, Brooke is charged with conspiracy and manslaughter in her sister’s death.
Geneva, a third sister, seeks the help of San Francisco astrologer, Julia Bonatti. Geneva has never believed in astrology, but she’s desperate for answers. She’s lost one sister and now it seems she’ll lose the other. Was this a murder plot or just a terrible accident? Is there more to this family than meets the eye? Julia vows to find the answesr in the stars.
Connie Di Marco recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest mystery, ALL SIGNS POINT TO MURDER:
Michael Skellig is a limo driver waiting for his client in the alley behind an upscale hotel. He’s spent the past twenty-eight hours ferrying around Bismarck Avila, a celebrity skateboard mogul who isn’t going home any time soon. Suddenly the wind begins to speak to Skellig in the guttural accent of the Chechen torturer he shot through the eye in Yemen a decade ago: Troubletroubletrouble. Skellig has heard these warnings before—he’s an Army Special Forces sergeant whose limo company is staffed by a ragtag band of wounded veterans, including his Afghan interpreter—and he knows to listen carefully.
Skellig runs inside just in time to save Avila from two gunmen but too late for one of Avila’s bodyguards—and wakes up hours later in the hospital, the only person of interest in custody for the murder. As for Avila? He’s willing to help clear Skellig’s name under one peculiar condition: that Skellig become Avila’s personal chauffeur. A cushy gig for any driver, except for the fact that someone is clearly trying to kill Avila, and Skellig is literally the only person sitting between Avila and a bullet to the head.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Hart Hanson to discuss his new release, THE DRIVER:
After being laid off from his job as a newspaper reporter in a coastal Florida town, Dexter Vega meets a wealthy retiree who hires him to find his daughter who is supposed to be attending the local college. When Vega visits his client to inform him that his daughter is in Mexico, he discovers the man has been murdered. And Vega’s prints are all over the murder weapon.
As the police build a case against him, Vega flies to Mexico City to locate his client’s daughter, hoping she will help him find the murderer and thus clear his name. But when he finds the woman, she tells him a very different story—nothing is as it seems.
Beaten by thugs and ordered to leave Mexico, Vega returns home to find himself immersed in a web of blackmail, greed, and revenge.
The Big Thrill had the opportunity to discuss THE LAST GIRL with author, Danny Lopez, and here’s what we learned:
Ben McKelvie had a good job, a nice house, a beautiful fiancée . . . until a bloodthirsty shapeshifter took everything away. Ever since, he’s been chasing supernatural phenomena all across the country, aided by dedicated zoologist Lindsay Clark, and wealthy cryptozoologist Richard Severance.
Now they face their deadliest challenge yet. In the New Jersey Pine Barrens, a man named Henry Drexler operates a private compound called Välkommen, which is Swedish for “welcome.” Indeed, Drexler welcomes all visitors—so long as they’re racists, neo-Nazis, or otherwise in cahoots with the alt-right. But Drexler is no mere Hitler wannabe. Once he was Severance’s mentor, and his research may well have summoned a monster to the Pine Barrens.
To find out the truth, Ben and Lindsay must enter the camp incognito. There, under the watchful eyes of Drexler’s bodyguards and sociopathic son, they will learn that the most dangerous beasts lurk in the human heart.
Author Bill Schweigart took time out of his busy schedule to discuss THE DEVIL’S COLONY with The Big Thrill:
A hitman is loose on the idyllic islands. A killer for hire who has FBI agent, Billie Jean Martinez in his sights. Billie just happens to be the lover of Stevie, Harry Beck’s business partner. Trouble is at Harry’s door, again.
Harry has his own problems. When Billie and Stevie, and then his wife Katy, go missing, Harry has no choice but to join the chase to find them, and hope he gets to them before the hired gun. Most of all, they have to stay alive.
Author Maynard Sims recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel, CALLING DOWN THE LIGHTNING:
Dr. Persephone Smith is a psychologist with a genetic gift. Her enhanced empathy allows her to feel on a primal level the emotions of others, which helps with her job as a counselor for the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. But Seph’s gift comes with a price. Plagued by nightmares and insecure in her work, she absorbs the suffering of her patients by day and swills tequila by night.
When Seph is deployed to an abandoned air hangar turned medical shelter during a massive hurricane, her worst nightmares come true. One by one, as the wind howls overhead, staff and evacuees disappear into the dark recesses of the vast space. The missing return as mutilated corpses. The living, trapped in the shrieking metal structure by the storm, descend into varying levels of paranoia and even madness. Seph must become both counselor and detective to determine who, or what, is calling them prey. Is the panic and mayhem just “shelter shock,” as the lead physician, Anne Parrish, insists? Or is everyone, Seph included, in danger of losing their minds—and their lives?
J. L. Delozier spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, STORM SHELTER:
When an earthquake devastates San Francisco in an alternate 1906, the influx of geomantic energy nearly consumes Ingrid Carmichael. Bruised but alive, the young geomancer flees the city with her friends, Cy, Lee, and Fenris. She is desperate to escape Ambassador Blum, the cunning and dangerous bureaucrat who wants to use Ingrid’s formidable powers to help the Unified Pacific—the confederation of the United States and Japan—achieve world domination. To stop them, Ingrid must learn more about the god-like magic she inherited from her estranged father—the man who set off the quake that obliterated San Francisco.
When Lee and Fenris are kidnapped in Portland, Ingrid and Cy are forced to ally themselves with another ambassador from the Unified Pacific: the powerful and mysterious Theodore Roosevelt. But even TR’s influence may not be enough to save them when they reach Seattle, where the magnificent peak of Mount Rainier looms. Discovering more about herself and her abilities, Ingrid is all too aware that she may prove to be the fuse to light the long-dormant volcano . . . and a war that will sweep the world.
Author Beth Cato spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel, CALL OF FIRE:
Eight years ago, Kathy Kely’s husband and two children were killed in a plane crash. She has struggled to rebuild her life, but then wreckage of his plane is found in the wilderness of Great Smoky Mountain National Park—hundreds of miles from where it should have been. Evidence suggests that her family survived, but there is no sign of her husband, Jack or the children. Where have they been all this time? Why did they disappear?
As Kathy searches for any clue, the FBI investigation uncovers some unsettling evidence—and she soon learns that others have been looking for the wreckage and its occupants for a long time. Others who are determined to make sure she never finds her family and that they remain dead. Shadowy, powerful people who will kill for a secret her husband was the keeper of.
A secret so powerful it will open a Pandora’s box of bloody revenge—one that reaches back into the past and into the highest echelons of wealth and power, all the way to the White House.
The Big Thrill was lucky to catch author Glenn Meade this month, to discuss his latest thriller, UNQUIET GHOSTS:
Jon Catlett and Paul Frank have turned their once-failing used bookstore into one of the most thriving businesses in the Highlands. But they paid in blood for their success, for Second Story Books is not just another dusty thrift shop, but a front for the largest heroin distribution network ever based in Louisville.
The two eccentric intellectuals-turned-gun thugs enlist the help of an unscrupulous narcotics cop nicknamed Mad Dog, and a former marine importing dope through Fort Knox from Afghanistan that is purer than anything the city has ever seen. Inbetween trading muzzle flashes with a corrupt and psychotic DEA agent and thwarting two crusading homicide detectives, Catlett and Frank plan to corner the market…or at least everything South of Cincinnati.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Jonathan Ashley to discuss his latest thriller, SOUTH OF CINCINNATI:
Paris, July 1999: Private investigator Aimée Leduc is walking through Saint-Germain when she is accosted by Suzanne Lesage, a Brigade Criminelle agent on an elite counterterrorism squad. Suzanne has just returned from the former Yugoslavia, where she was hunting down dangerous war criminals for the Hague. Back in Paris, Suzanne is convinced she’s being stalked by a ghost—a Serbian warlord her team took down. She’s suffering from PTSD and her boss thinks she’s imagining things. She begs Aimée to investigate—is it possible Mirko Vladić could be alive and in Paris with a blood vendetta?
Aimée is already working on a huge case; plus, she’s got an eight-month-old baby to take care of. But she can’t say no to Suzanne, whom she owes a big favor. Aimée chases the few leads she has, and all evidence confirms Mirko Vladić is dead. It seems that Suzanne is in fact paranoid, perhaps losing her mind—until Suzanne’s team begins to die in a series of strange, tragic accidents. Are these just coincidences? Or are things not what they seem?
The Big Thrill caught up with MURDER IN SAINT-GERMAIN author, Cara Black, to discuss her latest thriller:
Detective Roger Colby thought he’d ended serial killer Morgan Laird’s murderous spree twenty-eight years ago, when Laird was relegated to a wheelchair along with a life sentence. But now the convicted killer is out on parole. Suddenly, a new series of murders start popping up, each mimicking one of the crime scenes of Laird’s original killings. As Colby reluctantly joins a federal task force investigating these new crimes, he begins to uncover a new and sinister plot so unthinkable that it’s virtually beyond belief. When Laird’s DNA is recovered from one of the crime scenes, Colby realizes that the unthinkable has suddenly become reality. Shunned by the task force, and without support, he must trace this new blood trail to its source and bring these new and brutal crimes to a stop, regardless of the consequences.
The Big Thrill had the opportunity to discuss with Michael A. Black his latest thriller, BLOOD TRAILS:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope they take away a sense of having read a good thriller.
Once a police detective in St. Paul, Minnesota, Rushmore McKenzie has become not only an unlikely millionaire, but an occasional unlicensed private investigator, doing favors for friends and people in need. When his stepdaughter Erica asks him for just such a favor, McKenzie doesn’t have it in him to refuse. Even though it sounds like a very bad idea right from the start.
The father of Malcolm Harris, a college friend of Erica’s, was found murdered a year ago in a park in New Brighton, a town just outside the Twin Cities. With no real clues and all the obvious suspects with concrete alibis, the case has long since gone cold. As McKenzie begins poking around, he soon discovers another unsolved murder that’s tangentially related to this one. And all connections seem to lead back to a group of friends the victim was close with. But all McKenzie has is a series of odd, even suspicious, coincidences, until someone decides to make it all that more serious and personal.
Author David Housewright was kind enough to discuss his latest thriller, WHAT THE DEAD LEAVE BEHIND, with The Big Thrill:
The writing team of Del Bene and Livingston has produced another thrilling installment in the Joyce Smith series with VALLEY OF DRY BON’Z.
This latest installment sees the return of You Know Who, a serial killer that Native American Undersheriff Joyce Smith and her investigative team thought they had killed, not once but twice before. But when a series of attacks against those who helped the team unfold right before the holidays, and a team member is kidnapped from his guarded hospital room, the team gathers to examine all avenues, including those previously explored to try to get at least one step ahead of the nefarious You Know Who and rescue their friend. Not only is the weather against them, but they also have to navigate roadblocks and assaults created by mercenaries and the federal government to a final showdown.
The authors have taken a cast of characters and melded them into a tight-knit team with strengths and weaknesses and a genuine concern for each other. This team approach is unusual in the thriller genre and works well in the series. Del Bene and Livingston manage to give each team member some moments in the spotlight while furthering the story line.
By Rick Reed
OPEN THE DOOR is Diana Deverell’s fifth novel in her latest thriller series. Nora Dockson is an ex-con who pulled herself out of the gutter and became a lawyer dedicated to rescuing innocent women trapped by the flawed process that put them behind bars.
OPEN THE DOOR draws Nora into new legal territory. Her first cases were for men convicted of sexual assault and murder where she relied on advances in DNA testing to build their appeals. Nora found women typically are convicted of crimes where DNA evidence is irrelevant. Nora’s been doggedly looking for other ways to free her innocent sisters.
Nora is asked to drop all of her cases to represent a private client convicted of poisoning her husband. The motive for this murder is a big insurance payoff. Nora politely refuses. She has a full caseload of women desperate for help. Most of these women are impoverished mothers jailed for murdering their children. In contrast, the reckless and privileged new client, Hunter Logan, can well afford to hire the best appeals lawyer in the state of Washington. Hunter doesn’t need Nora. But when Nora learns more, she realizes Hunter’s legal battle is one she’s spent her whole life getting ready to fight.
By Terri Nolan
Amanda McKinney left the timeclock world of workaday stress to become a fulltime mother and writer. She made the right career move. THE WOODS is the first novel in the Berry Springs series and there is plenty of murder, crime, and romance.
Dr. Katie Somers, a successful archeologist, returns to the small town of Berry Springs to sell the family home after her sister’s mysterious death. Katie expects the task to take a week. She doesn’t expect the distraction of handsome Jake Thomas nor the dead bodies they find. When they become suspects Jake embarks on a parallel investigation. As the pair delves deeper into dangerous territory they grow closer. But their new togetherness and their lives are threatened when Katie closes in on the answer to the question of who killed her sister.
If you think you know all there is to know about Peter Pan’s famous foil Captain Hook, you’ll be surprised and wonderfully entertained by the dazzling coming-of-age story that unfolds in HOOK’S TALE.
From books, plays, and movies we all know Captain James Hook to be a vicious pirate. But John Pielmeier’s novel reveals, in the form of a purported memoir, a life story far more nuanced.
“Our story begins just as he turns fourteen,” Pielmeier says, “though he narrates the story as an older gentleman looking back on his life.”
Of course, as in the original stories by J. M. Barrie reveal, Hook was not his true name. According to Pielmeier he was christened Cook, and was never really a pirate. And Hook/Cook looks nothing like the way he is always portrayed.
As one might expect, Hook’s enemy is the “notorious” Peter Pan. The reason for that, which I cannot reveal here without giving spoilers, is what drives much of the narrative. Hook faces a slew of enemies, including a London vivisectionist named Uriah Slinque, and all these characters are nearly as fascinating as the title character himself.
By George Ebey
Author Bob Bickford brings us plenty of chills in his latest novel, A SONG FOR CHLOE.
Hollow Lake has a legend. The locals say that the spirit of Chloe Hunter, a teenager drowned in 1980, haunts its waters. She has been seen every year since, especially during late autumn when she appears as an eerie figure swimming in near-icy waters.
Nick Horan knows the legend, but he doesn’t believe in ghosts…until late one night, when Chloe wades out of the cold lake in front of his eyes. As beautiful as she is terrifying, the vision stirs something inside him, but before he can react, she vanishes into the dark woods.
It’s clear that Chloe isn’t from here. She’s a doorway to somewhere else—and Nick might just follow her anywhere.
The Big Thrill recently checked in with Bickford to learn more about his haunting new tale.
The Battle of the Sexes
Spills Onto the Page
By Dawn Ius
The highly anticipated follow-up to the New York Times bestselling anthology FaceOff is MATCHUP, 11 original short stories from 22 of the most thrilling authors in the genre—with a twist.
“We decided that stories written by a man and a woman together might sharpen the edge—they might have a natural tension between their protagonists,” says MATCHUP editor, author Lee Child. “We have 22 big names, which spreads the appeal very wide. Can’t fail, really.”
And of course the book did not fail, drawing in boatloads of readers and critical praise from places like Publishers Weekly: “Highly recommended.”
However, just to keep things interesting, there was a little drama along the way.
Despite the star-studded roster, many of the pairings had to work through a few…challenges. Like Sandra Brown’s fear of collaboration, Nelson DeMille’s technophobia (he still writes long hand), or how on earth Lara Adrian might turn back the clock on her protagonist, Lucan Thorne.
The authors of MATCHUP not only rose to the challenge, but as evidenced in the stories, exceeded expectations. Steve Berry co-pens his first Cotton Malone story in the first-person point of view, Sandra Brown learns how to play nice with others, Jack Reacher finds the one woman in the world who might be immune to his charm, and David Morrell successfully puts Rambo back in our minds.
“Each of the 22 writers who contributed approach their storytelling differently,” says Sandra Brown, whose story with C.J. Box takes one of her characters to Wyoming, Jackson. “Each works at his or her own pace, has unique writing habits, a distinct ‘voice,’ traits and trademarks of their fiction. But unanimously, we want to create readers and keep them entertained.”
The stacked list of contributors helps, but underpinning it is the commitment each of these authors has to their craft, their readership, and the organization that made this all possible.
“When David Morrell and I started International Thriller Writers, we needed a way to finance the organization,” says Gayle Lynds, who partners with Morrell in MATCHUP for the action-packed, humor-infused short, Rambo on Their Minds. “So, I looked around and realized there’d never been a thriller anthology of original short stories.”
The result was Thriller: Stories to Keep You Up All Night, which was edited by James Patterson.
“He had no reason to trust an unknown, untested organization of crazy thriller writers, but still he called me, and agreed. His help was like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval,” she says.
With Patterson’s help, Lynds and a few trusted authors such as Steve Berry pulled together a roster of writers willing to donate any profits from the anthology to support ITW. “The result is that MATCHUP is the latest tradition of ITW writers supporting fellow writers through the written word,” says Lynds. “All of us are proud of it.”
Eric Lustbader, who shares the page with J. A. Jance in Taking the Veil, couldn’t agree more.
“I wanted to be a part of MATCHUP because these anthologies are an important part of ITW’s mission, and because it deepens the sense of community we have with ITW,” he says.
It also means the members—from seasoned pros to debuts—don’t have to pay a membership fee, a perk that is almost unheard of among author and writer collectives. That’s just as important to the authors of MATCHUP as the need to tell thrilling, original stories.
“I wanted a hand in this to see what these folks could come up with,” says Child.
For a sneak peek, scroll down for exclusive interviews and content.
Honor & …
By Sandra Brown & C.J. Box
When Lee Child asked Sandra Brown to be a part of MATCHUP, she sputtered a litany of polite declinations. After none made a dent, she flat out told him the truth. “I don’t write short stories. I lack the talent for it. Any attempt I made to write one would result in something lousy.”
Not to worry, Child assured her. “You won’t have to do all the writing. The story will be a collaboration.”
Brown is a self-proclaimed mama bear when it comes to her work. “I might have an ugly cub, but it’s all mine, and I protect it. Partnering would be a recipe for disaster. So, I told Lee, ‘thanks for asking, but No.’”
Call it charm or gentle harassment, Brown eventually gave in. “Lee and Steve Berry prevailed and paired me with C. J. Box. Poor guy.”
The resulting story, Honor & … is far from the disaster Brown predicted. The tale takes place in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, home for C. J. Box’s popular series character, rough around the edges game warden Joe Pickett. There he runs into Lee Colburn, who Sandra Brown fans may remember as the rugged protagonist from her bestselling novel Lethal.
“In our initial conversation, C. J. and I established that we had two characters that couldn’t be more different, which, from a storytelling point of view, was a boon,” Brown says. “Right off the bat, we had conflict, not only with the bad guys, but between Pickett, who is honorable and duty bound to do the right thing, and Coburn, who is anti-Pickett. Pickett takes people to jail. Coburn takes no prisoners.”
But rather than find themselves on opposing sides of the conflict, the two characters form a “bromance” that results in witty dialogue, page-turning suspense, and a satisfying end that answers the question posed in the story’s intriguing title.
“I can’t speak for C. J., but when I worked on their dialogue, it flowed naturally,” Brown says. “I merely had to write down what they said. The two of them sparred continually, but the life-threatening circumstances made them codependent. Out of that grudging reliance on each other, a mutual respect emerges.”
Brown can personally relate on some levels. Although she went into this project with reservations, “C. J. made it easy, painless, and actually fun. Now I get to bask in the glow of his achievement. And I didn’t have to decline Lee Child’s request—and who would want to do that?”
Despite the success of this story, fans shouldn’t get too excited about seeing more “shorts” from Brown—she’s a novelist through and through.
“I look at this roster of bestselling writers and still can’t figure out why they wanted me, but I’m so proud to be on that list. An anthology like this brings to readers’ notice writers that might otherwise have been overlooked or dismissed as ‘not someone I would read.’”
To read Honor & … fans need only to flip to the first story.
By Val McDermid & Peter James
As Lee Child notes in the anthology introduction, the idea for Footloose came to Val McDermid while she was having her feet worked on by a brisk German reflexologist. While lying there, she began to ruminate about a foot-fetish killer obsessed with finding the most perfect pair of feet—and wanting to keep them forever.
“I always find the hardest part of starting any story is what I call ‘finding the way in,’ ” says Footloose co-author Peter James. “It’s a kind of lightbulb moment in which you know, in your heart, you have something that excites you and you want to write.”
That’s exactly how he felt when McDermid suggested this idea for MATCHUP—which led them each down the murky and often shocking rabbit hole of foot- fetish research, including the notion that each individual may have a personal gait that is as unique as their DNA.
“The thing that most astonished me during our research for Footloose, was the number of fetish websites,” he says. “I’m sure if the police ever seize my computer, they’ll have a field day questioning me.”
Particularly in light of the fact that James’s “foot” research isn’t finished—at the time of this interview he was en-route to Rotherham, in northern England, to retrace the steps, for a TV documentary, of a man known as the Rotherham Shoe Rapist.
“This was a man who between 1983 and 1986 raped a series of women who wore stilettos, tied them up, and then took their shoes,” he says. “When the police eventually caught up with him, they found 126 pairs of ladies shoes, from victims, beneath a trapdoor in his office. Each pair was lovingly wrapped in cellophane and tied with a blue bow. I used this as inspiration for an earlier Roy Grace novel, Dead Like You.”
In Footloose, Grace is hot on the heels of another killer, where he is paired with Val McDermid’s Carol Jordan and Tony Hill, for a unique installment in MATCHUP that is both darkly macabre and filled with terrible—but hilarious—puns about feet.
Faking a Murderer
By Kathy Reichs & Lee Child
Fans of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher know him to be a man used to doing the intimidating. So, it’s perhaps ironic that when the creator of such an iconic and beloved character was paired with a writer (and character) known for her thoroughness, he found himself a bit on the receiving end of that intimidation.
“I love Kathy Reichs as a person and as a writer, but she’s also a world-famous scientist,” Child says. “Compared to her, I’m just a scuffler. I transferred all those feelings onto Reacher. He’s a knockabout maverick with no respect for rules, but he had to be on best behavior around Temperance Brennan, just like I had to be around Kathy.”
He needn’t have worried. Reichs says that while Brennan and Reacher are opposites in many ways—she is cerebral, fixed in place, he is more intuitive, a free-ranger—Reichs was thrilled at the idea of working with the “funny, flexible, and of course, fabulously handsome” Lee Child.
“Our characters are different, but I think we approach the creative process in a similar way. Perhaps because we both have experience in writing screenplays. Whatever the reason, the pairing worked beautifully,” Reichs says. “Reacher’s brawn and Brennan’s brains clicked from the outset.”
There’s even a hint of romance between the two characters in their MATCHUP story, Faking a Murderer—a page-turning tale that speaks to society’s fascination with true crime and fictional mayhem.
“I think Brennan is quite smitten with Reacher. And who wouldn’t be? Good looking guy like that, came all the way from another city to help her out,” Reichs says. “However, during the story, they are both focused on clearing her name and catching a killer. But who knows what happened after the closing sentence?”
Fans of both characters are sure to have fun filling in those blanks.
By Diana Gabaldon & Steve Berry
New York Times bestselling authors Diana Gabaldon and Steve Berry were tasked with a significant collaboration challenge for their MATCHUP story, Past Prologue. How would they seamlessly meld the 18th-century world of Gabaldon’s Outlander series (time travel and Jamie Fraser included) with Berry’s modern-day thriller hero, Cotton Malone?
The result is brilliant, making this particular match up one of the most anticipated in the anthology.
“Together, Diana and I worked through the plot, going over what we wanted to stress, things that should be in it, and the timeline,” Berry says. “She took care of all things Scottish since, as she correctly noted, that’s not my strong point. The result is a merger of her fantastic world with my thriller character. It’s a story we think both of our fan bases will enjoy.”
No question, but for Berry, the potentially complicated plot wasn’t the only issue he had to overcome. Like Sandra Brown, he considers himself somewhat short-story challenged, which is why he gave over the reins to Gabaldon to carve out a surprising first draft.
“Initially, the story was in third-person. To my surprise, Diana told it all from Cotton’s point of view. When I read it, I realized the tale screamed first person,” he says. “Of course, I’ve never written in first person. So, I gave it a shot and re-wrote everything to first person, past tense. When my wife, Elizabeth, read that draft, she said it needed to be first person, present tense. I re-wrote it again. Diana loved the changes. First person, present tense is as close as a reader can get to a story. There’s a real immediacy.”
Though this was Berry’s “rookie” attempt at first person narrative, it won’t be his last. As he revealed in an earlier interview with The Big Thrill, his 2018 Cotton Malone thriller will be his initial foray into first person (past tense), novel length.
Until then, fans can dive into Past Prologue which takes Cotton Malone back in time— where he briefly encounters a heart-broken Jamie Fraser—in his quest to chase down a 15th century grimoire.
Yes, kilts are involved.
Rambo On Their Minds
By Gayle Lynds & David Morell
Perhaps one of the most natural author pairings in MATCHUP is that of Gayle Lynds and David Morrell—the two co-founded International Thriller Writers, are close friends, and have worked together in the past.
That said, Rambo, Morrell’s iconic character from First Blood, and Liz Sansborough, the kick-ass female spy who first appeared in Lynds’s New York Times bestselling novel Masquerade, had not.
If that were not challenging enough, Morrell hadn’t quite figured out how to revisit Rambo, particularly in light of the fact that technically (spoiler alert), he’s dead.
“Colonel Trautman, the man who trained him, kills him,” Morrell says. “In the first version of the film adaptation, Rambo dies also, but in a different way—he committed suicide. Test audiences rioted, forcing the producers to return to Hope, B.C., and film a new ending, in which Rambo lives. Hence the possibility of sequels, which weren’t planned.”
Morrell wrote novelizations for the second and third movies, making a note for readers about the differences between his original script and what was on the screen. The only way he could justify writing a new story about Rambo, then, was in a prequel—but that didn’t quite fit the story he and Lynds wanted to tell for MATCHUP.
“Eventually, we figured out how to include him in a way that’s legitimate as well as a tribute to how much he gets around,” Morrell says.
The result is an action-packed adventure with a deeply emotional connection, which Morrel credits to the love between Lynds’s characters, Liz and Simon.
“Who knew Liz would turn out to be such a great character?” Lynds says. “When I began her, I knew only that she and her cousin looked alike, and her cousin was the book’s star, with amnesia and a long and dangerous road ahead. So, the reader and I caught only tantalizing moments in the real Liz’s life. That was in Masquerade. When Liz and her cousin reappeared a couple years later in The Coil, Liz took over full-blown as a formidable character, opinionated, smart, and thoughtful, but with lethal skills she thought she’d put to rest.”
Turns out Sansborough’s skills weren’t that difficult for Lynds to pull out of remission.
“Bringing back Liz was like bringing back the best part of myself,” she says. “I can’t tell you what I had for breakfast yesterday, but I’ve forgotten nothing about her. Indelible, and completely unplanned.”
Which is in stark contrast to Lynds’s creative process—and the method of collaboration for Rambo on Their Minds. Lynds and Morrell spent several hours on the phone planning the story, and then took turns writing the scenes, adjusting the plot to uncover the hidden emotions, motives, and humor as they went along.
Fans will want to savor this story as, sadly, neither character is apt to make a reappearance anytime soon.
By Karin Slaughter & Michael Koryta
When Karin Slaughter agreed to be a part of this anthology, she had two conditions. One, that the story take place in 1993 so she could explore Jeffrey Tolliver’s younger years, and second, that she be paired with Michael Koryta.
MATCHUP Editor Lee Child says he readily agreed to both provisions. Thankfully, so did Koryta, who embraced the challenge of taking Joe Pritchard back to the 1990s. For Koryta, whose Pritchard stories were always told in first person, MATCHUP also afforded him the opportunity to change his point of view.
Through the course of the writing, both authors learned something new about their characters—and each other. But to find out, you’ll have to read Short Story, a tale that begins with Tolliver in his underwear and morphs into a great thriller with just the right amount of macabre, and a blast of familiar Slaughter humor.
As Child notes in the introduction, readers are not only in for a great story, but also some fun insider information—Koryta fans, for instance, will connect with one of the story’s characters who is named after a bet he lost to the novelist Alafair Burke. Can you pick out which one?
By Charlaine Harris & Andrew Gross
Dig Here was inspired by a research trip taken by Andrew Gross—but to say that Charlaine Harris was dubious about sending her series character, Harper Connelly, to Alexandria, Egypt, is a mild understatement.
“Harper had never, in my imagination, left the continent of North America, and I was pretty sure she didn’t have a passport,” Harris says. “So, I had to change my thinking about her to encompass this sudden and lengthy trip.”
This was the first hurdle in the seemingly unlikely collaboration between Harris and Gross, two authors who, by their own admission, are about as much alike as their protagonists. But Harris admits, weaving Connelly and Gross’s gritty detective, Ty Hauck, into the story was easy once the authors hammered out the plot.
“A family wealthy enough to hire Ty was also wealthy enough to hire Harper, who was the only one of my series characters likely to be called in on such an investigation,” Harris says. “But Ty is a skeptic, as professional investigators tend to be, and Harper, though equally professional, depends on a supernatural talent for her skill—or rather, a talent caused by being hit by lightning. This is a lot for Ty to handle, and while she is prepared to disregard him, he’s maybe not as prepared to learn to respect her.”
Of course, mutual respect does emerge—on the page, and in the writing room. While Harris is a veteran short story writer, Gross has less experience with the format—but as a former cowriter with James Patterson, he’s no stranger to collaboration. The melding of each author’s experiences and skills churned out an entertaining entry in MATCHUP, a thrilling story that will appeal to fans of both authors.
Deserves to Be Dead
By Lisa Jackson & John Sandford
Lisa Jackson and John Sandford attacked their collaboration a little differently than many of the author pairings in MATCHUP—once Sandford came up with the initial idea for the crime story, he went ahead and wrote the entire first draft, leaving holes for Jackson to fill in.
Some of those gaps included the backstory for Detective Regan Pescoli, the protagonist from Jackson’s bestselling To Die series who, in the MATCHUP story, Deserves to Be Dead, locks horns with Sandford’s Virgil Flowers while they’re on the case to catch an insidious murderer.
“I edited the manuscript giving Regan perspective and backstory, and adding in what I wanted, especially reworking the ending but all in all, John did write the entire story and he achieved a great balance, I think,” Jackson says. “My hat’s off to him.”
In fact, Sandford is the primary reason Jackson agreed to be a part of MATCHUP—the opportunity to work with a master.
“I’m a big fan of John’s,” she admits. “But it was also important to do something gratis, for the good of writing and thriller fans. I’ve met a lot of the contributors and wanted to be a part of something so unique. This is a great way for fans of one author to get to know a new one or two or twenty!”
By Lara Adrian & Christopher Rice
In many cases, the authors in MATCHUP have been asked to stretch their skills, work outside their comfort zones, and open themselves up to the foreign concept of collaboration. But Lara Adrian and Christopher Rice had a unique challenge to add to the mix—creating a world in which both their characters could exist.
For their haunting paranormal story Midnight Flame, that meant turning back the clock—at least for one of them.
“For the story to work, Lara’s character, Lucan Thorne, had to enter the action from a present-day frame in a series that’s advanced years into the future,” Rice says. “I really credit Lara for being open to that idea.”
Rice is also grateful Adrian was open to the idea of introducing Thorne to Chris’s Desire Exchange series character Lilliane in New Orleans, during a theft.
“I came up with the circumstances around why Lilliane would be in the French Quarter, and what she’d have in her possession that would be worth stealing, and Laura found a way to make Thorne’s adventures fit into my ideas,” Rice says. “And she captured Lilliane perfectly in her first draft, largely because she’d read The Desire Exchange books featuring Lilliane, which again, was so generous and lovely of her.”
From that point, everything else kind of locked into place, including the process for their collaboration. Rice, having just finished co-writing a book with his mother, Anne Rice, says the story flowed naturally between them, with each peppering in the details that would bring their characters to life.
“Since Lara comes from romance and I’ve been writing in romance now for a few years, I think it was interesting for both of us to write a story with a male and female character where we knew they weren’t going to end up together by the end of it,” he says. “I can’t emphasize enough how generous Lara was with this.”
By Lisa Scottoline & Nelson DeMille
“John Corey is in law enforcement and Bennie Rosato is a lawyer, and they’re geographically close—New York and Philadelphia—so Lisa and I had a lot of opportunities to put them together,” DeMille says. “That being said, we chose a chance encounter at a lake rather than a professional encounter. The real challenge was to get two alpha-personalities to put aside their egos and work together. I’m talking about the characters, not the authors.”
What made it work is that the characters and the authors are professionals, he adds.
“All four of us—John Corey, Bennie Rosato, Nelson DeMille, and Lisa Scottoline— respected one another and we knew when to listen, and when to compromise,” he says. “With alpha personalities it’s always about us, but it’s for the reader.”
“We agreed that there was a terrorist training camp in the woods, and before I could figure out the rest of the plot, Lisa sent me a complete first draft,” DeMille says. “All I had to do was put wisecracks in Corey’s mouth.”
Unfortunately, his attempts at charming Rosato are thwarted—despite the kind of chemistry on the page that makes you want to root for them, even if just for this story.
“Lisa let me know that Bennie was in a committed relationship, and though Bennie found John attractive, she was not going to cheat on her boyfriend,” DeMille says. “Corey gives it a good try but has to gracefully accept defeat in love.”
Taking the Veil
By J.A. Jance & Eric Lustbader
“When Steve Berry called me to tell me he’d paired me with Judy Jance I was quite surprised,” Lustbader says. “But as Steve pointed out the whole point of MATCHUP was to pair up authors whose style and milieu were dissimilar. As Steve said, ‘We want you guys to try working out of your comfort zone.’ He wasn’t kidding with the two of us.”
For starters, neither Jance nor Lustbader had collaborated before, and at first glance, their characters—Bravo Shaw and Ali Reynolds—seemed lightyears away from each other.
“That was before I read the latest Ali Reynolds novel and I was introduced to Sister Anselm, one of Ali’s best friends,” Lustbader says. “That clicked with me right away because my protagonist, Bravo Shaw, from The Testament series, deals in ancient religious artifacts outside the scope of Catholic orthodoxy. That was the peg on which we began our work.”
It wasn’t smooth sailing. After hashing out the first five pages, Jance and Lustbader found themselves deadlocked. So, they called Steve Berry and asked for advice. The boost was exactly what they needed for Lustbader to carve out a first draft.
The result is a smart thriller that sucks you in from the first page. In the process, Lustbader says he and Jance learned a little about each other—and a lot about how best to work together.
“The key to collaboration is keeping your ego on the shelf,” he says. “It’s like a marriage: to make it work you need to compromise and to communicate honestly.”
Finishing the Job
Arthur Kerns writes thrillers set around the world and featuring a free-lance protagonist, Hayden Stone, who gets into a lot of trouble trying to sort out the bad guys. His methods are often unconventional, so the trouble is as much with the powers-that-be as the terrorists themselves. Both want him out of the way. Currently there are three books in the series: The Riviera Contract, The Yemen Contract, and THE AFRICAN CONTRACT, all published by Diversion Books.
Following graduation from college, Arthur did a stint with the U.S. Navy amphibious forces, and then joined the FBI with a career in counterintelligence and counterterrorism. After the FBI, he consulted with the intelligence community and other U.S. government entities. His foreign assignments for them have taken him all over the world. I asked Arthur about his career and how it led to his writing.
You have firsthand experience of the type of work that you write about. How much has that experience helped you with your novels, and how much did you need to brush aside to keep things fast-paced and exciting?
My plots and story lines are original and I make an effort to avoid using any cases I worked on or had any knowledge of. The last thing I want to do is unintentionally reveal any sources or methods that might put a person’s life in jeopardy. That said, I do enjoy bringing in the flavor of intelligence work and use many of the problems and challenges people in the intelligence game face on a daily basis as a background. Much of the work can be deadly boring, like sitting in a car on surveillance or listening to a wiretap. Then when the action begins, things get interesting.
A Literary Thriller Taking on Venezuela
By Layton Green
A long time ago, in what now seems like a galaxy far, far away, I was a young lawyer in a corporate law firm writing a novel in what stolen hours I could find, usually late at night or on weekend mornings. Chasing the dream, I decided to quit my job and move to an island off the coast of Venezuela. The island was called Isla de Margarita, a little slice of troubled paradise that has provided a lifetime of literary fodder. But that’s a story for another time. I fell in love with the country and finished a good bit of my novel in the four months I lived there. When I learned that a decorated Venezuelan novelist—a political exile living in the United States—had written a literary thriller set in Caracas called THE CONSPIRACY, I jumped at the chance to interview him. Though my expectations were high, the novel exceeded them, as did the dialogue with the author. Israel Centeno has given us a frank and fascinating glimpse into his literary career, the circumstances that led to his exile, and the state of affairs of modern Venezuela.
Thanks for taking the time to chat, Israel. We’re thrilled to have you. Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you came to live in the United States?
Caramba! That’s a complicated story. To make it simple, I have been a writer for over 30 years. For a long time I made literature in my own country. My first book came in 1991, my first political thriller. At that moment instead of causing me problems, that novel launched me, it won me the equivalent of our national prize for literature, and established me as a writer. That’s how my career as a published writer began, and that’s continued now for a long time, though I’ve had a lot of challenges. I’ve written more than just thrillers; I combined many genres to participate in the writing of the modern novel. Critics have called it gothic realism. A realism where elements of gothic literature appear in the story. More classical elements. Later, at some point in 2000, it occurred to me to write a novel about someone who had come to power based on the promise of leftist revolution. Really I was thinking a lot about how Hitler came to power, and about Chavez too. Something I had begun to address in my book Exile in the Bowery. About how the radical left had raised arms and essentially become as fundamentalist as the far right. Writing that book had consequences for me. The president himself used it as proof that people had it out for him. A government minister I knew thought that I was relishing in an attempted assassination attempt on him in the 1960s. I was labeled as a traitor, with all that means. In leftist Venezuela, being labeled a traitor is like being called that by the mafia. I was beaten in the street, they attempted to stab me, they threatened my daughters, and broke my electronics when I would return to the country from literary conferences. I was a dangerous man. They considered me a rat. I had no other option but to leave my country and seek exile. That’s how I came to the United States, where I came into contact with City of Asylum, Pittsburgh, a nonprofit organization that has been essential to my stay here, and which commissioned the translation of this novel into English.
A Creative Catharsis
By Alex Segura
When bestselling novelist Peter James started work on what was to become his 13th Roy Grace novel, NEED YOU DEAD, he knew he had to up the ante—for himself, his protagonist, and the reader.
But inspiration came from an unexpected and unpleasant place: frightening audio of a domestic brawl that escalates to murder.
“I always try to raise the bar with every book,” James said. “Three years ago I listened to a 911 call made to the LAPD by a woman whose estranged, violent husband was trying to break into the family home. The call started quietly, the woman clearly afraid, saying she had locked herself in her bedroom and her husband was trying to break into her house. Before the call handler had dispatched a police car to the scene, she began screaming that the man was now in the house. Then we could hear hammering sounds, and the woman now crying, stammering that he was trying to break the door down. Her voice turned to utter stark terror as he succeeded. We then heard five gunshots. He had shot her dead.”
The deadly call lingered with James, and spurred him to craft the story behind what he’d listened to, as a form of creative catharsis.
“The sheer horror of it remained with me for many months afterwards, and still does today,” James said. “I became fascinated by what the backstory might have been.”
The journey lead James to NEED YOU DEAD, and a character named Lorna Belling.
A New Kind of Haunted House
There’s an irresistible pull to a haunted-house story told well, and THE END OF TEMPERANCE DARE is told very well indeed. Part of what makes the novel special is the setting: Cliffside Manor, used as an elite retreat for artists, was once a private hospital for tuberculosis patients, one where inexplicable tragedies took place. But this mansion doesn’t loom on the moor in England or rise atop a cliff in Maine. The story takes place on the shores of Lake Superior, with very of-the-moment characters, while drawing potent atmosphere from the richly drawn location. As the plot tightens, the strange loveliness of the manor on the lake takes hold. As Publishers Weekly says, “Webb succeeds in escalating suspense while keeping her story grounded.”
Journalist Webb, who lives in Minneapolis, has been dubbed the Queen of the Northern Gothic. Here, she tells The Big Thrill what motivates her to write such winning fiction, and why following your own instincts is the key. Looks as if the practitioners of Swedish Noir should watch their back!