Finding Truth in Notoriety
By Nancy Bilyeau
Getting into the mind of a murderer is a true feat for a writer. It’s made even more challenging if, first, it’s a famous crime, and, second, it’s one that is officially unsolved. But that is exactly what Dawn Ius pulled off in LIZZIE, a young adult novel that re-imagines the infamous 19th century double murder widely attributed to Lizzie Borden, who as the song goes, “gave her mother 40 whacks, and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41.”
Ius, the author of Overdrive and Anne & Henry, a young adult modern telling of the love story of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, was drawn to the life of Lizzie Borden, arrested but not convicted for the murders of her father and stepmother, because “I’m obsessed with true crime, and more so, true crime that is unresolved. Plus, this story takes place in the past, so it’s a bit of a triple threat—all of my ‘loves’ coming together. Admittedly, this particular story was inspired by my great friend James Grasdal who dropped Lizzie Borden’s name in casual conversation, and then sort of nudged me toward a very loose plot. By the end of coffee, I knew I would write this book—I just wasn’t sure how. That took a tremendous amount of research and brainstorming.”
A journalist and editor, as well as the deputy editor of The Big Thrill, Ius plunged head-long into the life of Borden, who died in 1927 in Falls River, Massachusetts, the same town she was born in and where in 1892 her father, Andrew Borden, and stepmother, Abigail Borden, were found dead in their house, attacked with a hatchet that was never found. “I knew the basics—the rhyme, the fact that she was acquitted, a bit about her religious background, and the gruesome nature of the crime,” Ius says. “But as I started to research her story, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that she could have murdered her father and stepmom, that there had to be an alternative theory, or some reason. I don’t know, even now after the book is about to hit shelves, if I am confident in her guilt or innocence, but the research I did about the case certainly helped me understand—as much as anyone can understand motive—the ‘why’.”
To Write About the Dark Side
By A.J. Colucci
“By the time you read this, I’ll be dead.” So begins IF I DIE TONIGHT, the latest novel by Alison Gaylin. With nominations for Edgar, Anthony and ITW Thriller Awards, a Shamus Award, and an RT Reviewers Choice Award for Suspense, Gaylin has proven herself a master at pulling readers in and not letting go. That goes for the opening of her new book, a suicide note posted on Facebook by high school student Wade Reed. In the post, Wade says a goodbye to his mother and brother after he’s been accused of something terrible and has reached the end of his rope. “This will probably make a lot of you very happy,” he writes. The post has 1,043 likes.
IF I DIE TONIGHT is a cautionary tale—how a small town, an angry mob, and social media can be a lethal combination. Gaylin hits the mark in showing the manipulative power of social media and the dark side of humanity, in a compelling, honest way that she does so well. “What changed a lot with the advent of social media, is empathy,” she says. “The things I’ve seen grown-ups write on Twitter astounds me.” The book, she says, was partly inspired by Sinead O’Connor’s suicide note on Facebook. “Although she didn’t go through with it, what struck me is how it got thousands of likes. When you have that feeling of anonymity, that this is not real, the layers of empathy are taken away. Kids are most affected because they use social media more, and can sometimes be more emotionally fragile.”
IF I DIE TONIGHT takes place in the small town of Havenkill, where a popular high school senior, Liam, has been killed by a hit-and-run driver after a carjacking gone wrong. Aimee En, the victim of the carjacking, is a washed-up musician from the ’80s who reports the incident to the police, but she offers sketchy details and seems more concerned with her beloved car than with the victim. Her story doesn’t sit well with Pearl, a young cop on the case with a tragic past and a strong moral compass. Eventually, suspicions fall on another high school senior, Wade Reed, an artistic, brooding outlier who has no alibi and is obviously hiding secrets of his whereabouts. Rumors begin circulating on social media, anger turns into hateful posts, and before long you can’t tell who the real monster is—the hit-and-run driver or the town itself.
Mining the Secrets of History
Over the span of his bestselling 12-book series revolving around Cotton Malone, a former Justice Department operative, author Steve Berry has fielded these questions from readers: “How did Cotton get started?” and “What happened at the beginning?”
In THE BISHOP’S PAWN, Berry answers that question. His 13th thriller takes readers on the very first off-the-books mission for a young naval lawyer, one that leads him to the real story behind one of the most devastating crimes of the 20th century: the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In THE BISHOP’S PAWN, Berry also changes his own rules by writing the book in the first person perspective. For the first time, readers are inside Cotton Malone’s head and no one else’s.
As with any origins story, the reader has to realize Malone will come out of the high-stakes investigation in one piece. As the Washington Post review puts it: “So Berry has to create a compelling historical mystery with a terrific payoff to compensate—and he nails it. Narrowing it to just Malone’s perspective makes the story tighter while providing a more insightful look into Berry’s hero. It also makes it Berry’s most personal novel to date.”
Berry reveals the reasons for his creative choices to The Big Thrill:
This book is so exciting to read, not only for its suspenseful story but because it’s such a different way to see Cotton Malone, through his own point of view. What made you change your approach in this book?
I always knew at some point I was going to try a first person novel. I’ve been wanting to do it for many years. For me it’s the most difficult perspective to write in, because it taxes your ability to plot. You have to get everything out through one point of view. It’s a challenge, it’s very difficult from the way I write—I write in multiple points of view. I knew the time would come, and this was the book.
“That’s the thing about real life; it all looks so implausible right up until the moment when it starts to happen. I have my experiences as a police detective and the events of my own personal history to confirm this observation. There’s been nothing probable about my life. But I’ve a strong feeling that it’s the same for everyone. The collection of stories that make us all who we are only looks exaggerated or fictitious until we find ourselves living on its stained and dog-eared pages.”
So opens the novel GREEKS BEARING GIFTS, the 13th in the Bernie Gunther series, written by Philip Kerr. Through the publicist for Putnam, his U.S. publisher, Kerr, a London resident, agreed to his first interview with The Big Thrill, a story that was planned for this month’s “International Thrills” column. Before the interview could be completed, Kerr died of cancer on Friday, March 23rd.
His long-time editor Marian Wood said, “Working with Philip Kerr was the kind of experience all editors hope to have. In the twenty-plus years we worked together I found him responsive, funny, brilliant, and totally committed to his writing and hence, to being edited as long as he thought the editing was serious. He was an amazing human being and I will always miss him. At the moment, there is a huge hole in my life. I suspect it will stay with me as long as he lives in my memory—which means, as long as I live. He was special. More people might do well to learn that from his work and his ways.”
Nearly 30 years ago, Philip Kerr’s novel March Violets introduced the character of Bernie Gunther, a sardonic, hard-drinking detective. What made Gunther a bold choice of character was that in the series he is a detective working in Nazi and post-war Germany. Gunther always loathes the Nazis and is known for his defiant, abrasive nature. But he is also a survivor. When no less a Nazi than Reinhard Heydrich of the SS orders him to serve as “his number one trouble shooter” within the police, he has no choice but to agree. Gunther solves murder cases in the midst of war, whether in Berlin, the city that owns his soul, or on the edges of battlefields, in prisons, at Nazi retreats, or, later, in German communities in Argentina, France, and Cuba. Mysteries in which the crimes of individual murder are solved within a time of horrific war casualties have been written before, as in the excellent Foyle’s War series. Bernie Gunther, however, is always in a state of conflict over his feelings for his own country: He loves Germany while feeling shame, bitterness, and a certain incredulity that he has survived as long as he has.
Digging Out the Truth
About True Crime
By Dawn Ius
The genre dates back to Edgar Allen Poe, but social media, a growing distrust of the current state of the law, and an increased understanding of how legal proceedings work have changed the stakes for modern true crime stories. The genre is witnessing a new era of popularity, one that seems to transcend past stigmas and stereotypes.
In the early 1900s, the tabloids were filled with grisly tales of triple slayings, decapitations, and executions. And since then, true crime has asked us to consider how we, as a society, both contribute to, and learn from, the most shocking acts of our age.
Several authors have risen to the challenge. Books by Ann Rule—considered by many as the Queen of the genre—and Harold Schechter are perennial bestsellers. But despite their successes, true crime has often been dismissed as tabloid fodder. Fortunately, the genre’s long, rich history shows us there’s much more to true crime than penny dreadfuls and blood splattered paperbacks.
Sarah Weinmen’s Sept 2018 release The Real Lolita promises to shed new light on the terrifying true saga that inspired Nabakov’s masterpiece. Schecter’s latest release, Hell’s Princess, is an expose of Belle Guenness and the string of bodies buried beneath the acres of her Indiana farm. And I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by the late Michelle McNama—a gut-wrenching exploration of one woman’s obsessive search for the Golden State Killer—debuted on the New York Times bestseller list.
Balancing Darkness and Light
It seems there are few things Heather Graham can’t turn into a book. Even her bibliography is headed toward novel-length territory: Graham has written more than 200 novels, with 60 million books in print in 25 languages. Last year alone, she released entries in four series (including her fan-favorite Krewe of Hunters paranormal line), contributed to the Jonathan Maberry-edited anthology Hardboiled Horror, launched a new YA sci-fi trilogy with co-author Jon Land, and penned a suspense thriller with actor Chad Michael Murray. Graham kicked off 2018 with the release of a new installment in her Finnegan Connection miniseries, and three new Krewe of Hunters titles are set to drop this summer.
For now, though, Graham is taking a rare breather to celebrate the release of her latest romantic thriller. A DANGEROUS GAME, out now from Mira Books, is the third entry in the New York Confidential series, which centers on Manhattan-based criminal psychologist Kieran Finnegan and her love interest, FBI agent Craig Frasier. In the new installment, Kieran is preparing to leave her office one evening when a distraught woman thrusts an infant into her arms, only to be stabbed to death by a mysterious assailant as she flees. The unharmed baby is quickly taken into official care as police work to identify the victim and her attacker, but Kieran can’t let the incident go. When she pursues a lead she uncovers at the pub owned by her family, Kieran is drawn into the brutal world of human trafficking.
If there’s a downside to a catalog of titles that grows as quickly as Graham’s, it’s that each effort quickly cedes the stage to the next. So we’re happy that the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author carved a few minutes out of her schedule to shine a spotlight on her latest novel—and talk with The Big Thrill about satisfying reader expectations while maintaining a release calendar that would’ve sent Agatha Christie running for the sherry cabinet.
The Life of an Action Junkie
By Dawn Ius
K. J. Howe owes a lot to her roots.
After all, it is these roots that gave her a sense of adventure and turned her into a fearless adrenaline junkie, as comfortable navigating turbulence in a prop plane over the desert as she is managing the day-to-day chaos of running one of the most successful author conferences in the world.
As both the acclaimed writer of the Thea Paris international thriller series, and the Executive Director of Thrillerfest, Howe says her upbringing has a lot to do with how she stays cool under pressure.
“I grew up with two brothers,” she says. “And my father treated me like one of the boys—in a good way.”
Howe often found herself in the co-pilot position of her dad’s latest quest, every outing quietly stoking her passion for anything that would make her pulse thrum. This love of action led her to create the fierce character of Thea Paris, a kidnap and ransom specialist who made her debut in Howe’s The Freedom Broker.
Paris is back in SKYJACK, a heart pumping thrill ride that begins when Paris’ plane is hijacked over the Libyan Desert and the two former child soldiers she was tasked with escorting to safe passage are taken hostage. The plot was inspired by Howe’s own love of flying.
“My father was an aerobatic pilot and he would throw toilet paper out of the plane and try to chop it up into pieces with the propellers,” she says with fondness. “I always wanted to be a pilot, but the lessons and plane rentals are quite costly.”
By Gwen Florio
One of the reasons I so enjoy books set in other countries is that they take me places I can’t afford to visit. (Wait, you thought writers made money?) As you can see from August Thomas’ answer to the first question below, her debut novel, LIAR’S CANDLE, delivers. But beyond the descriptive writing, her book checked all the boxes – great protagonist and a keep-you-on-your-toes plot, leavened by some laugh-out-loud passages. I can’t wait for her next one.
Among the many things I love about LIAR’S CANDLE are the depictions of Turkey. You made me want to jump on the next plane for Istanbul. Please tell us about your time there, and also what drew you to Turkey in the first place.
I loved the time I spent in Turkey. I first went there for my 16th birthday, on a bus tour with my mother. Before then, I could barely find Turkey on a map!
We touched down in Istanbul the day after I turned 16. Over the next two weeks, we traveled 2,400 miles overland – from the bazaars of Istanbul to the underground cities of Cappadocia and the spectacular ruins of Ephesus. We watched dervishes whirl in a rose-covered caravanserai, ate fresh roast lamb by the roadside, took a ferry across the Dardanelles to the ruins of Troy, and drank scorching glasses of tea in the gardens of the sultans’ palace. Of course I wanted to discover more about this place!
The next semester, I started learning Turkish. When I was 18, I spent the summer in Ankara on a Critical Language Scholarship. I got to meet officials from the U.S. Embassy and the UNHCR; we even went inside the ruling AK Party headquarters. A schmoozy AKP politician gave us watermelon and told us about Turkey’s “zero problems” policy with its neighbors (Syria, Iraq, Iran, etc.). The world looked very different in 2009.
Getting Into Characters’ Minds
By Wendy Tyson
Charles Salzberg knows how to create compelling characters, and his mastery of the craft of writing is evident in his latest thriller, SECOND STORY MAN. The novel follows two expert lawmen, Charlie Floyd and Manny Perez, as they pursue the ruthless silver thief Francis Hoyt. Hoyt’s illustrious career has been impressive, but Floyd and Perez are determined to bring Hoyt to justice. Only Hoyt is willing to do anything, even kill, to outwit his pursuers.
SECOND STORY MAN has been called a “fast-paced, character driven pursuit novel” by author Michael Sears, and author David Swinson (The Second Girl) has said, “I dare you to try and put Salzberg’s SECOND STORY MAN down….From one absorbing character to another, SECOND STORY MAN is a gripping and totally rewarding read.”
The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Floyd, Perez, and Hoyt. The novel’s structure drives its lightning pace; it’s a thrilling read. When asked what motivated him to structure the story this way, Salzberg admits that the idea came from an earlier novel, Devil in the Hole. “[Devil in the Hole] told the story from the points of view of more than two dozen people. The book was based on a true crime and I decided to structure it with the conceit that the reader was getting the story from an unseen journalist interviewing people for a book he’s putting together.” The technique worked well in Devil in the Hole, so Salzberg used three points of view with SECOND STORY MAN. “This way, the story is not only immediate—that’s the beauty of first person, I think, it cuts away all barriers between reader and author—but the reader could get into the mind of all three of the characters.”
That immediacy puts the reader into the mind of one of Salzberg’s most interesting characters, antagonist Francis Hoyt. As with Devil in the Hole, Salzberg drew inspiration from real life—only this time, real criminals. “Hoyt is very loosely based on two real-life master burglars. Alan Golder, who was known as ‘the dinnertime bandit,’ because he only struck at that hour, when people would be home (and so would their jewelry) and they’d be downstairs having dinner. The other, ‘The Silver Thief,’ was Blane Nordahl, who only stole the most valuable silver. Both these men were experts at what they did.” As for the character and background of Francis Hoyt? “Totally made up,” says Salzberg, “as are the crimes he commits.”
A Trip Inside the
Ultimate Doomsday Bunker
Captain Willie Barnes, United States Air Force, wakes up in an unfamiliar room. He’s woozy, missing time, and can’t move his arms. He calls for his wife, but she doesn’t answer. Then, as the brain fog clears and his wits begin to return, he realizes the walls and floor of the room are padded. His arms don’t work because he’s wearing a straitjacket. Something is wrong, terribly terribly wrong—because the last thing he remembers is standing watch in Silo #9 in Dannemora. His job in the Air Force is boring, simple, and yet one of the most dangerous on Earth. He is an MCCC—a Missile Combat Crew Commander—which means for 20 days a month he is the custodian of an ICBM topped with a nuclear warhead. Now he finds himself in Rockland State Psychiatric Hospital with no recollection of how or why he got there…
Say hello to the opening premise of RESET, a novel about what might have been, what is yet to come, and what could happen if someone decided we’d all be better off doing things differently next time around. Oh, yeah, and there’s also lots of cool stuff about DARPA, Doomsday Preppers, Mind Control Technologies, zombie ant fungus, and Atlas F Missile Silos. But, I’m getting ahead of myself—time to focus on why you’re actually reading this article, which is because you (like me) found yourself intrigued by the idea of touring an Atlas F Missile Silo.
A Mystery in the African Bush
C. M. Elliott (everyone calls her Scotty, but she says the reason why makes too long of a story) writes a series of mystery/thrillers set in Zimbabwe near the Hwange National Park. She certainly has the perfect background for it, having spent 40 years in Zimbabwe with her game-ranger husband pioneering a tourism business based in and around the national park. She says she lived in the park continuously for 20 years “in an assortment of tents, tree-houses and bush dwellings, dodging a hodgepodge of charging elephants, rhino, buffalo and a rather angry spitting cobra” before moving to Bulawayo. Along the way, she has won literary prizes and awards, and the books have just been optioned for a TV series.
The first novel, Sibanda and the Rainbird, featuring the redoubtable Detective Inspector Jabulani Sibanda, was published in 2013 to an enthusiastic reception. It was followed two years later by Sibanda and the Death’s Head Moth, and last year SIBANDA AND THE BLACK SPARROWHAWK was released. The books have a wonderful sense of place as a backdrop for the gritty crimes and action.
It’s clear from your writing that you have a deep knowledge of, and affection for, the people of Matabeleland in Zimbabwe. How did you come to know the area and the people there so well?
I’ve lived in Matabeleland for 40 years and most of that time has been in rural locations. I’m fascinated by people and culture and the Ndebele are a particularly warm and welcoming nation, always smiling despite recent adversities. It’s hard not to admire and store away instances of such stoicism, good humor, ingenuity, and tradition.
Moving at a Breakneck Pace
By R.G. Belsky
Lee Goldberg has written a lot of things during his career–best-selling novels, popular non-fiction books and hundreds of scripts for hit TV shows like Monk, Spenser: For Hire and Diagnosis Murder. Now Goldberg has put all that experience into his spellbinding new thriller TRUE FICTION.
Spy author Ian Ludlow is recruited by the CIA to come up with a plot for a fictional terrorist attack to help the government prepare for any scenario, then is shocked to see the attack actually take place in real life. Now the bad guys are after him, and Ludlow has to run for his life like the hero character Clint Straker that he writes about in his thriller novels.
“As much as I like action adventure novels about guys who are essentially superheroes, I thought it would be fun to write the same kind of thriller but with a hero who has no special abilities whatsoever,” Goldberg said when asked where he got the idea for Ian Ludlow in TRUE FICTION. “Most of the heroes in these kinds of thrillers are ex-Navy SEALs or cops and have the ability to get out of trouble themselves. I know the authors who write these books. They are nothing like the characters they write.
“Ian Ludlow is an ordinary guy. He doesn’t have the perfect body, he doesn’t have special ops training. Ludlow’s weapon is his brain. He knows how his Straker character thinks in the books he writes – and Ludlow uses that to succeed against the bad guys. I’m trying to show that brains are better than brawn.”
The book opens with the attack–the crashing of a passenger jet by remote control into a beachfront hotel in Hawaii which kills hundreds of people, then moves at breakneck speed to the ending like a big screen thriller movie. Which is exactly what Goldberg said he set out to do.
By Shannon Kirk
I was recently fortunate to interview Clarissa Goenawan about writing in general, her excellent debut, RAINBIRDS, and … other things. Clarissa proves, in suffering through my inane questions and giving thoughtful and interesting answers, she can hang. She is, no doubt, a good sport. And obviously a talented writer. Here we go….
Tell the readers what RAINBIRDS is about?
RAINBIRDS follows a young man’s path to self-discovery as he struggles with his sister’s unsolved murder. It’s a literary mystery with elements of magical realism set in Japan.
I checked out your website (LOVE IT) and I read through all the crazy-amazing reviews you’re getting for RAINBIRDS. I want to ask you about a couple of them. A few reviews compare RAINBIRDS with the style of Murakami. I mean, if someone said this about something I wrote, I’d basically lose my mind in a flood of joyous endorphins. But what about you? What do you think? Do you think the comparison is accurate? Do you have any literary heroes? If so, who, why, how do they influence you?
Extremely flattered, of course, but also feeling an incredible amount of pressure. Haruki Murakami is one of the biggest contemporary authors right now.
Personally, I do think that there are similarities–for instance in terms of genre and setting–so readers who love Murakami’s works will probably enjoy RAINBIRDS too. That being said, if someone is expecting another Murakami book, they might end up being disappointed.
There are a lot of great authors I admire. I like J. M. Coetzee for his clean and lean prose, Deborah Levy for her brilliant writing, Haruki Murakami (yes!) for his whimsical story, Banana Yoshimoto for her atmospheric narrative, and Stephen King for his discipline and dedication to the writing life.
Transporting Readers to Another World
By Dawn Ius
Mary Sharratt swears she isn’t hiding a time travel machine in her backyard—but if you’ve read her books, you might be hard pressed to believe her. The ability to transport readers to another world is not only paramount to the genre in which she writes, it’s the reason she authors historical novels in the first place.
“It’s an escape for me as much as it hopefully is for the reader,” she says. “I want that experience of immersion in a completely different universe. As the saying goes, the past is another country.”
In her latest release—ECSTASY—the reader is taken back to turn-of-the-century Vienna to follow the story of Alma Schindler, a beautiful young woman who yearns to make her mark as a composer in a time when women had yet the resources or support to chase their true ambitions.
But of course, as the story in real life goes, Schindler lost her heart to the great composer Gustav Mahler, and when he demands that she give up music in exchange for his hand in marriage, Schindler’s dream is threatened—creating an emotional roller coaster that is handled with expert care in Sharratt’s capable hands.
In order to fully explore Schindler’s character, Sharratt relied primarily on two historic resources—Alma Schindler’s diaries (her published diaries end shortly before her marriage to Gustav Mahler) and Mahler’s letters to Alma during their life together.
“Taken together and supplemented with their music, these primary sources form a narrative,” Sharratt says. “Interestingly, Alma later destroyed most of her letters to Gustav, so we only get his side of their voluminous correspondence. Her self-imposed silence in this historical record forms its own narrative, as well.”
To Colonel Zack Kelly, a trip to New York City is more than an opportunity to bond with his daughter, Laura. It’s a chance to find out once and for all what happened to his father, an NYPD cop shot and killed by drug dealers, then branded a dirty cop some thirty years before. Someone doesn’t want Zack to learn the truth of his father’s past. When he arrives to talk to one of his father’s partners, he finds the man assaulted and on the floor of his apartment. Zack suspects the corruption his father was investigating may reach as high as the New York City Police Commissioner. Or maybe even higher?
Laura Kelly is caught up in an hijacking aboard the Staten Island Ferry. Meanwhile Zack’s partner, Lieutenant Colonel Rene Garcia, uncovers a plot by a group of ex-military called the Forgotten Warriors to take over the Alamo in San Antonio. Zack suspects these two events are connected and to find the solution, he’ll have to take the longest walk of his life. And it may not even lead him home.
Don Helin took time out from his busy writing schedule to discuss LONG WALK HOME with The Big Thrill.
Cooper and Davis are a couple of jam band-obsessed Texas ex-pats growing some of Denver’s finest organic cannabis and living the good life on tour. Or, at least they were, until legal weed put the squeeze on their market and cramped their playboy lifestyle.
When their last out-of-state distributor gets busted by an Illinois task force, they’re left with no choice but to turn to their reckless former associate Elroy “Sancho” Watts to unload one last crop down in Teller County, Texas.
But Sancho Watts has troubles of his own in the form of Texas Ranger Russ Kirkpatrick, tasked under the table with nailing Watts for anything that will stick because of his involvement in the drug-induced suicide of a state senator’s son.
Not to mention his infamous new business partner, Heisman quarterback and NFL burnout Bobby Burnell, a man working to rise from the ashes of his self-destructed football career by making a name for himself in his criminally inclined Teller County family, no matter who he has to double-cross to get there.
What ensues is a pine-curtain criminal jamboree where everyone involved keeps their cards close to their vest, and all the high-stakes two-stepping is sure to result in bloodshed.
TEXAS TWO-STEP author, Michael Pool, met with The Big Thrill to discuss his latest novel:
When Devon Cole’s father disappeared she was shocked to discover his connection to a major drug cartel. An attack by members of the cartel looking for the information he disappeared with sends her to top security agency Vigilance, and bodyguard Logan Malek. But Malek has his own demons that he fights daily. When Devon is kidnapped, he must deal with them in order to save her and bring down the cartel.
USA Today bestselling author Desiree Holt spent some time with the The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, WITHOUT WARNING:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I learned once again that danger can come at us from any person and any lade, and we cannot discount anyone when our lives are threatened. more »
DEAD GUY IN THE BATHTUB is a collection of crime stories with a dark sense of humor and irony. These characters are on the edge and spiraling out of control. Bad situations become serious circumstances that double down on worst-case scenarios. A Lou Reed fan gets himself caught on the wild side. A couple goes on a short and deadly crime spree. A collector of debts collects a little too much for himself. A vintage Elvis collection to lose your head over. A local high school legend with a well-endowed reputation comes home. Paul Greenberg’s debut collection is nothing but quick shots of crime fiction.
Author Paul Greenberg met with The Big Thrill to discuss his new crime story collection, DEAD GUY IN THE BATHTUB:
Returning to work after an enforced absence to recover, she discovers she wasn’t the only victim of that investigation.
DI Devon Sharp remains suspended from duties, and the team is in turmoil.
Determined to prove herself once more and clear his name, Kay undertakes to solve a cold case that links Sharp to his accuser.
But as she gets closer to the truth, she realises her enquiries could do more harm than good.
Torn between protecting her mentor and finding out the truth, the consequences of Kay’s enquiries will reach far beyond her new role…
Bestselling author Rachel Amphlett spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing the latest installment in her Detective Kay Hunter series, CALL TO ARMS:
Ben Blackshaw’s old friend Travis Cynter is dead. Cynter was Blackshaw’s comrade-in-arms in the U.S. Navy SEALs. He was killed in full tactical gear during a black-ops mission on American soil. FBI Agents Molly Wilde and Pershing Lowry try to draw Blackshaw into helping them solve Cynter’s murder. The agents need Blackshaw because the case landed in their laps from an American intelligence agency with overseas interests. From two previous cases, these Feds have come to appreciate how Blackshaw can work in the shadows, off the books, and be easily disavowed should his investigations implode.
Blackshaw is torn. He has a longstanding mistrust of doing any kind of clandestine work for government intelligence agencies. In fact, when patriotism has led him to do the right thing in the past, usually against his better judgment and instincts, his friends and loved ones have suffered; many have died. Helping Wilde and Lowry always comes at too great a cost. This unhappy history weighs heavily against Blackshaw’s profound desire to solve the mystery of Travis Cynter’s death. Should he serve with patriotic duty to an ideal that might not exist, or act with honor to clear the name of his murdered friend?
Against the wishes of LuAnna, Blackshaw’s expectant wife, and contrary to the grim and hard-won advice of his friend Knocker Ellis Hogan, Blackshaw reluctantly launches the investigation with a close study of the murder scene on Dog & Bitch Island near Ocean City, Maryland. The trio finds the exact spot where Travis Cynter died. It is LuAnna who discovers a clue which spins the team into a deadly transatlantic chase; she quickly learns that the Feds have not told them the whole truth about Cynter’s final mission.
Thanks to Ellis’s wisdom and wealth, and LuAnna’s independent deductive logic, Blackshaw operates like a small covert agency unto himself. Along the way, he tangles with an old enemy, discovers an unfinished SEAL mission, and cuts out rot at the highest levels of government, including a scandal that could rally terrorists the world over. And it is all controlled by the iron hand of a shadowy syndicate called Faction.
DOG & BITCH ISLAND author Robert Blake Whitehill was kind enough to discuss his latest thriller with The Big Thrill:
His client is to testify in a Chicago money laundering trial. He’s paranoid that with a price on his head, if the police know where he’s staying, the information will leak. Seamus promised his business partner and lover, Abigail Hancock, that he’d keep the witness safe at the McCree family camp located deep in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan’s woods.
Abigail is furious at his incompetence and their relationship flounders. Even his often-helpful son, Paddy, must put family safety ahead of helping his father. Seamus risks his own safety and freedom to turn amateur sleuth in hopes he can solve the crimes, fulfill his promise of protection, and win back Abigail. Wit and grit are on his side, but the clock is ticking . . . and the hitman is on his way.
EMPTY PROMISES author James M. Jackson spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest thriller:
It’s autumn of 1881, and Inez Stannert, still the co-owner of Leadville, Colorado’s Silver Queen saloon, is settled in San Francisco with her young ward, Antonia Gizzi. Inez has turned her business talents to managing a music store, hoping to eventually become an equal partner in the enterprise with the store’s owner, a celebrated local violinist.
Inez’s carefully constructed life for herself and Antonia threatens to tumble about her ears when the badly beaten body of a young musician washes up on the filthy banks of San Francisco’s Mission Creek canal. Inez and Antonia become entangled in the mystery of his death when the musician turns out to have ties to Leadville, ties that threaten to expose Inez’s notorious past. And they aren’t the only ones searching for answers. Wolter Roeland de Bruijn, “finder of the lost,” has also been tasked with ferreting out the perpetrators and dispensing justice in its most final form. Leadville’s leading madam Frisco Flo, an unwilling visitor to the city with a Leadville millionaire, is on the hook as well, having injudiciously financed the young musician’s journey to San Francisco in the first place.
Time grows short as Inez and the others uncover long-hidden secrets and unsettled scores. With lives and reputations on the line, the tempo rises until the investigation’s final, dying note.
Award-winning author Ann Parker spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel, A DYING NOTE:
No one takes down deranged killers like L.A. detective Brick Morris. But a crazed maniac is savagely murdering Hollywood starlets and sending Morris grisly calling cards. And that’s just the first phase of a fiendish “death machine” the relentless killer plans to unleash on Los Angeles. Every move Morris makes triggers another step in the psychopath’s doomsday scenario. Morris has only one choice to stop the killings: the one the killer never expected…
Author Jacob Stone recently met with The Big Thrill to discuss the third Morris Brick thriller, MALICIOUS:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I’m hoping readers will find MALICIOUS an exciting and terrifying thriller that will keep them turning pages late into the night. MALICIOUS is the third Morris Brick thriller, and as such, readers will also get to revisit Morris, his charming wife Natalie, his bull terrier Parker, and the rest of the MBI (Morris Brick Investigations) team.
The killer in MALICIOUS has built an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine, and this forced me to construct an equally elaborate and intricate plot that I hope will keep readers guessing until the very end.
When Rake Ozenna of the elite Eskimo Scouts brings his fiancée, trauma surgeon Carrie Walker, to his remote home island in the Bering Strait they are faced immediately with a medical crisis. Then, Russian helicopters swarm in.
America is on the eve of an acrimonious presidential transition. As news breaks of a possible Russian invasion, Stephanie Lucas, British ambassador to Washington D.C., is hosting a dinner for the president-elect.
Ozenna’s small Alaskan island community is suddenly caught in the crosshairs of sabre-rattling big powers. The only way to save his people is to undertake a perilous mission across the ice. Can he survive long enough to prevent a world war breaking out?
The Big Thrill caught up with author, journalist and commentator Humphrey Hawksley, to discuss his latest thriller, MAN ON ICE:
Riley Ellison has taken a great leap of faith by giving up her comfortable job at the Tuttle Corner library for the exciting world of print journalism. Except that so far it hasn’t been very exciting. All that changes when Riley’s former co-worker Tabitha finds her soon-to-be father-in-law dead, and Riley is asked to write his obituary. And when they discover Tabitha’s fiancé’s knife sticking out of his father’s chest, Riley finds herself with a murder investigation to cover as well.
With mounting pressure from her boss, the mayor, and a bridezilla facing the possibility of a conjugal visit honeymoon, Riley is desperate to prove she can handle the increasing demands of her new job. She ends up blurring the line between reporter and investigator and winning the attention of a very dangerous criminal. Will Riley’s rookie mistakes lead to more than just her byline ending up on the obituary page?
Author of THE BAD BREAK, Julie Orr, recently spoke with The Big Thrill regarding her latest installment in the Riley Ellison mystery series:
A threatening note, a dead musician, and decades of secrets put the town’s first beach music festival and its band members in grave danger.
With help from her meddling half-sister and a new flavor of chocolate sweets to ignite the senses, Penn follows the shifting tide of evidence to uncover a forty-year-old secret.
Author Dorothy St. James spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing the second installment of the Southern Chocolate Shop Mysteries, PLAYING WITH BONBON FIRE:
By Myles Knapp
The best part about this gig—other than meeting very cool writers—is that your lucky reviewer guy, me, gets assigned a book. This often forces me to read outside my normal genre, which is heroic thrillers—Jack Reacher, Spenser, Caitlin Strong and Doc Ford, to name just a few.
THE GOD MACHINE isn’t a heroic thriller—it’s a heroic, science fiction, thriller, and a romantic comedy. A wild mashup.
Set in the year 2014, a 19-year-old budding novelist, Kieran Nash, is transported to the alien desert world of Adeaa. There he is rescued from certain death by an elite squad of German paratroopers—World War II soldiers who have been yanked straight off the battlefield.
The writing is fresh, sarcastic, funny and wildly entertaining.
Newman says he was inspired by Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clark, Frederick Brown, Keith Laumer, Orson Scott Card and Phillip K. Dick. And if you like their work, you’re going to love THE GOD MACHINE.
It’s early morning in Florida, that time before the heat really sets in, and Max Karpov, author of the political thriller THE CHILDREN’S GAME, is writing under the canopy of trees in his yard and listening to the canal flowing behind his house. A runner, traveler, and journalist, Karpov always finds inspiration from the outdoors, which is why he initially plans his books at the beach. Some of those books are for HarperCollins as part of the Bowers-Hunter mystery series, which he pens under the name James Lilliefors.
But Karpov tells me the stimulus for his latest novel THE CHILDREN’S GAME “started almost as an investigative story, with an idea. Russia’s disinformation industry and its cyber-warfare capabilities were topics that have long interested me. It seemed pretty clear four years ago, when I started researching the book, that Russia was making preparations for a war against the West that the United States, and other nations, weren’t really ready to fight. We’re in that war now.”
Since Karpov is a career journalist who is used to working with facts, I wondered where the line is between fiction and non-fiction in a novel like this.
“Much of the story is drawn from real events or, in some cases, real ‘fake’ events,” he says. “For example: when the Malaysian Airlines MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July 2014 (killing 283 passengers and 15 crew members) Russia circulated false ‘news’ stories saying the attack had been a botched attempt by the Ukrainian government to assassinate President Putin, whose plane was returning to Russia from South America that same day. In truth, of course, Russia itself has now been tied to the attack. I used those details and fictionalized them in the novel.”
Homicide Detective Veranda Cruz will stop at nothing to take down the Villalobos cartel. But when a wave of violence in the city escalates, she fears that the secrets of her past will take her down instead.
Adolfo Villalobos is a crime boss who’s determined to stake his claim. To prove that he’s ready to run his family’s sprawling criminal empire, he devises a plan to silence his siblings and destroy Veranda, leaving a trail of destruction through downtown Phoenix that makes national headlines. Veranda believes the task force she’s been assigned to lead will end the cartel’s reign of terror, until Adolfo’s revenge takes a cruel—and highly personal—twist.
Author Isabella Maldonado spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, PHOENIX BURNING:
By Tim O´Mara
I had just finished WRATH by Thomas Lowe, checked out his website, and did some research. We’d decided via email when a good time to talk would be, and I call him at the mutually agreed-upon time.
“Hey, Tim,” Lowe says as he picks up the phone. “Let me just move from the den to my office so we can talk.”
“Wait a second,” I say. “You have a den and an office?”
He pauses for a beat, then says—and I can almost hear the shrug—“I live in Northern Michigan.”
Nice, I think. I live in Manhattan and the closest I’ve got to a den and an office is when I move my laptop from my wife’s desk in our bedroom to our couch in our bedroom. Anyway…
I remember from his website that Lowe says he enjoys the “loneliness” of the writing process. Now that I know he has a den and an office, I ask him to elaborate.
“It’s not the loneliness I really like,” he explains. “It’s just that I have to go to my office, close the door, and shut myself off from the distractions of home. I need to be able to read my stuff out loud and hear the dialogue, hear the rhythm of the sentences. Once I get started, the writing takes over. I usually produce about ten pages a day. I don’t stop writing. I fly through, get about ten pages done a day, and figure I can put the band-aids on later.”
Ten pages a day? Nice day at the office. Now I wonder why the creator of the Sean O’Brien series and the Paul Marcus trilogy has decided to start a new thriller series with a female protagonist, Elizabeth Monroe.
Linda Sands talks fast, the words spilling from her mouth in a torrent, as if there isn’t enough time to get everything said, much less everything done. You won’t find grass growing beneath her feet, that’s for sure. And if it seems as if she’s in perpetual motion, well, that’s because she is.
For instance, if you’d been looking for her the last Sunday in February, you’d have found this Georgia Author of the Year and two-time Silver Falchion winner in Atlanta attending a NASCAR event. It’s not so much that she’s in love with fast cars, although she can probably take one apart and put it back together (I’m not sure about the blindfolded part); it’s that she’s heavily into researching her next Jojo Boudreaux novel, Checkered Cargo, while the second in the series, PRECIOUS CARGO, is ready to hit bookstores in April.
In PRECIOUS CARGO, Boudreaux and her co-driver and boyfriend, Gator Natoli, are at a truck stop in Austin when they’re approached by a frightened young girl who begs them for a ride. After delivering her to safety, they run into her again in Oklahoma City. Only this time, she doesn’t want to be saved and Jojo and Gator wind up getting involved with the Somali Mafia, where powerful people manipulate a hundred-billion-dollar industry of prostitution, drugs, and international sex trafficking.
The Cargo series came about accidentally. Sands, who became fascinated by truckers and the life they lead, had been working on a nonfiction photo essay book on them. She was living in Northern California at the time, and her neighbor was a long-haul trucker. Tired of being awakened by the noise of his truck parked in front of her house, Sands knocked on his door to ask him to park it elsewhere.
“He was this very large man who looked kind of mean, but he turned out to be just the opposite,” she says. “His name was Grisly, and he became my pal. He showed me his truck, and I was hooked. I photographed the cab and the area where he slept, and realized this would make a wonderful coffee table book.”
Looking for a new medical thriller with a unique paranormal twist? It’s time for you to check out THE BONE CURSE by Carrie Rubin.
Western medicine clashes with Haitian Vodou when Ben Oris, a rational-minded Philadelphia med student, enters the occult world after a vengeful priest unleashes a centuries-old curse on him. Ben is touring the Paris catacombs when he cuts himself on a bone he feels compelled to touch. When his loved ones begin to succumb to a gruesome illness, Ben is forced to confront the fact that whatever entered his bloodstream when he picked up the bone can’t be explained by medical science.
Unlike many thriller protagonists, Ben is an introvert who is most comfortable with one-on-one interactions.
“On the surface he might seem standoffish, maybe even aloof,” says Rubin. “But like most introverts, he has a huge heart and cares deeply for the people in his inner circle. He would do anything for them—and does—even though he would not define himself as a hero. He’s just a guy with a life plan who has worked very hard to get where he is.”
Ben does not initially respond well to his life being derailed by something he doesn’t understand. It takes some time for him to be convinced that a Vodou curse could be behind the infection he’s spreading. But ultimately, if he wants to save those he loves, he must accept it.
Rubin, a physician, says the idea for THE BONE CURSE came to her while she was watching a TV show featuring supernatural phenomena.
By Don Helin
In BITCH OUT OF HELL, Bella Hinton, a career personal protection professional, was headhunted away from the State Department seven years ago by Caprock Worldwide, a high-end private security company.
Bella got Caprock’s runaway cowboy culture under control, but in today’s Washington, diplomacy is out and mercenary armies are in. New corporate leadership believes that returning to the old ways will maximize profits—but they have to get rid of Bella first. And they figure firing the bitch will be easy.
“Piss-poor at threat assessment,” is how Bella assesses them. She sets out to prove them wrong.
A Macavity Award finalist, Diana Deverell debuted as a published author in 1998 with 12 Drummers Drumming, her first international thriller, and the four-book series has now spun off Bella’s first-person story set in contemporary Washington, DC. In addition, Deverell writes the five-book Nora Dockson legal thriller series.
Deverell’s short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly, Fiction River, and Switchblade. The Big Thrill caught up with Deverell and asked her a few questions about the inspiration behind BITCH OUT OF HELL.
Joseph Fanning stole and abused seventeen children. Recently released after serving his time, now he’s gone missing. Detective Olivia Newhouse and her partner, Walt Duncan, have a duty to do all within their power to find him—just as they would for any other citizen. The first step is to make a list of possible suspects and the logical names to start with are Fanning’s victims. Those seventeen children are now adults and more than one would like to see Joseph Fanning dead.
As Olivia and Walt dig deeper into the case their own lives begin to unravel. The fragile threads of discovery start to twist and tangle until nothing is as it seems.
When the one victim who knows the whole truth is revealed, no one will be the same.
The Big Thrill caught up to USA Today bestselling author Debra Webb to discuss her latest thriller, THERE ONCE WAS A CHILD:
This spring, Debra Sennefelder joins the ranks of authors who have entered the strange parallel universe that is cozy mystery land, where murder lurks around every seemingly harmless corner and the most innocent of activities can lead to the greatest danger. Her upcoming series launch features a sleuth with an unusual and distinctly modern occupation. In THE UNINVITED CORPSE, food blogger Hope Early sets out on a spring garden tour in the quaint town of Jefferson, Connecticut, only to find herself tracking a killer in order to clear her sister’s name.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Sennefelder to talk about the unique demands of crafting killers, sleuths, and villains for the cozy mystery market.
THE UNINVITED CORPSE is your debut novel. What does it feel like watching your first book take off?
A debut release brings on many feelings. It’s exciting to see a manuscript I began working on at my dining table turned into a real book. It’s satisfying to see all the work that went into writing, revising, and editing the book pay off. And it’s also scary because I have no idea of how it will be received. It’s definitely a roller coaster of emotions.
By Azam Gill
Mystery author and academic M. R. Morgan’s research into the operations of escort services and call girls—as he is at pains to point out—was “purely academic and not practical.” But the research blossomed into SISTER IN LAW: VIOLATION, SEDUCTION, AND THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES—a gripping thriller of corruption and a sophisticated conspiracy to subvert the American presidency, written with flair, skill, and a lawyer’s focus.
The Review Team of Taylor Jones & Regan Murphy loved it: “The story is fast-paced, the storyline unique, and the characters endearing. This is one you will want to read again and again, just to catch what you missed the time before. Very well done.”
Shadowy conspirators in SISTER IN LAW recruit Suzanne Dahlstrom, an accomplished call girl, to bewitch and marry Adam, the serving president’s brother, so that she can seduce the president himself. The plan is to neuter the president through a sex scandal with his sister-in-law. When she realizes that she has actually fallen in love with Adam and informs her handlers, they change the plan from seduction to assassination. Left with no choice, Suzanne makes the attempt, but loses her nerve just as Adam bursts onto the scene. The drama piles up to a stunning and memorable finale.
Pepper O’Neal, author of the award-winning Black Ops Chronicles series, writes about SISTER IN LAW that “you can’t help rooting for Suzanne, a truly enchanting character. I couldn’t put it down.”
M. R. Morgan is the pen name of a professor of law emeritus. His successful cozy mystery series, and a well-known political thriller have been published by Random House under his real name, Mark Reutlinger. He is also a reviewer for the New York Journal of Books, keeps up a law treatise, is the Executive Director of the Tacoma Concert Band in which he plays and is a partner in an organic tea company. A dedicated writer, he can get immersed in his writing scattered on scribbled notes in his pocket and on his nightstand, and miss an appointment, often to his wife’s ire.
Basically, the ingredients to craft an original conspiracy thriller orbit within Morgan’s own life and lifestyle.
By John Darrin
As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her favorite genre is gay fiction, sometimes historical (sometimes hysterical) and usually with a mystery thrown into the mix.
This is Charlie Cochrane’s official brief bio. Anywhere you find something written about Cochrane, you learn that she claims to be basically unemployable, and she thinks she knows something about rugby. In this interview with The Big Thrill, Cochrane tells us why—and also introduces her 29th full-length book, and the 13th in her Lessons series, Lessons in Chasing the Wild Goose.
It’s not clear why Cochrane feels she is unemployable for several reasons. First, she is employed. Second, being a Cambridge graduate and an Applied Biologist she would, at a minimum, be more in demand than an Abstract Biologist. And finally, she has a history of quite impressive employment—such as training school governors. However, she would like to be the first woman to play cricket for the England men’s team—and in that particular instance, she probably is unemployable.
As for rugby, she says, “the sport has the theme of respect running through it, which means you can have women refereeing men’s games and it isn’t a problem. In fact, the best referee in the world is gay and no-one bats an eyelid.”
Miranda isn’t sure of anything at first except that Louise Crowley, the blonde who works as an assistant to Niles Alexander, San Francisco publisher, is in trouble. Despite her own preparations for an imminent voyage to a blitzkrieged Britain and a painful farewell to the city she loves, Miranda decides to help Louise and takes on her last case as a private detective in San Francisco…investigating her client, surveying the publishing world of 1940, and stumbling into murder with a trail that leads straight to Alcatraz…an island city of sharks.
Along the way, Miranda explores her beloved San Francisco once more, from Playland-at-the-Beach to Chinatown to Nob Hill and Treasure Island. She encounters John Steinbeck and C.S. Forester, and is aided and abetted by the charming and dapper San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen. And she also discovers personal truths she’s long denied…
The Big Thrill caught up to award-wining author Kelli Stanley to discuss her latest mystery, CITY OF SHARKS:
New York attorney Neil Brewster has everything he’s ever wanted: an expensive Manhattan apartment, a gorgeous fiancée, a forthcoming partnership in his law firm, and a reputation for winning even the most hopeless cases. His utter ruthlessness and bullying–both in and out of the courtroom–are legendary, and have been since his childhood.
With a new high profile court case looming, a camping reunion with his old high school cronies becomes just the distraction he needs, especially after he discovers a former lover is staying nearby.
But Neil’s weekend plunges into disarray when he’s confronted with the sins of his past. After learning about the suicide of the boy he bullied relentlessly as a teenager, Neil is tormented by ghostly voices and apparitions. Frantic, Neil descends into a frenzied search for answers, only to discover that things aren’t always what they seem.
Author Michael Bradley took time out of his busy schedule to discuss his latest thriller, FOLLOW YOU DOWN, with The Big Thrill:
Dead clients are bad for business, something that Tom Winter, head of security at a private Swiss bank, knows only too well. When a helicopter explosion kills a valuable client and a close colleague, Winter teams up with the mysterious Egyptian businesswoman Fatima Hakim to expose the truth behind their deaths.
Together they follow the money trail around the world and back into the Swiss mountains, the NSA watching their every move. As they start closing in on the truth, Winter and Fatima turn from being the hunters to the hunted, finding themselves in a deadly, high-stakes race against the clock.
Award-winning author Peter Beck spent some time discussing his latest thriller, DAMNATION, with The Big Thrill: