A Classic With Delicious Twists
The eerie Manderley estate of Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca has mesmerized not only decades’ worth of readers but also novelists—and for Ruth Ware, the Cornwall estate of Menabilly, which inspired du Maurier, has very particular meaning. The British suspense author, whose novel THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY is winning acclaim, said that Menabilly “was the main reason I chose to set my novel in Cornwall, as a tribute to her fabulous settings.”
Ware explained, “I tend to think of the settings for my novels as another character in themselves. I have to find the right place for my novels, just as much as I have to find the main characters, and they play off each other.”
In THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY, the “character” in question is a Cornwall house called Trespassn, and it’s much more than a slightly crumbling estate of wealth and dark secrets. It’s a property that the novel’s main character, Hal, may or may not be entitled to. Hal is a near-destitute tarot card reader with a stall on the Brighton Pier when she receives a letter saying that her grandmother has recently died and she may be due an inheritance. The problem? Hal believes her grandmother to be long dead. Should she decide to attend the funeral of the mysterious Mrs. Westaway, it’s those abilities to “read” people refined through tarot-reading that could set her own future.
Writing a Winning Character
By R.G. Belsky
James W. Ziskin is back with the sixth book in his highly-acclaimed Ellie Stone series, A STONE’S THROW—and this time the feisty woman reporter is caught up in the dark side of the horse racing business. A fire in August 1962 at what first appears to be an abandoned horse farm near Saratoga Springs, N.Y. turns into a tangled murder case that stretches back for years and puts Ellie’s own life in danger.
So why did he decide to write about horse racing?
Ziskin says he spent time as a teenager at the Saratoga track where he learned to appreciate the beauty of horses. “I never had the patience to be a good handicapper. Or even a poor one. I’m not a gambler. But the horses are so magnificent. Thoroughbreds show such heart, so much courage.”
But mostly, as in earlier books, Ziskin just likes to get Ellie out of the upstate NY town of New Holland, where she works as a reporter at the local newspaper.
“I was concerned about too many murders in the small town of New Holland, NY. I want to avoid Cabot Cove Syndrome, so I move Ellie around whenever I can. Saratoga Springs was a natural location for me since it’s just twenty-five miles from fictional New Holland. A stone’s throw, so to speak.”
That required lots of research for Ziskin—even more than he usually does for his books that are set in the early 1960s and make reference to many news and cultural events of that era.
Haunted By a Real-Life Crime
By R.G. Belsky
Bestselling author Michael Koryta’s new thriller, HOW IT HAPPENED, is inspired in part by a horrific crime he vividly remembers while growing up as a teenager in Indiana—but it took him nearly 20 years to use that memory in a novel.
HOW IT HAPPENED opens with a shocking confession to FBI investigator Rob Barrett that seemingly answers all the questions about the brutal double murder of a young woman and her boyfriend in a small Maine town, including the exact location of the two bodies in a nearby pond. But then the confession falls apart, the bodies are found in a different place, and Barrett must begin the search for the real truth.
In writing this book, Koryta tells how he incorporated elements of a baffling real-life murder that has haunted him since he was in high school—the disappearance of a 19-year-old Indiana University student named Jill Behrman.
“I was 17 years old, and she vanished during a bike ride on a road near where I lived,” he says. “So I have that memory of the shock that went through the community and how jarring it was to me and my family. Two years later, one of the first big stories I covered as a newspaper reporter was the search for her body—divers going into this creek—after a confession from someone who said they were one of three people involved in her death. That didn’t pan out—the body was found miles away well after that—and someone else has since been convicted of the crime.
By Dawn Ius
A sci-fi thriller, a novel of psychological suspense, a gripping story of wealth and corruption, a tension-packed political expose, and the eighth book in a compelling military series—their stories couldn’t be more different, but the authors of the five nominated books in the International Thriller Writer’s Best E-Book Original award category share one common emotion: gratification.
Writing can be a solitary experience, and as the writers note in their interviews below, having the support of an organization as prestigious and supportive as the ITW has been paramount in their success—whether it’s through creating a sense of welcome, providing the opportunity to attract greater readership, or by simply offering a camaraderie among peers.
This month, the nominees took a few moments to chat with The Big Thrill about their books, their influences, and what this nomination truly means.
Growing up in a small village in Ireland, Caroline Mitchell dreamed that her books would one day be read across the globe. But even then, she never imagined that she’d be traveling to New York this July because one of those books would be shortlisted for a special prize.
That dream became a reality when Mitchell learned that her novel WITNESS had been nominated for the International Thriller Writers Best E-Book Original award—and she couldn’t be more grateful.
“Thanks to the ITW and my publisher, Thomas and Mercer, my work is reaching more readers than ever before,” she says. “I had to read the notification email three times for it to sink in.”
In the book, Mitchell’s protagonist is forced to witness a crime for each year her ex spent in prison—and she must choose the victims before it defaults to someone she loves. A frightening premise to be sure, but Mitchell is used to writing—and reading—about terrifying situations.
In fact her first novel, Paranormal Intruder, is based on a chilling true story.
“I was working as a police officer in uniform one day when my husband called me to say something very strange was going on in our home,” she says. “For the next few years, we were subject to the most terrifying experiences you could imagine, by what we could only describe as an unearthly entity in our home.”
If not for the fact that so many of her colleagues had witnessed the same events, Mitchell admits she might have fallen apart. “Instead, I recorded my experiences by writing a book.”
To find out more about WITNESS, Paranormal Intruder, or the other books in Mitchell’s impressive body of work, check out her website.
Kevin Wignall was so busy sifting through shortlists for the names of friends who’d been nominated that he almost missed the fact that his novel A FRAGILE THING had been given a nod for an International Thriller Writers Best E-Book Original award.
“I write books that don’t always conform to the general expectations people have of mystery or thriller novels,” he says. “So for an organization like ITW to recognize what I’m doing in this way is particularly gratifying.”
A FRAGILE THING is Wignall’s eighth book, his career as a writer beginning with the publication of his first novel in 2001, and showing no signs of slowing—particularly with this award nomination and an idea factory of an imagination that churns out premises that are as intriguing as they are chilling.
Wignall first described A FRAGILE THING to his editor as The Godfather meets The Great Gatsby—and admits, there’s still some truth to that. “It’s a story of wealth and corruption, of family feuds, and a young man who’s gained the world, but lost his soul.”
Pretty dark for a self-proclaimed fan of Jane Austen.
For more about Wignall and his books, check out his website.
Alan McDermott isn’t a fan of flying—so boarding a plane to New York this July will take him completely out of his comfort zone. The sacrifice is worth it, though, since he’ll be attending Thrillerfest to see if his nominated book TROJAN takes the top prize for the International Thriller Writers Best E-Book Original award.
“When I started writing, it was to earn a few extra bucks to pay the bills,” he says. “I never imagined I would be nominated for an award, never mind shortlisted. Even now, I’m surprised someone chose TROJAN to get this far.”
The book itself is on a fast track—a tension-packed will-they-won’t-they story as M15 battle to prevent a chemical attack in the heart of London. If you’re picking up a Tom Clancy vibe, you’re on the right path. McDermott calls the author the “king of the political thriller” and has read each of his books twice.
“I’ve always wanted to write something of his caliber, and the ten books I’ve written so far have been practice,” he says. “I intend to take a few weeks off in the autumn and plot out something he’d be proud to call his own.”
Or at least be intrigued enough to join McDermott for dinner, where they would dine on steak with peppercorn sauce. But definitely not seafood—McDermott can’t stand it.
To add all of McDermott’s books to your TBR, check out his Goodreads page.
Jeff Gunhus has spent many years at the Thrillerfest awards banquet, quietly dreaming that something he’d written would one day be worthy of a nomination. Turns out, this year is that day.
Gunhus’s sci-fi thriller RESURRECTION AMERICA was nominated for an International Thriller Writers Best E-Book Original award, and Gunhus couldn’t be more pleased.
“I write because I love it,” he says. “Acknowledgement that the work isn’t terrible is gravy—but it’s great tasting gravy.”
And even more delicious that the nod comes from an organization that has been instrumental to his writing journey. He’s attended Master Craftfest with Steve Berry, sat in the all-day FBI seminar, and taken part in the online thriller school—a fully immersed student of ITW.
“I’ve always felt welcome at ITW,” he says. “Whether from the other writers and instructors or the incredible Kimberley Howe, who makes everyone feel like Thrillerfest was created just for them. This nomination further validates the value of Thrillerfest and amplifies the sense of belonging ITW fosters.”
Inclusivity is important to Gunhus, who admits his foray into writing began as a way to get his oldest son excited about reading—he actually wrote and published a six-book fantasy adventure called Jack Templar Monster Hunter where he and his brother star as the main characters.
“While my writing for adults is fun, my favorite emails are still from young readers who stumble across the Jack Templar series, and their parents who swear their son or daughter hated to read before finding my books,” he says. “That’s the greatest compliment.”
Well, unless RESURRECTION AMERICA takes the top award this July at Thrillerfest—then it might be a bit of a toss-up.
Read all about Gunhus’s books at his website.
Sean Black is no stranger to award nominations—SECOND CHANCE represents the third time he’s been nominated for an International Thriller Writers Best E-Book award—but that doesn’t mean he’s any less delighted.
“I must be doing something right,” he says. “Writing, especially when you’re independent of a publisher, can be quite a lonely experience at times, so validation by your peers means a lot.”
SECOND CHANCE is the eighth book in his series about military veterans Ryan Lock and Ty Johnson. The plot zeroes in on Lock, who is the target of someone hell bent on revenge. It could be anyone, really—as a former military bodyguard, Lock has made his fair share of enemies.
Black admits the pacing and action is influenced by one of his writing idols, Don Winslow—someone he’d not only like to emulate as a writer, but would love to chat with over dinner—“whatever the hell he wanted, he’s Don Winslow”—where the conversation would inevitably turn to Black’s non-writing hobby.
“I just started competing in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu,” he says. “As a forty-something above-knee amputee.”
Read about all eight of Black’s novels in the Lock and Johnson series on his website.
By Dawn Ius
Writing is hard work, yo.
Writing a publishable book? Even more difficult.
Which is why the five authors nominated for this year’s International Thriller Writers Best First Novel award are not only especially grateful for the acknowledgement, but also, well…thrilled. Regardless of how they learned about the nomination—Facebook, email, mid-fight with a traffic cop… Seriously.
In this issue of The Big Thrill, we interviewed each of the authors nominated for this prestigious category to share what it means to be recognized by their peers—and the writer they’d most like to share the good news with over a cup of coffee or a good old-fashioned steak.
Can you guess which of the nominees would like that Rambo-sized?
These days, getting your daily news from social media isn’t unheard of—it’s practically the norm. But what about when that status update is about YOU? That’s exactly what happened to Steph Broadribb when she learned her book DEEP DOWN DEAD had been nominated for an International Thriller Writers Best First Novel award—via Facebook.
“I hadn’t seen the ITW email with the nominees when it first came out, and so I found out from a writing friend who congratulated me on Facebook. I thought they must have got it wrong,” she says. “Then I checked the email for myself and squealed.”
The next thing she did was text her brilliant editor, Karen Sullivan.
And then, Broadribb hung up her bounty hunting gear for good. Okay, that’s not true—but what is true is that before she wielded a pen, Broadribb trained as a bounty hunter in California. Now, she writes about them, and in DEEP DOWN DEAD, single mom—and bounty hunter—Lori Anderson battles to save her daughter and bring the men who took her to justice.
“Think Thelma and Louise crossed with Taken,” she says, noting that screenwriter Callie Khouri—who wrote Thelma and Louise—is one of her writing idols. If she could take her for dinner, they’d chat about powerful, nuanced female characters…and maybe Jack Reacher too, since Broadribb credits Lee Child for helping her fall in love with action thrillers. No doubt they’d all drink a lot of coffee.
Get the scoop on Steph Broadribb—aka: Crime Thriller Girl—via her website.
When Sheena Kamal learned that her book THE LOST ONES had been nominated for an International Thriller Writers Best First Novel award, she experienced pure, unadulterated joy and—for a brief moment—“a Gollum-like desire to win it.”
“ITW helped me kickstart my career, so to be nominated for an ITW award…it’s a special moment in my life,” she says. “Three years ago, I found my literary agent at Thrillerfest, after abandoning a floundering career in screenwriting to go off and write a novel. This is where my journey to publication started.”
The result is THE LOST ONES—set in the moody and atmospheric Pacific Northwest, a woman discovers the child she’d given up for adoption many years ago has gone missing, and she must now delve into the dark events of her past to find out just what happened.
It’s a thriller with heart, and if not for the kindness of strangers, such as members of ITW and the writer Roxane Gay, it may never have come to fruition.
“I love Roxane’s writing, but she also said something very kind to me when I approached her after one of her readings—just at the moment I needed some kindness in my life,” she says. “I’d like to thank her in person…”
Likely by way of enjoying Trinidadian doubles on the side of the road in Trinidad, because as Kamal notes, there’s nothing more delicious—“other than crab and dumplings from Tobago. But this would have to be eaten on a beach in Tobago. I would ask her which she’d prefer, because it’s important to give ladies a choice.”
The meal would most likely end with one of Kamal’s infamous firm handshakes. No, seriously—she’s got quite the grip. “I employ it often in attempts to wrestle beefy men into submission,” she says. “Even when it doesn’t work, they respect the effort.”
Learn more about Kamal by checking out her website.
Walter Gragg is reluctant to delve into his personal life—but he will admit that when he found out that THE RED LINE had been nominated for an International Thriller Writers Best First Novel award, he felt tremendous relief.
He’d been waiting for the nominations to come out in hopes that a nod would earn him a publishing deal for his second book—and the gamble paid off.
“Coming from so great an organization and so great a group of people, I cannot think of an award I would want to win more,” he says. “As some ITW members know, if it were not for Thrillerfest and the help I received from so many, it’s unlikely THE RED LINE would have been published. I am truly an ITW/Thrillerfest success story.”
THE RED LINE is—by Gragg’s definition—”an action-packed World War III epic about a war between the United States and Russia, whose intent is to present the subject in a stark and realistic manner.”
“I was greatly taken by the big, bold novels of the 70s and 80s—Michener, Uris, Clavell,” he says. “But the author and book that influenced me the most, however, would be Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front.”
For more about Gragg and his award-nominated book THE RED LINE, check out his website.
Few are more immersed in Thrillerfest than its Executive Director, Kimberley Howe—aka author K.J. Howe. Every detail—from recruiting volunteers and creating the often unwieldy schedule, to planning the awards banquet—falls under her purview.
So, it’s no surprise then that when she found out that her debut, THE FREEDOM BROKER, had been nominated for an International Thriller Writers Best First Book award, her immediate response was one of shock, followed closely by sheer delight.
“It’s a very, very special honor,” she says. “I came to the first Thrillerfest in Phoenix as a volunteer, excited about learning the craft, as my writing needed a lot of work. I met some of my literary heroes, including David Morrell and Lee Child. The dream of one day being published inspired me to work hard, and to have my first novel nominated is truly spectacular.”
Which is how many in the industry have described Howe’s book. THE FREEDOM BROKER tells the story of elite kidnap negotiator Thea Paris, who in this first adventure is up against the case of her life with a very special client—her father.
“When I read David’s spy thrillers, I was inspired to become an author,” she says. “I met him while doing my Master’s in Popular Fiction at Seton Hill, and he has since become a mentor and friend. Skyjack, my second novel, is dedicated to him.”
No doubt he will be one of the first she thanks should THE FREEDOM BROKER take top honors at Thrillerfest this July.
Check out what Howe is working on next by visiting her website.
Daniel Cole was mid argument with a traffic warden when he got the email telling him that RAGDOLL had been nominated for an International Thriller Writers Best First Novel award. It didn’t get him out of a ticket, but Cole says, “the good news undoubtedly took some of the sting out of it when the unreasonable bastard inevitably refused to back down.”
Indeed, once the incident with the officer had passed, Cole took a moment to appreciate just what the nomination means for him and the book that he describes as “humorous, cinematic, twisting and twisted escapism.”
“I think it would be fair to say that RAGDOLL hasn’t had quite the same impact in the U.S. as it has in some other countries,” he says, noting that even though the book is clearly British in both tone and humor, American movies and TV shows still serve as the greatest influence on his writing. “To the point where Hangman (book 2) is predominately set in Manhattan. So, for me, the idea of having my name probably not called out at an awards gala in New York City is particularly exciting.”
But should he win, Cole has ambitious celebration goals—most notably, dinner with the author whose books inspired his work ethic and narrative voice, J.K. Rowling. “I feel I owe her a lot and have always loved the way she writes.”
They’d share cheesecake, of course, where Rowling would undoubtedly be impressed not only by his shiny new award, but that he finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at all. Cole is a self-proclaimed slow reader. Maybe the slowest on the planet.
Thankfully, he’s a much faster writer. Follow him on Twitter to see what he’s working on now: @Daniel_P_Cole.
By Dawn Ius
That’s the best word to capture the emotion of each of the authors whose books were nominated for the 2018 International Thriller Writers Best Paperback Original award—and for some of these authors who’ve been around the block a few times, “surprise” is often tough to achieve.
At least off the page.
But one thing’s for certain, the characters in these books—diverse, authentic, and well crafted —are in for quite a few. For fans of these writers, that shouldn’t come as…you guessed it…any surprise.
The nominees took some time out to answer a few questions for The Big Thrill.
Christine Bell had been circling a parking lot in search of a stall for twenty minutes when her phone alerted her to a text. As a car slid out of its space, she slid in, parked, read the message that her book GRIEVANCE had been nominated for an International Thriller Writers Best Paperback award, and thought, “Life is so often better than expected.”
The nomination is an important milestone for GRIEVANCE—the story of a young woman who is stalked by a shadow of her dead husband’s past. For Bell, it’s a symbol that her work is being acknowledged outside the space it occupies in her brain.
“Writers write in small rooms, in libraries, at red lights, on the bus—we write in our heads,” she says. “The ITW encompasses such a diverse group of writers. Thank you for hearing the voice of my story.”
If possible, Bell would have loved for the late author Samuel Beckett to hear her work too—likely over a pizza from Johnny’s Apizza because “the crust is charred with a light dust of flour,” she says. “We would talk Proust and baseball and bicycles.”
“She threw a strike,” Bell says. “I thought, well if I don’t make the cut to play first base for the Yankees, I’ll have to become a writer. But really, that’s just common sense and not surprising.”
If you haven’t read GRIEVANCE, you can add it to your To Be Read pile here.
It takes a lot to surprise Lori Rader-Day these days, but when she learned that THE DAY I DIED had been nominated for an International Thriller Writers Best Paperback Original award, her first reaction was…well, surprise.
“People have a hard time categorizing my books, so I’m pleased that THE DAY I DIED has been given the official thriller stamp of approval,” she says. “I feel as though I’ve been invited to a really cool party. Maybe a party I’m not cool enough to attend, actually, but I’ll be there.”
Rader-Day is perhaps being somewhat humble—three of her books, including THE DAY I DIED, have been nominated for the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award. It was also an Indie Next Pick and a Barry Award nominee—a considerable amount of buzz for the story of Anna Winger, a handwriting analyst at war with her teenage son. Their lives start to unravel when Anna helps out with a ransom note left behind at the scene of a murder and kidnapping.
“I mean, I am,” she jokes. “But you don’t get that on the first handshake.”
Get the full scoop on Rader-Day and her books by visiting her website.
An ex-diplomatic security agent and a professor of phenomenology investigate a series of mysterious deaths around the globe…
Nope, that’s not the beginning of a joke, but rather, the thrilling premise of Layton Green’s RESURRECTOR, an action-packed story that this year was nominated for the International Thriller Writer’s Best Paperback Original award. Green is both humbled and elated.
“The amount of talent out there can be debilitating,” he says. “I am extremely grateful to whatever alchemy of circumstance led to this book being noticed. To a writer—or at least this writer—every sale, positive review, and nomination adds a little to the validation-meter that keeps me believing enough in my work to keep writing.”
Confidence is an important factor, yes, but so too is the power of influence, and Green says he owes a number of authors a debt of gratitude for their inspiration. It would be hard to select one…but if pressed to choose someone to share a meal with, Green would give his love of food a nod and run with a culinary angle.
“If Umberto Exo were still alive, being Italian, he’d be in the running. Instead, I’ll swerve over to Japan,” he says. “Two of my favorite Japanese authors are Haruki Murakami and Fuminori Nakamura. I have already had dinner with Fuminori, when I interviewed him for my International Thrills column. Fuminori was very gracious and interesting, but I’m thinking Haruki would up the Michelin-star ante, so I’m going to go with him. Though along those lines, I should probably just choose Anthony Bourdain. Whoever contacts me first gets the nod.”
“The other one does not involve being an author,” he says. “And I’ll just have to leave it at that.” Hmmm. So many possibilities…
For non-personal information about Green (hey, he’s shy!) and his books, head over to his website.
Rachel Caine was certain there’d been a mistake. That was the only logical explanation for the email in her inbox. No way her book STILLHOUSE LAKE had been nominated for an International Thriller Writers Best Paperback Original award. Right?
“STILLHOUSE LAKE is my first thriller and once I realized that it was a real thing, that I was nominated, I went and looked at the full list of nominees,” she says. “I was so honored and humbled to be on that page (and still am).”
It’s the kind of validation Caine never expected—especially on her first thriller, the chilling story of a single mother who thinks she’s found safety from her serial killer ex—until a body turns up to implicate her in new killings.
“I’’ve been a fan of thrillers and thriller authors for so long, and being welcomed into the field seems like a real dream come true,” she says. “I can’t wait to keep going.”
Cain has already proven that she has what it takes. Though STILLHOUSE LAKE is her first thriller, it’s her 51st novel. Her previous works have touched on almost every genre—from horror, romantic suspense, sci-fi and urban fantasy, to young adult and all points inbetween.
“I’d love to have dinner with Stephen King someday,” she says. “His books truly opened my mind to amazing possibilities and lit a desire to tell my own stories. A campfire cookout would be the perfect setting for some truly chilling discussions.”
To find out more about Caine’s impressive body of work, head over to her website.
Characters are often crafted from piecesof people the author knows—a personality quirk, a fascinating job, a physical trait—but rarely does an author actually put himself in the book.
But Adrian McKinty did just that— gave himself a cameo role in one of the novels that make up his popular Sean Duffy series. Circumstance just called for it.
“Duffy runs over and drags behind his police car a kid who was walking on the road at night,” he says. “That actually happened to me in real life in 1984. I was run over by a police Land Rover and was pretty seriously injured as you can imagine. Anyway, years later I thought it might be fun to have the hero of my book run the actual me over in the fictional universe.”
That happens in Book #3 (McKinty thinks) but it’s actually Book #6 in the series—POLICE AT THE STATION AND THEY DON’T LOOK FRIENDLY—that was nominated for a 2018 International Thriller Writers Best Paperback Original award. To say he’s chuffed would be an understatement.
“This plucky little series of books has flown under the radar for years, and to be noticed like this is amazing,” McKinty says. “And to be with such wonderful authors that I admire greatly made this even more of an honor.”
By the looks of it, the series has plenty of staying power left—another three books are planned, and in addition to the ITW nomination, it’s had a few nods in its direction.
To find out more about the series, check out McKinty’s website.
Capturing the Passion of a Political Rally
I decided to write a comic thriller about Donald Trump in the late fall of 2015, when Trump was bludgeoning fellow Republicans in debates and everything about him seemed hilarious. My novel would feature a business tycoon/reality-TV star named Carlton Chomp, who, in preparing for an absurd and obviously hopeless run for the presidency, had decided to gather his supporters on a fundraising cruise to the Bahamas. The candidate’s blunt humor and titanic self-confidence would provide the comic backdrop to a juicy murder onboard. The jokes would write themselves.
But as time went on, and more of Trump’s real-life Republican opponents fled from the field of battle, my plans had to change. By January of 2016, it was obvious that Trump and his ambitions were no joke. So I reworked my plan, this time elevating my character to a serious candidate.
When Trump actually won the nomination, I realized that not only did I have to take my character even more seriously, I had to take my novel more seriously too. What was once a comic backdrop had to become the main subject. Trump was too important to be relegated to the background. The murder would have to involve my Trump character intimately, and his political movement would have to become a real subject, not just the butt of jokes.
A good thriller portrays passions in action. To bring to life the characters in my thriller, I had to truly understand the passions that Trump aroused.
For the previous novels in my Travel Writer crime series, I took research trips to the Grand Canyon and Bolivia. This time my literary research brought me somewhere a little less glamorous—to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, for a Trump rally.
Spinning a Thriller From Corruption
Rupert Smith spent 25 years as a successful corporate lawyer in Johannesburg before joining a coal mining company as part of its senior management. By the time he retired, he knew the mining industry from the inside–how things are supposed to be; how they are presented publicly; and how they actually are.
Most people are content to retire after a long career of hard work and concentrate on Sudoku puzzles (he is an expert), but Rupert decided to share some of his experiences in a novel with a coal mining company as a backstory. STEAL A FEW CENTS was released last year by Roundfire Books and has just had its South African debut. Well-known local author Tim Butcher said it “spins an all too convincing thriller out of a South African setting of veld, mining and corruption.” Butcher has it spot-on for my money.
Mpho Mamela, a young accountant for the coal mine, is found horribly mangled by a massive conveyer belt that transports the coal. He had no reason to be in the area, and what is at first accepted as a tragic accident starts pointing to a homicide as Stephen Wakefield, the in-house lawyer, puts together the case for the inevitable state inquiry. He discovers that Mpho’s lover was jailed for “stealing a few cents,” while Mpho himself seems to be involved with a senior figure stealing a few millions.
I asked Rupert how he came to write his debut novel.
The Book He’d Always Wanted to Write
His grandfather was a fisherman and boat builder; his uncle has been a commercial fisherman all his life; and his father, a medical man, eventually bought his own boat and spends his summers lobster-fishing off Prince Edward Island in Canada.
Laukkanen himself spent plenty of time on those boats and “they were the happiest summers of my life–and perfect for an aspiring writer. The sea is either tedious or really, really exciting, and during the tedious times, sailors tell the best stories. Every summer, I would come off the boat with a tan and a host of new experiences, and a notebook full of ideas.”
After a few years as a correspondent for a poker website (that’s a whole other story), Laukkanen put those ideas to use in an acclaimed series of novels about a Minnesota odd couple–a veteran BCA state investigator named Kirk Stevens and a hotshot young FBI agent named Carla Windermere–who worked cases at first separately, then together, then as the lead investigators of a joint FBI-BCA violent crime task force. The six books, from The Professionals to The Forgotten Girls, were, in the words of one reviewer, “riveting, tense, and blazing-fast,” and dealt with topics from sex-trafficking to online predators to the consequences of the 2008 economic collapse. Major recognition, including nominations for the Anthony, Barry, and ITW Thriller Awards, soon followed.
Laukkanen loved those novels—but he had always wanted to write about the sea, which is how GALE FORCE was born: a big, ambitious ocean adventure, “the kind of book I grew up reading, the kind of book I still read, and the kind of book I wish there were more of in this world.”
Wanting to Believe
By Dawn Ius
Robert Dugoni knew he had an extraordinary tale to tell. A story of an extraordinary young man with an extraordinarily rare form of albinism. He just didn’t realize that writing this novel would take an extraordinarily long time.
Ten years, to be exact.
Though he’d drafted THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF SAM HELL in five weeks, both his gut—and his agent—conceded that while the character, a child born with red pupils and dubbed by his peers “Devil Boy,” had solidified in his mind, a fundamental piece of the story puzzle was missing.
What the hell did Sam want? Dugoni didn’t know—at least not at first.
“But then one day I was driving to Mass, and I saw the steeple, and it hit me like a lightning bolt,” he says. “Sam wants to believe.”
Believe that being born with red pupils is for some reason other than to be bullied by his classmates. Believe that his mother is right when she says he is destined to live an extraordinary life. Believe that everything does happen for a reason—even when that reason isn’t immediately apparent.
The Journey to Confidence
For writers, few fantasies are as alluring—or as misguided—as the idea that the terms “first novel” and “debut novel” are interchangeable. Cynthia Swanson, author of THE GLASS FOREST , knows a thing or two about the path that often stretches between the first book an author writes and the first one that finds its way into bookstores—a path that’s strewn with false starts, trial runs, and, well, books. Swanson had a couple of these so-called “trunk novels” under her belt before she received a pre-empt offer from HarperCollins for what would become her 2015 debut, The Bookseller, a 1950s-set alternate-reality tale about a bookshop owner who finds the lines blurring between the waking world and her literal dream life.
“The Bookseller was the third novel I wrote,” Swanson says. “The first one was strictly practice that I wrote when I was very young. The second one is something that I might go back to someday, but I would completely turn it around and tell it from the viewpoint of a different character. But that’s down the line a little bit. I’m working on a new one right now that doesn’t have anything to do with either of those.”
The Art of Capturing Valor
By J. H. Bográn
Man, that escalated quickly.
While Matthew Betley’s debut, Overwatch, dealt with a man bent on revenge against America, the follow-up, Oath of Honor, expanded the threat to a global level. Now, in FIELD OF VALOR, the president of the United States wants Logan West to form a covert task force with the mission of dismantling a nameless enemy. With the full resources of the Justice Department, the intelligence community, and the military—not to mention presidential pardons pre-signed—Logan must battle a secret organization with the connections and funding to rival many first-world nations.
Betley is very particular when it comes to titles, although he knows most original titles don’t survive first contact with publishers. Originally, he had envisioned his tale with the title of Rogue Republic, but Simon & Schuster countered with FIELD OF VALOR, and the author conceded, especially because of the expansive battlefield in and around Washington, D.C. where the story unfolds.
“As my readers know, I write very intense, emotional, action-packed stories, which are things that in reality take a toll on people psychologically and emotionally,” Betley says. “Logan is still in a dark place after the events of Oath of Honor, struggling to keep his rage in check, and we thought this cover would depict that a little more and connect with the readers on a personal level.” This is reflected in a style change of the covers from the previous two books to FIELD OF VALOR.
The Key to Getting It Right
By Wendy Tyson
E.M. Powell is a master of the thrilling, fast-paced historical crime novel, and her latest book, THE KING’S JUSTICE, is no exception. THE KING’S JUSTICE is the first in the Barling and Stanton mystery series. Once again, the author of the bestselling The Fifth Knight series takes readers back to the reign of King Henry II, to a time when civil unrest was the norm and brutal crimes were common. Mary Lawrence, author of The Alchemist’s Daughter, says, “E. M. Powell has created an immensely likeable pair in Stanton and Barling, in this exciting new medieval mystery series. Action-packed and laced with sly humor . . . I was completely riveted by THE KING’S JUSTICE.”
Indeed, Barling and Stanton are a fresh take on the detective duo. Aelred Barling is a rule-loving, middle-aged clerk at the court of Henry II; Hugo Stanton is his talented but risk-taking young assistant. It’s a relationship rife with tension. “Barling likes his legal documents and solitude,” Powell says, “While Stanton is never happier than when he’s on a fast horse or stopping by an alehouse.”
When Barling and Stanton are ordered to enforce the rule of law after an outlaw is charged with murder, Powell’s twisty, well-plotted mystery finds the pair thrust in the midst of a medieval murder investigation that challenges the customs of the times and risks their own lives.
By Tim O’Mara
Charter boat captain. Diver. Private detective. Ex-Marine. Ex-Boston detective. Lives in converted boathouse on Cape Cod. Philosophical. Witty. Smart. Rule-breaker. Irreverent. Distrust of authority. Trying to do the right thing often lands him in trouble. Despises bullies. Favors the underdog and cats. Guilt-ridden over failure to live up to expectations of his close-knit, Greek-American family.
And yes, readers, Aristotle “Soc” Socarides is available. Currently he’s available in Paul Kemprecos’ latest, SHARK BAIT (Suspense Publishing, April 2018). The eighth installment in Kemprecos’ Soc series finds the charter fishing boat captain/part-time private investigator up to his neck in trouble, this time trying to solve an oyster poaching scheme, captaining a boat for a film crew working on a movie based on a romantic legend involving a witch and a pirate, and trying to figure out whether the guy who had the job before him was really killed by a great white shark named Emma (whom Soc’s ex-girlfriend would like to see proven innocent).
When I first encountered Soc, I thought, Gee, a private eye who lives in a boathouse who’s good with the ladies and drinking buddies with the men? Obviously, Kemprecos was inspired by John D. MacDonald and the Travis McGee novels.
I was wrong.
“I was really inspired to try my hand at detective fiction by the books of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Ross Macdonald,” Kemprecos tells me. “Their detectives had a sense of humor and I thought I could pull that off.”
The only thing better (with my crime reader’s hat on) than finding a new-to-me author whose works I really enjoy, is to discover there’s a whole series of them.
I’ve long been a fan of HRF Keating’s Inspector Ghote, so I was delighted to come across Inspector Chopra. Which fictional detectives have influenced him—and you?
Chopra is in his late forties, with a mission—the pursuit of justice in a nation where wealth and influence often means you can escape the consequences of your actions. For 30 years he has trod the streets of Mumbai as a policeman, and he cares deeply about the social ills that he sees in the “super-powered” new society that is modern India. Chopra is a closet anglophile and has a fondness for Holmes, and often chews on a pipe when thinking—though he does not smoke. I too am a fan of Ghote, but my key influence is Louise Penny’s Detective Armand Gamache, a thoughtful, sober man who is universally recognized for integrity and honesty in an increasingly turbulent world. (Of course, Gamache doesn’t have an elephant!)
By Azam Gill
Crafted at his old mahogany desk, JANE’S BABY, author Chris Bauer’s gripping, character-driven thriller, dangles an enticing premise. It also ushers America’s simmering pro-choice versus pro-life national debate into the framework of an exciting thriller.
The motion of Norma McCorvey (1947-2017), the anonymous plaintiff of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court women’s rights case Roe v Wade, was first argued in 1971, when abortion was illegal. With the judgment being announced in 1973, Norma was unable to terminate her pregnancy, gave birth and her baby went into closed adoption. As such, no identifying information was available to either family.
So, whatever happened to Jane Roe’s baby?
That’s what Bauer’s new thriller is all about.
The Jane Roe real-life child would now be a woman in her late forties, the potential of her polarizing celebrity unknown to her.
In Bauer’s version, a religious rights splinter group has blackmailed its way into learning her identity—she happens to be a political leader with firm convictions. A new Supreme Court case is in process.
Tourette’s-afflicted bounty hunter Judge Drury, a retired Marine, stands in the way of the splinter group’s attempt at stacking the Supreme Court via blackmail, murder, arson, sleight of hand, and secret identities.
Hardly surprising, then, that Alan Russell, bestselling author of Burning Man, says, “Chris Bauer came up with a doozy of a ‘what if’ question in JANE’S BABY. I just wish I had thought of it myself.”
Like all debates world-wide over moral choices, the pro-life and pro-choice core of reproductive politics defies consensus. The debate will continue to seesaw on compromises between those who hold political power, the ones who don’t, and shades of opinion that overlap the political spectrum. The weapons wielded are polarizing moral certitudes, re-phrased and repeated to uphold the position of choice. Each side brandishes its equally qualified “experts.” Confrontation tends to feed bitterness and the losing side of each phase locks and loads for the next skirmish.
In other words, a marsh with its own inland sirens waiting to lure writers.
Not for Bauer, who can glide over quicksand. Had he straight off picked—or rather picked on—the abortion debate, he could have smeared himself with it and been accused of overkill. But in JANE’S BABY he gets off scot free while spinning a great yarn and morphing one of the most delicate and divisive issues of modern America into an enthralling read.
And it’s not just the uniqueness of the what-if.
He’s been a natural storyteller from the time he stuck his nose into the Tom Swift series, and graduated, in his own words, to “love stories with twists, underdogs, good guys, and bad guys.”
That certainly served him well as he nimbly skipped from the anxieties and cold analysis of the corporate world into the daunting challenge of novel writing.
In describing Scars On The Face of God, Bauer’s first novel, Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author and multiple Bram Stoker Award winner, says, “(it) is a brilliant novel. Congratulations on hitting one out of the park, Chris.”
Bauer’s process will be familiar to many writers.
“I plan via a casual outline, the first few chapters without having a completed outline,” Bauer says. “I want to feel the rush/thrill of having created something before doing the real work of thinking it all the way through. For JANE’S BABY, a thriller, I needed good guys, bad guys, catalysts, victims, and sidekicks.
“I write full time. When I was holding down a full-time corporate job I’d be up and out of bed with coffee at four a.m. …still get up at four a.m. or thereabouts, sometimes earlier, seven days a week.”
That last bit should be noted by all aspiring writers.
Not the unholy wake-up time, but the shrine to hard work at any expense, overriding temptation.
Bauer has chalked up two novels, has a third finished, and America is a Gun and Dirty Pool are in the works, keeping the JANE’S BABY characters alive.
What intrigued Bauer in Roe versus Wade was people’s ignorance about the birth of the baby. The rest, as they say, is asking the right questions—which he did.
“ …a closed adoption with sealed records, where the biological mother and the adopting parents did not know each other … if (the child) were discovered as Jane Roe’s baby, would that put a target on her back?”
From there, it’s only a short hop to reasoning who could possibly have the motive for putting a target on Jane Roe’s baby, now a grown woman. That brings different forces and lobbies rushing into the picture in relation to what this lady could possibly be. From a peacenik hippie to a pop star to a drug queen to a terrorist is anybody’s guess. But JANE’S BABY adroitly puts her in politics, and she takes a moral stand that threatens the agenda of the splinter group of a bunch of extremists who “put a target on her back.”
The next logical question that comes to mind is who would protect her and that calls up a line of hard guys fidgeting in the queue. And then it all comes — conflict built around a burning issue and characters who can never stop developing and hooking readers. The plot is sound and well-controlled, the story finishes but the characters remain. No single book can hold them in. It’s not that Bauer wants to write three thrillers in a series. It’s what the dimensions of his characters require, so he is left with little choice.
And he has delivered.
Chris Bauer is the author of JANE’S BABY, a political conspiracy thriller from Intrigue Publishing, release date June 1, 2018, and the horror/thriller Scars on the Face of God, 2010 EPIC Awards runner-up for best in eBook horror. A Philly native, he’s had lengthy stops as an adult in Michigan and Connecticut, and he thinks Pittsburgh is a great city even though some of his fictional characters don’t. Prefers pie over turkey. Chris lives in Doylestown, PA with his wife Terry and supermutts Rory and Maeby Funke Bauer. His short fiction has appeared in THUGLIT, SHROUD MAGAZINE, and 100 HORRORS, and has been podcasted by WELL TOLD TALES. Is a member of International Thriller Writers and the Horror Writers Association.
By David Healey
Set in 1933, THE FAIRFAX INCIDENT by Terrence McCauley seems at first to be a traditional noir detective story with a Raymond Chandler-like vibe. However, it soon becomes apparent that Charlie Doherty is an evolved and nuanced private eye. Imbued with a sense of history and complex characters, there’s more than meets the eye at first glance in this novel—much like the case that Doherty takes on.
The novel begins with Doherty interviewing the widow of a wealthy New Yorker who appears to have committed suicide. However, the widow insists that her husband did not shoot himself. Thus begins a case that leads Doherty through a twisty plot filled with politics and intrigue.
The author’s earlier trio of thrillers was actually set in the near future, with some futuristic predictions that have already come to pass. In Sympathy for the Devil, for example, he incorporated the kind of fingerprint recognition technology that exists today but that was more predictive of the future when the book came out.
Now, he’s delving into the past with a series of novels set in the 1930s.
In the darkening days of autumn, a woman’s body is found in the isolated terrain near Glacier National Park. The victim was a journalist who had been interviewing a reclusive researcher about his work for a program that trains dogs to track scientific data. Now he is the prime suspect.
Without friends or family to turn to, he seeks help from his ex, an FBI investigator and the mother of his young daughter. Though she is not assigned the case, she is deeply invested, driven by the knowledge that if she can find out what really happened, she might save her child from the trauma of losing a father.
Assuming the worst possible outcome, the researcher flees into the woods with his dog. As the evidence mounts against him and his resources dwindle, the FBI agent isn’t sure how far she’ll go to find answers.
Propulsive and suspenseful, evoking the stark, breathtaking beauty of Glacier National Park, A SHARP SOLITUDE demonstrates that we can never outrun our demons, even in the vast, indomitable wild.
Award-winning author Christine Carbo took time out of her busy schedule to discuss her latest installment of the Glacier National Park thrillers, A SHARP SOLITUDE:
But tonight there’ll be no family feud over dinner entrees.
Udderly’s hosting a campaign fundraiser for Eva’s best friend, who hopes to be South Carolina’s next governor. The candidate’s son, a pro quarterback, is flying home for the wingding. And Brie’s eager to get a close-up view of the cute tush she’s admired on TV, even though she’s reluctantly sworn off even more tempting local beefcake.
The campaign fundraiser promises to be a huge success until a pitchfork attack turns the goat farm into a crime scene—again.
To protect her friends, Brie puts her sleuthing skills to work. Will she live long enough to find out who’s behind a vicious assault, a kidnapping, blackmail, and murder?
Author Linda Lovely spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest mystery, PICKED OFF:
Eric Matheson, an idealistic rookie cop trying to break from his powerful family, is plunged into the investigation of a brutal crime in his first weeks on the job in Angra Dastrelas, the corrupt capital city of the corporate-owned planet Gattis. A newcomer to the planet, Matheson is unaware of the danger he’s courting when he’s promoted in the field to assist the controversial Chief Investigating Forensic Officer, Inspector J. P. Dillal, the planet’s first cybernetically enhanced investigator. Coming from a despised ethnic underclass, the brilliant and secretive Dillal seems determined to unravel the crime regardless of the consequences. The deeper they dig, the more dangerous the investigation becomes. But in a system where the cops enforce corporate will, instead of the law, the solution could expose Gattis’s most shocking secrets and cost thousands of lives–including Matheson’s and Dillal’s.
Bestselling author K.R. Richardson spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest thriller, BLOOD ORBIT:
When an open-and-shut burglary case lands on DCI Warren Jones’ desk, he suspects it’s come to the wrong detective – until he learns a tantalizing detail. Despite the suspect having admitted to the crime after being found with the stolen goods, DNA found at the scene does not match the man currently on bail – but is a match to an unsolved violent rape case dating back to 1992.
With their man in custody refusing to talk, Warren must embark on a manhunt for the mystery accomplice. And so begins a game of cat and mouse that will test Warren’s rawest instincts and resolve – and throw up a shocking twist.
The Big Thrill caught up with author Paul Gitsham to get some insight into his latest thriller, A CASE GONE COLD:
He’s not a supercool guy in a tuxedo or a crazed loner who does nothing but kill and drive fast. He’s just a regular guy with some skills for a job that needs doing. He also has a wife, a teenaged kid, a mortgage, and all the mundane problems associated with life.
In his latest mission, Dick is teamed with Acacia (“Ace”) Zyreb, a young female agent from the East European office of the Subsidiary, to deal with the mystery behind coordinated hacking of the braking systems of several car models.
Doing his best to maintain his vows to his wife, Dick struggles to deal with the inexperience and provocative attitude of Ace on her first non-European mission. Their somewhat combative investigation takes a left turn by uncovering a much more sinister threat to the world and to Dick’s family. He’s willing to risk his job, his partner, and his life to eliminate the threat, but the clock is ticking.
Award-winning author Donald J. Bingle discussed the latest installment of the Dick Thornby series, WET WORK, with The Big Thrill:
He awakes on the Bargara, alone, under the bluff, the morning after his last speaking engagement, recovering from a night of too many vodka gimlets and too little sleep. Moments later he is greeted by young Mindy Winthrop, who has sought him out after attending the previous evening’s lecture. After he successfully applies a hypnotic “first aid technique” for a recent trauma, Mindy convinces him to treat her for repressed memories concerning a four-year-old unsolved murder.
Beginning with a round trip to Sydney, the unusual couple are soon thrust into an intimate alliance after being subjected to various methods of intimidation from unknown but powerful persons: members of a cult with roots dating back hundreds of years in the United Kingdom. These individuals will stop at nothing to keep Mindy’s memories of the murder buried.
Award-winning screenwriter and author Jack Halliday spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel, THE BIG BLUFF:
Former prosecutor and now hot-shot defense attorney, Jackie DelRay, is a star in the shark-infested judicial waters of Washington, DC. Behind her take-no-prisoners façade, she hides a painful secret and a longing for FBI Special Agent Beckett Pearson-the man who captured her heart during a passion-filled weekend in college. The same man who still holds a grudge over a case Jackie refused to prosecute years before. When Beck is arrested for the shocking murder of the FBI director’s estranged wife, Jackie breaks every rule she’s known about being emotionally involved with her client. Knowing the risks to her heart and her career, she rushes to defend him.
A former model and football star, Beck has finally found his home with the Bureau. He wants nothing to do with the sexy lawyer who left him without a goodbye twelve years ago and then destroyed his first, and most important, missing persons investigation. Now, with his freedom on the line, Jackie’s brilliant legal mind may be his one hope at staying out of prison.
When their investigation is mired by political alliances and reckless greed, Beck and Jackie battle corruption at the highest levels. That battle includes resisting the long-buried passion they’d shared twelve years earlier. But will a killer bent on stopping their investigation give them a fight they are bound to lose?
USA Today bestselling authors Misty Evans & Adrienne Giordano took time out of their busy schedule to discuss their latest thriller with The Big Thrill, DEFENDING JUSTICE:
His wife Katie, along with an FBI agent who works organized crime, unravel Zach’s fate as a struggling small-town doctor who’d been lured by a new organization in Miami promising wealth. Then came unfathomable success.
But after threats and extortion, Zach Carson knew there was no way out. His family would never be safe. What’s discovered next changes everything.
EYES OF POSEIDON author, Richard Wickliffe, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest thriller:
February, 1922. Hollywood is young but already mired in scandal. When a leading movie director is murdered, Irish-American investigator Tom Collins is called in by studio boss Mack Sennett, whose troubled star, Mabel Normand, is rumoured to be involved.
But Normand has gone missing. And, as Collins discovers, there’s a growing list of suspects. His quest leads him through the brutal heart of Prohibition-era Los Angeles, from speakeasies and dope dens to the studios and salons of Hollywood’s fabulously wealthy movie elite, and to a secret so explosive it must be kept silent at any cost…
Inspired by the unsolved real-life murder of movie director William Desmond Taylor, THE LONG SILENCE is the first in a richly evocative, instantly compelling series of new noir mysteries set in Hollywood’s early days.
The Big Thrill caught up to novelist Gerard O’Donovan to discuss his latest thriller, and his first in a new series of historical crime thrillers set in 1920s Hollywood, THE LONG SILENCE:
It’s early morning and New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Steena Holmes is at her kitchen table drinking coffee and talking about her latest novel THE FORGOTTEN ONES, the haunting story of Elle and what she is compelled to do when she receives a deathbed request from her grandfather, a man racked by grief, regrets, and a dark secret.
“I wish I could take you into my office,” Holmes says, “but it’s currently a cluttered disaster zone. I’m in the middle of preparing reader boxes that need to get mailed.” She elaborates on the reader boxes she’s assembling: “I’ve put together a few of my favorite things, like a special reading mug, chocolates, tote bag, etc., along with a signed copy of THE FORGOTTEN ONES, for those in my awesome reader group. Thanks to the crazy mess in my office I’ve been writing up in my bedroom.”
Holmes says her husband surprised her with a cozy lounger that she’s been writing in. “I’ve written my last two books up there. No, wait, I basically wrote THE FORGOTTEN ONES in my car during field hockey practices where my middle daughter plays goalie. Yes, I have three teenage daughters. Someone once told me life gets easier as the kids get older, but they lied!”
If you’re looking for a hero with heart and a brain-teasing mystery in the crowded field of legal thrillers, seek out BUM DEAL by veteran author Paul Levine.
BUM DEAL features second-string linebacker turned defense lawyer Jake Lassiter, who is appointed special prosecutor in a high-profile murder case. Working on the “other side” now, Lassiter is determined to take down a prominent surgeon accused of killing his wife.
This is the 13th novel featuring Lassiter, who was a second team linebacker for the Miami Dolphins 20 years ago and suffered numerous concussions which came with long term consequences. After his pro football career ended, he went to night law school and until the appointment in this book, has worked as a defense attorney.
Lassiter is not a crusading attorney. In fact, he says, “I never intended to become a hero, and I succeeded,” but he often finds himself fighting for clients when other lawyers won’t take their cases. This is how he picked up the nickname “Last Chance Lassiter.” He’ll tell you that the law is a contact sport, and if he believes in your innocence, he’ll risk contempt, take a punch, and break down doors to win. Like most traditional hard boiled detectives, Lassiter is a good guy, but not necessarily a classy guy.
By Karen Harper
It’s hard to imagine a timelier hook than the one at the heart of Diana Muñoz Stewart’s Band of Sisters novels. Each installment will center on a different protagonist, but the characters are united by their allegiance to the League of Warrior Women, a covert sisterhood of vigilantes who tackle crimes against women all over the world.
The series kicked off in May with I AM JUSTICE, which has earned rave reviews in Publishers Weekly and BookPage. Stewart recently took time out of her busy schedule to talk with The Big Thrill about her latest book, her writing process, and the inspiration behind the fierce women who populate her new series.
Please tell us what your new book I AM JUSTICE is about.
The novel is about a secret group of female vigilantes that attempt to take out a sex-trafficking ring in the Middle East. More specifically, it’s about one of the members of this vigilante group, Justice Parish, and her quest to take vengeance on the men who killed her sister.
Max Maxwell is working on a stalking case involving the unhappily married lady he has been seeing when he gets a call from an old army buddy, Bill Hart, who is now running an off-the-books intelligence operation in Washington, D.C. Bill asks Max to help out with a situation involving another of his associates. All Max has to do it pick up a sailboat and get it across the Puget Sound to Seattle. He wasn’t told that Bill’s associate was working undercover and had been murdered on the boat or that the Canadian Intelligence Service, a Korean smuggling ring with a deadly mission and a double agent, was involved. This will be a Sentimental Journey Max will never forget-if he even survives.
Novelist and screenwriter Paul Sinor spent some time discussing his latest thriller, SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY, with The Big Thrill:
On a typical late summer day, Julia Swann is on the phone with her husband, Michael, when the call abruptly goes dead. Then the news rolls in: A bomb has gone off at Penn Station, where Michael was waiting for a train home. New York City is in a state of chaos.
A frantic Julia races to the city to look for Michael, her panic interwoven with memories of meeting and falling in love with the husband she’s now desperate to find. When someone finds a flier she’s posted and tells her they may have seen her husband, her dreams seem to be answered. Yet as she tries to find him, her calls go unanswered.
Weaving between the aftermath of the explosion and Julia’s memories of her life with Michael, new developments raise troubling questions. Did Michael survive the explosion? Why hasn’t he contacted her? What was he doing when their last call was cut off? Was he–or is he still–the man she fell in love with?
Part family drama, part tragic love story, and part disaster narrative that hits terrifyingly close to home, THE REAL MICHAEL SWANN is a deftly plotted suspense novel with an unflinching portrait of a marriage at its heart, challenging us to confront the unthinkable–both in our country and in our own homes.
The Big Thrill caught up with New York Times bestselling author Bryan Reardon to discuss his latest thriller, THE REAL MICHAEL SWANN:
Someone is strangling disabled people in the small town of Baxter, Connecticut. Detective Courtney Lang and her ex-partner and ex-lover, wheelchair-bound Bill Thompson, are paired up again and put in charge of the investigation. During the course of their search, Courtney uncovers information that points toward a connection between the murders and an unsolved series of muggings by a masked man, the same man who shot and disabled Bill a year ago on the night he proposed marriage to her.
Complicating matters for Courtney is her guilt about Thompson’s shooting, her affair with her new partner, Mark Farrell, and her unresolved feelings over the deaths of her mother and sister who perished in a fire while she was away from home.
As the deaths accrue and the “Handicapped Strangler” as the killer is coined by the press continues to rampage the town, adding victims of different ages, sex, and disabilities to the murder count, Courtney discovers a clue that could crack open the case but may put her and Bill’s life in jeopardy.
Award-winning author Debbie De Louise stopped by The Big Thrill to discuss her latest thriller, REASON TO DIE:
Jonathan Hunter, a rogue CIA consultant AWOL from his Middle East assignment, returns home to witness his brother’s horrific murder. Launched into the hunt for Kevin’s killer, Hunter stumbles into a series of horrifying terrorist attacks—all at the hands of Middle Eastern refugees—that spark a backlash across the country and threaten another war. In the shadows, Hunter’s mentor, the omnipotent Oscar LaRue, is playing a dangerous game with Russian Intelligence. All the while, neither Hunter nor LaRue understand that a new threat—the Iranian threat—has entered the game. As stakes rise, two shadowy players are one-step ahead of Hunter—Khalifah, a dangerous terrorist mastermind, and Caine, a nomadic assassin who only dances with the highest bidder. As the attacks escalate and the country drifts toward another Middle East war, innocent refugees become the victims between the terrorists and the terrorized. Prejudice, hate, and fear vent everywhere—is this who we’ve become? Before the country explodes, Hunter must find Khalifah, learn the target of the next terrorist attack, and pray he’s in time to stop it.
The Big Thrill caught up to T.J. O’Conner to gain some insight into his first thriller, THE CONSULTANT:
As the Jack-of-All-Wicked-Trades for a secretive French military intelligence agency, Kingsley Boissonneault has done it all—spied, lied, and killed under orders. But his latest assignment is quite out of the ordinary. His commanding officer’s nephew has disappeared inside a sex cult, and Kingsley has been tasked with bringing him home to safety.
Once inside the château, however, Kingsley quickly falls under the spell cast by the enigmatic Madame, a woman of wisdom, power, and beauty. She offers Kingsley the one thing he’s always wanted. But the price? Giving up forever the only person he’s ever loved.
Award-winning author Tiffany Reisz took some time out of her writing schedule to discuss her latest thriller with The Big Thrill, THE CHATEAU:
By E.M. Powell
In Holly Brown’s latest release, HOW FAR SHE’S COME, we have the story of 24-year-old Cheyenne Florian, who has just received the type of job offer that dreams are made of and then some. Plucked from relative obscurity as a vlogger, Cheyenne has been headhunted to be the new correspondent on the recently formed Independent News Network.
But that dream quickly turns sour when she realizes that age-old workplace dynamics are in play at the seemingly innovative network, and she’ll have to contend with seething resentments, jealousies, and sexual harassment. Things take an even more sinister turn when Cheyenne discovers a mysterious diary written by a female broadcaster in 1991 featuring startling—and frightening—parallels to her own life. It becomes clear that she’s a pawn in a very twisted game, and she’s going to have to win it for her own survival. It’s a fast-paced and intriguing read that keeps the reader turning the pages.
The book’s pace was partly driven by the real-life news events underpinning it. Brown says she tends to be inspired by contemporary events and phenomena and with this novel, it’s the #MeToo movement as well as recent political events. There were a couple of times when the sheer speed and volume of revelations made it difficult to keep a handle on what was coming to light.
By George Ebey
A REASON TO LIVE by R. Barri Flowers is the first book in his emotional four book contemporary romance series, Reasons for Loving.
In this first installment, Nora Sheridan, a loving wife and mother and talented artist in the countryside of Akers Ridge, Oregon, sees her world shattered by a senseless crime, one that takes the lives of those dearest to her. Years later, she reunites with her first love, Robert Logan, at a 20-year high school reunion in Portland. A successful art dealer, Robert is dealing with a failed marriage and has custody of a precocious teenage daughter. Slowly, but surely, Nora and Robert try to reclaim their long ago romance, get past their difficulties, and find a reason to live again.
The Big Thrill recently checked in with Flowers to learn more about this emotionally-charged story.
What first drew you to writing crime fiction?
With a B.A. and M.S. in Criminal Justice from Michigan State University, I began my writing career as a criminologist, writing criminology textbooks. This evolved into writing historical true crime books. The natural next step was to use my knowledge on real crime and criminals to turn to crime fiction.
Combining insight into criminality with verisimilitude in my storylines and three-dimensional characters has made my crime, mystery, and thriller fiction stand out from the crowd. Of course, my latest novel, A REASON TO LIVE, is a favorite, as I take a look into the dangerous, deadly, and addictive world of methamphetamine use and its devastating consequences.
By Dawn Ius
Politics has never been a theme in James Hankins’ books before—but it felt right for A BLOOD THING, a frightening new thriller that explores the lengths people will go to protect the ones they love.
“In my own lifetime, I don’t recall a time of greater political unrest,” Hankins says. “It pervades each of our daily lives, it seems, and writing a book with a political component no doubt made me even more acutely aware of it than I might otherwise have been.”
That didn’t stop the words from flowing, though.
A BLOOD THING is the story of a governor who is blackmailed into pardoning a prisoner in order to save his family. And while there are brief mentions now and then of the character’s political agenda—which touches on issues like gun control, racketeering laws, and drug policy—the conflicts don’t mirror what’s going on in today’s political climate, allowing Hankins to “stay in my writer’s bubble and write without feeling the need to reflect or comment on the political issues of the day.”
Hankins took some time away from his upcoming release day planning to answer some questions for The Big Thrill.
Despite the efforts of the Assad government and its Russian and Turkish allies, Syria is succumbing to the Islamic State. While Crocker and his SEAL Team Six comrades try to help a small Kurdish border town organize a resistance army, he finds an unexpected connection with Severine, a French epidemiologist working for Doctors Without Borders.
As Severine and her colleagues establish a makeshift hospital in besieged Aleppo, Crocker counsels caution. He knows too well that their NGO status will be no protection from the Viper, a notoriously vicious ISIS general with a deeply personal hatred of the West. When the Viper’s men kidnap one of Severine’s American colleagues, Crocker will pull every string at his disposal to launch a rescue mission. But in a situation where the US has no official business, he’ll push every boundary of how far he’s willing to go–and how far his SEAL brothers in arms will follow him–to save innocent lives.
The Big Thrill caught up to New York Times bestselling author Ralph Pezzullo to discuss his latest thriller, SEAL TEAM SIX: HUNT THE VIPER:
Dominick Prince has been a magnet for trouble his entire life. A series of poor life choices and his natural tendency to attract the wrong kind of people have resulted in two failed bids at grad school, a failed writing career, and a failed marriage to the contested successor of a crumbling criminal family. These failures persuade Dominick to accept an offer he SHOULD refuse from an old high school classmate, Dutchy Kent, who wants to mount a stage version of one of Dominick’s stories in New York City. In reality, Dutchy is trying to track down a missing $1.2 million, and needs someone else to do the dirty work, someone who attracts trouble and is easily manipulated. Cue Dominick…
Unfortunately for Dutchy, the Dominick who shows up at his office is not the kid he used to know. Because for 29 years Dominick has played the role of patsy, fall-guy, cautionary tale, understudy, and joke. But he’s about to break character and go off script to show the world the true effect of violence and bullying. His old dreams may be dead, but a million dollars and the satisfaction of making an old bully suffer seem like a fair trade-off.
Author and editor Bryon Quertermous stopped by The Big Thrill to discuss his latest novel, TRIGGER SWITCH:
In Jewel Bay, Montana’s Christmas Village, all is merry and bright. At Murphy’s Mercantile, aka the Merc, manager Erin Murphy is ringing in the holiday season with food, drink, and a new friend: Merrily Thornton. A local girl gone wrong, Merrily’s turned her life around. But her parents have publicly shunned her, and they nurse a bitterness that chills Erin.
When Merrily goes missing and her boss discovers he’s been robbed, fingers point to Merrily—until she’s found dead, a string of lights around her neck. The clues and danger snowball from there. Can Erin nab the killer—and keep herself in one piece—in time for a special Christmas Eve?
The Big Thrill caught up with Agatha-Award winning author Leslie Budewitz to discuss her latest mystery, AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES: