One of the most appealing aspects of the thriller genre is its sheer breadth. Thrillers can be modern or historical, grounded in gritty realism or cloaked in supernatural fantasy, or any range of flavor in between. For thriller lovers who at least occasionally like their thrills served with a western flare, The Big Thrill recently caught up with Linell Jeppsen, previously the author of several works of science fiction, paranormal romance, and fantasy, to talk about her latest novel, LUCKY CHANCE, and how it fits into her more recent fictional universe of western action-thrillers.
Thank you for taking the time to join us at The Big Thrill and congratulations on your newest novel! While your latest books are action-adventure thrillers, they’re also very much westerns in the classic sense. What made you pick that type of genre and setting for your stories after having been writing in the fantasy and science fiction realm?
I really don’t know-—except for the fact that the first of the Deadman series percolated in my head for many years. It took about three paragraphs to realize that writing historical fiction was a whole different kettle of fish from my usual fantasy and science fiction! The first book starts in 1864… I mentioned “barbed wire” and thought, “Wait! Was barbed wire even invented then?”
Since then, I have gone on to write many more books in the series, I am far more comfortable with the research aspects of historical writing-—although it can still be a pain.
Tell us about LUCKY CHANCE, your most recent release. What do you think readers of The Big Thrill would find most intriguing about the book and its characters?
LUCKY CHANCE is meant to serve as a bridge between the Deadman and the Chance series. Many of the characters are the same—only seven years have passed and the age and circumstances of the characters have evolved.
LUCKY CHANCE is about boxing during the turn of the century. Chance Wilcox was a heavy weight boxing champion in the Army, so he is uniquely qualified to determine whether or not the culprits in this tale are guilty of “loading” their gloves with plaster of Paris. This was a fun little story but again… called for a TON of research.
MAYHEM IN MARGAUX, on sale this month, is the sixth in the Wine Detective series by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen. In this cozy series, wine expert Benjamin Cooker and his assistant Virgile become involved in helping solve wine-related mysteries throughout southern France. In MAYHEM the Bordeaux area is in the midst of a summer heat wave threatening the wine grapes when the brash new manager of a Margaux wine estate suffers a fatal accident. We were able to ask the translator, Sally Pane, about the latest volume and the Wine Detective series.
This is the sixth book, out of twenty-three published in France, to be published in English. It doesn’t seem necessary to read the earlier books to enjoy this one but could you give us some background on the earlier books?
Each book in the series can be read as a stand-alone, but they also each round out our understanding of the characters. In Treachery in Bordeaux, wine consultant Benjamin Cooker hires his assistant Virgile. After that, in Grand Cru Heist, Nightmare in Burgundy, Deadly Tasting, Cognac Conspiracies and MAYHEM IN MARGAUX the characters face different mysteries, and as readers we explore different wine regions.
A special charm of the series is the portrayal of quotidian life outside of Paris—in southwestern France—and the insider look at winemaking. In MAYHEM there are enjoyable digressions on summering at a rental villa in Cap Ferrat, the beautiful stones of the Medoc, and corks versus screw tops as well as a touching scene of Benjamin with his daughter visiting from New York. Do each of the books also touch on some current social issue such as gentrification or illegal immigrants?
The authors say themselves that each book is a special homage to a wine, its winemakers and its region, and with each they explore various aspects of everyday winemaking and its struggles: gentrification eating up vineyards, black market trafficking of grand crus, local superstitions, scars from World War II, foreign buyouts, and illegal immigrants being used to cut costs. At the same time, they remain light mysteries, much more about the detail and experience of that part of France.
By Dawn Ius
Wendy Tyson loves determined, gutsy women. Women who go after what they want. Women who aren’t afraid to speak up, to laugh, to fight for the underdog, to fall in love. Women, she says, who aren’t afraid to live. Tyson aspires to be that kind of woman every day. In the meantime, she writes about them.
Allison Campbell, an image consultant on the wealthy Main Line of Philadelphia, is one such woman. A complex character, Campbell grew up in a small town, born to an abusive father and a loving, but chronically ill mother. After a tragedy with a client during graduate school, Campbell is forced to find a new calling—and a new identity.
“Allison uses her education and her own haunting experiences to do her job—and to solve crimes,” Tyson says of her protagonist. “And while she helps others reinvent themselves, her best transformation was her own. Throughout the series, Allison never forgets her roots, and it’s the fact that she never quite fits in with the Main Line crowd that makes her so good at her job—and detective work.”
In DYING BRAND, the third of the Allison Campbell mysteries, Campbell attends an awards ceremony to honor a friend, but ends up investigating the brutal murder of her former boyfriend. Although Campbell hasn’t seen or spoken to him in years, damaging evidence begins to surface, making it appear as though she had more to do with him than she’s led everyone to believe.
Kat Martin, New York Times bestselling author and winner of the prestigious RT Book Review Magazine Career Achievement Award, is back with another novel in her popular Brodie series. Kat is a wonderful, cheerful individual. She loves to travel and research the locations she writes about. She has a talent for providing great imagery in her work, and her latest novel, AGAINST THE TIDE, is no exception.
Kat graciously agreed to answer a few questions.
AGAINST THE TIDE comes out May 26, 2015. Are you excited?
I’m particularly excited about this book because it’s one of my personal favorites. I let the plot run and realized I had something special going on, plus I love Rafe and Olivia, who are really smart and interesting people.
Please tell us a little about the book.
In AGAINST THE TIDE, Rafe Brodie is the captain of a charter fishing boat fleet in tiny Valdez, Alaska. It’s a beautiful but harsh and remote place to live. That the new owner of the Pelican Café seems out of place in such a world begins to intrigue Rafe. What is her story? Why would a beautiful woman like Olivia Chandler want to build a life in a place as far off the grid as Valdez? Unfortunately, when Rafe’s first mate, young Scotty Ferris, is murdered, Rafe has another, far more important mystery to solve. But as the clues unfold, Rafe begins to believe that Olivia’s mysterious past may lead him to the killer, which makes Liv equally determined to find the man who murdered their mutual friend.
How did you come up with the idea/plan for this novel?
I generally start with a concept that somehow pops into my head. In this case, I was visiting Valdez during my second, month-long trip to Alaska. As we drove out toward the pipeline, an element of the story began to take shape. Combining that element with solving a murder made it a compelling story to write.
By Cynthia Eden
I’ve got an addiction to danger. I love the kick of adrenaline, the wild ride that comes from solving a murder, the thrill of hunting a killer. I love to figure out how a murderer’s mind works. Is he crazy—or just brutally cold-blooded? How does the killer think? How does the killer feel? How does he choose his victims?
I’ve also got an addiction to romance. I enjoy it when two characters fall in love, when they are willing to face any obstacle to be together. The emotions pull me in, and I’m totally hooked. I truly can’t stop reading.
Danger. Romance. Is it any wonder that I love to combine these elements to write romantic suspense? This genre gives me the perfect balance of danger and devotion. I can do a fifty-fifty split in the story as I write about deadly action and the struggle to fall in love.
In romantic suspense novels, villains are dark and demented. The high stakes are clear. And the pressure to survive? It’s extreme. But in every romance novel, one thing is guaranteed—the ending will be happy. It’s a safe threat. Readers can fear the villains in those pages. They can enjoy the tense suspense, but they can also be secure in knowing that before that book closes, good will triumph. The hero and heroine will survive. Love will totally win.
John Connell spent years working as a cameraman on some of the biggest films and television shows in the country, including Jurassic Park and NYPD Blue. He loved the travel, the excitement, and the art of bringing stories to the screen. He also learned a lot about storytelling from some of the best in the business. Though he loved the work, he longed to move from behind the scenes helping bring to life someone else’s story, to writing his own. So, he left the industry, and began writing full time.
He was not an overnight success.
It took a decade, four defunct novels, and countless rejections before Connell landed a publishing deal. But the hard work and determination paid off. His novel, RUINS OF WAR—a unique, historical thriller set in postwar Germany—is already garnering national acclaim. And Connell, well, he’s considered a debut-to-watch.
The Big Thrill caught up with Connell at his home in Paris, where the author graciously agreed to answer a few questions.
What prompted the idea for a thriller set in postwar Germany? Do you have a personal connection to the period?
I’ve been a WW2 buff since I was a kid. I’ve read tons of books about the strategies, the politics, the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, though it’s the personal accounts of the individual soldiers that are my favorites. I felt I knew a good deal about the years leading up to and during the war, but I had neglected one vital part of that incredible era: its aftermath. My previous notions of relative peace and order were turned upside down while I was researching the backstory of the antagonist in an earlier, now defunct, novel.
By Cathy Clamp
Eleven years ago, young Braydon Thatcher was unable to stop a tragic murder, one that hit painfully close to home. Now a detective, Braydon can’t help but notice the eerie similarities between that murder and three women who have suddenly gone missing in the small town of Culpepper. But he has to focus on the present and keep distractions of the past to a minimum. Distractions like Sophia Hardwick, who crashes into town like a Florida thunderstorm, demanding to know where her missing sister is. The attraction between them is nearly his undoing. But he has to protect her, because it’s clear someone is resurrecting ghosts in order to punish Braydon. And if he lets his emotions for Sophia get the best of him, she could become yet another victim…
ITW contributing editor Cathy Clamp sat down with the author of this intriguing new romantic thriller to find out more about the story.
Is MANHUNT intended to be part of a series, or is it a standalone novel?
MANHUNT is a standalone novel…though in my head I definitely continued it to follow the characters after its “The End!”
Are Braydon and Sophia people your readers will have met before, or are they brand new characters?
This is the first time Braydon Thatcher and Sophia Hardwick have been introduced! And boy what a way to start!
Please tell us a little more about the town of Culpepper.
Culpepper is your stereotypical small, quiet town but in the best way possible. Sure there’s no big mall or a plethora of restaurants or attractions. But, the community really makes it great. They are a close bunch, ready to have each other’s backs when everything starts to go sideways…Which it does in MANHUNT. Because like almost every small town or, even large city, there’s a past that can’t stay hidden.
By Jeff Ayers
In Larry Sweazy’s first book in a new series, SEE ALSO MURDER, the year is 1964. Life on the North Dakota farm hasn’t always been easy for Marjorie Trumaine. She’s begun working as a professional indexer to help with the bills-—which have only gotten worse since the accident that left her husband, Hank, blind and paralyzed. But when her nearest neighbors are murdered in their beds, Marjorie suddenly has to deal with new and terrifying problems.
Sheriff Hilo Jenkins brings her a strange amulet, found clutched in the hand of her murdered neighbor, and asks her to quietly find out what it is. Marjorie uses all the skills she has developed as an indexer to research the amulet and look into the murders, but as she closes in on the killer, and people around her continue to die, she realizes the murderer is also closing in on her.
This month, Sweazy chatted with The Big Thrill about SEE ALSO MURDER and his other works.
What sparked the idea for your new mystery, SEE ALSO MURDER?
I’ve been a freelance indexer (I write back-of-the-book indexes for academic, reference, and technical books) for seventeen years, along with being a fiction writer. A source of education for indexers is a correspondence course offered by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture). The course, along with many others, was designed to give farm wives a skill outside of farming that would generate an income in the off- season. Indexers have curious, organized minds, are methodical, well-read, and relentless in their pursuit to divine the most important information from a text—all great attributes of a good detective. Marjorie Trumaine was born from that course and its purpose, along with my experience as an indexer and love of mystery novels. Mixing the two was just natural, but the idea sparked in 2005 as a short story, and is just now a novel, ten years later.
Major Kit Bennings is an elite military intelligence agent working undercover in Moscow. When he is blackmailed by a brutal mafia don and former KGB general, he knows that his military career, if not his life, will soon be over. With little to lose, he goes rogue in the hope of saving his kidnapped sister and stopping a deadly, high-tech scheme directed against the lifeblood of America.
Yulana Petkova is a gorgeous divorcee, devoted mother, and Russian weapons engineer. And maybe more. Spy? Mob assassin? The shotgun marriage to stranger Kit Bennings takes her on a life-or-death hopscotch from Moscow to Los Angeles, from secret US military bases to Las Vegas, where she uses her wiles at every turn to carry out her own hidden agenda.
Hunted by killers from both Russia and the United States, Bennings and Petkova forge an uneasy alliance as they struggle to stop the brilliant deception.. the maskirovka… that could make the mafia kingpin the richest person in the world, while decimating the very heart of America’s economic and intelligence institutions.
UGLY YOUNG THING brings readers back to the town of Grand Trespass, Louisiana where sixteen-year-old Allie is trying to piece her life back together after the death of her mother and only brother.
When the book opens, we meet Allie, a traumatized young girl forced to rely on her looks to survive. All she has left of her family are horrible memories from her traumatic upbringing, and disgrace from the infamy that now accompanies her name. That’s what happens when your mother and brother are both murderers, and you live in a small town.
Allie gets a break when a kindly older woman takes her in as a foster child. But is her new situation too good to be true, or does her new family have ulterior motives? This is a book that will keep you guessing right up until the shocking ending.
The Big Thrill caught up with author Jennifer James to talk about her new release.
You do a wonderful job portraying Allie as a sympathetic character despite her hard exterior. Was she a character that came to you fully formed, or did she take a while to develop?
Allie came to me fully formed. In fact, I’m a little surprised that I didn’t make her a bigger character in my first thriller, Never Smile at Strangers, where she first appeared. Although she was only a supporting character in the first book, she was very important to the overall story.
By Rob Brunet
While Stu Strumwasser researched and wrote THE ORGAN BROKER, the waiting list for organs in the U.S. grew by more than thirty-five per cent. For most people, that means years of anxiety, diminished health, or even death. Where wealth meets entitlement, however, there’s an alternative: the global black market for body parts.
Like any market, each transaction takes a buyer and a seller, and both are featured in Strumwasser’s debut thriller, THE ORGAN BROKER. Doctors and other health care professionals are part of the cost, of course, but the serious money is made by middle men with the seemingly innocuous title of “transplant tourism director.” Jack Trayner is one of them, and THE ORGAN BROKER is his story.
Stu took time out as his debut novel launches to talk to The Big Thrill about Jack’s reality, and what’s driving a growth industry most people wish had no need to exist.
Stu, your story sits astride the very real need for organs and the desperation of those who would sell theirs. How much moral ambiguity do you find there?
A tremendous amount! The organ shortage crisis in America and other wealthy nations, combined with the fact that selling an organ is illegal in almost every country in the world, has created a black market. It leads to the exploitation of poor people in many third-world countries. While brokers charge American and European buyers perhaps $150K for “transplant tourism” (all-inclusive trips to go overseas and come home with a new kidney) the sellers usually receive little more than a thousand dollars. The money helps, for a time, but is rarely transformative. However, the after-effects of surgery and little or no aftercare can be. Many are left sick, crippled, or shunned by their communities, and some even die of infection or other complications. Nancy Schepper Hughes, the professor from Cal Berkely who often writes about the black market for organs, calls it “neo-cannibalism” because the most common reason given for selling an organ is “to feed my family.”
By Carolyn Hart
I penned A Farewell to Death on Demand this spring, but a funny thing happened on the way to Life Without Annie and Max. A knock on my door. There stood Annie, a glint in her steady gray eyes, a determined tilt to her chin.
“What are you thinking?”
Max was right behind her, his usual easy-going smile absent. “No more island sunshine? No alligators basking on a bank? No more laughter?”
Annie and Max looked me in the eye and said, “We’re here to stay.”
Do I want to see the displays at Death on Demand, catch up on the new mysteries, talk about old favorites? Or drop into Confidential Commissions and have a slice of Barb’s lemon pie?
Oh, yes. The scent of the ocean, the rattle of magnolia leaves, the grace and elegance of Spanish moss, hot heavy summer days, windy walks on a chilly winter beach, all await on the small sea island of Broward’s Rock.
I’ll see everyone again, ebullient Annie, charming Max, curmudgeonly author Emma Clyde, mystery maven Henny Brawley, ditzy mother-in-law Laurel Darling Roethke, intense reporter Marian Kenyon, stalwart police chief Billy Cameron, observant officer Hyla Harrison . . .
By Amy Lignor
Romantic Suspense is the genre that this amazing author is a part of. With inspirational plots and extremely fast-moving action—with a touch of love thrown in—Lynette Eason writes the characters that readers love and want to see time and time again. But not only is this a great writer, she’s also a true inspiration in more ways than one. Now, let’s meet the lady who claims the title of “plantser.”
At the core of your writing, fans and readers can see that “inspirational” path you take. Is it important to you to make sure that your characters follow that path when telling their tales?
That’s an interesting question. I actually write for the inspirational market for a lot of different reasons. I try to write true-to-life characters; ones who are true to themselves and their personalities. Since I write “faith based” stories for a mostly faith-based audience, my characters reflect that. No matter what religion a person follows, I think he or she would agree that their faith is a big part of their lives. I simply try to show that in my characters by having them think about and react in ways that reflect their faith.
What is your favorite genre?
My favorite genre is the one I write in: Romantic Suspense. And, truthfully, I’m not really all that romantic. I have to work to get that part in. I’m more interested in the suspense/action part. It’s funny, because I have a lot of male readers. One of my FBI buddies who critiques my stuff even said: “You don’t write like a girl.” I still laugh at that.
Is there any genre you have not yet touched that you would like to try in the future?
I really don’t think so. I adore suspense/thrillers and will probably stay right where I am.
Robert Wilson’s adrenaline-laced background alone is enough to inspire his fiction: a night-long battle for life without painkillers, being held up at gun-point in Africa, facing a pride of lions, cycling to Spain and Portugal. He has, to a large extent, walked the walk so he can talk the talk.
Wilson, whose books have been translated in twenty-two countries, recently answered a few questions for The Big Thrill about his life and latest novel, YOU WILL NEVER FIND ME. Enjoy the narrative voice of this disciplined, prolific, and versatile writer whose kaleidoscopic experience and approach to the craft of writing will enthrall you.
Let’s start with a short introduction.
I’ve written thirteen novels including the Bruce Medway noir series set in West Africa and two Lisbon books with WW2 settings the first of which, A Small Death in Lisbon, won the CWA Gold Dagger in 1999 and the International Deutsche Krimi prize in 2003. I’ve written four psychological crime novels set in Seville, with the Spanish detective, Javier Falcón. Two of these books (The Blind Man of Seville and The Silent and the Damned) were filmed and broadcast on Sky Atlantic as “Falcón” in 2012. A film of the fourth Falcón book was released in Spain in 2014 under the title La Ignorancia de la Sangre Capital Punishment. The first novel in my latest series set in London and featuring kidnap consultant, Charles Boxer, was nominated for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger. This was followed by YOU WILL NEVER FIND ME in 2014 in the UK, and April 2015 in the U.S. The third book in the series, Stealing People, will be published in June 2015 in the UK and 2016 in the U.S.
By Layton Green
If you enjoy international crime novels, and you have not yet heard of Leena Lehtolainen, then you’re in for a treat. Highly regarded in Europe, Lehtolainen is Finland’s bestselling female crime author, and her titles have sold millions of copies in twenty-nine languages, as well as winning a variety of awards.
Lehtolainen skyrocketed to fame with My First Murder, a series featuring a down-to-earth, music-loving female detective named Maria Kallio. The series has been adapted for television, and remains her most popular creation.
However, she is not a one-series-wonder: Leena has also published a nonfiction work on figure skating (voted sports book of the year in Finland in 2010), literary fiction, juvenile fiction (her first novel was published when she was all of twelve years old), and a trilogy of quirky international thrillers starring a female bodyguard, the first of which was recently released in the United States.
Lehtolainen is a gracious, widely traveled, and fascinating author. Here’s a peek into her world.
Thanks for taking the time to chat, Leena. We’re thrilled to have you. I confess it’s the first time I’ve read a book set in Finland, and I loved the milieu. Do you live (or did you grow up) close to where the book is set?
Thank you, Layton. Yes, I grew up in Eastern Finland and live now near the sea and the Kopparnäs area. In my books the milieus are often real, but everything else is invented. I like to describe the Finnish nature so that people hopefully can feel that they really have visited new places with a book as a travel guide.
The Art of Being True
By Dawn Ius
New York Times bestselling author J. A. Jance can trace her love of literature all the way back to elementary school where she was introduced to the magical world of Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz series.
She was, of course, fascinated by the stories, but even then, as an impressionable second-grade student in Mrs. Spangler’s class, Jance sensed “the author” behind the curtain and quickly realized that that is who she wanted to be—the person putting the words on the page.
Since 1982, Jance has been doing just that, with her latest thriller COLD BETRAYAL marking her fiftieth novel. More than twenty million copies of her books are in print, and they have been translated into eighteen languages—an impressive resume for any author.
Perhaps even more so for Jance, whose initial start as an author was met with daunting resistance.
While her passion for writing sparked at an early age, that flame was extinguished by her first husband, an alcoholic who declared that there would be only one writer in the house—and she wasn’t it.
For years, Jance penned poetry during the dark of night, hiding it away in a strong box so her husband wouldn’t catch her doing what, by his estimation, she shouldn’t be doing.
“When I wrote poetry, I thought I was being ‘true to my art,’” she says. “Years later, after my husband died—of chronic alcoholism at age forty-two—I had to go into the strong box for documents. And that’s where I found those old yellowed pieces of notebook paper and the poetry I’d jotted on them.”
Reading them back was like seeing her life on instant replay, and Jance suddenly understood, she hadn’t really been true to her art at all.
Instead, “I had been true to being a writer and using words to grapple with the essential issues of my life.”
While I was driving my twelve-year-old daughter home from softball practice last week, she told me about her day—including an irate commentary about her history lesson. “Did you know that in Athens, women were considered the property of their husbands?”
Before I could respond, she continued. “I told Mr. B that if I lived in Athens back then, I’d kill my husband, hide his body, and tell everyone he disappeared.”
While I appreciate her independence and strong sense of gender equality, I fear I’ve ruined my kids. That, after writing twenty-five crime novels including my latest, COMPULSION, I’m raising five children who are plotting the perfect murder. I reminded her that we believe in Heaven and Hell and while there may be a perfect murder, she wouldn’t want to go to Hell later.
Yet, a little piece of my heart was so very, very proud.
Even before I wrote crime thrillers, I was interested in crime. I don’t know if it started with my love of Trixie Belden (age eight), or Nancy Drew (age ten), or Agatha Christie (age twelve.) In Cold Blood was the first true crime novel I read when I was in eighth grade, and for years I devoured both true and fictional crime stories.
When I worked in the California State Legislature, one of my jobs was to read public safety legislation then explain—in one page or less—what the bill would actually do, both pro and con. This analysis gave me not only an understanding of crime in California, but the ability to look at all sides of an issue. In this capacity, I read the news daily, and even when I left the Legislature, I kept up with current events, particularly related to crime.
So it’s not really surprising when, years later, my oldest daughter wanted a MySpace page (yes, this was many years ago), I printed out a slew of articles where girls had been beaten, raped or murdered because they’d hooked up with someone they met online. One of the saddest stories was a girl who lived only an hour from our hometown who had a private MySpace page. Her best friend posted information about a party and “tagged” her. A young man who had been stalking this girl showed up, kidnapped, raped, and murdered her, then dumped her body in the delta.
Joanne Hichens grills Colleen Higgs, the majority shareholder and managing publisher of Modjaji Books, an independent feminist South African publishing company, about the challenges of venturing into new territory. After publishing more than seventy home-grown literary and poetry titles, Modjaji Books, going strong, is now publishing crime and thriller fiction.
First, tell us a little about the origins of the name of your publishing house. I know that Modjadji the Rain Queen, the hereditary Queen of Balobedu, a people of the Limpopo Province of South Africa, is a legend unto herself.
The succession to the position of Rain Queen is matrilineal which means the Queen’s eldest daughter is the heir, and males have no claim to the throne. The Rain Queen is believed to have special powers, including the ability to control clouds and rainfall. I wanted to incorporate the idea of ‘making rain for South African women,’ especially as drought and lack of rain is a problem in this region of the world, and while mulling over the name, I decided on Modjaji would be perfect. We spell the name with only one d, to differentiate it from the living Queen, Modjadji. Also, I grew up in Lesotho and had a Sesotho name, Pulani, which means daughter of the rain.
And why choose to focus on publishing only women?
The history of publishing in South Africa is enmeshed with the culture of resistance that flourished under apartheid. Struggle literature may have emerged from the underground, but women’s voices—and particularly black women’s voices—are still marginalized. Modjaji Books addresses this inequality by publishing books that are true to the spirit of the Rain Queen, a powerful female force for good, new life, and regeneration.
By Jeremy Burns
It’s Americans’ favorite time of year: tax season. With a tax code at tens of thousands of pages and an entire industry built up around helping ordinary citizens figure out exactly how much they owe, paying income tax has been among our most maligned of patriotic duties for nearly a century.
But what if federal income tax is, in fact, illegal?
Such is the bold question at the heart of Steve Berry’s latest thriller, THE PATRIOT THREAT. Once again, series hero Cotton Malone undertakes a globetrotting adventure to uncover the truth behind an explosive historical secret.
The government of the United States draws ninety-one percent of its total revenue from personal and corporate income tax. The tax codes that allow the government to levy the tax are built upon the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, but what if that amendment was never properly ratified? And what if proof of that failure fell into enemy hands? THE PATRIOT THREAT offers just such a scenario, built—as with all Steve Berry adventures—upon real, but little-known historical facts. Discrepancies in the amendment’s wording and cryptic warnings from the Secretary of State who presided over the process in 1913 could point to as many as twelve states’ ratifications being void, nullifying the amendment, eliminating the government’s ability to collect income tax, and bankrupting the country in one fell swoop.
When an exiled member of the North Korean elite, Kim Yong Jin, stumbles across documents that could destroy the United States, he sees his opportunity to win back his place in power. And unlike most of characters throughout his career, Berry loosely based Kim after the real deposed heir to the North Korean throne—Kim Jong Il’s older brother and political exile, Kim Jong-nam. The fascinating real-life scenario leading to his exile gives the antagonist a plausible and strong motivation for his actions throughout the story. Lucky for America that Cotton Malone is on the same Mediterranean cruise as Kim. Backed by Magellan Billet agent Luke Daniels and director Stephanie Nelle, Malone must stay a step ahead of Kim and ferret out some hidden truths, long buried in the past.
Treasury agent Isabella Shafer is a new character helping out, potentially filling a void left by Cassiopeia Vitt (but not to worry, Berry says, Cassiopeia will return). Kim’s daughter—Hana Sun—is another character Berry says he enjoyed writing, a smart yet conflicted young woman who proves an interesting dynamic in the tale. Her presence also allowed Berry to examine the awful North Korean death camps, where 200,000 people are currently confined.
By Dan Levy
While most of us have never been to the Military Academy at West Point, we can imagine what it might be like to attend. With little effort, you can visualize young men and women in perfectly creased uniforms moving about under a canopy of fall foliage, each moment of their day filled with plan and purpose. They carry a unique vision and mission for themselves, while working to fulfill a larger purpose in the defense of the United States.
Now, imagine one of the cadets, a seventeen year-old plebe, in his bunk late at night, writing by the light of a flashlight. He defies orders and routine to satisfy a need to tell stories. That is exactly how author and retired Brigadier General, A.J. Tata, spent years at West Point. “It became a balancing act between this genuine desire to serve my country and my passion to be a fiction author. I still have the spiral bound notebooks with the stories I wrote at West Point.”
Tata’s need to write didn’t stop once he graduated. If anything, for the man who commanded combat units from the eighty-second and one hundred and first Airborne Divisions, as well as tenth Mountain Division, it intensified. “My Threat series developed from a lot of late nights when I was out on deployment. I’d get back from combat missions and need to disconnect from and process everything that went on. (Writing) was helpful throughout my career. Escaping into (a) fiction world helped me, in some ways, deal with reality.”
Tata, who retired from the military in 2009, drew from his experience to create the four-book Threat series. But while the series met with much acclaim, Tata’s need to grow as a writer drove him to sideline his series protagonists (Matt and Zach Garrett), to explore a new focus. During his four-year hiatus, Tata reexamined his craft, who he was as an author, what kind of an author he wanted to become, and what mattered most to readers. “(Readers think), ‘I’m going to read the next Scott Harvath novel,’ or ‘I’m going to read the next Jack Reacher novel,’ or ‘I’m going to read the next Mitch Rapp novel,’” Tata said. “I’m trying to create that same type of character with Jake Mahegan. One that people fall in love with and want to follow regardless of the plot.”
By E. M. Powell
As a reader, how do you know you’re in for a treat before you even open the book at page one? A quick answer would be to say that it’s written by Heather Graham. Graham is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than one hundred books, boasting a career that has garnered her numerous awards.
My treat this month was THE DEAD PLAY ON, which is the third book in Graham’s Danni Cafferty and Michael Quinn series. Based in New Orleans, Cafferty and Quinn solve unusual crimes that the cops can’t.
In this latest outing, an apparent suicide turns out to be one of a number of musicians who have been murdered. The body count continues to rise, with the saxophone of one of the dead men at the center of the mystery—and possibly sending messages from beyond the grave. It’s a colorful, atmospheric paranormal with a host of vibrant characters and a great heroine and hero at its heart.
In my The Big Thrill interview with Graham, she answers questions about the book and what has made her the writer she is.
For me, New Orleans was like another character in the book, providing the perfect atmosphere and setting for this gripping paranormal romantic suspense. Did the setting provide the inspiration for this series, or did Danni Cafferty and Michael Quinn come calling first?
A bit of both! I was in the city mulling the kind of series I wanted to do and I saw the perfect place for their shop on a corner of Royal Street. Also, the city really lends itself to a paranormal suspense—and has as long as I can remember. It’s also a writer’s city—Truman Capote liked to claim he was born in the Monteleone (also on Royal Street) though I think the truth is that his mom went into labor there. Tennessee Williams—think A Streetcar Named Desire!—spent a great deal of time at the hotel, as did Eudora Welty, and many more. Harriet Beecher Stowe was a guest at the Cornstalk House while mulling Uncle Tom’s Cabin after seeing the slave market and . . . the list is endless! I have a free booklet up at Amazon that’s a collection of blogs on why I love NOLA for anyone interested. The city was simply perfect for the people I needed for the series—and the people were perfect for NOLA.
What can one man do against a huge criminal organization bent on world domination? Jon Land shows us in BLACK SCORPION: THE TYRANT REBORN, and thriller fans will love getting the answer.
The man in question is Michael Tiranno, whose cunning and ruthlessness in business earned him the nickname “The Tyrant.” Land introduced him in The Seven Sins. In that novel, Tiranno saved Las Vegas from a terrorist attack. This impressive character fully deserved to return in an even bigger adventure.
“You’d find him captivating, fascinating, charismatic, engaging, and a bit brash,” Land says. “The Tyrant inside him only emerges when he, someone close to him, or someone vulnerable, is harmed or threatened. The question, of course, then becomes which is the real Michael Tiranno.”
Tiranno gives us a clue to that in BLACK SCORPION when asked why he helps a family that just lost their house to foreclosure. He says, “Because I know what it’s like to lose a home.” But as Land points out, Tiranno’s motivations are more complex than that.
“I think Michael’s entire life, the core of his very existence, is about replacing what he lost the day as a young boy he witnessed the murder of his parents,” Land says. “But he can never get it, not really, which leads to him being a constantly restless soul moving on from one quest to another.”
By John Clement
BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO WEEP is the third book in Kristi Belcamino’s acclaimed series of thrillers chronicling the life of Gabriella Giovanni, an Italian-American crime reporter who happens to make a mean biscotti on the side. Not for nothing, Belcamino is herself Italian-American, and she knows a thing or two about baking biscotti as well, but it’s her career as a crime-beat reporter that imbues her fiction with a unique and rare note of authenticity. Her readers have come to expect suspenseful and gripping page-turners, and they’ll be happy to know that this new book does not disappoint.
I sat down with Belcamino to talk about her life, her work, and her latest novel.
BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO WEEP is out this month, and it’s already receiving high praise from readers and critics alike. Can you talk a little about the story?
Gabriella stumbles onto a horrific crime scene with only one survivor—a baby girl found crawling between the dead bodies of her family members. Reeling from the slaughter, Gabriella clings to the infant. When Social Services pries the little girl from her arms, the enormity of the tragedy hits home. Diving deep into a case that brings her buried past to the forefront, Gabriella is determined to hunt down the killer who left this helpless baby an orphan. But one by one the clues all lead to a dead end, and Gabriella’s obsession with finding justice pulls her into a dark, tortuous spiral that is set to destroy everything she loves …
It is a story about family, forgiveness, betrayal, and government cover-ups.
Known for capturing readers from the very first line and then surprising them with every carefully plotted twist and turn, what makes #1 New York Times bestselling author Harlan Coben’s books downright frightening is the underlying message reminding us just how frail the line is between order and chaos in our lives. With his latest, that message is as strong as ever. Coben once again reminds us there is a reason we call it the “American Dream” and the scary part is the possibility that we are all on the verge of waking up. THE STRANGER (Dutton; March 24, 2015) centers on the many secrets people keep when they think they’re anonymous – especially online – and how easily those secrets can be revealed when that information falls into the wrong hands.
In THE STRANGER, readers meet the Prices, who appear to be the perfect family. Adam and Corrine have a great marriage, with two wonderful sons, and a nice house in the New Jersey suburbs. Their world gets turned upside down when Adam meets the Stranger. Adam doesn’t know who he is, what his motive is, but the secret he has just shared about Corrine is not only devastating, it’s true.
The evening after he confronts his wife, Corinne disappears – and without even as much as a note to her boys. Did she run off on her own or could the stranger have had something to do with it? As Adam searches for Corinne and tries to track down the stranger that has just destroyed his life, he realizes he is tangled in something far bigger and darker than even Corrine’s deception.
By J. H. Bográn
There’s a reason why some authors prefer to write stand-alone novels: penning a series is no picnic. Readers demand fresh new adventures, but at the same time, the character must stay the same, but show a degree of change from one book to the next. In other words, it is a balancing act. In BRIDGES BURNED, the third entry in the Zoe Chambers series, Annette Dashofy walks that tightrope, and she graciously agreed to answer a few questions for The Big Thrill about her series, her writing, and her life.
What can you tell us about your new book?
In BRIDGES BURNED, paramedic Zoe Chambers is used to saving lives, but when she stops a man from running into a raging inferno in a futile attempt to rescue his wife, Zoe finds herself drawn to him, and even more so to his ten-year-old daughter. She invites them both to live at the farm while the grieving widower picks up the pieces of his life.
Vance Township Police Chief Pete Adams, of course, is not happy with this setup, especially when he finds evidence implicating Zoe’s new houseguest in murder times two. When Zoe ignores Pete’s dire warnings, she runs the very real chance of burning one too many bridges, losing everything—and everyone—she holds dear.
Tell us about Zoe Chambers.
Zoe loves her job as a paramedic. It’s a perfect fit with her natural caregiver tendencies. However, she continues to be conflicted regarding her future with the Coroner’s Office. She likes the idea of investigating crimes, but she’s struggling with the whole autopsy thing.
CITY OF BLOOD, Frederique Molay’s gripping thriller that held the French enthralled, is now set to work its magic across the spectrum of the English speaking world.
In the novel, which was recently translated into English, a major Parisian modern art event gets unexpected attention on live TV, causing Police Chief, Nico Sirsky, and his elite crime squad, to rush to the La Villette Park and Museum complex, built on the site of the French capital’s former slaughterhouses. Three decades after a tragic banquet, renowned artist Samuel Cassian is inaugurating the first archeological dig of modern art. Excavators uncover a skeleton in the presence of the international press.
Two questions smolder: could the bones be those of the artist’s own son, and does that death have anything to do with the current string of nightclub murders by the “Paris Butcher”?
The investigation takes Nico Sirsky and France’s top criminal investigation division from artists’ studios, to autopsy theaters and nightclubs in hopes of tracking down the murderer who threatens to turn the City of Lights into a City of Blood.
Writing has always been a passion for Molay, author of the award-winning international bestseller The 7th Woman. A laureate of Science Po, France’s prestigious Higher Institute of the Social Sciences, she began her career in politics and administration. She relinquished her position as Chief of Staff for the Deputy Mayor of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Paris, for election to the local government in Saône-et-Loire. She also spent her nights pursuing a passion for writing, nourished since she wrote her first novel at the age of eleven. After The 7th Woman took France by storm, Molay dedicated her life to writing and raising her three children. She has five books to her name, including three in the Paris Homicide series.
By Karen Harper
Karen Harper caught up with one of the busiest “jack of all trades” and master of all, Gary Grossman, to talk about his new release, OLD EARTH. The man is amazingly successful in so many fields—journalist, newspaper columnist, television producer, playwright—and writer of thrillers. Readers who love Dan Brown will surely devour Gary’s newest book, OLD EARTH. Read on and hold on to your historical and thriller hats!
What is OLD EARTH about?
OLD EARTH is a geological thriller; a geological thriller that spans all time. It begins with a discovery made by an Italian mathematician in 1601 who’s testing his invention, the thermoscope. He determines that the best place to plot variations of temperatures in the middle of summer is in a cave. There, he finds a remarkable “truth” which in turn, points him to his life’s work—the stars. It also ultimately becomes, for the sake of the thriller, the reason he’s brought before the Inquisition. The scientist is Galileo.
Flash forward to today and a group of paleontologists digging in Montana’s famed dinosaur alley. During their excavations they make the same discovery as Galileo—thousands of miles and centuries apart. From there, OLD EARTH intercuts back and forth from modern times to Galileo’s trial, to other points in history that relate to the revelation. We also meet members of a 400-year-old clandestine organization hell bent on guarding the secret.
The thriller weaves history and intrigue, science and religion, and relatable characters with sprawling ideas. There’s even a nod to my political thrillers with a reference to one of the characters who first came to life in Executive Actions.
Nicholas and Victoria Foulkes’ children are kidnapped to force repayment of a gambling debt, but when the couple are unable to raise the ransom money in time, they turn to crime. The stakes are raised when their crime spree catches the attention of Harry Evans, a childless and recently bereaved detective trying to dodge enforced retirement.
Smith writes tough-as-nails prose and delivers a page-turner that will leave you high on adrenaline.
Graham took some time this month to answer a couple of key questions about what inspired his latest release, and the motivating factors behind his protagonist Harry Evans and the family that opens old wounds.
How well does childless Harry Evans understand the plight of the central characters in SNATCHED FROM HOME?
I think he fully understands their desire to save their children. Being the swine I am, I have him mourning the loss of his own wife and unborn child. This gives him the perspective needed to put himself in their shoes. Also, he believes (wrongly) he could have done things differently and saved them.
By George Ebey
New Zealand resident and author Sharlene Almond brings us INITIATED TO KILL, the first instalment in her new series that blends aspects of history with a modern day twist.
In this first outing, two men from different generations are initiated into a powerful organization that has sought control of the world and uses their power for destructive ends.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Sharlene to learn more about this series and her plans for the future.
Tell us a little about INITIATED TO KILL.
INITIATED TO KILL is the first in the Annabella Cordova series. All of the books in the series have a part-historical, part-present day focus.
In this story, Annabella Cordova quickly becomes embroiled in a conspiracy involving the university she studies at. When her roommate goes missing, it becomes very personal. Her past gradually unveils, as she is closer to this than she could have possibly imagined. A childhood accident causing permanent deafness enables Annabella to use her other senses to read facial and body language, and detecting lies in people, including suspects.
What first inspired you to write tales involving history and modern-day crime?
When I was younger, I had a little notebook in which I would jot down ideas of things one day I would like to write about.
By Linda Davies
James O. Born has had a long and distinguished career as an agent for the Drug Enforcement Agency, and is still employed as an agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement where he has worked in a number of areas, including the Special Operations Team. This has given him experience that many writers would die for (figuratively, and probably literally too, if we ever stumbled into the path of clear and present danger!)
After years trying to get published, Born hit the big leagues when Putnam published his first novel Walking Money in 2004. This year marks his ninth book, SCENT OF MURDER. It focuses on the use of canine units in law enforcement and detection:
Two years after being tossed from the detective bureau for his questionable tactics catching a child molester, deputy Tim Hallett’s life is finally on track. Assigned to a special K-9 unit with the best partner in the world, a Belgian Malinois named Rocky, Hallett has finally learned to balance police work with his family life. But that all changes in the heat of a Florida sugarcane field.
The wealth of Born’s experience shines through in the novel in a way that is never allowed to bog down the narrative. He manages to combine background detail with a gripping and compelling plot that speeds along. I particularly enjoyed passages from the dog’s perspective.
Born also manages to create a very real and powerful microcosm of life with all the characters extremely well drawn and the dialogue snapping along with the ring of authenticity. This is a class act.
By Kurt Anthony Krug
David Levien has a reputation for exhaustive research in order to authenticate his fiction.
For instance, Levien (pronounced “Levine”) and frequent collaborator Brian Koppelman entered the dangerous world of underground poker halls when writing the screenplay to 1998’s Rounders, starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton.
For his latest novel, SIGNATURE KILL—the fourth featuring private investigator Frank Behr—Levien researched serial killers.
“Wouldn’t it be off the charts insane if I admitted to becoming a serial killer in the name of research? Well, I didn’t do that. I did read dozens of biographies, case histories, non-fiction and clinical books on killers of all different types. I also spoke pretty extensively with a couple criminal psychiatrists. The process took a few years,” said Levien.
In SIGNATURE KILL, Behr takes on a cold case to find a woman whose face is plastered all over billboards throughout Indianapolis and collect the $100,000 reward. At the same time, bodies of murdered women start piling up and before too long, Behr realizes his cold case is connected to these brutal murders and a serial killer is on the loose. However, this man has the ability to blend in with polite society, which makes tracking him down difficult, forcing Behr to go to dark places.
“I’m highly interested in the iteration of evil that walks the streets amongst us, unrecognized. Certain real-life killers like Dennis Rader, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, going all the way back to Albert Fish and H.H. Holmes—these people led quiet, normal lives, for all intents and purposes, but their real existences were far from quiet or normal. The ‘regular’ way this type of killer conducts himself makes him extremely difficult to discover and stop,” said Levien. “It would take someone, I posit, singular of purpose, with extreme determination, toughness, and ingenuity—like Behr—on a sort of quest, to hook into the mind and actions of a killer like this.”
Researching SIGNATURE KILL disturbed Levien.
By Rick Reed
When you read THE MISSING PIECE, I want you to imagine that you are Gary Martin, a court officer assigned to the New York County Courthouse. You are part of a security team in a civil trial with legal representatives from Croatia and Hungary vying for the ownership of the Salvus Treasure, a $70 million dollar hoard of ancient Roman silver. Suddenly, gunmen burst into the courtroom, shoot you, and flee with one piece of the treasure, a silver urn. A mistrial is declared, but that is not the end of the case.
Much changes over the next three years. As a result of the shooting you are in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. A new judge has inherited the case, and the trial resumes in a different courtroom. What has not changed is that you are still convinced that the thieves hid the missing urn in the courthouse. Is it still there? Will the thieves return to claim it?
Kevin Egan is the author of six previous novels, including Midnight, a Kirkus Best Book of 2013. He works in the iconic New York County Courthouse, which serves as the setting and inspiration for THE MISSING PIECE. His short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Rosebud, and The Westchester Review. He graduated with a B.A. in English from Cornell University.
THE MISSING PIECE is Kevin Egan’s seventh novel and as this thriller plays out he will give his readers an inside view of the legal system, as well as the extralegal system, at play in New York City’s courtrooms.
By Terry DiDomenico
Readers of romantic suspense, UNTRACEABLE may be for you:
On a daring mission, search and rescue specialist Heidi Warren and her team step onto an icy Alaskan mountaintop—and right into a trap. A stranded gang of thieves holds them at gunpoint, forcing them to serve as guides along the treacherous path. Menaced on all sides by dangerous weather, deadly terrain, and murderous criminals, Heidi desperately needs someone to trust. But her rescue partner Isaiah Callahan is keeping secrets from her. Secrets that ended their chance at a relationship before it could even begin. Yet her survival depends on finding a way to trust Isaiah when a blizzard starts closing in and her options start running out.
UNTRACEABLE is the second book in the Mountain Cove series penned by award-winning author Elizabeth Goddard.
Goddard used a newspaper article that recounted the experience of a man who spent fifteen days in a blizzard, thirteen of which were “a consecutive and virtually relentless hurricane” on the Juneau Ice field as the basis for her research for UNTRACEABLE.
What was most problematic with UNTRACEABLE?
UNTRACEABLE was a different kind of story because I let the reader know in the first chapter who the bad guy is. The characters know too, so there is no whodunit. There is no mystery to solve. The struggle and the suspense come from trying to survive the villains and the brutality of nature in the mountains of the Coast Range in Alaska—said to be the most inclement weather on the planet. So the writing process was difficult in that I had to think of new and fresh ways in each chapter for them to deal with the same problems. Frankly I was worried that readers wouldn’t like this story, but the opposite has been true. Many have said they loved it more than Buried, the first novel in the series, my personal favorite.
By Wendy Tyson
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Rebecca Zanetti knows a thing or two about men, especially alpha males and the women who fall for them. Her latest romantic suspense novel, TOTAL SURRENDER, is the fourth and much anticipated final book in the Sin Brothers Series, which follows four brothers with unnatural powers genetically engineered into them by a black ops military unit that trained them to be killers. In this final installment, the youngest of the Sin Brothers, Jory, has awakened from a two-year coma. Imprisoned, anticipating his chance to escape and reunite with his brothers, he’s sentenced to death by the lethal chip in his spine—unless the brilliant and sexy Piper Oliver can find a way to deactivate the chip in time.
A prolific author, Zanetti has published three series in multiple genres, including contemporary romance, dark paranormal, and romantic suspense. We’re thrilled Zanetti took the time to answer a few questions for The Big Thrill on the heels of her newest release.
Congratulations on the publication of TOTAL SURRENDER, the fourth book in the Sin Brothers series! What can you tell us about TOTAL SURRENDER that’s not on the back cover?
Thanks so much! TOTAL SURRENDER is the fourth and final book in the series, and it answers all of the questions, especially the main one of who shot Jory. I can tell you that you probably won’t guess who the shooter actually was, or if you do guess, you probably won’t know why. Feedback so far from early reviewers has been reassuring that many of the twists and turns took them by surprise.
When L. J. Sellers isn’t writing the fast-paced, complex novels that have made her a name in the crime fiction world, she devotes a lot of time to Housing Help, a foundation she created to prevent homelessness. She combines her two passions in WRONGFUL DEATH, a compelling story that explores a unique aspect of the Detective Wade Jackson series setting: the lives of the homeless in her hometown of Eugene, Oregon, and their vulnerability when the police start looking for a killer in their midst.
WRONGFUL DEATH, available now, is the tenth entry in the Jackson series—a two-time Readers Favorite Award winner.
Sellers hopes that while she entertains her readers she can also show them homeless people are “individuals with unique personalities and circumstances.” She cautions against the common tendency to lump all of them together under one stereotype. “Everyone has a different story about how they ended up on the streets. Some are there for life. For others, it’s a temporary setback.”
The more fortunate citizens who support those on the streets also have their own stories to explain their commitment. She drew on both communities to create the characters in WRONGFUL DEATH.
The novel begins with the murder of a police officer who is passing out blankets to the homeless on a cold night. The primary suspects are homeless people, including a couple of brothers with mental health problems. Sellers is aware that some people feel afraid of street people, viewing them as potentially dangerous, and she realized she was tackling a sensitive and complex issue.
By John Darrin
I was quite excited to get this assignment—Simon Wood, author of twelve novels, six short story collections, two audio books, and numerous non-fiction how-to articles. Quite a library of work. And I’m sure he’s sold a lot of them—over 500,000, I’m told. Five of those to me.
In THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY, Wood delves into the world of post-traumatic stress disorder, something we’ve all heard about and think we understand. His interest in the subject led him to study the subject with everyone from returning veterans and advocates for abused women, and he found that “PTSD is something people don’t understand generally. It’s something I didn’t really understand myself. I’ve attempted to highlight the issues and behaviors in the book with the hope people will look into the topic themselves.”
In addition to his own writing, Wood participates in writing and publishing events and even holds workshops on marketing. These came about in what has to be a formidable and impressive decision.
“About five years ago I was on the ropes career-wise. I’d lost one publisher, the rising popularity of ebooks and the recession was moving another publisher towards chapter 11 and my career looked dead. I was desperate, so I took a risk and invested in my writing. I negotiated my rights back, pulled together my backlist, repackaged it, promoted, advertised and did what I could to build a readership, and it worked. I built some momentum and ended up with new book contracts on the back of it. People asked how I did it and the workshops were born.”
By Basil Sands
Thomas F. Monteleone is a writer who has not been wasting his time. Thomas has published more than 100 short stories, 5 collections, 7 anthologies and 27 novels including the bestseller, New York Times Notable Book of the Year, The Blood of the Lamb. A four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, he’s also written scripts for stage, screen and TV, as well as the bestselling The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing a Novel (now in a 2nd edition) which sits on the bookshelf of this reviewer. His latest novel is a global thriller, SUBMERGED, and I must say I found myself Immersed in Submerged.
He lives in Maryland with his wife, Elizabeth, and all the high taxes. He is also co-editor of the award-winning anthology series of imaginative fiction, Borderlands. He is well-known as a great reader of his own work, and routinely draws SRO at conventions. Despite being dragged kicking and screaming into his sixties and losing most of his hair, he is still in many circles considered to be one who thinks he is dashingly handsome—let’s humor him.
Thomas, tell us about SUBMERGED.
It’s a thriller in the tradition of the best Ken Follett novels that use recent historical events that somehow still have great influence on us today. Having always had an abiding interest in World War II, and especially the astounding technologies of the German war machine, I have admired the novels of Frederick Forsyth and Greg Iles and Jack Higgins. I Like the challenge of using historical facts to make fiction ring true with credibility. So what if . . . . the Kriegsmarine had launched a super-sub—and underwater aircraft carrier with the ability to launch a bomber over the USA?
By Amy Lignor
From the Old West to contemporary romantic suspense, this incredible author throws herself into all projects she creates. The powerful emotions, excitement, passion, and friendship that exist in her novels invigorate readers—causing them to crave nothing more than a quiet corner where they can sit and get lost in her words and characters without being disturbed. Here, DiAnn Mills has been gracious enough to speak with The Big Thrill about her “full plate,” which even involves being a well-respected mentor to others focusing on the craft of writing.
Your writing is so varied—from the historical to the suspense, and beyond. Where do the “new” characters spring up from (so to speak)? Do you create using people around you, or do they spring from imagination?
Characters spring from every place imaginable with me: the people I meet; the people I hear or read about; strangers, and my imagination. My jumping off point continues to be “What if?”
Your long career includes so many accolades. But (and I know this is difficult), if you could pick only one of your works, what would be your favorite?
That’s like asking which one of my sons is my favorite! But I will pick the romantic suspense titles listed in the FBI: Houston series: Firewall, DOUBLE CROSS, and the third book to be released in October, Deadlock. These are the freshest in my mind, and I’ve worked the hardest to create the best stories possible. Houston’s FBI is amazing and are always available to answer questions. And then there’s the setting—Houston! My city!
By Jeff Ayers
Vincent Zandri is the NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than 16 novels including THE INNOCENT, GODCHILD, THE REMAINS, MOONLIGHT RISES, and his latest, EVERYTHING BURNS.
When Reece Johnston was a boy, a fire destroyed his home, killing his mother and brothers while leaving him scarred for life. It also kindled something dark inside him: an irresistible attraction to flames in all their terrifying, tantalizing power. But after two failed arson attempts and two trips to the mental ward he was finally able to put down the matches and pick up the pieces.
With a career as a bestselling crime writer going strong, Reece is working to fix his broken marriage to Lisa and be there for their preteen daughter, Anna. He’s not just dealing with his own demons; there’s a world of deadly hurt bearing down on him in the form of the jealous rival he’s bested in literature and love, who’s determined to see Reece crash and burn. But a guy like Reece knows how to take the heat. And thanks to his lifelong friendship with fire, he also knows how to bring it.
Vincent chatted with The Big Thrill about his new novel and his past work.
What sparked the idea (pun intended) for EVERYTHING BURNS?
The basis for the plot was derived from the true story of my second wife and myself. We divorced some years ago, but stayed very close. For a while, my ex dated a would-be novelist. I found this rather odd since we, novelists, don’t exactly grow on trees. So what are the chances of that? Then one day, for reasons I won’t go into here, my ex-wife and I decided to start dating again. During that time, she underwent cosmetic eye surgery. On the morning her mother picked her up for the surgery, I also found out that the ex-boyfriend-would-be-novelist had been calling and texting again. Bingo! The plot for Everything Burns suddenly shot into my brain like a transfusion. The bit about the fire and the pyromania came later.
Iced Chiffon by Duffy Brown
All my life I thought launch was what really smart rocket scientists do to get something into space. Never in all those years did I expect to be involved in one. Yet here I am dong a launch of my very own. Not that I’m putting a rocket in space—though right now that seems like a snap—but I’m launching a book.
“What do you mean launch?” I asked my publisher. “The book comes out on a specific day, booksellers, B&N and Amazon put it up for sale, end of story. Done. Right?”
Wrong. To launch my first cozy mystery, ICED CHIFFON, I though it would be fun to do something different. I’ll have a mystery party at my house, I decided, with a real live mystery for the guests to solve. I have the house and I like parties. A match made in heaven.
Sixty is a nice number and I can just buy one of those interactive mystery party packs online and set up the mystery event based on that. Piece of cake.
You can see where this is going, can’t you? Murphy’s Law on steroids.
First off, there are no mystery party packs for sixty online. They had packs for twelve, but not five times the number. That meant I’d have to write the mystery. And if people are coming to my house I have to serve food and beverages.