Dean Bannon comes to New Orleans for one reason only: to track down a missing sixteen-year-old girl. That’s before he meets the drop-dead gorgeous con artist who makes him want to lose his legendary control.
With her past, Emma Castille doesn’t claim to be psychic. She just notices things other people don’t. Like the fear in a runaway’s eyes—or the pain in an ex-FBI agent’s heart. Her chemistry with Dean is blistering, but Emma follows her passion… not someone else’s orders.
Then a madman breaks into Emma’s home and leaves a twisted message: You’re next. Now Dean refuses to let her out of his sight until he pries every last secret from her full, sexy lips. And suddenly Emma’s aching to give him everything he wants.
On a routine intelligence gathering mission in Tehran, Jack Ryan, Jr., has lunch with his oldest friend, Seth Gregory, an engineer overseeing a transcontinental railway project. As they part, Seth slips Jack a key, along with a perplexing message.
The next day Jack is summoned to an apartment where two men claim Seth has disappeared—gone to ground with funds for a vital intelligence operation. Jack’s oldest friend has turned, they insist.
They leave Jack with a warning: If you hear from Seth Gregory, call us immediately. And do not get involved.
But they don’t know Jack. He won’t abandon a friend in need.
His pursuit of the truth will lead him across Iran, through the war-torn Caucasus, and finally deep into territory coveted by the increasingly aggressive Russian Federation. Along the way, Jack is joined by Seth’s primary agent, Ysabel, a enigmatic Iranian woman who seems to be his only clue to Seth’s whereabouts.
Jack soon finds himself lost in a maze of intrigue, lies, and betrayal where no one is who they seem to be—not even Seth, who’s harboring a secret of his own that harkens back to the Cold War. A secret that is driving him to the brink of treachery.
Racing against the clock, Jack must unravel the mystery: Who is friend and who is foe? Before it’s over, Jack Ryan, Jr., may have to choose between his loyalty to Seth and his loyalty to America.
Murder of a Mafia Daughter is a story about a path to murder that begins in old Las Vegas with gangsters and the boys from the Jewish mob. It moves to San Francisco with the movers and shakers, to New York City with its literati, and ends in Beverly Hills with the glitterati.
The slaying of Susan Berman in the winter of 2000 had all the earmarks of a professional hit aimed at a person born into the Mafia. Or was that just what the killer intended everyone to think, to lead investigators to the assumption that it was a Mob hit when it was not?
Or was it her best friend Robert Durst who wanted her dead?
“Cathy Scott is a star writer in the crowded field of true crime.” ~Ann Rule
“Murder in Beverly Hills is intense tale of an eccentric murder victim with a colorful history and how one of her friends has likely gotten away with not just her murder but others as well. Who doesn’t love a real life whodunit?”~Kim Cantrell, Editor, True Crime Zine
As a weapons dealer, Mack Barton has spent the last four decades running from someone scary, and now is no exception. A crime boss in Las Vegas wants to kill him because of an overdue gambling debt (one of his bad habits—another is tequila). And is it the C.I.A. blaming him if some munitions fell into the wrong hands in a Syria deal? Or the last Colombia deal?
Thinking that it might help him get his mind off of those chasing him and trying to eliminate him, Mack accepted an invitation to a reunion with his four good friends from high school. He traveled to Golden, Colorado, where he and three others were wined and dined by their mutual buddy, Ace Strain, a psychiatrist and proprietor of a cryonics company. But, only one of the five was aware of the sinister plot being planned against the others.
“I enjoyed Stacy Childs’ debut novel, Block 10, and immediately became a fan. The Boys of the Dixie Pig is better. It displays Childs’ versatility within the medical thriller genre with a rapid-fire story that seems too fantastic to be true, but which sucks you in from page one and doesn’t let you go until the final word. I couldn’t put it down. Mack Barton is sure to become the Jack Reacher of medical thrillers.” ~Robert Dugoni, New York Times and #1 Amazon Bestselling Author, and author of My Sister’s Grave
With its breakneck pacing and fascinating characters on display from the first page, EENY MEENY opens with a compelling and terrifying premise. A young couple wakes up trapped in an abandoned diving pool without food or water. There’s no escape. Instead there is a loaded gun with a single bullet, and a phone with enough battery life to receive one message: to walk free, one of them must kill the other.
Kill or be killed—no choice.
When other pairs are given the same orders in increasingly twisted ways, the brilliant but damaged Detective Inspector Helen Grace (reminiscent of Prime Suspect’s Jane Tennison or Stella Gibson in the TV series The Fall) finds herself racing against time and confronting dark chapters of her own past.
Published in the UK last summer, EENY MEENY was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick, an instant Sunday Times bestseller, and a reviewer favorite.
“Readers will look forward to seeing more of this strong, intelligent, and courageous lead.”
When Fbi Agent Kaitlyn Knight discovers her brother-in-law is Vyper-the notorious cyber-criminal and murderer wanted by the Fbi-Kait doesn’t question her duty to arrest him. But when he murders her sister in front of her, leaving her infant niece motherless, Kait vows to hunt him down and bring him to justice while raising the baby.
Three years later, and not even a whisper of a lead in her search, Kait is about to give up hope of ever finding Vyper. All of that changes when he goes on a murderous spree taunting Kait with clues that she and homicide detective Sam Murdock must solve before her devious brother-in-law takes another life.
As the body count rises, Sam discovers the killing spree is really about striking back at Kait. He must put everything on the line-including the relationship he’s developed with Kait-to ensure her safety. The killer is waiting, watching her every move, and he won’t stop until he’s exacted his revenge and reclaims his rights to raise his daughter
Fresh from pulling off her latest heist, Cat Montgomery believes she’s ready to leave her thieving lifestyle behind. But old habits die hard. When she’s recruited to retrieve the Lionheart, a legendary medieval ring made from the finest gold and excavated from the grave of Robin Hood, Cat’s determined to end her career with a bang.
Or so she thinks…until the Caliga Rapio, a mysterious brotherhood of thieves, beats her to the punch. Now she has to hightail it to Venice to swipe it back. With two old flames thrown into the mix and an Interpol agent hot on her tail, things are about to get a lot trickier. Cat’s troubles only worsen as she realizes the legend of the Lionheart runs deeper than she could have possibly imagined…
2014: Police Capitaine Inés Picaut is called out to investigate a blaze in the old town of Orléans, the fourth in six weeks: and the first with a body in the fire. An Islamic extremist faction claims responsibility, but PIcaut cannot find any evidence of its existence. A partly melted memory card found in the victim’s throat is the only clue to his identity.
September 1429: Joan of Arc is in the process of turning the tide of The Hundred Years’ War. English troops have Orléans under siege, and Tomas Rustbeard, the Duke of Bedford’s most accomplished agent, finally has her in his sights. But he knows that killing ‘The Maid’ – the apparently illiterate peasant girl who nonetheless has an unmatched sense of military strategy and can ride a warhorse in battle – is not enough, he must destroy the legend that has already grown around her – and to do that, he must get close enough to discover who she really is.
As each thread of Manda Scott’s immaculately interwoven narrative unfolds, Inés and Tomas’s quests become linked across the centuries. And in their pursuit of the truth, they find that love is as enduring as myth – but can lead to the greatest and most heart-breaking of sacrifices.
In 1997, The Tenth Justice, the first novel Brad Meltzer published (and the second one he wrote) hit the bestseller list. Himself a recent grad of Columbia Law School, Meltzer wrote a book about a mistake made by a conscientious clerk for a Supreme Court Justice and the deepening crisis that unfolds from that mistake. This month, he publishes his tenth novel, THE PRESIDENT’S SHADOW. It is a fast-paced, high-stakes thriller that begins with the discovery of a severed arm in the Rose Garden of the White House. At the center of the story is a nerdy National Archivist who holds his own among characters trained in violence and steeped in betrayal.
Meltzer’s stories are often about consequence and trust, with plot twists that leave a reader reeling. Yet the expectations he may be best at toppling are about himself. He leaped out of the box of legal-thriller writer early and crafted high-stakes suspense stories that draw on fascinating research revealing secret societies and hidden people and places that may seem too good to be true—yet often are. The line between truth and fiction is hard to pin down in a Brad Meltzer book. While turning out novels that reach the top of the New York Times bestseller list, he writes comic books, nonfiction about children’s heroes, and television series, and he hosts a television show called “Brad Meltzer’s Lost History.” He is also active in organizations promoting literacy in the state of Florida, where he lives with his wife and three children.
For The Big Thrill, Meltzer explains his character choices, shares his research approach and the secret to his daunting balancing act, and talks about the mistake he made early on that turned him into a more fearless writer.
The protagonist of THE PRESIDENT’S SHADOW is Beecher White, returning from The Fifth Assassin and The Inner Circle. When did you first realize that a young archivist would make an ideal main character?
When I met my first archivist. They just had all the nerdy goodness I wanted to give Beecher. And the real goal was: Can I build this hero whose superpower is just his brain? He couldn’t fight, couldn’t fire a gun. But he’s smarter than all of us. And didn’t feel the need to show you.
Throughout the book, you play with the reader’s perception of the personality and lifestyle of an archivist, a dedicated researcher. Is that part of your mission with these novels, to reveal how an archivist could be a new variety of action hero?
That’s just me telling the truth. Go to the National Archives. There’s a beautiful type there. I was just reporting what I saw. Bookish introverts with obsessive love for the arcane. In that, I found the archivists—and of course myself.
Thirteen great new thrillers for $9.99 is a sweet deal. Now you can get that deal while contributing to a very worthy cause. Just grab the SWEET DREAMS Boxed Set (Thirteen New Thrillers by Bestselling Authors to Benefit Diabetes Research).
This limited edition collection is a dream-come-true for avid readers. But how did thirteen brand new novels and novellas written by New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors end up in one giant e-book? That was the work of Brenda Novak and her charity, the Online Auction for Diabetes Research. Novak, a bestseller in her own right, had personal reasons for curating this boxed set and contributing the money it raised to the Diabetes Research Institute.
“When my son was diagnosed with Type 1 at the age of five,” Novak says, “I knew I wanted to do all I could to fight the disease that threatened his health on a daily basis. That’s why I started my annual online auctions for diabetes research, which I ran for ten years.”
Last year, the first boxed set Novak curated, A Sweet Life, raised $100,000 for diabetes research. This year she’s back to raise more. Novak created a “wish list” of the biggest names in the genre and reached out. The authors in the boxed set all replied that they’d be happy to help.
“I explained that I thought we could raise more money with brand new work, and they were generous enough to contribute despite the added work that would cause,” Novak says. “I’m still in awe of the fabulous reception I received. These ladies—and Lee Child, who provided the incredible foreword for SWEET DREAMS—are some of the most generous and socially-conscious people on the planet.”
Theresa Ragan’s reaction was typical when Novak asked her to participate.
“My first thought was, how can I possibly squeeze in another project?” Ragan says. “And then my second thought was, how thrilling it was to be asked to be included. I couldn’t possibly pass up the chance. I am honored.”
Ragan contributed her newest suspense, Dead Man Running. It kicks off when an accused murderer escapes prison in a body bag and sets out to prove his innocence.
The stories in SWEET DREAMS cover the spectrum of thrillers. Novak purposely left her request to the authors wide open. She says her fundraising philosophy is to make everything a win/win.
Ten years ago, the first ThrillerFest launched in Phoenix, Arizona. Since this inaugural event, the International Thriller Writers organization has grown exponentially, and the NYC-based conference now annually hosts 1,000 thriller enthusiasts from across the globe. The presentation of a lifetime achievement accolade called the “ThrillerMaster Award” is the pinnacle of our weeklong gathering. Ten iconic authors have received this award, and we wanted to check in with these masters of suspense to explore their views of the thriller genre.
2006 Clive Cussler
Our first ThrillerMaster’s adventure novels introduced readers to a spectacular underwater world of treasures, taking us on Dirk Pitt’s journeys into the ocean’s depths. In this case, fiction mirrored reality, as the California-born Cussler founded a non-profit organization called NUMA—National Underwater & Marine Agency—where his marine experts have discovered over 60 historically significant wreck sites.
Akin to his NUMA submarine, Cussler constantly resurfaces on the top of the bestseller lists, and feels that the thriller genre will go “nowhere but up.” An avid collector of classic automobiles, Cussler now divides his time between the mountains of Colorado and the deserts of Arizona. When asked about the proudest moment in his career, he quips, “When they burned my books in a parking lot in Georgia.” This master of thrills has plans for more adventures, and we look forward to fastening our seatbelts for the entertaining ride.
2007 James Patterson
Prolific is the key word when it comes to our second ThrillerMaster James Patterson who has created a dynasty of series characters, including the iconic Alex Cross. When asked what project he is currently working on, Jim responds, “That would be projects, plural. It’s like plotlines, you know? If you only have one going you’re falling down on the job. Let’s see—I am at work putting into various degrees of peril the lives of characters whose last names are Boxer, Bennett, Grimm, Ride, Morgan, Khatchadorian, Jordan, MacDonald, Kidd, and Cross to name a few. And then there are some TV shows and movies coming. And some science fiction, some mystery, some mice.” Needless to say, Patterson fans will have plenty of titles to choose from on their next foray to the bookstore.
Jim’s seamless prose and short chapters have captured a new generation of admirers, but his proudest moment rests closer to home, as he eloquently shares what matters to him most: “Helping my son Jack to become a reader. That ability of ours as writers to turn other people into readers—that is where the real payday is, here and in heaven. I really believe that. Helping people become readers is nothing short of holy work. We should feel very good about it.”
Three years ago Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Ragnar Jónasson, and I were talking over a curry, and the subject of why Iceland had never had its own crime fiction festival came up. A few weeks later we met again at Crimefest and by that time it seemed that we had all had similar thoughts and the idea of Iceland Noir, a small crime fiction festival in Reykjavík, almost appeared by itself. As we were at Crimefest and Ann Cleeves was there, we asked her if she’d appear, providing we could get the venture off the ground, with less than six months to get everything fixed up.
There was no hesitation. She didn’t think about it and didn’t check her diary, but just said “yes” on the spot. If she hadn’t have done that, we wouldn’t maybe have been quite so ambitious. Ann was undoubtedly the star of the first Iceland Noir. Her Shetland series had just been shown on Icelandic TV and people definitely wanted to meet her. She went home from Iceland having made a great impression and many new friends.
The spin-off has been Shetland Noir, as she made the remark that maybe we’d let the 2015 slot go to Shetland for its own crime fiction festival. It wasn’t as if we could say no after all Ann had done for us, and there was something undeniably exciting about the prospect of being involved with a festival in another of these weatherbeaten north Atlantic locations. So we asked Ann what we can expect from these remote islands and the festival that Shetland Arts is organizing for 13-15th November.
Was this something you had already had in mind when we asked you to if you’d take part in the first Iceland Noir?
No! I loved Iceland Noir and it was just a flip remark that started the whole thing off. I’m not really involved with the organization of the festival— I’m program chair of the Harrogate Festival this year, so I’m rather busy but once July is over, I’ll be getting behind Shetland big style. So the Shetlanders are doing all the planning and programming, and that’s how it should be. Shetland Arts runs lots of festivals so I knew we’d be in safe hands.
Joanne Hichens chats to Karin Brynard, journalist, political correspondent, and award-winning author of the University of Johannesburg Debut Prize and Two M-Net Awards. Here, she answers questions about WEEPING WATERS, the translation of her debut Afrikaans novel, PLAASMOORD. This richly textured and complex crime novel begins with Sara returning to the family farm in the Kalahari, after her sister, the prophetic and talented artist, Freddie, is murdered. Sara, an astute journalist, soon discovers that underlying the crime is a complex web of lies and deceit.
Let’s kick off with a few questions around this concept of ‘Farm Murder’, which seems specifically a South African phenomenon. Can you comment on farm murder in general? It seems the ‘nostalgic’ story of the ‘African farm’ has been turned on its head by the horrific crimes that take place on SA farms.
When I started writing the book, there was a new wave of media interest in the phenomenon of ‘farm attacks’, which triggered the itch in the political journalist side of me. Growing up in a rural community in the Northern Cape where my father worked at a farmers’ co-op, I was very interested in this issue. I was thinking of the vulnerability of people living on a farm, far away from help—a local police station or even the next-door neighbour. At the time the newspapers were full of the brutality of some of these attacks, of the torture that was often involved, the high numbers and indiscriminate way both black and white became victims.
I was trying to ‘understand’ it myself, or at least get a grip on the facts. There was (and still is) a volatile public debate about it. Officially the police don’t view it as ‘special and different’ from other crime, while some white political groups go so far as to label it ‘genocide’.
Farming on this continent and specifically in southern Africa has never been ‘simple’ and uncomplicated, because it carries a lot of historical and political baggage. There’s a lot of emotion and political drama involved.
So where did you start?
I was always aware of the fact that this was a crime novel in the first place. And the first commandment of the crime novel is that it should be entertaining and have enough suspense and pace to keep you turning the pages. It could never be a political or historical lecture. Never.
As the special effects-laden Avengers: Age of Ultron racked up box office receipts worldwide, continuing the dominance in the superhero movie genre that Marvel has enjoyed for some time, let’s take a couple of step backs from costumed do-gooders—and I’m including you in those torn Dockers of yours, Hulk—battling super-strength robots tearing up our cities. Rather, let’s talk about some other more down to earth heroes from the past and re-booted present.
First, there’s the recently-released thirteen “TV” episodes of Daredevil, another Marvel character, on Netflix. In this new version, DD is updated—created by writer Stan Lee and artist Bill Everett, who premiered in his own comics magazine in 1963—and his arc is not one of fighting super-villains, but racketeers. The look and mood is a dark, brooding Hell’s Kitchen (not the gentrifying one of reality), blending hardboiled and noirish elements with a smattering of eastern mysticism.
This Daredevil gets the crap beat out of him, engages in close hand-to-hand combat combining martial arts and Western boxing styles, amasses clues to unmask his opponents, and even gets a bladed hook embedded in his side by a ninja and dragged along thusly for his troubles. He’s a street level vigilante fighting to stop the head of a criminal empire, Wilson Fisk, a/k/a The Kingpin—though never referred by that name in the episodes. Even DD is not called Daredevil, but The Man in Black, as he doesn’t don a real costume until the end.
That crime fiction should infuse a comic characters’ universe is nothing new. Network TV has given us the rugged Gotham, a look at a young, stiff-necked Iraq veteran (or maybe it’s Afghanistan, it’s not specified), Jim Gordon, who as a detective on the Gotham City Police Department is paired with a bent, but savvy vet of the department, Harvey Bullock; a corrupt department that Gordon battles as hard as he does the criminals—some of whom will become part of Batman’s rogue’s gallery. There’s a pre-teen Bruce Wayne we also see on his way to becoming the Batman (once nicknamed the World’s Greatest Detective before his Dark Knight days) some years down the road. And there’s an Alfred Pennyworth who as an ex-SAS soldier, is the most kickass butler you ever saw.
By George Ebey
Jane Isaac is the author of several works of crime and suspense including, An Unfamiliar Murder and The Truth Will Out. Her latest book, BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE, is due out this June and introduces us to her new character, Detective Inspector Will Jackman.
Following an argument with her British boyfriend, Chinese student Min Li is abducted while walking the dark streets of picturesque Stratford-upon-Avon alone. Trapped in a dark pit, Min is at the mercy of her captor. Detective Inspector Jackman is tasked with solving the case, and in his search for answers, discovers that the truth is buried deeper than he ever expected.
The Big Thrill recently checked in with Isaac to discuss her book and what elements are needed to tell a good suspense story.
What first drew you to writing about crime and psychological suspense?
Raised on Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, sitting around the television with my family on a Sunday evening watching Poirot, and trying to guess whodunit. I guess I’ve always loved the twists and turns of thrillers and mysteries, so the genre felt the natural choice with my own writing.
You book features a new character, Detective Inspector Will Jackman. Did you learn anything interesting about his profession when you were developing your story?
In BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE, a Chinese student is abducted from the dark streets of Stratford upon Avon and kept in a disused pit in the surrounding Warwickshire countryside. We follow her story as she is held captive, and the rest of the novel is through the eyes of Will Jackman as he seeks to find her.
For me, research is one of the most fascinating parts of writing detective fiction and police procedural research is key, as it gives the story authenticity. As this is my third book, I was already aware of the basic ground rules of a police investigation. However, every case is different and for this novel I spent time with a former Chief Superintendent of Police who was able to help me with the protocol associated with kidnappings, and the procedure for international liaison with China, and how this affects a case.
By Eyre Price
With his latest legal thriller, LOSING FAITH, just released, I had the great pleasure of putting litigator-turned-best-selling novelist, Adam Mitzner, under my own cross-examination. What followed was an engaging conversation about the incriminating content of rap lyrics, writing dos and don’ts, the relative value of Coldplay, and the future (?) of Batman.
First, the expected question: How has your practice of law influenced your writing?
There’s an economy in my writing that I think is a direct result of truly learning to write through preparing legal briefs that not only often have a page limit, but in preparing a brief in which you’re very mindful that if the judge gets bored, he won’t read the rest of it. Also, I began my legal practice at a large law firm where I was tasked with writing the first draft, and then my work was revised by more senior people. That was a better writing class than I could have ever imagined because I got to see how my finished product, which I always thought was pretty good, could be made so much better.
And the follow-up, (from a fellow litigator) how has your career as a novelist impacted your practice of law?
I don’t think my writing has added much to how I conduct my day-to-day legal practice. I normally don’t even tell my clients that I moonlight as a novelist. But, it has made me much happier in my day job, that’s for sure.
The reality of the judicial system is often very different from what’s portrayed in print. What sort of concessions and accommodations do you make in writing about litigation?
I try my very best not to deviate in my books from what would actually happen in litigation. I understand that goes on all the time in fiction, but as a practicing lawyer, it makes me crazy when I’m reading a book or watching television and the judge allows in hearsay evidence. The one accommodation I made was in A Conflict of Interest. That book was told in the first person, and so I needed to have my protagonist, Alex Miller, watch the trial even though he was called as a witness, which normally (although not always) is prohibited. As you can see, I still feel bad about it, but I don’t think I’ve made another legal mistake since.
Elizabeth Goddard is the bestselling, award-winning author of twenty-three romance novels and counting. A seventh-generation Texan, Elizabeth currently makes her home in Minnesota.
Her latest novel, BACKFIRE, is released this month. Tracy Murray had thought she’d be safe disappearing in the wilds of Alaska after her testimony put away a gang leader. But the gang symbol tattooed on an attacker’s arm means the clock has run out. She’s been found—and she knows the killers won’t let her escape alive again. She can’t fight an entire gang alone—she needs help. But when she finds herself relying on widowed firefighter David Warren, a new struggle emerges. Fleeing Alaska and cutting all ties could be the only way to survive…but it would mean leaving her heart behind.
Elizabeth kindly took time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions:
Your Christianity is a major part of your life. How does it assist you with your writing?
My stories are written from a Christian worldview and so my characters respond accordingly. Add to that I write because I believe God has called me to write. He created the desire and the gift within me and, ultimately, at the end of the day, He is the whole reason I write. I can’t separate myself from my Christianity. It’s part of my being.
Greek Heroes, Shutter Island and Why I Love Thrillers
Perseus was a big draw for me. An assassin outfitted with all sorts of gadgetry, including winged sandals and an invisibility cap, I think of him as the James Bond of Greek heroes. My favorite was Theseus, because he had the most interesting villains. Look beyond the Minotaur; he defeated Procrustes, who tortured travelers on an iron bed. If they were too short, he stretched them to fit the bed. If they were too tall, he cut off body parts until they fit. Unsettling stuff.
The tone and tropes of some of these myths live on in today’s thrillers. Often, you have a hero who needs to outwit and ultimately defeat a monster, human or superhuman. Sometimes heroes have specialized tools, and sometimes they have little more than brains and courage. Thrillers embody the same sense of adventure and justice, and if I’m being honest, the fantasy that I can be the hero by inserting myself into the story as its reader.
Since part of my career has been spent working on social issues, I also admire thrillers’ ability to delve into important social topics using the framework of suspense.
Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island is one of my favorite books from the past decade. Not only did it entertain me, but the book also covered the state of mental health care and the flaws of the penal system. Instead of pounding me over the head with social advocacy, it provoked thought through a compelling story.
Lawyer-cum-novelist Robert Rotstein was a member of the first generation that grew up watching television—he preferred legal dramas—which cemented his career path.
“At an early age, I became hooked on legal dramas—certainly Perry Mason, which was more mystery than legal drama, but also on more serious shows like The Defenders and lesser known shows like Judd for the Defense, The Young Lawyers, and The Trials of O’Brien—lawyers doing justice. Television then, as the multiple forms of media now, can definitely influence the impressionable young mind,” said Rotstein, author of THE BOMB MAKER’S SON, the latest novel in his Parker Stern series.
Further, Rotstein grew up in Culver City, CA, which was then the home of MGM Studios (now Sony Pictures) and the town he considers the TRUE Hollywood.
“The city’s motto is ‘The Heart of Screenland.’ Sometimes I think I learned to write fiction by civic osmosis!” he quipped.
Rotstein grew up in the politically-charged 1970s. He earned his undergraduate degree in political science at the University of California Los Angeles, graduating summa cum laude in 1973. In 1976, he earned his juris doctorate from the UCLA School of Law. A practicing attorney for thirty-nine years, Rotstein is a partner in the law firm of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP in L.A., which has a strong presence in the motion picture, music, and video game industries.
“(It’s) been in existence for one-hundred-eight years and—no—I wasn’t there at the beginning,” Rotstein said, tongue-in-cheek.
Beth Cato falls into the category of author who doesn’t just sit in the lonely garret turning out works to delight her readers. She’s highly supportive of other authors, both at her blog and in person, especially at Steampunk-related events. Even in our brief talk, I quickly gained the impression that she’s somebody who has been inspired, and wants to pass that inspiration on.
Cato writes in a variety of genres, and her latest title has been rightly described as a cross between Dr. Quinn and Dreadnought (with a healthy dose of Agatha Christie in the mix).
Beth, the request for this interview dropped into my email inbox the day after some Steampunk jewellery I’d ordered dropped through my letterbox. So I have to ask, what grabs you about the world of Steampunk?
Oh, now I want to see this new jewellery of yours! Steampunk grabs me because it crosses over with other genres and creates something fresh and fun. I discovered Laura Ingalls Wilder at age eight and fell hard for historical fiction, and then as a teenager I was deeply into fantasy. I blend together epic fantasy and an Edwardian-inspired world for my Clockwork Dagger series, but I also add in mystery and romance. The first book, THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER, came about because I wanted to do a Steampunk take on Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.
The jewellery included a flying kraken brooch, which I wear for school governor meetings. I know you also go all out and dress up in Steampunk style sometimes. What’s the worst aspect of that, apart from the uncomfortable corsetry?
Well, I live near Phoenix, Arizona. It’s awfully hot here most of the year. My Steampunk attire tends to be more on the modest side, which means high boots, long skirt, long petticoats, and the corset over a blouse. If I wear that for any length of time, even in air conditioning, I soon understand why women used to swoon.
By J. H. Bográn
It’s been a while since Samuel Roberts was called upon to save mankind, and he’s getting restless. His girlfriend Susan thinks he’s a danger junkie, and he’s worried he has a hero complex. So Sam’s back to his usual small-town lawyerly duties in Champaign-Urbana, handling divorces and helping people beat DUI raps.
Until a young fraternity pledge calls.
During an initiation ceremony the pledge witnessed the live sacrifice of a young woman, but he had so much alcohol in his system that no one believes him. Except Sam. Lately Egyptian lore has been creeping into his life, his dreams, and his movie preferences, and he’s pretty sure he knows why. Evil is knocking on his door again.
THE FRATERNITY OF THE SOUL EATER is Scott A. Lerner’s third novel starring Sam Roberts. Fans of the series are already familiar with the paranormal elements in his books, and with zombies and demons badges already earned, he now tackles another of the all-time reader’s favorite topics: Ancient Egypt.
Of the traditional monster gallery of werewolves, vampires, I’ve always had a fascination with mummies and anything pyramid-related, so I was thrilled by the opportunity to catch up with Lerner about his exciting new book.
With super human strength, unnaturally fast reflexes, and enhanced senses, augmentation is something that Matt Rowley will have to learn to live with—for the rest of his life. And as cults spring up in worship of the demonic beings freed by the last of the Nephilim, the United States calls on Matt to meet the threat.
As his unnatural powers return with each passing day, Matt becomes the only weapon able to withstand eldritch forces that are older than time and darker than the blackest sea. But when his wife and infant son are taken in during a violent attack on his hometown, Matt becomes entangled in a vast conspiracy that could destroy his family —and his very soul.
BLACK TIDE is the sequel to author Patrick Freivald’s Bram, Jade Sky, a Bram Stoker Award finalist. This month, I had a chance to catch up with Freivald for The Big Thrill.
What drives you to write these stories, Patrick?
It’s fun! I started writing for publication with my twin brother, Phil. I got bit by the writing bug, and he didn’t, so Blood List is our only collaboration thus far. Since then, I’ve completed six novels (and am shopping my latest to agents and publishers now), a novella, and many short stories. My writing ranges from young adult zombie satire, to FBI thrillers, to gory supernatural heart-pounders. I just tell the stories I want to tell, because I have fun telling them.
What makes BLACK TIDE different?
Jade Sky mingled superhuman augmentation with biblical esoteria, a science-and-supernatural mélange, part military sci-fi, part investigative thriller, and part comic-style violent confrontation. BLACK TIDE continues Matt Rowley’s story, dragging him into a darker, more sinister world than he could have imagined.
I begin this article with the background of the Instruments of Death series, of which MEAT CLEAVER is the fifth entry. I lived in Chicago and worked at the American Society of Clinical Pathologists’ Chicago headquarters, directly across West Harrison Street from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office, when I wrote Claw Hammer. My ASCP job was to sell continuing education classes to pathologists, and I got to sit in on many of those classes because I was the person who registered pathologists and medical technologists for various courses. I set up microscopes in classrooms at conference centers, ran the overheads and slide projectors, hawked new books published by the Society or the College of American Pathologists, and hosted elaborate cocktail parties for the Docs at national medical conferences. One of those ASCP classes featured the latest techniques of tool mark analysis available to forensic pathologists interested in identifying the instrument of death, and I was fascinated to learn about the variety of ways people quite often used common household implements to kill beloved family members and friends.
That class reminded me of several terrible tragedies that had happened to grade-school classmates of mine in my own hometown of Rockford, Illinois. I recalled awakening one dawn to the sound of sirens when I was only about eight or nine. I learned that a neighbor had allegedly gone crazy during the night and killed his entire family—all but one daughter who survived–with a claw hammer. The milkman, the same milkman who had just delivered milk to my house, discovered the bodies when he entered the neighbor’s house to put milk in the refrigerator as he normally did twice a week. In those Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver days of the early 1950s, people were very trusting and nobody ever locked their back doors. All that changed, of course, after an entire family was killed in our close-knit suburban neighborhood. It never dawned on us that locking the doors would do no good if the killer lived inside the house and had keys.
Not long after that first tragedy, the mother of another female grade-school friend was electrocuted in her bathtub. Supposedly, a radio fell off a shelf and added 110 volts to an afternoon bubble bath and fried the lady like a lobster. Police arrested the lady’s husband and charged him with her murder. My young friend had to leave school to go live with her grandparents. I never saw her again.
Because I love to read widely in a variety of genres, I often find myself crossing genres in writing my own novels and short stories. AXES TO GRIND, the sixth novel in The Instruments of Death series from Crossroad Press, is both a police procedural and a supernatural suspense story. I didn’t intend it to be that way when I began writing the novel, but elements of the preternatural suddenly appeared. That’s the way the cookie sometimes crumbles.
AXES TO GRIND introduces Merritt County Sheriff’s Deputy Dan Edmonds. Dan will appear in later novels of the series that tie together murders in northern Wisconsin with murders in Illinois, but this story belongs to Dan Edmonds and Sandy Beech and it can be read as a stand-alone novel. None of my usual suspects make guest appearances. You can probably guess that the instrument of death is an axe. Both the title and the cover give that away, but there are a few surprises along the way that readers won’t suspect.
When I was researching northern Wisconsin for both AXES TO GRIND and Winds, my supernatural thriller series featuring completely different characters, I uncovered an unusual number of Bigfoot sightings within a three-county area of north-central Wisconsin. Of course, I had to include that fact in one of my novels. AXES TO GRIND seemed the perfect vehicle. Maybe someday I’ll write a novel about Bigfoot, but AXES TO GRIND is primarily about demons—personal demons and mythological demons. It’s also about trust and belief and searching for clues outside of one’s normal experience. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
By E. M. Powell
Milestones are important for any writer but New York Times bestselling author Kate White is coming up to a special one. The publication of her latest novel, THE WRONG MAN, will be her tenth. I had the privilege of reading an advance copy, and thoroughly enjoyed this gripping contemporary suspense.
It has such a smart premise. Owner of a Manhattan interior design firm, hard-working heroine Kit Finn decides to act on impulse while on vacation in the Florida Keys. That impulse involves a very attractive man with whom she believes she forms a mutual connection, and who wants to meet up again back in New York. When the man’s apartment door is opened by a complete stranger sharing the man’s name, Kit is shocked. Unsure if it’s a cruel joke or identity theft, she quickly realizes that it’s part of something deeper and deadlier than she could have ever imagined. And where she thought acting on an attraction was a risk, now everything’s on the line—her business, the people she loves, and even her own life. Mr. X is key to it all, but she has to find him first.
THE WRONG MAN has plot swerve upon plot swerve, and builds tension with a palpable sense of danger. It really keeps the reader guessing, right up to the climactic finish. White says that she finds it easier to create red herrings if she knows the end. “I know there are many terrific mystery and thriller writers who don’t plot out their books but I HAVE to plot in advance—though it’s always a fairly rough outline. I always know who the killer is (and why), and I also come up with certain twists in advance.”
She doesn’t overly restrict her plotting, using outline notes for about five chapters at a time. She also writes down questions regarding the plot. “It’s a technique I heard someone talk about once and it works brilliantly,” she says. “These surprising answers come out of the blue, which makes the process really fun.”
By David Healey
From the Dust of Zombies, a Post-post Apocalyptic Thriller Rises
Author John Palisano has fond memories of growing up in the ‘70s, especially of going to drive-in movies in a station wagon nicknamed The Bomb, and of getting a good scare out of Night of the Living Dead when his dad let him stay up late to watch it on TV. It may come as no surprise that his newest novel DUST OF THE DEAD features zombies.
Set in Los Angeles, the novel begins at the end of a zombie crisis that seems to have been contained. Humans have triumphed and life has returned to its usual routine. However, a new nightmare spawned by the dust of dead zombies desiccated by the desert sun and wind is just beginning. You might call it a post-post zombie apocalypse thriller.
As a storyteller, Palisano got his start in the movie business. After a childhood spent watching those zombie flicks, along with movies featuring killer space aliens and man-eating sharks, he studied writing at Emerson College in Boston. Then he landed a post-college internship with director Ridley Scott that led to working on several big budget films. He also wrote three screenplays that were optioned, but eventually turned his storytelling skills to fiction.
Recently, he answered a few questions about writing—and zombies, of course—for The Big Thrill.
Your new novel DUST OF THE DEAD features zombies. Why do you think popular culture continues to have a love affair with zombies? Does the fight against zombies bring out the best in humans or make us more inhuman?
Zombies literally come back from the dead again and again, with each generation using them in their own way. In the ‘70s, zombies were stand-ins for consumers and how that led to an empty life, like in Dawn of the Dead. In the ‘80s zombies were made from shallow party animals like in Return of the Living Dead. They came back again in the ‘90s and ‘00s in reflection to terrorists and as an existential fear in films like 28 Days Later. As we are seeing, time and again, it’s the real human reactions to these events that separates the great from the not so great stories. It’s the same with any premise. Any story can be told well, or told poorly. It boils down to characters you care about, and who you can see yourself being, or wanting to be like. Of course, the best current example of that is The Walking Dead.
By Tim O’Mara
John Farrow (pen name of author/playwright Trevor Ferguson) lives in Hudson, Ontario. I live in New York City. This makes him my first interviewee for The Big Thrill I’ve not had the opportunity to meet face to face. But, as chance would have it, it looks like that’s going to change soon. New York City’s only remaining independent mystery bookstore, The Mysterious Bookshop will be hosting the launch of John’s latest Emile Cinq-Mars mystery, THE STORM MURDERS, on June 3rd. (“I am exceedingly grateful,” said John.)
“Gotta love independent bookstores! My dream is to see them flourish once again. Some of these brick and mortar establishments may be coffee and books, or gifts and books, but to have people in stores sharing recommendations and joys—that’s priceless. I’d also like to give a shout out to The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona, and one of my long time favourites, The Owl and the Turtle in Camden, Maine.”
(The red spell check line is telling me to change the way John spelled the word “favourite.” I’m leaving it; he’s from Canada.)
One thing that fascinates me about John is that in addition to being the author of eleven novels, he’s also written four well-received plays. What’s the connection?
“Writing plays helped me to advance the use of dialogue in my novels. You can’t just allow two actors to stand on a stage and talk without something being at stake. Two people talk, and that conversation is driven and underscored by ego and insecurities and by competing agendas, but at its core the necessary contest is between the known and the unknown: which also happens to be the pulse of crime fiction. Characters fear what remains a mystery, and what remains unknown undermines their conviction in their own knowledge. That tension cuts through what people say to each other, and in this way all talk is a contest, a way of soliciting and procuring knowledge—and concealing it—which in turn creates more anxiety over what remains a mystery. God I love dialogue!”
By Amy Lignor
When it comes to the evil side of technology, there are some literary artists who know the issue inside and out. Author Lisa von Biela is one such writer. From her beginnings in short story work to her novels, this is a woman who knows the IT industry, among other realms, and produces that gritty, dark fiction (horror, criminal, supernatural, and more) that puts the ultimate thrills and chills into fans.
Von Biela was kind enough to spend some time explore her latest novel SKINSHIFT and her background.
Working in the IT field for twenty-five years, then graduating magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School, is quite a varied résumé. Where and when did it come about that writing fiction was something you really wished to add to your life?
I do have a fairly checkered past, don’t I? Add to that my pre-vet undergrad at UCLA, which helps with the medical aspects of my books. I have to say, I think I’ve always wanted to write, but it took some time before I figured out how to go about it. I recall spending a summer when I was a teenager creating stories on a typewriter. No technique or outlining, just typing as it came to me. Around the late eighties, I got a medium-sized spiral notebook and started inventorying possible plots, and trying to write. Then I took another run at it in the late nineties. That time, I consulted Writer’s Digest and some books on the topic, and developed an approach. My plan was to start with short stories to learn the craft and get published. After a while, I felt ready to write my first novel-length work. And when I sold The Genesis Code to DarkFuse that clinched it. I’ve been writing like mad ever since.
The pre-vet helps with the medical aspects. How about the legal background? Is this something you rely on or do you tend to stay focused on technology?
I actually wrote The Genesis Code before I started law school, when I was still in IT. The topic came quite naturally but it took two years to finish because I had to learn how to handle a work of that length. Despite being a lawyer, I tend to gravitate toward writing medical thrillers, usually including a lawyer character. That said, perhaps because I’m a lawyer, I like to explore ethical issues in my novels. My current work-in-progress changes things up a bit, being a medical, technical, and legal thriller, with a young female attorney protagonist. Being a lawyer involves being able to think and write in a disciplined way which carries over to my fiction—and having to write fiction efficiently in the time I have available has made me a fairly fast legal writer in return. Therefore, each side of my life benefits!
By Don Helin
Bob Doerr’s sixth mystery in the Jim West series finds Jim heading to the Texas Hill Country to attend the grand opening of a friend’s winery and vineyard. Upon arriving in Fredericksburg, Jim witnesses a brutal kidnapping at a local coffee shop. The next morning while driving down an unpaved country road to the grand opening, he comes across an active crime scene barely a quarter mile from his friend’s winery. A policeman who talked to Jim the day before at the kidnapping scene recognizes Jim and asks him to identify the body of a dead young woman as the woman who was kidnapped. Jim’s vacation is thrown into complete disarray, and Jim and a female friend are soon drawn into the sights of a killer.
Award-winning author Bob Doerr grew up in a military family, graduated from the Air Force Academy, and had a career of his own in the Air Force. Doerr specialized in criminal investigations and counterintelligence, gaining significant insight to the worlds of crime, espionage, and terrorism. His work brought him into close coordination with the security agencies of many different countries and filled his mind with the fascinating plots and characters found in his books today. His education credits include a Masters in International Relations from Creighton University. A full-time author with eight published books, Doerr was selected by the Military Writers Society of America as its Author of the Year for 2013. The Eric Hoffer Awards awarded No One Else to Kill its first-runner up to the grand prize for commercial fiction. Two of his other books were finalists for the Eric Hoffer Award in earlier contests. Loose Ends Kill won the 2011 Silver medal for Fiction/Mystery by the Military Writers Society of America. Another Colorado Kill received the same Silver medal in 2012 and the silver medal for general fiction at the Branson Stars and Flags national book contest in 2012. Bob wrote two novellas, The Enchanted Coin and The Rescue of Vincent, with his granddaughter for middle grade readers. In May 2014, he released an international thriller titled The Attack. Doerr lives in Garden Ridge, Texas, with Leigh, his wife of 42 years, and Cinco, their ornery cat.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Doerr the other day, and ask him a few question.
By Dawn Ius
Like Harry Potter to young readers, Anne Rice to vampires, and Dan Brown to conspiracy theory thrillers, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series—both in continued novel form and the more recent TV adaptation—has re-opened the portal for time travel adventures.
Just in time for Gwendolyn Womack’s stunning debut, THE MEMORY PAINTER.
“It is a time travel story, but not in the classical sense,” she says, “In the present day storyline, our two lovers remember their past lives as if they’re living it in real time, so it makes the story feed like time travel—although it’s their minds tunnelling them deeper into the past until they arrive at the lifetime where it all began.”
If it sounds complex, you aren’t far off the mark. Spanning six continents and more than 10,000 years, THE MEMORY PAINTER required extensive research, including riveting information about ancient Egypt that not only surprised Womack, but became the springboard for the novel’s thrilling climax.
“If readers are interested in alternate theories about Egypt’s history and the intended purpose of the Great Pyramid, then I recommend Christopher Dunn’s book The Giza Power Plant, and Robert Bauval and Graham Hancock’s book The Message of Sphinx.”
Of course, these works were just a drop in the research bucket for what was required to successfully weave her characters through time with authenticity. Ironic, perhaps, given that Womack’s background is in theatre and she’d originally intended to write THE MEMORY PAINTER as a feature film. A much more truncated version of the story, of course.
“When I sat down to write the novel years later, I completely wiped the idea of it being a movie from my mind and let the story go into far off places without thought of ‘how are we going to shoot this?’”
By Dawn Ius
Mark Petry has a secret.
Despite what the synopsis may lead you to believe, there’s a lot of sex in SECRET SERVICE, the explosive first novel in a new series featuring Secret Service agent Jack Shields.
Jack’s job is to investigate financial fraud. But instead of finding lost money, he’s drawn into a dangerous web of lies and murder that may not only cause a global financial meltdown, but may also expose the truth about Jack—the fact that he’s really not Jack Shields, after all.
So who is he?
“He’s your standard handsome, strong male lead with plenty of flaws,” Petry says. “Rough around the edges with lots of street smarts and wit. He’s got an opportunity for a better life and of course he takes it, but that’s just the beginning.”
Petry drew inspiration for this character from what he considers two of the best male protagonists in the business—Don Draper from Mad Men, and Lee Child’s rough and rugged Jack Reacher.
“I knew I wanted to build a series with a strong, likeable character,” he says. And, not to harp too much on the “S” word, but Petry admits he made a conscious decision to ramp up the sexy times in SECRET SERVICE.
“I’m always frustrated when I read a book and the male protagonist is partnered with an attractive female lead and nothing ever happens with them, even when they hint that they might,” he says.
With page-turning suspense and pulse-pounding romance, EASY TARGET, the third book in the thrilling Elite Ops series from award-winning author Kay Thomas, crosses emotional boundaries and multiple continents.
The author answers a few questions for The Big Thrill about what it’s like writing this high octane, sexy suspense series.
Tell us more about EASY TARGET.
AEGIS: an elite team of ex-military men who will do anything for their country… and their women.
Fighting to clear her brother of murder, freelance reporter Sassy Smith is suddenly kidnapped and thrown into a truck with other women who are about to be sold…or worse. When she sees an opportunity for escape Sassy takes it, but she may have just jumped from the frying pan into the fire.
Former Marine Bryan Fisher (a.k.a. Hollywood) is no stranger to dangerous situations, or to his best friend’s little sister. When he rescues Sassy, Bryan is determined to keep her safe…if he can keep his hands off of her. Because Sassy is all grown up and not at all like the girl he used to know. But he’s got bigger problems. And with enemies coming at them from every corner, Bryan and Sassy will need to work together if they’re going to survive.
That’s the back cover copy. At its core this story is about who and what we’ll risk to save the people we love.
What would you risk to save your brother’s life? Would you travel across a continent? Put your own life at risk? Put others at risk?
Anna Curtis fans rejoice! She’s back, this time on the other side of the legal system, as she fights to prove her sister’s innocence when the beloved football coach from their high school turns up murdered. When Anna first arrives in town, she’s confident that her sister could have had nothing to do with the coach’s death. As she becomes involved with the investigation though, she begins to wonder if she knows her sister as well as she thought.
Be prepared to lose sleep as you find yourself turning page after page to get to the startling finish.
This month, The Big Thrill caught up with author Allison Leotta to talk about her what inspired A GOOD KILLING, and her process for writing the book.
You write about the complexities of the sister relationship with authority, and you’ve dedicated this book to your own two sisters. How much do your sibling relationships affect your stories?
A lot. Anna has a little sister named Jody and although she is a very different person than my two sisters, I used our fights, our shared interests, and most of all the fact that we always have each other’s backs as a guide to Anna and Jody’s relationship. Jody played a more minor role in my first three books. Fans have been asking for “more Jody,” and this is really her book.
You alternate between Anna’s and Jody’s points of view. Did you feel more of a kinship with one over the other?
I am intimately familiar with Anna’s job. We were both sex crimes prosecutors in Washington, D.C. But I have written three books about her before this.
I felt a freshness that came from writing a new POV, Jody’s. The chapters from her perspective came very easily. With Anna, I work hard to get the legal details right. It is definitely work. Writing Jody was pure pleasure. I wrote the chapters from her POV in two weeks—the fastest writing I’ve ever done.
Amazon recently sent me an ad for crime novels, grouped, not by author, or publisher, or genre subdivision (noir, police procedural, etc.), but by crime. As if I’m sitting there thinking, “What I need is a damn good kidnapping,” or, “I could use a bit of larceny tonight,” or, even, “Gosh! I wonder if they’ve got a good book about jaywalking?”
Well, I suppose it’s as fair a way as any to classify a book. Personally, though, I’ve always had a thing for books that don’t quite fit the marketing pigeonholes, however they’re arranged. Books that take a bit of this, a bit of that, throw in a whole bunch of disparate ingredients, and turn them into something new. Start with a detective story, bolt on a Victorian penny dreadful, add a bit of Wellsian SF, and, if you’ve done it right, you’ll have my interest. The ingredients may vary. It’s the way they’re mixed that counts.
My new novel, DEVIL IN THE WIRES is one such hybrid beast—although I’m hoping, if I’ve done it properly, you’ll soon be so caught up in it, you’ll never see the join. On the one hand, it’s a contemporary thriller. It starts with a perilous mission in Iraq, moves to Paris, then London, and ends with some very bloody goings-on in Chicago. What makes it different is the premise, which is fantasy: that there are ancient powers—gods, for want of a better word—which can be captured, drained of energy, and used to provide electric power for modern cities. Handling them is big business, as you might expect. It’s also dangerous. The entity in the present book, for instance, could make Three Mile Island look like a fun day in the park, if it wanted to.
And that, of course, is the thing our hero has to prevent.
A serial killer is not just on the loose, he’s been killing for decades but laying low. Until now. When the mutilated corpses of women start cropping up along the interstate, FBI Special Agent Sharon Ormsby jumps into the investigation. Unraveling clues that the killer is a trucker prowling the nation’s highways, Ormsby goes undercover to smoke out the monster. But this fiendish killer is not only secretive, he’s diabolically clever and he soon learns that he’s being hunted. So he lays a trap with Ormsby as his prey. The story lurches from one grisly crime scene to another before accelerating into a white-knuckle ride that careens over the pages to a horrific end.
Eric Red, author of WHITE KNUCKLE, recently answered a few questions for The Big Thrill.
This book is so different in tone and setting than your previous title about werewolves in the Old West. What brought you to this story?
The idea for the book came when my wife and I drove across America a few years ago and saw all those countless tractor-trailers driving those thousands of miles of interstate. If one of those big rigs was a serial-killer truck driver, I wondered, how would you know, how would law enforcement track him down? There are literally millions of trucks on the U.S. highways and it would be like finding a needle in haystack. That sounded like a solid mystery idea fraught with thriller possibilities. The notion of a serial-killer interstate truck driver is relatable because we all know what it feels like to drive on the highway and that shiver of fear we feel when a tractor-trailer eighteen-wheeler hurtles by a little too close. It taps into a universal fear.
By Josie Brown
Like J.T. Ellison’s other thirteen critically acclaimed novels—including The Cold Room (Taylor Jackson Series), which won the International Thriller Writers Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original—the next book in her Sam Owens series, WHAT LIES BEHIND, will certainly have both fans and reviewers singing its praises, and sleeping with one eye open.
Formerly Nashville medical examiner but now based in Washington D.C. as a pathology consultant with the FBI, the life journey of Ellison’s protagonist, Sam, has been fraught with personal loss, emotional complexities, and professional challenges. Ellison explains how intricately woven plots and well-formed characters keep readers coming back for more.
Bioterrorism is at the heart of WHAT LIES BEHIND, as it was in Book 2 of the Sam Owens series, Edge of Black. However, each book tackles it differently—and gives readers very different reasons for staying up at night, biting their nails. You’ve obviously done a lot of research on the very real problem. How did you come to choose this book’s threat? (I’ll be darned if I give it away here…)
I knew early on I wanted to write about something that was possible to spread by casual contact (great band name, that.) Something virulent and unstoppable, that if released into our world could create a hysteric response and become a serious problem. I chose an Ebola-esque hemorrhagic fever, and got to work. You can imagine my surprise and dismay when the Ebola outbreak began in Africa. I was three-quarters of the way through the book, and my story was coming alive nightly on the TV screen. I had to do a lot of scrambling to make sure what I was writing was still unique, considering all the attention this was getting. By contrast, in Edge of Black, my villain uses ricin in the subway—equally deadly, but not as personal, because of the nature of how the attack manifests. I find the idea of someone infected with a virus, taking planes and spreading a disease, terribly scary. Of course, that’s the best topic to write about in a thriller, what scares you the most.
By Dawn Ius
Pet owners understand the power of unconditional love. That stampede of feet when you walk through the front door can make you feel like the most important person in the world, and nothing can comfort sadness faster than a tender feline kiss. Your pet can heal your heart just with its presence, but if your fur companion is under the weather, it can sometimes leave you feeling helpless.
For author J.G. Faherty the unfortunate stomach troubles of his chocolate lab and subsequent trip to the vet inspired THE CURE, a paranormal horror about Leah, a young veterinarian both blessed and cursed with the power to heal.
“I remember thinking about the famous novel by F. Paul Wilson, The Touch, where a man gets the power to heal. And I thought, wouldn’t it be great if a vet had that power? Animals would never have to suffer,” Faherty says. “And right away I knew I was on to something, but I didn’t want it to be just a rehash of the other book, so I took some time and came up with a bunch of twists and problems that were unique to Leah.”
Indeed, the dark side of her special ability is explored when a force of evil murders the man she loves, transforming the shy, dorky Leah into a demon of retribution. She resurrects her love and embarks on a mission for revenge, leaving readers to eventually question whether Leah has control over her power—or whether it controls her.
“For me, it was all about how a good person will sacrifice anything to help the person they love, and a better person will do it to help innocent animals,” Faherty says. “But there are other themes as well—such as no good deed goes unpunished, keeping secrets can be bad, power corrupts, and so on.”
By Karen Harper
Colin Edmonds is a writer who wears many hats—including his unique debut novel, STEAM, SMOKE & MIRRORS. A successful script and comedy writer for British TV, he has written a steampunk thriller/mystery with brilliant characters. As an Anglophile and lover of Victoriana, I was amazed at the book’s range of plot and people, the real and the fictional. Ladies and gentlemen—sit back and enjoy (and be frightened) for the show is about to begin!
What is your novel about?
STEAM, SMOKE & MIRRORS is set in the swirling fog-filled streets of London in 1899. It’s a thriller-mystery which chronicles the adventures, often misadventures, of a couple of Music Hall/Vaudeville stage magicians who are reluctantly seconded by Superintendent William Melville of London’s Metropolitan Police Special Branch (the forerunner of the British Secret Service MI-5) to help solve the unsolvable. You know, those uncanny curiosities, unfathomable mysteries, bizarre and arcane crimes which defy logic and, frankly, baffle the authorities. My magicians, who also work a twice nightly show at The Metropolitan Theatre of Steam Smoke & Mirrors in West London’s Edgware Road, are the devastatingly handsome Michael Magister, Bronx-born conjuror who has performed in England for just over a decade, and his equally brilliant, drop-dead gorgeous British assistant Phoebe Le Breton.
Because magicians are masters of misdirection, deception, sleight of hand, and all manner of subterfuge, Michael and Phoebe are the Special Branch’s obvious go-to advisers when mysterious crimes start getting just a little too weird.
In this opening case, a former Music Hall hypnotist has escaped from Hanwell Asylum, vowing to murder all the performers who appeared in her final show. Michael and Phoebe must employ all their cunning and experience chasing down this mind-bending killer, whose gruesome revenge makes The Ripper look like a novice. Especially as Michael Magister’s name appears on her Death List.
As the murders mount up and the mystery unravels, history-changing secrets are revealed; not only magic trick secrets and state secrets, but the secrets Michael and Phoebe have been keeping from one another.
All this is set against an exotic backdrop of national conspiracies and steampunk. But is anything what it seems? Or is it all steam, smoke, and mirrors?
By Jeremy Burns
From the novel that inspired recent Hollywood blockbuster Paranoia to the best-selling Nick Heller series, thriller legend Joseph Finder has been captivating readers for decades. But with his latest book, the author tells his most personal tale yet as a son’s quest to understand his incapacitated father leads him to a shocking discovery embroiled in political corruption and underworld conspiracies. Finder sat down with The Big Thrill to give readers a glimpse behind the curtain of his latest project, along with some fascinating information about the author himself.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am lucky enough to be able to make things up for a living. I’ve written thirteen books, twelve of them novels, and ten of them standalones. I studied Russian politics and history in college, then went to grad school in Russian studies and taught for a while before I wrote and then sold my first novel, The Moscow Club. Since then I’ve been a full-time novelist. I live in Boston with my wife, our daughter (well, sometimes—she’s in college) and our dog.
Tell us about your new book, THE FIXER.
THE FIXER is in many ways my most personal book. It’s a standalone story about fathers and sons, written in the wake of my own father’s death. It’s about a man’s discovery of the person his father really was, of the extraordinary things we find out about the people we thought we knew. The story starts with Rick Hoffman, a magazine journalist who finds himself out of a job and in desperate financial straits discovering, hidden in the walls of the old family house where he’s forced to live, millions of dollars. The only person who knows where all that money came from is his father, Lenny—a stroke victim in a nursing home unable to communicate. As Rick investigates, he finds he’s stumbled upon a conspiracy decades old and some very powerful people who don’t want the truth to come out.
By Ethan Cross
Hemophage (n.): One who subsists on blood; a vampire. Also, strigoi.
Made strigoi against their will, Robin Bradford and his lover Naomi Paris confront a series of threats from other vampires dedicated to destroying them both. Author Stephen M. DeBock’s narrative begins in 1600s England and carries forward to the present, weaving actual historical events into the chilling story of two star-crossed lovers.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with DeBock to talk about HEMOPHAGE, the thrilling conclusion to The Pentacle Pendant trilogy.
Tell us about HEMOPHAGE in one line.
Made vampires against their will, Robin and his lover Naomi must confront a host of enemies dedicated to destroying them.
What kind of research did you conduct for HEMOPHAGE?
The novel spans some four hundred years, with settings in 17th Century England, colonial America, the Pacific theater in WWII, Vietnam, inner city Newark, NJ, Washington, D.C., and environs. I did extensive research on the Internet, also in books relating to the eras and events described, and further used my own experiences when writing about some of the contemporary venues. As the third book in The Pentacle Pendant trilogy, it incorporates characters found in at least one of the first two books and necessitated the making of a gigantic spreadsheet incorporating names, dates, and events in the first two novels—and then slotting in the newest characters and their narratives to ensure the integrity of the entire scope of work.
Describe your typical writing day. How do you balance your writing with marketing, editing, plotting, and all other commitments?
I’m a retiree, so my writing day can begin at any time inspiration strikes. This is a blessing. At times, I’ll wake up and head straight to the computer and write for two to three hours; at others, I’ll detour on the way to bed and write for another hours-long stretch.