If you’ve ever wondered what goes on in the minds of police officers, pick up one of Ellen Kirschman’s books. Her latest, THE RIGHT WRONG THING, takes psychologist Dot Meyerhoff behind closed doors and into her sessions with cops in crisis. It is a world where outsiders are unwelcome and closed ranks are the norm. When rookie officer Randy Spelling shoots an unarmed pregnant teen, it is the catalyst for a series of events that tears the community and the department apart.
For over thirty years you’ve worked with police and first responders. What first made you interested in specializing in this area?
I was working as a social worker in an outpatient psychiatric clinic. Several of my clients were married to cops who were struggling with depression, nightmares, post-traumatic stress, angry outbursts, and alcoholism. These women needed help and there was none available. I decided to start a support group for police wives and the response was so overwhelming it drove me back to school for my doctorate and later on to write I LOVE A COP. Today police families have a lot of support and acknowledgement. I’m gratified to have been part of that beginning effort.
Is there anything you would like to see changed in the way police departments handle the psychological health of their officers?
I would like to see every agency, big or small, have a confidential peer support program including family members as peers, family orientations at first hire and again every five years, a chaplaincy program, supervisors who are knowledgeable about spotting mental health issues and compassionate when talking to their officers, and easy access for officers and their families to culturally competent, confidential, low-cost counseling. I’d like to see police academies devote more time to teaching officers and their families how to manage stress and develop resilience, and I’d like to see field-training programs incorporate behavioral science principles and promote wellness, both physical and psychological.
By David Healey
You might expect a Washington, D.C., lawyer to write a legal thriller filled with intrigue and conspiracies. Robert Palmer has done just that … except for the part about it being a legal thriller. Instead, Palmer’s debut novel THE SURVIVORS features a more unusual protagonist, therapist Cal Henderson. He is privy to some of Washington’s biggest secrets, and as it turns out, he has a few of his own.
Palmer’s thriller is the fascinating story of the therapist and a client who have a shared and tragic past. Together, they uncover a past that takes them both by surprise and puts them at deadly risk. While Cal is more used to talking things out than taking action, he soon finds himself dodging FBI agents, mysterious black SUVs, and powerful figures in the defense industry as he and his client search for the truth about their mutual past.
In THE SURVIVORS your main character is a therapist whose troubled client becomes the catalyst for the novel. What kind of research did you do to get the details of therapy right?
I’m a lawyer and happen to have a lot of clients who are health care professionals, including a number of psychologists (and psychiatrists). That gave me a ready-made pool of experts for my many, many questions. One thing I learned early on: psychologists are a very diverse group. If I asked a few people the same question I almost never got the same answer twice. As an example, some psychologists have “patients.” Others will never, ever, use that term and claim instead to have “clients.” And some use both terms and can’t see why it’s a problem. The best way to explain that is that psychologists work to their own personal beats. Some are warm and full of stories; some are much more clinical and distant. They are a fascinating and wonderful bunch.
By E.A. Aymar
Here’s what I did after finishing Richard Godwin’s newest novel, WRONG CROWD: I immediately sent an e-mail to Eric Campbell, the head of Down and Out Books, and thanked him for publishing it. WRONG CROWD is uncompromising and brutal, and I have to imagine other publishers would be hesitant to sell it. But Godwin’s prose is so beautiful, particularly in its patience and timing, that you can’t help but admire it as you read, even as he takes you through the dark emotions and rough scenes other writers avoid.
I’d never read Godwin before, although I had come across his name; writers I admire had expressed their respect for him and, like them, I’m determined to read everything else he’s written. But prior to starting his other work, I had the chance to ask him a few questions for The Big Thrill about his views on violence, art, and what he plans to work on next.
You don’t shy away from the cruelty of violence, but you don’t glamorize or celebrate it. Is there a “code” that defines your approach to writing about violence?
I try to be realistic. Violence is ugly and effective, it exists at all levels, from the street right through to politics—accurate description is necessary, mollifying the blows is more glamorization than accurate representation, and a form of making it palatable, which may ultimately be a way of encouraging the aspiration towards violence. I am writing about the Russian Mafia. That is hard core and I wrote it hard core.
You don’t seem terribly concerned about making your characters overtly empathetic—they’re engaging enough to follow to the end of the book, but their dark sides are pretty dark. Have you ever faced resistance to that approach from publishers, agents or readers?
Of course. But I battle for verisimilitude.
MOTHER OF DEMONS is the sixteenth novel of the writing pair Len Maynard and Mick Sims, who publish as Maynard Sims. It is their tenth supernatural novel and sixth with Don D’Auria at Samhain.
Many of your novels revolve around the mysterious Department 18. Tell us about that.
Department 18 is a secret unit of the British government that investigates paranormal and supernatural events in the UK but also globally. It had its own website before it was mysteriously hacked, perhaps a jealous competitor or, perhaps, dark forces in high places. Now its secrets lurk within the author website at www.maynard-sims.com, where there is a full history and some case files for review. MOTHER OF DEMONS is a Department 18 novel.
The series ranges far and wide. What can you tell readers about the earlier works?
Department 18 series kicked off with Black Cathedral. The book introduced Robert Carter and the team, led by Simon Crozier. Investigating the disappearance of a corporate management team lost on a bonding weekend on a deserted island leads to the chase and eventual battle against a 400-year-old satanic alchemist called deMarco.
Night Souls continues the Department 18 story with a quest to vanquish psychic sexual vampires. What begins as a seemingly routine poltergeist investigation leads to the discovery of the Breathers, a species of vampire-like creatures that feed on human souls. They have evolved over the centuries and now are split into two warring factions. Both are a threat to mankind.
Insights From the Master of Seattle Menace
An acclaimed author of legal thrillers with his David Sloane series, Robert Dugoni decided to undertake a new challenge: a thriller featuring a woman, Seattle homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite. The result proved the adage “Change is good.” My Sister’s Grave became a No. 1 Amazon and New York Times best seller.
Tracy Crosswhite returns in Dugoni’s HER FINAL BREATH (Thomas & Mercer, September 15, 2015). Still scarred from the investigation into her sister’s 20-year-old murder, Crosswhite is drawn into an investigation of a string of homicides perpetrated by a serial killer known as The Cowboy. A stalker leaves a menacing message for Crosswhite, suggesting that the killer or a copycat could be targeting her personally. With clues scarce and more victims dying, Crosswhite realizes that the key to solving the murders may lie in a decade-old homicide investigation that others, including her boss, Captain Johnny Nolasco, would prefer to keep buried. The events that follow threaten to end Crosswhite’s career, and perhaps her life.
Robert Dugoni has served as an inspiration to aspiring writers as well as fledgling authors. His novels not only describe the conflict inherent in the legal system in a dramatic and understandable way but also portray complex characters unique to legal and crime fiction. His portrayal of the city of Seattle as setting—as almost another character in the story—is masterful.
I found HER FINAL BREATH just as compelling as My Sister’s Grave. What inspired you to move on from popular David Sloan and write this series?
Necessity is the mother of invention, and I needed a new series. I was leaving my publisher, and the David Sloane series was divided between two publishers. So I knew I had to do something original. It was daunting, but I’ve faced many challenges in my career and this one didn’t scare me. It was actually refreshing to be doing something new.
Tracy Crosswhite is a character I introduced briefly in the novel Murder One, a female homicide detective who was a former chemistry professor. Honestly, I had no idea who she was or where she came from, so I just started exploring her background more and more as I interviewed homicide detectives in Seattle and then a friend introduced me to single-action shooting competitions. She came to life. I knew she’d be perfect for a book needing a strong female protagonist, and I had an idea for a spin on an old legal adage that I thought would make a great twist. I don’t outline, but I also knew I wanted a wounded protagonist, someone who had lost someone very dear to them years before and from that came the relationship between Tracy and her sister, Sarah.
The mood at the Hyatt was exhilarating and energizing this year—what better testament to ten years of dynamic success at Thrillerfest? We’ve grown from a small event in Arizona to a widely respected international conference for writers, industry professionals, and enthusiasts of the thriller genre.
As co-founder Gayle Lynds shares: “ITW was based on a dream. Author organizations come and go, and there were no guarantees ITW would not only survive but thrive. What a thrill (truly) to see so many happy people hurrying down the halls of ThrillerFest and sitting in audiences and talking animatedly on panels. I particularly loved Daniel Palmer’s song at the banquet, which seemed to encapsulate the extraordinary experience of young ITW and ten ThrillerFests, from that first small gathering in Scottsdale to the rich feast of New York. Bravo, Daniel. And Bravo ITW and ThrillerFest! And BTW, one of my most proud inventions was the name ThrillerFest. To see it in tall letters everywhere was a high I’ll never forget.”
Between the FBI workshop, CraftFest, Master CraftFest, PitchFest, and ThrillerFest, and that memorable banquet, we had six incredible days of education and celebration, with people making vital new connections and catching up with cherished friends. I keep hearing people say that Thrillerfest is like summer camp for writers. It’s heartwarming to see a core of authors return, year after year, to have that kind of experience.
Last year, we added Master CraftFest, and it was such a hit that we decided to do it again this year. It’s a one-day hands-on workshop for writers of all levels, an intense but extremely eye-opening day for our authors. Each class is limited to 10 students. What an incredible opportunity for a writer to take it to the next level. As for Craftfest itself, more than 400 students gathered to learn from the best teachers in the business. Several authors who participated in Craftfest in years past, developed their manuscripts, and then found agents and sold their books. It’s so deeply rewarding to see that cycle. And guess what? CraftFest and Master CraftFest are not just for aspiring novelists. Anybody can jump in at any stage and up their game.
From French Citadels to the Arizona Desert
By J. F. Penn
Simon Toyne is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling Sanctus trilogy, a genre-stretching, end-of-days epic involving ancient history, modern technology, religious conspiracy, and rollercoaster-quick storytelling. Often described as the British Dan Brown, Toyne has written books that to date have been translated into 28 languages and published in 50 countries.
USA Today bestselling thriller author J. F.Penn interviewed Simon for The Big Thrill. You can watch the video discussion here or read the transcript below.
First of all, just give us an overview of THE SEARCHER so that people have a sense of what it’s about.
Solomon Creed is a man on an epic journey of redemption. He arrives at the beginning of this first book, clueless as to how he’s got there, walking down the middle of an Arizona Road towards a town called Redemption. Behind him is a burning plane and he’s got emergency vehicles screaming towards him.
He knows nothing about himself at all. All he has is this sensation that he is there to save a particular man, whose name he knows. But as the police cars pull up and they start to check him over, he mentions this guy and says, “I think I’m here to save him.” And the Chief of Police says, “We buried him this morning.” So that’s how the book kicks off, and the central mystery is how do you save a man who is already dead?
I’ve read the Sanctus trilogy, which I absolutely loved. That series featured the town of Ruin and now you have Redemption. How important is sense of place to your writing and tell us a bit more about Redemption?
Sense of place is hugely important for me because environment forges character. So if you don’t have a sense of the environment, then you are missing a lot of tricks, really, as regards character and setting. With Ruin, it was kind of accidental. I really tried to find a place that would fit the story and I just couldn’t find one. There was nothing that quite worked and I felt really bad about taking a real place and taking too many liberties with it to try to make it fit my story.
Roger Smith’s thrillers are published in eight languages and two are in development as movies in the U.S. His books have won the German Crime Fiction Award and been nominated for Spinetingler magazine’s Best Novel awards.
As compelling as ever, SACRIFICES is knotted like a noose that starts to tighten from the very first page. Wealth insulates Michael Lane and his family from South Africa’s violent crime epidemic until his disturbed teenage son, Christopher, commits a crime that throws the delicate balance into a spin-cycle of revenge and retribution that threatens to destroy Michael Lane and everything he loves.
I’m curious to know why SACRIFICES has only been published in South Africa two years after it was first released.
SACRIFICES was released digitally in July 2013, but 2015 is really its year. It was published in France and Germany early this year and most recently in South Africa. The reviews in France have been great. Le Monde called it “Crime and Punishment in South Africa,” which tickled me no end, and it made the KrimiZeit 10 Best for July, chosen by 21 critics from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, in the company of Don Winslow and James Ellroy.
Congratulations! Good company indeed! Now to the novel. Wealth and poverty are again in the spotlight–but there’s more to it. A general and pervasive lack of humanity seems to exist in this novel. Do you agree?
Yes. The characters in the book, like most South Africans, are numbed by crime which has eroded their empathy and humanity and makes them capable of acts of extraordinary callousness and brutality.
When faced with a new book contract, it seems like many authors fall into one of two camps: Either avoidance (“I’m sure it’s fine”) or suspicion (“I’ve got to stop them from cheating me!”). According to lawyer Susan Spann, herself a thriller author, there’s another way. “Whether or not an author works with an agent, understanding industry standards and ‘normal’ contract terms is critical to the author’s ability to act as his or her own best advocate,” says Spann.
Here are the five essential things to be aware of:
Ensure your royalties are truly “Gross” (and what that means).
In general terms, “gross” means the entirety of a thing, while “net” means what’s left over after certain deductions are made from the gross amount. In publishing, an author’s royalties should be based on “gross”—meaning “the entire sales amount”—and not on the amount that remains after deduction of publishing costs or other expenses.
In a traditional publishing deal, the publisher (not the author) bears the costs of publication. Regardless of whether the publishing contract uses the word “gross” or “net,” the author’s royalties should be calculated as a percentage of either: (a) the money the publisher receives from sales of the work, or (b) the sales price of the work. Royalty percentages should not contain deductions or offsets for anything but returns (where appropriate) and sums (such as taxes or additional shipping fees) paid by the purchaser in addition to the purchase price.
Understand the difference between Copyright Ownership and Licensing.
“Copyright” is actually a bundle of related rights which includes not only publishing rights (in all forms and formats) but also subsidiary rights like sequels, translations, film adaptations, and merchandising—just to name a few.
The Dangerous Life of a World War I Nurse
By Dawn Ius
Caroline and Charles Todd certainly aren’t the first mother/child team to co-write fiction—but for this duo, with more than two dozen thrilling books under their collective belts, writing together is a natural progression of their already close relationship.
As long as they’re not in the same room.
With the release of PATTERN OF LIES, the team’s seventh book in the popular Beth Crawford series, Caroline and Charles took some time with The Big Thrill to reflect on what made them join forces creatively, where this book takes readers, and what fans can expect next.
“When we started working together, we were over 400 miles apart,” Charles says. “So in many ways it was like working on your own, with somebody else there to talk about it. We still can’t write in the same room though—too easy to get off topic.”
“We were both history buffs, we’d seen a lot of the same movies, read many of the same books, loved going to England,” Caroline adds. “I had come to a point where I wanted to do something different and Charles was at a point where he wanted to do something else on business trips besides the bar scene or watching TV.”
To their amazement, it was an easy transition, particularly given their family’s great love of storytelling.
“After the first couple of weeks, I don’t think it mattered to me that I was working with ‘Mom,’ ” Charles says. “”She’s smart, she had something to say and so did I, and soon we were so wrapped up in the characters and the story that our relationships was nowhere near as important as what was happening on the computer pages. Caroline was the person on the other end of the phone call or e-mail, and each conversation resulted in a new way of thinking or a change in direction of a fresh view of a character—and a challenge for both of us to get it right. That makes for good writing.”
As evidenced by their long-standing partnership and multiple bestsellers. Together, they’ve written two stand-alone mysteries, eighteen books in the Ian Rutledge series, and seven books featuring Bess Crawford, a World War I British Army nurse. As with all series characters, Bess has grown with each book, but her beginnings were inspired by a gap in Caroline and Charles’ own storytelling that they felt needed to be filled.
Behind the Scenes of Editing a Crime-Fiction Collection
By Art Taylor
For the second year in a row, Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, has partnered with Down & Out Books to debut an anthology of short fiction at the convention—taking place this year in Raleigh, North Carolina, from October 8th to 11th. Sales of MURDER UNDER THE OAKS benefit Wake County Public Libraries in the convention’s host city, and as a native North Carolinian myself, I was thrilled to be invited to serve as editor for the collection.
MURDER UNDER THE OAKS will include plenty of high-tension, high-stakes drama: a personal protection specialist battling a virtual reality program that’s turning against its owner; a Kansas City schoolteacher traveling in Mexico with a makeshift garrote and murder on his mind; and a cop gone rogue to avenge the death of her sister—and to deliver a world of hurt in the process.
But the anthology also has quieter stories, such as one about a father’s nighttime drive to visit his daughter, his reflections on his failed relationship and on fatherhood, and his concerns about the future. While I don’t think anyone would call the story a thriller, it does include its own brand of tension and equally high emotional stakes, speaking to the range of approaches available to us writers.
Maybe this is how it should be in a general anthology, especially one connected with Bouchercon—a mix of stories and styles and tones as varied as the many authors whose work falls under the broad umbrella (or in this case, oak canopy) that we collectively call mysteries. At least I took that as part of my mission in selecting stories for the book.
The final collection includes 21 stories: nine from invited contributors and 12 selected blind from a submission pool that rose to well over 150 stories.
The invited contributors included several of the honorees for this year’s Bouchercon: Margaret Marton, Tom Franklin, Zoë Sharp, Sarah Shaber, Lori Armstrong, and Sean Doolittle. After a couple of other guests of honor were unable to contribute, Down & Out Books solicited stories from two other writers in their stable for consideration: J.L. Abramo and Rob Brunet.
But the real pleasure and the toughest challenges were in selecting from the blind submissions—with confusion reigning from start to finish. In the beginning, the confusion was about the title: “Does my submission have to include a murder? Or an oak?” (No, in each case.) By the end, the confusion was solely my own: Which of the many great stories I read would I pick? And which could I cut?
R. K. Jackson’s lyrical, twisty psychological thriller debut follows an aspiring journalist as she uncovers dark truths in a seaswept Southern town—aided by a mysterious outcast and pursued by a ruthless killer.
When Martha Covington moves to Amberleen, Georgia, after her release from a psychiatric ward, she thinks her breakdown is behind her. Taking a summer internship with the local historical society, Martha is tasked with gathering the stories of the Geechee residents of nearby Shell Heap Island, the descendants of slaves who have lived by their own traditions for the last three hundred years.
As Martha delves into her work, the voices she thought she left behind start whispering again, and she begins to doubt her recovery. When a grisly murder occurs, Martha finds herself at the center of a perfect storm—and she’s the perfect suspect. Without a soul to vouch for her innocence or her sanity, Martha journeys through a terrifying labyrinth—to find the truth and clear her name, if she can survive to tell the tale.
CIA special ops veteran McBride and his partner, Harvey Fontana, respond to their friend’s plea. As they launch a covert investigation into Mason, the security chief for one of the nation’s leading private military contractors, they discover that not everything is as it appears. Mason and his inner circle are leading a top-secret operation to tackle a wave of crime plaguing the US-Mexican border, and the murder may have been part of their complicated strategy—or part of a more menacing agenda. Soon McBride and Fontana find themselves engaged in a deadly game. With a powerful politician behind it all, stopping Mason could mean joining a secret war—with truly global stakes.
“Part Jack Reacher, part Jason Bourne, Nathan McBride is a compelling, conflicted hero. Option to Kill is a masterful thrill ride. Definitely one for your keeper shelf. I couldn’t put it down.”
~Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author of The Columbus Affair
Mark Coggins’ work has been nominated for the Shamus and the Barry crime fiction awards, and selected for best of the year lists compiled by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Detroit Free Press and Amazon.com, among others. His novels Runoff and The Big Wake-Up won the Next Generation Indie Book Award and the Independent Publisher Book Award (IPPY) respectively, both in the crime fiction category.
In NO HARD FEELINGS, Coggins pairs his aging series protagonist August Riordan with a determined, aggressive young woman named Winnie who literally feels no pain. Told in alternating points of view, the book describes a cut and thrust battle to the death between these uneasy partners and a shadowy villain known only as “The Winemaker.”
What was the genesis of the book?
NO HARD FEELINGS continues a story I began in my second novel, Vulture Capital. In Vulture Capital, a venture capitalist hires Riordan to find the missing Chief Scientist of a biotech firm in which he has invested. The men determine that the scientist’s disappearance is part of a larger conspiracy to use the technology for perverse applications, including terrorism, slave labor and prostitution.
They ultimately unravel the conspiracy and stop the bad guys, but in NO HARD FEELINGS, the worst of them—The Winemaker—is back, as is Winnie, the human guinea pig on whom the technology was first tested.
By Dan Levy
If there were more Dr. Gary Birken’s in the world, fiction writers wouldn’t have to worry about creating larger than life characters. Father. Grandfather. Avid basketball and tennis player. Black belt in martial arts. And he’s not just a physician; but the Vice Chief of Staff, Surgeon-in-Chief, and Chief of Pediatric Trauma at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in South Florida.
Oh yeah, and his sixth novel, ERROR IN DIAGNOSIS, debuted August 25. Perhaps what pushes Birken into the larger than life category, at least for me, is the “all in” nature that seems to define how he pursues everything. According to Birken, “I used to read everything in sight. One night, I had the idea for a story. I sat down at the word processor and began writing. My entire consideration of shifting from a reader to a writer took about an hour.” Since that night, writing has been on Birken’s list of passions.
Passion is not a word Birken uses lightly. He advises students in writing workshops that if they need tricks such as making appointments with themselves to write, or need to reward themselves after a writing session, then perhaps what they feel for writing isn’t truly passion.
“For me to go to Starbucks, put on my headphones and write for a couple of hours is not only something I truly enjoy, but serves as stress reduction from my normal life. I look forward to airplane travel now because I can write. When you’re a writer, your whole life changes in the sense that you’re (always asking), Where is my next opportunity to write going to come from?”
Passion and suspense are front and center in D.D. Ayres’ fourth installment of the K-9 Rescue Series, PRIMAL FORCE.
Dog trainer Jori Garrison has little interest in romance and spends all of her time training her Warrior Wolf Pack, special dogs taught to work with disabled veterans. Wounded veteran Lauray Batisse is resistant to a new service dog, having lost his beloved K-9 in Afghanistan. But sparks fly when Jori and Lauray cross paths, pushing these two together on an adventure that heats up when enemies start hunting them down.
Extraordinary canines, fierce attraction, and danger are the elements at play in PRIMAL FORCE, and Ayers was kind enough to take a break from the action to answer a few questions for The Big Thrill about her newest release.
Of particular importance in PRIMAL FORCE, and all of Ayres’ K-9 books, is the special relationship between the dogs and their Handlers.
“Lauray was military K-9 police, who lost his K-9 and his leg in the same horrific explosion in Afghanistan,” Ayres says.
Tormented by injuries, PTSD kicks in as Batisse’s physical rehabilitation is completed. Forced to get a PTSD service dog, he is reluctant to accept Samantha, the Golden Doodle he’s assigned.
By George Ebey
In Linda Thorne’s exciting debut, JUST ANOTHER TERMINATION, a career human resources manager flees bad bosses and guilt-ridden memories due to her coerced role in a wrongful termination that prompted a suicide. She finally lands a job with a good employer, but her new workplace is spun into turmoil when a young female employee is found shot to death. Then another murder occurs, and there’s a connection—both are linked to a double homicide twenty-five years earlier. Knee-deep in the investigation, the protagonist finds information that draws her back into the life of one evil, prior employer, and keeps the memory of the suicide heavy on her mind.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Thorne to learn more about her and her debut JUST ANTOHER TERMINATION.
How did you first get bitten by the writing bug?
I think it may have been in sixth grade. I have a clear memory of a homework assignment to write a poem based on any subject we’d studied that year. I chose what we’d learned about the planets. After several drafts, I finalized Mrs. Earth So Pretty. My parents seemed impressed and I pictured my teacher scrawling a large A in red ink at the top of the first page. Instead, she called me to the front of the class, gave me an airy “tsk-tsk,” and returned my assignment in a sealed envelope addressed to my parents. When my mom opened it, to our dismay, the only thing scribbled over the paper was a message stating I’d obviously copied the poem or had someone else write it. Grade: Incomplete. My mother hauled me back to school where I pleaded my case to the teacher, my mom backing up my every word. I got the A, but more importantly I felt my first rush of success and brandished a grin for creating a poem that a teacher thought was too good to have been written by an eleven-year-old.
Throngs of holiday makers crowd the streets of New York in anticipation of the Christmas tree lighting in Rockefeller Center, but a short distance away, police and the FBI are responding to a terrifying hostage situation at iconic St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Traffic stops, the celebrations are put on hold, and the newscasters begin their non-stop reportage. HOSTAGE TAKER by Stefanie Pintoff, takes us through one day of a nail-biting and tension-filled standoff between an unknown hostage taker and FBI Special Agent Eve Rossi. She’s smart, gutsy and tough, and her secret team of notorious former criminals with their huge egos and disregard for the law is completely believable.
A merciless hostage taker who has targeted Eve asks the question, “What are you guilty of?” With the clock ticking relentlessly, the New York City landmark is wired to blow up at the first negotiating mistake. Pintoff’s writing is tight and skilled, her pacing superb, and her research meticulous.
Pintoff, a former teacher and lawyer who lives in New York, took a break from her busy schedule for this interview with The Big Thrill.
Your protagonist, FBI Special Agent Eve Rossi, is a master at the psychological strategies of hostage negotiation. How were you able to get so believably into the minds of both Eve and the hostage taker?
The job of all writers is to step into their characters’ shoes and present the story from their points of view. Seeing the world from someone else’s perspective is both the hardest challenge and the greatest pleasure of writing fiction. But it’s also how your characters acquire flesh and blood, and become real. While I did plenty of research to figure out how hostage negotiations are handled—combing through memoirs and learning from interviews with former professionals—there’s really no substitute for that imaginative leap into the mind of a character.
Dr. Kyle Sommers is one of a team of CDC doctors deployed nationwide to find the cause. Along with his wife Gretchen and young daughter Lara, he travels to St. Joe, Minnesota to investigate after a particularly gruesome murder shocks the small town. Frantic to find the answer before more people die and haunted by the secret that destroyed his father, Dr. Sommers uncovers the shattering truth behind the seemingly unconnected crises. And when he does, he discovers his own family is in grave danger.
Something has gone horribly wrong with the food chain. And nothing will ever be the same.
Part medical detective story, part post-apocalyptic tale, BROKEN CHAIN examines what might happen if a major component of our food supply had to be destroyed and banned because of its malignant effect on those who consume it.
Jill Gardner—owner of Coffee, Books, and More—has somehow been talked into sponsoring a 5k race along the beautiful California coast. The race is a fundraiser for the local preservation society—but not everyone is feeling so charitable…
The day of the race, everyone hits the ground running…until a local business owner stumbles over a very stationary body. The deceased is the vicious wife of the husband-and-wife team hired to promote the event—and the husband turns to Jill for help in clearing his name. But did he do it? Jill will have to be very careful, because this killer is ready to put her out of the running…forever!
“Murder, dirty politics, pirate lore, and a hot police detective: Guidebook to Murder has it all! A cozy lover’s dream come true.”
—Susan McBride, author of The Debutante Dropout Mysteries
By Basil Sands
Laurie Moore is a cop turned investigator turned lawyer turned thriller writer. At the age of six, Moore wrote her first novel in orange crayon on blue construction paper and gave the mystery-horror hybrid to her father for his birthday.
Since then this sixth-generation Texan has come a long way. Reared in South Texas and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. degree, she rebelling against her parents’ wishes that she become a Spanish teacher, Moore joined the police department. For six years, she worked street patrol and criminal investigations until the brass decided to promote her to the rank of sergeant (their way of getting a maverick officer to comply with standard operating procedures). Bad move.
She later worked as a DA Investigator in Austin, Lockhart, and San Antonio before moving to Fort Worth in 1992 to attend law school at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law. She is currently in private practice and lives with her husband and two rude Welsh corgis, and recently retired as a licensed, commissioned peace officer after thirty-four years in law enforcement.
Tell us about your fourth book in the Deb series, DAWN OF THE DEB.
Dainty Prescott is a privileged celebutante, broadcast journalist for WBFD-TV, and the owner of the Debutante Detective Agency. In need of money, she accepts and squanders a retainer from oil baron, Avery Marshall, and becomes obligated to groom his awkward stepdaughter, Dawn, for the upcoming, uber-exclusive Rubanbleu ball. To kick off the training, Avery sends Dainty, Dawn, and Dainty’s socialite friends away for a spa weekend, but the trip goes terribly wrong when the girls witness killers storm the lodge and execute the owners and staff. As they run for their lives, Dainty quickly discovers that Dawn is mentally ill and un-medicated, making her as dangerous as the men they’re fleeing. Celebutante Dainty and her socialite friends must move quickly to unravel the reason behind the resort murders, while staying one step ahead of four men in black ski masks who want them dead.
DAWN OF THE DEB is a fast-paced thriller that offers a look into the world of Dissociative Identity Disorder, what was formerly known as multiple personality disorder.
By Amy Lignor
There are interesting lives; there are interesting authors. Then, there are interesting authors who’ve led interesting lives. Alice Loweecey is one of those people.
From hearing the “call” and heading to the convent to, in her words, “jumping the wall” and moving on to become an actress, wife, mom and, of course, beloved author, Alice Loweecey has become a literal godsend to her fans. Vivacious, fun, and as entertaining in real life as her characters are in her books, this interview is time spent with one of the coolest minds out there, who will go on your list—if she’s not already there—as being the author you most want to have lunch with. Perhaps she’ll even bring along her “mascot,” which you will most definitely want to see.
You have gone from ex-nun to on-stage prostitute to accepting a marriage proposal on the second date from a very lucky husband. The question here should be “Huh?”, but instead I’m going to ask, with all this action, when did the writing bug enter your world?
Actually, I got the writing bug at the wee age of nine. I’m one of those fortunate people who hit adolescence before the Internet came along, so all of my “angsty” teenage poetry and short stories have long been shredded and burned.…You’re welcome.
The Falcone & Driscoll series is spectacular suspense: humorous, charming, and the mystery within to be solved is riveting. Is it easier for you to create these novels having the background of being a nun? There is no guilt factor, I would assume, having a character who is a whole lot fun, yet ceased to be a nun.
Writing Giulia is both easy and a little stressful. Some situations she gets into bring on convent flashbacks for me, more so than for her. She’s getting tougher with more PI experience. My family, on the other hand, gets weirded out by the oddest parts of the books. My oldest son said he felt uncomfortable reading a scene where Giulia and Frank sit down to a normal dinner and then snog, as married adults are wont to do. I laughed at him rather than apply sympathy. He was not amused.
The voice that came first: “World weary, and sad, but also sharply funny.” This is the beginning of Stephanie Gayle’s novel IDYLL THREATS.
The voice belongs to the main character, Thomas Lynch, a former New York City policeman who is the new Chief of Police for the town of Idyll. He brings baggage to his new position—baggage that affects his ability to do his job.
Lynch’s journey toward peace is played out against the murder of a young girl, Cecilia North, who is found shot to death at the local golf course. On the surface it should be a slam dunk for the Idyll police department, but just hours before her death, Lynch found Cecilia and an older man seeking privacy for sex in an old cabin. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem for Lynch, except he was at that cabin for the same reason.
With the discovery of the dead girl, Lynch is left wondering whether the man recognized him and how to steer his detectives toward the cabin and the man Cecilia was with without revealing his own secret—he’s gay.
Not trusting his detectives with his secret, Lynch is forced to seek help from unlikely sources including a Goth teen and a UFO-conspiracy theorist while contending with pressure from the mayor to solve the crime before the town’s premier tourist event takes place. On a daily basis Lynch must cope with the suspicions of his men, casual homophobia, and difficult memories of his partner’s recent death.
It all makes Lynch realize Idyll, Connecticut, is not safe, especially for a man who holds secrets that threaten the thing he loves the most—his job.
By Jeff Ayers
Bestselling author Shane Gericke has been held at knifepoint, hit by lightning, and shaken the cold, sweaty hand of Liberace. His latest work is THE FURY, a sweeping novel of global terrorism that will release in trade paperback, eBook, and audiobook on September 4th.
His earlier novel Torn Apart was shortlisted for the prestigious Thriller Award for Best Novel, and named a Book of the Year by Suspense magazine. His debut novel, Blown Away, was selected as the year’s Best First Mystery by RT Book Reviews, which also named his Cut to the Bone a Top Pick. His books have been translated into German, Chinese, Turkish, and Slovak. Gericke’s new novel, THE FURY, is a bit of a departure in terms of the story, but not in the excellence of the writing.
Tell me about THE FURY in ten seconds or less.
If a grief-blinded cop can’t find the man who killed her husband, millions of people will die in a nerve-gas strike on America.
What sparked the idea for this thriller?
One sleepless night in 2011, a series of real-life events I’d read about over he years coalesced into this frantic brain-mash of doomsday weapons, Cold Warriors, psychopathic drug cartels, Nazis, nerve gas, exploding oil rigs, and saucy women with black belts in martial arts. Intrigued, I hustled out of my blankets, went to my computer.
For Reed Farrel Coleman it’s been quite a year. Not only has the Long Island author ended one series and begun another but he’s also continuing a beloved series with ROBERT B. PARKER’S THE DEVIL WINS.
“I have come to be a Parker fan in the last 10 years or so,” says Coleman. “Hey, I was late to the party, but I’ve sure enjoyed it. Parker was an unusual and exceptional talent in that he was a writer’s writer and a reader’s writer. As a pro myself, I could see the techniques he used to make it look easy. How his prose was disarming, straightforward, economic, sometimes poetic, but never self-conscious. His prose never screams ‘Look at me!’ or goes out of its way to be pretty. But writers understand what looks easy isn’t always so. I came to appreciate his craftsmanship and his deep understanding of the connection between his characters and his audience.”
Protagonist Jesse Stone is a departure from Parker’s private eye Spenser, his best known character. Stone is a damaged man, fired from the Los Angeles Police Department because of his drinking problem, a demon he struggles throughout the series. He also has a complicated relationship with his ex-wife Jennifer. However, despite his issues, Stone is a good cop, as proven in his job as chief of the Paradise Police Department, located in the fictional town of Paradise, Mass.
Stone debuted in 1997’s Night Passage and has been played by Tom Selleck in a series of tele-films (the latest, Jesse Stone: Lost in Paradise, debuts in mid-October). Parker completed the ninth novel, Split Image, but didn’t live to see it published. After Parker’s death in 2010, Michael Brandman penned three Stone novels until the baton was passed to “hard-boiled poet” Coleman in 2014 with Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot.
Strangely enough, Coleman wasn’t deterred by the Herculean task of taking over the adventures of a renowned author’s beloved character. Looking back, he supposed he might’ve been–had he thought about it too much.
The Big Thrill caught up with Jacquelyn to chat about genre-bending, magic mirrors, and dangerous men.
Ellie is such a smart protagonist. What inspired you to create her?
Ellie did not come naturally to me. When I set out to write THE SMOKE HUNTER, I started with the idea of a heroine who was something of a broken woman. I made it almost all the way through my first draft with her and hated almost every minute of it. Then this startlingly clear vision popped into my mind: a woman dragging her suitcase down the pavement, both terrified and exulted by the realization that she was a thief.
I lost the suitcase, but I kept the thievery. Instead of creating someone who was a victim of her circumstances, I found myself writing a woman who reached out and took hold of her own fate. The Ellie who made it into THE SMOKE HUNTER is smart and driven, unafraid of diving into circumstances other women of her time would find unthinkable.
You draw on a lot of history and mythology in THE SMOKE HUNTER. How much of it is true?
Quite a bit, actually. There were, in fact, stories of hidden cities of wealth and power that threaded their way through the Americas during the 17th and 18th centuries, from Mexico to Patagonia. This might simply have been a case of neighboring civilizations sharing and passing along the same myths and stories—or there might have been some sort of truth to them we’ve yet to discover. The same goes for the remarkable similarities between Mayan and Aztec origin stories, right down to the name of the city said to be the birthplace of their civilizations. Obviously, in THE SMOKE HUNTER, I take a few liberties in offering a slightly fantastic theory of what the City of Seven Caves might have been, but I don’t think we can entirely rule out that there may have been a real place behind these myths.
The Smoking Mirror is actually one way of translating the name of the Aztec god Tezcatlipoca, and disks of polished obsidian have been found in both Mayan and Aztec archaeological sites and are associated with prophecy and sacrifice in their iconography. That association between mirrors and the ability to see into the past and future, or across great distances, is one found in other cultures as well. Remember Snow White’s wicked stepmother?
By David Healey
Harry Hunsicker’s third book in the Jon Cantrell thriller series could be described in many ways as a twenty-first century Western. For starters, THE GRID is set in Texas. Cantrell is a lawman but also a drifter, having found employment as a rural county sheriff after a prickly history as a DEA contractor. He wears boots and carries a gold-plated star. Instead of a violent death in a saloon brothel, he is soon investigating a killer who knocks off cheating husbands looking for hookups online.
Cantrell’s challenges don’t end there. However, in THE GRID, it’s not a cattle rustler or a train robber who rides into town, but rather a terrorist that is attacking power-generating stations.
It’s all in a day’s work for a lawman in the New West, and Cantrell is more than up to the task. He’s savvy, tough, and has a lot of compassion—but he’s definitely got a burr under his saddle. He’s always ready with a quick-draw quip: “Not counting the power plant, I figured the town’s three biggest industries were food stamps, bass fishing, and diabetes.”
This lawman is also something of a philosopher: “On some level we all live in a special world filled with mirrors that flatter the image of how we’d like things to be.” Well said, Cantrell.
Recently, author and native Texan, Harry Hunsicker answered a few questions about Cantrell, terrorists, and cowboy boots.
Percentage-wise, how much of Jon Cantrell is you?
According to FreudOnLine.com, 9.8 percent.
I’m joking. I think the actual percentage is much higher, at least in terms of personality, maybe thirty to forty percent. Neither Jon nor myself like to see the bad guys win, but we both have a certain pragmatic outlook on life. Sometimes the bad guys do triumph, and the best you can do is just keep going, hoping to fight another day. Physically and career-wise, we’re pretty different. Jon has a military background while I’m allergic to camouflage and taking orders. Jon is younger than I am, too.
Michael Ransom’s THE RIPPER GENE, as strongly suggested by its title, is the fictional existence of a pattern of DNA that indicates someone has the potential for extreme psychopathy.
The reader is guided through the story by the protagonist, Lucas, who is not your average sleuth, but an FBI profiler with a scientific background—expect to come across scalpel-edged forensic and medical detail.
The entire backdrop of the novel cleverly forms a sinister commentary on the nature of a killer: is murder a biological predisposition, beyond conscious control? Pretty dark stuff, but more fascinating as a result.
Ransom’s clever writing manages to impart more emotions beside those of the spine-tingling variety. Early on in the book, there is personal loss, which adds a layer of sadness that helps to develop the main character’s motivation. Anger also abounds, along with resulting profanities; for some there may be a little too much heated language, but for others this may positively add realism, tension, and grit.
The book will make you think, which I strongly suspect is the author’s intention, seeing as he is a man of science and reason. Fortunately, a gene for murder doesn’t really exist—unless the author knows something we don’t…
I was lucky to speak to him about the creation of the book and his entry into the world of thriller writing.
By E. A. Aymar
Grant McKenzie doesn’t pull punches, but they’re not thrown without purpose. His new thriller, SPEAK THE DEAD, opens with three different people experiencing brutal encounters; splits time between a mortician and a hardened detective; and involves a misguided, bloodthirsty cult, none of which is gratuitous. The book moves at a fast clip, and McKenzie does a terrific job of weaving the tension into the plot; one element is never abandoned in favor of another.
McKenzie cut his teeth on five thrillers before SPEAK THE DEAD, as well as the three books in the Dixie Flynn series (under the pen name M. C. Grant) including the Shamus-nominated Beauty with a Bomb. He was kind enough to discuss his new thriller, his craft, and his journey (both the past and what comes next) in the interview below.
How did you end up working with Polis Books? Can you describe your path to that publishing house, and the experience of working with them?
My publishing journey, like a lot of authors today, has been a rollercoaster ride. I have been published by Random House, Penguin, Heyne in Germany, and others, but always, for some bizarre reason, outside of the U.S. This is especially puzzling as all my novels are rip-roaring, U.S.-based thrillers. Jason Pinter at Polis Books read my novel No Cry for Help—which was published in the U.K. and Germany by Random House—and loved it. He contacted me about U.S. rights and we ended up signing a five-book deal that is bringing one of my most popular books, Switch, to the U.S. for the first time, plus four new novels. Switch was released in trade paperback in August, and SPEAK THE DEAD arrives in hardcover in September. This will be followed by two trade paperbacks, K.A.R.M.A. and The Fear in Her Eyes, in 2016, and a brand new hardcover next September. The relationship with Polis has been wonderful as Jason and the gang truly believe in the nail-biting stories I’m telling, and they really, really want to share them with as wide an audience as possible. I’m excited for a whole new audience of readers to discover what my U.K. and German readers already know: you can’t put these thrillers down.
By John Raab
John Lutz’s work includes political suspense, private-eye novels, urban suspense, humor, occult, crime caper, police procedural, espionage, historical, futuristic, amateur detective, thriller—he has conquered virtually every mystery subgenre.
He is the author of more than 40 novels and over 200 short stories and articles. His novels and short fiction have been translated into almost every language. He is a past president of both Mystery Writers of America and Private Eye Writers of America. Among his awards are the MWA’s Edgar, the PWA’s Shamus, the PWA Life Achievement Award, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Golden Derringer Lifetime Achievement Award.
Lutz is the author of two private-eye series, the Nudger series, set in St. Louis, Missouri, and the Carver series, set in Florida, as well as many standalone novels. His novel SWF Seeks Same was made into the hit movie Single White Female, and his novel The Ex was made into the HBO original movie of the same title, for which he co-authored the screenplay.
SLAUGHTER is your latest release, can you give us the inside look?
The underlying theme is that anything can happen to anyone at any time, especially in New York. Many people realize this, but precautions help only slightly if at all. Potential victims–you, me, and the reader–can only avoid so much because we can only know so much. As with this exchange between detectives Sal and Harold, the beginning of Chapter 1 outside of the Dakota: “Lennon was shot there.” “The Russian or the singer?” Not sure whether Harold is playing dumb, Sal growls simply, “The singer.” What else might Harold not know? Trickles can lead to tributaries, can lead to dangerous white-water rivers or plunging falls.
What’s better than watching one of your favorite detectives work a complex case? How about two of them, teaming up to catch a killer. That’s what J. A. Jance gives us in her latest mystery, DANCE OF THE BONES.
In this new novel, Brandon Walker of Jance’s Walker Family series joins forces with J. P. Beaumont. Beaumont’s cold case in Seattle is somehow connected to a cold case Walker is working on in Arizona.
The two sleuths bring this character-driven mystery to life. Jance describes Beaumont and Walker as two homicide workhorses who have been put out to pasture. Of course, being a homicide cop was never just a job to either of them. But Beaumont calls the Pacific Northwest his beat, while Walker calls Tucson home and has close ties to the Tohono O’odham reservation and its people. So how do they find themselves working related cases, and cold cases at that?
“Brandon has been involved with a volunteer cold case squad, The Last Chance (T.L.C.), for many years,” Jance says. “Recently Beau’s agency, the Washington State Attorney General’s Special Homicide Investigation Team, S.H.I.T., has been dissolved, leaving Beau at loose ends. He’s not especially enthusiastic about being recruited into T.L.C., but what’s a guy gonna do?”
By Rob Brunet
With something like four percent of the people taking psychopathy tests scoring “psychopathic,” you might be inclined to wonder why the world isn’t harsher than it is. Fortunately, most socio- or psychopaths find meaningful work as CEOs, politicians, lawyers, and in other demanding high-profile roles where a lack of empathy can come in handy.
In HOLLOW MAN, Mark Pryor takes us into the mind of one such character and shows us what can happen when personal controls fail and the wheels start to come off.
Dominic’s world is tightly managed, to the point of being manipulated. He fakes his way through human interaction so well, his peers in the district attorney’s office are oblivious. He uses his side gig as a guitarist to hook up with college students who are afraid of hurting the presumably emotional artist when their crushes wear off.
None of which suggests he’s going to actually care when a beautiful young woman presses her way into his life then cries wolf. And Dominic doesn’t care. But he’s intrigued enough to step off his carefully crafted track and see where this unexpected development takes him.
Where it leads him is on a rough ride through some of Austin’s less-traveled roads and into the criminal mind of a man who knows both sides of the game.
In this interview for The Big Thrill, Mark Pryor gives us a peek at Dominic, at Austin, and at his own more empathetic place in the world.
Marla Vail is a hairdresser living in South Florida who gets involved in sleuthing and finding murderers. In PERIL BY PONYTAIL, the twelfth in the Bad Hair Day series of cozy mysteries by Nancy J. Cohen, Marla is on a belated honeymoon with her homicide detective husband Dalton to a large dude ranch in Arizona run by his cousins to help find who is causing malicious mischief there. And then the murders start….
Tell us about the Bad Hair Day series and PERIL BY PONYTAIL, out this month.
The mysteries feature hairstylist Marla Vail née Shore, who first meets Detective Dalton Vail in Permed to Death. Ten books later, they get married in Shear Murder. But there’s no rest for our sleuths. They move into a new home in Hanging by a Hair, where they discover a dead body next door. Finally, Marla and Dalton go on a honeymoon in PERIL BY PONYTAIL
Marla isn’t thrilled about a honeymoon in the desert. She’s dreamed about lying on a lounge chair at a tropical beach with palm fronds swaying overhead. But Dalton has accepted an invitation to stay at his cousin’s ranch where trouble is brewing. The cousin hopes that Dalton, a homicide detective, can help determine the source of sabotage at the dude ranch and at a ghost town Dalton’s uncle is renovating. Things go downhill fast from the moment the newlyweds arrive when a local forest ranger is found dead.
Why did you choose South Florida as your setting? Why Arizona?
I live in South Florida, so it’s easy to do research in my own backyard. Plus Florida has so much diversity in terms of ecology, demographics, history, quaint towns, and more that a wealth of material exists for a mystery series. All I need to do is read the newspaper for ideas.
The 16th century love affair of commoner Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII is one that resonates like few others. Their passion changed the course of England and produced Queen Elizabeth I—but it also ended in grisly tragedy, ie, the headsman’s block. Ever since, novelists and biographers, poets and playwrights have tackled the telling of this relationship. Now it’s the turn of Canadian writer Dawn Ius, with a young adult novel set in a modern high school. ANNE & HENRY is fresh, daring, sexy, funny, and suspenseful, with an Anne Boleyn who rides a motorcycle!
Experienced journalist and editor Ius, who also writes short stories, graphic novels, and YA paranormal, tells The Big Thrill why she answered the siren call of Anne Boleyn with this novel, going on sale September 1st.
Are you interested in Tudor fiction and the other real-life royals who lived in that century or is it the love story of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII that dominates your interest?
I have a deep-rooted fascination with historic (and modern) love stories—and few are more compelling than Henry and Anne’s. But while researching this book, I came across quite a few intriguing characters. At some point, they may make their way into future stories.
How much research did you have to do for the novel?
Before I started writing ANNE & HENRY, I borrowed about ten books from the library and poured through them. I watched The Tudors (mostly for Jonathan Rhys Myers), and I read quite a few blogs and articles from Tudor fan sites. But I also had a great “live” consultant—Bree Ogden, then of D4E0 Literary, co-agented this book with my agent Mandy Hubbard, and she has a tremendous wealth of knowledge (and passion) for and about Anne Boleyn (her signature is tattooed on Bree’s shoulder!) If I couldn’t find something or had questions, I knew I could ask Bree. And yet…I probably only scratched the surface of what’s out there.
When were you first drawn to Anne and when did you decide to tell her story?
My stepfather is in love with Anne Boleyn, and even at a young age, I remember him telling stories about her—trying, in his own way, I suppose, to separate myth from fact, as best he could. Even though ANNE & HENRY is told in alternating points of view, her side of the story resonates with readers the most. I’m constantly in awe of Anne Boleyn’s continued (and passionate!) fan base—decades after her beheading—and I know my Anne won’t please them all, but I wanted to write her character in a way that would pay tribute to the strength, courage, and beauty that my stepdad always talked about.
By Jeremy Burns
Ethan Cross burst onto the scene in 2011 with his blockbuster debut, The Shepherd, which rocketed its way to national and international bestseller status. Now, after further success with a prequel novella and two full-length sequels starring serial-killer-hunting investigator Marcus Williams, the secretive Shepherd Organization, and show-stealing antagonist Francis Ackerman, Jr., Cross has set his sights on a new series, one with a unique protagonist and a compelling world. The author sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss his newest surefire hit, BLIND JUSTICE, starring an investigator who sees the clues and connections others don’t despite not seeing what most of us do.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am the International Bestselling Author of The Shepherd, The Prophet, The Cage, Father of Fear, and Callsign: Knight. Bestselling author Jon Land described The Prophet as “the best book of its kind since Thomas Harris retired Hannibal Lecter,” while Andrew Gross (#1 New York Times bestselling author of Reckless and Don’t Look Twice) called The Shepherd “a fast-paced, all-too-real thriller with a villain right out of James Patterson and Criminal Minds.” The Shepherd recently spent nineteen weeks in the Top 5 on the German Der Spiegel list and has been published in around 20 different languages. I live and write in a small town in rural Illinois with my wife, two daughters, one son, and two Shih Tzus.
Tell us about your new book, BLIND JUSTICE.
Deacon Munroe is not your average investigator. He’s intelligent, cultured, well-connected. And totally blind. With BLIND JUSTICE, I wanted to create a story featuring an investigator with the brilliance of Lincoln Rhyme being paired with a soldier with the determination and strength of Jack Reacher. And page one kicks off with the murder of the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Award-winning author JL Merrow describes herself as a rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. But that’s not all that identifies her. She is also a prolific author. Case in point, TO LOVE A TRAITOR is her thirteenth novel, and she has also written seven novellas and more than fifty short stories. So, while she may eschew the art of drinking tea, her prolific writings clearly demonstrate her embrace of the authorial arts—much to the delight of her fans! She writes gay romance, mostly contemporary romantic comedies and mysteries, with an occasional foray into historical and speculative fiction. Ms. Merrow attributes her alternating between genres to having a short attention span, but anyone who can write that many books and short stories, and has garnered awards and nominations for multiple titles, does not suffer from that particular condition.
TO LOVE A TRAITOR falls into her historical category. Set in England shortly after World War One, Roger Cottingham is faced with a dilemma. He suspects Matthew Connaught spied for the Germans during the war, and that his actions led to his brother’s death during a patrol into no-man’s land. Though Roger worked in Naval intelligence during the war as a cryptographer, he’s certainly not trained to investigate a potentially dangerous traitor. Despite the risks, he is determined to uncover the truth, but what he doesn’t count on is falling in love with the very person he’s investigating. What is he to do if, as the mounting evidence suggests, he finds Matthew guilty? Is he TO LOVE A TRAITOR, or see that Matthew is punished for acts leading to his beloved brother’s death?
JL Merrow was kind enough to answer some questions for The Big Thrill.
I’m sure you’ve had to field this question before, but could you tell us why, as a woman, you tend to write stories with male protagonists?
Honestly? I just feel more comfortable writing about men, particularly for longer works. I think I find it easier to be objective about male characters—women in our society are basically taught to judge themselves against one another (as I’m sure men are too) so when I’m writing about a man and his motivations, I find I have a lot fewer hang-ups!
By J. H. Bográn
In the early days of my journey learning to streamline the voices in my head and convert them to stories, I took many online writing courses. In one of those courses we had an aspiring writer who complained about his inability to write longer works and getting stuck with short stories. The teacher offered some life-changing advice: Think of a novel and its chapters as a succession of short stories as each chapter by itself must have a beginning, middle and ending. Shocking, right? Fast forward fifteen years and I meet Art Taylor who wrote this wonderful novel told, you guessed it, in short stories. Each of these stories tell the adventures and misadventures of Del and Louise, one of those couples you know always find trouble even when they’re not looking. In Taylor’s own words this is kind of a “different project,” but one that is bound to find an audience.
Taylor graciously agreed to answer a few questions for The Big Thrill.
What can you tell us about ON THE ROAD WITH DEL & LOUISE?
Del’s a small time crook with a moral conscience. He robs convenience stores only for tuition and academic expenses. Louise is brash and sassy, and she goes pretty quickly from being a holdup victim to Del’s lover and accomplice. Together, the two of them are trying to make a fresh start and an honest life, and trying to build a family together, but fate conspires against them time and again. Fate maybe, or maybe they’re just their own worst enemies.
Their adventures cover a fair amount of territory. A real estate scam in recession-blighted Southern California. A wine heist in Napa Valley. A Vegas wedding chapel holdup. A kidnapping in an oil-rich North Dakota boomtown. Along the way, the question keeps coming up whether they can stay on the right side of the law? Or even whether they can stay on one another’s good side? And when they head back to Louise’s hometown in North Carolina, there’s even more trouble in the form of Louise’s nagging mama, who’s been hovering over the story from the start and may be the biggest adversary of all to them.
How about the character’s themselves?
While Del’s name is first on the cover, these stories really belong to Louise: She’s the narrator and it’s her voice—Southern, smart-alecky, a little brassy—that drives the storyline. Originally from North Carolina, Louise went West—to New Mexico—in hopes of building a fresh life for herself. After the convenience store she worked in was robbed, she found a new direction: with Del, the man who held her up. As it turns out, he’s after a fresh life of his own, and the two of them try to go straight but keep getting pulled back into various kinds of crime—as the folks committing them or as victims themselves—in place after place: Victorville, CA; Napa Valley; Las Vegas; Williston, ND; and finally back in Louise’s home state of North Carolina.
Lynne Raimondo’s debut, Dante’s Wood, introduced readers to blind psychiatrist Mark Angelotti. The book was a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month and earned Raimondo comparisons to Agatha Christie, John Grisham, and Sara Paretsky. Her second book, Dante’s Poison, has Mark investigating the pharmaceutical industry as he undergoes experimental drug therapy. DANTE’S DILEMMA, released last month, turns up the heat on Mark’s personal and professional life.
In DANTE’S DILEMMA, Mark is asked to evaluate Rachel Lazarus, estranged wife of a slain University of Chicago professor. The professor’s body was discovered during the school’s world-famous annual scavenger hunt. Though she’s confessed, Rachel is pursuing a battered woman’s defense. Mark must testify against Rachel while he’s mired in a legal dispute of his own for custody of his son. He then uncovers evidence that Rachel may be innocent after all. In the midst of a brutal Chicago winter, Mark must battle the elements, the ghosts of his past, and a killer intent on making sure Rachel is found guilty.
I recently got a chance to talk to Lynne about DANTE’S DILEMMA.
DANTE’S DILEMMA is the third in your Mark Angelotti series. Are the books easier to write as you delve further into the series? Or are their limits to writing a series book?
A little bit of both. The character is certainly easier. At this point, I have a fairly good idea of how my protagonist will think and act, and I’ve sketched out a character arc for Mark that spans several installments into the future. The hard part for me is plotting the mystery and overcoming my perfectionist tendencies. I can’t move ahead in a manuscript until I’m 80 percent satisfied with what I’ve written so far, so I sometimes get stuck polishing scene after scene when I should just be getting the damn thing done! The challenge of writing a series is including enough backstory so that a reader can understand where the character has been, and at the same time not give everything away. Each book should stand on its own, but ideally entice someone new to the series to go back and read earlier books.
By Eyre Price
Douglas Corleone followed an unusual route to becoming an author of legal thrillers. Diving deeply into the wave of courtroom mysteries flooding bookstore shelves in the nineties, he was inspired to become a lawyer. Fiction morphed into fact and Corleone practiced criminal law until he edged toward burnout and took up the pen himself.
Now, with GONE COLD, his seventh novel between 2010 and 2015 and third in the Simon Fisk series, Corleone finds himself toiling just has hard but having much more fun, and doing it on the shores of Hawaii instead of pounding the heated pavement of New York City on his way to court. Along the way, he garnered the Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award and was a finalist for a Shamus.
With the latest Fisk just released, the previous one now out in paperback, and the first of his Paul Janson stories based on the Robert Ludlum character on the shelves, Corleone has his hands full. Fortunately, he found the time to sit down for a few minutes with The Big Thrill.
You started your career as a criminal defense lawyer in New York City. What inspired you to make the transition to fiction and what was that process like?
Ironically, the legal thrillers of the 1990s—especially those of John Grisham, Steve Martini, and John Lescroart—inspired me to become a criminal defense attorney in the first place. Once I began practicing law, I returned to those novels and realized they’re fairly silent on the day-to-day lives of criminal lawyers—and for good reason. Practicing criminal law (in New York City at least) generally entails a lot of crowded subway rides between boroughs and sitting around courtrooms for hours while you wait for your cases to be called. The other difference is that the clients in those novels are innocent, which isn’t usually the case in real life. The only novel that really comes close to what it’s like to practice criminal law in a big city is The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly. I think Michael Connelly’s being a non-lawyer was an asset to him in crafting Mickey Haller—he not only captured the routine but the weariness most of us feel after a few years (something lawyers who write fiction might not want their protagonist to admit in a novel). By the time I quit the law, I was already tired of practicing, so the process was liberating. Writing Kevin Corvelli was a blast. It was later—when I had to balance writing with the business of writing—when I started to miss the handshakes and retainer agreements, even the prison visits.
When Richard L. Mabry retired from medicine in 2002, he had spent twenty-six years in private practice and another ten as a professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He had either authored or edited eight textbooks and more than a hundred professional papers, but he had no plans to continue writing. Instead, he intended to have a quiet life reading and playing golf. Of that plan, Mabry says, “God laughed and said, ‘Not so fast.’” The Almighty, it seemed, had other plans for Mabry’s retirement.
Shortly before his scheduled retirement, Mabry’s world was rocked by the death of his first wife. His journaling, done as part of the healing process, was the basis for The Tender Scar: Life After the Death of a Spouse, a nonfiction book that, ten years later, is still in print and serving as a ministry to others.
For Mabry, his faith is the cornerstone of both his life and his writing. His medical suspense novels have a strong spiritual component, and faith plays an important role in his most recent novel, MIRACLE DRUG. Asked how he balances the roles of science and faith in his plots, Mabry says, “I’ve been a person of faith since long before I began the practice of medicine. Thus, it’s natural that it would be a part of every book I write, even though in most there’s no overt Gospel message.”
In MIRACLE DRUG, Dr. Josh Pearson’s mentor is killed, leaving instructions for Josh to take his place as personal physician to the President of the United States. What appears to be the greatest honor of Josh’s career turns into his darkest nightmare when the President and the woman Josh loves are both dosed with a bacterial infection that is resistant to all known antibiotics and is one-hundred-percent fatal.
The book is a page-turner, which I ended up reading in a single sitting, so I was pleased when Dr. Mabry agreed to answer some questions about his writing life and MIRACLE DRUG.