By George Ebey
Author Gigi Pandian’s latest book, QUICKSAND, gives us the third entry in her Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt series.
This time around, Jaya Jones finds herself on the wrong side of the law during an art heist at the Louvre. To redeem herself, she follows clues from an illuminated manuscript that lead from the cobblestone streets of Paris to the quicksand-surrounded fortress of Mont Saint-Michel. With the help of some interesting characters, Jaya delves into France’s colonial past in India to clear her name and catch a killer.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Gigi to learn more about her and QUICKSAND.
Can you tell us a little about QUICKSAND and the series it’s set in?
QUICKSAND is the third book in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series, but it stands alone, too. In each book in the series, history professor Jaya Jones solves a present-day crime linked to a historic treasure that has to do with India’s colonial history.
In QUICKSAND, Jaya has the best intentions but finds herself part of an art heist at the Louvre. She discovers that the theft is part of a much bigger treasure hunt that has led to murder, and to set things right she enlists the help of an ex-thief and a ninety-year-old French stage magician. The hunt takes them from Paris to Les Machines de l’île in Nantes to the ancient fortress of Mont Saint-Michel, where Jaya discovers hidden secrets of France’s colonial past. But a dangerous thief will do anything to silence Jaya before she can reveal what she knows.
The previous two books—Artifact and Pirate Vishnu—have been treasure hunts that led from San Francisco to the Highlands of Scotland and the southern tip of India, respectively.
By Basil Sands
Does crime pay? Rick Mofina might say yes. He has been making his living writing about it since he sold his first short story to a magazine at age fifteen. During college he walked in Hemingway’s shoes as a rookie reporter for The Toronto Star launching a career in journalism that spanned three decades. He’s been face-to-face with murderers on death row, covered a horrific serial killing case in California, an armored car heist in Las Vegas, and the murders of police officers in Alberta. He’s flown over Los Angeles with the LAPD, and gone on patrol with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police near the Arctic. And he’s reported from the Caribbean, Africa, and Middle East. All of it helped prepare him for his work as a successful crime novelist.
Today we’re here to talk about his latest novel FULL TILT.
Rick, please tell us a little about FULL TILT.
FULL TILT is the second book in the new series featuring Kate Page, a reporter with a global wire service based in New York City. Kate was orphaned as a child and had a hard life. But she’s a fighter and a survivor. We find Kate, now a single mom, working in Manhattan, when she receives a heart-stopping call from a detective. A guardian angel charm found at a horrific crime scene fits the description of the one belonging to Kate’s sister, Vanessa, who washed away after a car crash in a mountain river twenty years ago. Kate has spent much of her life searching for the truth behind her little sister’s disappearance. Now Kate is faced with one last chance to either mourn Vanessa’s death—or save her life.
How do you come up with the story lines you write?
I like to start with a “seed of ‘reality,’” to help shape a story. A larger part of my news reporting experience involved working the police beat. It put me face-to-face with the best and worst of the human condition. I was expected to write about it, to make some sense out of horrible incidents that made no sense at all, then present it in a story to readers on deadline. Sadly, the true horrors that happen everywhere every day seldom end well, if they end at all. This is something I bear in mind in writing crime fiction. I try to apply the fundamental code of most crime fiction, which is the restoration of order to chaos. And I try to start with a ‘grain of truth,’ to build on a solid foundation for a compelling story, from there I’ll apply the “what if,” this happened element, and off we go.
When Hallie Ephron was ten years old, living in Beverly Hills with her screenwriter parents and three sisters, an extraordinary event in her own community seized her imagination: Cheryl Crane, the 14-year-old daughter of Lana Turner, stabbed her mother’s lover, Johnny Stompanato, to death.
Young Hallie devoured all the information she could find about the case—“My parents never censored our reading; they just encouraged us to read and ask questions,” she said in a recent interview—and decades later it became the starting point for NIGHT NIGHT, SLEEP TIGHT, a thriller coming out this month.
NIGHT NIGHT, set in 1986, isn’t a retelling of the Cheryl Crane story, but a similar murder figures prominently in the background of main character Deirdre Unger. When Deirdre arrives in Beverly Hills to help her father sell his dilapidated house, she finds him dead in the swimming pool. At first, his death appears accidental, but soon the police are calling it murder—and Deirdre is a prime suspect. In search of the truth, Deirdre follows threads that lead back to 1958, when her best friend, Joelen Nichol, confessed to killing her movie-star mother’s boyfriend. Deirdre was in the Nichol house that night, and suffered a personal tragedy in the aftermath of the murder. The more she digs into the past, the more she suspects those distant events are related to her screenwriter father’s death.
Library Journal called NIGHT NIGHT an “entertainingly suspenseful read with its mix of movie stars, scandal, gossip, and mystery.” Booklist praised the author’s vivid recreation of old Hollywood in a “fast-moving tale, with building suspense and the price of fame at its center,” and Kirkus Reviews described it as a “page-turner with juicy Hollywood insider details.”
Hallie emphasizes that she didn’t know Lana Turner and her daughter, yet the story had a strong effect on her. “Of course, I wasn’t mature enough to fully grasp it, [but] I was in awe of Cheryl Crane. I thought she was courageous, heroic even, to take on a bully to protect her mother. And then, of course, she paid the price. Imagine, after that every person she met would know the story and what she’d done. She sacrificed her privacy and anonymity, precious commodities even in Hollywood where fame is so highly prized.”
The Hollywood era in which Hallie set the novel is one she knew well. “I grew up there in the 50s and 60s and went back from time to time. I saw the impact of the collapse of the studio system—my parents were screenwriters at 20th Century Fox and overnight they were out of work. By the 80s most of the studio had been bulldozed and turned into Century City. So it’s an interesting place and time period to set a story.”
In David Putnam’s new novel, THE REPLACEMENTS, ex-cop Bruno Johnson is drawn into a deadly, twisted game to save two kidnapped girls. They’re in the hands of Jonas Mabry, a man Johnson once saved from death—as a child, Mabry was shot by his own mother. Now, seeking a warped form of revenge, he’s demanding a $1 million-dollar ransom for the girls.
Following the events of 2014’s The Disposables, Johnson is living in Costa Rica when the book opens. He’s hiding out from the FBI, tending bar and supporting eight children he illegally rescued from abusive homes. Johnson agrees to help a former colleague and risk arrest back in L.A. to help track Jonas down.
To write THE REPLACEMENTS Putnam, who’s now retired, draws on his former law enforcement experience. During his career, he worked primarily in California on teams for patrol, investigations, S.W.A.T., narcotics, violent crimes, criminal intelligence, internal affairs, detective bureau, and as child protective services coordinator. His final assignment in law enforcement was as a Special Agent working in Hawaii.
He took some time out from growing organic California avocados and spending time with his wife, Mary and their two dogs, to answer a few questions about THE REPLACEMENTS, and writing contemporary thrillers.
Your hero from The Disposables returns in THE REPLACEMENTS to work on a case for which he has a strong personal tie. How important do you believe a link between the hero and his goal is in a contemporary thriller?
I believe the goal is only the vehicle or framework to display character. What is more important is how the character evolves within that framework. In order for the story or novel to be a success, the character has to be three-dimensional. I believe this is accomplished through voice: consistent, strong, emotional, unique and with nuance of point of view. A long-time mentor of mine, Jerry Hannah, has always drilled into me that: story is not story; character is story.
By Ian Walkley
Glen Erik Hamilton’s debut thriller introduces readers to an exciting new protagonist, Van Shaw, whose military and thieving skills inevitably find him immersed in the high-stakes and violent underworld of ruthless criminals where right and wrong aren’t defined by the law.
In PAST CRIMES, former thief and now Army Ranger Shaw receives a call from his criminal grandfather Dono to come home to Seattle. But when he arrives at Dono’s house in the early hours of the morning, Van discovers the old burglar bleeding out on the floor from a gunshot to the head. With a lifetime of tough history between him and the old man, the battle-tested Ranger knows the cops will like him for the crime. Diving back into the illicit world he’d sworn to leave behind, Van reconnects with the ruthless felons who knew Dono best. Armed with his military and criminal skills, he follows a dangerous trail of clues that leads him deeper into Dono’s life—and closer to uncovering what drove his grandfather to reach out after years of silence.
The book already is creating buzz: Lee Child described it as “a home run off the first pitch,” and J.A. Jance called Hamilton “a gifted writer with a sure hand.”
Glen, first tell us what made you come to write this type of story.
The story evolved by blending my favourite aspects of mystery literature. I’m never quite sure what to call it. It’s definitely intended to be thrilling, with a lot of action scenes. It has many characters who are crooks tangled up in their various schemes, but it’s not strictly a crime thriller. And there’s a fair amount of good old-fashioned whodunit in the recipe. Add a dash of memoir, since we see Van at different ages as he’s growing up with Dono. A bouillabaisse thriller, perhaps? Mystery smorgasbord?
Speaking of Dono, tell us a little about the relationship between Van Shaw and his grandfather—how is that background an important element in the changing nature of Van Shaw?
Van came to live with his grandfather Dono—a career criminal—at six years old after his mother died. Dono and Van’s mother had a falling out, and Dono may be trying to make that right by giving his grandson a home. But of course, Dono’s approach to raising a child is a little outside the norm. Van grew up with a very skewed sense of right and wrong. As an adult and as a soldier, he’s worked hard to reset that moral compass.
By John Raab
Stephen Edger started out like thousands of other authors today and self-published his first novel, Integration in 2010. By 2014, he’d not only had several other successful titles on Amazon, but was picked up by Endeavour Press, which published Crosshairs, the first in his The Cadre series.
The Big Thrill recently had a chance to catch up with Stephen to talk about his second book in the series, COMPLICIT .
COMPLICIT is your latest book, can you give us the inside scoop, not on the back cover?
COMPLICIT is the second book in The Cadre series and follows on from where the first book (Crosshairs) finished. It is now November 2014. The current Prime Minister has been executed by ‘The Cadre’ a secret organization fronted by the heads of industry (media, finance, security services etc.). They have plans to start a new war on the Middle East, with a view to driving forward a New World Order, with Britain at the head of the table. The trouble is: the man hired to kill the PM, Dylan Thomas, is a petty thief who has just ripped off a loan shark, drug dealer and the Russian Mafia, and is on the run. The group identify Dylan’s oldest friend, Connor Price, as their best chance of silencing Dylan before he reveals their plans.
It’s a political thriller with a ‘man against the world’ plot.
There is a debate between Character Driven vs. Plot Driven, which side do you stand on?
Definitely plot driven. I always start with a plot and build characters around it. You can write the strongest character, but if the plot is weak, you will upset your readers.
You have published over a dozen books, when someone meets you for the first time where do you suggest they start?
Of the eight novels I’ve published, three of them are part of a trilogy (Integration, Redemption and Shadow Line), three of them are standalone stories (Remorse, Snatched and Trespass) and the final two (Crosshairs and Complicit) will be part of a series when I publish the final part (Double Cross) in June this year. Despite this, the time periods for each story mirror the order they were published in. Although the main characters can vary from book to book, a number of the background characters (e.g. police officers) appear in several of the stories and I make references to previous stories in later books. I guess what I’m trying to say is people should start with my first book Integration and work forwards.
By Amy Lignor
Louise Voss is a name that continues to grow on the literary scene. As both a solo artist, and co-author with Mark Edwards, Voss has contributed to some of the most exciting, intriguing novels in the suspense category. She’s also an author who has proven that starting out in self-publishing doesn’t necessarily hinder a career. In some cases, such as hers, it can pole-vault an unknown writer to the top of the charts.
Voss was gracious enough to talk to The Big Thrill this month about her endeavors, and the excitement she has for her readers, social media, and being in the “thriller” realm.
Social media is being given a great deal of praise when it comes to helping a writer go from “anonymous” to “well-known name.” Can you tell us a little about the your fantastic Facebook page?
Fortunately, Mark and I both really enjoy social media. I think you have to, in order to do it successfully. We love engaging our readers through our joint Facebook page, and it’s been extremely helpful to us in various ways creatively, too: we’ve run competitions to name characters and, in our last novel, even a dog. Engaging with our readers has also yielded various experts when we’ve needed them—particularly with regards to legal and police procedural matters. It’s also so enormously heartening to receive supportive emails.
We don’t own a “massive” following on Facebook and Twitter, but it’s a very loyal and engaged one, which is lovely, and it slowly builds up all the time. I can’t imagine being able to reply to everyone personally if the number of followers rises into the tens of thousands over time. Still, it would be a quality problem to have.
By Dawn Ius
If you knew Philip Donlay in high school, you probably caught him just “flying around.” At seventeen, he was the only student in the school with his pilot’s license—a rare accomplishment for most, but for Donlay a somewhat natural progression in his life’s navigation.
Growing up in Wichita, Kansas, the Air Capital of the World, coupled with the fact that Donlay’s grandfather was a pilot, Donlay’s love of flying was essentially part of his DNA, as natural as breathing air.
Over the years, he’s been a flight instructor, flown a private jet for a Saudi prince, and for twenty-eight years, flew a corporate jet for a Fortune 500 company, logging almost 14,000 hours of flight time. Even still, he remembers his first solo flight with crystal clarity.
“I was a teenager flying a Cessna, realizing a lifelong dream, and it changed me,” he says. “The sense of freedom and accomplishment was, and still is, extraordinary.”
Although he’s officially retired from flying, Donlay now merges his love of planes with another great passion—writing. AFTERSHOCK is his fifth novel centered on Donovan Nash, a pilot with an unwavering belief system and a compassion for people that inspires him to be a hero, without the trumped up title.
“My vision of him is private, but what I want people to think about when they read my books is that brave people don’t all have super powers, or Ninja skills,” Donlay says.
Though some might suggest that Nash’s demonstrated piloting skills put him somewhere in the super hero range. In AFTERSHOCK, Nash is challenged to perform a dangerous rescue amid earthquakes, volcanic ash and lava from the eruption, a scenario inspired by one of Donlay’s more thrilling flights.
By E. M. Powell
I’m going to start by making a confession. When I got the e-mail asking if I’d be interested in covering Nicole Maggi’s new release, THE FORGETTING, my initial reaction was, “Well, it’s probably not for me.” You see, THE FORGETTING is a Young Adult (YA) thriller and the last time I could be described as a YA was in another century. But then I read the description, and saw that it’s about a teenager who wakes up after a heart transplant—and finds that she’s inherited the memories of her donor. I’ll admit: I’m a sucker for medical thrillers. I was in. Nicole very kindly provided me with a copy of the book, and with a bit of time to spare, I thought I’d get started on a few chapters. I emerged hours later with my afternoon’s other tasks still to do. It is a gripping, original read, and there was so much I wanted to ask Nicole.
Nicole is originally from upstate New York and has worked as an actor. But sunny Los Angeles is where she’s made her home with her husband and daughter, and two oddball cats. Nicole is also the author of The Twin Willows Trilogy.
It’s an intriguing hook to have your heroine, Georgie Kendrick, as the teenage recipient of a transplanted heart. So much of her experience reads as genuine. Have you had experience of this in your life? What research did you do around this topic?
I have not had an organ transplant myself, so I wanted to be sure that I was accurate with the research. I reached out to a couple of transplant recipients but wasn’t able to connect with any, so I relied on information from some other sources. I talked to my own cardiologist and I connected with LifeSource, which is an organization that helps educate the public about organ donation and offers support to donors and recipients and their families. I read a lot about real-life recipients who have gone on to do some incredible things, which I managed to work into the book. And I talked to my dad, who had quadruple bypass surgery over a decade ago, about the physical effects and recovery from open-heart surgery.
Anne Rule crowned Kathryn Casey one of the best true crime writers today, and called DELIVER US, “A true crime classic! A chilling study where both the victim and the stalker are bizarre and inscrutable.”
In DELIVER US, Casey delivers a riveting account of the brutal murders of eighteen young women in the I-45/Texas Killing Fields. Over a three-decade span, more than twenty women—many teenagers—died mysteriously in the small towns bordering Interstate 45, a fifty-mile stretch of highway running from Houston to Galveston. The victims were strangled, shot, or savagely beaten. Six met their demise in pairs. They had one thing in common: being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In this harrowing true crime exposition, award-winning journalist Kathryn Casey tracks these tragic cases, investigates the evidence, interviews the suspects, and pulls back the cloak of secrecy in search of elusive answers.
Kathryn Casey is an award-winning journalist and an author, who has written for Rolling Stone, TV Guide, Reader’s Digest, Texas Monthly and many other publications. She’s the author of seven previous true crime books and the creator of the highly acclaimed Sarah Armstrong Mystery series. Casey has appeared on Oprah, Oprah Winfrey’s Oxygen, Biography, Nancy Grace, E!, truTV, Investigation Discovery, the Travel Channel, and A&E. Casey is based in Houston, where she lives with her husband and their dog, Nelson.
STIFF PENALTY, released in February by Kensington, is the sixth book in the Mattie Winston mystery series by Annelise Ryan (the pen name of author Beth Amos). Like so many writers, as a child Amos usually had her nose in a book and dreamed early on of being a writer. Like perhaps not so many, she wrote hundreds of short stories and has saved all her rejection letters to prove it. Doubting her ability to support herself through writing, Amos decided to pursue a career in nursing. She never stopped writing, however, and at the age of forty sold her first full-length novel, Cold White Fury, to Harper Collins. Amos was off to the races. In addition to her first novels with Harper Collins and the Mattie Winston series, she writes the Mack Dalton mystery series under the pen name Allyson K. Abbott.
STIFF PENALTY is edgy, smart, and crisp, the characters distinctive, sometimes quirky, but always believable. The tension and suspense so expertly crafted by Amos are enhanced by a good dose of wry humor, and her medical knowledge lends rich credibility to her story. When you visit her website, be sure to take a look at her workshops on building characters, suspense, and other valuable writing tips. She’s got a lot of good advice!
Amos took time to talk with The Big Thrill about the writing life.
Medical Examiner Mattie Winston, your central character, is six foot tall, insecure about her looks, politically incorrect, and has a quite active libido—somewhat different from most female protagonists. What was the inspiration for her character and is there a message you want your readers to grasp?
Despite her differences, I think Mattie is in many ways the universal woman. We all have insecurities about how we look, and we all have naughty, politically incorrect, or even mean-spirited thoughts at times. Mattie is tall because I’m tall and the difficulties and insecurities that go along with that are something I know. Mattie often says the things I wish I could say. And I think Mattie’s desire to be loved and appreciated is a universal need that most women can relate to. Mattie has insecurities, but she’s a strong, independent woman who learns to trust her instincts, live with her shortcomings, and make the most of her strengths. She has a strong sense of who she is and what she wants, and she’s not afraid to go after it. Okay, maybe she’s a little afraid, but her fear empowers her in many ways. If there is a message of any sort in there, it’s that we’re all okay the way we are, and we shouldn’t be afraid to reach for those goals and desires.
By Dawn Ius
Leslie Budewitz started writing at the age of four—on her father’s desk. Literally. She would scrawl on top of the wood with her crayons, pencils, or whatever she could find.
Thankfully, her parents were understanding, and to this day, Budewitz’s mother, now eighty-nine, buys her daughter notebooks and pens for Christmas, a loving reminder about the concept of paper.
Harriet the Spy inspired Budewitz to use the notebooks, a habit still, but she concedes they’re more of a journal than a secret spy record.
In them, she jots ideas for recipes and stories—both of which are passions she’s combined to write cozy mysteries, such as her latest, ASSAULT AND PEPPER, the first in her new Spice Shop series.
“One challenge of starting a new series—and a big part of the fun—is populating the story and getting to know the characters,” she says.
In ASSAULT AND PEPPER, Pepper Reece is the proud new owner of the Spice Shop in Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market, and by Budewitz’s own description, someone who “totally does not mind being the poster child for the cliché, life begins at forty.”
“After thirteen years of marriage, she discovered her police officer husband and the meter maid in a back booth in a posh new restaurant practically plugging each other’s meters,” she says. “She moved out and bought an unfinished loft in a century-old downtown warehouse. Then the law firm where she’d worked imploded in scandal and took her job with it. So naturally, she tossed her office wardrobe, cut her hair, and bought the Spice Shop, a forty-year-old institution that had lost its verve.”
By John Clement
LADLE TO THE GRAVE is the fourth installment in the Soup Lover’s Mystery Series by Connie Archer. The books follow the story of Lucky Jamieson, whose life was turned upside down when her parents met an untimely death in a car crash on an icy road. Lucky has returned home to the cozy, idyllic town of Snowflake, Vermont, to run her family’s popular soup shop, “By The Spoonful,” but (as is wont to happen in these cozy, idyllic towns) murder is afoot…
The latest book opens in the woods. It’s almost May, and some of Snowflake’s local ladies have organized a celebration to welcome the arrival of spring. But it doesn’t quite go as planned, does it?
Certainly not! It’s a murder mystery after all. I had a lot of fun imagining this scene and it actually turned out a bit more humorous, I think, than I had originally anticipated (that’s if you ignore the death throes of the local woman.)
New England has a rich and fascinating history, but also a dark one. At the time I was working on LADLE TO THE GRAVE, I was reading a very well-researched non-fiction work on the Salem Witchcraft trials of 1691-1692. This book was far more chilling than any horror story I could have imagined. So I think a bit of that concurrent reading inspired the pagan scene. Now, I’m not equating paganism with horror, not at all; however, that’s not how the early Puritan colonists would have viewed it.
Growing up in New England I always felt the shadow of its Puritanical past, its history of witchcraft trials, even its Indian massacres. And I’m reminded of Shirley Jackson, a transplanted Californian, who said she was inspired to write The Lottery and other horror stories after her years of living there. I understood what she meant about the “hauntedness” of that part of the country. That’s one of the reasons it’s been so enjoyable for me to write a series set in Vermont and to juxtapose the comfort and safety of the village against the sense of danger lurking in the woods.
When their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, Dee, her boyfriend Luke, and Luke’s brother, Mike, seek help in the nearby town of Purity Springs. But as they walk the vacant streets, the teens make some disturbing discoveries. The seemingly deserted homes each contain a sinister book with violent instructions on disciplining children. The graveyard is full of unmarked crosses. Worst of all, there’s no way to contact the outside world.
When Purity Springs’ inhabitants suddenly appear, the trio find themselves at the mercy of Elijah Hawkins, the town’s charismatic leader who has his own plans for the three of them. Their only hope for survival is Elijah’s enigmatic son, Joseph. And his game may be just as deadly as his father’s . . .
Welcome Trish and Lindsay, and thanks for spending some time with us.
Brian: CREED sounds like a very grisly story. Did you pull any punches because of the intended young adult readership?
Lindsay: Absolutely not. While I think an awareness of the target audience you’re writing for is important, we don’t like holding back for the sake of being safe. There’s a line between content that is valuable and content that is gratuitous, and we truly believe we’ve stayed on the right side of that line with CREED.
Ellie: What kind of ambitions do you have for your career?
Trish: To give the hundreds of characters circling my mind a fictional world to call their own. To get better with each chapter, with each manuscript I write. To find the courage to dig deeper and write harder than I ever dreamed possible. Essentially, I want to continue to grow as an author.
Lindsay: I love writing, so my ambitions are pretty simple: to keep doing it. Ten years from now if I’m still fortunate enough to be writing YA lit, I’ll be one grateful author.
By Karen Harper
If anyone proves that ITW is international, it is Cecilia Ekback. Her parents are from Lapland; she was born in Sweden, lives in Canada, and has traveled all over the world in her earlier career. The setting and plot of WOLF WINTER are as unique as the author.
What is your novel about?
WOLF WINTER is set in Swedish Lapland, in 1717, on Blackåsen Mountain where a group of disparate settlers struggle to forge new lives. There are six settlements on the mountain. A day’s journey away is an empty town that only comes alive twice a year when the Church summons her people. Maija, her husband, and two daughters arrive in Blackåsen from Finland to escape past traumas and start over.
Not long after their arrival, the daughters stumble across the mutilated body of a fellow settler, Eriksson. The locals are quick to dismiss the culprit as a wolf or bear. But Maija is unconvinced and compelled by the ghosts of her own past. She just cannot let it rest.
As the seasons change and a harsh winter descends on the settlers, Maija finds herself on a dangerous quest to unearth the secrets of her neighbors and of the Church. But it’s a dangerous pursuit for everyone who has come to Blackåsen, because each of them has come there to escape someone or something.
The setting for WOLF WINTER seems unique and intriguing. Did you start with setting and grow plot and character from there, or did you conceive of this novel in another way?
“Wolf winter,” or Vargavinter, as the word is in Swedish, is a really cold, long, and bitter winter. But it is also how we talk about the worst period in a human being’s life: brought on by loss, or illness. The kind of period that reminds us we are mortal and, ultimately, always alone. My father was my best friend. The period preceding and just after his death was my wolf winter, and the book was written as a riposte to that event. Thus, I started with the idea of characters passing through their wolf winters.
I’d like to open a door to another history, an alternate history, where wonderful heroes we know and love go on even more fabulous adventures than they did in their real lives. Standing right on the other side of that door is Francine Mathews, whose WWII spy thriller TOO BAD TO DIE will be released this month.
It’s a pleasure to interview Mathews, a writer right at the other spectrum of political fiction than me: she writes historical thrillers and I write “right-the-hell-now” ones; she has written more than twenty books and I’ve written one. It’s a match made in heaven and I was a little giddy when I received the opportunity to conduct the interview.
For those of you who don’t know Mathews, she studied history at Princeton and Stanford, and then worked as an intelligence analyst at the CIA for four years. She’s written twenty-five novels under two names—the other being Stephanie Barron—most of them historical fiction dealing with real-life historical figures.
To start, would you tell our readers about TOO BAD TO DIE? What inspired the novel?
You know, when I wrote JACK 1939 a few years ago—about Jack Kennedy’s six-month odyssey through Europe when he was twenty-two and Hitler was embarking on his invasion of Poland—I kept running into Ian Fleming. He knew everybody Jack knew, on two different continents, and he had a finger in every one of World War II’s spies as assistant to the Chief of Naval Intelligence. I like to write about real people in unreal situations. When I realized Fleming had actually planned the Tehran Conference, which Hitler intended to explode by assassinating Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt—I thought, okay, that’s the next book!
Every so often you come across an author and you think, how the heck does s/he do it? The answer is invariably talent and hard work. Very hard work. Wendi Corsi Staub adds to that a game plan devised many years ago. We’ll call it vision married to determination.
A New York Times and USA Today bestselling suspense writer, Wendy is the award-winning author of more than seventy novels. Yes, seventy! I didn’t ask her how old she is but the answer is not old enough for that tally unless she really burns her days. Which she does, as she describes in the discussion below.
She has published in various genres including suspense, horror, historical and contemporary romance, television and movie tie-in, and biography. She also co-authored a mystery series with the late New York City mayor Ed Koch and has ghost-written for a number of bestselling authors and celebrities.
She has written numerous women’s fiction novels under the name Wendy Markham. THE BLACK WIDOW is her third stand-alone that explores the fascinating, topical and creepy world of predators lurking on the Internet and our vulnerability to them.
Playing on the Internet from the safety of our homes gives us a false sense of security that can make us take risks we never would outside, in the real world.
“In the moonlight, shovelfuls of earth fall on a wooden crate at the bottom of a deep pit. Soon the hole will be filled and covered over with leaves, leaving no trace of the victim below, waking to the horror of being buried alive…”
By Dawn Ius
Jack DeWitt knows hot rods and custom cars.
From the likes of Duane Steck’s homebuilt Moonglow ’54 Chevy to Bob McCoy’s Raked and Flamed ’40 Ford Sedan, and almost everything in-between, DeWitt has researched cars, driven them, customized them, and written about them in various articles, blog posts, books, and even, poems.
His latest published work, DELICIOUS LITTLE TRAITOR, featuring Varian Pike, has little to do with hot rods, but it is certainly written with the same meticulous research for which DeWitt is known.
DELICIOUS LITTLE TRAITOR begins quietly in December 1953 when rugged WWII vet and now private investigator Varian Pike looks into the disappearance of a missing young girl and lands in the middle of a war between federal agencies. Along the way he finds that almost everyone has a deep secret and a grudge to settle—especially the girl.
Pike isn’t much of a talker but “he is very good at what he does, not because he has any special mental or physical abilities, but because he just hangs in there,” DeWitt says. “He has tried hard to simplify his life: Do the job. Be loyal to those who deserve loyalty. Stay in the shadows. Hide the scars. He loves jazz and movies. In fact, his worldview is almost entirely taken from Hollywood.”
An intriguing perspective, given that the book is set in the fifties, a period in time that represents a distinct dividing line in culture. As DeWitt notes, the fifties hardly age.
“James Dean, Elvis, and Marilyn Monroe are still used to sell stuff without any sense they are historical figures,” he says. “The clothes I wore in the fifties, I still wear today and I don’t look weird—khakis, boat shoes, crew neck sweaters, tweed sports jackets. Johnny’s motorcycle jacket from The Wild One is still in fashion. People are modifying fifties cars or building earlier models as fifties hotrods. This is an odd and fascinating phenomenon.”
THE LYNCHPIN is the second novel in Jeffrey B. Burton’s Agent Drew Cady mystery series. Its predecessor, The Chessman, came out in 2012 to some excellent reviews, including a starred one in Publishers Weekly, and went on to sell to publishers in Germany, The Netherlands, Turkey, and the U.K.
The novel begins with Agent Cady having turned his life around. He’s waved goodbye to Washington, D.C., and ten-plus years of chasing violent felons for the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. He’s moved to Minnesota to be with his fiancée, and now works on the FBI’s Medicare Fraud Strike Force. Life could not be better.
However, Cady’s tranquility is short-lived. He is ordered to help the local authorities investigate the murder of a young woman whose body was pulled from Lake Superior, then his workload doubles when his former boss kills a fellow agent and stands accused of being a spy. Cady’s plans of living the dream dissolve into a nest of killings and foreign intrigue.
Jeffery Burton sat down for an interview with THE BIG THRILL to discuss the second entry into his series.
What does THE LYNCHPIN refer to?
The term refers to a high-level traitor—a mole that’s burrowed his or her way deep into one of our intelligence services and runs numerous cells from that perch. I grew up during the Cold War and, even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, figured it might be a bit of wishful thinking to assume that those involved in the spy trade handed the ball back to the referee, shook hands, and went their merry way.
By Tim O’Mara
I was in the Albany auditorium during the 2013 Barry Awards ceremony when Michael Sears and I both did not hear our names called for Best First Novel. About an hour later as we walked to a local bar to get some help with our mutual disappointment, he took the opportunity to call his wife.
“Hey, Hon” I remember him saying, “this not winning thing is getting a lot easier.” He laughed at something she said, but I could tell he’d rather be making the phone call for another reason. Michael’s first book, Black Fridays, had garnered five nominations and the Barry was the fourth one he “did not win.”
The following evening he took home the Shamus Award for “Best First P.I. Novel.” (“I didn’t even know I had written a P.I. Novel.”) He was so excited he called his mother and told her about the victory.
“Wonderful,” she said. “You won the Irish award.”
“I tried to spell the name for her,” he told me sometime later, “but she wouldn’t hear of it. She spelled it for me. To her it was the Seamus Award. And I had a second cousin Seamus so…it’s now known as ‘The Irish Award.’”
Speaking of cousins, Michael has always been close to his, and this was one of the reasons he decided to give his hero, ex–Wall Street wizard and ex-con Jason Stafford, a son who has autism. Two of his cousins have children “on the spectrum,” and Michael feels a great responsibility to get it right. (As a special education teacher, I can tell you he does just that.)
“Having a kid with autism,” he explained, “is an everyday reminder of never being able to do enough for your kids. It’s constant guilt. I’ve always been interested in writing about fathers and sons, and I felt very confident I could do this particular type of relationship. I read Temple Grandin’s book on how to parent an autistic child and I remember thinking, ‘This is true for any parent.’ The relationship between a parent and their child with autism is just so much more.”
Dani Pettrey is a die-hard thrill seeker: heli-skiing, cave diving, storm kayaking—if it’s extreme, she’s there. Or so her website would have you believe.
In reality, these are just some of the wild adventures embarked on by the characters in Pettrey’s bestselling Alaskan Courage novels—a series about five siblings who own and run an Alaskan adventure outfitting company.
“The McKennas were all raised to live life to the fullest and at the same time to always help those in need,” she says. “They are a loving family full of distinct personalities, but since their folks died years ago, they are all each other has.”
For the past six years, the McKennas have become an integral part of Pettrey’s family as well, which is one of the reasons she has mixed emotions after completing the fifth—and final—installment in the series, SABOTAGED, due out this month.
The Alaskan Courage saga ends with the story of family troublemaker and professional snowboarder, Reef McKenna, who is paired up with childhood friend Kirra Jacobs to track a musher who has gone missing during the famous Iditarod race. Together they—along with the entire McKenna family—must stop a shadowy villain set to unleash one of the largest disasters Alaska has ever seen.
“I hope readers experience a great adventure full of romance, suspense and danger,” Pettrey says. “I also hope they find SABOTAGED a satisfying ending to the Alaskan Courage series.”
While Pettrey has moved on to writing the first novel in a new four-book romantic suspense series and is enjoying getting to know these fresh characters, she admits she teared up a little when she finished writing SABOTAGED.
Caroline Cashion’s idyllic upbringing has always been a source of comfort to her, the result of which is a close adult relationship with her parents and siblings. She leads a quiet, academically rich life, spending her days teaching nineteenth-century French literature, and nights with her nose buried in a book. So when her chronic wrist pain leads her to have an MRI, she is stunned to discover that she has been carrying around a bullet in her neck.
One discovery leads to another. As her past unravels, she learns that the first three years of her life are a mystery—her parents are not really her parents, but adopted her and kept it from her all her life. Readers accompany Caroline on her harrowing ride to discover who murdered her birth parents, and whether the evidence she never knew she had, will make her the killer’s next target.
You have extensive experience traveling the world and reporting on very serious matters. Did you find it hard to sequester yourself and spend hours on end in the world of fiction?
It’s just a completely different job. I don’t mean making up a story from scratch; you’d be surprised how much creativity a news reporter exercises every day. Sure, you’re constrained by the facts, but you decide how to tell your story: where to begin it, and which voices to include, and what details to deploy to bring your facts to life. Send two journalists to cover the same dull Senate hearing, and you’ll end up with two very different reports, and one may be vastly more informative and entertaining.
For me, a key difference between daily news and writing fiction is one of scale. A typical news reports for the BBC or NPR runs about four minutes. A typical novel runs about four hundred pages. It’s a fascinating challenge to figure out how to sustain a reader’s interest for that long. Curling up with a novel feels like one of the last holdouts of continuous, deep attention in today’s crazy world. We all have so many demands on our time, and if a reader chooses to invest several hours in my novel, well, I want to make it worth his while.
By Jeff Ayers
Jon Wilson dives head first into the mystery/thriller genre with his latest novel, CHEAP AS BEASTS.
Like most soldiers, Declan Colette lost his fair share in the war—in his case a sailor, drowned off Iwo Jima. Since then he’s been scratching out a living as a cut-rate PI, drinking too much, and flirting with danger. Then a girl arranges to consult him, only to be murdered en route, and the cops tag Colette as their prime suspect. To save his neck he’ll need to find the real killer, a quest that pits him against a rival detective firm, a dangerously rich family, and a desperate foe whose murdering ways started back during the war.
Could this be the case he’s been waiting for? Catching the killer could make his reputation. Failing, could cost him his life.
Either way: win-win.
Jon took some quality time to chat with The Big Thrill.
What compels you to write?
An innate inability to do anything else. Life has shown me to have no aptitude for any job that requires I rise at a decent hour.
Also, I’ve always written stories and loved books—or at least since I was old enough to know what they were. I’ve actually dreamt my whole life of becoming a published author and I’m a little perturbed that it took so long. Well, better late than never I suppose.
By Ken Isaacson
Steve Cavanagh’s debut novel, THE DEFENCE, features con-artist-turned-top-defense-attorney Eddie Flynn. One advance reviewer has told us to imagine The Verdict’s Frank Galvin crossed with The Firm’s Mitch McDeere, and you’d get something like Eddie Flynn. This is enough to hook me, and I’m looking forward to the book’s release later this month.
The plotline for THE DEFENCE is taut: It’s been over a year since Eddie Flynn last set foot in a courtroom. That was for the trial that cost him his career and his family, and Eddie has vowed never to practice law again. But when Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, blackmails Eddie into defending him in a murder trial, Eddie has no choice but to comply. The Russians have kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter Amy and her life is on the line.
With all eyes on this high-profile case, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and unparalleled skills in the courtroom to defend his client and ensure Amy’s safety. Finally forced to confront the demons from his past and come to terms with the case that all but broke him, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible? And with the clock ticking, will he be able to call on his contacts from the old days in order to double cross the Russians and get his daughter back?
Cavanagh has kindly agreed to answer some questions.
Renowned wine expert Benjamin Cooker is called in to audit the books. In what he thought was a sleepy provincial town, he is stonewalled, crosses paths with his first love, and stands up to high-level state officials keen on controlling the buyout.
Meanwhile, irresistible Virgile mingles with the local population until a drowning changes the stakes.
Part of the ongoing Winemaker Detective series.
“The Winemaker Detective mystery series is a new obsession.” —Marienella
“The descriptions of cognac and cigar scents and flavors drew me in as if I, too, were a connoisseur.” —4-star librarian review
“This book and its successors will whet appetites of fans of both Iron Chef and Murder, She Wrote.” —Booklist (on Treachery in Bordeaux)
By Dan Levy
For many writers, the seemingly sage, “Write what you know” can be a double-edged sword. Some are leery to go through the emotional proctological exam it takes to discover what they know. Others are either bored with, or downright sick of, what they know: that’s why they write.
Then, there are authors like Rick Campbell.
After twenty-five years in the Navy, having served on four different nuclear-powered submarines, Campbell began . . . writing what he knows.
We had the chance to talk with the retired Navy Commander, via email, to learn about how he put what he knows on the page, the challenges of knowing too much, and how to keep reality from getting in the way of good storytelling. An edited version of that conversation is below.
You’re clearly accomplished in your military career. What drew you to writing?
I had a story rolling around inside my head for twenty years, and I thought it would make a great movie. However, I didn’t know the first thing about writing a screenplay, nor did I have any contacts in Hollywood. So I thought that if I wrote a book and the right person read it, I’d have a shot. I wrote what I loved and no one else loved it, so I decided to write what I know. And what was that? Submarines.
By Dawn Ius
Resting prominently on Lisa Gardner’s desk is her International Thriller Writers Award for best thriller, a ceramic giraffe, and an article about how to identify a psychopath.
The ITW hardware represents the much-appreciated recognition from Gardner’s peers, while the giraffe is a gift from her daughter who understands her mother’s obsessions. As for the article on how to identify a psycho (spoiler alert: They’re everywhere), the piece is just one of the many resources this self-proclaimed research junkie will use to write such twisted psychological thrillers as her latest, CRASH & BURN.
With more than twenty-two million copies of her bestselling novels sold worldwide, one might think this is starting to feel old hat for Gardner. But while she’ll concede there’s a sense of legitimacy to publishing thirty books, the journey to publication never truly gets any easier.
“Each book is its own challenge,” she says. “It feels more comfortable now, and there’s less self-doubt, but I still expect the first one-hundred pages to be a pain in the ass.”
With CRASH & BURN, Gardner faced an even larger obstacle—after turning it in to her editor, she realized about a third of the manuscript would have to be scrapped.
“I knew the book was somehow wrong and with my editors’ advice, I’d have to fix it,” she says. “But in doing so, it became a book that I am proud of. I don’t consider myself a great writer, but I’m a damn good rewriter.”
Indeed, after transitioning from romantic suspense to crime fiction, Gardner wrote and rewrote her first book in the new genre for two years. A painstakingly slow process perhaps, but with an ideal end result—The Perfect Husband was a New York Times bestseller, firmly establishing Gardner’s place in the highly-competitive thriller realm.
The publishing world is often romanticized, sometimes ridiculed, and, like any other industry, surely misunderstood by the non-initiated. The Big Thrill’s readers are professional and aspiring writers, industry professionals, and especially fans of thriller, suspense, mystery, and crime fiction. As part of our continuing series, INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT, we focus this month on demystifying the publishing experience with a profile of a young mystery-and-thriller imprint, Seventh Street Books. —Eds
In the midst of the greatest revolution publishing has witnessed since Gutenberg—with independent authors publishing their own works, Amazon flexing its muscles like—well—an Amazon, and Barnes & Noble closing stores—Prometheus Books launched a mystery-and-thriller imprint in 2012. They named it Seventh Street Books, after the street where Edgar Allen Poe lived and worked in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Guided by editorial director Dan Mayer, Seventh Street published its first two titles, The Bookseller by Mark Pryor and The Ragnarök Conspiracy by Erec Stebbins, in October of 2012. In little more than two years, Mayer has acquired and produced more than forty titles, many of which have garnered prestigious industry awards and nominations, as well as bushels of starred reviews. (See a partial list of awards and nominations at the bottom of this article.)
Beginning with Pryor’s 2012 breakout hit, The Bookseller, Seventh Street has been winning readers with compelling characters and distinctive settings. From McKinty’s magnificent Detective Sean Duffy novels, to the beloved Samuel Craddock series by Terry Shames, to outstanding standalones like The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day and The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens, the Seventh Street catalogue is filled with titles that cross categories of genre and sub-genre, featuring original detectives of every conceivable stripe: hard-boiled cops, small-town sheriffs, doctors, lawyers, journalists, and librarians. Even a Depression-Era mixed-race albino bartender. (If you haven’t read John Florio’s startlingly good Jersey Leo series—Sugar Pop Moon and Blind Moon Alley—do so immediately.)
And there are more gems: Lynne Raimondo’s gripping series featuring blind psychiatrist Mark Angelotti (Dante’s Wood; Dante’s Poison; Dante’s Dilemma) is among the most intelligent and satisfying crime fiction I’ve read. Robert Rotstein’s unique and addictive thrillers (Corrupt Practices; Reckless Disregard; The Bomb Maker’s Son) will suck you into a black hole of all-night reading binges. Susan Froetschel’s Fear of Beauty and Allure of Deceit paint stories of challenging, complex issues in far-off exotic lands. L. T. Graham’s erotic psychological thriller, The Blue Journal, featuring Detective Anthony Walker, is the first of a new series. And Mark Pryor has produced one winner after another, transporting readers to Paris, London, and Barcelona in the company of his genial Texan hero, Hugo Marston (The Bookseller; The Crypt Thief; The Blood Promise; The Button Man; The Reluctant Matador), all in less than three years.
From Fleming to Clancy and Beyond:
Why We Love the Political Thriller
We love a political thriller.
We love goodies and baddies, edge-of-your-seat suspense, epic stakes and politics far sexier than your average strongly-worded UN Security Council Resolution. But what’s remarkable is how robust the genre has proven to be in film and fiction; its evolution from James Bond through the Cold War to now. The political thriller remains a staple of pop culture storytelling.
Things were easy right up until the fall of the Berlin Wall: Western (usually American) hero battles maniacal USSR villain with earth-scorching consequences if he loses. Yet after spinning its wheels through the mid-90s with nobody to worry about, the genre found the road again, with the rise of Islamic terrorism and China as popular fears in Western storytelling. In doing so, the genre has shown itself to be the lens that reveals the collective fear of the time.
Ian Fleming and Tom Clancy, among others, toiled easily in the fertile soil of the Cold War, but both authors also showed a remarkable knack for predicting the next “other” that we’d fear. In Clancy’s case, some even considered his 1994 thriller Debt of Honor to be the blueprint for 9/11(extremists flying planes into buildings). In their work, political thriller authors give the audience what they want, but they also need to cast ahead for what the audience should worry about.
For the audience, the appeal is clear:
The hero. The villain. From James Bond to Jack Ryan to Jack Bauer to Carrie Mathison, the genre specializes in creating heroes who are fairly easy to cheer for. Combine that with shallow and entirely throwaway villains and an army of fanatics/terrorists/rebels/sycophants for all the black and white needed to pass a few hours in entertainment.
Done in Fifteen Years:
The Long Road to Collaboration
Whenever a substantial creative endeavor (novel writing, film directing, music composition, etc.,) is accomplished by two or more people working together to achieve a single voice, the first things people want to know is: How did you come together to write the novel? And how did you do it?
In this Special to THE BIG THRILL, Grant Jerkins and Jan Thomas—co-authors of the police-sniper thriller, DONE IN ONE—take a look back at the unlikely circumstances that brought them together to write this “high-powered, bone-rattler of a novel.”
* * *
Grant Jerkins: In the late 90s, I was working primarily as a screenwriter. I’d written five spec scripts and managed to get a few of them optioned—one to a well-regarded director/producer/writer who had a critically-praised hit under his belt. He was the real deal, a Hollywood player, so naturally, I was excited at the opportunity.
I received no money for the option, and there were a lot of ups and downs with funding, casting, and rewriting my original script. During this process, the director told me about another screenplay he’d optioned—he loved it, but wanted to do a complete rewrite. He didn’t have the time, so he asked me to take a swing at it.
I was excited and proud that he wanted me to take this on, even though I was paid in promises and glitter. I was desperate for a break, a chance to make my mark, so I rewrote the script, putting everything I had into it. I thought it turned out quite well, preserving the best aspects of the original while injecting my own brand of storytelling.
From my observations, people, especially the young, are surprisingly ignorant of history. When I taught writing courses to college students, I was dumbfounded by how little they know about historical events.
That got me thinking about some important periods in history, and what a travesty it would be if they were forgotten, only to suffer the risk of history, as they say, repeating itself. Thus became THE LAST WITNESS, a novel about the last living survivor of the Holocaust. In the book, the character’s one hundredth birthday takes place in 2039, but the world has all but forgotten.
Like many novels, it was first turned down by various publishers, one of whom said he had to “suspend disbelief” with the premise that people would know so little about the Holocaust a mere one generation down the road.
To prove my point, I decided to make a video—but not your regular, book-promo thing. I had a mission. A videographer and I spent an afternoon asking university students in Toronto, where I live, what they know about the Holocaust. And since this was a few days before November 11th, we also asked them about World War II.
What did we find? Many students didn’t know what happened at the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, who FDR and Churchill were, or what the Holocaust was all about. “I’ve heard of the Holocaust but I can’t explain it,” one student said. When I asked how many Jews were killed, another said, “thousands”—which is a far cry from six million.
Not a single student knew what The Final Solution was, or had heard of Joseph Mengele, and most had no idea who the Allies were, and yet, our video was shot just before November 11th—Remembrance Day in Canada, Veterans Day in the United States. It made me wonder: What would a veteran who stormed the beaches of Normandy with Allied forces on June 6th, 1944 think knowing that university kids today know nothing about what happened that day?
By J. F. Penn
Alan Baxter is a bestselling and award-nominated author of dark urban fantasy novels and short stories. His latest book is BOUND, part of the Alex Caine series.
So, Alan, tell us a bit more about your writing journey. How did you get into being a writer?
The short answer is: I’ve always been a writer, I just didn’t realize it. When I was about seven or eight years old, we were sent home from school on a Friday, and we had to write a story for the Monday. When we came back on the Monday, most of the class had written one or two paragraphs, and I’d written about seven or eight pages about this guy who goes back in time and gets chased by dinosaurs and all sorts of stuff. The teacher got me to stand in front of the class and read it. My friends were coming up to me afterwards going, “Oh, yeah, that was a really great story,” and that was my first realization of the power of storytelling.
I did a lot of roleplaying games in my teens, and I used to prefer being the Games Master rather than the player, because I would get to write the campaigns and learn to tell stories that way.
In the mid-90s, I had a crappy job that didn’t occupy too much time or my brain: I could go and train, I could afford my training fees. But I started feeling like I was in a rut, and I knew I had to shake it up a bit.
About the same time, a friend and I decided to go and visit a mate in Australia and went on a round-the-world trip. While I was on that trip and thinking about things and seeing the world and everything, I decided to pursue writing seriously rather than as a hobby.
Also on that trip, I met my wife and I ended up moving to Australia, and then I started working on Realmshift, which was my first published novel. So that was the big transition period, walking the earth like Caine in Kung Fu, and deciding to make life changes!
Priscilla Holmes is a Cape Town–based writer of many sorts of fiction, most recently a crime fiction novel. Set in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, NOW I SEE YOU is a modern-day thriller with dark undertones. It contains love and jealousy, human cruelty and sexual obsession, as well as humor and pathos. Part detective-story, part-elegy for a lost culture, it highlights the enormous changes that have happened, especially for young women in the years since the first democratic elections in South Africa. Thabisa Tswane (the feisty protagonist) is caught between two cultures. NOW I SEE YOU thrusts her into a powerful plot and some dark and dangerous situations.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve always been a writer. As a kid I wrote stories for all my friends and family, wrote plays at school satirizing the teachers (nearly got expelled!), and I’m a passionate reader. I worked most of my working life as a communications consultant in Australia, UK, and Hong Kong, and when I came to Johannesburg from Sydney to marry the man of my dreams (and yes, it has worked out!), I started my own training and communications business. We retired to Cape Town seven years ago and I started a writing group—The Write Girls—that has gone from strength to strength. We’ve collaborated on two novels that have been a great success. In 2004, I published a teenage novel The Children of Mer. And now, of course, I’m thrilled about the publication of NOW I SEE YOU.
NOW I SEE YOU has a deft, light touch. I think Alexander McCall Smith should make space for your fabulous Detective Inspector Thabisa Tswane! How do you feel about that?
Well, what a compliment! However, my book is a much darker, rougher version of his books. We are promoting it as a “thriller” but it really is so much more, with the descriptions of rural life, the violent crimes, and the constant fight for Thabisa between her past and present.
By Amy Lignor
Just when you think the landscape of ultimate heroes and kick-butt heroines has been covered, this is the author who proves that’s not even close to being the truth. Paige Tyler launches into the New Year with a brand new series. Romance, suspense, thrills, chills, and a whole lot of heat—all this and more. For the first time in 2015 (and definitely not the last), we caught up with Paige to talk about everything from resolutions to what surprises await us all in The Big D series.
I hope you had a terrific ushering in of 2015, Paige! Did you make any resolutions in the literary realm?
No real resolutions, per se. My biggest goal for 2015 is just to hit my publisher’s (Sourcebooks) turn-in deadlines, while still finding time to meet my promo obligations, and then maybe have a few minutes left over to dabble in some of the other writing projects I have rolling around in my head. Right now I’m under contract to deliver four books in 2015, plus do the standard editing and revision work for those, and the ones already in the pipeline. Toss in the four conferences/book signings I’m planning to attend, and I’m going to be hopping.
(I’ll send over some energy drinks!)We are talking today, of course, about your brand new paranormal series: S.W.A.T.: Special Wolf Alpha Team. Did this new “crew” spring from another series you’d already created?
The S.W.A.T. series grew out of work my hubby (who helps as my writing partner) and I had been doing for quite a while. At the time, the series was intended to be somewhat more on the erotic side, based on good, old-fashioned, alpha-male cops. The basic tagline of the series was supposed to be: Believable cop drama…with a lot of hot sex. But as we began developing the various plot outlines, we kept running into the same problems over and over—either the story ended up too procedural (i.e., boring), or too erotic (i.e., sex scenes that were completely unbelievable in any realistic police setting). After months of re-writes and brainstorming, we were getting seriously close to dropping the whole idea. But, then, hubby made a joking comment about adding a zombie (in his mind, every book can be improved with the addition of a few undead.) I vetoed that idea immediately. I retain final executive authority on all story content, thank goodness. If not, there’d be zombies, ninjas, or claymore mines all over the place. I said that if we were going to put anything paranormal in the story, it should be a werewolf. Hubby came back with, “You know, that might just work.”
Susan Froetschel’s 2013 novel Fear of Beauty and its just-released sequel, ALLURE OF DECEIT, mark a strong departure from her previous mysteries, leaving more conventional settings behind and immersing readers in the daily life of a village in Afghanistan. Fear of Beauty, the story of an illiterate Afghani woman who must circumvent the rules of her society to learn the truth about her young son’s death, received numerous honors, including the Youth Literature Award from the Middle East Outreach Council, a best mystery-suspense award from the Military Writers Society of America, and a nomination for the Mary Higgins Clark Award.
ALLURE OF DECEIT continues the story of these Afghan characters. After a tech entrepreneur dies in a terrorist attack, organizations in developing countries scramble to grab the vast fortune that will be distributed through his posthumously-created foundation. The farming village of Laashekoh, Afghanistan, is chosen by a health team promoting reproductive rights as a recipient of the foundation’s largesse—although the local people feel no need for this outside interference. When a group of aid workers visiting the village goes missing, foul play is suspected.
Fraud, murder, and culture clashes fuel the conflict, but Froetschel describes ALLURE OF DECEIT as, above all, “a family saga” centered on the husband and wife who appear in both novels.
Would you tell us more about ALLURE OF DECEIT and its characters? Do many of the characters from Fear of Beauty make return appearances?
Fear of Beauty is the story of an illiterate woman, Sofi, who is desperate to learn the truth about her son’s death, and ALLURE OF DECEIT is the story of her husband, Parsaa, and his efforts to protect the village of Laashekoh, isolated and rural with a micro-climate ideal for farming, from change. Parsaa is a village leader who is relieved that U.S. troops have left Afghanistan, but must still contend with charities that try to deliver unwanted assistance. His son, Siddiq, who has a mind of his own, balks at leaving the village to attend school, and questions a village practice of shaming entire families for crimes committed by any one family member. A director of a huge charitable foundation manipulates funding and programs to figure out why her son was killed. Parsaa secretly visits a childhood friend for help understanding the persistence of aid workers, but the friend has ulterior motives.
Warning: If you have a sore throat, a small skin rash, or a persistent headache, you might want to put off reading BLOCKBUSTER until you’re fully recovered. Lisa von Biela has written a frightening tale of rogue pathogens that can think, and BigPharma at its most chillingly corrupt. This techno thriller, published in January by DarkFuse, ratchets up the terror factor to its limits. This is a story you’ll race through, but the horror of a rampaging and flesh eating MRSA II bacteria will stay with you long after you’ve finished the last page.
Lisa von Biela worked in Information Technology for twenty-five years before graduating from the University of Minnesota law school. She now practices law in Seattle, Washington and serves on the editorial board of The SciTech Lawyer, a quarterly publication of the American Bar Association. von Biela is also the author The Genesis Code, The Janus Legacy, Ash and Bone, and Skinshift (June 2015).
Readers have called her stories “unputdownable” and thought provoking, and she recently received honorable mention in the Examiner’s list of 10 Best Books of 2014.
She took time from her busy work and writing schedule to talk to The Big Thrill.
BLOCKBUSTER explores both the ethics of the pharmaceutical industry and the terror of drug resistant pathogens. Do you believe drug companies’ seeming unlimited opportunity for profit compromises their integrity?
I believe in any industry, money can—and often does—corrupt. I don’t know if any drug company has pursued the business model in BLOCKBUSTER. But it could happen, couldn’t it? Maybe it has, at least to some extent, and that’s what scares me. Drug development is incredibly costly and time-consuming; profits from a blockbuster drug can be astronomical. Some degree of ethical lapse for the sake of the bottom line wouldn’t surprise me. I just hope it never rises to the level it does in BLOCKBUSTER!
Mike Pace’s new thriller, ONE TO GO, is a deft mix of sub-genres—legal and political with a dash of the supernatural. The story follows a young Washington lawyer, Tom Booker. While driving across Memorial Bridge, Tom, distracted while texting, causes an accident with a minivan carrying five young girls, including his own seven-year-old daughter. The force of the collision flips the van up on two wheels, but just as the vehicle’s about to fall into the Potomac River killing all on board time freezes for everyone and everything—except Tom. He exits his car to see his daughter through the van window, frozen in time, but can do nothing to save her. Chad and Brit, a young couple who appear to have just stepped out of an Abercrombie & Fitch ad, approach. They offer Tom a Faustian deal, a “rewind” where time would spin back to just before the collision, allowing Tom to avoid the accident—no one would die. The price for this deal? In a “soul exchange” Tom has to agree to kill five random strangers instead. He quickly agrees, anything to save his daughter.
Later Tom laughs at the hallucination he experienced and pays it no mind. Preppy demons from Hell? Ridiculous. Then his sister in law, the driver of the van dies, bludgeoned to death by her husband. Chad and Brit appear on Tom’s cell phone screen, smile and say, “One down, four to go.”
My God, the bridge incident was real.
Tom has never held, much less fired, a gun in his life. He’s lived a middle-class existence in a middle-class neighborhood. Now to save his daughter he must turn into a serial killer and commit a murder every two weeks or the girls in the van will die.
By Cathy Clamp
An inheritance of an old house in Cincinnati is a dream come true for psychologist Faith Corcoran—a refreshing change from the nightmare of the last year. After being stalked by a former client, Faith hopes the sanctuary of this new place can help her face the dark fears that haunt her. But she has no idea how close to home her fears still are.
Meanwhile, two college girls from the area have gone missing, and FBI Special Agent Deacon Novak is called to work the case. When his inquiry unexpectedly leads him to Faith, he finds a beautiful and brave woman he can’t help but fall for.
Soon they’ll discover that this seemingly simple investigation is anything but. And reaching back decades into Faith’s past will shatter everything she believes to be true, and gives terrifying new meaning to flesh and blood.
This month, I sat down with #1 international bestselling author Karen Rose, who has rightfully earned her title as “Queen of Romantic Suspense” (Crime and Publishing), to talk about her new release, CLOSER THAN YOU THINK.
By Steve Turner
Readers of Gigi Pandian’s novels know she likes to feature lost artifacts, quirky characters, evocative locations, and unexpected twists. Her latest novel, THE ACCIDENTAL ALCHEMIST, also delivers these ingredients.
This urban fantasy thriller is based in Portland, Oregon, an appropriately fashionable setting for the unusual and strange. And sure enough, after only a few pages, we soon learn this is going to be a tale that embraces the extraordinary. The protagonist, Zoe, seemed as surprised as I was to discover that the other main character was a diminutive French-speaking gargoyle with a penchant for fine dining. Next we find that Zoe herself is not quite the ordinary girl she first appears to be, but is actually significantly older, providing a rich backdrop for the story’s past and present.
As the plot unfolds, we follow the exploits and adventures of this very unusual pair of sleuths, who lead us, hand in tiny stone hand, on a very curious journey indeed. The narrative maintains a relatively light atmosphere amongst shades of darker things and sinister goings-on, but avoids fixating on the grim to conjure an enjoyable escapade.
I interviewed Gigi to gain an insight into the book’s creation and also for a sneak a peek into her diary of future plans.
S.L. Ellis’s debut novel hit the streets with attitude! Cassie Cruise wants her life back as a kick-ass P.I. Trouble is, she has zero credibility since bungling a case on reality TV. After a public tantrum, she slinks off to bury her head in the sandy beaches of Southwest Florida.
Just as she starts over as the owner of The Big Prick Tattoo Shop, a body is discovered in the trunk of her burning car. Cassie’s aware there are those who’d get in line for their turn to torch her car. But murder?
You don’t have to like her, but you damn well better respect her. And get out of her way—this is one case she intends to solve, with or without an audience.
Kirkus Reviews called it “A captivating introduction to a cozy female PI series with potential for wide appeal.” Jack Magnus of Readers’ Favorite went further: “Ellis’ hard-boiled detective story, Lane Changes, is a refreshing new take on the private detection genre. Cassie starts working on a mystery . . . she just can’t let go, and it’s a joy to watch her as she digs in with a ‘to hell with the consequences’ attitude. I’m looking forward to reading more stories featuring Cassie Cruise. Lane Changes is good, gutsy and highly recommended.”
S. L. Ellis came from a small-town in Michigan, where life consisted of family and work and too much winter. After a few decades of shoveling and scraping snow, Ellis was ready for a fresh start. A move to Florida and time on the beach improved her disposition a hundred-fold. It’s there that writing became more than a thought. Classes were taken, workshops worked, and a few books written.