By Brian Knight
October, 1901. Lawyer and private-inquiries agent Karl Werthen accepts an assignment to protect the famous Irish writer Bram Stoker while on a speaking tour of Vienna. Meanwhile, his colleague, criminologist Dr. Hanns Gross, has been called away to advise on a bizarre series of murders near his hometown of Graz in the Austrian province of Styria. Three women have been killed with strange mutilations and scarring patterns left on their bodies. The third and most recent victim has had her unborn baby cut from her womb. Back in Vienna, Werthen’s wife Berthe is investigating what seems to be a fraudulent breeding scheme involving the prized Lipizzaner horses. Could these investigations possibly be connected?
Matters become complicated with Werthen and Stoker’s arrival in Graz. For, having read wild newspaper accounts of vampire killings, the author of DRACULA insists they investigate.
Welcome Mr. Jones, and thanks for stopping by to visit with us.
Call me Syd, please. And it is a pleasure to chat with you.
Tell us a bit about your new historical thriller, A MATTER OF BREEDING.
In my fifth installment of the Viennese Mystery series, A MATTER OF BREEDING, to be published this month, I again use characters and events inspired by history, primary among them Georg Ritter von Schönerer, the German nationalist whose right-wing rhetoric later influenced the young Hitler when he lived in Vienna (yes, I will include Hitler in an installment in due course). Schönerer is the inspiration for Christian von Hobarty, a primary suspect in the gruesome killings of several young women in the Austrian province of Styria, a place once much associated with vampirism. Indeed, the murders are for a time touted in the press as the work of a vampire. Damned handy that Bram Stoker, author of DRACULA, is in Austria on a speaking engagement and wrangles his way into the investigation with my ongoing protagonists, lawyer and private inquiries agent Karl Werthen and real-life father of criminology, Hanns Gross. Another intriguing—for me, at least—historical tip of the hat is to the so-called Blood Countess, Elizabeth Bathory, accused of killing hundreds of young women at her castle hideaway and bathing in their blood. Von Hobarty is an anagram of the Bathory name; he is, in fact, a distant relation of that infamous clan.
Writing just seemed like a natural career move for Alan Brenham, former U.S. Treasury special agent, patrol officer, criminal prosecutor, criminal defense attorney, and a current reserve deputy sheriff. His first novel, PRICE OF JUSTICE, received the Best in Police/Crime Fiction Award from the Texas Association of Authors 2012–2013 and was a finalist for the 2014 International Book Awards and the Eric Hoffer Award’s The da Vinci Eye, as well as the 2013 Beverly Hills Book Award.
Now, his second novel, CORNERED, due out in July, is launching to great acclaim. Kirkus Review, for one, praised it as “A rock-solid thriller….multiple scenes of nail-biting intensity…first-rate crime fiction…”
Perhaps the most gratifying comment comes from one of Brenham’s favorite authors, Michael McGarrity, New York Times bestselling author of HARD COUNTRY and BACKLANDS: “Alan Brenham’s CORNERED is a taunt thriller filled with murderous twists and turns that will satisfy readers who love good crime fiction. As a cop and a lawyer, Brenham has been there and done that and in this, his second outing, the authenticity of his storytelling ability continues to shine through.”
In CORNERED, not wanting history to repeat itself, Detective Matt Brady struggles to solve a case involving the disappearances of seven young women, but he quickly finds himself pitted against a criminal organization that knows as much about police procedure as he does—an organization that will do whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of him. Haunted by the memory of a kidnapping case gone wrong, Brady must now discover what happened to seven missing women, plus a murder. He is sure the cases were connected, but how?
Chemical weapon attacks on international sites.
Jihadist holding Marines threatens to kill a prisoner a day.
Soldiers and diplomats struggling for a resolution.
Tom Young’s new novel offers a situation that sounds as real as a news broadcast.
In SAND AND FIRE, a Marine gunnery sergeant faces the jihadist in North Africa who has obtained chemical weapons. After inflicting casualties and destruction on a nightclub in Sicily and a crowded street in Gibraltar, the terrorist seizes members of a Marine strike force and threatens executions unless forces withdraw from his area.
The novel’s realistic tensions comes from former Associated Press journalist and retired senior master sergeant Young, who’s familiar with the world of which he writes. As in previous books—which include THE MULLAH’S STORM, SILENT ENEMY, THE RENEGADES, and THE WARRIORS—he offers a look inside a region and a world that continues to be a focus of international concern.
In this tale, heroes from previous books, Sophia Gold, now with the U.N., and Colonel Michael Parson, now working the United States Africa Command, join Gunnery Sgt. A.E. Blount, the six-foot-eight grandson of one of the first African American Marines. A rescue must be mounted for the Marines, and an unforgettable ordeal is ahead with the threat of a nightmarish outcome looming.
With the book due in stores and online outlets in July, Young, who logged nearly five thousand hours as a flight engineer for the Air National Guard in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Bosnia, and elsewhere, answered a few questions about his new protagonist Blount, the realism of his stories, and events unfolding in the Middle East today.
David Salkin is what some would call a renaissance man. He’s an award-winning author, the Mayor of Freehold Township, New Jersey, and a Master Graduate Gemologist. His books have spanned military espionage, action-adventure, horror, mystery, and science fiction. In his latest, DEEP BLACK SEA, a crew of seven aboard a specially designed research submarine sit three miles down in the dark world beneath the sea. When they bring aboard the bacteria that enables certain animals to survive in the seven-hundred degree poisonous water of the black smoker, they have no idea that one of the researchers plans on using them as his test subjects.
Salkin recently answered a few questions about his fascinating new novel for THE BIG THRILL.
What can readers expect from DEEP BLACK SEA?
Nightmares. (smile.) I gave the rough draft to my brother, who told me he had nightmares after he read it. That’s perhaps the highest compliment I could ever receive when writing a sci-fi horror story. DEEP BLACK SEA is an adventure into a world which is still so undiscovered. The real science of the book makes the terrifying story believable to some extent. I mean, it’s a horror story and it’s fiction, but there’s enough hard science to make things plausible—hence the nightmares. I watched the story in my head as I wrote it. If I succeeded, the reader will be seeing the movie in their head as well, and it will stay in there for a few days making them think twice before their next snorkelling trip…
You set the novel in a submarine. What do you find intriguing about the environment?
Life on a submarine isn’t for everyone. It’s claustrophobic, dangerous, and remote. Because of the size and comfort level of this particular research vessel, it’s not as bad as a military submarine, but even so, the crew is three miles down in the black, near-frozen ocean. No one can quickly come to their rescue if they have a problem—they’ll need to figure out ways to help themselves. To have a small cast of characters in this isolated environment, surrounded by danger, creates a tension and constant stress that hopefully the reader can sense as they go through the journey.
By Cathy Clamp
Most people who have stood in a security line at an airport have wondered what they would do if a bomb actually went off. DiAnn Mills’ latest novel, FIREWALL, brings that frightening image to raw, terrifying life. Taryn Young, a newlywed boarding a plane to her dream honeymoon after a whirlwind romance is caught in a bomb blast that rocks the Houston airport. When she wakes, not only is her husband missing, but the authorities consider them both suspects in the attack. She’s informed that the man of her dreams isn’t who he appears to be. In fact, he doesn’t exist at all. With her high security clearance in computers and genius IQ, Taryn isn’t normally taken by surprise, and is nobody’s fool. Something doesn’t smell right.
FBI Agent Grayson Hall, as the lead investigator, considers catching the one responsible for the attack to be his first priority, yet he can’t help feeling that despite all the evidence to the contrary, Taryn is an innocent. Is her naiveté just for show? Or is she a conspirator, the mastermind of a terrorist cell?
Half-truths, double crosses, and a ticking clock to prove her own innocence before she gets locked away forever drives the heroine to risk everything. But who can she trust? She thought she could trust her husband but he’s gone missing. Is the FBI right in believing he’s a terrorist? Or is the government trying to steal vital computer secrets from her by using her husband as bait? As Taryn and Grayson each try to solve the case, each suspecting the worst of the other, it might be that all they can do is put their trust in a higher power to guide them to the answer.
By A.J. Colucci
When it comes to murder, Karin Slaughter pulls no punches. The internationally acclaimed author of thirteen novels believes crime fiction writers have an obligation to tell the truth. “Even though we’re writing fiction, we need to remember that the crimes we write about happen to real people every single day. We need to tread carefully. We need to honor their stories.” As a result, her novels are not for the faint of heart. The crimes are brutally realistic, the terror is genuine and the tension between the characters is palpable.
With a name like Slaughter, perhaps it was fate. Her two hugely popular series, Will Trent and Grant County, have sold more than thirty million books that have been translated into thirty-two languages. Her latest novel, COP TOWN, takes readers back to 1974 in downtown Atlanta—where a cop killer known as “The Shooter” is on the loose. Kate Murphy is a new police officer thrown into the deep end her first day on the job, wondering if it will be her last. The women of the Atlanta police department are never quite sure who their worst enemies are—the criminals on the street or their fellow cops who think that the job is no place for a woman. As the entire force hunts for the killer, it quickly becomes clear that protect and serve applies only to a chosen few.
Painting an accurate portrait of the 1970s took a lot of research, and Slaughter paints it well, especially the unabashed sexism, racism, and homophobia that existed in law enforcement. Just as she exposes the harsh reality of a brutal murder, Slaughter writes with stunning acuity about the ugliness of a police force that’s openly hostile to women and, as Kirkus notes, “drives her point home like a knife to the eye.”
Much of her research was based on conversations with a group of retired female police officers. “They are amazing ladies, and the stories they tell are both horrific and hilarious. I spent hours with them talking about the good ol’ days, and we laughed and laughed, and then I got home and read through my notes and thought, ‘Holy crap, this was just awful.’ It’s amazing what they put up with back then, and continue to put up with, because some things haven’t changed all that much.” Slaughter remarked that anyone applying to be a police officer has to take a lie detector test. “Back then, women were asked if they were virgins, how many men they’d had sex with, what type of sex they had engaged in. And while this was wrong—not just because the men weren’t asked—no one complained about it.”
It was into this atmosphere that Slaughter thrusts Kate Murphy and Maggie Lawson, two female police officers in COP TOWN. Kate is new on the force and eager to shed her privileged background by strapping on a gun, but she is unprepared for the hazing and nearly quits over the abuse she faces, not only from criminals but from men in her own department. In one particularly revolting scene, Kate and her male partner interrogate a pimp named Romeo—a character who defines the word vile. For Kate, it quickly turns into a kind of verbal rape, but for her male partner, it is both amusing and proof that women are not meant to be cops. Likewise, Maggie has been at the job for years and comes from a family of cops, yet the constant barriers she faces while tracking down a cop killer is taking its toll and “knowing her place” means doing a lot of the legwork on the sly.
By Barry Lancet
Lovers of thrillers and mysteries will find Sarah Knight’s pedigree of more than passing interest. During her long career at several major publishing houses, Knight has worked with a star-studded array of writers, including James Lee Burke, Stephen Hunter, Jeffery Deaver, Taylor Stevens, and Gillian Flynn, among many others.
Before she moved over to Simon & Schuster to work with the house’s stable of bestselling crime writers, Knight plied the editorial waters of Scribner, Henry Holt, and, most recently, Random House, where she was fortunate to edit Gillian Flynn’s DARK PLACES and then pick up a little property called GONE GIRL—only to accept a job offer from S&S soon after. She still finds leaving behind that future bestseller painful to recall.
While she continues to seek out debut talent for S&S that might one day reach GONE GIRL proportions, she also casts a wider net, searching for compelling “narrative nonfiction, memoir, travel and food writing, pop culture, and humor.”
With her strong background in suspense, it may have been something akin to fate that Knight acquired the International Thriller Writers’ latest anthology, FACEOFF. In her introductory letter to the collection’s advance reading copies, the senior editor recalled her first impressions:
The minute I saw the list of contributors, I started fantasizing about the possibilities…. This was going to be huge. Eleven stories later, I knew it wasn’t just a great concept—it was (pardon the pun) a stellar execution…. [T]his anthology is a love letter to the craft.
Once again her editorial sensibilities hit the mark. FACEOFF clambered onto the both the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists in its inaugural week.
In the interview that follows, Knight offers candid, often eye-opening observations—from further thoughts on FACEOFF, to what constitutes an irresistible book, to how editors prefer to work with authors. So let’s dive in.
Maybe you know her as Bobbye Terry, or Daryn Cross, or Terry Campbell. Either way, you know her writing is sizzling, with a dollop of humor and a side of macabre details. You could call Bobbye Terry a talented multi-tasking master, and you would be right. She worked as a hospital and hospice administrator and as a writer for national and international magazines. She wrote various articles for over ten years before she made the jump and started writing fiction.
Bobbye has a knack for character development; her characters capture true-to-life emotions and reactions. Her new novel, THE WIDOW JAMES, is no different. It features a strong female lead named Lindsay “Lindy” Deane James. She’s searching for answers in Lynchburg, Virginia, determined to prove an elderly friend sane and innocent of murder, but as she searches she uncovers dark secrets dark enough to kill for. The book is out this month.
Tell me about THE WIDOW JAMES.
It’s romantic suspense about a woman who is from Lynchburg and returns after decades in order to clear an older woman of murder charges and the potential for being found incompetent. Lindy, the widow, is a forensic psychologist and no newcomer to murder and psychological crimes. However, she left Lynchburg and has not returned except as required by her now-deceased husband because the former love of her life lives there, as well as her nemesis, a man-hungry woman named Carrie. Lindy also detests her mother-in-law, whom she nicknamed “the vulture.”
Additionally, this book is very personal to me, in that Lynchburg is my hometown and I am in the process of moving back there. Here is what I said in the dedication:
By Ethan Cross
Steve Attridge’s work has been described as “Brilliant…thought-provoking, dark, and very, very funny.”With THE NATURAL LAW, his fifteenth book, the bestselling and award-winning author continues the string of success with another exceptional book, this one featuring protagonist Paul Rook.
Rook is a philosopher and a crime investigator, but he only works for criminals. He finds them more interesting and he has a secret agenda. When a criminal client of his is brutally murdered his investigations take him into a murky world of government conspiracies and a bizarre community of lost souls living rough beneath a London Bridge.
Tell us about THE NATURAL LAW in one line.
The murder of a petty criminal leads Paul Rook, investigator and philosopher, into a world of murky politics, violence, personal crisis and strange friendships.
What kind of research did you conduct for THE NATURAL LAW?
I read and re-read key philosophical works which are important to the main character, the way he sees the world, and the crimes he deals with. The main one was Aquinas’s Natural Law, hence the title. I read a fair bit online and in newspapers about the abuse of arms and military security trades, especially in a political context. I revisited parliament to get the sensory detail. I also got out my Prague maps, holiday photos and diary to get a bit of local detail. I try to use background reading to inform character, not to impress the reader. As a reader, I like well chosen telling detail rather than pages of exposition and description, so I try to practice that in my own work. Less is usually more.
I’ve been a reader for as long as I can remember. I remember reading Nancy Drew and quickly moving on to the Hardy Boys because I craved more action. Mysteries filled the void for a while. Then I found thrillers, starting with David Morrell and Jon Land’s Blaine McCracken. Yes, I was getting action, but in my experience, most of the kicking ass was done by men. That is, until I discovered Meg Gardiner.
In my recent introduction to Meg’s stand-alone novels, RANSOM RIVER and SHADOW TRACER, I found what I consider true thriller, kick ass heroines: Rory Mackenzie and Sarah Keller. From there it was a small leap to follow Harper Flynn in PHANTOM INSTINCT, Gardiner’s latest release.
Gardiner opens PHANTOM INSTINCT with a shoot-out and deadly fire in a trendy nightclub. The bartender, Harper Flynn, tries to move her injured boyfriend, Drew, from the line of gunfire only to lose him to the devastation of the blaze that followed. A year later at a memorial service for Drew, she sees a figure watching from the shadows and wonders who it is and why they are there.
She is convinced it has something to do with the third gunman she saw, but since other survivor reports did not support her claim, the police are uninterested in pursuing what they believe is a figment of her imagination.
Believing she is on to something, Harper contacts Aiden Garrison, a policeman who was in the club on the night of the shooting. He too remembers there was a third gunman but due to a traumatic brain injury called Fregoli Syndrome or face blindness his recollections are deemed to be unreliable.
What would happen if two dozen of the world’s bestselling authors got together to pen a book of short stories pairing up their beloved series characters? If there was a thriller writer dream team? And what if the compilation was edited by #1 New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci?
Readers will find out in FACEOFF, an anthology released this week from Simon & Schuster.
In a first-of-its-kind collaboration curated by the International Thriller Writers (ITW), twenty-three critically acclaimed authors crafted eleven electrifying stories where their iconic characters go head-to-head. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for readers,” Baldacci said. “I’m honored to be at the helm of this amazing ship.”
Over the past few months, THE BIG THRILL, in conjunction with Suspense magazine, had the opportunity to talk to many of the FACEOFF authors about their stories, their collaborative process, and their reasons for participating in the compilation.[*]
But before we get into that, a little background on the project . . .
Striving to Innovate
FACEOFF begins with a dedication:
For Gayle Lynds and David Morrell
Readers know Lynds and Morrell for their bestselling novels. But what they might not know is that they co-founded ITW, which this year celebrates its tenth anniversary. In his Introduction to FACEOFF, Baldacci traces the origins of the organization, noting that “[f]rom its beginning ITW strived to innovate.” One of the ways ITW does so, Baldacci explains, is by creating its own books and using the revenue to allow the organization to operate without charging a penny to its members.
“FACEOFF was another opportunity to innovate,” added ITW’s co-president and FACEOFF contributor M. J. Rose. “All the authors are ITW members who donated their time, allowing writers and characters from different publishing houses to do something that’s never been done before. The proceeds allow ITW to charge no membership dues.”
For the authors who participated in the project, it was a chance not only to give back to an association that has done so much for writers, but also to work with people they admire. Lee Child, ITW co-president and FACEOFF contributor, added, “One of the things I like so much about ITW is that it is very collaborative. Writers are solitary people; it’s been several days since I’ve seen another human being as I finish up my current book. But ITW forces us to get out and you get a sense of collegiality; it’s fun, like a pickup jazz band. I like the organization’s way of forcing people together.”