Facing Challenges—Planned and Unplanned
By R.G. Belsky
Jeff Abbott—author of the highly-acclaimed new thriller, BLAME—had to deal with his own stranger-than-fiction, real-life drama at the same time the book came out.
On July 8, just 10 days before publication, Abbott’s house in Austin, Texas, burned down when it was struck by a huge bolt of lightning. He and his family fortunately made it out safely, but they lost virtually everything they owned inside.
“I didn’t have shoes,” he recalls now. “We had on flip-flops and had to go buy shoes the next day. I didn’t have my wallet. We (his wife, two teenage sons and a relative) were all inside, but got out in a couple of minutes. It was a massive bolt of lightning. We knew immediately we’d been hit. A neighbor said it sounded like a bomb had gone off.”
Abbott is grateful that he and his family got lots of help from friends and neighbors in the aftermath of the fire, but he was especially moved by the outpouring of support from other authors—many of whom urged readers to help him by going out and buying his new book, BLAME.
The Power of a Sharp Mind
If you’ve had enough of explosions and are looking for an old-school sleuth who actually solves a complex mystery, then you’re ready for THE SORBONNE AFFAIR.
It starts when American author Helen Hancock finds a spy camera hidden in her room at the Sorbonne Hotel in Paris. When she notifies the U.S. Embassy, they send former FBI profiler Hugo Marston to investigate. But the surveillance issue quickly becomes a murder case.
Hugo Marston is not a hard-charging, kung-Fu fighting, race-car-driving kind of hero. But he is a highly interesting character.
“At a cocktail party, he’s not the man everyone gathers around as he spins wild tales of adventure,” Pryor says. “He’s the guy you end up talking to by chance, and then wish you’d known him for years. He’s a handsome man, but I always describe him as a watcher, not a player.”
The Wonder of a Magic Trick
Most writers will tell you that ideas are a tricky science. Stories can come from anywhere: a dream, a random photo, a snippet of overheard conversation—or, in the case of Brad Abraham’s debut novel, MAGICIANS IMPOSSIBLE, a happy malapropism that would eventually lead to a book deal and a superstar literary agent.
“It began as a bit of mangled syntax,” Abraham says. “I was trying to say Mission: Impossible, and ‘Mission’ came out as ‘Magicians.’ The person I was having a conversation with said, ‘Somebody should write that movie—magicians who are spies.’ I thought, maybe I’ll see what’s there.”
Abraham—whose writing credits include the 2010 SyFy movie Stonehenge Apocalypse, a comic book series called Mixtape, and a lengthy stint as a film journalist for the horror magazine Rue Morgue—decided the concept was better served as a novel than a screenplay, but the manuscript he produced had little in common with the version of MAGICIANS IMPOSSIBLE that’s hitting shelves this month from St. Martin’s Press. While the book that made it to print is a contemporary urban fantasy that centers on a war between secret cabals of warlocks and witches, Abraham’s original take was a historical thriller with no supernatural elements, loosely inspired by reports that Harry Houdini had worked for the Secret Service during World War I.
Evolving the Story
“You follow the bad guy and his machinations. The good guy is only there to put a stop to the bad guy.” This character-oriented definition of the thriller typifies Kyle Mills’ approach to his work.
He’d just written Darkness Falls, which features FBI agent Mark Beamon’s efforts to stop a hydrocarbon-eating bacteria that is threatening to deprive the world of all its oil. After the bio-terror thriller was published, Mills got a call from his agent. Would he be willing to write a Robert Ludlum book?
Mills ended up writing three. “[Writing as Ludlum] was a challenge. Too many other authors had written for Ludlum. There was no consistent voice or style. The series had gone fallow and the publishers wanted a reboot. I tried to make the characters consistent.”
Is it really possible to imitate another writer’s style? “I kept the books very science oriented, and in Ludlum’s style, but not necessarily in his voice. The plots were Ludlum kind of plots, with Ludlum kind of action sequences, and Ludlum kinds of characters. But I didn’t choose the kind of words he would have chosen or construct sentences the way he would have constructed them.”
Mills was then asked to continue the late Vince Flynn’s series featuring Flynn’s CIA action hero, Mitch Rapp. This experience of filling another author’s shoes was quite different. For starters, Flynn and Mills were born the same year, started writing around the same time, and wrote similar types of books. They even look eerily alike. “That’s why I don’t put my picture on the cover,” said Mills.
David McCaleb made waves with his debut novel RECALL. Sure, he can write. But it would be a great injustice to label him simply as a writer. Truth be told, if you put a Dos Equis in his hand, he may qualify as the most interesting man in the world. Well, Top Ten maybe. He still needs to age some and grow a beard.
David was kind enough to let me interview him about RECALL, but we may have drifted into areas you would expect: Insurance. Coffee. Recipes. You know…the usual.
Getting a novel picked up by a traditional publisher is no easy task. Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication and the book itself?
This is one of my favorite stories. In truth, my trek was much like raising children—I question whether I would’ve consented to the matter had I fully understood the journey ahead.
I had the first chapter written for months, but nothing further. The opening was explosive, writhed with action, mystery, and a good hook. Tony “Red” Harmon kills two muggers while defending his family in a parking lot. He acts instantly, with skillful violence, but minutes later remembers none of it. As Red digs deeper, a past hidden even from himself emerges and threatens to tear apart his life and compromise national security. It was a military black ops thriller.
But despite the movement on the page, the manuscript went nowhere. I enjoyed daydreaming follow-up scenes and plot paths, but never put them on paper. At my 20th class reunion I spoke with a friend who had published several theological books. At his challenge, I decided to finish my own.
I pushed forward and scenes rolled freely. It was exciting because not even I knew the outcome, my vision never extended beyond the next scene. I wrote, read to my family, edited, and brainstormed the next chapters. Within six months, the novel was complete, well over a hundred thousand words. I went through the entire manuscript several more times, tweaking and polishing it to perfection. Only then did I disclose my project to anyone beyond my immediate family.
The Twisted Stories Behind Closed Doors
By Wendy Tyson
Domestic noir peels back the layers of the most intimate relationships, twisting what should be loving and nurturing bonds into something dark and dangerous. The mundane, familiar nature of the material is, perhaps, what makes these novels so gripping. New York Times and USA Today bestselling author J. T. Ellison understands how to create a gripping read. Ellison’s latest novel, LIE TO ME, was called “[An] exceptional domestic thriller” by Publishers Weekly in its recent starred review, and author Lee Child called the book, “Wonderful … a one-more-chapter, don’t-eat-dinner, stay-up-late sensation.” An award-winning, veteran crime writer with more than a million books in print, Ellison has quickly made a name for herself in the domestic noir genre.
“I love writing splashy, headline-driven crime novels,” Ellison says. “But I also enjoy the challenge of writing stories about ordinary people—not cops, not serial killers—stories that examine what might be happening next door without you knowing about it. Something has always fascinated me about what’s happening behind closed doors. What are people really like when no one’s looking? Combine all that with a trip to Paris, and a crazy idea about a murder at Sacré-Cœur, and a vision of the perfect literary couple who aren’t so perfect after all. Voilà, a domestic noir, ready to be written.”
A Ripped From the Headlines Murder
Sue Grafton is very much aware that, having written and published Y Is for Yesterday, she only has one book left in the alphabet, and for the legions of fans of the 35-year Kinsey Milhone series, there is going to be some separation anxiety.
“Me among them,” she says with a laugh. “On the other hand, I don’t want to keep going just because I can do it.”
For the final novel, titled Z Is for Zero, it’s important to her to finish with a certain style. “I want to make sure I don’t slack off,” Grafton says. “I have made a point of not cheating, not taking shortcuts, and I don’t want to get like a barn sour horse, galloping at the end.”
She continues, “I do not want to end the series with fireworks, I want the book to be like the other books, with a good solid story, a beginning, middle and end, and a sense of who’s who. I don’t mind finishing up a couple of threads, I don’t want to leave people hanging. But I don’t feel any obligation to wrap it all up with a bow.”
But before there is Z, there is Y Is for Yesterday. Readers are definitely responding both to the momentum of the series reaching the end and the storytelling strength of this particular novel. As of September 1, Y Is For Yesterday was No. 1 on the USA Today bestseller list and the third most read book on amazon.
In Y, Grafton has created a tense and involving story that delivers two perspectives and runs on two timelines. Some chapters are narrated in the first person by Kinsey, and in others we see the characters she’s investigating, both now and then. The key to the plot is a group of teenagers at a high school catering to wealthy families, and a test-cheating scandal that leads to a worse scandal revolving around a sex tape, and then to an even more serious crime, a murder.
Trend Report: The Rise of Women Action Heroes
By Dawn Ius
With few exceptions, female action heroes have historically been relegated to comic books and graphic novels, the likes of Super Girl, Elektra, and Wonder Woman dominating the pages with their superhuman powers. But there is nothing supernatural about the action heroes cropping up in today’s fiction—these literary heroines are tough, smart, and yes, often beautiful women who crave the adrenaline rush as much as their male counterparts, and they aren’t afraid to chase it.
In the words of at least one industry expert, “It’s time.”
“The increasing incidence of strong female protagonists in popular culture isn’t perhaps a trend so much as it is a reflection, the slow-in-coming result of generations of hard work by pioneering women (and some men) to right a historic imbalance—the election of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton notwithstanding,” says Quercus publisher, Nathaniel Marunas.
“Whatever your political persuasion, the 2016 U.S. presidential election was a step backward in terms of representational progress; whereas the nation had just seen the end of the second term of the nation’s first president of color, the election of Donald Trump was a reversion to the old norm of a rich old white guy in the seat of power,” Marunas says. Debates about some of society’s longstanding issues rage again. Hot-button terms like “racism” and “feminism” have been thrust into the spotlight in the form of protests and marches, heated discussions, media attention, and pop culture infusion.
On the big screen, women have been kicking butt for some time. Back in 1979, Alien introduced a dauntless heroine and a cult icon with some killer action moves. Buffy, Lara Croft, and Katniss Everdeen have all carried the gauntlet with pride, but even so, progress up until the last year or so has been painfully slow. Noted sociologist Kathryn Gilpatrick looked at 157 protagonists in action films released between 1991 and 2005—only 7 percent took control of their situation, 58 percent were submissive to male characters, and 30 percent were dead when the credits rolled.
By George Ebey
CRAZED is the second installment in Jacob Stone’s new thriller series featuring former LAPD detective turned consultant, Morris Brick. Brick has come face to face with the grisly handiwork of a deranged sadist known as SCK—the Skull Cracker Killer. But he isn’t the only one with a keen interest in SCK’s activities. A crazed lunatic has become obsessed with following the killer and vows to outdo him. The mounting body count has Brick on edge, and even as he lays his trap, he has no idea of the new horrors he is about to face.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with the author to learn more about his latest book.
How has Morris Brick evolved since the last time we saw him?
At the beginning of the first book, Deranged, Morris is a retired LAPD homicide detective who has started his own investigation firm Morris Brick Investigations (MBI) with several other former LAPD detectives. He’s happily married to Natalie, has a daughter Rachel who is in law school, and a bull terrier Parker. So in many ways, Morris comes into the series fully baked. Not a lot has changed with CRAZED other than that Morris has formed a closer friendship with the actor Philip Stonehedge, who had forced his way onto the serial killer hunt in the first book, and that the killer in CRAZED has made things far more personal by targeting Morris’s clients.
By Don Helin
Red Harmon, a military operator, discovers that the threats against his life and that of his family are part of a complex plot of espionage and currency counterfeiting that links North Korea, China, and a mole within the CIA. He and his team are inserted into the snow-covered ravines of North Korea, where they destroy an intelligence data warehouse. Caught in a brutal catch-22, he must decide between protecting U.S. national interests—and killing his wife.
At the same time, torn between loyalty to state and family, a disenchanted North Korean prison guard reluctantly cooperates with Red’s team, providing them transport while also struggling to keep his daughter and sister alive in the crossfire.
A Chinese electrical engineer fosters a bitter grudge against the communist government and cooperates with the CIA to bring simultaneous strikes upon China’s own intelligence data warehouses, but at a brutal cost.
Three personalities, three points of view, melded into a single mission and plot.
I had the opportunity to catch up with McCaleb and ask him some questions for The Big Thrill:
By Renee James
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Diane Capri released TRACE EVIDENCE, the second book in her Heir Hunter series in August, even as the first title in the series, Blood Trails, was achieving finalist status in the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Awards.
TRACE EVIDENCE finds heir hunter Michael Flint, a man who combines expertise in genealogy and clandestine operations, on the trail of an heir who is also being pursued by two relentless killers. Along the way, he uncovers new clues to a different case, a cold case that has haunted him all his life.
Diane Capri is one of the thriller genre’s most prolific authors. Jack the Reaper, the next book in her wildly popular Hunt for Jack Reacher series, will be released September 26. In all, Diane has authored five thriller series since her debut in 2011.
TRACE EVIDENCE follows the exploits of Michael Flint, a man who specializes in finding heirs. Where did this idea come from, and what do you like about featuring an heir finder?
Every story grows from backstory. What I love about the Heir Hunter concept is the ability to write stories set in the present with a simultaneously unfolding history. Michael Flint is the heir hunter of last resort. When he comes to the case, everyone else has already failed. But he’s new to the situation, while the other characters know the past. And so many people are interested in ancestry these days, I hope readers will find Flint’s job as fascinating as I do.
By David Healey
Veteran author Peter Tonkin has written a number of books, thanks in part to his hard-driving writing schedule. (If you want some motivation as an author, follow Peter on Facebook and try to keep up with the pages written that he posts daily.) His most recent novel is AFTER THE IDES: CAESER’S SPIES THRILLER BOOK 2, set in ancient Rome in the wake of Julius Caesar’s assassination.
This busy writer, retired teacher, and world traveller took some time out recently to answer some questions about Romans, research, and writing in general.
Thrillers such as yours require a tremendous amount of research to make them plausible. What fact did you discover in your research that stood out for you?
It’s difficult to pin down just one. I love the fact that Artemidorus really gave Caesar a list of his murderers on the way into the fatal Senate meeting. That Antistius the physician carried out on Caesar’s body the first recorded post mortem in history. And that Antony’s wife Fulvia drove pins (and a stylus?) through Cicero’s tongue when his head was spiked in the Forum 22 months later – because of the terrible damage his speeches had done to her husband, her family and their fortunes in the interim.
As a writer, how do you get the voice right for characters who lived thousands of years ago?
“Right” is not really the correct term. I try and make them credible and convincing. As Lindsey Davis said when discussing her brilliant Falco novels, it is the suspension of disbelief that’s important. I love to get my facts right, including events, characters and relationships, so Antony has a particular ‘voice’ and Octavian another–extensions of their characterisation in my stories. Reflections of their characters in history as presented by the most up-to-date research I can find.
By Karen Harper
Robert E. Dunn, a native of the Missouri Ozarks, wrote his first book at age 11, turning a series of Jack Kirby comic books into a novel. Over many years in video and film production, he produced documentaries, training films, and travelogues. He turned to writing mystery, horror, and fantasy fiction and has published the horror novels, The Red Highway, Motorman, and The Harrowing, and now the Katrina Williams mystery/thriller series, which began with A Living Grave.
Please tell us what your book is about.
A PARTICULAR DARKNESS is book 2 in the Katrina (Hurricane) Williams series from Lyrical Underground. It follows the events of A Living Grave but the book can stand alone.
In the aftermath of tragic events and the loss of her new husband, Sheriff’s Detective Katrina (Hurricane) Williams is adrift, tethered only to her job. Work is enough for her until a body is pulled from the lake and onto a stinking heap of fish. What seems at first like a simple case of murder over the poaching of paddlefish for domestic caviar quickly forks in two directions.
One way leads under the tents of the Starry Night Traveling Salvation Show and into the presence of its charismatic leader, Roscoe Bolin. The other takes her into the teeth of a joint investigation conducted by the Army CID and FBI.
The two ends of the case tie together when a young man disappears from the evangelical show with a teenaged Peruvian refugee illegally smuggled into the country. The girl is found dead and the boy goes on the run. At every step, the antagonistic feds block Katrina’s efforts to dig into the preacher and the mysterious military men who surround the show. Following the trail of poached fish eggs leads her to a mysterious Russian with connections to both weapon and human trafficking.
When more refugees, all young girls, disappear, Katrina will stop at nothing to find the truth. The fight opens her to danger and opens her heart to the enigmatic Deputy Billy Blevins. Through the shifting shadows of night, murder, and terrible violence in the name of truth, Katrina discovers her own Particular Darkness.
Coming Through the Darkness
By Dawn Ius
Author Debra Webb knows a little something about survival.
When her eldest daughter was born with life-threatening issues, Webb admits there were days when they weren’t sure she would survive. That dark period in her life helped Webb to understand the emotional landscape of her Shades of Death series protagonist, Bobbie Gentry.
“Detective Gentry suffered the kind of tragedy no one wants to think about, let alone survive,” Webb says. “A serial killer murdered her husband and caused the death of their child. I hope I never know exactly how that feels, but personal experience gave me a hard, up close look at that kind of pain.”
Crawling through the darkness hasn’t been easy, but Webb says she now has two beautiful granddaughters who bring immense light to her life. Bobbie, on the other hand, still has some climbing to do—and in THE COLDEST FEAR, the third installment in the series—she must confront the monster who caused the loss of her family.
Though, thankfully, not without assistance.
“Bobbie has walked through hell and come out of the darkness, but she didn’t make that journey alone,” says Webb. “She had serial hunter Nick Shade’s help.”
If you haven’t already discovered how much fun a couple of baby boomer amateur sleuths can be, it’s time to find out. Check out Susan Santangelo’s latest novel, DIETING CAN BE MURDER.
The story begins when Carol Andrews notices that she’s gained a few extra pounds during her second honeymoon with her husband, Jim. She joins Tummy Trimmers, a new, holistic approach to weight loss, but her plan is interrupted by another group member, who collapses on Carol and dies, right after completing a meditation exercise.
Carol and Jim Andrews are the stars of the Baby Boomer Mystery Series. Jim, a retired executive from a major New York City public relations company, has been married to Carol for more than 35 years and they have two adult children. Jim now writes a column for the weekly newspaper in their hometown of Fairport, CT—but Carol is the real amateur sleuth.
“She’s very approachable and a good listener, so people tell her the darndest things,” Santangelo says. “She’s very curious—some people even call her nosy. She may ask you a lot of questions about your job, so be careful what you tell her.”
Basically, Carol and Jim are really just an ordinary long-married couple of a “certain” age who happen to become involved in solving mysteries. So when the evidence points to murder at Tummy Trimmers, the ever-curious Carol can’t resist adding sleuthing to her personal weight loss routine.
As author Ed Kurtz so eloquently puts it, “Sometimes people kill for profit, sometimes revenge, and sometimes they do it just for the fun of it.”
In his new anthology NOTHING YOU CAN DO: STORIES (Down & Out Books), he demonstrates the theme with seventeen tales of crime, murder, and vengeance.
“I hope these stories entertain more than anything else,” Kurtz says, “but if the dubious morality of the characters in this collection doesn’t serve as something like a mirror the reader isn’t too keen to look into, I’d be a bit disappointed.”
What did you do before you were a writer?
I’ve been all over the place, really. In another life, I was an academic, and since then I’ve worked in corporate settings, grimy night shifts in hotels, and wandered the western world. When I left the academy and found myself behind a desk many years ago, I decided to knuckle down and start doing what I’d always really wanted to do, which resulted in hammering out my first novel (a thorough rewrite of which will finally see the light of day in 2019). In between novels, and ever since, I’ve worked on short fiction, much of it rooted in my own cultural and personal experiences in the American South and in Germany.
As Sheriff Piper Blackwell rushes to a clandestine meeting with an aging, paranoid veteran who believes spies are trailing his every move, she is caught in a fierce thunderstorm. Pounding rain drums against the bluff, washing away the earth and revealing a grisly secret someone tried to bury a long time ago.
Putting a name to the skeleton on the bluff and searching for the thief who robbed the old veteran of his life’s earnings sends Piper delving into the sleepy towns that dot her rural county. Now she’s digging into pasts perhaps best left alone.
Accompanied by Chief Deputy Oren Rosenberg, Piper seeks to expose a truth someone wants to remain forever hidden. The investigation may have started with a thunderstorm, but Piper aims to finish it and find justice. Uncovering fragments of Spencer County’s history could prove more dangerous—and deadlier—than she ever expected.
Jean Rabe, author of THE DEAD OF NIGHT, recently took time out of her busy schedule to discuss her latest thriller with The Big Thrill:
Enter Bishop Rider and people like him who have had enough and are willing to embrace what most will not. The world will never be perfect. The world will never be all bad. It’s the middle we must embrace. This, a better kind of hate.
The Big Thrill recently caught up to Beau Johnson to discuss his novel, A BETTER KIND OF HATE:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope readers take away enjoyment from my book, little shots of fun from the stories which bounce around my head.
Cardiologist Dr. Kirk Martin continually crosses swords with Dr. Cliff Hamilton, so he is surprised when Hamilton asks him to care for him after a heart attack. When he is ready for discharge, Hamilton is found dead in his hospital bed, and Martin is suspected of murdering him.
After another doctor is found shot to death, Martin’s girlfriend, nurse Janet Rush, reminds him to be careful because he may be next. Can he save his own life while searching for the identity of the real murderer?
Richard L. Mabry, author of CARDIAC EVENT, spent some time recently with The Big Thrill discussing his latest medical thriller:
From New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon Overall No. 1 Bestselling Thriller and Shamus Award winning author Vincent Zandri comes a brand new private detective series that combines wry humor with some serious hard-boiled action, adventure, and romance. For fans of Don Winslow, Charlie Huston, Vince Gilligan and cable TV series like Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul.
You might think that a guy with the name of Steve Jobz would be one lucky man. That he’d be rich and have the world at his fingertips. But instead, Jobz is barely making ends meet at the New York State Department of Unemployment Insurance Fraud. A former cop who was forced to retire early after shooting a young man of color during a convenience store holdup, Jobz has since resigned himself to wasting away his days in a four-by-four cubicle inside an office space that’s more boring than watching the paint dry.
When his overbearing boss calls him in on a job that the Albany Police Department is heading up, Jobz has a chance to get out of the office for a while. But what he doesn’t realize is that he’s about to come face to face with a serial killer who embalms his victims alive. What he is also about to face down is his own worst nightmare come true when that serial killer turns out not to be a stranger.
Author Vincent Zandri took some time out of his busy writing schedule to discuss his latest release, THE EMBALMER, with The Big Thrill:
Who they are and how they died is a mystery.
Zach Harris knows a sinister force is at work. Problem is, from his experience there are too many to choose from. Elliot Jorgenson, chief of police, is camping out in the land of denial. Lucy Lane, the town’s reporter of all things strange and unusual, is on the case as well, and nothing is going to stop her from getting the scoop, not even dinner with a vampire.
When an old friend returns from the dead harboring an unusual secret and a sugar-loving fairy-tale girlfriend, things get complicated. An influx of ghoul-like creatures and a mass exodus of Private Acres residents clues Zach in to how dire their situation is.
After a cryptic warning from someone who could be friend or foe, Zach rallies his rag tag team of not-quite-heroes to try and avert an apocalypse.
The Big Thrill had the opportunity to interview APOCALYPSE BY MIDNIGHT author Suzanne Robb, and here’s what she had to say:
His last job a disaster, a professional thief teams with an old partner eager for one last score—a safe in the home of a wealthy Philadelphia politician. But they are not the only ones set on the cash. His partner dead and the goods missing, he hunts for his money and the killer to find out that this may have been a job best left undone.
To learn more about THREE HOURS PAST MIDNIGHT, The Big Thrill met with author Tony Knighton:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
That a protagonist in a crime novel needn’t be Superman. There are far too many crime fiction “heroes” who know everything and are the baddest men alive. Or, they have a best friend who is the baddest man alive, whose only purpose is to save the hero. Yawn.
Brutalized bodies have been showing up in the deep woods of northern Maine. The only evidence found are gigantic footprints in the snow. Native American game warden John Bear believes the killer is a WENDIGO, A malevolent manitou capable of taking possession of a human body and driven by a constant craving for human flesh. All John has to do is convince his fellow law enforcement officers what they are dealing with. In the meantime, the body count keeps rising.
Author Vaughn C. Hardacker spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel, WENDIGO:
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
This book melds three genres: mystery, thriller, and horror, each of which have a message for us. There is, however, a single underlying theme in all three: the eternal battle between good and evil.
Lisa Towles’ latest book begins with an intriguing premise: what would Big Pharma do if a scientist developed a cigarette to cure lung cancer? In CHOKE, Towles offers one scenario—inventor Adrian Calhoun is kidnapped by the “pharmaceutical mafia,” who want his formula.
Meanwhile, three thousand miles away in San Francisco, nurse Kerry Stine’s world is crumbling around her. As if her personal problems aren’t enough, her career goes into freefall when a patient under her care at San Francisco General Hospital disappears. She is fired and suddenly the police are after her. Two distinct lives under threat move forward and eventually intersect.
Towles takes time to talk about her newest work with The Big Thrill.
You have an impressive range of writing under your belt. How does writing about jazz compare with writing crime in a medical setting?
Thank you for saying so, but I don’t think I’m all that diverse. I wrote Straight Ahead, my jazz non-fiction book, almost twenty years ago because I’ve been a flautist all my life and I’m also a jazz musician. I was already well down the fiction path by then, so mystery fiction has been my mainstay as a writer and a reader all this time. I think it’s been interesting to observe the many different mystery genres that have evolved. What’s challenging is when the book you’re writing touches several of these subgenres at once, because that makes it harder to market and harder to sell.
When a woman’s body is found in the grounds of a ruined priory, Detective Imogen Evans realises she is dealing with a serial killer—a killer whose victims appear to die in a state of bliss, eyes open, smiles forever frozen on their faces.
A few miles away, single dad Ben Hofland believes his fortunes are changing at last. Forced to move back to the sleepy village where he grew up following the breakdown of his marriage, Ben finally finds work. What’s more, the bullies who have been terrorising his son, Ollie, disappear. For the first time in months, Ben feels lucky.
But he is unaware that someone is watching him and Ollie. Someone who wants nothing but happiness for Ben.
THE LUCKY ONES author, Mark Edwards, spent some time discussing his latest thriller with The Big Thrill:
Sofie Kelly took a roundabout path to becoming the New York Times bestselling author of the Magical Cats mysteries.
“I was a young adult author first, but I was a voracious reader of mysteries—everything from cozies to suspense,” she says.
Even while she was publishing books for teens, she was working on multiple mysteries, most notably the Second Chance Cat mystery series she writes as Sofie Ryan.
Sofie’s books add a new twist to the cat mystery. Her feline sleuths, Owen and Hercules, have a knack for solving crime that is literally magical. “The series brings together a lot of my favorite things,” she says. “I’m a cat person. I like small towns. I like the idea of a little magic in life—although I’d probably faint if I saw a cat walk through a wall.”
Since every cat lover knows cats are a little bit magical, Sofie didn’t have to look far for the supernatural abilities she attributes to her mischievous crime-solvers. “Every cat owner has a story about their cat ending up somewhere unexpected. It didn’t seem like that big a stretch to suggest maybe there’s something magical about the way a cat can seemingly disappear when you’ve only turned your head for a second.”
Jean Harrington is an established author in murder mystery writing. Her tongue-in-cheek cozy mysteries, published by Carina Press and Camel Press, are a must-have beach item this summer. Harrington took some time to talk to me about her latest book, MURDER ON PEA PIKE, a mystery thriller with a witty twist.
In a break from Harrington’s Murders by Design series set in Florida, MURDER ON PEA PIKE, the first in her Listed and Lethal Series, is inspired by a country girl moving to a big city and trying to establish herself in a new life. Unlikely hero Honey Ingersoll is trying to pull herself out of poverty. Her effort and failure mirrors her attempts to solve the mysteries she encounters, but in eventually solving them, Honey unravels more of her own problems.
“It’s pretty much a given that readers of mystery-thrillers are also fans of puzzles. So with Honey Ingersoll as the unlikely sleuth, the question isn’t only ‘who dunnit’ but also: how can a girl like Honey possibly solve the crime? Watching her do so, against the odds, is a big part of her appeal,” Harrington says.
Honey relocates to Eureka Falls, a fictional town in Arkansas, giving Harrington the creative freedom to invent her setting against the familiar backdrop of a great natural landscape and traditional American values. Honey snags a job with realtor Sam Ridley, but is Ridley everything he seems? During the sale of an abandoned warehouse, Honey encounters her first crime—murder. This marks the first in a series of murders and surrounding mysteries that Honey must unravel.
Six months after stopping a deadly plague, Cole “Tox” Russell and his team are enjoying a little rest. That peace is short-lived when a sniper shot hits Tox. The enemy is discovered to be one of their own, a rogue Special Forces team operator.
Alec King is perhaps the only person as skilled as Tox, and he’s out for justice. Furious with orders that got his men killed, he intends to make those responsible pay. And he insists Tox join him, believing they are the same breed of soldier.
Afraid his old friend is right, Tox battles a growing darkness within himself as he and his team engage in another deadly encounter with antiquity. It appears Alec is cheating—he’s using a mysterious artifact, a crown that history has linked to some of the worst slaughters in humanity. Racing to stop Alec before his vengeance is unleashed, Tox must fight the monster without becoming one.
CROWN OF SOULS author Ronie Kendig took some time out of her busy schedule to discuss her latest novel with The Big Thrill:
The war ended. Their mission did not.
Eighty years later, Japanese-American scientist Amika Nakamura won’t let rules stand between her and scientific glory. When the ambitious young virologist defies a ban on the genetic manipulation of influenza, she’s expelled from the university. Desperate to save her career, she accepts a position with a pharmaceutical company in Tokyo. Soon after, a visit to a disputed island entangles her in a high-profile geopolitical struggle between Japan and China. Applying her singular expertise with bird flu in a risky experiment may be the only way out. Little does she know that Japanese ultranationalists and a legacy of unpunished war crimes lurk in the shadows, manipulating people, politics, and science.
But DNA doesn’t lie. Amika uncovers a shocking truth: a deadly virus is about to put the “gene” in genocide.
Author of THE HAN AGENT, Amy Rogers, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel:
Clyde Barr, the drifter with lethal skills, is alone again, wandering the highways of the American West in search of something to believe in. As summer turns to autumn, he trades his car for a horse and heads for the mountains, planning to clear his head and regain his edge with some hunting. But when he runs across an elderly, sick man—a Ute Indian from a nearby reservation—Clyde’s dream of solitude is quickly dashed.
On the reservation, Clyde finds the old man’s daughter, Lawana, and grandson, Taylor, as well as a group of menacing bikers called Reapers running wild in the economically depressed, half-abandoned village. Gripped by the desire to do good in a hard world, Clyde offers to stay on Lawana’s ranch to help out until her father is released from the hospital. He controls himself around the bikers, even when he sees them harass a few Native American women—but when the Reapers attack a local boy Clyde has to do something. As tensions rise between the locals and the Reapers, Clyde’s efforts to protect the reservation become a fight for his, Lawana’s, and Taylor’s lives. And then the stakes ratchet up even more.
In the remote Utah desert, surrounded by enemies, with no law enforcement presence, and with communication effectively cut off, Clyde must find a way to save his new friends, defeat the gang, and, hopefully, escape with his own skin intact. A PROMISE TO KILL is an edge-of-the-seat thriller, pushing its no-holds-barred hero to new levels of improvisation and bare-knuckled blunt force.
Erik Storey recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss his latest novel, A PROMISE TO KILL:
Nick Mancino always gets what he wants—until now. Despite his seductive persistence, brainy, beautiful scientist Kay Hudson continues to elude him. However, Nick was a Navy Seal and an FBI Special Agent, so giving up isn’t an option. Kay’s got no business being tempted by anything. She’s on the verge of risking her reputation, her career, her very life, to blow the lid off a deadly bioweapons conspiracy. But Nick won’t let her face her demons alone…and they will have to face down an enemy that could consume them…and the entire world.
Author Lisa Marie Rice recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest novel, MIDNIGHT FEVER:
It’s two weeks before Christmas 1997, and Police Chief Thomas Lynch faces a crisis when Cody Forrand, a six-year-old with a life-threatening medical condition, goes missing during a blizzard. Lynch’s suspicions about who abducted Cody are met with scorn by his detectives, some of whom can’t handle the fact that he’s gay. With half the station out sick with the flu, Lynch seeks outside help: it arrives in the shape of an FBI agent for whom Lynch feels an immediate attraction.
To complicate matters, local crime is on the rise and Lynch finds himself the target of prank calls and hate speech that he worries is the work of a colleague. Time is ticking away, Lynch is struggling to discover who is behind Idyll’s crime spree, and he’s beginning to doubt that Cody will ever be found…
Author Stephanie Gayle sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest novel, IDYLL FEARS:
Employed by Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford at their famous film studios, script girl Jessie Beckett has a reputation as a skilled amateur sleuth. So when a projectionist is shot dead at the movie theatre where he worked, his grieving widow asks Jessie if she can find out who killed him, and why. Who was the mysterious man in the red coat who fired three shots at Joe Petrovitch? And how could he vanish from the balcony with no trace?
To find the answers, Jessie must delve into the dead man’s history and uncover dark secrets from another continent and another era. As she is to discover, the past has a long reach …
The Big Thrill recently caught up to Mary Miley to discuss her latest mystery, MURDER IN DISGUISE:
Bored fashion house CEO seeks new challenge and decides to put herself forward to model the next range of lingerie. The mysterious photographer entraps her into starring in his sex film. They both get more than they bargained for as they embark on a “guiltless” sex-filled relationship. Plans get disrupted by sex trafficking. The photographer, who is filled with guilt following a motor bike accident, discovers his “father’s” secret and love conquers all.
Mollie Blake, author of GUILTLESS, took time out of her busy writing schedule to answer some questions for The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I want readers to escape to a world of luxury and danger whilst feeling good about themselves when they come back to their own world. I hope to give them confidence to try new things, or revisit things they used to like. I hope they are captivated by the characters and fall in love with the good guys. I also add a note that “Help is out there” if anyone is suffering from abuse of any kind, with references at the back of my books to charities and phone numbers on my website.
Raised by a family of survivalists, FBI agent Mercy Kilpatrick can take on any challenge—even the hostile reception to her homecoming. But she’s not the only one causing chaos in the rural community of Eagle’s Nest, Oregon. At first believed to be teenage pranks, a series of fires takes a deadly turn with the murder of two sheriff’s deputies. Now, along with Police Chief Truman Daly, Mercy is on the hunt for an arsonist turned killer.
Still shunned by her family and members of the community, Mercy must keep her ear close to the ground to pick up any leads. And it’s not long before she hears rumors of the area’s growing antigovernment militia movement. If the arsonist is among their ranks, Mercy is determined to smoke the culprit out. But when her investigation uncovers a shocking secret, will this hunt for a madman turn into her own trial by fire?
Award-winning author Kendra Elliot took time out of her busy schedule to discuss her latest release, A MERCIFUL TRUTH, with The Big Thrill:
When a top-secret weapon goes missing on Colonel Maggie Black’s watch, her honor and her career are on the line. There were airmen who said the Air Force’s best female combat pilot would never be the same after losing her arm in Iraq, but state-of-the-art prosthetics have made Maggie better than new, and she’s not about to lose what she battled so hard to regain.
But finding her experimental missile won’t be easy—thanks to the revenge-fueled ambitions of Asdrubal Torres, whose hallucinatory encounter with the Great Spirit challenges him to refill Lake Cahuilla, the ancient inland sea that once covered much of southern California. To fulfill his blessed mission, Torres needs wizardry and weaponry, and the Great Spirit provides both: Magic, in the form of a celebrated shaman’s basket returned to the tribal museum by San Diego reporter Jordan Scott; Might, in the form of Maggie Black’s top-secret weapon that falls from the sky.
From that moment, it’s a race against time for Maggie and Jordan, who together must stop Torres from destroying Hoover Dam—and turning the Colorado River into a tsunami that would kill hundreds of thousands and wipe out the Southwest’s water supply. In the final showdown, it’s Maggie who must disarm the stolen missile’s trigger—one-handed or not—and save the day.
Author by Jack Getze took time out of his busy schedule to discuss his latest release, THE BLACK KACHINA, with The Big Thrill:
Rachel Carver blames herself for the death of an innocent woman in her last case as a special agent for the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation. Unable to accept her superior’s attempts to cover up the incident, she turned in her badge. But when a former partner asks her to consult on a new murder case, she reluctantly agrees, traveling to a small mountain community, where she’s tasked with leading a group of detectives on a hunt for the killer. What seems to be the act of a loner proves to be much more as Rachel’s team comes under attack—and a detective is killed in the fallout. Rachel’s old employers at the SBI step in to take over the investigation, but Rachel, convinced they are on the wrong track, continues to work the case alone. As she delves into the town’s past, she discovers a secret history that connects the victims—one that makes her the target of a man who would kill to keep it a secret.
J. R. Backlund, author of AMONG THE DEAD, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his debut novel:
Born into the wealthy Simpson family, free-spirited Willow is determined to make her own way in life. Cooking is her one true love, and she is content to keep it that way. Romance has never been on her agenda, but she suddenly finds herself in the middle of a deliciously decadent love triangle. With two gorgeous men vying for her attention, she vows to keep her distance from both, but the tantalizing chemistry is hard to ignore.
Unfortunately, it seems that someone wants to get rid of Willow, making her already tricky situation that much more difficult. One crazy night changes everything, and Willow’s life is turned upside down. Between thwarting her own murder plot, keeping her divinely tasty admirers at bay, and trying to stay on the good side of her finicky cat, Omelet, Willow’s plate is full. With far too many cooks in the kitchen, will she be able to stay alive long enough to figure out who wants to kill her?
Author Heidi Renee Mason spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel, LOVE AT FIRST CREPE:
CAROLINA CRIMES: 21 TALES OF NEED, GREED AND DIRTY DEEDS is a collection of short stories by crime writers living in North and South Carolina, members of Sisters in Crime. The Triangle (Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh, NC) Chapter of SinC issued the challenge to members to write stories about addiction or obsession and crime. Who knew that the responses would be so varied or that ice cream, a game of Solitaire, or silk fabric could provide motives to commit murder? Or that golf clubs, stiletto-heeled shoes, and microwave ovens could provide the means?
These stories remind us why we love crime fiction, and why it matters. They provide us with the cold revenge of imagination, the hot passion someone could kill for, and the sense of justice a community demands. They remind us we never know exactly what our next-door neighbor may be capable of, or for that matter, what we, ourselves, harbor in the deepest corners of our hearts and minds. The humor is dark. The suspense is shudder-producing. The horror delivers goosebumps. And by the time we turn the last satisfying page, we know more about what it means to be human.
Suspended for negotiating with an armed lunatic, rookie cop Marti Coldwater is feeling lost and unappreciated. But her day is about to get a whole lot worse when her car is run off the road by a strange, falling military craft and she rescues the lone passenger—a young British amnesiac who thinks it’s 1944.
Soon, she and her newfound companion are relentlessly pursued by murderous men in suits and a sinister Nordic assassin with a singular mission—capture the stranger and kill anyone who’s seen him.
When she uncovers a plot threatening the entire planet, Marti is thrown into a world of highly classified government programs and astonishing alien secrets. Now, her only hope of saving the world is to try to recover the memories of a man who may be the most dangerous of all—the man who calls himself Atticus.
Author J. B. Manus spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel, ATTICUS: