Latest Books

Author Guided Tour: J. A. Jance

The Rugged Glory of Arizona

By J. A. Jance

I grew up in southeastern Arizona, and the landscape of that corner of the state figures prominently in my Joanna Brady books.  It’s the home of Tombstone—the “town too tough to die.” One of the few north-flowing rivers in the continental U.S., the San Pedro, flows through Cochise County.

When I was a child, my parents loaded the kids into a nine-passenger station wagon and we went on “Sunday drives,” exploring many of the storied locations that abound nearby—the Wonderland of Rocks where statue-like rocks stand upright like so many fingers; Cochise Stronghold, where Cochise took his band of Apaches to seek shelter as Anglos encroached on their territory; and Fort Huachuca, home of that iconic troop of African-American soldiers known as the Buffalo Soldiers.

In Tombstone we visited Boot Hill Cemetery, which my mother disdained as a “tourist trap,” but we also visited the lonely Ed Schieffelin Monument, a mile or so outside of town, dedicated to the lone prospector who, along with a single mule and a twist of tobacco, braved the Apaches looking for silver ore. He staked the original claims that eventually turned Tombstone into a silver-mining boom town.  Visiting Boot Hill Cemetery was fun, but it was far more sobering to walk through Tombstone’s “real” cemetery where young people from the 1800s—true pioneers—died of things like malaria, typhoid, Apaches, and childbirth, with the women being in their mid-thirties.
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Up Close: Brenda Novak

Facing Off With a Serial Killer

By Nancy Bilyeau

One terrible day, Brenda Novak caught her day-care provider drugging her three young children with cough syrup and Tylenol to get them to sleep while she was away, working as a loan officer. Novak decided then and there that she needed to find a way to work from home.

Writing fiction was the answer, and Novak soon proved herself a novelist with whom readers could really connect. A New York Times bestseller, she has written more than 50 books of romantic suspense or romance, winning or placing in contests such as the National Reader’s Choice, the Bookseller’s Best, the Write Touch, the Award of Excellence, and the Beacon Award for Published Authors. Through it all, Novak has used her own life and her own experiences as a wife, mother, and friend to fuel her characters.

Novak’s new thriller series revolves around Dr. Evelyn Talbot, a psychiatrist who has dedicated her life to solving the mysteries of the psychopathic mind. Evelyn is the force behind Hanover House, a maximum-security facility in Hilltop, Alaska, that imprisons the world’s worst serial killers. In her latest release in the series, FACE OFF, which is winning rave reviews for its suspense, Evelyn realizes, after a series of murders come to light, that the high-school boyfriend who tortured and nearly killed her, Jasper Moore, is closing in on her in Alaska.
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Up Close: Christa Faust & Gary Phillips

How to Nail a “Killing”

By J. H. Bográn

One of the most influential and popular of all graphic novels turns 30 this year, and to celebrate it, Titan Books and DC Comics have commissioned Christa Faust and Gary Phillips to explore, expand, and write THE KILLING JOKE.

As many a media tie-in project begins, this one started with a query from an editor. “And I said yes,” says Faust. “I had recently worked with Gary Phillips on another project and we had a good collaborative dynamic going. It seemed like a no-brainer to get him on board and, I won’t lie, I could not have done it without him.”

Faust says she was the one to get the foot in the door, but it was Phillips’ encyclopedic knowledge of the characters that helped make the story shine.
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Africa Scene: Stephen Holgate

Exploring an Island of Ghosts

By Michael Sears

Not many authors start their careers being compared to Graham Greene, John le Carré, and Alan Furst. Stephen Holgate’s two novels—both set in Africa—have reached that mark. Tangier was published last year to acclaim, and MADAGASCAR was released a few months ago.

I’ve visited Madagascar and this is not an easy culture to weave into a book. Holgate has done so with sympathy and affection, at the same time constructing a dramatic thriller with rich characters and subtle humor. Publishers Weekly—in a starred review—said: “Holgate has created a memorable lead character and made MADAGASCAR, where the ‘implausible is not only possible, it is mandatory,’ palpable. Le Carré fans won’t want to miss this one.” I have no quarrel with that assessment.

Stephen Holgate is a fifth-generation Oregonian who served as a diplomat at American embassies in France, Madagascar, Morocco, Mexico, and Sri Lanka. He lives with his wife in Portland.

You spent several years in Madagascar as a diplomat and your understanding of the island and its culture comes through everywhere in the book.  How much of the novel is based on your own experiences in the country?

I didn’t entirely trust myself to capture the singular qualities of Madagascar with wholly invented incidents. So, more than I have in the past, I based many elements of the novel on stories I’d been told or things I had seen myself. For instance, a story told by a Fulbright scholar about her time in a small village, studying the phenomenon called “tromba women” and the possibility that they might actually be possessed by the spirits of the dead, is based on a conversation I had with a Fulbrighter. Likewise, a visit Knott makes to a rather loopy Malagasy publisher is practically a transcript of a conversation I had with such a man. Finally, the willingness of Malagasy prison guards to let burglars out at night to ply their trade, and the unintended consequences of the guards’ actions, are accurate.
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Two Thriller Writers Share Their Halloween Plans

The Scare Secrets of Thriller Novelists

Wilson’s creepy The Shining costume

By Dawn Ius

Author Carter Wilson sets up his annual Halloween display with one goal in mind: five kids crying. Minimum. He even films the results.

Which is how he once captured the terrified scream of a young boy dressed as an M&M seconds before he dropped his candy and tore off into the night, followed by an amused father who caught up to his little trick-or-treater a couple houses down the way.

“I’ve had a lot of kids not even make it to the porch,” Wilson says. “But what’s great is that for every kid who’s ever lost their mind on my porch, they usually have a parent. And that parent—and I cannot stress this enough—always laughs.”

It’s perhaps somewhat macabre payoff for the tremendous effort Wilson and his family put into each display. From creepy circus clowns with loud haunting music and glowing paint, to themes that span everything from common phobias to pop culture, there’s something to shock even the most stoic of Halloweeners.
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Neil Nyren’s Spotlight: Stuart Turton

Writing a Novel Most Intricate

This may very well be the twistiest, most intricate crime novel you’ll read this year. A tall order, I know, given the competition, but trust me on this. The author, Stuart Turton, calls it “an Agatha Christie mystery in a Groundhog Day loop, with a bit of Quantum Leap.” Others have invoked Gosford Park, Inception, and “Downton Abbey with a body count.”

THE 7 ½ DEATHS OF EVELYN HARDCASTLE opens with the narrator waking up in a remote forest, wearing someone else’s dinner jacket and, he realizes, someone else’s body. Making his way to a large country house, he discovers a party in full swing and a masked figure who informs him that a murder will be committed that night, “but it won’t look like a murder,” and that it will be his responsibility to solve it: “Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.”

In order to do so, he will have the opportunity to relive the day eight different times in the bodies of eight different people, all with drastically varying perspectives and facts in hand, but if he fails…he’ll have to start all over again. Meanwhile, there are other people at the party with the same directive, all equally desperate to do whatever it takes to get free. Worst of all, there is someone stalking every one of them, killing them one by one. Every move the narrator makes, every clue he uncovers, may be a step forward — or a step closer to the abyss.
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That Which Grows Wild: 16 Tales of Dark Fiction by Eric J. Guignard

By Dawn Ius

Putting together a collection of short stories is no easy task —there’s a process the author goes through to determine the criteria. A theme, a genre, or even, in the case of Eric Guignard’s THAT WHICH GROWS WILD, the most logical grouping of 16 previously published works culled from a list of about 70.

Guignard worked with an editor at Cemetary Dance to select titles that showed a diverse range of topics, while at the same time ensuring the collection didn’t veer too far off course — less satire, more mood, for instance.

The result is a page-turning corpus of dark tales that shy away from cliched monsters and glorified gore, and instead provide chilling perspective on horror and heartbreak, hope and atonement, and the emotional despair of oblivion.

“I enjoy thrills of all kinds, whether the ghosts and monsters of horror, or the shoot-em-up of military conquest; the excitement and wanderlust of adventure tales, or bleak mayhem in noir gangster epics. They each inspire and ‘thrill’ me in different ways,” Guignard says. “Regardless of how the genre has changed, I try to write stories that have meaning to me, and, I hope, to the reader, whether tales of woe, mystery, or strange fancy.”
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What She Gave Away by Catharine Riggs

Revenge is anything but sweet in this twisty thriller about two women with very different lives locked in the same deadly game. Imagining the best way to destroy a person’s happiness is Crystal Love’s favorite pastime. Devious and unpolished, the formidable loan analyst couldn’t be more out of place in her new town of Santa Barbara, where the beautifully manicured women never age and the ocean views stretch farther than the million-dollar lawns.

Kathi Wright, on the other hand, has made it her life’s work to fit in with the plastic people who surround her. But when her husband—a wealthy bank president—dies suddenly, she’s left with nothing. Then the FBI shows up, asking questions she can’t answer and freezing assets she once took for granted.

Spanning two years and told in Crystal’s and Kathi’s alternating voices, this tautly plotted novel reveals the power of choice and the price of revenge.

The Big Thrill had the opportunity to speak with author Catherine Riggs about her debut novel, WHAT SHE GAVE AWAY:
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Edinburgh Dusk by Carole Lawrence

By Nancy Bilyeau

With the arrival in 2017 of Edinburgh Twilight, a historical mystery featuring as its protagonist Detective Inspector Ian Hamilton, Carole Lawrence won a large, enthusiastic readership. Also writing as C. E. Lawrence and Carole Bugge, she has nine published novels, six novellas and a dozen or so short stories and poems to her credit. Her work has received starred reviews from Kirkus, The Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, The Boston Herald, Ellery Queen—the list goes on.

In her newest release in the series, EDINBURGH DUSK, Lawrence weaves a delicious mystery yet again. A female physician, Sophia Jex-Blake, calls on Detective Inspector Ian Hamilton to investigate the suspicious death of one of her patients—a railroad lineman who may have been poisoned. For the first time since a fire killed his parents, Hamilton enters the Royal Infirmary to ask for the insights of a certain brilliant medical student named Arthur Conan Doyle.

Lawrence took The Big Thrill behind the scenes of her writing process, to show just how she evokes a dark-tinged page-turning story set in the middle of a Scottish winter in the late 19th century.
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The Monastery Murders by E. M. Powell

By Wendy Tyson

E. M. Powell, author of the bestselling Fifth Knight medieval thrillers, has returned with the second installment of her Stanton and Barling Mysteries, THE MONASTERY MURDERS.

In THE MONASTERY MURDERS, Aelred Barling, clerk at the court of Henry II, along with his assistant, Hugo Stanton, are sent to investigate a brutal murder in a remote abbey in the Yorkshire Moors. It’s Christmastime, and the monastery, with its isolated location and unyielding culture, is the perfect backdrop for murder—or, in this case, a series of murders.

“The setting of my fictional Fairmore Abbey is integral to the plot,” Powell says. “The vast majority of the action takes place there.”

But the setting presented challenges too. “In some ways, that was very restrictive in that everything has to take place within the confines of the abbey walls.” It wasn’t only the physical structure of the setting that offered obstacles. “The medieval monastery was like a mini society,” Powell says, “with its own rules and laws, and was rigidly structured with almost every moment of every day accounted for. I had to make sure I reflected that. Developing distinct secondary characters was also quite a challenge as, unsurprisingly, almost everyone is a monk.”

The monastery setting, like a great locked-room mystery, only adds to the suspense of THE MONASTERY MURDERS. Indeed, it lends a deep sense of intrigue and foreboding. “The challenges also became, I think, one of the novel’s greatest strengths,” Powell admits. “Readers have said how much they like its claustrophobic atmosphere and the tense, volatile internal dynamics—as well as all the other murders, of course.”
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Trimmed to Death by Nancy J. Cohen

Mix together a cocktail for murder, add a few salty suspects, toss in a dollop of sweet humor, and you have the recipe for Trimmed to Death, #15 in the Bad Hair Day cozy mystery series.

Savvy hairstylist and amateur sleuth Marla Vail enters a charity bake-off contest at a fall festival sponsored by a local farm. While she waits to see if her coconut fudge pie is a winner, Marla joins a scavenger hunt where people playing character roles are the targets. Instead of scoring points with a live person, she finds a dead body planted face-down in the strawberry field. Who would want to cut short the life of food magazine publisher and fellow bake-off contestant Francine Dodger? As she investigates, Marla learns there’s no shortage of suspects. A celebrity TV chef, food critic, olive oil importer, food truck owner, pastry chef, and cookbook author may be stirring up more than their next recipe. Can Marla unmask the killer before someone else gets trimmed from life?

Recipes Included!

Bestselling author Nancy J. Cohen spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing the fifteenth installment in The Bad Hair Day mystery series, TRIMMED TO DEATH:
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Game of the Gods by Jay Schiffman

By Austin S. Camacho

Tired of hearing about the current political craziness? No problem. Jay Schiffman’s GAME OF THE GODS takes us a step further by dropping a political thriller into a dystopian novel setting with stunning effect.

This dark future tale centers on Max Cone, who wants to be an ordinary citizen of the Federacy and leave war and politics behind. Unfortunately for him, he’s too good a military commander, and too powerful a judge, to be left alone. When war breaks out, Max’s skills are needed, but because the Federacy harshly punished his wife, he no longer feels a connection to his country.  In Cone, Schiffman has created a complex, and conflicted, yet likeable protagonist caught in a terrible corner.

“His family is taken,” Schiffman says. “His friends are imprisoned. His allies are killed. He is a military commander and high judge—a natural leader, a natural hero. Despite his reluctance about being a hero once again, he knows that is precisely what he must do.”

Part of the fun of this novel is that Cone must navigate a world that is different from our own, but one that is filled with many of the same political problems. Schiffman has done a masterful job of world building here.

“There are multiple powerful nations and military groups vying for power— the Federacy, Nation of Yerusalom, National Freedom Force, Rogues, Clans of Kolexico and others,” Schiffman says. “Among these nations, some are founded on the idea that men need gods and others that gods need men. Most of the political conflicts in GAME OF THE GODS come back to this fundamental difference.”
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Shot of Love by R. J. Jagger

By George Ebey

In SHOT OF LOVE, the next installment in R. J. Jagger’s Nick Teffinger crime series, Denver homicide detective Nick Teffinger crosses paths with an edgy little beauty who is either a killer or about to be killed—or both. Either way, she’s on the run, and now so is he.

The Big Thrill recently caught up with Jagger to gain insight into his main character, the Teffinger series, and his new release SHOT OF LOVE.

What first drew you to writing mystery and crime fiction?

My college degrees were in mathematics and then I went on to become a lawyer, so I never really read a book. Then one day, several years into my law practice, just for grins, I grabbed one of the current bestsellers off a Barnes & Noble shelf. I was immediately blown away, first by how good the book was, and second because I felt I could probably write a book myself if I wanted to. Fast forward a year or two, and I began to write a book on weekends and at night—a thriller. I got about 200 pages done and then my law practice escalated to 65 hours a week. The manuscript got shoved into the bottom of a drawer for more than three years. At that point, I’d actually forgotten I’d written it until I stumbled on it one day. I read it, decided it wasn’t half bad, and scrapped half of it, down to 100 pages or so. Then I wrote the rest of it in a flurry over two months. And then all of a sudden, there it was, an actual book (well, manuscript, actually) sitting in front of me on my desk. I’d done it. For better or worse, I was off and running.
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Shelter Cove by Colin Campbell

By Karen Harper

Colin Campbell is a Brit with a British hero who has reinvented himself in U.S. law enforcement. Nothing like a long-time British cop writing about a British cop, solving crimes in America, no less.

Campbell took some out of his busy schedule to talk to The Big Thrill about the latest in his Resurrection Man series, SHELTER COVE.

Please tell us what SHELTER COVE is about.  

Jim Grant is at it again. Knee deep in shit and shit deep in someone else’s past. So far so normal. Except this time it’s personal, and that’s why the past stings so much.

Trouble comes in threes.  Always has and always will.  If Cole Thornton had recognized that, he might have avoided much of what was to come. If he’d realized that the car crash was the start of his personal trifecta, he could have moved on before Shelter Cove became a killing jar instead of a safe haven. Before the bodies on the beach and the shootings. And before Jim Grant came looking for him.

That’s pretty much the “no spoiler” description. I’m trying not to say who Cole Thornton is or why Jim Grant is looking for him. And I don’t want to say too much about why the car crash is tied into all the other stuff that happens, or what that other stuff is. Some of it came as a surprise to me.
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Trust But Verify by Karna Small Bodman

By Jaden Terrell

Like most writers, Karna Small Bodman started her adult life with a day job. Not an ordinary day job, like waiting tables or working in an office, but two day jobs in a row that uniquely prepared her to write a series of award-winning international thrillers.

Her first career was as a TV news reporter and anchor, first in San Francisco and later in Washington, DC, where she hosted a three-hour news/talk radio show and a nationally syndicated program on business and economic issues. The skills she learned there—keenly developed powers of observation and a deep understanding of the current cultural and political landscape—led to a position in President Ronald Reagan’s administration as deputy to Press Secretary Jim Brady. From there, she progressed to senior director and spokesman for the National Security Council.

Over the years, she met with the President almost every day, wrote briefing papers for him, and traveled on Air Force One. She flew to South America and the Far East to give speeches on the President’s economic policies and attended arms control talks with the Soviets. She even traveled with the team that briefed Pope John Paul II and the leaders of Great Britain, France, and Italy. When she finally left the White House for work in the private sector, Karna was the White House staff’s highest-ranking woman.

She had always wanted to write novels, and now was the time. She’d been honing her writing skills with articles, news scripts, and newspaper columns; and her political background made the thriller genre a natural fit. Her first four White House National Security novels—Checkmate, Gambit, Final Finesse, and Castle Bravo—were well received. “Write what you know,” writers are told, and Karna found success by taking that advice to heart.

Bodman took some time this month to talk to The Big Thrill about the newest in the series, TRUST BUT VERIFY, which brings back Samantha Reid as Director of the White House Office of Homeland Security.
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The Black Car Business Volume 2 by Lawrence Kelter

The “black car” has appeared both conspicuously and inconspicuously throughout the annals of fiction—its presence both mysterious and menacing, its appearance enough to pause your heart.

It’s the sedan just within sight that seems to be mimicking your speed and movements as you walk down the dark deserted street late at night. As the hairs rise on the back of your neck you wonder, Who is behind the wheel and what is the driver’s intent? It’s The Black Car Business and its presence means your life is about to abruptly change. You try to assure yourself there’s nothing wrong, but your pace quickens nonetheless, and soon you’re running, desperate for that narrow sliver between two buildings to slip through, the one too narrow for the black car to pass through.

It’s that car parked just down the block that sends chills down your spine and keeps you awake throughout the night.

It’s the sanctuary you race toward when you’re being chased, only to explode when you turn the key.

It’s the one that skids off the icy mountain overpass and plunges into the cavernous grotto.

It’s where Clemenza garrotes Carlo just as he’s about to be driven to the airport.

It’s The Black Car Business.

If The Black Car Business Volume 1 made you nervous, VOLUME 2 will have you climbing the walls. Here are eleven fresh takes on that ominous black whip coming out of nowhere to stun and lay waste to your psyche. You may lose a few nights’ sleep but we promise it will be worth it.

Contributors: Jonathan Ashley, Brett Battles, Kathy Bennett, Austin S. Camacho, Tim Ellis, Ty Hutchinson, Rick Murcer, Richie Narvaez, Gary Ponzo, Jeff Soloway, and Frank Zafiro.

The Big Thrill caught up to Lawrence Kelter to gain some insight into the creation of the second volume of THE BLACK CAR BUSINESS anthology:
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The Life and Times of Sherlock Holmes: Essays on Victorian England by Liese Sherwood-Fabre

By Charles Salzberg

“I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know about Sherlock Holmes,” says Liese Sherwood-Fabre, author of THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES: ESSAYS ON VICTORIAN ENGLAND, a fascinating companion guide for anyone who can’t get enough of the legendary English detective, or that seemingly endless list of writers who insist upon resurrecting Holmes or some facsimile of him in their work.

“We were latchkey kids,” Sherwood-Fabre says, talking about her years growing up in Dallas, Texas. “And if we weren’t helping my father out in his micro-film business, we were home watching old black and white films on a local TV show called Dialing for Dollars. They never did call us, darn, but I remember watching those Basil Rathbone movies and that’s how I first got to know Sherlock Holmes.”

There are plenty of folks who have paid and continue to pay homage to Arthur Conan Doyle’s master detective, but that’s not really what Sherwood-Fabre is all about. Instead, she’s fascinated by how the Victorian Age influenced Holmes and made him who he was. To that end, she’s produced an incredibly well-researched, easy to read, helpful book of short, illustrated essays.

At first, your reaction might be, Who cares? I mean, haven’t we had enough Sherlock Holmes? Obviously not. And with good reason.

“Sir Arthur Conan Doyle references many everyday Victorian activities and aspects that are lost on the 21st century reader,” Sherwood-Fabre says.
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Path of the Dead by Mark Edward Langley

Ex-marine Arthur Nakai spent years as a member of the Shadow Wolves, an ICE tactical unit tasked by the US government to hunt human traffickers and drug smugglers on the US/Mexico border. He put that life of confronting violence in the darker contours of the desert landscape behind him and settled into a quiet existence in New Mexico with his wife, Sharon, a local TV reporter.

But when Sharon goes missing after crossing paths with a serial killer who has just added to his list of young victims, Arthur’s calm world is shattered. He must return to the darkness of the life he left behind in order to save what matters most to him, and the future he and his wife plan to share together. He can only hope that she is still alive, and that his skills will be enough to find her. So begins the hunt — to find a ruthless killer and save the love of his life.

The Big Thrill caught up with author Mark Edward Langley to discuss his debut novel, PATH OF THE DEAD:
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Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron

By Millie Naylor Hast

MARDI GRAS MURDER, Book Four in USA Today bestselling author Ellen Byron’s Cajun Country Mystery series, dishes up a zesty jambalaya of Louisiana charm and darkness. Byron melds quirky but endearing small-town characters, humor, and a twisty who-done-it with a touch of danger into a story fans are sure to devour.

The Cajun Country Mysteries have been nominated for Agatha, Daphne, and Lefty awards. The second in the series, Body on the Bayou, and the third, A Cajun Christmas Killing, won Lefty awards for Best Humorous Mystery.

Among the praise for these books, Publisher’s Weekly said in a starred review, “There’s no end to the mischief and mayhem.” Suspense Magazine wrote, “Not only is the story a whole lot of fun to read, with a historical plantation setting, but there are also mouthwatering recipes.”

In the upcoming MARDI GRAS MURDER, a hundred-year flood on Bayou Beurre serves up a body with a fatal gunshot wound on the shore at the Crozat Plantation Bed and Breakfast. No one in Pelican, Louisiana knows who it is, but Maggie Crozat, daughter of the plantation owners who run the B and B, feels responsible to identify the victim and find out who in her Spanish moss-festooned environs would want him dead.

With plenty of her father’s gumbo to fuel her, Maggie juggles her job as a tour guide at another plantation, the restoration of a mysterious painting she feels may hold a clue to the murder, her role as a judge in the Miss Pelican Mardi Gras Gumbo Queen Pageant, and her not-so-perfect relationship with her boyfriend, Pelican Police Detective Bo Durand.

Besides her mother, father, and grandmère, Maggie has her friends Gaynell and Ione to help her, along with the Pelican PD and a variety of other entertaining characters.

The Big Thrill caught up with Byron recently to talk about her work.
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Deadly Vengeance by Ava Bradley

By Cathy Perkins

In a city most flock to dreaming of being discovered, four siblings with unique abilities will go to any lengths to stay hidden.

After losing their father to a corrupt police officer’s negligence, the Massaro sisters harbor deep distrust of law enforcement. They do their best to keep their psychic abilities secret, but meddling outsiders with good intentions pop up at the worst of times. Keeping a low profile is now more important than ever; years of red tape have delayed their wrongful death suit against the city, and 21-year-old Giselle Massaro is about to lose her younger sisters to the foster care system. But when a neighbor shows up with an impassioned plea to find a kidnapped girl, Giselle cannot refuse to use her incredible gifts before the kidnappers make good on their threats, even if it means putting her family back under the scornful eyes of the local police.

This month, I caught up with Bradley to ask about her upcoming release and the planned quartet of books.
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The Blue Kingfisher by Erica Wright

What happens when a master of disguise tries to be herself for once? If you’re private investigator Kat Stone, trouble seems to find you with or without your favorite wig.

Kat knows she’s living on borrowed time, waiting for her violent past to catch up with her. Still, she doesn’t expect men to start falling from the sky. On a desolate morning in Fort Washington Park, Kat discovers the body of her building’s French expat maintenance man atop the Jeffrey’s Hook Lighthouse. The NYPD is quick to dismiss his death as suicide, another lost soul leaping from the bridge overhead. Kat is less than convinced, especially when she learns about his dangerous side hustle, finding jobs for immigrant members of their community.

Her investigation turns up unexpected connections to Manhattan’s tony art world, not to mention a host of dark superstitions. When she goes undercover with a deep-sea fishing company, she gets a little too cozy with a colorful cast of characters and a couple of jellyfish. Will she find his killer before her past drags her under? From one of the most acclaimed new mystery writers working today comes a riveting novel of suspense that will have you guessing until the last page is turned.

Erica Wright, author of THE BLUE KINGFISHER, took some time to discuss her latest book with The Big Thrill:
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Harms´ Way by Thomas Rayfiel

Ethan Harms is reluctant to talk about the crimes that earned him consecutive life sentences in a super-max detention facility. Instead, he trains his sharp eye and wry sense of humor on the realities of existence without freedom—deprived not just of movement but expression, distraction, and perhaps even absolution.

Harms is a brilliant autodidact, yet much eludes his grasp. For instance, how is it that his illiterate next-cell neighbor, Cooney, has authored a tell-all best-seller that is a finalist for the National Book Award? And how can Harms be having silent psychic “conversations” with Crow, a Native American mass murderer who has not uttered a word aloud in fifteen years?

With HARMS’ WAY, Rayfiel (author of Colony Girl, a Los Angeles Times Book of the Year) has created a darkly comic, literary novel rich with the pleasures of taut, psychological thriller.

The Big Thrill had an opportunity to meet with Rayfiel and discuss his latest novel, HARMS’ WAY:
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The Spirit in Question (Lila Maclean Academic Mystery #3) by Cynthia Kuhn

English professor Lila Maclean knew drama would be involved when she agreed to consult on Stonedale University’s production of Puzzled: The Musical.

But she didn’t expect to find herself cast into such chaos: the incomprehensible play is a disaster, the crumbling theater appears to be haunted, and, before long, murder takes center stage.

The show must go on—yet as they speed toward opening night, it becomes clear that other members of the company may be targeted as well. Lila searches for answers while contending with a tenacious historical society, an eccentric playwright, an unsettling psychic, an enigmatic apparition, and a paranormal search squad.

With all of this in play, will she be able to identify who killed her colleague…or will it soon be curtains for Lila too?

Award-winning author Cynthia Kuhn took time out of her busy schedule to meet with The Big Thrill and discuss the latest installment of the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery series, THE SPIRIT IN QUESTION:
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Wish to Die by Robert Walton

The Greek countryside and a beautiful woman might seem like enough to satisfy anyone’s vacation plans, but the intrepid archaeologist Harry Thursday seems bereft of a good time if someone isn’t trying to kill him.

During WWII, the Russian Amber Room and a hoard of diamonds worth 200 million dollars were stolen from Göring’s Kunstschutz commander, Erich Koch.

Now, over thirty years later, Russian art historian Elina Kulinov is attempting to recover these items when Harry Thursday stumbles along. He joins her in a race against a Philadelphia museum and SMERSH.

With everyone looking for the same items, who will find them first? And who will survive?

The Big Thrill caught up with Robert Walton to discuss his adventure thriller, WISH TO DIE:
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Repetition Kills You by Tom Leins

REPETITION KILLS YOU is an experimental noir. A novel-in-stories. A literary jigsaw puzzle.

The book comprises 26 short stories, presented in alphabetical order, from ‘Actress on a Mattress’ to ‘Zero Sum’. Combined in different ways, they tell a larger, more complex story. The narrative timeline is warped, like a blood-soaked Möbius Strip. It goes round in circles—like a deranged animal chasing its own tail.

The content is brutal and provocative: small-town pornography, gun-running, mutilation and violent, blood-streaked stories of revenge. The cast list includes sex offenders, serial killers, bare-knuckle fighters, carnies and corrupt cops. And a private eye with a dark past—and very little future.

Welcome to Paignton Noir.

Tom Leins took time out of his day to meet with The Big Thrill and discuss his latest release, REPETITION KILLS YOU:
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Naked Truth by Rick Pullen

Reporter Beck Rikki again confronts the deceptions and lies of the rich and powerful in America when he is invited to meet with the chief justice of the United States, only to have the jurist show up dead. Beck is relentless in pursuing the truth. Yet, as he peels back the layers, he is unaware of the sleight of hand diverting his path. After all, in the real world of power, how much of the iceberg of truth can really be uncovered?

Award-winning writer and bestselling author Rick Pullen spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest thriller, NAKED TRUTH:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

Enjoy a good read and maybe learn something about corruption in high places and journalism’s attempts to uncover it. Washington, right now, is a hotbed of turmoil. This novel may allow readers to escape reality for a while, while still pointing a finger at the ways of Washington.
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The Devil’s Wind by Steve Goble

1723–Spider John, longing to escape the pirate life he never wanted, has an honest seafaring job at last aboard a sailing vessel, and is returning to his beloved Em and their child. But when Captain Brentwood is murdered in his cabin, Spider’s plans are tossed overboard.

Who killed Redemption’s captain? The mysterious pirate with a sadistic past? The beautiful redhead who hides guns beneath her skirt? One of the men pining for the captain’s daughter? There are plenty of suspects.

But how could anyone kill the captain in his locked quarters while the entire crew was gathered together on the deck? Before he can solve the puzzle, Spider John and his ex-pirate friends Hob and Odin will have to cope with violence, schemes, nosy Royal Navy officers, and a deadly trap set by the ruthless pirate Ned Low.

The Big Thrill caught up to author Steve Goble to discuss the second installment in his Spider John mystery series, THE DEVIL’S WIND:
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Into the Sounds by Lee Murray

On leave, and out of his head with boredom, NZDF Sergeant Taine McKenna joins biologist Jules Asher on a Conservation Department deer culling expedition to New Zealand’s southernmost national park, where soaring peaks give way to valleys gouged from clay and rock, and icy rivers bleed into watery canyons too deep to fathom. Despite covering an area the size of the Serengeti, only eighteen people live in the isolated region, so it’s a surprise when the hunters stumble on the nation’s Tūrehu tribe, becoming some of only a handful to ever encounter the elusive ghost people. But a band of mercenaries saw them first, and, hell-bent on exploiting the tribe’s survivors, they’re prepared to kill anyone who gets in their way. A soldier, McKenna is duty-bound to protect all New Zealanders, but after centuries of persecution, will the Tūrehu allow him to help them? Besides, there is something else lurking in the sounds, and it has its own agenda. When the waters clear, will anyone be allowed to leave?

Award-winning author Lee Murray met up with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest thriller, INTO THE SOUNDS:
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Brothers of Blood by Tristan Drue Rogers

Belle Whynecrow and her oldest brother, Beau, attend their father’s funeral, inciting a bloodlust in Beau that trickles down onto his impressionable little sister. Eventually, Beau’s antics lead him to prison, causing their mother to flee the state with Belle, so that they may lead a simple life. All for naught, Belle obsesses over the teachings of her oldest brother, awaiting his arrival, as she creates her own brotherhood, leading each additional brother to victory over a string of terrible crimes.

When Beau finally shows up at her doorstep, he does so as a devout man of God, looking to prove to his family that his time in prison changed him for the better. This doesn’t bode well with Belle, who begins crafting a plan that could lead Beau headfirst into or against the brotherhood that his sister built specifically for him to thrive in.

Tristan Drue Rogers took time out of his busy schedule to discuss his thriller, BROTHERS OF BLOOD:
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Beach Body by Jennifer Soosar

She Brought A Killer Opportunity To A Flawed Paradise…

Set at a Cuban resort, a mysterious blonde manipulates a restless dancer to perform her dirty deeds in exchange for freedom.

By day, Homero manages the towel hut at a beach resort on Cayo Guillermo. By night, he entertains in the theatrical show. But exposure to wealthy foreigners has come at a price. Homero now lusts for a life of fame and fortune beyond the ocean’s horizon line.
When a mysterious guest—known as the ‘White Lady’ due to her odd, bleached appearance—offers to whisk Homero out of Cuba, he jumps at the opportunity. But there are deadly strings attached to her proposal. As Homero performs the most dangerous dance of his life, he grapples with the unforeseen consequences of his most tragic decision.

The Big Thrill caught up with author Jennifer Soosar to discuss her latest novella, BEACH BODY:
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The Spying Moon by Sandra Ruttan

The unexplained disappearance of her mother left her an orphan, so Kendall Moreau became a police officer and pursued a posting in the town where her mother went missing. She is on her way to her first posting when she gets reassigned to a task force in Maple River, hundreds of miles from where her mother vanished.

Moreau doesn’t want to be in Maple River. Most of her team doesn’t want her there, either. She’s partnered with Nate Duncan, whose role on the task force raises suspicions amongst the team because of his family’s criminal connections, adding to Moreau’s sense of isolation.

They are assigned to investigate the death of Sammy Petersen but Duncan’s personal connection to the family and suspects threatens to compromise the investigation.

When a routine break-and-enter call produces a second body, Moreau suspects a connection to Sammy’s death. After someone breaks into her cabin and assaults her, Moreau is forced to decide who to trust. Although she’s still waiting to solve her own family mystery, Moreau is determined to give Sammy Petersen’s family the answers she never received. Can she solve the case before another teenager dies and another family is destroyed?

Sandra Ruttan, author of THE SPYING MOON, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest mystery:
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Mental State by M. Todd Henderson

When conservative law professor Alex Johnson is found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at his house in Chicago, everyone thinks it is suicide. Everyone except his brother, Royce, an FBI agent.

Without jurisdiction or leads, Agent Johnson leaves his cases and family to find out who killed his brother. There are many suspects: the ex-wife, an ambitious doctor with expensive tastes and reasons to hate her ex; academic rivals on a faculty divided along political lines; an African-American student who failed the professor’s course.

As Agent Johnson peels back layers of mystery in his rogue investigation, the brother he never really knew emerges. Clues lead from the ivy-covered elite university and the halls of power in Washington to the gritty streets of Chicago and Lahore, Pakistan. Ultimately, Agent Johnson must face the question of how far he is willing to go to catch his brother’s killer.

MENTAL STATE is about two brothers learning about each other in death, and about the things people will do when convinced they are in the right.

The Big Thrill caught up to M. Todd Henderson to discuss his legal thriller, MENTAL STATE:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

My ambition is that the story provides a few hours of entertainment, but along the way offers some ideas to chew on. Although murdering another human is something we are taught is categorically wrong, there are many killings that are occasionally justified: self-defense, capital punishment, and war are just a few examples. These are all cases in which the taking of a human life is thought to serve the common good. But if killing one person to serve the interests of society is acceptable, this opens the door to excusing all sorts of killing in pursuit of political ends. In an era of increasingly confrontational politics, MENTAL STATE explores the lengths we will go to remake society in ways we are confident are right. I hope the story makes readers examine their own views about justice in new ways.

How does this book make a contribution to the genre?

This murder mystery is set in and around a law school, a world typically ignored by the genre. I used my experience as a legal academic, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., and the brother of an FBI agent to give the story real-life perspectives. Some of the themes of the book—pedophilia, infertility, and racial politics—are also uncommon in mysteries and thrillers.

Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?

It was shocking how easy it was in my own mind to step into the shoes of the bad guys in the book. The arguments they make for murder were surprisingly easy for me to understand and to accept. Although we would likely all blanch at the idea of killing, when the hypothetical cases are set out in cost-benefit terms, it is pretty easy to talk oneself into it.

No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?

MENTAL STATE was inspired by the murder of a friend who taught law at Florida State. Trying to come to grips with his murder, I imagined why someone would kill a law professor. To do this, I made the victim myself, and sent my brother, at the time a straight-laced FBI agent, on the hunt for the killer. Drawing on my real-life experiences in academia, in Washington power plays, and from my own complex family, the story is autobiographical fiction. The things that happen to Alex (the murdered law professor in the book) more or less happened to me.

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

I love to read everything, so I do not consider myself a connoisseur of the thriller or mystery genre. I read anything recommended by people whose opinions I trust, which means biographies, science fiction, law, current events, psychology, economics, politics, travel books, the classics, and so on. I loved Isaac Asimov as a kid, and he created a love of sci-fi that burns to this day. Wallace Stegner is also a favorite, especially Crossing to Safety. My all-time favorite book is The Brothers Karamazov, although Moby Dick is a close second.

*****

M. Todd Henderson was the biggest baby born in Tennessee in 1970. A professor at the University of Chicago, he is renowned as being the tallest law professor on Earth. Prior to becoming an academic, he worked as a designer of dams, a judicial clerk, a Supreme Court lawyer, and a management consultant. He lives in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago with his wife and three children.

To learn more about M. Todd Henderson, please visit him online.

 

 
 

Between the Lines: Hank Phillippi Ryan

Finding Trust in the Truth

By Josie Brown

If you’re a novelist, the best way to make lemonade from a lemon of a non-fiction book deal gone awry is to re-purpose it into a thriller that garners numerous enthusiastic reviews and a slot on several bestseller lists. With her latest standalone, TRUST ME, five-time Agatha Award-winner Hank Phillippi Ryan has done exactly that.

Her assignment was to write a true-crime non-fiction narrative on the 2011 Casey Anthony trial for the murder of her toddler daughter. “It was to be like In Cold Blood, but it was also going to be interactive—an eBook with videos and pictures. Innovative and fabulous,” Ryan says.

“Everyone interested in crime fiction, psychology, or human behavior was riveted by the Casey Anthony trial,” she says. “This beautiful young woman from Florida was accused of killing her young daughter, Caylee, and hiding [the body] for several months.”

Considering Ryan’s reporting credentials—33 Emmys and 14 Edward R. Murrow awards as a reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate WHDH—it was the perfect match of topic and author.

Her process was arduous, to say the least. The trial ran an exhausting six weeks. She watched the court proceedings from start to finish via a special media feed. Says Ryan, “I wrote day and night because I had to have it ready to go. I used three computers: one for the video of the trial, one for research, and one computer for writing the book.”

Ryan didn’t know when the project would end other than knowing her work needed to be ready for publication upon the day of the sentencing. “The verdict was to come on a certain day; two weeks later, she’d be sentenced. And at that moment— they were going to hit ‘SEND’ because clearly she was guilty…”

So much for public opinion, let alone Ryan’s. Needless to say, she was awed by the jury’s verdict: “Not guilty.”

That was Ryan’s first shock. The second was the publisher’s response. “They called and said, ‘You know, we don’t need this now. We can’t print this. She’s not guilty.’ ”

Six weeks of living, breathing, and writing a book went down the drain.

“I thought three things,” Ryan says. “One: How can that be? Two: I just spent every single waking moment of every day writing this book! Now, it’s unusable. It’s going to just vanish into nothingness. And, three: How could I be so wrong? How could I have envisioned exactly what happened with all the evidence so perfectly presented—and the jury disagree?’”

The results fascinated both Ryan the journalist and Ryan the novelist. “Could you get away with murder? But maybe she didn’t. Legally, she didn’t do it. Legally, she’s innocent.”

Warp speed to last year. Even several years later, the trial’s verdict still puzzled Ryan. “It was very compelling, made even more so because my husband is a criminal defense attorney. He’s had his share of hopeless cases—the people who cannot win. Once, he was working on a case that was very iffy: a notorious murder trial. And no one was quite sure whether his client was guilty or not. I heard my husband practicing his closing arguments for this case: impassioned and well thought out. It was a wonderful retelling of what happened. I imagined the prosecutor at home with his wife doing the same thing with his closing arguments: telling the exact opposite story and believing it just as purely.”

Or, as Ryan puts it: “There are three sides to every story: Your side, my side, and the truth.”

At that moment, the idea to do a fictional take on her experience hit her. “I wanted to see whether I could write a novel where I take pieces of evidence and make them mean one thing, and then make the same evidence mean something completely opposite,” Ryan says. “How could that work? What a puzzle that would be! Sue Grafton called it ‘the Magic.’ ”

Hank Phillippi Ryan
Photo credit: Chitose Suzuki

Ryan had written two series already, and was under contract to write another in her Jane Ryland books. “When the idea for TRUST ME occurred, it was so irresistible to me that I called my agent and said, ‘Listen to this: What if a young woman—a journalist, who was upset and unhappy about her own life—had to write a true crime narrative non-fiction about a notorious killer—alleged killer—and thought she knew what really happened? But maybe she didn’t. But how do you write a true crime book if you don’t know what’s true?’”

The response: “I want that right now!”

And that’s how TRUST ME came into being.

In this psychological thriller, the protagonist, Mercer Hennessey, is contracted to do the same thing: write a non-fiction narrative book about Ashlyn Bryant, a young mother accused of killing her toddler daughter, Tasha.

Whereas this would be a dream project for many journalists, Mercer doesn’t necessarily see it that way. Early on in the book, the reader learns that Mercer left journalism to be a stay-at-home mother and wife. “It was supposed to be a good decision,” Ryan says. “But life doesn’t turn out the way we expect. How do you react when love gets pulled out from under you? I wanted to explore that.”

In Mercer’s case, the tragic deaths of her husband and young daughter put a stop to her storybook life. She knows—and resents—being prodded by her editor to take on the project as a way to get on with the rest of her life.

Instead, it changes Mercer’s view of the world and herself forever.

Whether in the real world or fiction, culling the truth from a source isn’t an easy endeavor for a journalist. “I’ve been a television reporter for forty years,” Ryan says. “I’ve wired myself with hidden cameras. I’ve confronted corrupt politicians. I’ve gone undercover and in disguise. I’ve had people confess to murder. I know what people look like when they lie. My job as a journalist is to get you to talk to me. How far will I go to make you feel comfortable with me so that you tell me things? When we see someone wavering, we reel them in.”

And while journalists are supposed to write an unbiased story, even they can be prejudiced. To do her job properly, there are times Ryan must hide her feelings. “I can’t erase them, but I can’t use my feelings in my story. But, what if I couldn’t hide them? What if my whole perception was so skewed by my own life that I couldn’t keep it out of the story?”

The problem is, the relationship between reporter and subject is fraught with opportunities for manipulation. “They say, ‘X, Y, and Z are true…’ ” Ryan says. “And I have to say, ‘No, it isn’t—and here’s how I know you’re not telling me the truth.’ ”

According to Ryan, journalism is about finding out what you don’t know. “It’s a house of cards; a Jenga tower. If you pull the wrong piece, it all comes crashing down.”

Hank Phillippi Ryan
Lynn Wayne

In TRUST ME, Mercer gets an opportunity to do something Ryan wishes she had: work on the book with the suspected murderer.

“What if the actual defendant was in my kitchen and I was talking to her?” Ryan says. “What would she say? What would her motive be? Would she be able to change my mind? Or would she even try? Could my entire belief system be slowly turned, like an ocean liner, to face in exactly the other direction?”

And Ashlyn certainly has an agenda of her own: clear her name. “No matter whatever happens to her, no matter what happens in that courtroom, she’s going to be reviled and hated,” Ryan says. “Everywhere she goes people will look at her and say, ‘Ashlyn Bryant! She killed her daughter…’ No matter what the verdict turns out to be, how do you get rid of that?”

Like Ryan, Mercer is skilled at wooing her subject and hiding her real feelings on how she feels about Ashlyn—well, most of the time. But Ashlyn is just as adept at unpacking Mercer’s personal baggage. Soon she has the journalist second-guessing the trial’s evidence.

Just as importantly, Mercer doubts her personal history. “We all go into our lives with some baggage that we don’t always recognize fully,” Ryan says. “A good journalist understands when they’re crossing the line. But at some point, couldn’t anyone be too vulnerable, too damaged, too psychologically dented, to recognize that they’re going too far? Can they regain their balance and pull back? Can we be persuaded that something is true when clearly it is not?”

Ryan keeps the reader guessing as to what portion of Mercer’s feelings are paranoia, self-doubt, or selfishness. “We’ve all dealt with people—I know I certainly have—who are trying to get you to do something, and convincing you that it’s for your own good; or trying to make you feel guilty in ways that are insidious, subtle, or unpleasant. But we recognize it. Even from the slightest phrasing, like, ‘Okay, if that’s what you want to think…’ Or, ‘Okay, that’s fine…. but that’s not exactly how I would do it…’ That’s a compelling thing: that manipulative passive-aggressiveness that can be very destructive to someone who is a little vulnerable. Those people go after the vulnerabilities of even the strongest people. They have skills in knowing where to poke and prod.”

At this point in the book, these two strong women play a cat-and-mouse game. “The problem is we don’t know who’s the cat and who’s the mouse,” Ryan says.

TRUST ME’s twists and turns are nonstop right up to the final scene.

Ryan smiles when I point that out. “I hope it will keep people turning the pages. That’s what keeps me at my computer each day: writing the next paragraph and the next scene and the next chapter. I want to find out what’s going to happen too. Just like life, the plot could go in a million directions.”

Readers won’t be disappointed. TRUST ME has already been touted “a must read” by Mary Kubica, a “mesmerizing, taut thriller” by Lisa Gardner, and “tense, gripping, completely unpredictable” by Chris Pavone. Librarians all over the country have it on their “must-order” lists.

Some of the most poetic phrases Ryan has in the book are actually Mercer’s thoughts about her life. Ryan has created a character so complex, so injured, and so intensely guilt-ridden that she can’t help but internalize everything Ashlyn says.

Hearing this, Ryan laughs with appreciation. “When someone sees where you’re going as a writer and gets it—well, that’s the joy of my life: to create a world that never existed before, and have it feel real to readers.”

 

 
 

Trend Alert: How Anthologies Help Authors

Making Friends and Fostering Connections

By Dawn Ius

The year 2017 may go down in publishing history as a time for fostering connections—and the fruits of that networking labor have certainly blossomed in 2018.

At just over the half-way point of the year, we’ve seen a marked increase in authors banding together, embracing the notion that whether it’s through an innovative group marketing strategy, or inclusion in a themed collection of short stories by various writers, branding and promoting isn’t a zero sum game.

Rick Ollerman, author of four novels and the editor of Down & Out Magazine, says he’s not surprised to see an influx of anthologies hitting shelves. Published works such as Otto Penzler’s collections and the Akashic “noir” series have sold well in past years, suggesting that this branch of the fiction market seems to have picked up from where it was 10 years ago.

“Lately I’ve been thinking that the crime fiction community is, in a way, almost being censored, if that’s not too strong a word, by the domination of the Big Five publishers,” he says. “From a fiction standpoint, when you walk into a big box bookstore like Barnes & Noble, your choices are fairly limited to whatever the Big Boys are offering you.”

Discovering a fresh voice in this environment, he adds, isn’t easy. Which may be the driving factor in why readers are buying more anthologies, and authors are clamoring to be included in them.
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Between the Lines: Sarah Weinman

 Discovery of the “Real” Lolita

By Nancy Bilyeau

When discussing a novel, many an author will be only too happy to cite the real person who inspires a character or the news story that sparks the idea for a plotline. But Vladimir Nabokov, no great surprise, wasn’t like other authors. He always denied that the case of Sally Horner, abducted at the age of 11 from Camden, New Jersey, in 1948, inspired his 1955 novel Lolita. Sarah Weinman argues otherwise, in her meticulously researched and movingly written nonfiction book THE REAL LOLITA: THE KIDNAPPING OF SALLY HORNER AND THE NOVEL THAT SCANDALIZED THE WORLD.

In so doing, Weinman became a literary detective, poring through newspaper accounts, visiting courthouses and other sources of documents, and interviewing remaining relatives of those whose lives were forever changed by the Sally Horner abduction. Yet as fascinating—and as troubling—as that crime was, it’s only one part of the book. Weinman also examines Nabokov’s creative processes, finding the parallels to Lolita and probable timeline of influence.

Lolita is an outstanding work of art and its genesis has incredibly complicated roots, and Nabokov himself is an incredibly complicated man,” Weinman says.

The book’s narratives unfold on parallel tracks: One is the true story of Sally Horner, the 11-year-old daughter of a struggling single mother who was coaxed to go on an Atlantic City “family vacation” by a 50-year-old ex-con named Frank LaSalle, who then disappeared for almost two years on a cross-country horror of rape while hiding from the law. The second is the career of Russian emigree Nabokov, who in 1948 had finished teaching at Wellesley College and was starting at Cornell, and was just beginning the “stop and start” of writing the novel that became Lolita. more »

 
 

Between the Lines: Reed Farrel Coleman

Pushing an Icon Forward

By Alex Segura

Acclaimed author Reed Farrel Coleman is no stranger to writing a successful series — having left his mark on the private eye genre with the beloved Moe Prager stories and the more recent Gus Murphy novels. He’s also proven incredibly adept at something possibly more challenging — taking on a character created by a legendary author, and adding to its legacy.

Jesse Stone, the troubled former minor league shortstop turned police chief of a small Massachusetts town, was one of Robert B. Parker’s final creations and starred in nine of his novels. Since 2014, Coleman has taken up the mantle, spearheading five new books telling the further adventures of the damaged, conflicted Stone — starting with Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot.

In his latest, ROBERT B. PARKER’S COLORBLIND, readers find Stone freshly returned from a rehab sting, facing a challenging road to sobriety in the wake of a flurry of racially-motivated crimes in Paradise, MA. Tensions start at a fever pitch with the murder of a local African American woman and grow even more intense when Stone’s newly-hired deputy Alisha — the first black woman on the Paradise force — is pulled into the spotlight by an elaborate frame job.

As Stone struggles with his demons and the growing stakes of the crime wave, he must deal with a mysterious man named Cole Slayton, an embittered youth with a great disdain for authority figures — like Stone. How does the new visitor to Paradise tie into the rash of violent, racial crimes Stone is dealing with? Can he keep it together long enough to find out?

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Up Close: Sandra Brown

How She Lures the Reader In

By Dawn Ius

Sandra Brown and her husband, Michael, were in the mattress department at Macy’s when she got the call from her agent—TAILSPIN, Brown’s latest thriller, had debuted on the New York Times bestseller list at #1.

TAILSPIN is Brown’s 80th book, and 70th bestseller, but the news rated an impromptu happy dance on the salesfloor, because despite Brown’s numerous successes, the ranking delivered a career first. In the 40 years Brown has been publishing books, she’s never had back-to-back #1 debuts.

“When a new book is released, I try not to dwell on it, because I can make myself ill,” she says. “But after all these years, it’s still as exciting and anxiety-producing, even though I know that once the novel is released, there are so many variables outside of my control.”

It’s the advice she’d pass on to new—and veteran—authors, and is the lingering effect of the words of wisdom once passed on by an editor at the start of Brown’s writing career.

At the time, every writer she knew was pushing bookmarks, buying donuts for book delivery drivers, and finding creative ways to self-promote. Brown was tempted to get caught up in it all, worried that she was behind the times and that no one would know her name. The editor set her straight.
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Up Close: Lisa Black

When Real Life Steps In

By R. G. Belsky

Lisa Black’s new thriller SUFFER THE CHILDREN puts her two protagonists—forensic investigator Maggie Gardiner and homicide detective Jack Renner—in a detention home for troubled and violent children where someone is mysteriously murdering young victims.

So how did she choose such an unusual crime setting for the book?

“Why exactly a juvenile detention facility, I don’t know…but I have always been interested in the structure and reform of prisons and detention facilities,” Black says, who, like Maggie, is a forensic crime expert as well as a bestselling author.  “We have a ridiculous amount of people in jail and it seems to me they could be so much more effectively structured.

“I was fascinated by Lisa Gardner’s Live to Tell, in which a devoted mother tried to deal with an unpredictably violent 8-year-old. I have no children myself, so everything about them is new to me. It was easy in a way, because there is such a huge variety of possible case histories and life issues. But it was difficult because I could find only general accounts of work in the juvenile justice system, not the specifics of the day in and day out workings of such a place.

“I tried, but never did get to visit my county’s juvenile center. I just had to do a lot of reading. And my cousin was a children’s social worker in her rural community, so she gave me a lot of first-hand knowledge.”
more »

 
 

Up Close: Wendy Corsi Staub

When Questions Demand Answers

By Dawn Ius

Wendy Corsi Staub has written more than 90 novels—many of which have hit multiple bestseller lists over the years—but she’s always wanted to write something bigger, something more intricate and complex, a book decidedly outside of her comfort zone.

LITTLE GIRL LOST is the result of that deep-rooted desire.

As the first in a thrilling new trilogy, LITTLE GIRL LOST follows the story of young protagonist Amelia Crenshaw who is determined to find out the truth about the birth mother that abandoned her—never suspecting that her journey will lead her straight into the path of a killer with a chilling agenda.

The book begins with an abandoned baby on a church step in 1968, alternating between that fateful time and 19 years in the future, twisting and turning through a plot rife with surprises, multiple characters, and mounting suspense that have become hallmarks of Staub’s work.

LITTLE GIRL LOST is a novel that Staub is proud to add to her impressive cache of published books—but she admits that her deviance from less complicated, more linear projects has been met with some unexpected pushback from fans.

“1968 was not a warm and fuzzy time,” she says. “And I realize that this book isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I know that I can never please everyone, but my concern is that some readers feel betrayed. That’s certainly not my intent.”
more »

 
 

Up Close: Bev Vincent

Flying High With Stephen King

By April Snellings

No mode of transportation has inspired more awe than flight—or more terror, when you consider the countless things that can go wrong when you’re trapped in a highly combustible tube suspended 30,000 feet above the ground.

We can conjure up plenty of flight-themed horror stories without any help from fiction writers, so authors who tackle the subject might have the deck stacked in their favor. That’s never been more evident than in FLIGHT OR FRIGHT, a new anthology edited by Stephen King and Bev Vincent (out this month from Cemetery Dance Publications). The volume collects 17 “turbulent tales” culled from more than a century of aeronautical horror, including new, never-before-published contributions from King and Horns author Joe Hill.

The concept for the anthology was born last summer, when King, Vincent, and several associates were gathered in Bangor, Maine, for the premiere of The Dark Tower.

“It was so surreal,” says Vincent. “We were in Bangor, eating at a diner across the road from the airport, with people from Sony and King’s office, some of his friends and family as well, when King dropped this idea on [Cemetery Dance publisher] Richard Chizmar and me. I think he heard some horror stories about people’s adventures in getting to Bangor as he mingled with attendees. He was really enthusiastic about the idea, and I was flattered that he asked me to work with him on it.”
more »

 
 
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Inside Thrill Radio airs monthly, as host Jenny Milchman takes listeners deep behind the scenes to hear about brand new thrillers and how they came to be.

“Win, Lose, or Draw” is available starting April 19th: Three authors, who between them have racked up Edgar, Anthony, Agatha, Shamus, and Lefty award nominations, talk about their new thrillers! Will they win, lose, or draw at this year’s award ceremonies? Hear about their books and judge for yourself. Featuring guests Matt Coyle, Nadine Nettmann, and Lili Wright.

MATCH UP: In stores now!

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THRILLERFEST XIII: Registration Is Open!

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One of the most successful anthologies in the history of publishing!

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