Between The Lines
By A.J. Colucci
When it comes to murder, Karin Slaughter pulls no punches. The internationally acclaimed author of thirteen novels believes crime fiction writers have an obligation to tell the truth. “Even though we’re writing fiction, we need to remember that the crimes we write about happen to real people every single day. We need to tread carefully. We need to honor their stories.” As a result, her novels are not for the faint of heart. The crimes are brutally realistic, the terror is genuine and the tension between the characters is palpable.
With a name like Slaughter, perhaps it was fate. Her two hugely popular series, Will Trent and Grant County, have sold more than thirty million books that have been translated into thirty-two languages. Her latest novel, COP TOWN, takes readers back to 1974 in downtown Atlanta—where a cop killer known as “The Shooter” is on the loose. Kate Murphy is a new police officer thrown into the deep end her first day on the job, wondering if it will be her last. The women of the Atlanta police department are never quite sure who their worst enemies are—the criminals on the street or their fellow cops who think that the job is no place for a woman. As the entire force hunts for the killer, it quickly becomes clear that protect and serve applies only to a chosen few.
Painting an accurate portrait of the 1970s took a lot of research, and Slaughter paints it well, especially the unabashed sexism, racism, and homophobia that existed in law enforcement. Just as she exposes the harsh reality of a brutal murder, Slaughter writes with stunning acuity about the ugliness of a police force that’s openly hostile to women and, as Kirkus notes, “drives her point home like a knife to the eye.”
Much of her research was based on conversations with a group of retired female police officers. “They are amazing ladies, and the stories they tell are both horrific and hilarious. I spent hours with them talking about the good ol’ days, and we laughed and laughed, and then I got home and read through my notes and thought, ‘Holy crap, this was just awful.’ It’s amazing what they put up with back then, and continue to put up with, because some things haven’t changed all that much.” Slaughter remarked that anyone applying to be a police officer has to take a lie detector test. “Back then, women were asked if they were virgins, how many men they’d had sex with, what type of sex they had engaged in. And while this was wrong—not just because the men weren’t asked—no one complained about it.”
It was into this atmosphere that Slaughter thrusts Kate Murphy and Maggie Lawson, two female police officers in COP TOWN. Kate is new on the force and eager to shed her privileged background by strapping on a gun, but she is unprepared for the hazing and nearly quits over the abuse she faces, not only from criminals but from men in her own department. In one particularly revolting scene, Kate and her male partner interrogate a pimp named Romeo—a character who defines the word vile. For Kate, it quickly turns into a kind of verbal rape, but for her male partner, it is both amusing and proof that women are not meant to be cops. Likewise, Maggie has been at the job for years and comes from a family of cops, yet the constant barriers she faces while tracking down a cop killer is taking its toll and “knowing her place” means doing a lot of the legwork on the sly.
What would happen if two dozen of the world’s bestselling authors got together to pen a book of short stories pairing up their beloved series characters? If there was a thriller writer dream team? And what if the compilation was edited by #1 New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci?
Readers will find out in FACEOFF, an anthology released this week from Simon & Schuster.
In a first-of-its-kind collaboration curated by the International Thriller Writers (ITW), twenty-three critically acclaimed authors crafted eleven electrifying stories where their iconic characters go head-to-head. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for readers,” Baldacci said. “I’m honored to be at the helm of this amazing ship.”
Over the past few months, THE BIG THRILL, in conjunction with Suspense magazine, had the opportunity to talk to many of the FACEOFF authors about their stories, their collaborative process, and their reasons for participating in the compilation.[*]
But before we get into that, a little background on the project . . .
Striving to Innovate
FACEOFF begins with a dedication:
For Gayle Lynds and David Morrell
Readers know Lynds and Morrell for their bestselling novels. But what they might not know is that they co-founded ITW, which this year celebrates its tenth anniversary. In his Introduction to FACEOFF, Baldacci traces the origins of the organization, noting that “[f]rom its beginning ITW strived to innovate.” One of the ways ITW does so, Baldacci explains, is by creating its own books and using the revenue to allow the organization to operate without charging a penny to its members.
“FACEOFF was another opportunity to innovate,” added ITW’s co-president and FACEOFF contributor M. J. Rose. “All the authors are ITW members who donated their time, allowing writers and characters from different publishing houses to do something that’s never been done before. The proceeds allow ITW to charge no membership dues.”
For the authors who participated in the project, it was a chance not only to give back to an association that has done so much for writers, but also to work with people they admire. Lee Child, ITW co-president and FACEOFF contributor, added, “One of the things I like so much about ITW is that it is very collaborative. Writers are solitary people; it’s been several days since I’ve seen another human being as I finish up my current book. But ITW forces us to get out and you get a sense of collegiality; it’s fun, like a pickup jazz band. I like the organization’s way of forcing people together.”
By Paula Tutman
There is a respect for history. There is a love of history. There is a reverence for the art of passing history from one generation to another. And then there is what Steve and Elizabeth Berry do—preserving history with well-worn running shoes laced up, ready to go, while wearing many different hats.
New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry’s latest historical thriller, THE LINCOLN MYTH, puts you on the wall as a fly, eavesdropping on a historical figure whose life and death are well-travelled territory. But Berry’s Harold “Cotton” Malone will not allow you to sit in a high school history class with your eyes glazing over waiting for the bell to ring. Cotton Malone will, once again, fall off his secret-agent retirement wagon and leave his Danish bookstore, traipsing through history, weaving an adventure that’s ninety percent fact, ten percent fiction, and one-hundred percent entertaining. “This book explores a lot of the myths that surround Abraham Lincoln,” Berry said. “It particularly explores a secret bargain that Lincoln made with Brigham Young which helped turn the tide of the Civil War. There’s a lot of myth about Lincoln that’s not necessarily true. This novel deals with that.”
In his usual, meticulous manner, Berry combed through four-hundred sources of information, pulling the history apart at the seams, inspecting it, dissecting it, then locating small worm holes in which to plant his version of “what happened.” In THE LINCOLN MYTH, he looks at the Mormon church, the sixteenth president himself, and a flaw in the Constitution that deals with whether a state can secede from the Union. He’s never written about the Mormon church before and said, “Each of my books is unique in that each deals with something from the past, something lost, something forgotten. I look for things no one has dealt with before. That way Cotton Malone stays interesting, fresh, and relevant.”
Berry said that by introducing a new character, Luke Daniels, a young Magellan Billet agent “you’ll see Cotton as you’ve never seen him before. Their interaction is a tale of clash and contrast. Also, Cotton will be dealing with an emotion he’d never experienced before—jealously.”
Berry said he went to great lengths to deliver a few surprises. “This is a fun adventure that takes place over three days. I loaded it up with some surprises—tweaks and trip-ups—to keep the reader guessing.” In a world where history is both master and slave, and historic fact and historic fiction are separate but equal, Berry said, “I don’t write books with messages. I write books to entertain. Now if along the way you can learn something about a topic you may not know a lot about, and it propels you to go and learn more, that’s an added bonus.”
By Brett King
It’s time to KILL again.
In 2008, author Andrew Peterson made his debut with the powerhouse novel FIRST TO KILL. His novel introduced a complex hero named Nathan Daniel McBride to a legion of faithful readers and spawned a series of popular and tightly constructed thrillers, all bearing the signature “kill” in the title. April 29 marks the publication of READY TO KILL, the explosive fourth installment in the bestselling series. As with earlier books, Andy’s latest novel doesn’t disappoint.
Trained as a Marine Corps scout sniper, Nathan McBride has retired as a CIA operations officer to run a private security company with his best friend, Harv. However, a cryptic message referencing a top-secret U.S. operation changes Nathan’s plans for a quiet retirement. Acting on a request from CIA director Rebecca Cantrell, Nathan and Harv must return to a daunting jungle in Central America, a place where Nathan was viciously tortured decades before. Their task is not an easy one as they race to stop a rogue killer who learned from the best, Nathan himself. If he hopes to survive a second time, Nathan must not only confront a formidable enemy, but also face the hellish past that left him scarred for life. Compelling from the beginning, READY TO KILL is an intense and unflinching thriller that runs at a relentless pace, taking Nathan into a gripping and memorable showdown.
It’s no surprise that several first-rank thriller writers have praised the Nathan McBride character. Ridley Pearson describes him as “the most brutally effective thriller hero to appear in years” and Steve Berry adds, “Part Jack Reacher, part Jason Bourne, Nathan McBride is a compelling, conflicted hero.”
Andy was the first person I met when I attended my first ThrillerFest conference and I liked the guy from the beginning. Smart, affable and charming, he disproves the old aphorism that “nice guys finish last.” He has been active in a number of ITW functions over the years and he did a phenomenal job interviewing authors for Between the Lines before I joined him as an editor for the feature. He also happens to be an accomplished marksman and has won numerous competitions throughout the Southwestern United States. His dedication to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces is nothing short of admirable. Born in San Diego, Andy now lives with his remarkable wife, Carla, in the Land of Steinbeck: Monterey County, California.
By Julie Kramer
Paperback queen Allison Brennan’ s Lucy Kincaid character regularly lands on bestseller lists for the NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY. But now, Brennan is venturing into hardcover territory with NOTORIOUS, a new thriller featuring an investigative reporter protagonist.
In a starred review, BOOKLIST dubbed her latest work the start of “a terrific new series.” Nine years ago, Brennan traded politics for publishing and has since become the author of twenty-three acclaimed romantic suspense novels. Yet she doesn’t take success for granted, and is always working to up her game, with novellas, short stories, and soon, hardcover heroine, Maxine Revere.
What’s the biggest challenge going from mass market paperback to hardcover?
The biggest challenge was overcoming my own fear. It’s a huge step for an author, and an important one in the mystery/thriller world. Independent bookstores, vital to hardcover authors, don’t usually carry my mass market originals, so having NOTORIOUS in hardcover is also about breaking into new markets. Fear of being reviewed—in mass market originals, I was very comfortable. I knew what to expect. I had reviews in a couple places, and except for RT Book Reviews they were all after the book came out. With hardcover there are more reviews and more potential criticism—most of it before the book even comes out. Then panic that the book wasn’t good enough, that readers would hate my character, etc. But … because I’m a writer first, I found ways to push through all the self-doubt and write.
Was there any debate between you, your agent, your editor, on whether or when to shift format?
When my agent and I talked about moving to hardcover, we first talked about the Lucy Kincaid series. But because Lucy started as a mass market original series, I didn’t really want to move her into the hardcover format. I had the Max Revere character in my back pocket—I conceived her in 2010 and knew that she would be my hardcover character when the time was right. Moving the Lucy Kincaid series to Minotaur, who are known for their hardcover mysteries and thrillers, was the first step. After three Lucy books with them, we all felt that now was the time to break out into hardcover with a new series.
By Paula Tutman
So many characters so little time. How on earth will author, Jennifer McMahon pull it off in her soon to be released thriller, THE WINTER PEOPLE? She will tell you, it wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.
When you can scare the pants off yourself—that’s a thriller.
While many authors swear by the ‘process’, they outline, they journal, they keep a strict writing schedule—McMahon listens to her heart and the urge to stretch herself creatively.“I knew I wanted to do something different; something bigger and more complex than my previous books,” she says. She goes on to say how surprised she was in what her heart was saying to her hands. Cue the scary music! “I thought I was going to write a book about a Civil War soldier and ended up writing about a woman who believes she can bring her dead daughter back to life.”
When you leaf through the first pages of the novel, your first greeting is this:
For Zella, Because one day, you wanted to play a really creepy game about two sisters whose parents had disappeared in the woods . . .“Sometimes it just happens.”
That’s not just author-speak or an imaginary leaf plucked from the creativity tree. Sometimes the best ideas for scary-monsters-under-your-bed stuff comes from children—your children, or in the case of McMahon, her child. “One day, a few years ago, my daughter asked me to play a game. Her games at that time tended to be these very tightly scripted dramas. She said, “We’re sisters. You’re nineteen and I’m seven. You wake up one morning and I’m in bed with you. I tell you our parents are missing.”
“Missing?” I said. “That’s terrible. What happened to them?”
“They were taken,” she said. “Into the woods.” Then, she shrugged her shoulders and said matter-of-factly, “Sometimes it just happens.”
More than a decade ago, Lisa Unger embarked on a risky venture. At twenty-nine, she quit her job as a successful publicist at a major New York publishing house, packed up her things, and moved to Florida to pursue her lifelong dream of being a writer.
A book deal followed. The novel she’d started writing when she was just nineteen sold. The advance was tiny and there was no buzz or overnight success. But Unger didn’t care because she was finally doing what she loved. So she kept at it, year after year, book after book, slowly building momentum and garnering critical praise, the respect of her peers, and loyal fans along the way.
The tenacity and hard work paid off.
Today, Unger is a NEW YORK TIMES, USA TODAY, and internationally bestselling author with too many starred reviews to her name to count. And her novels have sold more than 1.5 million copies and been translated into twenty-six languages. By all accounts, her latest, IN THE BLOOD (Touchstone, Jan. 7, 2014), is classic Unger; an atmospheric psychological thriller that proves, once again, why Unger has earned her place among the literary elite.
IN THE BLOOD follows Lana Granger, a student at a private university in The Hollows, a creepy town in upstate New York (and setting for two of Unger’s past novels). Lana’s a woman with secrets and a troubled past who finds herself near graduation and in need of a job. She lands one, a babysitting gig for Luke, a deeply disturbed eleven year-old and the perfect project for a psychology major (so Lana thinks). The match is not one made in heaven and Luke somehow learns of Lana’s secret. And then the twisted games begin.
The book is released next week, but early reviews are out: Unger outdoes herself in this story of broken people, nature-versus-nurture, secrets and lies, which culminates in a masterful conclusion that advanced readers already can’t stop talking about.
Unger graciously agreed to answer some of my questions about her life, her path to publication, and IN THE BLOOD.
By Julie Kramer
Michael Connelly has a lauded writing career with two gritty series, both NEW YORK TIMES #1 bestsellers and both starring characters conflicted about how to do right by their jobs.
His original protagonist, Harry Bosch, is a homicide detective who needs no further introduction, after all, he’s one of the best known heroes in modern police procedurals and will soon come to TV in a streaming video series produced by Amazon Studios.
Connelly’s most recent protagonist, Mickey Haller, approaches justice from a different direction – that of a criminal defense attorney. That character made it to Hollywood in the popular film, THE LINCOLN LAWYER.
GODS OF GUILT – Connelly’s latest legal thriller – features Haller defending a pimp charged with murdering a hooker, which may sound like standard fodder for a sleazy lawyer story, but has enough twists to earn starred reviews from PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY (“gem of a legal thriller”) and BOOKLIST (“a testament to the melancholy maturing of Mickey Haller.”)
But enough about crime, since it’s December, let’s talk Christmas with Michael Connelly.
How does Mickey Haller celebrate the holidays?
I think he primarily spends it longing for what he’s lost — his family. In GODS OF GUILT he recounts his hopeful wait for an invite to Christmas Dinner with his daughter and ex-wife. But alas, the invitation doesn’t come and its dinner at Four Green Fields for Mickey.
What’s a typical Christmas like for Harry Bosch?
After many years of volunteering for on-call duty in order to be kept busy, Harry has had his daughter Maddie in his life to share holidays. I think they make the best of it, cooking together and then sitting down to a fractured family meal. It’s something Harry would have almost no experience with considering his upbringing, so I think its kind of nice and touching for him this late in his life to have these kind of moments.
By Brett King
I met Lisa Scottoline back in 1997 when I was first thinking about writing thrillers. She was signing for LEGAL TENDER and I remember a woman in line telling her, “I’ve never heard of you before, Lisa, but if your books are anything like your personality, I’m going to buy everything you’ve written.” If you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Lisa then you know her books are a true reflection of her personality—candid, witty, intelligent, compassionate, articulate, and charming. I’m pretty sure I’ve left out some character traits, but you get the idea.
A former Philadelphia attorney, Lisa has written more than twenty books that have brought her awards and honors and have found secure homes on all major bestseller lists. Her 1994 debut novel, EVERYWHERE THAT MARY WENT, brought to life a complex and compelling protagonist named Mary DiNunzio, an Italian-American lawyer with proud South Philly roots. Nominated for an Edgar Award, the book became the springboard for Lisa’s commercially and critically-praised legal thrillers and also formed the cornerstone for a beloved series featuring the all-female Philadelphia law firm of Rosato & Associates. Along with Mary, the stories revolve around the lives and careers of Benedetta “Bennie” Rosato (the firm’s managing partner), Judy Carrier, and Anne Murphy. Janet Maslin of THE NEW YORK TIMES called the Rosato & Associates series, “one of the best-branded franchise styles in current crime writing” and described Lisa’s “punchy, wisecracking thrillers” as populated with “earthy, fun and self-deprecating” characters.
In news that will thrill her fans, Lisa has promised to deliver a new book in the Rosato series every year. Her latest, ACCUSED, places Mary DiNunzio at the center of the most challenging and dangerous case to face the maverick law firm. Mary and her colleagues offer counsel to a brilliant thirteen-year-old client named Allegra Gardner who is still grieving over the murder of her older sister, Fiona, six years before. Although a man named Lonnie Stall is serving time for the homicide, Allegra is convinced that he has been wrongly imprisoned. In defiance of her wealthy and powerful family, the girl seeks the help of Rosato & Associates in her risky crusade to discover the shocking truth behind her sister’s murder.
As with earlier books in the series, ACCUSED is a spirited novel brimming with razor-sharp dialogue, quirky and heartwarming characterizations, as well as insightful and humorous observations about the psychology of relationships, family, justice, and cultural norms (Lisa’s analysis of Jewish guilt versus Catholic guilt is nothing short of brilliant!). Stacy Alesi of Booklist notes, “Everything Scottoline writes sells big, but her Rosato series leads the way. Fans have been waiting three years for this one and will respond enthusiastically.”
By Paula Tutman
Anne Rice is doing it again thirty books later. Thirty-seven years after her first novel (INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE) reinvented vampires, she is reinventing werewolves in her Wolf Gift Chronicles series. The second installment, THE WOLVES OF MIDWINTER, released October 15, 2013 by Knopf, takes readers into the life of Rueben Golding, a young journalist who’s recently received the gift of wolfen or Morphenkind powers and uses them to ferret out true evil.
Reuben is a thoroughly modern werewolf—the antithesis of the Lon Chaney Wolf Man most of us have grown up with. Reuben is a Man Wolf, not a Wolf Man. In 1940 the bite of a werewolf was a curse. Rice’s werewolf has received a gift with his infection. The Wolf Man was the very symbol of evil. The Man Wolf covets evil to erase it. The Wolf Man was a devil. The Man Wolf is an angel, of sorts. The Wolf Man was feared by all. Not so for the Man Wolf. Though Rice weaves fear and horror in the acts of being a werewolf—
He swallowed great mouthfuls of the man’s flesh, his tongue sweeping the man’s throat and the side of his face. He liked the bones of the jaw, liked biting into them, liked feeling his teeth hook onto the jawbone as he bit down on what was left of the man’s face. There was no sound in the whole world now except the sound of his chewing and swallowing this warm, bloody flesh.
—her characterization of this new breed of werewolf is feasting on evil instead of being the evil as Reuben hears the cries of a child being victimized in his soul and appears to devour the pedophile. Where Reuben is concerned, his nose is a weathervane that points towards bad deeds, and he races to them to right the evils of man. But that’s not the case for all thoroughly modern werewolves. And that’s the delicious rift that emerges.
By Julie Kramer
William Kent Krueger’s twelve-year quest to make the NEW YORK TIMES bestseller list is a tale as compelling as the ones he writes featuring Cork O’Connor, a half Ojibwe/half Irish private investigator in Minnesota’s remote north woods.
Krueger’s work brought acclaim – plenty of awards and starred reviews – but not widespread sales. He remained determined to hit the list and that magic happened with the tenth book in his series, VERMILLION DRIFT. That success followed with three more NEW YORK TIMES bestsellers – and most recently, TAMARACK COUNTY – which received starred reviews from PUBLISHERS WEEKLY and BOOKLIST, yet faced a special challenge.
You’re living every writer’s dream: to break out. How did you grow from mid-list to A-List?
I’d love to say it was my incredible progression as an author, that the quality just got better and better and better, but I believe I’ve written quality books all along. What finally made the difference was my publisher’s decision to put money behind the promotion of the book. They started doing multi-level promotions at Barnes and Noble and Amazon and other outlets and actually the first hit, VERMILLION DRIFT, was kind of a surprise to them, too. After that they were willing to spend money to get the book on the up front tables, which is certainly the kind of thing that helps propel an already good book onto the best seller list.
Every mid-list author knows this. You can do everything possible that you can do – great website blog, tour, lots of wonderful promotional materials, but until your publisher gets behind you and starts putting that coop money there so that it’s displayed everywhere it just ain’t going to happen.
By Brett King
For most people, a cold virus brings misery. For Erica Spindler, it brought serendipity. In June of 1982, she was bed-ridden with illness and found escape in a romance novel. She was immediately hooked, and soon decided to try the challenge of writing one for herself. Despite success writing romance in later years, she found her “true calling” when she took a shot at the suspense genre in 1996.
It proved to be a good move. As a NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author, Erica has written thirty novels, including her latest book, JUSTICE FOR SARA, set for an August 2013 release. The book showcases a bright and determined protagonist named Katherine McCall who returns to an unforgiving Louisiana town where her beloved sister, Sara, was beaten to death a decade before. At age seventeen, Kat had been tried for the homicide, but was acquitted. Most of the citizens of Liberty, however, remain stubborn in their conviction that she murdered her sister. Ensnared in a web of small-town intrigue, Kat teams up with an unlikely ally, Sergeant Luke Tanner, to reopen the decade-old case.Although unwavering in her quest, Kat faces the greatest challenge of her life as she seeks justice for Sara. SUSPENSE MAGAZINE calls her latest novel a“powerful cocktail of seeking the truth and finding your path, all while racing towards the climactic ending. Spindler without a doubt keeps fans on the edge of their seats.”
I first discovered Erica’s work more than a decade ago at a Bouchercon World Mystery Convention. Her publisher had distributed copies of her novel on chairs in the conference hall. For a bibliophile, finding a free book waiting on a chair is like discovering a golden Easter egg. The marketing strategy worked because I’ve been a fan of Erica’s books since that time. I enjoyed interviewing her along with other authors three years ago for the release of ITW’s WATCHLIST serial novel and I’m pleased to chat with Erica again about JUSTICE FOR SARA.
Just when Sam Capra thought he was out…
Jeff Abbott is back with DOWNFALL, another amazing book in the bestselling Sam Capra series. The first Capra novel, ADRENALINE was a breakaway hit and the second, THE LAST MINUTE, won a 2012 Thriller Award. In this third installment, the Austin, Texas writer delivers once again.
By the end of the first two books, Sam Capra’s been through a lot. He’s been kicked out of the CIA, wrongfully accused of treason, betrayed by his young wife, and had to rescue his infant son. He’s also been recruited to work for The Round Table, a secret organization that fights evil in the world and that has placed Capra undercover as the owner of several bars located around the globe. So when we meet Capra in DOWNFALL, all he wants is a quiet, normal life for himself and his son. But the white picket fence is not to be.
It all starts when a beautiful young woman hurries into Capra’s San Francisco bar and whispers two words to him that will change everything: Help me. And help her he does, intervening as two men rush into the bar and try to abduct the woman. Capra kills one of the assailants and the woman escapes. Were the men really there for the woman? Or had Capra’s past come back to haunt him? Capra soon uncovers that the woman, Diana Keene, is being sought by a network of evil-doers—a network whose members (including Keene’s own mother) have pledged allegiance to the group in exchange for money and power. Six days and several dead bodies and betrayals later, Capra must confront whether the network has a connection to those whom he trusts the most.
DOWNFALL is an action packed page-turner with a compelling protagonist and a story grounded in the love of family and good versus evil. The book confirms why the ASSOCIATED PRESS called Jeff Abbott “one of the best thriller writers in the business.”
By Brett King
If you are among the legion of fans dedicated to Iris Johansen’s #1 NEW YORK TIMES best-selling thrillers, you know exactly who I’m talking about. Since her debut in the 1998 novel THE FACE OF DECEPTION, Eve Duncan has emerged as one of the most beloved protagonists in contemporary crime fiction. Rising above a hardscrabble childhood, Eve is a survivor who has overcome heartbreaking challenges including the tragic abduction and murder of her seven-year-old daughter, Bonnie. Time after time, Eve has overcome adversity to become one of the world’s leading forensic sculptors, a profession that allows her to offer emotional and psychological closure to parents struggling with the loss of a child.
Iris Johansen found remarkable success writing romance novels in the 1980s before shifting to crime fiction in 1996 with the publication of THE UGLY DUCKLING. THE NEW YORK POST has described her storytelling as “[t]horoughly gripping and with a number of shocking plot twists” and BOOKLIST has praised her “knack for delivering robust action and commanding characters.”In 2011, Iris released a spellbinding trilogy composed of EVE, QUINN, and BONNIE. The bestselling books gave insights into Eve’s background and shed new light into Bonnie’s disappearance. This year, she is again treating her fans to three new interconnected thrillers featuring Eve Duncan, starting with TAKING EVE on April 17, followed by HUNTING EVE on July 16, and concluding with SILENCING EVE on October 15. In her groundbreaking new trilogy, Iris promises to “take [Eve] places we’ve never seen her go before.”
In the first installment, Jim Doane is coming to grips with the loss of his son and he is searching for answers to many of the same questions that have haunted Eve and her clients over the years. He needs Eve’s skill to find answers about his son and he’ll take any risk to make it happen, even if it means TAKING EVE. In the subsequent books, Eve must battle the man who has taken her prisoner while confronting secrets from her past. In her inimitable style, Iris Johansen has created a riveting storyline driven by stakes that escalate with each book, culminating with a shocking conclusion in the final book.
St. Martin’s Press is showcasing the new Eve Duncan trilogy with covers designed by Senior Art Director Rob Grom. His compelling jackets bring to life Iris’ powerhouse storytelling. Taking time out of her busy schedule, Iris shared insights with me about the first book in the new trilogy. As an added bonus, I also had a chance to visit with Rob Grom about his cover design for her books.
How did you spend your last six years? If you’re Harlan Coben you had five consecutive #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestsellers, wrote two young adult books that debuted on the TIMES’ children’s bestseller list, and had one of your books made into an award-winning film.
Feeling bad about yourself yet? (I’m thinking about all the TV I’ve watched since 2007.) If so, brace yourself, because Coben’s new book, SIX YEARS, only adds to his hit list. The book is masterful storytelling that combines mystery, action, a love story, and a perfect dose of humor.
SIX YEARS begins with college professor Jake Fisher watching as the love of his life, Natalie, marries another man. At the wedding, Natalie pulls Jake aside and makes a single request: “Promise me you’ll leave us alone . . . . Promise me you won’t follow us or call or even e-mail.”
Six years go by and Jake kept that promise; six years of pining for the one that got away. But then Jake stumbles upon an obituary—for Natalie’s husband Todd. Jake soon finds himself at Todd’s funeral. And when Todd’s grieving widow appears . . . it isn’t Natalie. In fact, the eulogies reveal that Todd had been married for two decades and had a teenage son.
Where’s Natalie? And what the hell is going on? Jake embarks on a search for the woman who broke his heart. As he digs into Natalie’s past and their ill-fated romance, things he thought he knew about Natalie, their relationship, and even his own friends and colleagues, don’t add up. And he learns that someone else is looking for Natalie—someone willing to commit unspeakable acts to find her.
SIX YEARS arguably is Coben’s best book to date. Coben was kind enough to answer some questions about the book—and much more:
By Paula Tutman
Thriller writers kill people!
That’s what we do. We conjure a delicious brew of intrigue, suspense and yes, violence. We bait our hooks with our novels and lure innocent people into a world that invites them to revel in who died and how gruesomely.
But after the Newtown slayings, any writer who’s ever killed off anyone in their novels has probably pushed pause this year—if even for nanosecond to wonder if they’re part of the problem.
Mark Sullivan, the author of ROGUE and co-author of PRIVATE BERLIN with James Patterson, has been thinking a lot about violence in his fiction in light of the mass shootings.
“I think the scrutiny is warranted,” Sullivan says. “The things writers can do in their prose and the things entertainers can do with film and computer graphics are incredible. But if we’re too graphic, we have to be having a numbing effect on a reader or watcher’s mind.”
In PRIVATE BERLIN, he and Patterson kill off eight people and a few other deaths are referenced. “Two of the deaths are ‘on-camera’,” he says. “And the others are depicted in a way that is suggested, in a way that activates the reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks.”
In the eleven novels he’s either written or co-written,Sullivan has killed off as many as seventy people. That means since the debut of his first novel, FALL LINE in 1994, he’s averaged6.36 murders per book.
“Sobering to think that,” he says.
By Julie Kramer
Are two imaginations better than one?
For outsiders, the process of co-authoring a book seems quite mysterious, but in this interview, New York Times bestselling thriller author James Rollins and acclaimed historical novelist Rebecca Cantrell explain the mechanics of how their writing partnership works five thousand miles apart. Their nuts and bolts answers about sharing the chores and credit of crafting their thriller, THE BLOOD GOSPEL, will intrigue readers and writers.
THE BLOOD GOSPEL combines two popular literary themes – the Catholic Church and vampires – and nets this author team raves for their first joint endeavor about the hunt for a miraculous and forbidden book. As SUSPENSE MAGAZINE put it: “It would be a sin not to read it!”
James, THE BLOOD GOSPEL smacks of secrets and the Catholic Church. How is it similar to the DA VINCI CODE and how is it different?
I think any book that touches upon Catholicism and proposes an alternate view of religious history, especially in regard to the life of Christ, is going to be compared to Dan Brown’s book. And while I expect some controversy to be raised by the central theme of this series, I think Rebecca and I were careful to show all sides. This book is both profane yet also deeply religious—not an easy line to tread. It will be up to the readers themselves to decide how to ultimately cast this book: Is it blasphemous or devout?
Rebecca, you’re best known for your Hannah Vogel series, how did your partnership with James Rollins come about? Whose idea was it for this series?
Jim had the idea, some pages, and a rough outline when he approached me. I met him at the Maui Writers Conference a couple of years before, and we’d kept in touch via email and at various conferences (like Thrillerfest) since. So, he called me up and said he had this great idea for a book and asked if I was interested.
When I asked what it was about, he said it was confidential, and he couldn’t really tell me. After I asked if he could answer yes or no questions he just caved and told me about a sect of vampires who live as priests hidden within the Catholic Church and subsist on transubstantiated wine. I was pretty much sold right there, because the idea was too cool to resist.
Wendy Corsi Staub is an Extra Terrestrial. She must be. It’s the only explanation. How else can one person publish nearly 80 novels in a 20 years span? There must be some other-worldly assistance at work. Or perhaps, just perhaps, she’s one of those rare human beings.
Staub, who’s also written under the pseudonym Wendy Markham, appears to belong to that unusual sub-species whose thoughts seem to roll out of her imagination and onto the page like water. She’s currently emerging from what she calls, deadline Hell. She’s just completed back to back releases, two books as part of a trilogy.
Let’s face it, Hell for most authors would be tantamount to sneezing a pumpkin through their left nostril by squeezing out one, perhaps two novels per year. But not for Wendy. For Wendy, skirting the white hot coals of Hell is touring for the release of two novels, NIGHTWATCHER and SLEEPWALKER with a the third in the trilogy, SHADOWKILLER, on sale in January, while delivering a new manuscript to her editor, which will kick off a new trilogy with Harper, launching later in 2013. In case you’ve lost count, that’s two book releases and a deadline for a third, all within a month.
For a reader of mysteries and thrillers, the word brings instant and enthusiastic recognition for the celebrated novels of John Sandford. Beginning with RULES OF PREY in 1989, he introduced a series that now spans twenty-two novels featuring charismatic and tough-minded investigator Lucas Davenport.From the beginning, the series proved to be a hit with readers. That same year, he published the successful Kidd series under his real name, John Camp.
As a former columnist and Pulitzer-winning journalist, Camp made a seamless transition to writing fiction at a brisk pace. In 2007, he took Virgil Flowers, a popular supporting character in some of the Prey novels, including Invisible Prey and Storm Prey, and made him a protagonist in DARK OF THE MOON. Breezy yet complex, Flowers is a top-notch agent for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension who often works the southern part of the state. The new series found extraordinary support among his legion of passionate fans, resulting in last year’s #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling novel, SHOCK WAVE.
In Sandford’s latest novel, MAD RIVER, Virgil Flowers is called on to investigate a brutal crime spree that terrorizes rural Minnesota. In a series of reckless crimes, teenagers Jimmy Sharp, Becky Welsh, and Tom McCall manage to elude arrest, much to Flowers’ growing frustration.Set for an October 2nd, 2012 release from Putnam’s, MAD RIVER is a spirited novel that once again showcases Sandford’s distinctive and unflinching style. He consulted with author and columnist Joe Soucheray, a peer from his former days as a journalist, to create a powerful story that remains gripping until the concluding page.
By Julie Kramer
Jamie Freveletti – a trial attorney turned author – is the ultimate International Thriller Writers’ success story. She found an agent for her debut at Thrillerfest and went on to win the Thriller Award for Best First Novel.
This month she unveils a Robert Ludlum sequel, THE JANUS REPRISAL, which Kirkus said, “turbocharges tension to nonstop levels.”
Next month, DEAD ASLEEP, fourth in her series with biochemist/ultra marathoner Emma Caldridge hits bookshelves.
The Big Thrill had questions about how Freveletti changed careers, what it’s like writing a new adventure for a hero someone else invented, and disputing the myth that men don’t want to read action thrillers written by women.
By Julie Kramer
LOVE IS MURDER says it all. Story after story. Romantic suspense is the theme of the latest International Thriller Writers anthology.
Sandra Brown, author of more than sixty New York Times bestselling novels, immediately accepted the task of editing the short story collection even though she’s never written a short story herself.
“The challenge of writing a short story is so daunting to me,” she said. “I’d rather write a
full-length novel than even attempt a short story because a good one requires a particular talent that, sadly, I don’t have. That’s why I was so impressed by the cleverness of the stories.”
The book’s appeal is also that Brown shares her gut reaction to each narrative’s mechanics and passion, heightening readers’ expectations story-by-story.
“These writers knew what they were doing,” she said. “Each is different. Some are poignant, others scary. Some focus on high octane action, while others are shatteringly emotional or psychologically terrifying. Reading them for the first time, I was truly, jaw-droppingly amazed by the variety of talent.”
Brown says the allure of romantic suspense as a genre comes because it crosses over so many other genres — mystery, thrillers, even science fiction. “Diehard readers of those genres find all the elements they expect and favor, plus the love story angle. The romance adds spice, certainly, but it also raises the stakes for the protagonists. Love is a dramatic and powerful motivator that can instill in a character strong emotions like rage, bravery, despair, all of which makes for great storytelling.”
Laura Caldwell embodies the American dream. Simply stated, she’s an amazing person who’s led a diversified and successful life. Published in over twenty-five countries, her novels have been translated into more than fourteen languages. In her other job, she’s a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Loyola University Chicago School of Law.
Born in Chicago, Caldwell was raised in Crystal Lake and Woodstock, Illinois. She attended the University of Iowa and graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors. After receiving her law degree from Loyola Law School, she traveled with two girlfriends to Italy and Greece. She didn’t know it at the time, but her overseas experience planted a seed. Caldwell then embarked on a successful career practicing law and became a partner in a downtown Chicago law firm where she specialized in medical malpractice and entertainment law.
But Caldwell felt a calling elsewhere, toward a more creative career. Her vacation in Europe had inspired an idea that wouldn’t go away. She had a story to tell and began taking writing classes. Using what little spare time she had, Caldwell wrote at night. Keep in mind this was her first attempt at writing a novel. Driven by an ever growing desire to finish the book, she took a risky sabbatical from her law practice and pushed hard to complete it.
By Brett King
J.T. Ellison fooled me.
I’ve always been impressed with the rich psychological themes in her novels and the complexity of her characters, but it goes beyond that. Her knowledge of psychology is real and insightful. I knew she had been a former White House staffer and a financial analyst, but I was convinced she’d made a serious study of psychology somewhere in her background.
“I loved psychology, and did take a few classes,” she told me. “At the time, I think it was lost on me, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve returned to it.”
No doubt about it. In fact, J.T.’s understanding of human nature is on brilliant display in her latest novel, A DEEPER DARKNESS, scheduled for release on April 17th. It represents an exciting step in J.T.’s writing career, one Publishers Weekly calls, “a scintillating first in a new forensic series.”
Beginning with her debut novel in 2007, J.T. has written seven books in her critically acclaimed Taylor Jackson series and her work has been published in 21 countries. The new series features Dr. Samantha Owens, a forensic pathologist and the Chief Medical Examiner for the state of Tennessee. Like her friend, Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson, Sam is a strong female protagonist.
Sam is drawn back into her past when she learns about the death of a former boyfriend, an ex-Ranger named Eddie Donovan.Still reeling from a tragedy that claimed her husband and young children, Sam travels to Washington, DC, to conduct a second autopsy on Eddie.Facing her own obsessive-compulsive tendencies, she is compelled to explore the questionable circumstances surrounding his death, a brutal carjacking at the Navy Shipyard. It’s a classic J.T. Ellison novel, a masterful blend of riveting suspense,painstaking research, and vivid characters. As NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Jeff Abbot adds, “A DEEPER DARKNESS is not only a compelling thriller but a multilayered meditation on grief and loss.”
See? I’m not the only one who recognizes her talent for psychology.
By Julie Kramer
Besides being the world’s best-selling author, James Patterson delights in cultural cameos – whether playing poker with television crime author Richard Castle, appearing as Marge’s secret crush on the Simpsons, or simply being the answer to a JEOPARDY! question.
Patterson still gets a kick when he sees people reading his books in public and doesn’t mind when they stop to gush over him: “Yeah, I get recognized a lot, especially in airports.”
That’s no surprise because his author photo is on more book covers than any other writer. PRIVATE GAMES just came out last month and went straight to the top of the best seller lists. GUILTY WIVES will be released in a matter of weeks. Patterson is even listed in the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS for the most NEW YORK TIMES bestsellers.
His triumph can be partly attributed to being so prolific. While many authors take a year or even a lifetime, to write a book, Patterson can publish nine a year, by using co-authors for some of his stories. While ghost writers have always played a role in publishing, Patterson had no qualms about giving his colleagues equal billing on the cover. Some, Andrew Gross and Peter de Jonge, have used the visibility their collaboration brought to successfully go it alone.
By Brett King
There was a time when the face of crime fiction was a hardscrabble detective—a loner, usually—who solved crime after crime on a shoestring budget and a diet of black coffee, whiskey, and cigarettes. Hardboiled fiction was born during the Jazz Era and came of age during the Great Depression when iconic characters such as Sam Spade, The Continental Op, and Philip Marlowe enthralled readers of pulp magazines like Black Mask and Dime Detective.
Almost a century later, the legacy of hardboiled fiction is very much alive in the work of Reed Farrel Coleman. As a student at Brooklyn College, he discovered his calling during a night class in detective fiction, studying grandmasters like Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Since that time, Reed has published fourteen books including two stand-alones and three series. His novels have made an impact. National Public Radio’s Maureen Corrigan called him a “hard-boiled poet”and the Huffington Post has named him a “noir poet laureate.”
“My favorite memory is of the tour of the hospital at Bagram. The dedication of the men and women who work there was readily apparent. They’re optimistic, hopeful, and determined to save lives. Their spirit was inspiring. The ceiling of Warrior’s Way, the emergency bay where the wounded arrive, is draped in an American flag that once flew over Ground Zero. Seeing that put a huge lump in my throat.” – Sandra Brown
I think Sandra’s words perfectly reflect the essence of Operation Thriller II. All of us who flew halfway around the world to thank and acknowledge our service members found it rewarding beyond words and we came home with more than we gave. This is a difficult feature to write because it’s hard to quantify the experience. It’s my sincere hope that as you read this feature, the thoughts and perspectives of Sandra, Clive, Mark, and Kathy will deepen your appreciation of our troops serving in harm’s way.
by Brett King
It began as an alliance. When International Thriller Writers was formed in 2004, its promise rested on bringing together established novelists with emerging writers. As part of its brisk legacy, ITW has championed the work of new authors, a dedication that shines in the breakthrough publication, First Thrills: High-Octane Stories from the Hottest Thriller Authors. Forge Books released the critically acclaimed anthology for the first time in paperback on May 24, 2011.
Under the careful editorship of New York Times bestselling author Lee Child, First Thrills brings together original short stories crafted by seasoned authors to help showcase work from debut authors. “The idea was to sprinkle some major attractions in the shop window, to draw your eye,” Child notes about the participation of bestselling authors. “[They] all contributed stories—free, gratis, and for nothing, simply because they remembered their debut years and didn’t want to stand by idle. Among them, they sell many millions of books a year, and we think they brighten up the shop window enormously.”
This month, it’s my honor to feature one of the supernatural thriller genre’s most interesting personalities, F. Paul Wilson. I’m not only a huge fan, I consider Paul a friend. At various conferences around the country, we’ve been on panels together and closed bars after hours. One of Paul’s most admirable traits is his protectiveness of his family and personal life. During this interview I made a valiant attempt to break in, but he held firm and the firewall stayed up! Paul might claim all that private stuff is boring anyway, but trust me, there’s nothing boring or dull about this amazingly talented writer. And you won’t find a kinder pro in the business. And if anyone’s curious, the F stands for Francis.
Between The Lines has featured many interesting authors over the years, but none of them ever drove an ice cream truck or sold vacuum cleaners door-to-door. Those early jobs didn’t pan out—our featured author ate his profit margin and never sold a single vacuum.
William Bernhardt was born in Oklahoma City and raised in a small suburb not far away. The heartland of America is rich with tradition and heritage and has produced some of our nation’s greatest artists and authors. Bill Bernhardt is no exception. His 29 titles have been translated into two dozen languages worldwide and his sales have topped 10 million books.
To give you a visual; if you laid 10 million books end-to-end, the line would stretch approximately 1,320 miles. It just so happens that’s the same distance from Bill’s birth place to the heart of the publishing industry, New York City. So the next time he flies from Oklahoma City to the Big Apple, he can visualize a continuous line of William Bernhardt books paving the way. And the line grows longer every day.
ITW’s international membership is far-reaching and expanding. A few issues back, Between The Lines featured Peter James from Great Britain. This month, we’re moving across the English Channel to Germany for a look at Sebastian Fitzek.
One word comes to mind. Maverick: A lone dissenter, intellectual, artist, or politician who takes an independent stand apart from his or her associates. I think this describes Sebastian well. He’s the kind of man who will prove you wrong when you tell him he can’t do something. He lives by the same “risk versus reward” philosophy that Lee Child does.
In 1971, Sebastian was born in Berlin where he currently resides. He’s happily married to Sandra, an amazing and kind lady who’s recently given birth (10-10-10) to their daughter, Charlotte. His dog, two rabbits, and horse make up the rest of his immediate family.