The Truth About Writing a Series: “Right Back to Square One”
There are series and then there are series. In 1982, Sue Grafton, a Kentucky-born writer with a fondness for Ross Macdonald, published A Is for Alibi. The novel introduced readers to Kinsey Millhone, a young female private investigator working in the fictional California town of Santa Teresa. As the books made their way through the alphabet, the mystery series attracted a growing, deeply loyal following and won Grafton multiple Anthony Awards and the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. One caveat: She has vowed to never option her books to Hollywood and made her children promise to do the same “or else I will come back and haunt them.”
Grafton’s W Is for Wasted, published in 2013, offered two plot lines: Kinsey discovering relatives she never knew existed after a homeless man is found dead, and a shady investigator named Pete Wolinsky trying a dangerous move to get a big payday. In this August’s release, X, Kinsey is on the trail of a possible art thief while dealing with the collateral damage of Pete’s tragic mistakes–and in so doing attracts the attention of a serial killer.
X has soared to the top of fiction bestseller lists, proving that Grafton’s passionate dedication to her writing is undiminished. In this frank, often funny, interview with The Big Thrill, she reveals what it takes to write her series.
Many novelists are dying to make it as screenwriters. And yet you were once a working screenwriter with a lot of credits and dying to quit that and get into fiction. What’s the story there?
I worked in Hollywood for 15 years. And I don’t play well with others. I don’t like anybody’s help. I was getting angrier and angrier. I knew they were ruining me. There is no use making a decision if four people after you will have their ideas. I thought, I have got to get out of here. I wrote A Is for Alibi as my way out, to dig my way under the wall. It took me five years to write that book. I wrote it for love. I had never done a mystery before. I felt like I don’t know what this is, but it feels good to me and I am my own boss again. I got paid $10,000 for that book. And here I am today. There you have it.
X is a suspenseful read and it is a fast read, but it’s also a deceptively complex novel. You have three strands running through the plot, all of a different tempo. There’s the investigation, the detecting, both a new case and the unfinished business of Pete Wolinsky’s. There are character-based comedic passages. At times, it almost feels like a caper. But in the climax of the book I was terrified. So on one page I was laughing, and on another I was shaking.
I liked having the three strands. It seemed like a piece of knitting where you’re weaving colors together, and I enjoy that. If I have one story to tell, I worry I will get stuck or bored. I want to have cutaways.
Insights From the Master of Seattle Menace
An acclaimed author of legal thrillers with his David Sloane series, Robert Dugoni decided to undertake a new challenge: a thriller featuring a woman, Seattle homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite. The result proved the adage “Change is good.” My Sister’s Grave became a No. 1 Amazon and New York Times best seller.
Tracy Crosswhite returns in Dugoni’s HER FINAL BREATH (Thomas & Mercer, September 15, 2015). Still scarred from the investigation into her sister’s 20-year-old murder, Crosswhite is drawn into an investigation of a string of homicides perpetrated by a serial killer known as The Cowboy. A stalker leaves a menacing message for Crosswhite, suggesting that the killer or a copycat could be targeting her personally. With clues scarce and more victims dying, Crosswhite realizes that the key to solving the murders may lie in a decade-old homicide investigation that others, including her boss, Captain Johnny Nolasco, would prefer to keep buried. The events that follow threaten to end Crosswhite’s career, and perhaps her life.
Robert Dugoni has served as an inspiration to aspiring writers as well as fledgling authors. His novels not only describe the conflict inherent in the legal system in a dramatic and understandable way but also portray complex characters unique to legal and crime fiction. His portrayal of the city of Seattle as setting—as almost another character in the story—is masterful.
I found HER FINAL BREATH just as compelling as My Sister’s Grave. What inspired you to move on from popular David Sloan and write this series?
Necessity is the mother of invention, and I needed a new series. I was leaving my publisher, and the David Sloane series was divided between two publishers. So I knew I had to do something original. It was daunting, but I’ve faced many challenges in my career and this one didn’t scare me. It was actually refreshing to be doing something new.
Tracy Crosswhite is a character I introduced briefly in the novel Murder One, a female homicide detective who was a former chemistry professor. Honestly, I had no idea who she was or where she came from, so I just started exploring her background more and more as I interviewed homicide detectives in Seattle and then a friend introduced me to single-action shooting competitions. She came to life. I knew she’d be perfect for a book needing a strong female protagonist, and I had an idea for a spin on an old legal adage that I thought would make a great twist. I don’t outline, but I also knew I wanted a wounded protagonist, someone who had lost someone very dear to them years before and from that came the relationship between Tracy and her sister, Sarah.
Why the Best-Selling Author Made a Point-of-View Switch
By E. M. Powell
It’s a brave author who does something radically different in a successful long-running series. But in DEVIL’S BRIDGE, the 17th outing for New York prosecutor Alex Cooper, Linda Fairstein does just that.
In this terrific, suspenseful read, things are definitely not going well for Alex. An escaped convicted rapist is stalking her, a trial is going south, and a hacker has potentially accessed her most secure information. The book takes a dramatic—and unexpected—swerve when Alex is kidnapped and the search is on to find her.
But we readers don’t know where she is, either. Instead, we must join Alex’s lover, Detective Mike Chapman, in his increasingly desperate search. This plot device brings the reader along as fellow investigator, trying to make sense out of information as it happens. Chapman’s frustration is contagious, as is his terror over what may be happening to the woman he cares for deeply. As I turned the pages, I kept expecting to get a glimpse of Alex’s ordeal—all of the previous books have been told from her point of view. Fairstein didn’t allow me that glimpse, however. I had to go through the mill with Chapman.
The police detective’s story is written with such confidence and skill that I was surprised to hear that Fairstein approached the project with some trepidation. She had the blessing of her editor, whom she approached after the launch of Terminal City (Alex Cooper No. 16). They agreed to keep it a secret, and so off went Fairstein to the dreaded blank screen. “I got a bit nervous as I tried to make the transition,” she says. “But I know Chapman as well as I know Coop, which I kept telling myself over and over.” Another factor helped: “For years, readers asked me at signings all over the country whether there are other things I would like to write. My first answer has always been to write one of the books in this series from Detective Mike Chapman’s perspective.”
In 1997, The Tenth Justice, the first novel Brad Meltzer published (and the second one he wrote) hit the bestseller list. Himself a recent grad of Columbia Law School, Meltzer wrote a book about a mistake made by a conscientious clerk for a Supreme Court Justice and the deepening crisis that unfolds from that mistake. This month, he publishes his tenth novel, THE PRESIDENT’S SHADOW. It is a fast-paced, high-stakes thriller that begins with the discovery of a severed arm in the Rose Garden of the White House. At the center of the story is a nerdy National Archivist who holds his own among characters trained in violence and steeped in betrayal.
Meltzer’s stories are often about consequence and trust, with plot twists that leave a reader reeling. Yet the expectations he may be best at toppling are about himself. He leaped out of the box of legal-thriller writer early and crafted high-stakes suspense stories that draw on fascinating research revealing secret societies and hidden people and places that may seem too good to be true—yet often are. The line between truth and fiction is hard to pin down in a Brad Meltzer book. While turning out novels that reach the top of the New York Times bestseller list, he writes comic books, nonfiction about children’s heroes, and television series, and he hosts a television show called “Brad Meltzer’s Lost History.” He is also active in organizations promoting literacy in the state of Florida, where he lives with his wife and three children.
For The Big Thrill, Meltzer explains his character choices, shares his research approach and the secret to his daunting balancing act, and talks about the mistake he made early on that turned him into a more fearless writer.
The protagonist of THE PRESIDENT’S SHADOW is Beecher White, returning from The Fifth Assassin and The Inner Circle. When did you first realize that a young archivist would make an ideal main character?
When I met my first archivist. They just had all the nerdy goodness I wanted to give Beecher. And the real goal was: Can I build this hero whose superpower is just his brain? He couldn’t fight, couldn’t fire a gun. But he’s smarter than all of us. And didn’t feel the need to show you.
Throughout the book, you play with the reader’s perception of the personality and lifestyle of an archivist, a dedicated researcher. Is that part of your mission with these novels, to reveal how an archivist could be a new variety of action hero?
That’s just me telling the truth. Go to the National Archives. There’s a beautiful type there. I was just reporting what I saw. Bookish introverts with obsessive love for the arcane. In that, I found the archivists—and of course myself.
Before Jeffery Deaver became one of the most successful writers in the country, he was a journalist, a lawyer—and even a folk singer. But from the time he was in grade school, he knew that he wanted to write fiction. And not just any fiction—commercial, popular fiction. Books that kept readers up all night.
So, some thirty-five years ago, he decided it was time to give it a try. Deaver is the first to admit that his early novels didn’t sell as hoped. But he didn’t give up; he learned from his early work, honed his craft, and worked hard to become a master storyteller.
In the mid-1990s, Deaver released The Bone Collector, which featured quadriplegic protagonist, Lincoln Rhyme. The book has been named one of the best thrillers of all time, and went on to become a feature film starring Oscar winners Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie.
As for Deaver, today he’s an A-list bestselling author with more than thirty novels to his name, and more literary nominations and awards than you can count.
While many writers might rest on their Lincoln-Rhyme-laurels, Deaver has a broad and impressive body of work. He writes stand alones, short stories, and even penned a James Bond novel, an honor given his love of the iconic character. What’s more, Deaver is an innovator. In The October List, he told a thrilling story—in reverse. In XO, he wrote songs for an album that accompanies the book. And in The Starling Project, he wrote an original audio play. Perhaps publishers should call him Midas—everything he touches seems to turn to gold.
This month, Deaver releases the highly-anticipated SOLITUDE CREEK, the fourth in his acclaimed Kathryn Dance series. The author recently answered some questions for The Big Thrill:
SOLITUDE CREEK is the fourth in the Kathryn Dance series, following the amazing, XO. What’s in store for Dance this time around?
Oh, mayhem, chaos, and terror, of course! In this novel, Kathryn gets busted down to “buck private” for making a serious mistake during an interrogation; she’s relegated to civil work for the CBI, like checking health certificates and bottle deposit receipts. But you can’t keep a strong woman down and she secretly runs an investigation on a villain obsessed with turning people’s panic into a weapon.
The Art of Being True
By Dawn Ius
New York Times bestselling author J. A. Jance can trace her love of literature all the way back to elementary school where she was introduced to the magical world of Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz series.
She was, of course, fascinated by the stories, but even then, as an impressionable second-grade student in Mrs. Spangler’s class, Jance sensed “the author” behind the curtain and quickly realized that that is who she wanted to be—the person putting the words on the page.
Since 1982, Jance has been doing just that, with her latest thriller COLD BETRAYAL marking her fiftieth novel. More than twenty million copies of her books are in print, and they have been translated into eighteen languages—an impressive resume for any author.
Perhaps even more so for Jance, whose initial start as an author was met with daunting resistance.
While her passion for writing sparked at an early age, that flame was extinguished by her first husband, an alcoholic who declared that there would be only one writer in the house—and she wasn’t it.
For years, Jance penned poetry during the dark of night, hiding it away in a strong box so her husband wouldn’t catch her doing what, by his estimation, she shouldn’t be doing.
“When I wrote poetry, I thought I was being ‘true to my art,’” she says. “Years later, after my husband died—of chronic alcoholism at age forty-two—I had to go into the strong box for documents. And that’s where I found those old yellowed pieces of notebook paper and the poetry I’d jotted on them.”
Reading them back was like seeing her life on instant replay, and Jance suddenly understood, she hadn’t really been true to her art at all.
Instead, “I had been true to being a writer and using words to grapple with the essential issues of my life.”
By Josie Brown
C.J. Box’s novels have been lauded by readers and critics alike for their complex plots, true-to-life characters, and his stark lyrical depiction of the New West.
His latest novel—ENDANGERED—is no exception. Box’s soft-spoken but hard-hitting protagonist, Joe Pickett, is back—and this time, it’s personal. When a young woman found beaten to near death turns out to be Joe’s stepdaughter, Joe’s gut tells him that the perpetrator isn’t the man in custody, but her boyfriend, rodeo champion Dallas Cates. Proving it means facing off with the whole Cates clan, who will do anything to protect Dallas.
What does it take to write books that grab readers both by the hearts and throats? The Big Thrill recently interviewed Box to find out.
Joe Pickett’s relationship with his family—his wife, his daughters—is somewhat complex. How does this help you, the writer and creator, grow and mature the characters, and the series as a whole?
The novels take place in real time. In the first, Open Season, Joe’s oldest daughter Sheridan is seven years old and she’s a major character in the book. In ENDANGERED, she’s a sophomore in college. Over the span of the novels, his three daughters have grown up and are still growing and changing. Joe and his wife Marybeth mature and change as well. I think (hope) this keeps the series fresh both for me and for readers. Things that happen in one book impact the characters in the next. I try to keep it so the reader doesn’t have to completely suspend disbelief from book to book.
Let’s talk about your protagonist Joe, who, for those who haven’t read your wonderful series, happens to be a game warden. Why do you feel he resonates with so many readers—including city dwellers?
Joe Pickett is a game warden. That means he’s a state employee charged with administering the fishing and hunting rules and regulations for his district, which happens to be 2,500 square miles. In my novels, just as in real life, Wyoming game wardens get involved not only with outdoor situations but also with local law enforcement and federal law enforcement agencies. Local game wardens participate in resource, landowner, and environmental issues. Game wardens are independent, heavily armed, and they rarely have backup when they get into tough situations. They patrol via pickup truck, horses, ATVs, boats, and snowmobiles. Rarely does a game warden encounter a citizen in the field who isn’t armed. Therefore, they have to learn to deal with situations in a more nuanced way than calling in the S.W.A.T. team.
By Dawn Ius
Resting prominently on Lisa Gardner’s desk is her International Thriller Writers Award for best thriller, a ceramic giraffe, and an article about how to identify a psychopath.
The ITW hardware represents the much-appreciated recognition from Gardner’s peers, while the giraffe is a gift from her daughter who understands her mother’s obsessions. As for the article on how to identify a psycho (spoiler alert: They’re everywhere), the piece is just one of the many resources this self-proclaimed research junkie will use to write such twisted psychological thrillers as her latest, CRASH & BURN.
With more than twenty-two million copies of her bestselling novels sold worldwide, one might think this is starting to feel old hat for Gardner. But while she’ll concede there’s a sense of legitimacy to publishing thirty books, the journey to publication never truly gets any easier.
“Each book is its own challenge,” she says. “It feels more comfortable now, and there’s less self-doubt, but I still expect the first one-hundred pages to be a pain in the ass.”
With CRASH & BURN, Gardner faced an even larger obstacle—after turning it in to her editor, she realized about a third of the manuscript would have to be scrapped.
“I knew the book was somehow wrong and with my editors’ advice, I’d have to fix it,” she says. “But in doing so, it became a book that I am proud of. I don’t consider myself a great writer, but I’m a damn good rewriter.”
Indeed, after transitioning from romantic suspense to crime fiction, Gardner wrote and rewrote her first book in the new genre for two years. A painstakingly slow process perhaps, but with an ideal end result—The Perfect Husband was a New York Times bestseller, firmly establishing Gardner’s place in the highly-competitive thriller realm.
By Julie Kramer
Even with fifteen consecutive #1 New York Times bestsellers to her name, Tami Hoag still feels a tinge of panic trying to figure out the identity of the killers in her gritty psychological thrillers.
This was especially true with COLD COLD HEART, in which her protagonist, Dana Nolan, moves from abduction victim in Hoag’s previous bestseller, The 9th Girl, to a brain-damaged heroine trying to solve a cold case.
The ending shocks, to be sure, but for me the real surprise comes in Hoag’s Author’s Note in which she reveals a personal secret.
In the back of COLD COLD HEART, you share details about the lasting effects of a traumatic brain injury you suffered as a child. What made you go public with this?
One, because if I share my story I will reach other people who have struggled with something similar, and they won’t feel so alone in their experience. It’s very isolating to feel that no one understands what you’re going through, whatever that is. Two, because I wanted to illustrate the vagaries of traumatic brain injury. How one person can have a seemingly serious injury but walk away, while another might seem to have a mild injury but a devastating result.
How much of your own experience factored into your decision to center a plot around a brain-injured heroine? Did you ever consider that might be risky?
I never considered my own injury at all when I created Dana. I originally thought Dana wasn’t going to get out of The 9th Girl alive. But when the climax of her part of that book came, she fought harder than I expected, and I just couldn’t kill her off. I knew then I had to tell her story in the aftermath of her being a victim of a horrible crime. I knew she had suffered a brain injury and that she had been disfigured and would have PTSD. It never crossed my mind that a character might be risky commercially. I love writing complex and damaged people, real people with good traits and difficult traits. I have to write first to satisfy myself, then to satisfy my editor. Beyond that, I know that some readers will love what I do, some will like what I do, and some won’t like it at all, and that’s fine with me. I’d rather be a great shot of whiskey to my audience than a weak cup of tea to the masses. Of course, I’m very grateful that a lot of people like whiskey.
Phillip Margolin had a storied career as a criminal defense lawyer—handling more than thirty murder cases and even arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court. Though he’d published two novels early in his legal career, he wasn’t looking to leave his exciting law practice. In the early1990s, however, he was at a dinner party when the conversation turned philosophical. One of the guests had a question for him: If Adolf Hitler came to you and needed a lawyer, would you represent him? “I hadn’t really given much thought to that kind of question,” Margolin said. “But I was a believer in the system, and always thought I’d defend anyone. But it got me thinking whether I would represent someone who was pure evil.” It sparked an idea for a book that became the 1993 smash bestseller, Gone, But Not Forgotten. It was about a woman lawyer faced with representing a despicable human being—a serial killer who dehumanized women before killing them.
The book was a game changer for Margolin in many ways. It was the first of seventeen New York Times bestsellers for the author, ultimately leading to his retirement from the law. It was also the first time Margolin wrote a female protagonist. Today, it’s hard to believe that Margolin, known for writing strong women characters, once had anxiety about writing from a female point of view. “Back then, I didn’t think I could do a woman character justice. But when I was writing Gone, But Not Forgotten I was working on this scene where the killer goes to see his lawyer in this tall office building late at night when no one else is around. Having represented killers—even a serial killer—myself, I had an idea that the lawyer would be on guard. But something made me think, ‘Yes, as a man I’d be cautious around this killer of women, but wouldn’t it ratchet up the suspense if the lawyer was a woman—a person like the killer’s victims?’ The story required me to make the protagonist a woman, so I did.”
To get the character right, Margolin drew on the toughest, smartest, and best woman lawyer he knew, his wife Doreen. “I decided to write all the scenes imagining the character was Doreen; what she would say, how she would act. Doreen was very feminine, but also a real tough guy.” Sadly, Doreen passed away in 2007. “She wasn’t just the best lawyer I’ve ever known,” Margolin said, “she was the best human being I’ve ever met.”
By Julie Kramer
David Baldacci is best known for his high-stakes political thrillers, but the #1 New York Times bestselling author has also had a busy year as the editor of this year’s acclaimed ITW anthology, FaceOff, and as one of the highest-profile writers caught in the Amazon/Hachette negotiating feud.
So what does he do to relax? He sketches.
We’ll show you samples of his art, hear his take on changes in the publishing world, and learn more about his upcoming release, THE ESCAPE, in which military investigator John Puller hunts for America’s most wanted criminal—his own brother—who has escaped from prison after being convicted of treason.
How much of your success as an author do you think you owe to your Washington D.C. settings and the public’s mistrust of the government?
I certainly have been influenced by the political world in D.C. It’s the only city in the country that can declare war and raise your federal income tax!
When it comes to international intrigue, the geography and players in political hot spots change rapidly—the Ukraine, ISIS, and so on. Your thrillers are often topical. Do you ever worry your storyline will be out of date on your release day?
That’s the risk you run. You finish the novel and the next day a headline is in the newspaper that is basically your entire plot line. I’ve never had that happen. I’ve been ahead of the curve a few times, but it could always cut the other way. I’m just one guy with an imagination pitted against nearly seven billion people jostling each other over the width of a single planet. Odds-wise I have no chance.
When you first introduced us to Army Special Agent John Puller and his brother, Robert, in ZERO DAY, did you already have elements for THE ESCAPE in the back of your mind?
I knew that Robert Puller’s story would be revealed one day. I wasn’t sure how when I was writing book one or even book two. But the story eventually came to me.
What research did you do for THE ESCAPE? Tour any prisons?
I’ve visited military bases in the past. I jumped off parachute towers, did the sniper ranges, performed the rollover Humvee training, and threw myself into the Army’s functional fitness regimen. Needless to say, I came out of that feeling way too old. As a lawyer I also went to prisons. An attorney at my old law firm represented Clayton Lonetree—the Marine guard accused of espionage at the US Embassy in Moscow—in appealing his conviction. While I wasn’t directly involved in the case, I learned a fair amount about the military justice system.
James Patterson is a giant in the literary world. He holds a Guinness record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers of any author. One-in-seventeen fiction hardcovers sold in the U.S. are Patterson novels. And Forbes ranks him as the top earning author in the world. With all that, it might be easy to forget that Patterson was no overnight success. He paid his dues, and his rise was born of great storytelling, tenacity, and a willingness to buck convention.
Patterson’s first novel was rejected by more than thirty publishers. When it was finally published in 1976, he won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, but Patterson was so insecure about his work that he thought they’d made a mistake. Over the next sixteen years, Patterson published only a handful of novels to modest sales. It wasn’t until 1992 and his breakout novel featuring the now iconic Alex Cross that things started to change.
But it wasn’t just Mr. Cross that set Patterson’s course. It was his decision to take the reins of his career, to do things his way, even if it defied conventional wisdom. So, he ran television ads for his work despite raised eyebrows from some in the literary crowd. He embraced short chapters and chapters with alternating points of view, prompting finger-wagging from some writing teachers. He wrote in multiple genres, against admonishments that it would confuse his readers. And he was among the first to work regularly with co-authors, publishing multiple books a year, to claims that he was treating writing too much like a business.
While most of the naysayers have come around, it is doubtful anyone can dispute that Patterson’s rise is truly a writer’s story; a tale of sticking to it, beating the odds, and getting people—including millions of kids—to read.
Patterson recently took the time to answer a few questions for THE BIG THRILL.
Back when you were a kid in Newburgh, New York—or even after you published your first novel, The Thomas Berryman Number—did you ever imagine you’d become the world’s bestselling author? What did your success mean for your family and your friends from your hometown?
My first book was rejected by thirty-one publishers, so no; I did not expect this kind of success at that point. My mother was a teacher so I know that she would be especially proud of my kids’ books.
If you could go back in time and give your younger writer self some advice from what you’ve learned, what would it be?
Be confident in your ability to tell a good story. I have that now but early on I didn’t. When I won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel I thought it was a mistake. That’s the kind of lack of confidence that many young writers face.
By Dawn Ius
Dr. Kathy Reichs is one of those rare people with the ability to do it all. Mother of highly successful children. World-renowned forensic anthropologist. Bestselling author of an adult and YA series. Producer, writer, and consultant for a hit television show.
Yet, for someone so accomplished, Reichs seemed remarkably down-to-earth when we spoke recently about her life, her career, and her latest blockbuster in the Temperance Brennan series, BONES NEVER LIE.
Reichs was in a somewhat reflective mood, perhaps in part because it was ten years ago when she sat at a table with a small group of writers tossing around the idea of starting a new organization specifically for the thriller genre. That organization, of course, was the International Thriller Writers. And while Reichs says her cohorts really took the reigns on the initiative, she looks back on that day fondly to reflect upon the amazing resources available to authors today, and how much the industry has changed.
But perhaps Reichs’s cause for reflection also had something to do with the latest novel.
BONES NEVER LIE picks up on a story from MONDAY MOURNING, a book she wrote a decade ago, and the only novel in the series where the case is resolved—but the bad guy gets away.
Readers never questioned Reichs on this intentional anomaly, but the story stuck in her head and she always knew she would eventually revisit this villain.
“I enjoyed going back and picking up on many of the old threads from that story,” she says, noting that as with real life, much has changed for Tempe in the ten years since MONDAY MOURNING. “One of the things Tempe has to do is find [Andrew] Ryan—and he’s in a really bad place at the start of this book. Of course, this brings up a lot of emotions for her, because she’s vowed not to let him hurt her again.”
By A.J. Colucci
It’s Day Two of ThrillerFest and the Grand Hyatt in New York City is swarming with thriller fans, aspiring writers, and superstar authors. They’re scattered around the majestic lobby, which is buzzing with talk of the latest breakout novels. I’m sitting atop The Lounge Café with one of my favorite writers, Linwood Barclay, trying to sound casual as if I have lunch with famous authors every day. We both order a cup of chicken soup and half sandwich and I’m taken by his quiet, genial demeanor. Who would guess that behind those affable blue eyes lurks a mind capable of taking you into dark, deadly, believable situations that can turn your blood ice cold and strip your emotions raw?
NO SAFE HOUSE is Barclay’s latest book in a succession of contemporary thrillers that will leave your thumb calloused from flipping pages. It is a sequel to the breakout novel he wrote in 2007, NO TIME FOR GOODBYE, a monstrous bestseller in the UK that also sold a million books in the U.S. Since then, he’s had a string of hits that have made him an Arthur Ellis Award winner and finalist for a Shamus, Barry, and Thriller Award. His tenth novel, TRUST YOUR EYES, has been optioned by Warner Brothers following a bidding war that landed Barclay on the cover of Variety magazine. It’s a book Stephen King called, “a tale Hitchcock would have loved.”
All that success doesn’t seem to faze Barclay. He’s just a regular guy having lunch, which gave me a chance to ask him about his new book, his writing career, and life as a Canadian author. But considering the venue, I start by asking him how he got involved in ThrillerFest.
“I thought it would be good to meet people,” Barclay said, noting that he’s attended ThrillerFest every year but one since 2007. “I had four books out, but they weren’t hugely successful. Back then I felt kind of lost, sort of like a nobody—which I still do at times—but it was really cool to be here.” He became more involved at every conference and eventually did a panel at CraftFest. “That’s when I really felt more comfortable, more part of it.”
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.