Andrew Brown is an unusual man. An anti-apartheid activist, he was given a three-year jail sentence for his activities in support of the African National Congress. He argued the sentence down to community service, studied law, and became an advocate and occasional acting judge in the same High Court where he’d appeared as a defendant. Not content with that as a contribution to the community, he is also a police reservist with the rank of sergeant, which led to STEET BLUES, a book based on his experiences. STREET BLUES was short listed for the Alan Paton Award for non-fiction.
Somewhere between all these activities (and bringing up a family), Andrew finds the time to travel and write taut political thrillers that lay bare the issues of Africa through gripping characters. In 2005, COLDSLEEP LULLABY was published and went on to win the Sunday Times Literary Award, South Africa’s premier award for fiction. It was followed in 2009 by REFUGE, which was short listed for the Commonwealth Literary Prize: Africa.
This year saw the publication of DEVIL’S HARVEST, and I’d put money on prize nominations going its way also. Set mainly in South Sudan, it follows a professor of botany on an academic quest into the midst of the war-torn country while the big players try to hide the evidence of an assassination gone wrong.
I asked Andrew about writing and DEVIL’S HARVEST.
By Linda Davies
Linda Davies explains how she got the ideas that collide to make her novel ARK STORM, and the fascinating and terrifying true-life science behind it.
What if you could control the weather?
Some years ago, I lived in Peru. Every so often I would escape the mayhem of Lima for Punta Sal, a little fishing village on the border with Ecuador. Hemingway used to fish there for marlin. Framed photographs of him grinning beside his huge catches adorn the walls of the ramshackle bars.
I went not to fish but to swim in the sea, body surfing the huge Pacific rollers. Normally you could only stay in for ten or fifteen minutes without a wetsuit because the Humboldt Current kept the waters cold, but one Christmas, the waters were balmy. I stayed in for two hours, marveling at the difference. El Nino had come, bringing with it warm waters. That’s where it is first felt, in the seas off that remote and under-populated border. Typically, the Nino phenomenon is felt around Christmas time and hence acquired its name—El Nino—the Christ Child.
The fishermen’s children, playing in the unusually warm waters, knew El Nino had come. As did I. But none of the world’s media seemed to have picked up this event, and did not do so for months.
It made me think, what if you or your business had a superior weather prediction system to the competition? With my financial background, I next thought, you could make out like a bandit using weather derivatives. It planted the seeds of a novel. It was a good idea, but not the big idea.
As a thriller writer, I’m always on the lookout for a real-life factual nugget around which I can spin a tale.
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 Jeremy Burns
The Middle Ages were full of fascinating and often shocking episodes, and few authors are as talented at bringing readers into this intriguing period of history as Karen Maitland. A veteran thriller writer and a member of the Medieval Murderers, Maitland digs into the political intrigue, sabotage, subterfuge, revolutions, conflicts, and secrets of the medieval era like few others. Her latest book, THE VANISHING WITCH, looks to thrill fans once again with her unique take on this tempestuous period of history.
The author recently sat down with THE BIG THRILL to give readers a glimpse into her upcoming medieval thriller.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve been writing full-time since 2000, and THE VANISHING WITCH is my fifth medieval thriller to be published. As well as my own historical thrillers, I also write a joint medieval crime novel ever year with five other authors—Philip Gooden, Susanna Gregory, Michael Jecks, Bernard Knight, and Ian Morson. Together we are known as the Medieval Murderers and our tenth book, THE DEADLIEST SIN, is also published this summer.
I’ve recently moved to the beautiful county of Devon in England, not far from Dartmoor, the wild moor that was the inspiration for the famous Sherlock Holmes case—‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’. When the mist comes down, you can almost hear the terrible black hound baying across the moors. I’ve converted an old blacksmith’s workshop in which to write, which still has the old anvil and I’ve filled it with things that inspire me like an old witch ball, a saxon drill, and stuffed owl.
Tell us about THE VANISHING WITCH.
The book is set in Lincoln, England in 1380/81, during the reign of the boy-king Richard II. It was summer of the Peasants’ Revolt when thousands of men and women marched on London and seized the Archbishop of Canterbury who was Chancellor of England. They hacked off his head, starting an orgy of rioting, murder and destruction that swept across England. But Robert, a wealthy wool-merchant in Lincoln has his own problems the rebels want him dead, the sheriff questions his loyalty and when people around him start being murdered, who can he trust—his impetuous son, the dark-haired widow, her bewitching daughter or his superstitious servants?
Did you ever have to talk to a weasel? Not that shifty guy in accounts receivable, a ferret. What about a naked mole rat? With her very special psychic ability, such conversations are not unfamiliar to Dr. Shelley Morgan. She’s the heroine of GUARDED, the second paranormal thriller in Mary Behre’s Tidewater series, following SPIRITED.
That’s right, Dr. Morgan is a veterinarian whose patients can tell her where it hurts. That’s not all that animals can tell her, so her ability comes in handy when she stumbles on an exotic animal-kidnapping ring and becomes a suspect in a zoo keeper’s murder.
This is a romantic thriller too, so fortunately Detective Dev Jones is involved in the case and promises to be a big help. He’s a really big help. Some have found his “bear-like physique” intimidating. Shelley knows he’s an intelligent, capable man, however.
To help Shelley, Dev might need all of his wits, and he might just have to put his career on the line as the case unfolds.
Since the Tidewater books mix mystery and thrills and humor, let’s just end this introduction by saying that in the Q&A that follows THE BIG THRILL posed a few guarded questions to Behre.
GUARDED is your second Tidewater installment. Tell us a little about the series and the Tidewater universe. The books focus on a different Tidewater resident each time, but there’s a connection between the heroine of GUARDED and the heroine of the first book in the series, SPIRITED, right?
The fictional city of Tidewater is set in beautiful coastal Virginia. It was inspired by my time living in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Chesapeake, Virginia. The residents in these cities (as well as Portsmouth and Suffolk) often refer to the region as Tidewater, though the name doesn’t appear on a map.
In the Tidewater series, certain members of the city are endowed with unique, cursed gifts, or “crifts.” Each one has a different psychic ability.
By James Ziskin
This month, I interview Gregg Hurwitz, the New York Times best-selling author of fourteen thrillers and several comic books. If that’s not enough, he also has written and produced television shows for major networks, and is currently developing his Tim Rackley series for TNT/Sony. His latest thriller, DON’T LOOK BACK, hits bookstores this month.
You write strong, fascinating female characters in all your books. I’m thinking of Cameron Kates, both Evelyn and Cristina Brasher, Janey Overbay… They’re at turns smart, sassy, brave, controlling, and have great conscience and soul. But DON’T LOOK BACK is the first time you’ve put a woman, Eve Hardaway, at the center of one of your thrillers. It’s a fantastically terrorizing story. Why, do you think, are so few thrillers about women?
I do think there’s a perception bias that books about women tend to be more “literary” (whatever that means)—or that within genre, female protagonists appear in mysteries rather than thrillers. But there are more thrillers about women than people tend to be aware of. If we look at contemporary writers alone, Patricia Cornwell, Kathy Reichs, Laura Lippman, Chelsea Cain, Karin Slaughter, Lisa Unger, Alafair Burke, Meg Gardiner, Megan Abbott and many more write thrillers (or books with strong thriller elements). Connelly and Crais have chosen female protagonists for certain books (and interestingly, for those books closer to the thriller end of the spectrum for their respective bodies of work). And of course, Thomas Harris placed Clarice Starling at the center of one of the benchmark thrillers of all time.
DON’T LOOK BACK demanded a female lead character. I wanted to tell the story of a woman who was a single mother, freshly off a divorce, struggling to find herself and to reestablish her voice in the world. Leaving her son in the care of his beloved nanny for a week, Eve Hardaway finds herself in a small ecolodge way up in the jungles of Oaxaca. On her first day, she strays from the group into the jungle and sees something she’s not supposed to see. Which involves a Very Bad Man. He clues in to the fact that she saw him. And just as he starts to zero in on her and this small band of tourists, a tropical storm blows in. So Eve, single mother and nurse from Calabasas, finds herself being pursued through the jungle in the middle of a storm by a brutal man who can outflank, out-fight, and overpower her. And she realizes that if she ever hopes to get back home and see her son again, she is going to have to find that unbreakable part of herself, outlast, and prevail.
Jessie Crockett’s first cozy mystery, LIVE FREE OR DIE, won the Daphne du Maurier Award for mainstream mystery. Her new series, the Sugar Grove mysteries, features Dani Greene, from a prominent New Hampshire family of maple syrup makers, and a large cast of colorful secondary characters.
Just out now is the second book in this series, MAPLE MAYHEM, in which Dani tries to set up an agricultural cooperative to help smaller sugarhouses, setting off a chain of vandalism and then murder.
Please tell us a little about yourself. You’re a New Hampshire native?
Native might be too strong a word. I’ve lived in New Hampshire since I was eight years old. Both of my parents were born and raised in Maine so I feel very strongly that northern New England is my home.
What can you tell us about your new book, MAPLE MAYHEM?
MAPLE MAYHEM involves maple syrup maker Dani Greene’s thwarted attempts at starting an agricultural cooperative. She finds herself confronted by sabotage and ultimately murder in her quest to help her neighbors and herself to improve the bottom line in their sugaring businesses.
By Stacy Mantle
Author Mike Resnick has a long history of success in the science fiction and thriller categories. Beyond earning five Hugo awards, he has taken home the Science Fiction Chronicle Poll Award, the Nebula, the Homer, the Alexander, the Golden Pagoda Award, and Dog Writers Association Awards.
Humor goes a long way toward breaking dramatic tension, and no one does it better than Resnick. Larger-than-life characters pump up the action. As a long-time fixture in science fiction, Resnick draws on over one hundred novels and short stories to make his stories successful.
We had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his process, co-writing with his wife, the writing habits that have made him a success, and the importance of loving what you do.
Please tell us a little about CAT ON A COLD TIN ROOF.
It’s the third mystery novel featuring a middle-aged divorced detective, Eli Paxton, who lives in Cincinnati. Unlike a lot of his fictional contemporaries, he doesn’t distrust the police, doesn’t use his fists to solve crimes, and doesn’t bed every good-looking woman he comes across. Since the first two in the series were DOG IN THE MANGER and THE TROJAN COLT, I felt it incumbent to have an animal in the title, as well as making it one of the keys to the plot. But unlike the first two books, which had to do with dog shows and horse racing, this doesn’t involve the cat in any sport.
By Derek Gunn
Whitley Strieber needs no introduction to readers of my generation. The superb WOLFEN and THE HUNGER shot him into the limelight and the equally noteworthy COMMUNION and NATURE’S END served to keep him there to this day. We have had mostly non-fiction in later years, though many consider his work on THE VISITORS and alien abductions to be fiction and file it as such in bookstores. While this has been a constant argument with Strieber’s work over the years, and Strieber is adamant that his work on aliens is factual, there is one point that is irrefutable—he is a superb author and capable of delivering fantastic work.
His latest novel, ALIEN HUNTER: UNDERWORLD is the second in his Flynn Carroll series. It is a thriller of the highest order. I had not read the first in the series but it doesn’t take too long to catch up and enjoy the ride.
Flynn Carroll works for a very secret organisation. He is tasked with finding and stopping the most lethal and driven criminals on the planet. To make it even more difficult, the criminals are, in fact, from another world and have access to technology so far ahead of ours that they anticipate every move he makes.
Recent events see Flynn operating on his own and he is forced to seek help from some old friends whose skills may just help even the odds. Added to the mix is the police force from the alien world who want to censure Flynn for their own reasons but are reluctant to help clean up their mess.
Flynn also discovers that all is not as it seems within his own organization and that there are things they do not want him to know. As time runs short and the alien mastermind gets ever closer, Flynn is forced to examine not just his enemy but his own origins as well.
If the fiction writer’s mantra is “write what you know,” then Kristi Belcamino has amassed a career’s worth of background material. A crime reporter by trade, the Minneapolis resident based her debut on a series of interviews she conducted with a convicted kidnapper who claimed to be a serial killer. BLESSED ARE THE DEAD is a gripping fictionalization of that encounter, putting the reader in the shoes of young Gabriella Giovanni, a San Francisco Bay Area newspaper reporter whose second adventure was released as BLESSED ARE THE MEEK on July 29.
I’ve known Kristi for three years. We met via Twitter, when she found out I was visiting the Twin Cities to research my second novel. Kristi threw me a wonderful dinner party with her writer’s group, set me up with contacts in the Minnesota PD, and hooked me up with tours of the locations I’d set out to research. BLESSED ARE THE DEAD was still searching for a publisher then, but in the years that followed, I’ve had the pleasure of watching Kristi find an agent and a home for her wonderful debut.
Recently, I lobbed a few questions at her about the series, the writing process, and just how many similarities she shares with her protagonist.
Kristi, your debut, BLESSED ARE THE DEAD, was just published by Harper-Collins. Congratulations! Tell us about the book.
Thank you! It’s been a dream come true for sure. The book, which features an Italian-American crime reporter and is the first in a series of at least four books, is inspired by my dealings with a serial killer while I was a reporter on the crime beat in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some of the actual jailhouse conversations I had with this man are in my book. When he died in prison a few years back, I was called for a comment.
By Dawn Ius
In the dark and ominous world of noir fiction, most heroes are looking for a light at the end of the tunnel. But for Jersey Leo, the albino bartender in John Florio’s SUGAR POP MOON and BLIND MOON ALLEY, sunshine is something to be avoided.
“Typically, people enjoy warm summer days, but in Jersey’s case, a bright, shining sun only brings more problems,” Florio says. “His albinism pits him against convention.”
In fact, the National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation has documented the number of characters with albinism featured in pop culture, and with few exceptions, most are cast as the “evil bad guy.”
“When I started writing SUGAR POP MOON, I wanted to write about an outsider,” he says. “I considered a few options. But having a hero with albinism put a different spin on things—it added another set of conflicts, another layer of tension. Looking back, I guess it was a bit of a risk.”
The gamble paid off. After a successful run with SUGAR POP MOON, Seventh Street Books purchased BLIND MOON ALLEY based on its first chapter alone—a clear demonstration of the faith the publisher had in both the character and the world Florio had created.
Set in Philadelphia during Prohibition, BLIND MOON ALLEY finds Jersey “Snowball” Leo tending bar at a speakeasy the locals call the Ink Well. There, he’s considered a hero for saving the life of a young boy. But Jersey soon finds himself running from a band of crooked cops, hiding an escaped convict in the Ink Well, and reuniting with his grammar school crush—the now sultry Myra Banks, who has shed a club foot and become a speakeasy siren.
Kelli Stanley is easy to spot in any gathering, with her friendly smile and one of her trademark fedoras perched atop blond hair. She’s a thoroughly modern woman—but she has made her name as a novelist by living in the past.
Kelli arrived on the mystery scene with NOX DORMIENDA (“a long night of sleeping”), set in Roman Britain and featuring Arcturus, a half-British, half-Roman doctor who ferreted out killers as a sort of Philip Marlowe in ancient times. This “Roman noir” debut won the Bruce Alexander Award for Best Historical Novel and earned Kelli a Certificate of Honor for literary achievement from her hometown of San Francisco. Following THE CURSE-MAKER, the sequel to NOX DORMIENDA, she fast-forwarded in time to 1940 and created Miranda Corbie, the San Francisco-based protagonist Library Journal has called “one of crime’s most arresting heroines.”
With her beauty, her stylish suits and hats and impeccable grooming, she might be the femme fatale who shows up at Marlowe’s door in search of help, but in Kelli Stanley’s noir world Miranda is the one with the gun and the private eye license. She’s a woman with a troubled past that is far from dead, but she knows how to protect her vulnerable core and she doesn’t hesitate to stand up for those who can’t defend themselves.
In CITY OF GHOSTS, the third series entry (after CITY OF DRAGONS and CITY OF SECRETS), the time is June of 1940, France has fallen to the Nazis, and U.S. involvement in the war seems inevitable. The State Department official who helped Miranda get her P.I. license arrives in her office to collect on the debt: he wants her to track a San Francisco chemistry professor who may be spying for the Nazis. This assignment, which coincides with the murder of her latest client, could get Miranda killed, but she accepts because the payoff would be passage to bomb-ravaged England, where she believes she will find her long-missing mother. Her desire to find her mother, and learn the truth about her disappearance, drives Miranda on as she investigates her client’s death and Nazi activities on U.S. soil and eventually finds herself framed for murder.
Recently Kelli talked about her memorable heroine and the challenges of writing historical fiction set in her own hometown.
By Jeff Ayers
On May 5, 2014, Jack Bauer returned in “24: Live Another Day” to restart the ticking clock on the groundbreaking and Emmy Award-winning drama. 24: DEADLINE will answer some of the questions of what happened to Jack in the four years between the end of season eight and the new “24: Live Another Day” event series.
The time is 5:00 p.m.: One hour ago, federal agent Jack Bauer was declared a fugitive. If he wants to survive, he must get out of the country, and he doesn’t have much time. With his former colleagues in the Counter Terrorist Unit now dead, under arrest, or shut down, Jack has no resources to call upon, no back-up, and nowhere to go—only his determination can drive him on. One thing remains clear to him: the promise he made to his daughter Kim. Jack vows that he will see Kim one last time to tell her he loves her—before he drops off the radar forever.
Tor/Forge books editor Melissa Frain said, “Few shows have ever been able to achieve what “24” has on television. As passionate fans of the show ourselves, we’re thrilled to help fill the gap between the devastating events of last season and Jack’s highly anticipated return in “24: Live Another Day” with 24: DEADLINE. And regarding the author, James Swallow: “With his background as a veteran tie-in author and a long-time fan of “24,” we think James has the perfect sensibility to tell the world just what happened to Jack Bauer after the clock wound down at the end of season eight.”
With that in mind, THE BIG THRILL took the time to chat with James Swallow.
By J. H. Bográn
Nancy J. Cohen is nothing if not versatile. She writes the humorous Bad Hair Day mystery series featuring hairdresser Marla Shore. Several of these titles have made the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association bestseller list. Cohen is also the author of WRITING THE COZY MYSTERY, a valuable instructional guide for writers on how to write a winning cozy-style whodunit. Her imaginative romances have proven popular with fans as well. Her titles in this genre have won the HOLT Medallion and Best Book in Romantic SciFi/Fantasy at The Romance Reviews.
For this story, the focus is on the next volume of WARRIOR LORD. I first met Nancy J. Cohen when she was about to release a book in her Bad Hair Day series. Then she was kind enough to let me steal the spotlight on her blog. Now I’m pleased THE BIG THRILL gave me the opportunity to her a few questions about her new book.
What’s the plot of WARRIOR LORD – Drift Lord 3?
Pottery sculptor Erika Sherwood has no idea her televised wedding in Las Vegas is for real until an official confirms she and the stranger she’s just met are legitimately wed.
A Drift Lord and warrior of the Tsuran, Magnor tricks the redhead into marriage because she’s one of six women prophesied to save Earth. But as he’s forced into her company in their race against the apocalypse, he wonders if he risks his heart more than his life.
Can a free-spirited ceramic artist and a fierce swordsman trust each other enough to prevent disaster?
By Dawn Ius
New York Times bestselling author Chelsea Cain launches into August with ONE KICK, the first in a thrilling new series featuring Kick Lannigan, a young woman whose tragic past has given her a special—and deadly—set of skills.
“Famously kidnapped at age six, Kick captured America’s hearts when she was rescued five years later. Now, twenty-one, she finds herself unexpectedly entangled in a missing child case that will put her talents to the test.”
Though a definite departure from the Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell thrillers for which Cain is known, ONE KICK embodies the same heart-pounding brilliance HEARTSICK fans have come to know and love.
“This book is positioned to reach a wider audience,” Cain says. “Some readers are afraid of the HEARTSICK books—many people thinks of them as horror. I’ve dialed it down a little in ONE KICK.”
Though she admits, for some, the distinction is faint.
Since childhood, Cain has been drawn to the thriller genre, getting her literary feet wet with detective stories and mysteries.
“I wanted high stakes, puzzle and peril,” she says. “I loved looking at the yellow spines of those Nancy Drew books and knowing there was another one. There was always such a great comfort in knowing the character survived.”
By John Raab
New York Times bestselling author Wendy Corsi Staub returns with her latest book THE PERFECT STRANGER. Staub has written more than seventy-five books and continues to raise the bar in the suspense-writing genre. Her last book THE GOOD SISTER has been optioned for television by Fox, and she will release another book this year called THE BLACK WIDOW. Her trilogy, which ended in early 2013, won the 2013 Westchester Library Association Washington Irving for fiction award.
Staub has sold over four million copies of her books, and has also written under the pen name Wendy Markham, whose name could be seen on the USA Today, Barnes & Noble and BookScan bestseller lists.
She is here to tell THE BIG THRILL about her latest book, THE PERFECT STRANGER.
What can you tell us about the book that is not on the back cover?
The heroine and her fellow bloggers are breast cancer survivors. They’ve all turned to the Internet for kindred support that they couldn’t find in their own daily lives. They’re strangers who have gradually let their guards down online because they’ve been in each other’s shoes; they can share things with each other that their family and friends in the real world couldn’t possibly understand. That bond has strengthened them, but—they realize too late—has also made them vulnerable.
Landry Wells is your main character in THE PERFECT STRANGER. Who is she?
Landry is a genteel southern wife and mother who has always lived her life according to plan, only to have it turned upside down with a cancer diagnosis. You don’t face your own mortality and wage a fierce battle against a deadly disease without being profoundly transformed. Landry has recently learned how to put aside her natural reserve and reach out to strangers, offering—and drawing—strength. Her hard-won battle not only shattered her carefully constructed walls and taught her that there are no guarantees, but left her virtually fearless—which is a good thing, because a new predator now has her in the crosshairs.
By Dan Levy
As an admitted adrenaline junkie, one would think a day job as an ER nurse would give Beth Amos (writing under the name Allyson K. Abbot for the Mack’s Bar series) got her daily dose of excitement at work. Not so, even after more tha forty years in the business, “I have seen, smelled, touched, been doused in, and exposed to some very gross looking and smelling things. Only one thing has ever made me gag. Ear wax is my kryptonite.”
Since that isn’t enough action, Beth fills her free time creating interesting characters and then putting them through some adrenaline-inducing situations. Such is the case with Mackenzie “Mack” Dalton, owner and chief mixologist at Mack’s Bar in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Like every good protagonist, Amos gave Mack her own set of real and relatable flaws. But for that one trait that makes Mack special, Amos turned to her experience in the medical field.
“I first heard of synesthesia from a neurologist years ago,” said Amos. “A simplistic definition of synesthesia is that it’s a cross-wiring, or in some ways an overlap, between the senses. As a result, people may see things they hear as shapes, colors, or patterns. Or something they see might trigger a taste sensation. There are different types and degrees of synesthesia, and I think it’s much more common than many people realize.”
Counter Terrorism, anarchist mayhem, and ruthless acts of jolting violence threaten to throw London into chaos in Charlie Flowers’s latest thriller, BATTLE COME DOWN. The fourth installment in the series featuring the unlikely protagonist Riz Sabir, BATTLE COME DOWN brings the ongoing war against international terrorism into the heart of the UK. THE BIG THRILL checked in with Charlie so he could offer readers a glimpse at what the most recent entry has to offer.
Congratulations on BATTLE COME DOWN! For those readers who may not already be acquainted with your work, what would you like them to know about your book and its main character, Riz Sabir?
BATTLE COME DOWN is the fourth book in the Riz Sabir Mysteries series. Riz Sabir is British, of Pakistani origin, who drifted into crime and then extremism as a young man. He trained with al Qaeda, was arrested by Counter Terrorism Command, and made an offer he couldn’t refuse by a murky, semi-private intelligence arm of the Ministry of Defence. He now works as their main troubleshooter and investigator. Throughout the books, he is aided (and sometimes hindered) by his wife, Holly, and the army unit she belongs to known as the Blackeyes.
All of the books in the Riz Sabir series are quite dark, depicting a harsh, violent world. How would you describe the theme of this book? And what drives you to the themes you choose?
The theme of most of the books in the series is “violence is real and the world is dangerous, but love will prevail.” The theme of this book is “be careful what you wish for,” in terms of asking the authorities how far they’d be prepared to go in dealing with urban unrest, and what could spiral out of their control.
By George Ebey
Author Lee Thompson brings us a tale of crime and suspense in his latest novel, A BEAUTIFUL MADNESS.
The story unfolds when a Texas senator and his wife go missing … On the same day, their son is slaughtered by an enigmatic killer on the lawn of ex-Governor Edward Wood’s residence. Sammy, Wood’s drug dealing son, suspects his father of the crime. After all, his old man snapped once before and crippled his wife with a lead pipe. In direct opposition to Homicide Detective Jim Thompson, Sammy begins an investigation of his own, searching for the truth in a labyrinth of lies, deception, depravity, and violence that drags him deeper into darkness and mayhem with each step. And in doing so, brings them all into the sights of an elusive and horrifying killer who may not be what he seems.
We recently caught up with Thompson to find out more about A BEAUTIFUL MADNESS and to get his insight into what elements make up the best crime and suspense fiction.
Let’s talk about the genesis of your story. Where did your inspiration for A BEAUTIFUL MADNESS come from?
A BEAUTIFUL MADNESS started with an image of a rainy day and someone dumping a body on a shamed ex-governor’s lawn while he sits drinking beer on his porch.
From the beginning, I wanted to mess with perception by having my narrator, Sammy—who is biased and conditioned by the people he grew up around and his father’s dark history—share a story built from Sammy’s sister Delilah’s experience, along with a detective named Jim Thompson, and through pilfering the journal of a killer the police had dubbed the Wolverine. It’s all after-the-fact, although the reader doesn’t know how far into the future.
By Brian Knight
LETHAL CODE tells the shocking and frighteningly possible story of a massive, anonymous cyber-attack on the United States by an unknown enemy and the unforgettable men, women, and children who fight back against the invisible invasion.
Thomas Waite’s new novel, LETHAL CODE, is available now, and Mr. Waite is here to talk about it.
Tell us a bit about LETHAL CODE.
Sure. Back in 2012, former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta gave a startling speech about U.S. vulnerability to cyber warfare. He said that our country could face a “cyber Pearl Harbor” attack that would cause massive physical destruction and loss of life. LETHAL CODE is essentially a fictional, yet plausible, novel about such a horrific scenario. In my book, unknown terrorists have crippled the nation’s power grid and brought our country to its knees. Widespread panic and violence ravage the country and the terrorists issue their ultimatums and vow an apocalyptic reckoning.
The heroine in LETHAL CODE is Lana Elkins, head of a major cyber-security company—and former top NSA operative—who returns to her roots to spearhead the Agency’s frantic efforts to combat the enemy’s onslaught on its own terms. While she and her superiors take action to infiltrate a terrorist hotbed overseas, much closer to home ruthless jihadists with a nuclear bomb hijack a busload of schoolchildren—including her own daughter—and race toward a rendezvous with Armageddon in America’s largest city.
LETHAL CODE isn’t meant to just be a fast-paced cyber-thriller; it is a cautionary tale for a public largely unaware of a potential cyber war of cataclysmic proportions from an unseen enemy. I did a lot of research and interviewed quite a few experts for this novel. So while LETHAL CODE is a work of fiction, most of the technologies, cyber attack vulnerabilities and cyber war scenarios are based on facts. The novel is the first of a new series of cyber-thrillers. I am currently working on finishing the second.
Let me say this straight out. I am not a cozy reader. Hey, this is THE BIG THRILL, and we’re all fans of International Thriller Writers, right? But I met John Clement at ThrillerFest 2013 and I knew that whatever this guy wrote would be something I’d want to read. Not only did John give the funniest sixty second intro ever heard at a Debut Breakfast, but the story behind how John came to be writing turned out to be as meaningful as the books themselves.
The Dixie Hemingway series pushes the envelope in a lot of ways for murder mysteries, and that’s probably because the author tends to push the envelope in his own life as well, seeking to challenge himself, and never backing down even when the prospect might be daunting. I hope you’ll be as impressed as I am by the open, honest answers that follow, and join me in celebrating the release of THE CAT SITTER’S NINE LIVES.
There is a very poignant background to the way you came to write your first Dixie Hemingway mystery, THE CAT SITTER’S CRADLE. Can you tell us something about how it all happened?
It’s funny. Now, looking back on how it unfolded, I can see what a bizarre story it is, but at the time it all seemed perfectly normal… probably because I was still in a bit of shock. My mother, Blaize Clement, published her first mystery, CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT SITTER, back in 2005 with St. Martin’s Press. She then went on to write six more books in the series, which follow the adventures of Dixie Hemingway as she struggles to piece her life back together after the loss of her family. It sounds dark, and at times it is, but it’s also hilarious and witty and has lots of cats so it fully qualifies as a cozy mystery, even if it slightly pushes the boundaries. In 2011, after about a year of battling with cancer, my mother’s doctors told us there was little hope of survival. She elected to discontinue treatments. We moved into a hospice home in Sarasota, Florida, and it was there that she put the finishing touches to her last book, THE CAT SITTER’S PAJAMAS.
By John Clement
I spent an inordinate amount of time in front of the television in my so-called “formative years,” and two shows in particular wormed their way into my permanent consciousness. One was I Dream of Jeannie. The other was Bewitched. I knew full well both these shows were nothing but pure fantasy, but that didn’t quash the sneaky suspicion lingering in the back of my mind that if I just tried hard enough, I could unlock my own as-yet-unrealized magical powers.
Well, I’m still waiting for those powers to reveal themselves, which is probably why I felt a little rush of excitement when I opened up Dawn Eastman’s latest mystery, BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WITCH FOR, the follow-up to her popular debut, PALL IN THE FAMILY. Both books are set in the small Michigan town of Crystal Haven, where an unusually large population of magically gifted (and hilariously eccentric) residents has transformed the town into a kind of Mecca for hopeful tourists. They come from far and wide in search of psychics, healers, spells, and perhaps even a bridge to the spirit world.
Enter Clyde Fortune, who’s left her stormy career as a cop in nearby Ann Arbor for some quiet reflection in her eccentric hometown—only to find that things in Crystal Haven are anything but quiet, and her telepathic relatives are all hoping she’ll rejoin the family business. As it turns out, Clyde’s experience as a police officer, coupled with her long-suppressed psychic abilities, make her particularly well suited for crime-solving.
I had the pleasure of talking with Dawn about some of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into creating the wonderful world of Crystal Haven.
Historical mysteries can hold our attention with a good brain teaser, even while they teach us timeless lessons about humanity. That gives you two good reasons to read THE PALE HOUSE by Luke McCallin.
Set in Yugoslavia during the final days of World War II, THE PALE HOUSE centers on Captain Gregor Reinhardt, a German army intelligence officer assigned to a new, powerful branch of the military police. Reinhardt had been a police detective in Berlin and belonged to a resistance group secretly opposing the Nazis. His new position separated him from the group. An officer in an army he hates, Reinhardt is a haunted, tortured soul.
“There’s depth to Reinhardt,” McCallin says. “He feels his times very keenly. He feels his own inadequacies more keenly still. What I wanted to do in creating and writing Reinhardt was to make people think that he could be you. An ordinary man in extraordinary times, still trying to behave and believe in what makes sense, but so painfully aware of his own fears and limitations, and still knowing what is right and what is wrong.”
This novel is the story of what happens when this self-depreciating man with the dry sense of humor witnesses a massacre of civilians while he and the German army are retreating through Yugoslavia. While he does not consider himself a hero, he learns that there is more to the incident than anyone else believes. He is still a police detective at heart, so when five mutilated bodies turn up he is the one who sees the bigger picture. And he must decide what to do.
The foreign setting will certainly entice readers with the promise of adventure in the Balkans, a part of the world associated with intrigue and treachery. But McCallin admits that wasn’t the only reason.
Ten-year-old orphan Libète has been hardened by the daily struggle to survive in Cité Soleil, Haiti’s most infamous slum. But when she and her best friend, Jak, discover a young mother and her baby brutally murdered in a nearby marsh, it’s unlike anything she’s encountered before. Though initially shocked, the adults of Cité Soleil move on quickly from the event; after all, death is commonplace in this community. Undaunted, Libète takes action with Jak in tow, plunging herself into a dangerous, far-reaching plot that will change her irrevocably and threaten everything she holds dear.
BECAUSE WE ARE is a profound and mesmerizing tale of a young girl’s search for justice in an unjust world, set against the vivid and tumultuous backdrop of modern-day Haiti.
What was the genesis for this novel? Why tell the story through the girl Libète?
The spark for the story was a little girl. Shortly after the 2010 earthquake that reduced so much of Port-au-Prince to rubble, I worked as a law student intern in Cité Soleil, a slum on the outskirts of Haiti’s capitol. During my days there, a girl of ten—incredibly bright, mischievous, and sharp-tongued—would flit through our office. Though she’d never solved a murder, I wouldn’t put it past her! The thought of casting a character inspired by her as the lead in a mystery became irresistible, and Libète, my protagonist, was born.
Shirley McCann has produced “solve it yourself” mystery stories and a teen mystery, and her writing has appeared in Woman’s World, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery, The Forensic Examiner, and many other publications.
The Springfield, Missouri, resident’s newest release, ANONYMOUSLY YOURS, is a cozy that comes with a whiff of romance, a missing corpse, and the threat of more bodies appearing or disappearing. At the time of this interview, Shirley was working hard on edits for her YA novel. THE SCARRY INN will be released by Black Opal Books but is still cloaked in secrecy, so we focused on ANONYMOUSLY YOURS.
ANONYMOUSLY YOURS started as a YA book and evolved into a cozy mystery. How long did the writing process take and how did you manage the transition?
Considering it started out as something else, the process took quite a while. But once I knew what I wanted to do with it, the re-vamp took very little time. The story line remained the same, but the characters had to grow up, plus I had to incorporate a bit of technology that wasn’t around when I first wrote it.
Can you tell us which elements of the characters and mystery you carried over, and why?
It didn’t work for me as a YA. I wanted the characters grown and planning careers for themselves. And I wanted them to be able to carry weapons legally. The only people who were actually changed were the main characters, Denise and Justin. But I also added a lot of character development and story line to the original.
Previously you produced some very interesting “solve it yourself” mystery stories in the collection GOT TIME? 13 SOLVE IT YOURSELF MYSTERIES and the teen mystery THE NECKLACE. Which is your favorite mystery mode to write in?
I’m not sure I have a favorite. I enjoy the mystery, whether it’s a short story, YA, middle grade, or adult. I’ve recently signed a contract for a YA suspense. I also think a lot of adults read YA, so it’s a very fine line there. I know I still read them. I think it’s just whatever the mood strikes me at the time. I don’t want to limit myself.
And what are your favorite mystery-thriller reads?
Mary Higgins Clark is my favorite. I also enjoy reading her daughter, Carol Higgins Clark. I also can’t get enough of David Baldacci and Harlan Coben.
Two of your lead characters share a love of cop shows. Do you share this love and what are some of your favorite shows?
Of course I do. I still watch reruns of Murder She Wrote and Colombo. Law and Order is another favorite, as are NCIS and Bones.
Can you tell us a little about your writing process? What is a typical day like for you?
I play at a real job part of the week, so sometimes writing is just a hit and miss game. I do enjoy getting up early on my days off and writing when the world around me is quiet and dark. I’m not much of a night person. At home, I have my laptop handy and open so I can sit and jot things down as I think of them.
In ANONYMOUSLY YOURS, Denise Thomas finds a body and runs. What would you do if you found a dead body?
I’d probably scream or faint or both. I definitely wouldn’t remain in the house while I phoned the police. Denise would have if circumstances had been different. She’s braver than I am.
I would really like to see more of Denise (and Justin Banks!). Can you tell us if you are planning more books in this series?
I hadn’t thought about that. I’m getting ready to start the edits on a YA series, which I’m hoping will be released sometime this year. But Justin and Denise together again? I kind of like that possibility. We’ll see.
Shirley McCann’s fiction has appeared in Woman’s World, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, The Forensic Examiner, and many other publications. She enjoys reading and writing all genres. She lives in Springfield, Missouri. Her newest release, ANONYMOUSLY YOURS, is a cozy mystery. Her YA Novel, THE SCARRY INN, will soon be released by Black Opal Books.
To learn more about Shirley, please visit her website.
Stacy Childs and his wife, Diana, live in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where he is entering semi-retirement after practicing urology. He was editor-in-chief of a urology journal for eighteen years and has over seventy-five medical publications to his credit. He is in America’s Top Doctors and Best Doctors in America, and is a clinical professor of surgery at the University of Colorado. All of that he has funneled into his first medical thriller, BLOCK 10, with more to come. THE BIG THRILL sat down to talk thrillers, good and bad medicine, and hospital chills with the good doctor.
What can readers expect from BLOCK 10?
Block 10 is a wild ride for an unsuspecting neophyte orthopaedic surgeon with grandiose ideals and expectations about his career and the world. Luke Cooper is a has-been world cup athlete whose life was turned upside down by a terrible injury, the recovery from which leads him to the field of medicine. Out of admiration and gratitude, Luke returns to France to work for and be mentored by the world-famous sports medicine surgeon and researcher who repaired his injury a decade earlier, Doctor Henri de Salvo; but, de Salvo has a dark side, a mysterious origin, and tough and wealthy companions. The unsuspecting Luke is tossed into an environment of beautiful women and vintage cognac, which blinds him to what is going on around him, until he is led into the criminal side of medicine. His big decision is choose power and notoriety or face certain death from the Corsican mob. Miraculous surgical procedures to manipulate star athletes, exciting ski racing, fight clubs, murder, and enticing women—BLOCK 10 has it all.
You set the novel in the world of medicine. What do you find most appealing about that world?
The field of medicine is dynamic. Every decade new research brings exciting topics to write about. Think about it. Organ transplant and trafficking, genetic modification and manipulation, new viral outbreaks, robotics, artificial limbs, medical tourism, and more. Physicians have the opportunity to keep a society alive, kill it off, or manipulate it every single day by what we report, by the medicines we prescribe, or by the operations we perform. What a theater! What material! And it doesn’t go away—it keeps growing and growing.
By Steph Cha
M. P. Cooley is having a good summer, thanks to a frosty winter thriller of a debut novel. ICE SHEAR launched just last week, to much praise and fanfare, including a nod from the one and only Oprah (it was listed as one of the best reads of this summer by O, the Oprah Magazine). The novel, per a starred review in Publishers Weekly, offers a “strong, fast-paced narrative and an intriguing heroine” as well as a plot that encompasses “politics, a burgeoning meth industry, and biker gangs.” It features glittering ice and lots of bad people, and you know you’ve been missing your fictional meth fix since the end of Breaking Bad.
It’s been a busy week in Cooley’s corner, but she was nice enough to sit down with THE BIG THRILL and answer some questions:
Congratulations on your new book! How does it feel? Did you do anything fun to celebrate?
It feels wonderful. I’m writing a series, and it’s easy to get caught up in the next target and the next deadline. I try to celebrate the milestones in small ways, but for my publication day I had a huge party and book launch!
What’s been the most exciting part of the process?
Finding my people, definitely. My agent Lisa Gallagher and I bonded over our love of the same crime writers. A passionate belief in female heroes who are strong yet vulnerable led to long discussions with Rachel Kahan, my editor, and was one of the main reasons I signed with Morrow. And conferences are incredible, meeting readers and writers who are as passionate about crime writing as I am.
By Rick Reed
Ken Kuhlken’s short stories, features, essays and columns have appeared in Esquire and dozens of other magazines and anthologies, been honorably mentioned in Best American Short Stories, and earned a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.
His novels have been widely praised and honored by awards such as the Ernest Hemingway Best First Novel, the St. Martin’s/Private Eye Writers of America Best First Novel, and the Shamus Best Novel.
His latest Tom Hickey California Crime novel, THE GOOD KNOW NOTHING, is the seventh in a series of Tom Hickey novels and will be released on August 5:
During the summer of 1936, destitute farmers from the Dust Bowl swarm into California, and an old friend brings L.A. police detective Tom Hickey a book manuscript, a clue to the mystery of his father Charlie’s long-ago disappearance.
In his relentless effort to find out what became of Charlie, Tom lures the novelist B. Traven to Catalina Island and accuses him of homicide. Traven’s tale is that the Sundance Kid, having escaped from his reputed death in Bolivia, killed Charlie.
Tom crosses the desert pursuing the legendary outlaw. What he learns in Tucson sends him up against newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst.
Kuhlken recently answered a few questions for THE BIG THRILL.
Tell us about Tom Hickey? What kind of person is he, and how did you create his character?
Tom is a dreamer with an artistic nature who grows up quite aware of the darkness around him and whose essential motive is to help lighten the darkness. He sets out to become an architect and a musician, but circumstances lead him into police work and later to private investigation.
CROSS PURPOSES introduces a finely drawn Manhattan private investigator, Barney Moon, who upholds Spade and Marlowe’s moral order.
The creative genius behind Barney Moon is Edgar- and Emmy-nominated, Thomas B. Sawyer, who is a novelist, screenwriter, and playwright. He was the head writer/show runner of the classic CBS series, Murder, She Wrote, for which he wrote twenty-four episodes. He has also written two other high-concept thrillers, NO PLACE TO RUN and THE SIXTEENTH MAN.
In CROSS PURPOSES, PI Barney Moon is a driven man. He lives to solve cases. But as a born-and-bred New Yorker, Barney considers anything outside of New York alien territory. And the worst place of all is Los Angeles, which is exactly where his next case takes him.
Unlike his PI, Sawyer is a Chicagoan transplanted to Los Angeles via New York. Even so, he can identify with Barney’s plight. Sawyer was kind enough to grant an exclusive interview to THE BIG THRILL.
MURDER, SHE WROTE brought you worldwide recognition. How do you feel about it today?
One of the most-fun, most-satisfying experiences of my life. I’m forever thankful for the luck to have worked with and written for Angela. A long-running hit like that is sooo rare in a career. And the bonus of working with Jerry Orbach and so many other wonderful actors is almost indescribable.
Novelist, script writer, TV director, lyricist, writers’ teacher and mentor —which is your favorite hat?
Love all of ‘em, but I guess I’d have to say that being writer/show runner is the best and most satisfying, long term. Antic, social, but still with lots of control.
By John Clement
In preparation for this piece, I sent Leslie Budewitz, author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mystery series, an email asking if there were any questions she was absolutely sick of being asked. She told me the only thing that makes her sweat is when people ask how long it took to write CRIME RIB, the follow-up to her Agatha Award–winning first novel, DEATH AL DENTE.
She told me keeping track of her time isn’t easy, largely due to the fact that she is, for lack of a better word, busy. She’s published short stories in numerous magazines (including Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock), she’s working concurrently on two separate mystery series, and as if that’s not enough, she’s also a practicing lawyer. In fact, her book on how to write accurately about criminal law won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction—making her the only author in history to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction.
Perhaps I’m a sadist, but all that did is make me want to ask.
How long did it take to write CRIME RIB? Or, more specifically, what is your writing process, and how in the world do you juggle the demands of life, work, and your different writing projects?
When you’re not yet published but hoping to be, published authors often say, “Don’t rush—you have all the time you need for the first book, but once you get a contract and face those deadlines, it gets a bit crazy.” And while it turns out to be true, every aspiring author hates hearing it.
So I won’t say it.
Every day presents a different set of challenges. I do still practice law—personal and business litigation, and some employment matters—but part-time, with a small firm here in western Montana. When we’re busy with a case, or a client has a pressing need, I have to take care of that first thing in the morning. Only then do I feel mentally free to call up my imaginary friends and play.
By Dawn Ius
Maegan Beaumont knows where her dark places are—and she doesn’t mind getting dirty.
Because at the bottom of that black pit is a creative force that drives her writing and inspires the creation of Sabrina Vaughn, the damaged protagonist in Beaumont’s award-winning thriller CARVED IN DARKNESS, and the sequel out this month, SACRIFICIAL MUSE.
Vaughn’s job is to hunt down murderers—a job she does very well despite her dark and tortured past. At seventeen, she was abducted by a psychotic killer, raped and tortured for nearly three months, and then left for dead in a deserted churchyard. She survived.
“There is, in all of us, a will to survive,” says Beaumont, who before becoming a full time writer and mom worked in the mental health field for nearly a decade. “I worked with countless cases of horrific abuse and if there’s one thing I have learned, it’s that the human spirit is resilient.”
Resilience is one of Vaughn’s key character traits. Even before she was abducted, she was always the girl who spent life on the outside looking in, struggling with the hand she’d been dealt and yet determined to persevere.
Beaumont knows a little something about perseverance. As a debut novel, CARVED IN DARKNESS has racked up an impressive number of awards and commendations, including the 2013 Gold Medal for suspense/thriller by an Independent Publisher. CARVED was also a Foreword Book of the Year finalist in the horror category. Despite this, Beaumont admits her publishing journey veers a bit on the crazy side.
By Derek Gunn
Mystery and thriller writer…dog lover…dreamer—these are the words that greet you on Wendy Tyson’s website. The themes carry over into her writing and appeared in our correspondence during the writing of this article. I mean what’s not to like about this woman?
DEADLY ASSETS is the second book in the Allison Campbell mystery series but don’t let that worry you about jumping straight in. Allison Campbell is Philadelphia’s premier image consultant and helps others reinvent themselves. She is a gutsy woman who had to rebuild her life and her own confidence when an old case went wrong and she lost her practice and her husband. Today, she is well-heeled and polished and moves in a world of powerful executives, wealthy, eccentric ex-wives, and twisted ethics. And boy, are they eccentric!
Tyson’s background is in law and psychology and she lives near Philadelphia with her husband, three sons, and two of the aforementioned dogs, Labs Molly and Driggs. Tyson kindly supplied a concise summary of the first book for me, but DEADLY ASSETS is definitely a novel you can pick up and leap straight into. The characters introduce themselves quickly and the back story is revealed when background is needed.
The first thing that will strike you about this book is Tyson’s writing. I loved it from the first page; clouds bruising clear skies and ramshackle mansions that, similar to their owners, have seen better days, are just two of the well-crafted descriptions that had me breezing through the pages.
Elle Harrison is back in Merry Jones’s latest release, ELECTIVE PROCEDURES. Recovering from her husband Charlie’s death, Elle Harrison agrees to visit a fortuneteller with a girlfriend. The fortuneteller predicts that Elle will travel, meet a new man, and, oh, by the way—Elle’s aura is filled with death, the dead are drawn to her, and death will follow her everywhere.
Elle is shaken, but she tries to ignore the ridiculous prediction. She and her pals travel to Mexico where one of them has arranged cosmetic surgery, planning to recuperate in a plush hotel suite. But more is going on at the hotel than tummy tucks.
As dangers swirl, Elle is forced to face her unresolved issues with Charlie, even as she races to find the connections between the murders before more patients—including her friend—are killed.
And before she becomes prey herself.
Tell us something about ELECTIVE PROCEDURES that isn’t mentioned in the publisher’s synopsis.
Wow, there are so many things not mentioned. But the most important part to me is the psychological issues that the book deals with. For example, the protagonist, Elle Harrison, suffers from a mild dissociative disorder that causes her to mentally drift away when she’s under stress. So when things get dicey, Elle tends to go off into her thoughts, missing sometimes critical pieces of information. Her friends have learned to deal with this aspect of her character, and they call her dissociative incidents “pulling an Elle,” and they help her cope.
Some of the other characters in ELECTIVE PROCEDURES also deal with psychological issues such as body dysmorphic disorder, which causes a distorted self-image. Some of the people seeking cosmetic surgery in the book do so because they have this disorder and think they constantly need “fixing.”
By Tim O’Mara
Since I’d just spent the previous week preparing for this interview by reading DARE MEand THE FEVER—both of which drip with the drama of teenage girls—I had the strange feeling I’d gone through high school with Megan Abbott. So I asked her, since high school is all about finding a label that fits, how would she label herself as a writer?
“I’m a crime novelist,” she said. “I can’t imagine not being a crime novelist. It’s how I understand story.”
So, what about this whole “Queen of Noir” thing?
“My stories are about people in dark places. To me, they’re stories about power. We can all relate to having something taken away or wanting something so badly. My characters often come from a position of powerlessness and yearning. Facing their own demons, and surviving.”
Yep. Sounds like high school. When I pointed out that if she were walking down the hallways of one of the local high schools, she might very well get stopped and asked to show her hall pass.
“I get that a lot,” she said. “The ‘you-look-so-young’ thing. I think it’s less about the way I look and more about that I’m from the Midwest.” She smiled. “I’m friendly.”
So how’d this friendly person get into the whole thriller/crime/noir thing?
“I’ve been reading thrillers since I was a kid, maybe ten years old. At that age, it was mostly writers like Patricia Highsmith and Ira Levin.” She must have noticed my eyebrows going up. “I was a precocious reader.”
And the brief reference to The Crucible in THE FEVER?
Imagine being shot at point-blank range in a darkened hallway by someone you’ve never met. And imagine that your assailant promptly turns the gun on himself, depriving you of any chance of knowing why he did it. Somehow you survive the attack and manage to pull through months of surgeries and rehab and return to your job. But what if your colleagues assume you are somehow to blame, that the true motivation for the attack was something you had done? One of the cruelest injuries of the attack is the callous blackening of your name by vicious gossip. And then there is the haunting question in your own head: Why? Why did that young man shoot me?
I recently talked to Lori Rader-Day about her riveting debut novel, THE BLACK HOUR.
THE BLACK HOUR straddles two genre categories, psychological thriller and crime fiction. How would you categorize your book?
My agent called it a thriller. My press called it a mystery. I’ve heard “psychological suspense” a couple of times. I don’t know, really. Nobody knows. The greatest mystery in mystery writing is where the lines occur between marketing terms. I get why we need them—they’re in service of helping readers find the books they’ll like. With so many books being published, helping readers find your book is a real hurdle. Here’s another marketing term: discoverability. I’m hoping THE BLACK HOUR will be stored in the mystery sections of bookstores and libraries, but as for what I call it, I’ve adopted “crime fiction.” It seems the most broadly defined. I can probably promise a crime of some kind will occur.
Teri Anne Stanley’s debut novel, DEADLY CHEMISTRY, just released and USA Today bestselling author Ruthie Knox notes that “[w]ith fast-paced, clever writing, strong heroines, and to-die-for heroes, Teri Anne Stanley is definitely one to watch!”
In DEADLY CHEMISTRY, former undercover cop Mike Gibson has been laying low, working as a maintenance man to put his troubled younger brother through college. But when a beautiful scientist enlists Mike’s help to repair the damage done to her lab by a group of vandals, Mike finds that his, and his brother’s pasts, are about to be brought to light. Laura Kane was happy having a secret crush on the hot maintenance man at Tucker University, but when the drug she was studying is stolen, Laura has a chance to get to know Mike in person. The problem is, he seems to know more about what’s going on than any maintenance man should. But then the drug turns up in the wrong hands, and Mike and Laura have to decide if their own chemistry will help, or hinder, the race to save innocent lives.
Teri Anne Stanley has been writing since she could hold a crayon—though learning to read was a huge turning point in her growth as a writer. Teri’s first stories involved her favorite Saturday morning cartoon characters, followed by her favorite teen idols. She has also authored a recipe column (The Three Ingredient Gourmet), and scientific articles (Guess which was more interesting!). Now she writes fun, sexy romance filled with chaos and havoc, populated by strong, smart women and hunky heroes.
What inspired you to jump from your earlier days of writing about cartoon characters, science, and cooking to writing suspenseful, sexy romance novels?
Well, I kind of outgrew the cartoon characters, the science stuff is a little dry (and there aren’t any nekkid parts), and I kind of gave up cooking. Even with just three ingredients—cooking is such a time suck!
What It’s Like to Write a Television Tie-In Novel by Karen Dionne
There are two broad categories of television and movie tie-ins. A novelization is a retelling of the show or movie. An original novel based on the show uses the show’s characters, but the story is the author’s. Neither are fan fiction, since tie-in authors are hired by the license holders to write their books.
Well-known tie-in writers include Kingsley Amis, Raymond Benson, Lawrence Block, Orson Scott Card, Leslie Charteris, Arthur C. Clarke, Max Allan Collins, Ian Fleming, Jonathan Maberry, David Morrell, and Robert B. Parker to name just a few.
Tie-in books are published by major publishing companies, sell tens of millions of copies worldwide, and regularly appear on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists.
Writing a tie-in novel presents a unique set of rewards and challenges. Unlike my previous novels, which were 100% my own creation, in my latest novel, THE KILLING: UNCOMMON DENOMINATOR, the story is mine, but the characters are not. They belong to the show, or more accurately, to fans of the show. My job as the author is to bring the characters fans know and love to life on the page.
When I was first asked if I’d be interested in writing an original novel based on the television series The Killing, I wasn’t familiar with the show. I purchased the pilot episode from Amazon, and was hooked. The Killing is inspired by the wildly successful Danish television series Forbrydelsen, and tells the story of the murder of a young girl in Seattle and the subsequent police investigation.
Bookstore shelves are filled with thrillers pitting courageous heroes against organized crime or terrorists. But until now we have not seen criminal and terrorist organizations pitted against each other. This inspired concept is the basis of THE WOLF, the latest novel from Lorenzo Carcaterra.
THE WOLF, the first book in what promises to be a blockbuster series, shows us the events that drive the heads of the International Organized Crime Syndicate to declare war on the international terror networks. It turns out that mobsters can be much more effective than law enforcement, which is out-numbered and encumbered by all those pesky rules.
In the novel, the highest levels of organized crime are led by Vincent “The Wolf” Marelli. He may not be a “good guy” in the traditional sense, but as the author says, if you met Vincent at a party, you’d be charmed by him.
“He’s smart and has a wide variety of interests—from art history to sports to music and movies,” Carcaterra says. “In short, he can speak on any subject and will be as interested in you as you are in him. You could speak for hours and come away having had a pleasant time and yet knowing very little about who he really is and what he really does. He is adept at keeping the focus on you and the glare away from him.”
By Basil Sands
This month we introduce to you author John Donohue’s latest novel ENZAN: THE FAR MOUNTAIN, an awesome thrill ride of martial arts action that goes deeper than mere fists.
From his home near New Haven, Connecticut, Donohue is an expert on the study of martial arts. He holds a Ph.D. in anthropology, researches and trains in the martial arts, and has been banging around the dojo for more than thirty years. He is the author of ten books, including the award-winning Connor Burke martial arts thrillers SENSEI, DESHI, TENGU, KAGE, and now ENZAN: THE FAR MOUNTAIN.
Tell us about ENZAN: THE FAR MOUNTAIN.
ENZAN is the fifth book in the thriller series that features Connor Burke and his master teacher Yamashita. While a thriller, it’s also a story that explores relationships in families, between teachers and disciples, and the toll our commitment to each other sometime takes.
But if somewhat reflective it’s also action packed. It features both a modern-day adventure for the main character in the series, Connor Burke, as well as the back story of his teacher. The plot revolves around a young woman named Chie Miyazaki. She is wild and spoiled—the pampered child of a cadet line of the Imperial House of Japan. When she disappears in the United States accompanied by a slick Korean boyfriend, it sets off alarms among elite officials in Japan’s security apparatus.
The Japanese want the problem solved quietly, so they seek out Connor, who is the prize student of Yamashita Sensei. Burke suspects that he’s being used, but he accepts the assignment out of honor for his revered teacher.
A covert search-and-rescue operation turns into a confrontation with a North Korean sleeper cell, and Burke finally discovers the secret that drove Yamashita from Japan so many years ago and the power behind the decades-old connections that pull Yamashita and Burke back into danger in the service of the imperial family.
The Africa Scene — An Interview with Annamaria Alfieri author of STRANGE GODS
Annamaria Alfieri is the author of three critically-acclaimed historical mysteries set in South America. The Washington Post said of her debut novel, “As both history and mystery, CITY OF SILVER glitters.” The Christian Science Monitor chose her BLOOD TANGO as one of ten must-read thrillers, and Kirkus Reviews said of INVISIBLE COUNTRY, “Alfieri has written an antiwar mystery that compares with the notable novels of Charles Todd.”
With that sort of track record, it’s exciting to see her focus move to Africa. Her new novel, STRANGE GODS is set in the burgeoning British East African town of Nairobi in 1911. Described as OUT OF AFRICA meets Agatha Christie, it captures the beauty and the danger of the African wild and the complexities of imposing a culture on a foreign land.
A world traveler, Annamaria takes a keen interest in the history of the places she visits. Many of her travel experiences feature on Murder is Everywhere where she blogs every Monday. She lives in New York City, and is a past president of the New York Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.
I asked Annamaria about writing historical fiction and her new series.
You have three successful historical mysteries set in South America. What drew you to Africa and to Kenya in particular?
All of my stories are inspired by the history of places I have visited. In the course of two month-long trips to sub-Saharan Africa, I became completely entranced, you might say infatuated with it. Since my ability to spend time there is limited, I decided I would satisfy my longing by being what Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) called “a mental traveler.” That worked to the extent that I was able to produce a book out of it. My longing for Africa, however, is not at all satisfied. If anything, writing STRANGE GODS intensified it.