By Dawn Ius
It’s impossible to overstate the impact of Stephen King on the realm of horror fiction.
Beginning with the seminal novel The Castle of Otranto in 1764, horror fiction has flourished, pouring from the pens of Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, and Bram Stoker. But in the 20th century, ever since Carrie was published in 1974, an immeasurable number of scribes have been inspired by Stephen King’s pet burial grounds, creatures in the mist, world-decimating plagues, haunted cars and hotels, twisted dimensions, and perhaps most relevant today, killer clowns.
Last month, Stephen King’s It dethroned The Exorcist to become the highest grossing horror movie of all time, bringing in more than $500 million—a rarity for any film, but history-making for the genre.
Twenty years from now, King’s influence will still be profound, but with Pennywise striking terror in every major movie theatre across North America, it’s hit a sweet spot of respect that is also fueled by nostalgia.
A Gift for Finding the Bizarre
By E. M. Powell
Paranormal mystery fans will need no introduction to Heather Graham and her hugely successful Krewe of Hunters series, as her latest, WICKED DEEDS, is book Number 23. As in usual Graham style, it’s a fast-paced read with large measures of creepiness, romance, and fun as well as an intriguing mystery.
Krewe members historian Vickie Preston and Special Agent Griffin Pryce are on their way to set up their new home in Virginia, but they detour for a romantic weekend in Baltimore. Their plans take a hit when a popular author is found dead in the basement of an Edgar Allan Poe-themed restaurant. Poe of course died in Baltimore on October 7, 1849. The bizarre circumstance in which the corpse is found has disturbing echoes of Poe’s life and work, and means that the services of the Krewe are needed. Yet more deaths quickly follow that bring the horrors of Poe’s dark fiction to life, putting Vickie and Griffin in a race against time to find the killer.
Unexpected help arrives—Poe himself appears to Vickie in dreams and visions with cryptic information about the murders. It’s clear that Graham is a huge fan of Poe and it’s a love that started very early in life. “I don’t even remember when I first started reading Poe,” she says. “But I was a lucky kid. Both my parents were avid readers, and I was happy to follow right along. The first book I really remember that created the seeds of my fascination with Edgar Allan was a Treasury for Young Readers. There were stories about presidents, scientists, actors, artists—and writers, Poe, of course, among them.”
The Fine Art of Terrifying
By Dawn Ius
Eric Rickstad was just 14 years old when a terrifying encounter stripped the veil of his innocence and forever imprinted in his mind the notion that bad things can happen—anywhere. Even in the majestic woodland playground of northeast Vermont, where he and his cousin often fished, hunted, and camped.
It was during one of these adventures that the two boys were confronted by a pair of grizzled, unshaven men armed with shotguns. An avid reader of books by Roald Dahl and Edgar Alan Poe, Rickstad didn’t need much help in imagining what might happen if they didn’t do exactly what these men wanted. And that was for them to get the hell off their property.
“We were miles from nowhere, and I realized that these men could make us disappear,” Rickstad says. “They could do anything they wanted to us, and no one would know. It was my first abrupt encounter with violence, and it had a tremendous impact.”
Not only did this harrowing event inspire the themes that would later translate into Rickstad’s writing, he learned a great deal about the fine art of storytelling.
“Sharing the experience over and over taught me what parts to edit out,” he says. “I learned how to tell the story more succinctly, and when not to drown in back story. I learned that there were certain beats to storytelling, and how to use them for pacing. It helped to bolster and hone my writing skills.”
When the Wrong Side Has Power
A Canadian by birth and now the CEO of the Australian Institute of Marine Science based in Queensland, Paul Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist, and environmental scientist. He has rough-necked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, and rehabilitated village water wells in the wilds of Africa. He survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana’a in 1993, and was one of the last Westerners out of Yemen before the outbreak of the 1994 civil war.
Yemen was the setting for Hardisty’s powerful debut thriller, The Abrupt Physics of Dying, which was short-listed for the Crime Writers Association Creasy New Blood Dagger award—the premiere British award for first novels in the mystery/thriller genre. It was followed by The Evolution of Fear last year.
Paul’s protagonist, Claymore Straker, is a South African who went through the mill of the Angola war and was badly chewed up in it. In RECONCILIATION FOR THE DEAD we find out what really happened to him then and why. It’s Clay’s backstory.
How much of that story have you always known, and how much have you developed in the writing of this book?
I have been thinking about and working on the plot and character elements of this series for the last 15 years. Clay’s experiences as a young man growing up in South Africa during apartheid were always going to be the essential backstory for the books, and I had a number of pretty specific events from his past fixed quite early. These appear as fragments of flashbacks and recollections in the first two books, which are set 13-plus years later, after Clay has been dishonorably discharged and exiled from SA.
Nikki Garcia is an unlikely Sam Spade: a former international auditor who turns private investigator and lands an assignment in Mexico to find a missing ten-year-old child, Bibi Lombardi. Bibi’s estranged parents are fighting over her custody and one of them could even be responsible for her disappearance. It’s an easy child snatching case – right? Nikki pursues a trail of dangerous criminals through designated UNESCO locations, archaeological sites, picturesque colonial towns, and barren deserts. But when Sofía, Bibi’s mother, receives a ransom request, Nikki is already undercover with a gang of “Coyotes.” Nikki’s boss and fellow private eye is certain someone purposely provided misleading information on the abduction to prevent Nikki from recovering the child. Or is the kidnapper headed north to the U.S. border, where Bibi’s fate could be much worse than her current situation?
Award winning author Kathryn Lane spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel, COYOTE ZONE:
Warrant Officer Jan Magson, of the South African Police Service, looks down at the decomposing body of a teenage girl. She was tortured and hanged, and she wasn’t the first. Trapped in a dark place following his wife’s death after a battle with cancer, the pursuit of a serial killer who will not stop threatens to suffocate Magson. While the killer fantasizes about his next victim, Magson nurtures his own dark fantasies, his service pistol in his hand.
Author Martin Steyn recently discussed his latest novel, DARK TRACES, with The Big Thrill:
Janet Hutchings, Chris Grabenstein, Gary Phillips, and Hilary Davidson headline a new world tour anthology of 22 stories from the heartland of America to Italy, Japan, Mexico, Cuba, England, and more.
PASSPORT TO MURDER is published in conjunction with Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, held in 2017 in Toronto, Ontario. As with the convention itself, the anthology spreads a broad canopy across a wide variety of crime writers from across the country and around the world—including both veteran writers and the brightest up-and-coming talents in the field. All of the stories include some kind of travel, ranging from a cross-America ride-sharing trip to tourists in Italy and Japan, to a woman on the run in Mexico, to murder in Cuba. And even a haunted hotel in Toronto.
By Karen Harper
Lise McClendon writes fiction from her home in Montana. She is the author of twelve novels, short stories, and articles. In 1997 she wrote and directed the short film, The Hoodoo Artist, featured at the Telluride Indiefest. She has served on the national boards of directors for Mystery Writers of America and International Association of Crime Writers/North America. She is on the faculty of the Jackson Hole Writers Conference and co-presents a novel workshop for writers.
Please tell us what your book is about.
This mystery follows the story of Merle Bennett, one of five lawyer/sisters, who in the first in the series inherit a stone house in France. In this, the fifth installment, Merle takes a leave from her job in New York City at Legal Aid for an extended stay in France. A tightly-wound go-getter with a penchant for list-making, she is under the illusion, not uncommon, that just being in France cures a person of all his or her ills. Her ‘bliss’ makes her French boyfriend laugh. Pascal is a cop in the Wine Fraud Division of the Police Nationale and has seen his share of the underbelly of ‘La Belle France’. When someone he put in jail years before returns with revenge on his mind, things definitely take a dark turn. Merle starts out a bit dreamy, writing a novel about the French Revolution, but rallies the forces to save Pascal.
By Terri Nolan
For his series featuring FBI Special Agent Angus Green, author Neil Plakcy participated in the FBI Citizens Academy. Talk about research. NOBODY RIDES FOR FREE is the second in the series. The novel opens with Angus recuperating from an on-duty injury and riding a desk but hungry to get back to investigations. He’s given the chance when a man overdoses on a dangerous street drug.
Angus discovers an email thread between the overdose patient and a fifteen-year-old boy who is being exploited in online pornography. Angus goes on a personal crusade to find the boy and any others like him. But he has to be careful. Saving lost boys is not the directive his boss gave him. He can’t mess up this opportunity to prove that he’s physically and mentally ready to resurrect his career, yet at the same time he is inexorably drawn toward rescuing the troubled youth.
How was the character of Angus born?
Back in 2011, I published a M/M romance novel called Mi Amor, and one of the walk-on characters was a cute, young, red-headed FBI agent named Angus Green. Though he had only a minor role there, he hung around in the back of my mind.
When I began to think about an FBI book, I wanted a young agent as my protagonist, so that as he learned how to do his job, readers would learn along with him. And I knew that my own knowledge wasn’t encyclopedic enough to support a more experienced agent as protagonist. At the same time, I was seeing young people coming out earlier and earlier, without much of the angst and rejection that previous generations suffered. I wondered how a young agent on his first assignment would feel about being openly gay in a macho environment. Angus fit the bill, and so he got the book (and eventually the series) that he’d been wanting.
DEMARIS PROTOCOL is a taut espionage thriller set twenty-five years in the past when views toward gay men were much harsher. Trey Carter, a young gay man still in the closet, is involuntarily recruited by the CIA to help in a dark ops targeting a former Soviet nuclear engineer.
According to author Brian Randall, “CIA Special Officer Rick Morgan, Trey’s assigned officer in the CIA, is a former US Marine who was outed in 1981 and offered a non-negotiable opportunity to join the first class of recruits to the protocol.”
While there are two protagonists, they are not both heroic. Randall calls Trey a kid trapped in a CIA’s dark ops. “He’s trying to survive. I don’t think of him as a hero per se. Rick is a hero who sees Trey as a broken version of himself that he desperately wants to protect.”
The novel is based on actual episodes in the author’s life, and the fictional Rick Morgan is based on his own Agency handler, someone that he recalls fondly to this day.
By George Ebey
With TRUTHERS, author Geoffrey Girard delves into the 9/11 attack from a Young Adult perspective. Katie Wallace has never given much thought to the tragic event. She was only an infant when terrorists struck American soil. But now her dad has landed in a mental institution after claiming the attacks were part of a government conspiracy and that Katie is living proof: the lone survivor of a massive cover-up.
Hoping to free her dad and understand his bizarre fixation, Katie sets out to learn more and is drawn into the strange and secretive world of 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Wading through a dangerous web of fact and fiction, questions and distortion, Katie no longer knows what to believe. But she does know that she’s being followed—and that someone is determined to stop her search for the truth.
The Big Thrill recently reached out to Girard to learn more about this thrilling new tale.
A Hidden Agenda
In SPLICED, young people modify themselves by splicing animal genes into their own to become chimeras. When sixteen-year-old Jimi Corcoran’s best friend Del finally escapes his sadistic father, she is horrified to learn he has gone to get spliced. As Jimi plunges into the world of chimeras to save Del, the world erupts in a backlash against chimeras, and the group Humans for Humanity, or H4H, pushes through a new law that strips chimeras of their rights as human. As Jimi learns to respect, understand and even love the chimeras she meets, she also learns a terrifying truth: Those behind the backlash have a hidden agenda more hateful and horrific than anything she could have imagined.
With his first novel for teens, John McGoran delivers a chilling tale set in a near future with a science-fiction twist that is disturbingly all too real. New York Times bestselling author Joelle Charbonneau claims SPLICED is intense and provocative and “questions whether humanity is defined by our genetic make-up or our compassion.” In this cautionary tale, readers will also question on a whole new level what they believe about body modification and the social impact of technology.
McGoran’s other books include the acclaimed ecological thrillers Drift, Deadout, and Dust Up, as well as The Dead Ring, based on the hit TV show The Blacklist. Writing as D. H. Dublin, he is also the author of the forensic thrillers Body Trace, Blood Poison and Freezer Burn. When not writing novels and short fiction or co-hosting The Liars Club Oddcast, McGoran works as a freelance writer and developmental editor.
This month he spoke to The Big Thrill about the inspiration and research behind SPLICED.
By Don Helin
A fabled illusion performed by a stage magician who claims to possess real supernatural powers. A treasure from the colonial era in India when international supremacies vied for power. A phantom trading ship lost over 200 years ago. And a ninja whose murderous intentions in present-day Japan connect the deeds of a long-dead trader who was much more than he seemed…
When Jaya Jones travels from San Francisco to Japan with her stage magician best friend Sanjay—a.k.a. the Hindi Houdini—for his Japanese debut, she jumps at the chance to pursue a tantalizing centuries-old mystery, but when tricks escalate to murder, Jaya soon loses sight of what’s real and what’s a deception.
USA Today bestselling author Gigi Pandian is the child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India. She spent her childhood being dragged around the world, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Gigi writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries, the Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and locked-room mystery short stories. Gigi’s fiction has been awarded the Malice Domestic Grant and Lefty Awards, and been nominated for Macavity and Agatha Awards. Find her online at www.GigiPandian.com.
I had the chance to catch up with Gigi the other day and ask her a few questions.
True Crime Turns All Too Real
One year, when British novelist Sophie Hannah was on a book tour in America, she found that every time she turned on the television in a hotel room, the news was about Florida native Casey Anthony, arrested in 2008 in the disappearance of her daughter, Caylee. Hannah was blown away by the strength of the opinions of those declaring Anthony guilty—“Especially Nancy Grace!”— and taken aback that these discussions could even take place in the media before Anthony was found guilty in a courtroom.
“When I came home, I would mention the Casey Anthony story, and everyone would say, ‘Who?’” At that moment, Hannah was struck by these starkly different perspectives on a crime story: in the United States, media saturation, and in the United Kingdom, complete obliviousness. Part of it has to do with the different laws governing pre-trial publicity and libel in the UK. But when it came time to think of a plot for her new novel, Hannah took on the issue, writing what it would be like for a British person to stumble on a real-life victim of an infamous American crime she’d never heard of, and the consequences.
In that thriller, KEEP HER SAFE, Hannah tells the specific story of Cara Burrows, an English wife and mother stressed to the breaking point by her family, who escapes to a five-star spa in Arizona to think through her life. But when, exhausted, she arrives at the hotel, a mistake at the front desk puts her in the same room as a rather strange girl and an adult man who comes across as a bit menacing. The next day, Burrows realizes after another guest starts going off on a sighting, and she does some research, that the girl Burrows saw the night before was Melody Chapa, the most famous murder victim in America, definitely alive but perhaps not so well.
Layering Suspense with Historical Authenticity
In the two World War I mystery series written by Charles Todd, the Inspector Ian Rutledge and the Bess Crawford books, the objective is to “get it as right as you can,” Todd says. With the ninth Bess Crawford novel, A CASUALTY OF WAR, winning particular praise for its authenticity and sensitive treatment of a soldier’s brain injury, one thing is certain–the work is paying off.
The responsibility facing all writers is “to show a true picture of the times, how people felt about issues and how they responded to their world,” says Todd, a writing duo of mother and son. “And yet both Rutledge and Bess could walk into our world and understand it. They might be amazed by cell phones and other modern devices, but human nature is human nature. It really hasn’t changed all that much. Which makes it easier for us to step back in time and relate to them.”
With the end of the Great War drawing near, Nurse Bess Crawford meets a young captain from Barbados. Later, when that same captain, Alan Travis, is brought in with a head wound and accusing a distant English cousin of being the one who shot him, Bess is drawn into a baffling–and increasingly dangerous–family filled with secrets. In its review, Publishers Weekly says, “Harsh period attitudes toward traumatic stress and the exhaustion of a long war add poignancy to Todd’s satisfying puzzle of identity and inheritance.”
A native of New York City, William Patrick Hackett took an unusual path to that of a novelist.
He attended St. Ann’s Academy high school before graduating from the City College of New York prior to a career in advertising as a copywriter, creative director, and CEO. Since then he’s published three books, The Satanic Gospel, A Dark Time, and his latest, LETHAL LOVE, a contemporary thriller from Solstice Publishing.
Certainly not the usual path most novelists take, but hey, if it works…
“I made the transition by working as a freelancer for income while I started writing novels and screenplays,” Hackett says. “I also became a cautious investor in equities.”
As for any formal training, he admits there really hasn’t been any.
“Initially, I did a lot of medical writing that gave me somewhat of a clinical style I’m still trying to shake loose. Other than being an English lit major at CCNY (City College of New York), I have just been involved in all kinds of communications—mostly non-literary,” he says.
After the success of Nearly Dead in Iowa, USA Today bestselling author Wendy Byrne is back with her sequel, DOUBLE TROUBLE IN IOWA. Amateur sleuth and artist Izzy Lewis returns to unravel another murder mystery and Byrne has taken time out to tell The Big Thrill about the attraction of this unlikely investigator.
“I love strong female characters, so wanted her to be strong, but floundering at times. I thought it would be interesting to have her be in a fish-out-of-water scenario walking into a place that is vastly different than what she’d become accustomed to. I loved Izzy’s character as well as her unlikely crime solving buddies, the Qs. I kept thinking about other mysteries they could solve and left some unanswered questions for follow-up books.”
Her “unlikely crime solving buddies” or, as Byrne calls them, the Jessica Fletcher wannabes, help Izzy unravel the mysteries and secrets in the story, but they bring an additional dynamic to the book we don’t often see in cozy mysteries.
“I liked the idea of breaking stereotypes and having her senior citizen lady friends be the risk takers and push Izzy to do things she might have been afraid of doing. I wanted to turn the tables and have her be the conservative one of the bunch,” Byrne says. This is never more so apparent than when they track down an informant in Hell’s Tavern, a broken-down trailer masquerading as a bar, and the older ladies encourage Izzy to take risks – causing much mayhem thereafter.
Someone is filling the desert caves around Phoenix with bodies–a madman who, in a taunting ritual, is leaving behind a record of his crimes etched into the stone. With no leads and no suspects, Detective Alex Mills sees a case spinning out of control. City leaders want the case solved yesterday, and another detective wants to elbow Mills out of the way. As the body count rises, Mills turns to Gus Parker, an “intuitive medium” whose murky visions sometimes point to real clues. It’s an unorthodox approach, but Mills is desperate.
When Parker is brought to the crime scenes, he sees visions of a house on fire and a screaming child. But what does it mean? He struggles to interpret his psychic messages, knowing that the killer is one step ahead and that in this vast desert, the next murder could happen anywhere. Nor does it help that he’s always been unlucky in love and now finds himself the prey of a lovelorn stalker. She is throwing him off his game.
Someone will win this contest, and both Parker and Mills fear it will be the cunning, ruthless killer, who is able to use the trackless landscape as a cover for his brutal crimes.
DESERT REMAINS author Steven Cooper recently discussed his latest mystery with The Big Thrill:
Sixty-one-year-old Shelby Truman, a bestselling romance novelist, receives a request to visit her childhood friend, Eddie, who is on death row. Though mentally ill, Eddie is scheduled to be executed for murder. As Shelby travels home to Texas for the unnerving reunion, she recalls her stormy five-decade-long relationship with Eddie in order to understand what led the beautiful and talented, but troubled, boy who lived across the street to become a killer. Her flashbacks, whether they occurred in the nearby public park or Eddie’s bomb shelter–their “secret hiding place” where they could escape Eddie’s abusive father–begin to reveal shocking truths. Most significant is the tragedy one summer, which set in motion a lifelong struggle against an Evil, with a capital “E,” that corrupted their all-American neighborhood.
The Big Thrill caught up with award-winning novelist Raymond Benson to discuss his latest novel, THE SECRETS ON CHICORY LANE:
When hairstylist Marla Vail’s best friend is hurt in a suspicious car accident, Marla assumes guardianship of her infant son. No sooner does Marla say, “Baby want a bottle?” than she’s embroiled in another murder investigation. Her husband, Detective Dalton Vail, determines the crash may not have been an accident after all. But then, who would want Tally–or Ken in the car with her–out of the way? As Marla digs deeper into her friends’ lives, she realizes she didn’t know them as well as she’d thought. Nonetheless, it’s her duty as their son’s guardian to ensure his safety, even if it means putting her own life at risk. Can she protect the baby and find the culprit before someone else ends up as roadkill?
Award-winning author Nancy J. Cohen spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel, HAIR BRAINED:
When Charity Penn receives a letter saying she won a trip to Camellia Beach, South Carolina complete with free cooking lessons at the town’s seaside chocolate shop, the Chocolate Box, she’s immediately skeptical. She never entered the contest. Her former prep school friend offers to look into the phony prize—only to end up drowned in a vat of chocolate.
Struck with guilt, Penn heads to the southern beach town to investigate why he was killed. But as wary as she is of the locals, she finds herself lured into their eccentric vibe, letting her defenses melt away and even learning the art of crafting delicious chocolates. That is, until delight turns bittersweet as she steps straight into the midst of a deadly plot to destroy the seaside town. Now, only Penn’s quick thinking and a mysterious cask of rare chocolate can save the town she’s learning to love.
Dorothy St. James, author of the The Southern Chocolate Shop Mysteries, recently spoke with The Big Thrill about her latest release, ASKING FOR TRUFFLE:
In the near future, Africa collapses into an enormous failed state, leaving the continent lawless and severely depopulated. For most, the breakdown brings horror, but for others—the outcast, the desperate, the criminal, and the insane—it allows unparalleled opportunity: a new frontier of danger and unlimited possibility.
In America, ex-Navy SEAL Slade Crawford, emotionally crippled after twenty years of front-line combat, the dissolution of his marriage, and the accidental death of his son, is falsely accused of terrorism. Slade flees to Africa to build a new life and escape his past, but he is captured by an enigmatic American colonel, Gary Kraven, and blackmailed into tracking down a blood cult that is rampaging across the sub-Sahara. Struggling to stay alive and to free himself from Kraven’s grasp, Slade pursues the cult across the lawless African frontier. He soon learns that nothing is as it seems and that he is standing at the epicenter of a global struggle that will determine the course of history. Slade must decide whether to fight for his life or his honor—he can’t have both.
Lt. Col (R) John Mangan, author of INTO A DARK FRONTIER, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel:
Bestselling author Melinda Leigh describes herself as a “fully recovered banker” whose writing career began as a dare.
“The best things in my life have happened ass backwards,” she says. “I never planned to be an author. But I was a voracious reader from very early in my life. I was a nerdy child and had more fictional friends than real ones. After my children went to school, my husband and I discussed my return to banking (shudder). At the time, my husband worked long hours and traveled frequently, so we decided it would be better for our family if I remained at home. Part time work was not an option in banking.”
Since she usually had a book in her hand, her husband challenged her to write one. Her first book, She Can Run, took two years to finish. She says, “Since I wrote it before I learned anything about writing, I spent the next two years taking workshops, learning the craft, and revising the first dreadful draft into something someone else might want to read.”
Apparently not one to do things halfway, Melinda is now a Wall Street Journal bestselling author, whose 21 romantic thrillers have sold more than three million copies combined. Her books have been shortlisted for multiple national and international awards, including a RITA® Award, the romance genre’s highest honor.
England, 1919. Verity Kent’s grief over the loss of her husband pierces anew when she receives a cryptic letter, suggesting her beloved Sidney may have committed treason before his untimely death. Determined to dull her pain with revelry, Verity’s first impulse is to dismiss the derogatory claim. But the mystery sender knows too much—including the fact that during the war, Verity worked for the Secret Service, something not even Sidney knew.
Lured to Umbersea Island to attend the engagement party of one of Sidney’s fellow officers, Verity mingles among the men her husband once fought beside, and discovers dark secrets—along with a murder clearly meant to conceal them. Relying on little more than a coded letter, the help of a dashing stranger, and her own sharp instincts, Verity is forced down a path she never imagined—and comes face to face with the shattering possibility that her husband may not have been the man she thought he was. It’s a truth that could set her free—or draw her ever deeper into his deception…
Award-winning author Anna Lee Huber recently discussed her latest thriller, THIS SIDE OF MURDER, with The Big Thrill:
Paul Strom has the perfect life: a glittering career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys and a big house in a wealthy suburb. And he’s the perfect husband: breadwinner, protector, provider. That’s why he’s planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house, just the two of them. And he’s promised today will be the best day ever.
But as Paul and Mia drive out of the city and toward the countryside, a spike of tension begins to wedge itself between them and doubts start to arise. How much do they trust each other? And how perfect is their marriage, or any marriage, really?
Forcing us to ask ourselves just how well we know those who are closest to us, BEST DAY EVER crackles with dark energy, spinning ever tighter toward its shocking conclusion.
USA Today bestselling author Kaira Rouda spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, BEST DAY EVER:
Ex-Navy SEAL Nolan Kilkenny receives a desperate plea for help from doctors frantic to save the life of a young boy with a deadly genetic disorder. The boy, who came to his parents through a blind adoption, has no known blood relatives. Nolan agrees to help, but as he is being prepped for surgery, the boy dies. Further genetic testing then reveals an astonishing truth: Nolan and the boy share the same biological father. Nolan must confront his own father to find out the truth behind the discovery, and uncovers a heinous blackmail plot and desperate victims and villains.
UNDENIABLE, the sixth Nolan Kilkenny thriller from international bestselling author Tom Grace, takes Nolan into the brave new world of reproductive technology, where the building blocks of life are manipulated in a Petri dish, women lease their wombs like rental properties, and money trumps morality. In an age of rapid advances in human genetics, cloning and stem cell research, what seemed impossible just a few years ago is now a reality. DNA has been reduced from a miraculous molecule into a data storage device, and the information it contains is as easy to hack as any computer file. UNDENIABLE is a novel that steps beyond the traditional parent-child relationship into a chilling new reproductive reality.
International bestselling author Tom Grace recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss his latest science thriller, UNDENIABLE:
Andi Comstock isn’t the type of person to tell someone who’s been murdered to take a hike, especially if that someone is an unborn baby, so when angel-baby Lucy asks Andi to find the woman who killed her and her mother before the baby-snatcher strikes again, what’s Andi supposed to do? From past experience, Detective Jack Harmon knows his most valuable information will come via the spirits who talk to Andi after cremation, when they pass from this world to the next. Jack, who is also Andi’s boyfriend, can’t quite get his brain around the fact that Andi has been dubbed The Chosen One, leaving to devise a creative plan to find the baby stealer on her own. Her sleuthing cohort, Father Riley, who often compares her to St. Jeanne d’Arc, urges her to abandon the unorthodox scheme she comes up with, but Andi is set on doing it her way. After all, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.
ANGEL BABIES author, Ann Simas, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest mystery:
In the early hours of a Thursday morning in August 1963, one of the UK’s most famous crimes was committed when a Royal Mail train, heading from London to Glasgow, was robbed of £2.6 million. Over five decades later, the real mastermind behind the robbery, a man who got no credit, but who wants it, is determined to top the original robbery by stealing the entire wealth of a fleeing Glasgow crime lord from a train—in exactly the same spot that the original crime took place.
Meanwhile, Charlie Wiggs, a small-time unassuming accountant, discovers that his friend, Tina, has stolen a drawing worth £400,000 in a bid to get out from under crushing debt—and it’s now in that same Glasgow crime lord’s collection, on that very train.
If Tina can’t get the drawing back she’ll go to jail—or worse. Desperate, she asks Charlie to help.
Charlie has only one solution: team up with the violent, bitter mastermind and steal the drawing back—and in the process, become one of the most notorious train robbers in British history.
The Big Thrill caught up with author Gordon Brown to discuss his latest novel, FALLING TOO:
On holiday in the Scottish Highlands, forensic scientist Dr Rhona MacLeod joins a mountain rescue team on Cairngorm summit, where a mysterious plane has crash-landed on the frozen Loch A’an. Added to that, a nearby climbing expedition has left three young people dead, with a fourth still missing.
Meanwhile, in Glasgow, DS McNab’s raid on the Delta Club produces far more than just a massive haul of cocaine. Questioning one of the underage girls found partying with the city’s elite reveals she was smuggled into Scotland via Norway, and it seems the crashed plane in the Cairngorms may be linked to the club. But before McNab can discover more, the girl is abducted.
Joined by Norwegian detective Alvis Olsen, who harbors disturbing theories about how the two cases are connected with his homeland, Rhona searches for the missing link. What she uncovers is a dark underworld populated by ruthless people willing to do anything to ensure the investigation dies in the frozen wasteland of the Cairngorms…
Author Lin Anderson spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel, FOLLOW THE DEAD:
It’s Oktoberfest in Pittsburgh, and brew pub owner Maxine “Max” O’Hara is prepping for a busy month at the Allegheny Brew House. To create the perfect atmosphere for the boozy celebration, Max hires an oompah band. But when one of the members from the band turns up dead, it’s up to Max to solve the murder before the festivities are ruined.
Adding to the brewing trouble, Candy, Max’s friend, is acting suspicious… Secrets from her past are fermenting under the surface, and Max must uncover the truth to prove her friend’s innocence. Making matters worse, Jake’s snooty ex-fiancée shows up in town for an art gallery opening, and she’ll be nothing but a barrel of trouble for Max.
The Big Thrill spent some time with award-winning author Joyce Tremel discussing her latest mystery, A ROOM WITH A BREW:
Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway has been hired to look into the year-old homicide of a prominent businessman who was gunned down on his estate in Central Pennsylvania. When Galloway arrives, he determines the murder could have only been committed by someone extremely skilled in two areas: skiing and shooting. He believes the assailant should not be too difficult to identify, given the great amount of skill and athleticism needed to pull off the attack. When he discovers the victim’s property is next door to a biathlon training camp, the situation becomes significantly more complicated.
Galloway makes plenty of enemies as he sifts through stories about lucrative land deals, possible drug connections, and uncovers evidence suggesting the homicide may have been an elaborate suicide. As he attempts to navigate through an unfamiliar rural landscape, he does his best not to succumb to an old drug addiction, or become confused by one of his occasional hallucinations. Oh, and a Pittsburgh drug gang enforcer known as The Lithuanian—if he’s even real—is tracking Galloway and wants to take his eyes. Galloway would rather keep those.
In BOLT ACTION REMEDY, the typically quiet streets of Washaway Township, Pennsylvania become the epicenter of a mystery involving elite athletes and old grudges. For Galloway, the problems keep piling up and somebody out there believes problems should be dealt with by employing the most permanent of remedies.
BOLT ACTION REMEDY author, J. J. Hensley, took time out of his busy schedule to discuss his latest book with The Big Thrill:
Beatrice Stone came to the West Coast young and delectable, with high hopes and big plans for a long career on the silver screen. It hasn’t worked out. She has a secret… She loves someone she isn’t allowed to. It’s a love that’s forbidden, and it ruins her. Pretty dreams don’t always come true, and she descends into the streets, living for the next bottle of gin. A prostitute and a thief, she gets by any way she can. She steals something without knowing how valuable it is, and the people she stole it from want it back badly enough to kill her.
The last man Beatrice Stone ever propositions is private eye Nate Crowe. He turns her down, but something about her touches him. He gives her five bucks and watches her walk away, not knowing that she’s going to haunt him, or that he’s going to haunt her murderers.
Author Bob Bickford spent some time discussing his novel, HAU TREE GREEN, with The Big Thrill:
When her therapist Doctor Austin Winchester, whom she had begun to develop feelings for, is arrested and charged with the violent murder of her friend Kara Pedrosa, Grace reluctantly takes on his case for her law firm of Kendall, Francois, and Larosa.
She goes up against brilliant Miami-Dade prosecutor Perry MacAlister, a former colleague whom she still considers a friend. He’s as tough as they come and believes he has a slam dunk case against Dr. Winchester.
In order to prove otherwise, Grace must call upon all of her skills, faith, and gut instincts to win an acquittal in the face of uncertainties and mixed loyalties.
The intriguing storyline and unexpected outcome will keep readers engrossed from beginning to end.
Prolific author R. Barri Flowers took time out of his busy schedule to discuss his latest novel with The Big Thrill, DEADLY DEFENSE:
In March 1977, ballistics link murders going back six months to the same Charter Arms Bulldog .44. A serial killer, Son of Sam, is on the loose. But Coleridge Taylor can’t compete with the armies of reporters fighting New York’s tabloid war—only rewrite what they get. Constantly on the lookout for victims who need their stories told, he uncovers other killings being ignored because of the media circus. He goes after one, the story of a young black woman gunned down in her apartment building the same night Son of Sam struck elsewhere in Queens.
Just as he’s closing in on the killer and his scoop, the July 13-14 blackout sends New York into a 24-hour orgy of looting and destruction. In the midst of the chaos, a suspect in Taylor’s story goes missing. Desperate, he races to a confrontation that will either break the story—or Taylor.
LIGHTS OUT SUMMER author, Rich Zahradnik, discussed his latest novel with The Big Thrill:
New York City reporter Alessandra Russo is pulled into yet another intrigue; this time her friend Roy inherits a strange religious manuscript, tightly protected in a mysteriously locked tube. Rumors run rampant that these are missing pages from a rotted codex, the heretical Gospel of Judas, which postulated that Judas was not the betrayer, but the beloved of Jesus. Alessandra’s interest in the manuscript is truly piqued when she is faced with tragedy no mother should experience, and must track down the missing pages of the Gospel to set things right.
Do the lost pages reveal a secret that will challenge Christianity’s very belief about the creation of life, or even the power to unleash Armageddon? What if such explosive documents fell into the hands of modern-day terrorists, dictators, or religious fanatics? Can Alessandra crack the code and learn what the Gospel of Judas is truly saying to the faithful?
During her investigation, Alessandra is plunged into a dark world of murder, conspiracy, sexual depravity, and most importantly, a race against the clock to save her own child.
Author Linda Stasi took time out of her busy schedule to discuss her novel, BOOK OF JUDAS, with The Big Thrill:
I have a theory about authors. It’s not a very original theory, nor is it startling in its concept. Everyone has a shadow personality, I believe. One that resides only in our heads, and occasionally escapes, often to our chagrin. I think that there are two groups who intentionally let this shadow come into the light: authors and sociopaths.
That’s not to say that authors are sociopaths, and certainly not Patricia Hale, only that we share a trait. In one case, it manifests as anti-social behavior. In the other, it’s codifying all sorts of behavior – some of it anti-social.
Which brings us to Patricia Hale, her new book, THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY CHILD, and its particular brand of anti-social behavior. Pat is the furthest thing from a sociopath. She’s your neighbor. She’s a wife, she’s a mother, she works at a holistic veterinary hospital, she has dogs and a cat. She has an MFA! Sociopaths are automatically excluded from that program during the application process. Right there, I think it’s toward the end – “Are you a sociopath (Yes/No)?”
So, where does her shadow personality reside, and what does it look like?
Let’s start with a synopsis of THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY CHILD and see if there are any clues.
As a new century approaches, Edinburgh is a city divided. The wealthy residents of New Town live in comfort, while Old Town’s cobblestone streets are clotted with criminals, prostitution, and poverty.
Detective Inspector Ian Hamilton is no stranger to Edinburgh’s darkest crimes. Scarred by the mysterious fire that killed his parents, he faces his toughest case yet when a young man is found strangled in Holyrood Park.
With little evidence aside from a strange playing card found on the body, Hamilton engages the help of his aunt, a gifted photographer, and George Pearson, a librarian with a shared interest in the criminal mind. But the body count is rising. As newspapers spin tales of the “Holyrood Strangler,” panic sets in across the city. And with each victim, the murderer is getting closer to Hamilton, the one man who dares to stop him.
The Big Thrill had an opportunity to discuss EDINBURGH TWILIGHT with author Carole Lawrence:
A Setting Most Deadly
By Alex Segura
Some might think that an author of Nelson DeMille’s caliber, one who has consistently made bestseller lists and received worldwide acclaim for his thrillers, has little to prove. DeMille, the author of notable books like Plum Island and Night Fall, would disagree.
With his latest, THE CUBAN AFFAIR, DeMille cements his reputation as an author of compelling, finely crafted and at times, humorous standalone thrillers.THE CUBAN AFFAIR bursts with DeMille’s signature authenticity—a byproduct of DeMille’s passion for research—and introduces readers to Army combat vet “Mac” MacCormick, who, at 35, finds himself living the good life in Key West as a charter boat captain. When he and his charter boat are hired to participate in a Cuban fishing tournament on the communist island, Mac balks. But when the fee rises to $2 million, he finds it impossible to turn the offer down. Mac is soon entangled with an alluring Cuban-American woman named Sara Ortega and an older, enigmatic exile named Eduardo.
Mac and his newly formed crew discover the real reason for the trip: to uncover a $60 million bounty hidden somewhere in Cuba by Sara’s grandfather as he fled the Castro revolution. With relations between the U.S. and Cuba warming up, the clock is ticking before someone else finds the fortune. The predicament places Mac at a perilous fork in the road—survive and get rich, or die and disappear.
The Wonder of a Magic Trick
Most writers will tell you that ideas are a tricky science. Stories can come from anywhere: a dream, a random photo, a snippet of overheard conversation—or, in the case of Brad Abraham’s debut novel, MAGICIANS IMPOSSIBLE, a happy malapropism that would eventually lead to a book deal and a superstar literary agent.
“It began as a bit of mangled syntax,” Abraham says. “I was trying to say Mission: Impossible, and ‘Mission’ came out as ‘Magicians.’ The person I was having a conversation with said, ‘Somebody should write that movie—magicians who are spies.’ I thought, maybe I’ll see what’s there.”
Abraham—whose writing credits include the 2010 SyFy movie Stonehenge Apocalypse, a comic book series called Mixtape, and a lengthy stint as a film journalist for the horror magazine Rue Morgue—decided the concept was better served as a novel than a screenplay, but the manuscript he produced had little in common with the version of MAGICIANS IMPOSSIBLE that’s hitting shelves this month from St. Martin’s Press. While the book that made it to print is a contemporary urban fantasy that centers on a war between secret cabals of warlocks and witches, Abraham’s original take was a historical thriller with no supernatural elements, loosely inspired by reports that Harry Houdini had worked for the Secret Service during World War I.
Facing Challenges—Planned and Unplanned
By R.G. Belsky
Jeff Abbott—author of the highly-acclaimed new thriller, BLAME—had to deal with his own stranger-than-fiction, real-life drama at the same time the book came out.
On July 8, just 10 days before publication, Abbott’s house in Austin, Texas, burned down when it was struck by a huge bolt of lightning. He and his family fortunately made it out safely, but they lost virtually everything they owned inside.
“I didn’t have shoes,” he recalls now. “We had on flip-flops and had to go buy shoes the next day. I didn’t have my wallet. We (his wife, two teenage sons and a relative) were all inside, but got out in a couple of minutes. It was a massive bolt of lightning. We knew immediately we’d been hit. A neighbor said it sounded like a bomb had gone off.”
Abbott is grateful that he and his family got lots of help from friends and neighbors in the aftermath of the fire, but he was especially moved by the outpouring of support from other authors—many of whom urged readers to help him by going out and buying his new book, BLAME.