By Dawn Ius
Never kill a character the same way twice.
Wise advice for all authors, perhaps, but a strict code by which James Rollins writes. For a guy that pens at least two novels a year that are rife with death and mayhem, that isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds.
Rollins lives by this same creed when writing the page-turning action for which the New York Times bestselling author is known. And after more than a dozen novels in his Sigma Force series alone, finding a balance between breakneck pacing and character development can still be a delicate process.
“You can’t just have action for the sake of action,” Rollins says. “I always look for ways of tweaking the action in a different way. You don’t want to exhaust your reader.”
It should come as no shock then that THE SEVENTH PLAGUE, Rollins’ sixteenth story in the Sigma Force collection, is a breathtaking race through time and history in an effort to answer a harrowing question: If the biblical plagues of Egypt truly happened, could they happen again—on a global scale?
When the leader of a British archeologist expedition is found murdered and an autopsy report reveals that his body had begun to mummify—while he was still alive—his remains are sent to London for further study. But back in Egypt, the medical team in charge of the autopsy has fallen ill to a strange disease that is quickly spreading across Cairo. The situation is dire—and most alarming—because the archeologist had vanished while searching for proof of the ten plagues of Moses.
To unravel a secret that goes back millennia and stop a global crisis, the Sigma Force team must confront an ancient threat that is made more dangerous—and deadly—by modern science. A threat that could very well decimate mankind forever.
But the long-standing heroes of Sigma Force are more than simple “men of action.” THE SEVENTH PLAGUE continues Rollins’ tradition of creating compelling characters that demand an emotional response from the reader.
“If I’m going to dangle a character over a cliff, the reader has to be invested,” Rollins says. “They need a good reason to hang in there and finish the story.”
Deck the Halls With Saws Sub-Machine Guns
By Dawn Ius
Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring—cuz everyone was dead, yo!
For most people, Christmas is a time to share cookies, yuletide cheer, and kisses under the mistletoe. That all sounds lovely, but not everyone adores sipping on hot cocoa while watching a Charlie Brown Christmas with the kids. For those who prefer their holiday spirit dashed with murder and mayhem, thriller writers have found plenty of ways to conjure up some frights amongst the good cheer.
Perhaps even more so than Halloween, the Christmas season plays into the psychology of really great horror. Travel, extended visits from family, the ever-growing pile of expenses and bills—the simple chaos of the season can leave us vulnerable, on edge, susceptible to irrational fear. Suddenly the idea of that Elf on the Shelf coming to life and exacting murderous revenge doesn’t feel so far-fetched. (Seriously, that guy is creepy.)
A simple Google search will net dozens of books about Krampus, the half-demon, half-goat mythical creature that takes care of Santa’s “Naughty List” by doling our punishment far worse than lumps of coal, and last year’s Krampus movie fared not too shabby at the box office. Admit it, you’ve dreamed of sending a special breed of holiday cheer to that former high school bully, the “best friend” that stole your guy, or that creep at the office who steals your lunch.
Thriller writers feed off that, and according to book sales and publisher promotions, Ho Ho horror and yuletide mysteries are a hot commodity throughout the holiday season. Chantel Williams, an employee at Coles Books in Edmonton, Alberta, says while her shelves are obviously stocked with the classics—Dickens, Dr. Seuss, and Clement C. Moore’s The Night Before Christmas, to name a few—there are quite a few titles that skew more toward mystery and suspense, such as those by author Joanne Fluke, a staple at her store.
Finding the Hot Spots for Storytelling
By Karen Harper
Since we have been snowbirds, flying from Ohio to Naples, Florida, for 30 winters, I feel Southwest Florida is my second home. I’ve written three standalone suspense novels set there in my writing career (I’ve been published since 1982) but had always wanted to set a series there. And so was born The South Shore Series with the launch this month of CHASING SHADOWS and the next two books to follow every other month.
Southwest Florida always stayed in my veins, even when we were back home. Of course, Naples is full of snowbirds from the Midwest, but the area manages to remain unique and quirky, very much its own place. Our condo is a ten-minute drive from downtown chi-chi Naples, but it is also 20 minutes from the deep and dangerous Everglades; historic Seminole villages; glitzy Marco Island, and retro Goodland Island, all of which I have used in my writing. The beaches of Naples are wide and walkable for miles with the famous Naples pier jutting out into the water. The glittering Gulf of Mexico beckons, so what suspense or thriller writer could ask for more?
CHASING SHADOWS begins with a shooting at the Collier County Courthouse and takes in numerous other sites I know well. Although I revisited most of them to get telling details, I probably could have written most of the scenes from memory—and heart. I also used the setting of St. Augustine in the first novel, although it is in the northeast section of the state. Our son and daughter-in-law own two shops in Olde Town, so I knew that area well also. A Gothic mansion near St. A on a cypress-tree-studded, Spanish-moss-hung river was a contrast to seaside Naples, and the great setting for a ghost and a murder—or was it a suicide?
The female lead in the new series is Claire Britten, a forensic psychologist who does not dissect bodies but does dissect the lives of possible murderers. Working with Naples criminal lawyer, Nick Markwood, her cases take her deep into South Florida and people’s messy, dangerous lives.
A Visceral Perspective
By Layton Green
We’re off to the fringe of Eastern Europe this month, discovering the fascinating world of modern Poland through the fiercely intelligent writing of Zygmunt Miloszewski. Not a writer to shy away from big questions and taboo subjects, Zygmunt tackles the hidden world of domestic abuse in RAGE, the third novel in his crime series featuring Warsaw prosecutor Teodor Szacki. Though I’ve read plenty of legal thrillers, Szacki assumes an almost detective-like role in the investigations, including visiting the crime scenes right from the start. It makes for a visceral perspective and a thrilling book.
Zygmunt’s first two novels featuring prosecutor Szacki have received international recognition, making him the #1 bestselling author in Poland and one of the world’s best-known contemporary Polish writers. Zygmunt has won the Polityka Passport for Polish literature, the High Calibre Award for the best Polish crime novel (twice!), and earned two nominations to the French Prix du Polar Européen for the best European crime novel.
I really appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to chat, Zygmunt. First off, I thought RAGE was fantastic, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the first two in the series. Before I ask you a few questions about the novel, let’s chat about your background. This is International Thrills, after all. Which part of Poland are you from, and how does it inform your writing?
Thanks! It’s always nice and surprising when someone appreciates your work from thousands of miles away. There’s something magical about literature in translation, about the way it crosses borders and cultures. I was born and raised in Warsaw, also known as Europe’s ugliest capital, and I still live there. Is it different from other places in Poland? I guess it; the whole country is trying to catch up with Western civilization as fast as possible, and Warsaw is the monstrous locomotive at the head of it, with an energy that’s remarkable and cruelly unforgiving all at once. The reasons for the city’s ugliness lie in its difficult past (you only have to Google images of Warsaw 1945, Warsaw 1968, and Warsaw 1981, and you’ll understand) and I guess that being raised there, being forced to walk across the scars of history on a daily basis, means that I’m always looking over my historical shoulder. I’m always asking, “but what happened before that?” Our present and future actions are usually more closely connected to our personal and national history than we’re ready to admit.
Paige Nick has been a copywriter for 22 years and writes columns for South Africa’s national Sunday paper—The Sunday Times. A Million Miles From Normal was the title of her debut novel. She is one-third of the Helena S. Paige threesome who write the internationally successful “A Girl Who Walks Into…” series of choose your own erotic adventure novels. DEATH BY CARBS is something quite different—a murder mystery that is intriguing, satirical, and a huge amount of fun. Be sure not to have your mouth full while you laugh! Shortlisted for the Nielsen’s Booksellers’ Choice Award, it’s a perfect holiday season read.
DEATH BY CARBS revolves around dieting and how it affects people for good or ill. The dedication is “to anyone who has ever struggled to lose weight, and knows how murderous it can be.” What attracted you to this as a theme for a murder mystery?
I’ve been trying to lose weight for as long as I can remember. Haven’t we all? But that wasn’t what attracted me to this subject. I became fascinated by the idea of all these people that have it in for Prof Noakes. The more I thought about it, the longer the list grew, and the funnier I found it. So that was the itch I had to scratch. I needed to find out who wanted him dead enough to actually go out there and do it?
Professor Tim Noakes, who popularized the Banting diet in South Africa, is a big celebrity here just as he is in your book. In fact I read a newspaper headline about him while I was reading DEATH BY CARBS. On the first page of the book, we are introduced to Detective September who is investigating Noakes’ murder and cheating on the Noakes diet with donuts. Yet Professor Noakes not only went along with a humorous book around his diet and his death, but he even blurbed it: ‘I was breathless right until the end’. How did you get him on board?
For some crazy reason, I only decided to ask The Prof for permission once the book was written. So I had a lot riding on his response. But he’s a real gentleman and really understands marketing. When I first got in touch to explain that I had written a book about him and wanted his permission, he said he would never get in the way and I should go ahead. I told him he dies on the first page, so he may want to read it before he gave me permission. At that he said I’d better come in and meet him.
A Journey into Heroism
The driving force behind heroes has always interested me. Although “hero” has a male intonation, in this article I use the word interchangeably with heroine because male or female, a hero’s qualities are the same.
So, what are heroes? Why do they risk their lives to help others, and what makes them tick?
A basic definition of hero is: A person admired for his achievements and noble qualities. Sounds a little flat, doesn’t it?
The mythological definition is slightly different: A legendary figure endowed with great strength, courage, or ability favored by the gods. Now, we’re getting somewhere!
The Greek notion of a hero basically says: Heroism comes with great sacrifice. The Greeks also gave birth to the concept that a hero is—by nature—unable to live among man and therefore both isolated and alienated. In a single word, alone.
Here’s our modern literary definition: The principal character in a drama, novel, story, or narrative poem. A protagonist.
It’s fair to say that a heroine possesses abundant bravery. She’s resolute in taking risks. She faces danger or endures pain without giving into fear. A heroine steps up to the plate when the situation warrants it and puts herself in danger, often without regard for her own safety. She’s not reckless or suicidal, but her actions go beyond what a “normal” person would do.
Fear is the true enemy of a protagonist.
By E.M. Powell
Not everyone may be aware that there is more to the magnificent Yellowstone National Park than meets the eye. For the park, all 1,500 square miles of it, is actually a supervolcano that last erupted over 640,000 years ago. Not to get anybody concerned or anything, but that monster is still active and may erupt again. In Tim Washburn’s CATACLYSM, it does.
In this fast-paced read, park scientist Tucker Mayfield is trying to not only get the park visitors to safety but his own family, too. His is just one thread in the classic disaster format used by Washburn: multiple points of view and story lines, cuts between locations so we get different perspectives on the unfolding mayhem, and hugely exciting set pieces.
Washburn says he actually wasn’t a big fan of the disaster genre until he started writing it in a complete departure from his previous style. Powerless was the one that got him a publishing contract. “Powerless deals with a solar storm slamming into Earth and scientists say it’s only a matter of when, not if, that happens. We are woefully unprepared for such an event and are making little progress in improving our electrical grids.”
Disaster is where it’s at for him now. “It’s fun finding gruesome ways to destroy parts of the world! The key, though, is the concept must have a grain of truth to it. In CATACLYSM, the Yellowstone caldera is real and could erupt someday. The caldera lurks beneath the surface, unlike most volcanoes people visualize in their minds. Basically, it’s hidden in plain sight and that’s what fuels all of Yellowstone’s hydrothermal features. Scientists didn’t know the volcano was there until the early 1970’s. The Yellowstone caldera has erupted three previous times, and all three make the top 10 for the largest volcanic eruptions on earth.”
By J. H. Bográn
The abominable snowman has filled the imagination—and nightmares—of people for years, and has achieved a certain measure of Pop Culture status. More than a few movies deal with the monster, including the one being portrayed as an outcast in Monsters Inc. And whether he admits it or not, George Lucas paid it an indirect tribute to the yeti with the creature that attacked Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back.
Authors Rick Chesler and Jack Douglas bring us a new tale of adventure about the yeti in their book. When evolutionary biology professor Dr. Zack Hitchens loses his wife in a senseless accident, he decides to follow her dreams all the way to the “roof of the world”—the peak of Mount Everest. On the infernal mountain, Zack and his teammates battle sickness, whiteout conditions, avalanches, the oxygen-starved minds of other climbers—and something else. Something primitive and consumed with rage and seeking revenge. Something downright abominable.
The Big Thrill had the chance to chat with the authors about the new release.
What is it about the yeti that intrigued you enough to devote a whole book to it?
Jack Douglas: The initial spark of inspiration was actually the Expedition Everest ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The yeti on that coaster is portrayed as a ferocious beast, a likeness that popular culture has largely moved away from. Between the monster and the perils inherent in attempting to ascend the world’s tallest mountain, it seemed at the time like the story would write itself. But that turned out not to be the case. Instead the book required nearly two years of grueling research on mountaineering, cryptozoology, and the rich history and culture of South Asia.
By Don Helin
Phyllis Smallman’s debut novel, Margarita Nights, won the inaugural Unhanged Arthur Award from the Crime Writers of Canada, and was short-listed for the Debut Dagger in the U.K. She has been awarded both silver and gold medals by the Independent Publishers book awards in the U.S. Her work has appeared in Spinetingler and Omni Mystery magazines. She was a potter before turning to a life of crime. She lives on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia.
Smallman has written seven novels that were traditionally published, six in the Sherri Travis mystery series, and one in the Singer Brown mystery series. BEACH KILL the second in the Singer Brown mystery series, but the first to come out as an ebook as well.
I asked Smallman a few questions.
Is there anything special you’d like to tell us about BEACH KILL?
The setting is a small island off the west coast of British Columbia. At the very edge of the continent, and straddling the border of two countries, the Gulf Islands are playgrounds for the very rich. Policed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, with only six officers to handle ten thousand residents and a few thousand visitors, resources are stretched thin. On this May holiday weekend, the town of Kilborn is full of tourists and pleasure boats for the round-the-island regatta.
By Wendy Tyson
National bestselling author Amanda Lee crafts another seamless mystery in BETTER OFF THREAD, her tenth novel in the Embroidery Mystery series. The series follows Marcy Singer, the smart, resourceful owner of The Seven-Year Stitch, an embroidery specialty store in quaint Tallulah Falls, Oregon.
This time, Marcy takes a break from her shop during the holidays to play elf while her friend volunteers to be Santa at a local hospital. Celebrations sour when the hospital’s administrator is murdered and evidence points to Santa—and it’s up to Marcy to unravel the truth before the real killer strikes again.
Leerecently sat down with The Big Thrill to chat about her latest novel and her incredible journey to publication.
Congratulations on the publication of BETTER OFF THREAD. No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
Thank you so much! There are a few new characters introduced in this book, and one of them in particular makes Marcy pretty nervous.
When a man disappears, his wife is always the prime suspect. But not every woman will take that accusation lying down, as Joan Hall Hovey shows us in her new thriller, AND THEN HE WAS GONE.
The man is Adam. The woman, Julie Raynes, believes Adam has been murdered. While the police suspect she’s the culprit, Julie is determined to hunt down whoever is responsible for her husband’s death. As Hovey describes, Julie is an unlikely thriller hero.
“Most people would be drawn to Julie’s warmth and sincerity,” sh says. “She’s struggled through much pain in her life, deepening her own inherent compassionate for others. She’s generally a behind the scenes woman—enjoys her photography, works the clerical side of her husband’s woodworking business, and although she’s friendly enough, perhaps not the type to draw you out at that cocktail party.”
But in this dire situation, her courage will be tested. Julie doesn’t see herself as a heroine, but she does have a good sense of who she is and will battle if she has to, even in the midst of her terrible grief.
But what makes her think she can go after her husband’s killer?
“Her sense of justice and her love for her husband are her only qualifications,” Hovey says. “She doesn’t know if she’s capable, but she does know she has to try.”
A Story Too Good to Pass Up
Simon Wood is a born problem-solver. As a petrochemical engineer, he was tasked with preventing oil-rig leaks and keeping drinking water clean; as a racecar driver and a pilot licensed in two countries, he’s generally expected to use his skills and instincts to avoid scenarios involving words like “fiery” and “crash.” (If you’re hoping his resume will get less interesting as we go along, I’m sorry to tell you that Wood, along with his wife, has also done undercover work as a private investigator in California and Nevada.)
So when he turned his attention to writing in 1998–a professional shift that Wood attributes, at least in part, to the lengthy bureaucratic process of immigrating to America from his native UK–it seems only natural that it was the thriller genre, with its puzzle-box plot contortions, that called to him. His first novel, Accidents Waiting to Happen, was published in 2002; since then, Wood has gone on to pen more than a dozen thrillers, including two horror titles written under his pseudonym, Simon Janus. His knack for embroiling his characters in serpentine cons, violent cat-and-mouse games, and Hitchcockian conspiracies has certainly paid off: Since 2011, the Anthony Award-winning author has racked up a sales tally somewhere north of one million books.
Wood’s latest thriller is DECEPTIVE PRACTICES, a stand-alone published by Thomas & Mercer. The book centers on Olivia Shaw, a woman who turns to an underground organization called Infidelity Limited for a bit of rough justice after she discovers that her husband has been cheating on her. When things take an unexpectedly bloody turn and her husband ends up dead, Olivia sets out to exonerate herself of his murder–and exact revenge on his killers.
Faced with the choice of challenging Wood to a high-speed road race or interviewing him about his latest novel, The Big Thrill chose the latter.
By Anne Tibbets
“WALK INTO SILENCE is the debut in a series featuring Texas police detective Jo Larsen,” says thriller writer Susan McBride. “I wrote it almost a decade ago, but put it aside. I was deep in the midst of my Debutante Dropout Mysteries for HarperCollins at the time, and had also signed with Random House to do a non-mystery series about debutantes in Texas. So I forgot about WALK INTO SILENCE until last spring, when I dusted it off and did a major rewrite. A lot had changed in ten years, particularly regarding technology, but the plot felt pretty timeless: a missing woman with a tragic past and a detective determined to find her.”
“Jo Larsen is kind of my own Jack Reacher without the military background and the penchant for drifting,” McBride goes on to add. “She’s had a lot of bad things happen in her life, but she hasn’t let them destroy her. They’ve made her incredibly strong and empathetic. She truly feels for the victims and fights for them, because no one fought for her. I love that she’s very controlled on the outside, but roiling with emotion on the inside. Those who know her well—and there are few—understand her need for privacy but keep knocking on the door, asking to be let in. When she believes something, she believes it fiercely, which is why the term ‘dogged’ comes up so often when other characters in the book address her. She is like a dog with a bone: she won’t let go.”
As with any thriller, research and accuracy can be a key component to the book’s success and authenticity.
“I definitely do a lot of Internet research, and I kind of go wherever Google takes me when I have a particular question come up. While researching WALK INTO SILENCE, I needed to know about quarries and what happened to them when they weren’t viable anymore. What does one do with a gigantic pit? I also looked up various laws relating to missing persons, gun ownership, et cetera. Since the book is set in Texas, and I don’t live there any more (although I did for twenty years), I checked back on locations and directions. But I do love hands-on research as well and returned to the Dallas area to talk to folks at the Frisco police department and get a tour of the facilities. I put my notes to good use when I set up my fictional Plainfield P.D. So I do whatever it takes in order to feel like I’m getting things right.”
Even with research and craft, a writer can still have favorite scenes in each of their books.
Following a Dark Path
By Dawn Ius
Carter Wilson’s writing style is a bit like asking Jesus to take the wheel. With barely a spark of an idea, he sits at the keyboard and says, “Characters, tell me a story.”
An unabashed pantser, Wilson is comfortable with letting the book unfold organically, allowing himself to get caught up in the plot—and the darkness—without the pressure of following an outline. No one reading over his shoulder. No guidelines on content. Nothing to obstruct the story’s flow.
Things aren’t quite so lucky for Harden Campbell, the protagonist in Wilson’s stunning new thriller, REVELATION. When Harden wakes cold and beaten in a dirt-floor cell, he finds only three things in the room with him: the mutilated corpse of his friend, an antique typewriter, and a stack of blank paper, the top sheet of which someone has typed: Tell me a story.
And unlike Wilson’s writing process, each of Harden’s draft words will be carefully analyzed by his captor—Harden’s old college roommate, Coyote, a sociopath now at the head of a terrifying new religion.
“Writing this book was a little different because I had more of a general idea of what I wanted the story to be about,” Wilson says. “I wanted to know how difficult it would be to start a religion.”
Hollywood 1931. A place where bulls interrogate frails, and dewdroppers hang around waiting for their big break. A place where finishing a movie can take precedent over blackmail or even murder. These are some of the challenges that face film studio security chief Neil Brand, ex-cop and former stuntman, in Ray Dyson’s THE NAKED NYMPH IN THE DARK FLICKERS. This hard-boiled crime story is a dazzling mix of noir and Hollywood history, told with the gritty light and shade of a classic black-and-white motion picture.
Ray Dyson studied journalism at Ohio State University and spent many years as a newspaperman, covering crime and sports. I’ve met many thriller authors who began their writing careers in journalism. So that was where I started a spirited conversation with Dyson for The Big Thrill.
How did working as a crime journalist help your approach to crime fiction?
A good reporter must be a good observer. Those two things go hand-in-hand for investigative reporters. The same is certainly true—and to a far greater extent—for criminal investigators. There isn’t a homicide dick in the world worth a lick if he isn’t a first-class observer. Those boys understand a crime is solved by paying attention to the details. I’ve spent a great deal of time watching them at work—or at least exploring the details of those efforts—developing a good understanding of how they go about their duties. It can be a slow, painstaking affair as they work to crack a tough case, but when you talk to them afterward it can be fascinating to learn how they put the puzzle together. Hopefully, that carries over to my stories.
This month at The Big Thrill we’re joined by thriller author Ashley Elston, whose novel THIS IS OUR STORY was released on Nov.15 by Disney-Hyperion. The story is an interesting take on a childhood hunting accident, told in a unique way through the use of transcripts, text messages, interviews, and viewpoint characters.
Please tell us a little about your new book.
In THIS IS OUR STORY, five boys go on an early morning hunt after a late night of partying and drinking, but only four come out alive. Accident or not, the boys know the one who pulled the trigger could face jail time, so they make a pact in the woods—they won’t tell who used the gun that killed their friend. The story is told from the perspective of a girl who works as an intern for a local assistant district attorney and the unknown shooter.
You tell the story through a mix of point of view characters, transcripts, text messages and interviews. What were the challenges of this type of storytelling?
The biggest challenge was finding the right balance. I wanted to tell this story from different perspectives but I didn’t want to overwhelm the reader. The transcripts were a great way to revisit the night before the hunt and see the events that went down through the eyes of different people at the party. My favorite part was writing the unknown shooter’s POV. He’s really creepy and I think his POV adds so much to this book.
Keith Dixon, UK author of the popular Sam Dyke tales, kicks off a new series with the story of a man trying to escape an event that ruined his professional life, and leaves him vulnerable to the kind of riff raff that put him in a tight spot in the first place.
But when he finds himself drawn to a manipulative con-woman and is dragged into a high-profile antiquities scam, Storey realizes escaping his past may not be as easy as he’d hoped. In fact, it could turn deadly.
In this interview with The Big Thrill, Dixon shares his inspiration for this new series, talks about his love for Elmore Leonard, and what it’s like to start with a fresh new character.
What can you tell us about your new series protagonist, Pail Storey?
Paul Storey is a man who has been extremely good at his job in law enforcement but an unfortunate event undermines his self-belief. Storey has come home to Coventry because he feels his professionalism has been compromised by what transpired in London, and he can’t get his head straight to function properly in that former role. He wants to reset, find something different to do—returning to Coventry to take care of his father’s property is a good prompt to do just that.
What’s your relationship with Coventry?
I was born in Yorkshire but raised in Coventry. When I was growing up it was a dynamic place, the home of many car manufacturing companies, and called a “boom town” by the press, partly because of the rebuilding it underwent after the German bombing of World War II. My previous crime novels had all been set in the North West of England, where I’d spent many years, and I thought it would be interesting to revisit my home town almost as a stranger. Because I had a new character to deal with, it seemed sensible to give him a different location to roam around in, a place where he could best the bad guys.
WILL THEY DIG UP THE TRUTH?
When a rash of college students falls seriously ill after ingesting Molly, a “club drug” also known as ecstasy, Officer Megan Luz and her K-9 partner Brigit are tasked with tracking down the dealers. Going undercover at the university leads Megan closer and closer to infiltrating the drug trafficking ring. But when the investigation implicates her former partner and workplace nemesis, Officer Derek Mackey, Megan’s powers of discernment are put to the test.
OR ARE THEY BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE?
Thwarted when the Feds seize control of the investigation and frustrated by the lack of attention the DEA is putting into the case, Megan continues her own unofficial investigation with Brigit’s help. But when the trail leads them in an unexpected and dangerous direction, Megan and Brigit find their own lives at risk. Can the K-9 team take down those in power? Or are some criminals simply above the law―and paw?
ABOVE THE PAW is the fifth book in Diane Kelly’s series featuring Police officer Megan Luz and her K-9 dog partner, Brigit.
Author Diane Kelly took time out of her busy schedule to discuss her latest book with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope readers will learn some fun and interesting things about K-9s and their handlers. I also hope the funny parts will brighten their day.
Four years after a tragic mission decimated his career and his team, Cole “Tox” Russell is persona non grata to the United States. And that’s fine—he just wants to be left alone. But when a dormant, centuries-old disease is unleashed, Tox is lured back into action.
Partnered with FBI agent Kasey Cortes, Tox has to pull together a team to begin a globe-spanning search for answers—and a cure. As their quest leads them from continent to continent, it slowly becomes clear they’re not just fighting a plague—but battling against an ancient secret society whose true goals remain hidden.
With time running out and opposition growing on every side, the key to everything may rest in an antique codex, the Crown of Jerusalem. But will Tox and his team be able to trust each other enough to break this century-spanning conspiracy of silence?
Bestselling author, Ronie Kendig, took some time out of her busy schedule to talk with The Big Thrill about her latest book:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope readers will have an excellent reading experience that will not make them think, but take a second (or third) look at historical events and artifacts.
Step into 1920s Hollywood, where murder awaits . . .
RENTING SILENCE, the third in the Roaring Twenties mystery series by Mary Miley takes Jessie from silent films back into the world of vaudeville to track down a performer with something to hide. At the request of her silent film star boss, Mary Pickford, Jessie uses her vaudeville talents to investigate the murder of an extra by a Hollywood actress already sentenced to death for the crime. Her inquiries lead to the discovery of a blackmailer and more than a dozen actors facing ruin or even death if their secrets are exposed. If the convicted actress is innocent, then who killed the blackmailer?
Private Investigator Rick Cahill fears the next knock on his door will be a cop holding a warrant for his arrest. For murder. La Jolla Chief of Police Tony Moretti is convinced Rick killed a missing person. No body has been found, but the evidence that’s piling up says murder and it all points to Rick. With Moretti on his tail and the bank about to foreclose on his house, Rick takes a paying case that will stave off the bank, but pits him against Moretti and the La Jolla Police Department.
Brianne Colton, a beautiful country singer, is convinced her estranged husband’s suicide was really murder. Rick is unconvinced, but the mortgage has to be paid. Each new piece of evidence convinces him she’s right. He breaks his number one rule and falls for Brianne, even as he begins to question her motives.
As Moretti cinches the vise tighter, with Rick unable to trust the FBI, evil forces emerge from the shadows who will do anything, including torture and murder, to stop Rick from uncovering the truth.
Author Matt Coyle recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss his latest novel, DARK FISSURES:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
An enjoyable read. A greater sense of who Rick Cahill is, but to still have a few questions about what makes him tick. To put themselves in Rick’s place and wonder if they’d make the same decisions he did.
When Tokyo Detective Kenji Nakamura’s phone rings with the news that his mother’s death ten years ago wasn’t an accident, his world begins to unravel. New evidence links her to a young woman, whose body was found dolled up like a movie star and tossed in the gutter like an abandoned plaything. With the help of part-time English translator Yumi Hata, Kenji begins to piece together what really happened the night his mother died. But the closer he gets to discovering who killed the Painted Doll, the more he fears that the truth will destroy all that’s left of
his fractured family.
Author Jonelle Patrick recently discussed her latest novel with The Big Thrill:
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
Not many books are able to step behind the tourist curtain in Japan. This book gives readers a chance to meet the kind of characters they couldn’t get to know without learning the language, and pulls them inside the eye-popping subcultures that are usually hidden from outsiders.
Detective Bobbie Gentry was psyched when she was offered the opportunity to work with the FBI on a special task force in the search for a heinous serial killer known as The Storyteller. What she didn’t expect was for the serial killer to follow her home on Christmas Eve…
The Storyteller couldn’t resist Bobbie no matter the risk. He murdered her husband and would have murdered her child, but the little boy got away. Now Bobbie’s fight for survival might just be more than he bargained for…
One of them must die.
Author Debra Webb recently discussed her latest novel with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
THE BLACKEST CRIMSON is the prequel to the new Shades of Death series and includes an extended excerpt of No Darker Place, the first novel in the series.
Georgia on Her Mind
Larissa Reinhart is a world traveler who has studied archaeology in Egypt, been chased by a monkey in Thailand, and is currently living in Japan. Her roots, though, are in small-town Georgia. “I’ve lived in Georgia for most of my adult life and small town is my childhood,” she says. “I grew up in a farming village of six hundred people and spent most of my youth traveling through books. When I was young, all my stories were about places I’ve never been.”
In college, she was disheartened by the “write what you know” axiom because she felt like she hadn’t been anywhere or done anything worth writing about. “It literally stopped me from writing. What I didn’t realize at the time (and what I wish I’d been told) is that advice relates to what you know about people more than events and places.”
Her family and Cairn Terrier, Biscuit, still call Georgia home, and her two mystery series are both set in small Georgia towns. A 2015 Georgia Author of the Year Best Mystery finalist, Reinhart is currently working on a story with another small town Southern heroine set in Japan, though, so she’s finally getting to use her travels.
WHAT ABOUT BOB?
By Shannon Kirk
Back again for another Debut Spotlight interview, reporting live from Murderers’ Row on Election Tuesday. Thank goodness I had something else to focus on: interviewing Robert Rapoza, a shiny new thriller author.
Spotlight on the Row means Hot Seat. As in the past, if The Boss, E.A. Aymar, is crazy enough to give me the wheel, or the pen as they say, please know that part of this interview was on point, other parts, not so much, while other other parts might seem like I tortured poor Bob through some inane babble for babble’s sake. I would have allowed our interviewee to follow in the footing of the presidential election and veer way off the road of reality and just plain make shit up. But I got paired with Bob Rapoza, one of the good guys. The type of guy you’d love to actually run for office, so his answers were all, well, wonderfully sincere. I fact-checked him at 100 percent.
I rang up good ol’ Bob (Robert Rapoza signs his emails as Bob, so I’m going with Bob) and he was such a DAD! A sweet, home-by-dinner-time, awesome dad kind of DAD. On the phone, he sounds like the type of guy who might wear one of those red Ken Bone Izod sweaters and pick you up from school and take you for an ice-cream cone before your steak and peas dinner at the dining room table, just because you make him “so gosh darn proud.” That kind of DAD!
Bob’s debut thriller is titled The Vilcabamba Prophecy. And no, it’s actually not that hard to say. Only four syllables for the first word. It goes like this: Vilca – bamba. Bamba like the dance. Try it out. It’s easy. Sort of addicting actually. The Vilcabamba Prophecy is a 2015 Semi-Finalist in the Clive Custler Adventure Writers’ contest. In The Vilcabamba Prophecy we explore ruins of an ancient civilization hidden deep within the Amazon Jungle. It seems to have been uninhabited for centuries…or has it? So enters our protagonist, Dr. Nick Randall, an archeologist forced to the fringes of the scientific community, who wishes to prove that there is a hidden civilization deep in the Amazon that possesses an extraordinarily advanced energy technology. His break comes when a mysterious benefactor funds his expedition to find the lost city of Vilcabamba, which he believes holds proof that his controversial theory is true. Upon arriving at the ruins, Nick mysteriously disappears. Only one person can find him: his daughter Samantha Randall, who hasn’t spoken to her father in years. But Sam has competition, dark forces, who wish to obtain the Vilcabamba powers and control the world.
This whole story is so appealing to me right now. A solid action-adventure archeological thriller. I’m sold.
The Thrill of Trying New Things
By R.G. Belsky
Kathy Reichs has written 18 best-selling thrillers featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan–and her popular character is also the inspiration for the hit TV show Bones.
But Reichs’ new book, THE BONE COLLECTION, is something different: a collection of novellas, including one—First Bones—that is a prequel to the Temperance Brennan books, and tells for the first time the story of how Brennan went from the world of academics to using her forensic skills as a crime fighter. Which is much like Reichs’ own real-life story.
“Turns out I’m not so good at writing short stories,” Reichs said by way of explaining why she liked writing the novellas. “No matter how hard I try, they end up quite long. Though still shorter than a full length novel. I like that the story tends to gallop along in a linear fashion with few distractions along the way. Clues and twists come one after the next with little slowing of the action.”
So why did she decide to go back in time to tell the story of her character’s beginnings in one of the novellas? “Who doesn’t love a good origin story? First Bones explains how Tempe was lured from her original plan of doing bio-archaeology into the world of forensic anthropology. And closely parallels my own career path.”
Reichs herself is a forensic anthropologist who brings her authentic work experience—both in the academic world and being involved in real life crime cases—to her thrillers.
Asked about the differences between the character in her books, the one played on TV by actress Emily Deschanel, and herself, Reichs said, “Obviously, we do exactly the same thing professionally. I work in a full-spectrum medico-legal and crime lab. I go to body recovery scenes. I most frequently do cases in North Carolina and in Quebec Province in Canada, but I also work all over the world. In the TV series Bones, Tempe is tied a little more to the Jeffersonian, but often gets out into the field as well. In terms of personality, with regard to TV Tempe’s social awkwardness and difficulty in forming close relationships, I think we’re different. I see myself as more similar to the character in my novels. Though I do like my wine!”
By Wendy Tyson
Holiday-themed murder mysteries have long been popular with readers. The magic of the season coupled with the nostalgia of favorite rituals contrast with criminal behavior and evil intent. Vicki Delany’s newest novel, WE WISH YOU A MURDEROUS CHRISTMAS, is a suspenseful and charming addition to this sub-genre. The novel is set in the fictional town of Rudolph, New York, where Christmastime is a year-long occurrence and even yuletide cheer is no deterrent to murder.
Delany recently sat down with The Big Thrill to share more about her latest novel and her prolific writing career.
Congratulations on the publication of WE WISH YOU A MURDEROUS CHRISTMAS. No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
Christmas celebrations in Rudolph are threatened by a forecast of melting temperatures and icy rain, and Merry Wilkinson, the protagonist, makes a decision about her love life.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Nothing but a good time! WE WISH YOU A MURDEROUS CHRISTMAS is a holiday cozy, and intended to bring a spark of laughter into the reader’s life. No serious topics, no psychological insights, no emotional trauma—just a fun read with a great setting and entertaining characters, for people who like a bit of mayhem and murder in their holiday festivities. And don’t we all, sometimes?
Was there anything new you discovered, or surprised you, as you wrote this book?
I created an entire rationale as to why Rudolph, New York, reinvented itself as Christmas Town. And what the neighboring town of Muddle Harbor has done to try to combat the success of their (supposed) rival. I just had fun with this book: Christmas is, in many ways, a rather silly time isn’t it?
Robert Flynn abandoned a sterling military career when his best friend and fellow soldier, Wesley Pike, died under his command. More than a decade later, Flynn’s quiet life is disturbed by the troubles of a fledgling CIA and Alexander Grant, a flashy agent with a lot to prove.
As the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union heats up and the body count rises, the two men fight to find common ground. Grant knows Flynn believes in the cause, but all Flynn sees is the opportunity to fail someone like he failed Wes.
An attack by a Soviet agent spurs Flynn to action and a reluctant association with the agency, and tilts Flynn’s world on its axis with a shocking discovery: Wesley Pike may be alive and operating as a Soviet assassin.
Author J.T Rogers took time out of her busy schedule to discuss IN FROM THE COLD with The Big Thrill:
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
Set in a world very much like our own, IN FROM THE COLD walks between the raindrops of real history. In conducting research for the novel, I was constantly surprised and delighted by the diversity of the men and women who served in the intelligence community. COLD therefore seeks to play with and deconstruct the James Bond model of spy, and offers up an alternative to his brand of stoic, ironical detachment. The characters in my novel feel—deeply so—and the personal stakes are as important to the plot as the global ones.
Most of the “werewolf rules” we’re familiar with— such as transformation during a full moon—spring from the movies. In his new book STORMWOLF, Stephen Morris takes readers into an urban fantasy world where older werewolf myths are in play. You might say it’s a wild ride.
Morris, who holds degrees in medieval history and theology from Yale and St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Academy, draws on his study and research of medieval magical practice for the tale of Alexei, a young man who “breaks the terms of the wolf-magic he inherited from his grandfather and loses the ability to control the shapeshifting, becoming a killer and slaughtering his neighbors, his friends — even his family.”
He’s soon driven to wander into encounters with other wolf practitioners in a tale that garnered high marks from Kirkus Reviews:
“Morris’ werewolf isn’t a fur-coated romantic, but a refreshingly murky protagonist who’s both flawed and sympathetic; he kills innocents, but never intentionally. There are quite a few werewolf onslaughts, which the author unflinchingly portrays as bloody and brutal…. A dark supernatural outing, featuring indelible characters as sharp as wolves’ teeth.”
Morris is a former priest who served as the Eastern Orthodox chaplain at Columbia University, and a Seattle native making his home in Manhattan with his partner, Elliot. He’s written non-fiction of the Late Antiquity and Byzantine church life and has also penned a trilogy, Come Hell or High Water.
This month, The Big Thrill posed a few questions to Morris about STORMWOLF.
Simon Maltman began his artistic career as a singer/songwriter, and his experience as a lyricist shows in his spare, cut-to-the-bone writing style, and the rhythms of his characters’ dialogue. His debut novel, A CHASER ON THE ROCKS, is set in Northern Ireland and is best described as a mystery noir with a twist ending worthy of Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island. The similarities are primarily in tone rather than content, though, so no spoilers here.
When asked about his writing journey, Maltman says, “I first started writing crime fiction shorts about four years ago. Before that I dabbled in different types of writing, though mostly in music. I started getting some stories published and gained a few nice reviews from bloggers and magazines. I’ve just been building it up really, trying to find a bit of an audience.”
The novel is structured as a story within a story, as modern-day private eye Brian writes a 1940s narrative about a character named Chapman. This narrative, undertaken at the suggestion of Brian’s therapist, contains echoes of and clues to Brian’s current circumstances.
Please join me in welcoming Maltman for a chat about A CHASER ON THE ROCKS.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us about your new book. Why don’t we start with how you decided on the parallel structure for this novel?
I had been approached by an agent to write a novel, and I had been trying out a few ideas. I particularly favored two protagonists that I had used in a number of shorts. The idea just hit me along the way that Brian could be writing the Billy story. It then just grew from there, that Brian writes stories as part of his mental health recovery. Then came the linking them together and trying to structure it so it’s not confusing for the reader.
By Karen Harper
I was thrilled for the opportunity to interview Misty Evans since we both write romantic/suspense—though she’s actually been published in three genres instead of two. Plus, she has one of the most diverse “real life” challenges in balancing other interests with her writing career.
Yoga teacher, writing coach, and mother, Evans’ heroines can’t possibly live a more exciting life than she does, can they? Well, maybe. In this interview for The Big Thrill, she talks about the challenges of writing a series, publishing in multiple genres, and what inspired her new release, FATAL COURAGE.
Please tell us what FATAL COURAGE is about.
In twenty-one missions, CIA golden girl Ruby McKellen has failed only once, thanks to Navy SEAL Jaxon Sloan, the man who stole her heart and forced her to choose between him and her partner. To prove her partner’s innocence and save her damaged career, Ruby is running an unsanctioned mission—and the only way to get the proof she needs is to go to Jax for help.
FATAL COURAGE is book #3 in your Shadow Force International Series. Can you give us the framework of this series? What is Shadow Force, and do your main characters change or continue?
Shadow Force International is a group of former SEALs, abandoned by the U.S. and labeled as rogue operatives, who now work as a black ops team performing private intelligence, security, and paramilitary missions for those who have nowhere else to turn.
A Conversation With E.A. Aymar and M.A. Richards
By E.A. Aymar
CHOICE OF ENEMIES is one of those rare thrillers that keeps the reader invested even when the bullets aren’t flying. Nathan Monsarrat, the hero of this debut novel by M.A. Richards, is a retired CIA agent who’s lured back into the fold, and uses his considerable expertise to ruthlessly outwit his enemies. “Considerable expertise” is also an apt expression to describe Richards, given that this book is informed by the twenty-plus years he spent working for the Department of the State in Baghdad, Jerusalem, Lagos, Moscow, Seoul, Tel Aviv, and Washington, D.C. The thriller is filled with small but poignant descriptions of distant locales that never run the risk of slowing down the plot, and Monsarrat provides a fascinatingly complex perspective through his adventures.
After finishing CHOICE OF ENEMIES, I was eager to ask Richards about his book and his approach to his craft:
How long did it take for you to complete CHOICE OF ENEMIES? And was that the same length of time for the second book in the series?
You remember Truckin’ by the Grateful Dead? “What a long, strange trip it’s been?” Those seven words pretty well describe the journey of CHOICE OF ENEMIES, conceived in a bar in Amherst while drinking Guinness Stout with friends from my MFA program at the University of Massachusetts in 1980, thirty-six years before the actual publication of the novel. Betwixt and between, shit happened, like dropping out of my MFA program. I had nothing to write; I was bereft of experiences; I had never lived beyond the comfort zone of New England. So I bought a cheap ticket to Europe and spent the next few months backpacking through the Continent. When I returned home, I started to work on the novel, but I was offered a job in Asia. I stayed until the end of the 1980s, only to join the Department of State and go abroad again. Fast forward to June 2013: rich with experiences but a pauper in time, I retired and began to finally write the novel. The story, of course, had evolved since it tickled me in the bar in Amherst more than three decades prior. I finished the first draft in ten weeks, put it aside for a month, and then began the rewriting process. It took six weeks to smooth the rough edges, so from start to finish, the writing/rewriting process lasted about five months. And then began the hunt to find the right agent.
A ways back, and years after graduating from the University of Hawaii, Shawn Corridan won the FinalDraft Big Break Screenwriting Contest. So, he made the first of several foolish moves: he quit his day job. Then he moved from Honolulu to Los Angeles, because a Hollywood agent told him, “You have to be in it to win it.” Leaving Hawaii was mistake number two. Listening to the agent was his third mistake.
But as it happened, winning the contest got Shawn many meetings in Hollywood. So he wrote another script, GITMO, which got him even more meetings. And before he knew it he was on the SONY lot pitching a thriller he’d been noodling on, involving the world’s largest oil tanker, an impending storm, a maiden voyage, a dubious cargo, and a former-legend-but-now-disgraced salvage ship captain yearning for redemption.
Shawn left that meeting vowing to write the story some day. He fell in love while pitching it, making up plot points on the fly. He knew it was a winner, having all the elements of a great page turner. There was only one thing missing…
…Gary Waid. A boat guy and former marijuana smuggler who’d been in prison for eight years and had just been released.
Shawn called him. After all, Gary was the very guy he modeled the protagonist of his story after, a man that was “an amalgam of rivets, teak and diesel.” He’d known Gary for years. They grew up in the same small town in Florida, and graduated from the same high school, the only high school in their small town. Gary was an awesome sailor. And a good writer, a fact Shawn gleaned from reading some of the pieces Gary had written when he was released from prison.
A Writer’s Luminous Vision
“What we are doing is writing the fictional autobiography of our souls.”
That’s how David Morrell, a bestseller for more than 40 years, characterizes his work. His latest novel, the historical thriller RULER OF THE NIGHT, was praised as a “crackling yarn” by Kirkus and “spectacular” by Publishers Weekly.
Morrell, the self-described “mild mannered professor with bloody-minded expressions,” burst on the scene in 1972 with the novel First Blood, considered the ur-text of the modern thriller.
With First Blood, Morrell aimed to write action without “relying on pulp expressions that had been recycled and recycled and recycled, like ‘a shot rang out’ or ‘gun smoke filled the air.’ ” For inspiration, he looked to Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls and Farewell to Arms, even To Have and Have Not, which, Morrell says, “still has some degree of pulp. Hemingway found ways to write action using expressions and language that hadn’t been used before. I wanted to write [the action in] First Blood in a way that no one had before, even if I had to invent the vocabulary.”
Morrell won’t do a scene if he has read or watched anything like it. But he also likes to build on what other writers have done. He was inspired by Donald Westlake’s (writing as Richard Stark) chase scene through the playground in Slayground (1971). “Stark takes the reader on this fantastic chase through amusement park rides. Then [Parker] gets into a high-rise hotel under construction. Now the chase, which was horizontal, becomes vertical, going up through the unfinished building.
“When I write action scenes, my goal is to do big production numbers. At least two or three per book. First Blood is one big production number with lots of little elements, particularly the bat cave scene in the middle of it.”
By David Healey
Thriller author William “Willie” Nikkel was out fishing one day when he caught a good idea. He just happened to wonder, what if that didn’t turn out to be a big fish on his line, but a body?
Thriller writers love a good “what if” to get a story going. Nikkel was hooked, so to speak, and that idea evolved into the first chapter of his newest novel, SHIPWRECK.
This is his sixth novel to feature Jack Ferrell. Nikkel is now at work on his seventh novel about the Hawaii-based hero. The former SWAT officer and veteran thriller author took some time out recently to talk about the writing life.
Considering that he divides his time between Maui and northern California, with plenty of fishing, gold panning, and the occasional casino visit thrown in, at first glance it might seem like there wasn’t much time left to write. However, Nikkel keeps a fairly strict schedule, thanks in part to the hot weather in Hawaii.
“If you don’t fish or lay on the beach, there’s not a lot to do in Maui,” he said, a comment that may disqualify him from being a spokesman for the tourism board.
It is, however, a great place to get down to business as a writer.
“I get up early in the morning,” he said, noting that he’s at his desk by 5 am. “It’s nice and cool.”
He breaks for breakfast with his wife, Karen, around nine. Then it’s back to work. “I write all day. When I’m writing that first draft, I put in six to eight hours, seven days a week.”
There are a few perks, of course, to being based in Hawaii.
International best-selling author, dad and all around awesome guy MichaelBrent Collings has just done it again. He’s written THE LONGEST CON, and his latest novel is a phenomenal read. Tip: If you aren’t already a Michaelbrent Collings fan, do yourself a favor and read a book or two of his today. Definitely worth your while.
Tell me about THE LONGEST CON?
Well, we all know that people go to comic cons to cosplay as monsters, but what most people don’t know is that monsters also go to comic cons to cosplay as people. Obviously, this presents a lot of problems since monsters plus people in close quarters equals carnage. The con organizers’ solution is to seed “Wardens”—the equivalent of undercover Air Marshals—throughout the cons. These Wardens are in charge of stopping problems before they happen, or cleaning up the bodies and punishing the killers after.
The fun part of it is that I’m the main character of the book: the Warden tasked with solving the murder of a high-ranking monster whose death could set off an apocalypse. And other very popular and successful writers—including Larry Correia, Kevin J. Anderson, Orson Scott Card, and more—are also major characters. Some are wizards, some are supernatural weapons dealers, some are even weirder. All of the authors in the book gave permission for me to make great characters out of them, and they all enjoyed it. And, so far, the readers seem to be enjoying it as well.
When did you start writing? What got you interested in the craft?
I started writing very young. My father was the head of Creative Writing at a major university, so books and words—both to be read and to be written—were a part of my DNA. The first time I wrote something, I was four years old (I started reading very early), and it was a “story” that was four sentences long and written in red crayon. My father read it, put on his teacher hat, and talked to me about the good parts, how I could make it better, and what to do next. Being a great author, I took his editing notes in stride and radically overhauled my parrot opus, creating an epic that was now five sentences long, and which debuted to rave reviews from my mommy. Thus a writer was born.
By E.M. Powell
One would expect a thru-hike of the approximately 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail to present many challenges but the discovery of a dead body probably isn’t the first that springs to mind. Yet while the location may be real, we’re in the world of a Ray Anderson thriller and readers of his first hiking-based adventure, The Trail, will expect precisely that. Hero Karl Bergman (also known as Awol, of which more later) is on his second outing in SIERRA. This time, Awol’s coming up against a murdering drug cartel who are moving product from Mexico to Canada along the PCT. The fast-moving plot sees Awol’s life on the line, along with that of his estranged son. Their only way out is to bring down the cartel’s operation.
While the exciting plot is of course fictional, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is very much not. I wondered what made Anderson first decide to use this as a setting and plot device in his novel. It turns out it’s from first-hand experience.
“My series covers major long-distance trails I’ve hiked,” he says. “My first book in the Awol series, The Trail, took place along the Appalachian Trail. In the hiking community this is the most popular long-distance trail in America and is usually hiked first. Next in popularity is probably the Pacific Crest Trail. So it was a given that book two of my series would involve the PCT.”
Bergman’s use of the alternative name of Awol is hiking related too, as Anderson explains.
“I don’t know how the convention of anonymity started, but all long-distance hikers go by trail names. Examples of trail names that I know are: Buzzard, Drifter, Song-bird, Dirty-bird, Grizzly, Angry Bear, and Vagabond. I never knew first and last names. Hikers come up with their own trail name and use that.” And Anderson has his own trail name, which is Hamlet. “I’m of Scandinavian descent, and my wife says I think too much.”
As for the fictional Bergman’s trail name, Anderson chose it to reflect the character’s past.
Any fan of thrillers knows the appeal of a ticking clock. And it’s typical for an author to write one book a year, and for that book to get published in six months to a year.
Not the case with this anthology, the brainchild of New Zealand writer Catherine Lea, who recruited 11 other authors for the project.
“The whole process—including compilation, finding a suitable cover, formatting, tweaking, etc.—was completed within a two-and-a-half week period, during which I also designed the landing with links through to four retailers,” Lea said.
The authors with stories in the book, aside from Lea, are Diane Capri, Russell Blake, Cat Connor, Helen Hanson, Austin Camacho, Mark Bastable, Jerry Hatchett, Joe Konrath, Arthur Kerns, Ken Isaacson and J. H. Bográn.
What made you think of these specific authors for the collection, and how do the stories work together as a theme?
I initially reached out to authors I knew, then some I didn’t know but knew of. I’m so fortunate to have enlisted authors who not only cover a variety of sub-genres but who also keen to suggest other thriller authors who might be interested as well. It also helped that everyone who came on board was keen to see the project succeed, and brought in suggestions to get it up and running.
Is there something different about short stories and anthologies vs novels that made you want to do this?
One of the major considerations was the fact that I wanted the final collection to be free. It’s a marketing tool for everyone who contributed. Because I didn’t want to be responsible for payment of royalties to other authors, I included a clause in the contract which states that in the event of the book attracting any royalties while waiting to be price matched, those royalties would be put towards advertising and marketing costs. I’ve tried to be very transparent in this regard. These are friends and fellow authors who have put their trust in me. That trust is important to me.
Following her diagnosis as a schizophrenic, Martha Covington has been easing herself back into her quiet life on a small island off the Georgia coast. The trouble is, Martha’s research into local healing roots has earned her an unwelcome reputation as a psychic. When an elderly couple from Atlanta tracks her down, desperate for any sign of their missing grandson, Peavy, Martha confronts a terrifying possibility: that the line between intuition and insanity may not be as clear as she’d like to believe.
Despite her therapist’s insistence that it’s all in her head, Martha travels to Atlanta to investigate Peavy’s mysterious disappearance, where she is reunited with handsome law student Jarrell Humphries. A trail of cryptic clues leads the pair deep into a heart of a dangerous conspiracy whose members will stop at nothing—including murder—to protect their secrets.
R. K. Jackson recently took some time to discuss his latest book with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope they will be both frightened and entertained, and maybe a little appalled, because the menace at the heart of this book is grounded in a contemporary reality.
No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
This book continues the story of Martha Covington, the heroine of my first novel, The Girl in the Maze. I think fans of that book will enjoy seeing Martha evolve into a more confident protagonist who at one point even breaks into full action-hero mode.
The Cold War is back on but with a twist…a remnant, a computer chip, exists from a UFO that exploded over Russia in 1907. Now Damien Wynter, special agent for the clandestine Majic-12, is on a race to get it before SETKA, his Russian counterparts. From the canals of Venice to old city of Dubrovnik, to the pyramids of Bosnia, Wynter and Michelle Martin run a gauntlet of mayhem, destruction and death in an all out battle to obtain technology that could be the greatest boon to humankind—or launch its destruction.
David M. Mannes recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss his latest book:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
A bit of knowledge about UFOs and pleasure from reading a fast-paced action adventure novel.
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
This novel mixes science fiction with espionage and suspense that takes place in the present day. It’s not a typical thriller, nor a traditional sci-fi novel. It’s sort of like The Man from U.N.C.L.E. meets the X-Files.