Phillip Margolin had a storied career as a criminal defense lawyer—handling more than thirty murder cases and even arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court. Though he’d published two novels early in his legal career, he wasn’t looking to leave his exciting law practice. In the early1990s, however, he was at a dinner party when the conversation turned philosophical. One of the guests had a question for him: If Adolf Hitler came to you and needed a lawyer, would you represent him? “I hadn’t really given much thought to that kind of question,” Margolin said. “But I was a believer in the system, and always thought I’d defend anyone. But it got me thinking whether I would represent someone who was pure evil.” It sparked an idea for a book that became the 1993 smash bestseller, Gone, But Not Forgotten. It was about a woman lawyer faced with representing a despicable human being—a serial killer who dehumanized women before killing them.
The book was a game changer for Margolin in many ways. It was the first of seventeen New York Times bestsellers for the author, ultimately leading to his retirement from the law. It was also the first time Margolin wrote a female protagonist. Today, it’s hard to believe that Margolin, known for writing strong women characters, once had anxiety about writing from a female point of view. “Back then, I didn’t think I could do a woman character justice. But when I was writing Gone, But Not Forgotten I was working on this scene where the killer goes to see his lawyer in this tall office building late at night when no one else is around. Having represented killers—even a serial killer—myself, I had an idea that the lawyer would be on guard. But something made me think, ‘Yes, as a man I’d be cautious around this killer of women, but wouldn’t it ratchet up the suspense if the lawyer was a woman—a person like the killer’s victims?’ The story required me to make the protagonist a woman, so I did.”
To get the character right, Margolin drew on the toughest, smartest, and best woman lawyer he knew, his wife Doreen. “I decided to write all the scenes imagining the character was Doreen; what she would say, how she would act. Doreen was very feminine, but also a real tough guy.” Sadly, Doreen passed away in 2007. “She wasn’t just the best lawyer I’ve ever known,” Margolin said, “she was the best human being I’ve ever met.”
Six Mystery Bookstores Recommend Novels
You May Have Missed
By Barry Lancet
With the holidays approaching, the rush is on to find a seemingly endless string of perfect gifts. If you are passionate about thrillers and mysteries, why not pass on your enthusiasm to others? And what better way to do so, then introduce them to a new voice or a new discovery?
With that thought in mind, THE BIG THRILL asked a half dozen renowned mystery bookstores across the country to recommend the perfect gift. Our only criteria: they had to be books the stores loved—novels they regularly recommend to customers—that might have slipped below the radar this year.
The bookstores responded enthusiastically with an impressive array of twenty titles. So if you’re looking for gifts this year, check out the books below. And if you’re in the neighborhood, do yourself a favor and visit these iconic stores. Or visit them online, as every shop has a number of additional offerings, from book clubs to signed books to rare editions that can be sent anywhere—for a gift, or to add to your own collection.
MYSTERIOUS BOOKSHOP · New York City
This store is a required stopover for any crime-novel enthusiast heading to New York City. Founded by owner, editor, writer, and publisher Otto Penzler in 1979, the shop is celebrating its thirty-fifth anniversary this year. Aside from carrying an extensive catalog of mysteries and thrillers of every stripe, Mysterious Bookshop also stocks signed first editions, collector’s items, and “the largest collection of Sherlockiana in the world.” And should you be looking for a more expansive gift, consider a one-year subscription to one of its book clubs. Penzler and his crew also run Mysterious Press, which publishes books in paperback and digital editions. Ian Kern supplied these store picks for the holidays:
International Thrills: An Interview with Bestselling Japanese Crime Writer,
By Layton Green
This edition of International Thrills is off to Japan and explores the fascinatingly dark world of Fuminori Nakamura, whose crime novels also delve into more literary themes. —The Managing Editors
Fuminori started publishing when he was only twenty-five, and has penned ten novels and three short story collections since 2003. He has won numerous awards for his writing, including the Ōe Prize, the Akutagawa Prize (Japan’s most prestigious literary award), the Shincho Prize for New Writers, and the Noma Prize. Stateside, his novels have been named a Wall Street Journal Best Mystery and an Amazon Best Mystery/Thriller of the Month. The Thief, his first novel translated into English, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Just this fall, he was the recipient of the 2014 David L. Goodis Award for Noir Fiction at NoirCon.
LAST WINTER WE PARTED is Fuminori’s most recent work, and the third novel to appear in English, published by Soho. I had the pleasure of reading LAST WINTER WE PARTED, and was blown away. In short, the novel is about a writer assigned to interview a famous photographer sitting on death row for the murder of two of his subjects—both women who were burned alive. It is a menacing, labyrinthine, deeply layered tale that also manages to be a quick read, and I wanted to reread it as soon as I finished.
I recently sat down with Nakamura and his publisher (Juliet Grames of Soho Press, who provided excellent translation) after a book signing in Chapel Hill.
Thanks for taking the time to chat. Tell us where you are from in Japan, and a little bit about your background.
I was born in 1977 in Aichi, Japan. I spent my four years of college in Fukushima, and since then have lived in Tokyo. I’ve been an avid reader since I was in high school.
Deon Meyer writes heart-racing thrillers set in South Africa. The last book that kept me up until three in the morning because I just had to know what happened next was his Thirteen Hours. His latest novel—COBRA—which was released in the U.S. last month, is right up there with his best books.
Deon is the best known thriller writer in South Africa and the London Times called him “far and away South Africa’s best crime writer.” His books have been translated from the original Afrikaans into twenty-seven languages, have won a slew of prizes, and been optioned for TV series and movies. Deon also writes and produces movies for the South African market.
COBRA features Detective Benny Griessel. Benny was never meant to have his own series—he had a minor part in one of Deon’s early novels—but characters sometimes have their own ideas. This time Benny, with the help of his Hawks colleagues Mbali Kaleni and Vaughn Cupido, has to take on a ruthless assassin, the top brass of the police, Britain’s MI6, South Africa’s own State Security Agency. In the beautiful Franschhoek wine valley, at an exclusive guest house, three bodies are found, each with a very professional bullet through the head. A fourth guest is missing, and he just might be a very, very important man in the fight against terrorism and organized crime.
I asked Deon about COBRA and his current projects.
Unlike most of your books, the backstory concerns an event where South Africa is incidental—almost just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Did you set out to construct an international intrigue and then see how it would play out in South Africa?
Yes, and no. I’ve been collecting articles on the U.S.’s Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme, also known as TFTP, for some years now, knowing that a story was brewing. The challenge was, how do I make it work in South Africa (which is not part of the TFTP agreement, as far as I know)?
We’ve also been seeing a lot of foreigners bringing their criminal activity to South Africa, so I wanted to reflect that aspect as well.
By Dawn Ius
For New York Times bestselling author Brad Taylor, almost nothing is more embarrassing than writing inaccurate information—especially when he should know better.
So imagine his horror a few books back when the former Army Lieutenant Colonel inadvertently wrote about a weapon system that fired .556.
“That went all the way to galley prints before a friend said, ‘.556? Were you even in the military? It’s 5.56.’ Of course, I knew that,” Taylor says. “That one decimal point may seem like small potatoes to just about anyone, but to a segment of readers, it would have been heresy.”
Lucky for Taylor, he’s armed with a group of pre-readers who have unique skills that go far beyond fixing typos.
Having spent twenty-one years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel, he admits he is generally held to a higher standard of accuracy—but he’s fine with that, since it means he can concentrate on the plot and characters without worrying about getting the Operator’s actions right.
Plot and character remain a central focus in NO FORTUNATE SON, Taylor’s seventh book in the military thriller series featuring Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill. The premise for the novel was inspired by the true story of Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier previously captured by Afghanistan in 2009.
“From the moment he disappeared, the U.S. government spent an enormous effort trying to repatriate him, despite the fact that he was basically a nobody with a cloud over his head about his motivations,” Taylor says. “I wondered what we would do if a military member related to someone important was captured. How far would we go?”
By Amy Lignor
It will come as no surprise to fans who read Arlene Kay’s tales and enjoy the humor embedded within each mystery that she spent two decades serving the Federal Government. Thankfully for readers, Arlene decided to step away from that career so that fans across the country could see her fantastic mind and incredible imagination on paper. With her stand-alone and series fiction, Arlene creates the perfect mix of sultry and suspense; her novels not only keep readers on the edge-of-their-seats, but also provide the handsome men and stunning women that make for the ultimate dream. What began with Swann Dive and proceeded to Mantrap in the Swann series, now continues with the third unforgettable installment, GILT TRIP. And Arlene has taken time out of her busy writing schedule to talk all about her present and future work.
Where exactly did Eja Kane and Deming Swann—the extremely memorable characters from the Swann series—come from? Is there a personal/real-life “tilt” on the characters?
Eja and Deming actually evolved from the basic story line from Swann Dive, which concerned the murder of Cecilia Swann, Deming’s twin and Eja’s best friend. I shudder at using the term “organically” but their journey began with a shared quest for justice and evolved into a deep romantic attachment. Eja does own many of my own traits and insecurities. Deming—well that’s another matter entirely.
Humor has become almost an integral part of suspense novels in the twenty-first century. Even the darkest of thrill rides seem to add in a dry comment at just the right moment. Do you believe that humor and timing within a tale can make or break a novel? And as a reader, do you want that lightness to be inserted into the characters you love?
Humor leavens the most stressful situations and humanizes characters. I find that authors, fictional characters, or acquaintances who take themselves too seriously are basically boring. The Brits are masters at witty, understated humor; from the wry observations of Jane Austen to Christie, Sayers, and more contemporary crime novelists. I read the Scandinavian writers also (Larsson, Mankell, Nesbo) but they are very dour. Maybe it’s the weather, but they could use a bit of fun in their lives.
In SHADOW KNIGHT’S MATE, Jay Brandon offers a tightly structured and thematically layered conspiracy thriller that pulls out all the stops. Jack Driscoll is a member of The Circle, a covert organization ostensibly protecting US interests for two centuries. When the organization is attacked by an unknown antagonist, what appear to be doubles of Jack are sighted in Europe. While he tries to combat the subversions occurring around him he meets Arden, a girl whose motivations remain as shadowy as the narrative.
Tell us about SHADOW KNIGHT’S MATE.
In the book, Jack Driscoll is a young member of a very secretive, loosely organized group known as The Circle, which has operated behind the scenes for generations, protecting American interests. They work through subtlety and suggestion. As Jack says, “None of our members has held elected office in more than two hundred years. Not even a local school board. Actually, two of our members were First Ladies of the United States, but not the two you would think. Very few of us were CEOs, either. More commonly we were the assistant to the Human Resources Director. These were the people to whom presidents and CEOs turn in times of crisis. Mycroft Holmes, not Sherlock.”
But in SHADOW, they seem to have been discovered, as several of their members are attacked at the same time America is. And someone is targeting Jack directly, with impersonators of him appearing around Europe. Jack goes to Europe to investigate, taking with him (against his will) Arden, the youngest and most accomplished member of The Circle. Even in this group of geniuses and world-class networkers, she scares people with her abilities to read people and make connections. And Jack isn’t sure of her intentions.
By Wendy Tyson
Shelley Coriell’s first novel in The Apostles series, The Broken, was published to terrific reviews and won Daphne du Maurier and Golden Pen Awards, among other honors. THE BURIED, Coriell’s second installment in the series, doesn’t disappoint. With riveting opening scenes, sharp storytelling and a complex plot, THE BURIED follows state prosecutor Grace Courtemanche and FBI crisis negotiator Theodore “Hatch” Hatcher as they race to find a merciless killer bent on revenge.
Coriell graciously agreed to answer a few questions for THE BIG THRILL.
What can you tell us about THE BURIED that is not on the back cover?
THE BURIED is a dark, twisty tale centered on old family skeletons and a serial killer who buries victims alive. The first draft of the story was so dark and the villain’s back story was so disturbing that I set aside the manuscript for two years.
When my publisher asked for the second Apostle book, I re-read THE BURIED and realized the story isn’t about victims being buried alive but about connections and disconnections with others, primarily family. With that in mind, I teamed my independent heroine, Grace, with a lovable but needy old blue tick hound, while my hero, Hatch, discovers he has a thirteen-year-old son who’s in trouble with the law. Both of these minor characters underscore the importance of “family” and provide a bit of light and lightness to balance out all the dark.
It has been said that there is no story that has not already been told, that is not old and familiar. It is in the telling, however, that a story is raised to a higher level. That is precisely the kind of story telling Suzanne Chazin has accomplished with her latest novel LAND OF CAREFUL SHADOWS. With pitch perfect prose, she offers an intimate glimpse into the world of undocumented immigrants in a moving and psychologically complex murder mystery. The tension never stalls in this unflinching and searing examination of the human heart.
Suzanne Chazin is a former journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Ladies Home Journal, People, Money, and other publications. She is a former senior editor and writer for Reader’s Digest and has taught writing at New York University, Sarah Lawrence College, and the Smithsonian. Her Georgia Skeehan mystery series, published by Putnam, is about a New York City female firefighter turned fire marshal. LAND OF CAREFUL SHADOWS is the first in the new Jimmy Vega series.
Your volunteer work with Hispanic immigrants became the inspiration for your latest novel, LAND OF CAREFUL SHADOWS. Was there a story or common refrain that particularly touched you?
I live in Westchester County, New York, in a suburban area that has seen a very large increase in Latino immigrants over the past two decades. I live three miles from a train station where day laborers often gather, and I was struck by this obviously needy group of people so desperate for work. As the daughter of immigrants myself, I felt drawn to their situation and began volunteering at outreach centers in the area. I got to know some of the immigrants and found them to be humble, decent, and resourceful people who went about their struggles with quiet determination. I felt their story hadn’t been told––or at least not in a readily accessible way to mainstream audiences.
A rural Missouri girl, Kate Brauning fell in love with writing at a young age. She was that child who practically lived in the library, discovering all its treasures. Now, she resides in Iowa with her husband and a Siberian husky, and works in publishing. She loves to connect with readers. If you see her and say hi, she might invite you for a coffee—if you want to talk about books.
Her debut novel HOW WE FALL is a young adult tale about two cousins with a secret relationship, a missing best friend, and strange girl with secrets. Will this strange girl be a harbinger of doom? Will they find their friend? THE BIG THRILL sat down with Brauning to find out more.
When did you start writing?
Oh, I was pretty young. I wrote my first “story” at ten or so, I think. I’ve always had fun writing stories, and I wrote a novel all through high school. I loved it, but it just never occurred to me that I could write for a career. I kept on loving it, though. In college I decided that I loved it too much to not try.
Did you ever want to be anything besides write?
I decided early on that I wanted to be an author, so no, not really. Along the road to becoming an author, I’ve discovered I love the publishing world and I love editing, so if I couldn’t write anymore, I’d continue to work with publishing houses as an editor.
How far wrong can a missing persons case go? You can find out, and truly enjoy the thrills and mystery in the process, in Harry Hunsicker’s latest novel, THE SHADOW BOYS.
This character-driven mystery follows former DEA contractor Jon Cantrell. As the story opens things are going well for Cantrell. He has a new job working for a law firm. But then his ex-girlfriend asks him to meet with a high-ranking police official. Cantrell is forced to take an off-the-books assignment to find a missing boy. And then, everything starts to unravel.
Cantrell is not a hero in the strict sense, but he is a fascinating character with, as Hunsicker says, a sharp wit, an eye for the quickest escape route, and a fascinating history.
“Jon Cantrell is a third-generation law enforcement officer, now in the private sector because of an altercation with a federal agent while he was a Dallas police officer,” Hunsicker says. “Cantrell thinks of himself as a cop even though he’s not wearing a badge in SHADOW BOYS.”
Cantrell’s client, Deputy Chief Raul Delgado, is an up-and-coming politico who bears his own tragic burdens. Forty years earlier, a racist cop killed Delgado’s brother. Now, Delgado works for the same department. Cantrell relates to Delgado, even though he’s not really a cop or even a private eye.
By Ken Isaacson
When Reece Hirsch’s debut novel, The Insider, hit the scene, John Lescroart proclaimed that he was fit to run with the big boys, while Gayle Lynds warned John Grisham to watch his back. The Insider was a finalist for the 2011 International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel. With the upcoming release of Reece’s third book, INTRUSION, he proves himself once more to be worthy of the acclaim.
All of Reece’s books draw upon his experiences as an attorney—though his legal work is a lot less exciting and hazardous than that of his protagonist Chris Bruen. Reece is a partner in the San Francisco office of an international law firm and co-chairs its privacy and cybersecurity practice.
In INTRUSION (coming December 9 in eBook, Paperback and Audiobook from Thomas & Mercer), we once more meet attorney Bruen, former DOJ cybercrimes prosecutor. When a powerful client summons him for a midnight meeting, Bruen knows something is very wrong. Zapper, the world’s most popular search engine, has been compromised, and its most valuable asset—search algorithms—has been stolen. The company suspects that this most recent instance in a wave of high-tech crimes originated in China, and that the government itself is behind the systematic theft of U.S. intellectual property.
Bruen travels to China to search for evidence that will link the intrusion to the People’s Liberation Army. With remote assistance from Zoey Doucet, the head of his firm’s computer forensics lab and his maybe-girlfriend, Bruen uncovers information that takes him even deeper into the shadowy world of cybercrime. Now he is trapped in a foreign land with a hard drive containing information that puts his life in jeopardy. In this secretive world of Big Data, Bruen will risk everything to fight an elusive enemy as far-reaching as the Internet itself.
By Stacy Mantle
There are cozies for every topic, and that includes baby boomers. Award-winning author Susan Santangelo is the master of taking a lighthearted look at the issues facing the seventy-six million members of the fastest growing market segment in the country: the baby boomers.
Santangelo is a baby boomer herself and has worked as a feature writer, drama critic, and editor for publications throughout New York. Retirement Can Be Murder, the first in the Baby Boomer series, was released in 2009 and she has averaged a new novel in the series each year. Her third novel in the series, Marriage Can Be Murder, was selected as one of Suspense Magazine’s Best Mysteries of 2012.
On top of being an acclaimed author, she is also a breast cancer survivor. Santangelo devotes a percentage of sales of all books to the Breast Cancer Survival Center, a nonprofit organization she co-founded in 1999 to provide post-treatment education and support for cancer survivors.
THE BIG THRILL had the opportunity to connect with her about her newest popular release, FUNERALS CAN BE MURDER.
Most of your books are focused on the baby boomer generation. What is it that fascinates you most about this demographic?
I’m an early member of the baby boomer generation myself. As my husband and I were approaching our own “milestone” years, I began to focus on what issues we were going to have to deal with. Everything I read focused on financial planning for retirement and beyond. But nobody seemed to be dealing with the emotional impact of retirement, particularly as it impacts a marriage. I’ve written for years for magazines and newspapers, and always loved the mystery genre. So I decided to combine retirement with a funny mystery and wrote “Retirement Can Be Murder,” the first in what has morphed into the Baby Boomer mystery series.
Hope Clark, author of The Carolina Slade Mysteries, has a new release and a new series. MURDER ON EDISTO is book one of The Edisto Island Mysteries from BellBooks. When her husband is murdered by the Russian mob, Boston detective Callie Jean Morgan suffers a mental break and relinquishes her badge to return home to South Carolina. She has no idea how to proceed with her life, but her son deserves to move on with his, so she relocates them to the family vacation home.
But the day they arrive on Edisto Beach, Callie finds her childhood mentor and elderly neighbor murdered. Her fragile sanity is threatened when the murderer taunts her, and the home that was to be her sanctuary is repeatedly violated. Callie loses her fight to walk away from law enforcement as she becomes the only person able to pursue the culprit who’s turned the coastal paradise into a paranoid patch of sand where nobody’s safe. But what will it cost her?
MURDER ON EDISTO is a new series for you. What made you decide to change venues and characters instead of continuing your Carolina Slade series?
Actually, my publisher strong-armed, um, suggested that I create a new series to more clearly demonstrate the depth of my talent. I was flattered and scared to death at the same time, because I adored Carolina Slade. I had envisioned myself writing her stories like Sue Grafton and her alphabet mysteries, until I ran out of little communities in South Carolina to set each Slade escapade. My editor gave me sort of a full rein on the direction of the series but asked that I design the second series at least around three issues: (1) the protagonist could not be an amateur sleuth (she had to be law enforcement), (2) the story had to include a heavy-handed dose of family drama like any good Southern family, and (3) the series had to take place in one locale in South Carolina. The Carolina Slade series took place all over the state. So I set the Edisto Island Mysteries completely on Edisto Beach, a place I’ve escaped to many times. I went into the project begrudgingly, just ask my editor.
By Brian Knight and Ellie Knight
Jonathan Stiles is a fourteen-year-old atheist who is coping with his first day of ninth grade at the fervently religious St. Soren’s Academy when his idolized older brother Ryan is found dead at the bottom of a ravine behind the school. As his world crumbles, Jonathan meets an eccentric stranger who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jesus Christ (except for his white linen leisure suit and sparkling gold chains). Jesus Jackson, as he calls himself, offers to provide faith to Jonathan. He also suggests that Ryan’s death may not have been an accident after all.
Jonathan teams up with Henry, his new best friend at St. Soren’s, to investigate. The two boys find footprints leading to the ravine that match Ryan’s sneakers. They are assisted by Ryan’s grieving girlfriend, Tristan, who also thinks the accident theory is bunk. The police, however, will not listen. But Jonathan knows something the police do not know: Shortly before his death, Ryan was doing cocaine with fellow footballer and number one suspect Alistair not far from the ravine where his body was found.
An inspired Jonathan battles sanctimonious school psychologists, overzealous administrators, and a cavalry of Christian classmates on his quest to discover the truth about Ryan’s death—and about God, high school, and the meaning of life, while he’s at it. But he keeps getting distracted by Cassie—Alistair’s quirky younger sister—who holds the keys to the answers Jonathan is searching for, but who also makes him wonder if he should be searching for them at all.
Welcome James, and thanks for stopping by to chat with us.
Brian: Faith seems to be an important theme, or at least ingredient, in JESUS JACKSON. Putting an atheist teen in an environment where faith is the rule promises to produce a lot of tension. May I ask where you stand on the subject of faith?
Well that is an awesome and difficult question. Ultimately, I think faith is a wonderful thing, as long as it isn’t blind faith. Personally, I like to detach the word faith from its strict religious connotations, and generally define it as “trust in something that you cannot know for certain.” Now for me, while I don’t happen to have faith in any particular god or religion, I do try to have faith in lots of other things that I cannot know for certain. I have faith in the love of my wife and the support of my family. I have faith in my own intuitive sense of ethics and morality. I have faith that my hard work will pay off and that as long as I make the best decisions I can every day, my life will ultimately work out pretty well. That’s the kind of faith that I try to explore in JESUS JACKSON.
Jean Harrington published the first of her series of mysteries featuring interior designer Deva Dunne in 2012. The fifth, THE DESIGN IS MURDER, was published last month. In it Deva, hired by not one but two clients whose wives have suffered suspicious deaths, continues to stumble across bodies and search for answers, much to the annoyance of her fiancé, a detective in the Naples, Florida, police force.
Tell us about your series Murders by Design and the new book THE DESIGN IS MURDER.
The Murders by Design series are tongue-in-cheek cozy mysteries that take a light-hearted look at murder and mayhem. (I love a good oxymoron.) In the first book, Designed for Death, amateur sleuth Deva Dunne is a young widow struggling to climb out of her sorrow and rebuild her life. So the books, over time, show her change and grow as she strives, with wit and humor, to find happiness again and, incidentally, with the help of Lieutenant Rossi, to solve one murder after another.
In the latest release, THE DESIGN IS MURDER, Deva’s client James Stahlman believes Stew Hawkins moved into the house across the street to terrorize him after he became engaged to Kay, Stew’s ex-wife. But Stew is over it. He’s remarried—and to someone much younger. When just days apart, both women are found dead under mysterious circumstances, Deva thinks there’s something afoot on Whiskey Lane. Could the death of these women be coincidence, or were they the victims of foul play?
You were a professor of English literature at Becker College in Worcester, Massachusetts, for sixteen years. What led you to writing your own books?
After talking about fiction for years and dissecting it in the classroom, I longed to try my hand at writing it. So as soon as I stopped teaching, I began to write. The learning curve was much steeper than I anticipated but exciting and fulfilling. Creating people, fleshing them out, giving them personalities, strengths and weaknesses then setting them loose in a believable time and place is great fun. Kind of like world-building really, and where else but in fiction can I get to do that?
By Derek Gunn
Elderwood Manor is a beautifully presented limited edition hardcover from DarkFuse, luckily also available in Kindle. It is a well-crafted novella that instantly transported me to the titled Manor as darkness began to spread its eerie fingers across the land. The fact that it is a novella allows the authors to plunge us straight into the action as they build the atmosphere from the first page.
There is no wasted backstory, merely the story itself. The characters are instantly believable and the atmosphere dripped from the pages. It put me in mind of the classic stories from Robert E. Howard where the writing was always of the highest quality and the story was thrust forward to grab you by the throat and squeezed tighter until you finally finished the story. It also suggests a nod towards Lovecraft and his unique ability to instil fear in the reader. I mention these comparisons merely to give a sense of what Christopher and Angeline have achieved in this story. In my opinion Howard and Lovecraft managed what few authors do today, they actually scared us. Elderwood Manor also manages to do this.
There is no relenting in pace, no added paragraphs to flesh out the story. This story is pure class from the beginning to end and well worth the small charge on Kindle. It would be even better if you can afford the hardcover as the cover illustration is gorgeous. I kept feeling that this was what James Herbert’s The Secret of Crickley Hall should have been.
As it is a novella I will not give too much away. It is better to let the story whisk you away. However, in brief, Bruce Davenport and his four-year-old son Cody are called to his ancestral home, secluded deep within Ozark forests. Life has not been good to Bruce and he uses the last of his funds to visit his dying mother.
There are strange stories surrounding Elderwood Manor, stories of vengeance and blood, horror and dark secrets. As night closes in it is doubtful they will see the dawn.
By Basil Sands
DARKNET is John R. Little’s fourteenth book. Primarily working in suspense, horror, and dark fantasy, his novella Miranda, won the Bram Stoker Award. Two of his other books, Ursa Major and The Memory Tree, were also nominated for the same award. In addition to novels, John has published dozens of short stories over his career. He lives in southern Ontario and writes as much as possible. You can find out more on his website or on Facebook, where he loves to interact with his readers.
John, tell us about DARKNET.
The novel is about a woman who has no way to escape from her abusive husband. She’s desperate to find a way to have a new life with her ten-year-old daughter, but she can’t find a way. However, she learns about the dark side of the Internet, where anything is possible, including hiring a contract killer. With no other option, she starts a conversation with an anonymous killer, but that soon results in consequences for her that she could never have predicted.
Although based in real technological situations, the novel is really about a scared woman who is trying desperately to save her daughter.
DARKNET addresses some very dark sides of human personality, including abusive relationships, sociopathic behavior, and revenge. What was your motivation for writing on such themes?
I’ve wondered that myself over my career. I think that some writers are born to write romances, some crave the wonder of science fiction, while I’m drawn to the darker side of the human condition. I’ve loved reading horror and other types of dark fiction my whole life, and those are also the movies I watch. Why? I think it’s just something in the genes. They control how tall I am, the color of my eyes, and the type of stories that fascinate me. I don’t know how else we find at such a young age that a certain type of fiction appeals to us more than others.
BITE HARDER gives us an unlikely antihero, Dean Drayhart, a paraplegic serial killer. Drayhart’s mission in life is to find and render justice to hit-and-run drivers who have left behind their dead victims. His cohorts include Cinda, a fearless, fast-driving girlfriend, and Sid, the helper monkey—Drayhart’s secret weapon. But Drayhart’s quest for cosmic retribution goes one dead body too far when he deservedly slays the son of a Mexican drug king, make that queen—the beautiful and evil Orella—and this bereaved mother has her claws out for our hero in the wheelchair. Anonymous-9 delivers a story that slaps you silly with humor, action, and poignancy as it careens in a hyper-kinetic narrative fueled by rich, high-octane prose.
You have taken on quite a challenge with this story. The protagonist is a paraplegic, which itself can be a difficult subject to read. And you’ve added plenty of details of what life with that disability can be like. Then you’ve made him a renegade who takes the law into his own hands. On top of that, you’ve heaped tons of humor on the dark moments. Given that, what made you write this book?
Aw, thanks. I wrote the kind of book I want to read. I can lose patience with a slow-moving plot or lack of character engagement very quickly. A story needs to grab me in the first sentence—it better be fresh and it’s gotta have a hook. I need a plot loaded with situations and dialogue I haven’t seen before. I want to care deeply about unique characters. I want to laugh, cry, and feel. When it came time to write my own book, it had to have all this and more.
Your prose was so vivid. Even in the middle of wild action, I could follow the moves no matter how out-of-control the choreography seemed. What’s your secret?
My secret? Never let the POV go fuzzy. Every sentence drives the POV road, even if it’s breaking the speed limit.
By George Ebey
Author Patricia Stoltey steps into the world of suspense fiction with her latest novel, DEAD WRONG.
Lynnette is a woman on the run from her abusive cop husband, but she’s dead wrong about who’s chasing her. A thug known as Fat Ass Sammy Grick carelessly switches laptop cases at the airport and puts Lynnette in greater danger from Sammy’s boss and the killer sent to retrieve the laptop contents. Then Lynnette finds out her husband was murdered and she’s a person of interest….
THE BIG THRILL recently caught up with Patricia to discuss the writing process and to learn more about the world of DEAD WRONG.
What first got you interested in writing crime fiction?
My mom introduced me to the traditional mystery novel when I ran out of Nancy Drew books to read, so I was hooked by the genre very early. Once I read a few thousand mysteries and thrillers, I began to wonder if I could craft one. I created Sylvia Thorn and Willie Grisseljon, a brother and sister in the over sixty crowd and let them help solve a couple of murders. Series are limiting, however, so trying out stand-alone suspense was my next challenge.
How did the idea for DEAD WRONG come to you?
I love to read “woman on the run” novels, so I started there. The criminals in DEAD WRONG are involved in a check theft ring. That idea came from a real-life experience many years ago when a large check was stolen from the company I worked for. In conversations with an FBI agent later, I learned about the check theft ring and how they managed to get a check cashed before most accounting departments discovered the check was missing. I have no idea where the foul-mouthed thug Fat Ass Sammy Grick came from, but I had a lot of fun writing from his point of view.
By Rick Reed
In DEAD OF AUTUMN, Alexa Williams is a successful lawyer who volunteers weekly at a women’s clinic. One autumn day she takes Scout, her giant English Mastiff, into the Pennsylvania woods, and her world is turned upside down with the discovery of a body. She becomes entangled in a murder mystery—one that she tries to unravel by linking it to experiences in her own life and can’t shake the feeling that there is some sort of connection to the murder victim. She thinks back to the stories she heard as a child, about the Babes in the Woods, who were murdered close to where the victim’s body was found, wondering if that might be why she draws the connection.
Alexa soon finds herself amidst violence aimed at the clinic where she volunteers, when she’s almost raped, ambushed by religious zealots who wish to convert her. When the murderer strikes again, Alexa must rely on her knowledge of local history and terrain in order to save her own life.
Almost a century earlier, Dewilla Noakes, a child of the Depression, has recently lost her mother. Dewilla’s father packs up the girls—and their attractive cousin, Winnie—and hits the road to look for a job on the east coast. Along the way, money becomes tighter, food becomes scarce, and relationships become strained. Dewilla’s father fears he’s brought nothing but misery to his family. Running out of options, he begins to consider the unthinkable…
DEAD of AUTUMN ties together the struggles faced by females, young and old, past and present, and the degrees of power they embrace to combat their situations.
Tell us about Alexa Williams. What kind of person is she, and how did you create her character?
Alexa is smart, articulated and committed. In her late twenties, she’s still learning her strengths but still has a tendency to want to please other people. She was dumped by the love of her life. Now, she’s avoiding a serious relationship by experimenting with casual sex. During the course of the novel, Alexa’s character evolves. She comes into her own as she confronts mounting danger.
By Dawn Ius
Samurai detective Sano Ichiro is working his last—and most dangerous—case.
For the many fans of bestselling author Laura Joh Rowland, this is perhaps bittersweet. Because after more than twenty years and seventeen books, THE IRIS FAN marks the stunning conclusion to Rowland’s series of thrillers set in feudal Japan.
“[These characters] are like family, and saying goodbye to them is heart-wrenching,” Rowland says. “But I’m happy as well as sad, because I think it’s the right thing to do. In such a long series, the later books can never be as original and fresh as the first few. Some of the later books are better works of art and craft than the earlier ones, but my initial creative excitement has diminished over the years.”
That doesn’t mean readers aren’t in for a triumphant conclusion, though. In THE IRIS FAN, Sano Ichiro is restored to the rank of chief investigator to find the person responsible for stabbing a shogun with a fan made of painted silk and sharp-pointed iron ribs. If he fails, his family and his life are at risk.
“Sano and his long-time enemy, Yanagisawa, make a deal from hell,” Rowland says, admitting that this novel is one of her favorites in the series—not only because it’s the “end” but also because it’s a culmination of everything she’s learned about the craft of writing.
“When I wrote the first book (Shinju, published in 1994), I was still learning how to juggle the elements of fiction, and some basic things about the mystery genre slipped by me,” she says. “I forgot that a series needs, in addition to a detective, a cast of recurring characters. In subsequent books I gave Sano a boss, a sidekick, an enemy, a wife, and two kids, who all have important roles in the stories. One of the challenges of writing a series character is making him change and grow over time, like a real-life person. That happened to Sano, although I didn’t plan it out when I first created him.”
By Jeremy Burns
Jack Soren may be a new name to thriller readers, but he’s no stranger to the genre. A lifelong aficionado of the genre, Soren has finally thrown his hat into the ring with what looks to be a blockbuster debut. On the eve of THE MONARCH’s release, Soren sat down with THE BIG THRILL to give readers a sneak peak at a thriller master in the making.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Growing up, my favorite movies usually starred either Jerry Lewis or Vincent Price. This explains a lot. A LOT. My headboard was usually stocked with The Hardy Boys, Star Trek novels and comic books. And my head was usually full of science, bad jokes, and girls. Luckily, some of this has finally started to leak out.
Before becoming a thriller novelist, I wrote software manuals, waited tables, drove a cab, and spent six months as a really terrible private investigator.
I recently signed a multi-book deal with HarperCollins for my debut thriller series. The first book in the series, THE MONARCH, is due out December 2, 2014. The second book—Dead Lights—is scheduled to follow next summer.
I live in a Toronto area dungeon where my girlfriend tosses meat and beer over a curtain for every ten manuscript pages I manage to finish.
Tell us about your new book, THE MONARCH.
Imitation is the deadliest form of flattery …
I was surfing the Internet looking for ideas for my third book when I came across this sentence: “There are more slaves in the world today than at any other time in human history.” It was followed by a number: thirty million.
As a writer, I’ve learned to listen to the little voice that says pay attention to this. Even though my books are set in Nashville and seemed far away from the things I reading about, I knew there was something here I needed to explore.
The number was an estimate, for obvious reasons. Modern-day slavery takes place in the shadows, with many of its victims unaccounted for in any census. But other experts and law enforcement agencies reported similar numbers, and a detailed document published by the International Labor Organization in 2005 reported ten million slaves in Asia alone. A UN report released in 2004 showed 700,000 children forced into domestic labor in Indonesia, more than half a million in Brazil and more than a quarter of a million in Haiti and in Pakistan. In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Benjamin Skinner, the author of A Crime So Monstrous, was offered a ten-year-old girl for fifty dollars.
Human trafficking is not only a third-world problem. Victims of both sexual and domestic servitude have been discovered throughout the United States, with high-profile cases in Florida, California, New York, and even sleepy New England. Nashville isn’t immune. A report released by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation revealed that trafficking cases have been identified in almost every county in the state. Nashville, with its convergence of three major interstates, is a hub for all manner of trafficking—drugs, guns, and humans.
By J. H. Bográn
In DRESSED TO KILL, Victor Espinoza, a short, youthful LAPD patrol officer, is sent undercover as a cross-dresser to catch a serial killer. His ambition to become a detective gets snarled when, ignoring his captain’s orders, he goes it alone. He establishes himself at the Velvet Glove, a Hollywood bar that caters to transvestites. The secret nature of his assignment strains his relationship with his girlfriend, Jannine—who wants to marry and start a family—but also puts him hot on the trail of the killer. Victor gets a little too close and now is targeted as the next victim.
THE BIG THRILL recently caught up with Alvarez to ask some questions about his intriguing new thriller.
Let’s tackle the origins of the story first, shall we?
Let me give you a few words of background. Here in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles LAPD sent an undercover police officer into a high school to glean information about a drug operation rooted there. He was a very youthful looking man who passed as a student. That news piece was followed by an experience my wife and I had in Chicago.
My brothers and sisters (I have eight of them) and their spouses were attending the wedding of my nephew and we all stayed at a major hotel near O’Hare Airport. We noticed that there were a significant number of very big women also staying there. Turns out the Cross-dressers of America were holding their annual convention there. My younger brother whose fuse is very short got into an argument with a couple cross-dressers at the bar.
Several years later I read of the murder of a cross-dresser here in the Valley and everything clicked. The story almost wrote itself. I just added in the bar scene for dramatic binding of the novel’s topic.
Jack Ferrell, William Nikkel’s swashbuckling marine biologist, returns in BLOOD GOLD, his fifth adventure, which takes him to South America to investigate the source of lethal toxins in the Mazaruni River.
In this outing, Ferrell, who’s won fans including bestselling authors James Rollins and Thomas Perry, must battle not just an ecological crisis but also a trio of villains driven by greed and uninhibited by compassion.
As the author notes, Jack has a way of being at the wrong place at the right time. This tale starts as he’s investigating a strange increase in shark attacks. An assault on a beautiful woman makes a more immediate demand on Jack’s attention, and he’s soon embroiled in an ecological mystery that points to a quest for gold in the Guyanese jungle that could cost lives and devastate the rainforest.
Nikkel, a former police officer, joined THE BIG THRILL for a few questions about his latest book, his hero and the inspiration for the story.
Your hero in BLOOD GOLD is part of a team facing a major ecological crisis. Was there a particular real life incident that inspired the tale?
There was no real-life incident involving a research team, at least that I know of, but the ecological crisis in South America is quite real. The high price of gold has brought about a modern-day gold rush in the South American rainforests that has caused the large-scale destruction of a vital ecological resource to the entire world. Along with logging, vast expanses of the rainforest are disappearing every day from large-scale mining operations that clear away trees and topsoil to get to the gold-bearing gravels. In addition, there have been documented cases of mercury and cyanide runoff from the open-pit mining operations polluting the waterways and killing off aquatic life.
By Cathy Clamp
“We find the defendant not guilty,” is an instant attention grabber for the opening line of a new thriller series. But there’s more. While Miranda Vaughn might have walked out of the courtroom a free woman, suspicion still hangs over her head. Losing her job at the prestigious investment firm where she worked was only the beginning of her problems. The trial, for a fraud scheme involving her supervisors, also cast a cloud of suspicion over her reputation and sent the fiancé she thought would stand by her out the door.
Ellie Ashe’s debut amateur sleuth/romantic suspense novel CHASING THE DOLLAR has plenty of thrilling moments. Miranda and her cast of quirky family and friends will instantly endear themselves to readers. New York Times author Gemma Halliday gives high marks to the book as being “high stakes, high energy and a highly humorous good time.”
Ashe, a former journalist and lawyer from northern California spins an excellent tale of an intelligent and determined woman pushed too far. With her life in shambles, it’s no surprise that the jury verdict isn’t enough for Miranda. Who could move forward with their life with the knowledge that someone set them up to take the fall?
Did you ever have one of those days? You know the kind, when nothing seems to go right? Richie has.
In DEATH AND WHITE DIAMONDS, Richie’s girlfriend suggests a romantic getaway, promising him a weekend he will never forget. So why can’t he remember what happened, when he finds her lifeless body on the beach? Richie is fairly certain he didn’t kill his girlfriend, but his memory is hazy. One thing, however, is clear. When Lorraine’s body is found, he’s going to be the prime suspect in a murder investigation. Disposing of the body turns out to be harder than Richie could have imagined. Losing it, however, is easy.
When he’s not writing or at his day job, you can find Jeff Markowitz blogging. In doing a little research, I stumbled upon a most interesting post. On March 3, 2014, he wrote:
Some of you are familiar with a writing exercise that I refer to as finding the dead body. It is an exercise in finding story ideas. Over the years, I have found dead bodies in all sorts of settings—an elevator at the Kennedy Center, a middle-eastern bar on M Street in Georgetown, at O’Hare, floating in the water off of Fells Point, on Amtrak, and on the beach in Cape May. Each time that I find a body, I write a couple of sentences and file it away. Later, it might become a story. Or not.
By Ethan Cross
The third book in the Z7 series, THE SIEGE OF SEVEN CITY, follows the citizens of a community of reborn zombies called Seven City. After the events of the previous book Seven City finds itself in bad shape, having lost one of their leaders and being exposed to the world. Now they will have to defend themselves as the people that fear and hate them prepare for an all out attack.
Tell us about THE SIEGE OF SEVEN CITY in one line.
The third book in my Z7 series, THE SIEGE OF SEVEN CITY is about a secret colony of former-zombies that are forced to fight off an attack when the outside world finally learns that they exist.
What kind of research did you conduct for THE SIEGE OF SEVEN CITY?
Since this was the third book in the series, I can’t really say that I did a lot of research for this one that I didn’t already do for the previous two. For them I had to learn some basics about microbiology and epidemiology to make the zombie virus a little more plausible (which is not the same as being scientifically accurate. I certainly had to fudge a few facts in order to get the virus to work the way I needed it to for the story). This book deals a little more with the political implications of a zombie virus than the previous books did, but because it is set in the future after the virus has already mostly run its course I was able to make up quite a bit.
By John Raab
Steven James brings his epic Patrick Bowers series to an exploding conclusion with CHECKMATE. The bestselling author of more than three dozen books put his master’s degree in storytelling to good use in this compelling and satisfying end to the series that began with James’s riveting, The Pawn. Already, CHECKMATE has been named a Suspense Magazine Best Book of 2014.
Despite the end of an era, James fans need not fear, the author is hard at work on more novels. And, as he recently explained to THE BIG THRILL, it may not be the last fans see of Patrick Bowers.
CHECKMATE is the last book in your Patrick Bowers series. Give us a little insight into how the series wraps up.
Well, without giving too much away, I can say that a few years ago when I was writing one of the other books in the series I was truly frightened by the antagonist. I had nightmares and actually had to set the book aside for a month before coming back to it. So, I’ve wanted to see that villain return and now, at last, he does—along with Patrick Bowers’s nemesis, who has been lurking in the background for much of the series. So, Patrick has to face both of them and stop a plot that involves one of the deadliest attacks ever on U.S. soil. It creates an unexpected ending with a lot of twists along the way.
You don’t outline before you write your novels, so the ending of the series was a surprise to you also, but when did you realize exactly how it would end?
That’s a good question. I really work hard to make sure that each addition to my series is unique and not a cookie-cutter plot, so as I worked on this book I kept thinking, “I could use a knife fight… no, wait, I did that earlier.” Or, “I could have a chase scene in a warehouse… no, been there, done that.” So, while I wanted to avoid repetition and I had lots of promises to keep from the previous seven books, I wanted something unique, exciting, and unforgettable. It wasn’t until about a month or so until my deadline that I came up with that ending. It took some long days of writing and editing to pull it all together. I honestly believe that writing organically and being open to the story’s direction are some of the keys to great storytelling. I have yet to write a book in which I knew the ending when I started writing it. I love twists and I figure that if I’m not surprised by the direction of the story most of my readers won’t be either.
By Jeff Ayers
In Nicholas Pengelley’s first novel, RYDER, Ayesha Ryder bears the scars of strife in the Middle East. Now her past is catching up to her as she races to unravel a mystery that spans centuries—and threatens to change the course of history.
As Israeli and Palestinian leaders prepare to make a joint announcement at the Tower of London, an influential scholar is tortured and murdered in his well-appointed home in St. John’s Wood. Academic researcher Ayesha Ryder believes the killing is no coincidence. Sir Evelyn Montagu had unearthed shocking revelations about T. E. Lawrence—the famed Lawrence of Arabia. Could Montagu have been targeted because of his discoveries?
Ryder’s search for answers takes her back to her old life in the Middle East and into a lion’s den of killers and traitors. As she draws the attention of agents from both sides of the conflict, including detectives from Scotland Yard and MI5, Ryder stumbles deeper into Lawrence’s secrets, an astounding case of royal blackmail, even the search for the Bible’s lost Ark of the Covenant.
Every step of the way, the endgame grows more terrifying. But when an attack rocks London, the real players show their hand—and Ayesha Ryder is left holding the final piece of the puzzle.
Pengelley chatted with THE BIG THRILL.
With your extensive background, what made you decide to start writing?
I’ve loved books and writing for as long as I can remember. In fact I’ve been writing for many years now—decades in fact. Until comparatively recently, though, my writing was all academic. I’ve published a great many law-related articles, and written a one-hundred thousand word thesis for my PhD. When, a few years ago, I finally sat down to try my hand at fiction I thought, “I’ve written a lot of non-fiction, and I’ve read a lot of books. So of course I can write a novel. Oh boy! I had a lot to learn. Fiction is way harder than non-fiction. Then there’s the whole process of getting published, which is akin to climbing Everest.
By Don Helin
In COLD LIGHT OF DAY, physicist Scarlett Stone is the daughter of the man considered to be the most notorious Russian agent in FBI history, but with the help of FBI Special Agent, Matt Lazlo, she’s determined to prove he’s innocent. As Scarlett and Matt dig for the truth, they begin to fall for one another. But the real spy isn’t about to let anyone uncover their secrets, and resolves to remain firmly in the shadows—and for that to happen, Matt and Scarlett have to die.
Toni Anderson is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. A former marine biologist, Anderson traveled the world for her work. After living in six different countries, she finally settled down in the Canadian prairies with her husband and two children. Combining her love of travel with her love of romantic suspense, Anderson writes stories based in some of the places she has been fortunate enough to visit.
She is the author of several novels including Dark Waters, The Killing Game, and A Cold Dark Place. Her novels have been nominated for the prestigious Romance Writers of America® RITA® Award, Daphne du Maurier Awards, and National Readers’ Choice Awards in Romantic Suspense.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Toni the other day and ask her a few questions.
Is there anything special you’d like to tell us about COLD LIGHT OF DAY?
COLD LIGHT OF DAY is the third book in my Cold Justice Series (Romantic Suspense books). The Cold Justice Series loosely follows agents in the FBI’s BAU-4 unit, but the books have plots ranging from serial killers, political conspiracies, terrorist attacks, and in this third book, a classic espionage tangle.
From an early age, Elizabeth Heiter always knew she wanted to write novels.
“I’ve always been drawn to fiction—I love it. I love getting lost in it and figuring out the mental puzzle of a mystery… I took as many creative writing classes in college as I could because I’ve always known I wanted to do this. I almost went to law school, but decided no—I wanted to write books more,” said Heiter, of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, who graduated from The University of Michigan in 2001 with her undergraduate degree in English literature.
Heiter has a slew of books coming out in the months ahead. The first of four books is Vanished, the second book in the Profiler series of mystery-thrillers, which will be released Dec. 30. After that, each book in The Lawmen trilogy—Disarming Detective, Seduced by the Sniper, S.W.A.T. Secret Admirer—will be released one after the other in February, March, and April, respectively.
Vanished, the sequel to Hunted—which debuted in late 2013—features FBI criminal profiler Evelyn Baine.
“I knew I wanted to write about a profiler,” recalled Heiter. “I started reading about profiling; it was really fascinating to me that you could have someone go to a crime scene where there weren’t any suspects because the victim didn’t really have any enemies and there wasn’t any good forensic evidence to use, but you could get someone to just look at a crime scene… (and say) what kind of person had done it. I thought that was so fascinating, so I knew I wanted to write a profiler.”
Heiter made it clear that Evelyn is not psychic. “I didn’t want Evelyn to be psychic in any way; I wanted her to do the work. I wanted her to understand it in a way so that when she profiles something, I would be doing it properly. So I took a lot of old cases and tried to profile them, then compare it to the outcome to see how I did. I could make up a crime scene, have her look at it and say, ‘Okay, this is the kind of person that I would suspect did it.’ I really wanted it to be accurate,” she explained.
The Big Thrill caught up with Tiffany Snow, romantic suspense author of The Kathleen Turner Series, Blank Slate and most recently, The Tangled Ivy Trilogy. IN HIS SHADOW is Book One in the new series and features Ivy Mason, a beautiful yet tortured soul, afraid to let anyone get close to her. Enter Devon Clay, a charming and mysterious man determined to insinuate himself into Ivy’s life. Sparks fly as Ivy becomes increasingly unable to resist Devon’s charms and finally succumbs to his advances. She soon discovers that he harbors a dangerous secret and that she risks losing more than just her heart.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Not at all. I actually worked in the I.T. field as a network engineer, technical trainer, and consultant. I never considered writing as a career, and perhaps wouldn’t have had the patience for it at an earlier time in my life.
What drew you to romance writing?
I’ve always loved to read and became hooked on romance at a very young age reading Kathleen Woodiwiss, Gone With the Wind, and devouring my mother’s copies of Danielle Steele, Judith Krantz, and Jackie Collins novels. There is nothing greater than love. I would argue love is what motivates the greatest portion of our life and choices. Perhaps “romance” isn’t the right word, because really it’s love—falling in love, out of love, searching for love, what you’d do for love—that is what drew me to writing.
When did your writing career begin?
I began writing in 2010. A particular romance trope I’ve always been fond of is the love triangle (it’s that Gone With the Wind influence at such a tender age). I wanted to write my own love triangle, and since I’m also a Nancy Drew fan (I did read some other genres growing up), my first series, The Kathleen Turner Series, was an homage to her, combining current events into mysteries wrapped around a love story.
By Brian Knight and Ellie Knight
Emmy Rushford convinces her sixth-grade classmates to help her provide food for two hungry children. The project quickly turns perilous when the needy children, and their mother, vanish. As Emmy tries to find out what happened to them, she must deal with a car crash, a belligerent neighbor, a cat thrown into a Dumpster, and the necessity of keeping her actions secret from her parents in order to protect her mother’s job.
Peg Kehret’s new novel, DANGEROUS DECEPTION, is now available from Dutton, and Peg was kind enough to let me and the best young reader I know—my sixteen year-old daughter, Ellie—talk to her about it.
Hi Peg. Thanks for the opportunity to visit with you.
Hi, Brian and Ellie. Thanks for asking me. I always like a chance to talk about my books.
Brian: Your new release, DANGEROUS DECEPTION, seems to be a blend of drama and comedy, a serious premise spiced with unexpected and outlandish twists and turns. Is it as funny as the synopsis leads me to believe?
Although there’s some funny dialogue in the classroom scenes, DANGEROUS DECEPTION is definitely a suspense story, not a comedy.
Ellie: Is Dramady (Drama / Comedy) your favorite genre?
My favorite genre is memoir, both to read and to write. I’ve published three: SMALL STEPS: THE YEAR I GOT POLIO is the true story of when I was paralyzed from the neck down when I was twelve. FIVE PAGES A DAY: A WRITER’S JOURNEY tells how I became a professional writer, including the many rejections and the 50-words-or-less about Kraft Macaroni and Cheese that won me a new car. My most recent memoir (Dutton 2012) is ANIMALS WELCOME: A LIFE OF READING, WRITING AND RESCUE.
New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper alternates between writing contemporary suspense and historical novels. But in FORBIDDEN GROUND, book #2 in her new contemporary trilogy, she has managed to combine her love of the intriguing past with fast-paced, modern-day action. THE BIG THRILL caught up with her between publicity gigs—a speech at the Ohio Librarians Conference and the annual Buckeye Book Fair.
Can you tell us about your new book?
FORBIDDEN GROUND is the middle novel in THE COLD CREEK TRILOGY, set on the edge of Appalachia. Three sisters left their small town for “bigger lives,” but are drawn back—and each faces danger and death—and finds a local man to love. In FORBIDDEN GROUND, Kate Lockwood thinks she’s only in town for her sister’s wedding, but soon becomes embroiled in a mystery: What is in the ancient Adena tomb in the backyard of Grant Mason’s house? Kate, an archeologist is dying to excavate the tomb to see if it contains royal corpses and valuable relics, but Grant insists, “Let the dead stay dead.” Though she’s falling for him, she fears she can’t trust him—but he’s not the only one hiding deadly secrets.
So in the trilogy, Kate takes center stage in the middle book and her sisters in SHATTERED SECRETS and BROKEN BONDS?
That’s right. The three women are very different. Kate’s the bright, educated, well-traveled one. Charlene in BROKEN BONDS is the ‘bleeding heart’ who wants to help the poor children of Appalachia. The youngest, Tess, is the one with the traumatic past who bring the three sisters together in the little town they thought they had fled forever.
But ancient tombs in Appalachian Ohio? What a combination!
That’s what I thought too. After sixty novels published, why hadn’t I thought of using the prehistoric Adena Indian culture before? Their burial mounds are scattered from the U.S. east coat to the Mississippi, but many are in central and southern Ohio near where I went to college and live now.
By Kay Kendall
Tim Hallinan is a writer’s writer. Search for him online and you will find platoons of famous authors who admire Hallinan’s work. During his stellar career, he has produced three series of thrillers with outstanding reviews. Surprisingly, his is not yet a household name, but that is about to change. As the year draws to a close, 2014 holds promise as Hallinan’s breakout year.
For one, there’s the success of his Junior Bender series, starring an LA-based thief who moonlights as a private eye for other criminals. Book two in the series, LITTLE ELVISES, was nominated for the Silver Falchion (August 2014) and is also a current nominee for the Shamus, to be presented at Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach, California. Book three, THE FAME THIEF, was nominated for the Lefty award at Left Coast Crime (March 2014). Were that not enough, the series has
been bought for NBC television primetime by British actor and comedian Eddie Izzard. The pairing of Izzard and Junior Bender is inspired. Bender, the master thief, has comic characteristics as well as deep wells of sorrow he occasionally dips into, more as he ages through the novels. Izzard will produce and possibly star in the new series. Beyond Junior Bender, let’s not forget Hallinan’s incredible Simeon Grist series, featuring a hard-boiled, over-educated private eye.
But what may cement 2014 as Hallinan’s breakout year, is the latest book in his Poke Rafferty series, featuring adventurous travel writer Rafferty who has settled down in Bangkok, Thailand, with his reconstructed family comprised of wife Rose, a former Bangkok bar girl, and their adopted daughter, Miaow. Debuting on November 4, book six of the series—FOR THE DEAD—focuses on teenaged Miaow’s struggle to reconcile her former life on the Bangkok streets with her current circumstances—living with Poke and Rose in comparative luxury. Miaow’s boyfriend is the son of a diplomat, and they attend a pricey private school. Still, Miaow wonders where she really belongs, and why crooked police are trying to kill her.
A decade ago, if you’d walked into a bookstore looking for a zombie novel, you would have found only two: Brian Keene’s The Rising and Joe McKinney’s Dead City. Long recognized as one of the driving voices that launched the world’s fascination with the living dead, Joe McKinney’s Dead World novels have emerged as seminal works in the Horror genre.
Now, collected for the first time in Dead World Resurrection, are all of Joe McKinney’s zombie short stories. The zombie has grown up since Joe McKinney first penned Dead City, yet he has continued to stand out among the throng of voices telling tales of the undead. Dead World Resurrection shows why.
Brian Keene, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Rising says Dead World Resurrection is “a merciless, fast-paced and genuinely scary read that will leave you absolutely breathless” and Weston Ochse, author of Empire of Salt, claims “McKinney writes zombies like he’s been gunning them down all his life.”
McKinney recently answered a few questions for THE BIG THRILL.
You’ve been at the forefront of keeping zombies alive for readers since before their rise in popularity. What propelled you to put together this collection now?
Routine clean-up of my Dropbox account, actually. I have a tendency to let files build up for a while before I get the bug to clean stuff up and organize. I was on one of those cleaning sprees about a year ago, getting miscellaneous files put into order, when I realized that I had written and published about a hundred and fifty thousand words worth of zombie short stories. That was enough for a book, a pretty fat book, actually, as far as single author story collections go, and so I started shopping it around. Christopher Payne at JournalStone got excited about the project right away, and the next thing you know, the collection was underway.
But it also made sense timing-wise. I’ve been a professional writer for ten years now, and the stories in this collection cover that entire decade. Ten years seemed like a nice round number, so I went ahead and pulled the trigger on the collection.
In a special international interview, German thriller writer Kathrin Lange recently sat down with Switzerland’s breakout crime writer Monika Mansour, to talk about Mansour’s debut release, Liebe – Sünde – Tod (Love – Sin – Death).
Liebe – Sünde – Tod has two completely different settings. On the one side, the world of nightclubs and prostitution, on the other, the hard life of truckers. How did you decide on this contrast of settings?
It was clear from the beginning that my police team is from Lucerne, a very safe place, but I wanted a murder in a red light district. And therefore Zurich’s Langstrasse was an ideal setting. I grew up just outside Zurich and live now in Lucerne. So those two places were perfect for my first crime novel. And to connect these two places, the truckers were just what I needed.
Your protagonist Cem Cengiz is Turkish, but was raised and works in Switzerland. What prompted you to give him this background?
Switzerland is not only that cliché of mountains, lovely cows, and cheese. Around twenty percent of the people living in Switzerland are not native. Our little country is multicultural. And this is what I wanted to show. We have many people who grew up in Switzerland with parents from other cultures. We call them ‘Secondos’. Cem is one of them. I wanted to show that conflict of living and working as a Swiss, but still feel, in his case, as a Turkish, when he’s sitting with his family. I know this conflict myself. My husband is Egyptian. And where we live, there are families from Turkey, Iraq, Kosovo, Sri Lanka, Syria, and some Swiss too. A mix of cultures. And I love it. When you’re willing to meet all these people, it is really fascinating how it opens your eyes to the world.
By Ian Walkley
DEATH SENTENCES (from Crime Wave Press) had me at page one, and not many other novels would I say that about. Michael Zimecki writes fiction, nonfiction and plays while continuing to work as an attorney. From inner-city Detroit, hehas been a steelworker, advertising copywriter, medical editor, and teacher before taking up law. He has written for Harper’s Magazine, The National Law Journal, College English, and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, among other publications.
A novella, The History of My Final Illness (Eclectica Magazine, Jan/Feb 2011), about the last five days in the life of Joseph Stalin, appeared in Eclectica Magazine. A play, Negative Velocity, about the father of the atom-bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, is a past winner of the New Playwright’s Contest of the Fremont Center Theatre.
In DEATH SENTENCES, we have the story of Peter “Pop” Popovich—an unemployed glazier, anti-Semite, and white supremacist who is pushed over the edge by his problem-plagued mother, an unresponsive lover, an uncaring stepfather, and the right-wing media hate machine that tells him liberals want to take away his guns and his liberty. While he waits to be executed for his crimes, “Pop” pens a novel about life on Death Row in which he reprises the crimes that landed him there.
Michael, you clearly have some views about American society and politics that you convey through your fiction (very cleverly, I might add). How did you come to choose “Pop” as the way to do this in your debut novel?
I wanted to get inside a mind that believes the lies broadcast by the American right-wing noise machine and see what it is like to inhabit it for a while. It’s a scary place. I can tell you that. It’s also very real. If it wasn’t, kids like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown wouldn’t be shot to death in places like Sanford, Florida and Ferguson, Missouri.