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Between the Lines: Megan Abbott

Finding Darkness in Bright, Shiny Places


you will know meBy Nancy Bilyeau

A video went viral after the London Olympics, taken of the parents of American gymnast Aly Raisman as they watched her compete on the uneven bars. The couple flinched, drew together and leaned back as one, fixated on their daughter. Although sitting in the spectators’ area, the gymnast’s parents seemed to move as she moved, utterly unaware of how they might appear.

Reaction to the video on the Internet was amused, scornful, and appalled. How could it be healthy for parents to be that identified with their daughter?

Novelist Megan Abbott had an altogether different response. Could she explore the world of female competitive gymnastics—specifically, the family of the gymnast—in her next novel of suspense? The answer to that question is YOU WILL KNOW ME. In the novel, the tensions of a close suburban family, devoted to the high-stakes training of talented teenage Devon Knox, explode after a sudden death in their gymnast community. Devon’s mother, Katie, finds her life unraveling as she realizes not only her daughter (on an Olympics track) but also her obsessed-with-greatness husband are becoming unknowable to her.

“I’ve always been interested in the families of prodigies and how the power circulates,” Abbott says.  “With parents of teenagers, there’s the moment when you realize there are things about them you will never know.” If that child is the focus of the family because of an exceptional talent, then it becomes even more difficult to maintain control.

Abbott’s work has won critical acclaim for her stylish prose, descriptive power and complex characterizations: “Crushed cocktail parasols gathered on the sills and crumpled leis collected in the corners like parade remnants catching on her feet, heels too high, too narrow, and she found Devon in the restroom, washing her face, washing all the performance makeup away. Turning to her mother, she looked oddly blank.”

Each novel takes Abbott at least a year to draft.  “I work on pacing the most,” she says. “Character has always been the place I begin, my anchor, but suspense comes in the later drafts, in rewriting. With immense help from my agent Dan Conaway and my editor Reagan Arthur. It’s very hard to read your own work for the hundredth time and understand how suspense operates. I count on them!”

Abbott, not an athlete as a child, grew up in a bookish Michigan family. Yet she remembers her entire family revolving around her brother’s baseball games for a time and drew on that dynamic in creating the fourth member of the Knox family, Devon’s younger brother Drew, more interested in science than balance beams. He is the one who sees things perhaps the most clearly in the entire family—and becomes a figure of poignant tragedy.

In her first books, Abbott’s focus was on crime and noir. Two of them reference notorious crimes. The Song Is You is based on the disappearance of Jean Spangler in 1949, and Bury Me Deep on the 1931 case of Winnie Ruth Judd, who is known as  “the Trunk Murderess.” She is also the author of a nonfiction book, The Street Was Mine: White Masculinity in Hardboiled Fiction and Film Noir, and the editor of A Hell of a Woman, an anthology of female crime fiction.

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Africa Scene: Michéle Rowe by Michael Sears

Finding the Psychological Truths

Hour of Darkness - Michele Rowe - HR (1)By Michael Sears

Michéle Rowe is an author, script writer and story originator for film and television with a big reputation and a string of prizes to her name, as well as nominations for an Oscar for Best Documentary and an International Emmy award.  When she turned her hand to writing crime fiction, she was equally successful.  In 2011 she won the UK Crime Writers Association’s Debut Dagger, and in 2013 her debut novel, What Hidden Lies, was published in South Africa to critical acclaim (and later in North America and Germany).  It’s the first book in a trilogy featuring the continuing main characters.  The second novel, HOUR OF DARKNESS, was recently released by Penguin Random House South Africa.

HOUR OF DARKNESS has an intriguing premise: while we’re all doing the right thing by switching off our lights for Earth Hour, that darkness gives criminals the opportunity to strike. Annette Petroussis, mother of three young children, is attacked in her home in Cape Town by two armed robbers.  They are obviously amateurs, but that only heightens our fear for Annette’s life.  The outcome is quite unexpected. Was this always part of the plan for the book or did it develop with the story? 

I don’t plan much before I begin writing, rather everything flows from my characters’ inner worlds. Their responses and choices are largely determined by past experiences. I am as much interested in the power dynamic between the characters, their backgrounds, the motive, and the circumstances that lead up to the crime, as in the incident itself.

In HOUR OF DARKNESS Annette has to override the biological imperative to protect her young and try to rationally weigh up the best chance of survival for her family. I wanted to write about a crime that was chaotic and poorly executed, where the perpetrators were as fearful and reactive as the victim. These violent incidents have a kind of inner logic, if you can follow it, and I think the outcome of the home invasion in HOUR OF DARKNESS has a kind of psychological truth. Another subject that interests me is the unintended intimacy that can spring up between a perpetrator and victim, the way hidden power structures underlying human interaction are laid bare in these extreme situations.

There are a lot of big themes in HOUR OF DARKNESS: religion, township violence, corruption, internal strife in the police.  How did you pull all these together?

I don’t consciously think they are separable but as the warp and weft of the fabric of the society my characters inhabit. The themes you mention are the preoccupations of our time, the way the state exerts power through structures like the police force, violence as a form of protest and control, corruption as an inevitable outcome of an unequal society.
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Industry Focus: Richard Kevolin

From Coffee Shop to Big Screen:
Hollywood for Writers

screenplayBy Layton Green

This month I have a special guest on International Thrills.  I’d wager that all writers have at least one mentor who has impacted their careers along the way, from high school English teachers to professional editors to older writers.  I have several, and one of them is Rich Krevolin, an extraordinary storyteller who has spent most of his life creating stories in various forms and imparting his wealth of knowledge to students the world over.  Rich is an award-winning screenwriter, author and playwright who taught for many years in the USC film school, considered by most to be the No. 1 film school in the world.   Rich has tutored more than 20,000 screenwriters and novelists, and his students have gone on to sell film scripts and TV shows to Universal, Fox, Paramount, Dreamworks SKG and numerous other big studios and production companies.

Many years ago, I signed up for one of Rich’s private seminars and was blown away by the breadth of his knowledge.  When I heard he was coming to ThrillerFest to teach the Masterclass on Screenwriting for Novelists, I jumped at the chance to chat with him in person and discuss his fascinating career, the art of storytelling, and the long hard road a novel has to travel to make it to the Big Screen.

Thanks for taking the time to chat, Rich. Before we get to the good stuff, the super-easy, five-step process for adapting a novel into a million-dollar screenplay, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you come to be the Buddha of Storytelling?“

As a grad student at USC, I was awarded a teaching fellowship and then I created a series of lectures that I started delivering around the country. At one of these lectures, an acquisitions editor, Paula Munier, heard me speak and told me I should write a book on writing, so I compiled my lectures and wrote my first non-fiction writing book, Screenwriting From the Soul. (Years later, Paula actually became my agent.)  Once that came out, I was swamped with scripts and manuscripts that people were emailing me. So, in a way, I sort of stumbled into it, or you might say it was thrust upon me as a result of my love of teaching.  And I kept doing it, because I enjoyed helping people and it’s one of the few jobs you can do in bed in your underwear.

You’re a published author, playwright and screenwriter. Do you find one path easier or harder than another?

Well, they’re all pretty freaking competitive. Think about it. If you study hard and work hard and finish med school or law school, there are thousands of jobs out there for qualified people. But the arts aren’t like that. Even if you get an MFA in writing, that doesn’t mean you can even make a living as a writer. So, they all are difficult, but today, there are also opportunities that didn’t exist before. You can self-publish, you can produce your own plays, you can make your own low-budget film based on your script. So for the person who loves it and refuses to take no for an answer, there are more options than ever. And recently, I have come to see that I have many more clients who are novelists rather than screenwriters. I think this has come about because of several factor: the spec script marketplace has dried up and there are a hell of a lot more novels published every year than TV and film projects that are produced.
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Turning Point: Hank Phillippi Ryan by Wendy Tyson

Writing a Gutsy Heroine From the Heart

air timeBy Wendy Tyson

Hank Phillippi Ryan is well known on several fronts. She’s an award-winning on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate and an award-winning bestselling crime author. Fans love her Charlotte McNally series and her Jane Ryland thrillers—as well as her anthologies and short stories. How does she do it all? This month in The Big Thrill, Hank shares a few of her secrets. She also gives us a glimpse into AIR TIME and DRIVE TIME, her two summertime releases from the popular Charlotte McNally series. Thanks to some innovative moves, Charlotte is back.

Congratulations on the recent release of AIR TIME and the upcoming release of DRIVE TIME. What an exciting summer—two releases in the Charlotte McNally Series in as many months.  Many readers know and love your Jane Ryland thrillers, but you actually wrote the Charlotte McNally series first, and now that series is back in print. Can you tell us something about AIR TIME that’s not on the back cover? DRIVE TIME?

Uh-oh. You’re going to make me reveal one of the pitfalls of being an investigative reporter as well as a crime fiction author.  The Charlotte McNally stories are so realistic, and so true to life for a reporter, that sometimes I get reality and fiction confused. (Happily the confusion is all on the fiction side. You can’t make stuff up for TV, right?)

First let me say how thrilled I am that the Charlie books are back in print. The initial releases had so many fans, and were so well received, and I actually jumped up and down when I learned Forge wanted to reissue them in those gorgeous new hardcovers. So I am endlessly grateful.

Anyway as a television reporter for 40 years, I am used to telling stories. And sometimes, in the midst of an investigation, a gem of an idea emerges that I know can grow into a compelling novel.

You know the first line of AIR TIME? “It’s never a good thing when the flight attendant is crying.” I actually said that, on a flight from Atlanta to Boston. The deadly runway incursion that had just taken place really happened. And I actually got off the plane and covered the story. What happens in the book is very different from what happened in real life. But that moment was my take-off point for AIR TIME. And trust me, you’ll never look at baggage claim the same way again.

DRIVE TIME too, has a scene or two that really took place. We did a big investigation about car recalls, and a high-tech method for stealing cars.  When you get to the part where Charlie is undercover at the car dealer? That’s me.  The diabolical scheme the bad guys use—I made that up. But it would work. Just saying.
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When the Music’s Over by Peter Robinson

Crime Fiction Ripped From the Headlines

WhentheMusicsOver_HCBy Nancy Bilyeau

In 1987, Inspector Allan Banks made his first appearance in the crime novel Gallows View. Canadian author Peter Robinson won glowing reviews for his novel, which followed Banks’ move from London to the Yorkshire town of Eastvale. This summer marks the 23rd outing for the tenacious Banks, in the novel WHEN THE MUSIC’S OVER.  In between the two publications, Robinson’s series has earned a loyal following, consistently good reviews, and awards ranging from the Anthony and the Barry to the Edgar and CWA’s Dagger in the Library.

WHEN THE MUSIC’S OVER is set in Eastvale, as were its predecessors. Robinson, who was born in Leeds, draws on his childhood memories of Yorkshire, in part, to create the fictional town.  Robinson has said: “Eastvale is modelled on North Yorkshire towns such as Ripon and Richmond, with cobbled market squares, rather than the kind with one main high street, like Northallerton or Thirsk. I had to make it much larger than those towns, of course, otherwise who would believe there could be that many murders? I’ve probably killed the population of the Yorkshire Dales three times over as it is!”

His new novel is a taut and well constructed mystery that, while following a murder investigation, also fearlessly plunges into controversies raging in England in recent years. Robinson, a Toronto resident who teaches writing, discusses his work with The Big Thrill.


In WHEN THE MUSIC’S OVER, you write about not one but two highly polarizing subjects: the connection between young, poor English women and immigrant sex trafficking, and the past sexual crimes of a celebrity. What motivated you to incorporate both? Do you see a thematic connection?

Yes. I first thought it might be two different novels and then I realized that the stories shared a theme. In both cases, underage girls are exploited and abused by men, and those individuals and institutions supposed to help them—also mostly men—fail to do so for a variety of reasons, different in each case. Running the two stories together also allowed me to compare and contrast sexual attitudes of the late 1960s with those of today.

How important is it to bring social inequality and injustices and pressures into crime fiction, and not just write a murder-mystery procedural?

It depends on the writer. For many, the straightforward murder-mystery procedural is enough. I’ve written some books like that, myself, and I’m proud of them. But one of the things that drew me to crime fiction in the first place—through Chandler, Ross Macdonald, Simenon and Sjöwall and Wahloo—was that it is also an excellent way to highlight society’s failings and injustices.
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Killer Look by Linda Fairstein

Murder in New York’s Garment District

killer lookBy Dawn Ius

Each of Linda Fairstein’s Alex Cooper crime novels is set in an iconic part of New York —from the opera house to Lincoln Center, and all points inbetween.

In KILLER LOOK, Fairstein’s 18th book in the bestselling series, she tackles the Garment District with a thrilling exploration of the city’s famous fashion industry. But this is no clichéd catwalk drama or model in distress story. Instead, Fairstein goes behind the scenes to uncover the dark underbelly of the industry’s business core.

“One of the challenges was to not write about the runway model as a victim,” she says. “That’s been done, and overdone. But the Garment District has been on my mind for a long time, in part fueled by my own love of fashion.”

A lunch meeting with an industry insider solidified the story, confirming that not only was there motive for murder in the fashion business, but the beauty industry as a whole is reputed to be one of the most cut throat. As Fairstein learned, fortunes are spent outsourcing cheap labor for what is now a four-trillion-dollar industry.

“That’s trillion with a T,” she says. “When I read that, it was a real wake-up call.”

But motive was only part of the equation. After writing 17 previous Alex Cooper thrillers, Fairstein had fictionally murdered people in every which way possible. Tapping into the knowledge of an old police friend she met during her 30 years as a lawyer in New York’s prosecutor’s office, Fairstein was fortunate to score a relatively new method of death.

“I did a lot of research on creating the perfect suicide,” she says, which is of course, how KILLER LOOK starts.

The novel also begins with Fairstein’s beloved protagonist at her most vulnerable. After the traumatic events of the previous book, Devil’s Bridge, “Coop” must now cope with having been the victim of a horrifying kidnapping. Perpetually drunk and deeply depressed, Cooper is far from on top of her game, forcing Fairstein to humanize her in a way that was nearly too painful to write.
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Friend of the Devil by Mark Spivak

Friend of the Devil front coverBy Amy Lignor

Although Mark Spivak is an award-winning author, he has just recently taken his first foray into fiction. With a background as a writer and editor in the areas of wine, food, and culinary travel, Spivak’s debut novel is about America’s most famous chef…and the deal he makes to achieve fame and fortune. Now working on a political thriller, Spivak does not wish to hold himself to any one specific genre. Instead, as he explained in our interview, his multitude of thoughts and ideas make for an exciting future as he walks a variety of paths to create memorable stories.


This is your first fiction title after publishing non-fiction work. Can you tell readers the differences between the two, and whether you found it more difficult to create fiction?

They’re very different processes, obviously, but it’s much harder to get a novel published. With non-fiction, the author is usually an expert in a particular field and has a following that he/she can demonstrate or quantify. Debut novelists are total cyphers to publishers.

Could you give readers a short synopsis of your debut novel, FRIEND OF THE DEVIL?

FRIEND OF THE DEVIL tells the story of America’s most celebrated chef; a man who has cut a deal with Satan for culinary greatness. It’s really a tale of human obsession and greed. David Fox, a freelance writer from New York, goes to Florida to do a story on the 25th anniversary of the restaurant. He’s immediately attracted to the restaurant’s hostess, which unknowingly puts him in competition with the chef. He’s even more intrigued with the chef himself, who is charismatic and manipulative. David has heard all the rumors about the chef being demonically possessed.

The chef invites David to write his biography. David accepts, and finds himself caught in a vortex of romantic rivalry, drug dealing and murder. There’s a unique twist at the end, which of course I won’t give away….

If you knew that a thousand years from now, someone wanting to be an author would dig up a time capsule with a note in it from you offering advice, what would your letter say?

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Shattered by Death by Catherine Finger

shatteredBy Catherine Finger

As a thriller writer, my Judeo-Christian roots are on display every time I create the classic Good v. Evil scenario inherent in the genre. I love playing with the idea of justice, and choosing whether or not the good girl or guy will win in the end.  And I really enjoy the process of creating a memorable bad guy or girl.

My goal as I craft thrillers is to come up with an antagonist worthy of Police Chief Jo Oliver—my protagonist.  Nothing makes my heroine look better than pitting her against a skilled antagonist. Nothing makes my readers respect her more than watching her put herself in harm’s way in order to protect others from a cunning adversary. Creating bad guys—and girls—who are smarter, stronger, and maybe just a step or two ahead of Chief Josie makes my heart sing.  And when my heart sings, my stories sing.

Ever wonder where ideas for creating killer characters come from? Join me for dinner sometime! One of my favorite conversational questions is this little beauty: if you could kill someone and get away with it, how would you do it? I’ve posed this question to dinner companions; seatmates on planes, trains, and automobiles; and recently to a man I met on an ocean kayak tour. Once the initial shock wears off, you’d be surprised at the number of thoughtful answers I’ve received over the years!

The killer in my second book came to me as a result of one such dinner conversation. I knew I wanted to create a seemingly trustworthy foe, and throw Chief Josie under the bus of suspicion early on. The killer instincts of this particular adversary unfolded as the story developed, contrasting nicely with unexpected character traits like loyalty, wisdom, and perseverance.
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Deadly Secrets by Jen Talty

Two adirondack chairs on a deck at sunsetBy Cathy Perkins

Bestselling author and business entrepreneur Jen Talty transitioned from teaching and training business software applications to handling the technical end of a digital publishing company. Along the way, she made the leap from hockey mom to romantic suspense author.  And what suspense she writes! Or as NYT bestselling author Jennifer Probst put it, “DEADLY SECRETS is the best of romance and suspense in one hot read!”

DEADLY SECRETS is a romantic suspense thrill ride. Patty Harmon had a plan for her life. What she planned as a “moment” with New York State Trooper Reese McGinn interrupts that agenda when Patty finds herself pregnant. Constantly on the move trying to escape the past, McGinn had vowed never to put down roots. With a child on the way, he decides it’s time to forget the past, but a deadly secret rises from the grave, threatening to take away everything he thought he never wanted.

Jen stepped away from her busy schedule to answer a few questions for The Big Thrill.

DEADLY SECRETS is the third in your New York State Troopers series. Tell us something about the book that isn’t mentioned in the published book description.

One of the themes throughout the book is how family secrets, even if they are intended to protect loved ones, can destroy the person the secret is supposed to protect and potentially destroy future families.

Hmm, irony at it’s best. Rather than a series with continuing characters, Troopers seems to be linked by one of your main characters’ profession – state trooper. Do you intend to write more of the linked stories or will you follow your characters into a new adventure?

I’ve already started the fourth book in the series. Its Stacey Sutten’s story, tentatively titled The Accused. We first meet Stacey in DEADLY SECRETS. What has happened with this series is each book contains a secondary character my readers and I fall in love with and we all want to know their story. I’m not far enough into the draft of The Accused to see which secondary character will be the next story, and if it will be a trooper. Could be moving toward a new series!
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The Short List by Frank Zafiro and Eric Beetner

short listBy Guy Bergstrom

Two partners, working together—that’s the foundation of many crime novels.

THE SHORT LIST adds two more twists: there are alternating chapters from the heroes, Cam and Bricks, written by the partnership of authors Eric Beetner and Frank Zafiro.

Zafiro lives in Washington State and served as a police officer for 20 years. Beetner is a crime author based in LA. While they’ve both written a long list of other novels, this is the second time they’ve collaborated on a Cam and Bricks story.

Beetner took time to explain how this partnership happened and what they expect for the future.

What inspired you to team up for this project?

Frank and I have known each other online for a while, ever since I did a cover for him a few years back. Since then I’ve done several covers for Frank’s books and I really liked what I’d read of his. We started discussing collaborating since we’d both done it with other authors and had enjoyed the process. We hit on this idea and it flowed really well from there so the idea of a second book (and soon a third) was a no brainer.

For THE SHORT LIST we keep to the same basic structure of The Backlist with alternating chapters from Cam and Bricks, but now they are in a different place in their partnership. Cam is still a train wreck though, and Bricks is still smarter than he is.
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Nomad by James Swallow

nomad_coverBy Charlie Cochrane

When I read James Swallows’s bio I had a distinct I-am-not-worthy moment. He’s a bestseller, a BAFTA nominee—but thank goodness he’s also a really nice guy, who answered my questions with both wit and wisdom. Writes a nifty book, too.

How do you compare scriptwriting and novel writing?

At the end of the day, it’s all just storytelling. Plot is plot, characters are characters and it doesn’t matter if you’re writing prose fiction or an opera.  But I think the real, qualitative difference is in the toolkit a writer has to tell that story. A story presented in a script offers opportunities to explore narrative in ways that a novel can’t, and vice-versa. That’s why I love being able to do both–it’s like exercising different muscle groups.

Have you ever been writing and discovered something totally unexpected about one of your characters?

I tend to plot pretty deeply so reveals that emerge unexpectedly as I write don’t happen often–but yeah, there are times when a character’s voice will assert itself and you’ll realize that their reaction to a given situation isn’t what you first expected it to be. To me, that’s a sign you’ve given them a degree of life beyond the page.

NOMAD appears to be a departure from your usual genres. Why the change? What were the challenges in stepping into pastures new?

I’ve certainly written a fair bit of genre fiction in futuristic worlds and alternate realities, but NOMAD isn’t the first contemporary thriller; back in 2014 I wrote Deadline, an original novel based the TV show 24. There were a lot of things that drove me toward the idea of writing NOMAD; at the heart of it was the fact that I love these kind of books! But I think I was also looking for a challenge, for the opportunity to test myself as a writer and do something a little outside my comfort zone.
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Tea Cups and Carnage by Lynn Cahoon

tea cups and carnageBy J. H. Bográn

There´s an old Frank Sinatra song called “Love and Marriage” that claims the two go together like a horse and carriage. I, for one, find the same kind of link between books and coffee.  They make a perfect blend of adrenaline rush and suspense. Waiting for your next cup of java is Lynn Cahoon’s latest entry in her Tourist Trap mystery series.  She delivers the goods, which goes equally well with tea in this case.

Best-selling author Cahoon sat down with The Big Thrill to talk about TEA CUPS AND CARNAGE, the second novel in the series to feature progatonist Jill Gardner.

What is the new novel about?

The quaint coastal town of South Cove, California, is all abuzz about the opening of a new specialty shop, Tea Hee. But as Coffee, Books, and More owner Jill Gardner is about to find out, there’s nothing cozy about murder . . .

How did Jill Gardner come into the picture?

She’s the me I wanted to be; the woman who took a chance when she wasn’t happy with her life. I always seemed to let things happen.  At the time, I was in the process of a divorce that I had initiated. I found the house that I modeled Miss Emily’s home after and South Cove was born from there.

What can we expect from her in this new adventure?

In TEA CUPS AND CARNAGE, Jill has to deal with a lot on her plate, including a new business moving into town that could be competition. When a body is found at the no-tell motel on the coastal highway out of town, she has to figure out if her newest business member of South Cove is not only a former beauty queen, but also a murderer.
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Killfile by Christopher Farnsworth

Killfile Final Cover copyBy E. M. Powell

I’m sure we all treasure the wisdom of our friends. But I’m equally sure we envy Christopher Farnsworth this particular relationship: “A good friend of mine says that writing is painting yourself into a corner—and then flying out.” Even better is that Farnsworth has acted upon this advice. His latest release, KILLFILE, most definitely flies and then some.

For starters, it has such an original and compelling premise. Psychic John Smith was trained by the CIA to weaponize his unusual talents. Not only can he hear people’s thoughts, he can also bend the will of others to his own. He has moved on from government service to private consultancy to the very wealthiest. Hired to investigate a young software genius and recover priceless intellectual property, he rapidly finds himself the target of people willing to kill to him for his talents. And he’s no longer alone. Smith has to use his gift to protect himself and a young woman caught in the crossfire—no matter what it takes.

Now, there may be those for whom this premise has a whiff of the “look into my eyes” or trumpets at séances. I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth with KILLFILE. Farnsworth’s creation of John Smith is masterful. Smith’s gift verges on intolerable as he seeks silence and peace from the non-stop banal chatter in the heads of others. Worse, he absorbs terror, fear, and physical pain too. Within the first couple of pages, Smith’s world was reality for me. Add in relentless action and humor drier than martini-dissolved bone, and you have a winner.

His premise of the psychic spy had a long gestation, says Farnsworth. He credits his early reading in his junior high library for planting the seed. “My research started when I spent way too much time as a kid in the weird sections of the library, reading the dodgy books about psychic phenomena, unknown creatures, and other strange stuff. It left me with lots of odd facts stuck in my head—like the story of Wolf Messing—that eventually mutate into ideas.”
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Storm Crashers by Richard Wickliffe

stormRichard Wickliffe was inspired by real-life crimes when he wrote his new crime-thriller STORM CRASHERS. The author answered a few questions for The Big Thrill on separating fact from fiction and on his unique route for acquiring a Hollywood option.

Tell us about STORM CRASHERS

The Storm Crashers are a team of high-tech burglars that target wealthy areas that are evacuated for approaching hurricanes. Imagine no electricity or police access. In my novel, STORM CRASHERS, one resident—a single mother—refuses to evacuate and witnesses the thieves. While trying to protect her daughter, she shoots and inadvertently kills one of them. When she reports what she saw to police, no one believes her story, and the crashers want to eliminate their only witness.

Concurrently, an investigator studies reports of thefts reported during the storm. He teams with a female detective who believes the woman’s story. Despite being reprimanded by their respective bosses, they unravel a mystery that exposes the origin of the thieves, and could ultimately impact our national security as a new Category 5 storm targets Miami.

As wild and unique as that seems, what were the seeds of truth behind the idea?

Hurricane Charlie had swept through Sanibel-Captiva islands off the coast of Florida, which is a primary setting in STORM CRASHERS. In the wake of Charlie, officials told residents they could not return to their homes due to damaged bridges, no power, or police access. I imagined how burglars could have a field day. I took that idea a step further, equipping them with night vision goggles, special gear, and so on.

In reality, many burglaries were reported during that period, including a pharmacy that lost a load of narcotics with a nearly priceless street value. I included that scenario in STORM CRASHERS. Police were amazed that criminals were so industrious during such harsh conditions.
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The Paris Librarian by Mark Pryor

The Paris LibrarianBy Kay Kendall

THE PARIS LIBRARIAN is number six in the thriller series starring Hugo Marston, chief of security at the United States Embassy in Paris. The series debuted in 2012 with The Bookseller, which Oprah Winfrey called “un-putdown-able.” In his latest adventure, Marston searches for the killer of a friend who died in a locked room at the American Library in Paris, even though police say the death was from natural causes. To prove he’s right, Marston returns to the scene of a decades-old crime.

The Big Thrill recently checked in with Mark Pryor to learn more about his work and what lies behind his peripatetic life’s journey.

Even though I had read only two previous novels in your Hugo Marston series, I had no difficulty jumping into this sixth one. That is no mean accomplishment for the writer of a series—congratulations. How did you manage to let the reader know enough about Hugo’s background—former F.B.I. profiler and the current security chief at the United States Embassy in France—without dropping spoilers for previous books? Are you willing to share your tricks of the authorial trade?

Thanks for saying that, I try hard to make each book a stand-alone for anyone who happens across it and hasn’t read others in the series. I think that gets easier to do as I get to know the characters better and better. It feels so simple and natural to drop in a few little details about them to show who they are. And of course they do a lot of that revelation themselves in their interactions with each other.

The other thing, and more about this later, is that Hugo is one of those guys who’s not that easy to get to know. I think new readers can sense that pretty quickly, so they maybe don’t feel like they’re missing out. In each book, though, I try to tease more out of him, show more of his deeper character, so hopefully people will be drawn to him and then keep on reading the series to find out more.

Your books display an extensive knowledge of the look and feel of Paris. Where does your familiarity with France come from? Your biography states that you were a journalist in England, and I know you are now an assistant district attorney with the Travis County District Attorney’s Office in Austin, Texas. Did you perhaps have a gap year in Paris when you spent time hanging around iconic cafes smoking Galois cigarettes? Please share how you became so closely acquainted with Parisians and France.

When I was a kid growing up in England, my family used to spend the Christmas holidays in Switzerland, and we’d always drive through France on the way, staying the night in some small hotel along the route. Always an adventure. As the years passed, I grew to love France, and about twenty years ago, my parents moved to a lovely stone house in the Pyrenees Mountains. I suppose all told, I’ve been to Paris 15 times, and to France twice that many.

Of course, these days when I go I take a wee notebook and keep my eyes wide open for the moments I like to put in my books. Most of the snippets of atmosphere you see between the covers of a Hugo book are things that I’ve actually seen.
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Deadly Encounter by DiAnn Mills

Deadly Encounter_Mills_300DiAnn Mills is excited to announce DEADLY ENCOUNTER, the first book in her new F.B.I. Task Force series, set in Houston, Texas—the setting for many of her suspense novels (and her hometown!)

Curious about how this new series is different from Mills’ FBI Houston series? Check out Mills’ response in this Q&A with The Big Thrill.

Let’s get started. Why the F.B.I.?

A few years ago, I participated in a Citizens Academy program offered by the F.B.I. Those involved in the academy received insight into the F.B.I. and how its special agents serve within their investigations. Through lecture, Q&A, live footage, and even a trip to the shooting range where the agents qualify, we gained a fresh perspective and appreciation for the F.B.I.

What sets apart this new F.B.I. series from the previous one?

I love writing about Houston’s F.B.I. The special agents there have helped me countless times in researching how the bureau operates, investigates, and the various personalities involved. I’m also a part of their Citizens Academy to support the F.B.I. in keeping the people of Houston safe. In my research, I was curious about how they work with other agencies in a combined effort to prevent and solve crimes in a task force.

When I dug into the research, a new series danced across my mind, three stories that showed brave men and women who’d stop at nothing to ensure my city was safe. DEADLY ENCOUNTER involves the Laboratory Research Network (LRN), a federal agency that helps state and local public health, federal, military and international to respond to emergencies and help in public health emergencies.

A plot line would not let me go.
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Lowcountry Book Club by Susan M. Boyer

LOWCOUNTRY BOOK CLUB frontBy Jaden Terrell

Susan M. Boyer’s Lowcountry romantic mysteries reflect both her childhood love of mysteries and a teenage flirtation with her mother’s romance novels. The fifth in her series, LOWCOUNTRY BOOK CLUB is a charming southern mystery that takes place on a small island near Charleston, SC, an area Boyer knows well. It’s a warm and cozy town, made no less familiar by the fact that you won’t find it on any real-world map.

Boyer describes protagonist Liz Talbot as “a private investigator with a weakness for Kate Spade bags and shoes”—but there’s so much more to her than that. Liz is capable and compassionate. Her relationship with her husband and business partner is refreshingly respectful. Boyer knows how to build tension and conflict without relying on bickering between characters.

This month, Boyer agreed to talk to The Big Thrill about her latest book. Please join me in welcoming her.

Congratulations, Susan! Why don’t we start with a little bit about your writing journey and how you came to be a mystery writer?

Thank you so much—and thank you for having me! I’ve loved reading mysteries my whole life, and have always wanted to write. When contemplating careers and college majors, I couldn’t see a clear path to a steady paycheck writing novels. I didn’t want to major in journalism—I’ve just never had an interest in reporting. So, like many, I chose something more “sensible.” Fast forward to 2003 when the company I worked for went out of business. My husband, who well knew my dreams, said, “Why don’t you give the writing thing a try?” I pulled the beginnings of a novel out of a drawer and never looked back.

Reviewers have called your books “Authentically Southern.” What do you think they mean by that?

I have never lived anywhere other than the Carolinas. Of course I’ve visited many other wonderful places. But I’m a product of my environment. I speak with the cadence and common turns of phrase used in the South, so I guess it’s natural that I write that way as well.
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Terror in Taffeta by Marla Cooper

terror in taffetaBy George Ebey

This month, author Marla Cooper brings us TERROR IN TAFFET, the first installment in her Destination Wedding mystery series.

Kelsey McKenna thinks she’d planned out every detail of her client’s destination wedding in San Miguel de Allende. But what she hadn’t planned on was a bridesmaid dropping dead in the middle of the ceremony. When the bride’s sister is arrested for murder, the mother of the bride demands that Kelsea fix the matter at once. Although Kelsea is pretty sure investigating a murder isn’t in her contract, crossing the well-connected Mrs. Abemathy could be a career-killer.  Before she can leave Mexico and get back to planning weddings, Kelsey will have to deal with stubborn detectives, late-night death threats, and guests who didn’t even RSVP.

The Big Thrill recently caught up with Cooper to learn about her work and what goes into writing a good cozy mystery.

What first drew you to writing mysteries?

I often blame my early addiction to Nancy Drew, who taught me at a young age that girl detectives get to drive roadsters and date college guys. And there’s also the fact that I was born in October so I love things that are dark and ghoulish. But if I’m really psychoanalyzing myself, it’s the justice aspect of it. There’s something so satisfying about piecing together the clues, figuring out whodunit, and bringing the bad guys to justice.

Tell us about your main character, Kelsey McKenna. 

Kelsey is a destination wedding planner, and it’s up to her to make sure her clients’ weddings go off without a hitch, all while wrangling errant wedding guests, petulant bridesmaids, and demanding mothers-of-the-bride. She’s organized, resourceful, and good at improvising, which comes in handy when anything goes wrong. And at a wedding, something always seems to go wrong.

She doesn’t set out to be a sleuth, but then one of the bridesmaids drops dead in the middle of a wedding in San Miguel de Allende. And when a member of the wedding party is arrested for the murder, Kelsey can’t help but get involved.
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Free Fall by Rick Mofina

Free Fall coverBy James W. Ziskin

Hailed as “one of the best thriller writers in the business” by Library Journal, Rick Mofina is the acclaimed author of 19 novels and many short stories. Mofina writes standalones and four series (Reed-Sydowski, Jason Wade, Jack Gannon and Kate Page). He has garnered numerous nominations and awards, including the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel in 2003 for Blood of Others. A 30-year veteran journalist for the Ottawa Citizen, Calgary Herald and Southam News wire service, among others, Mofina uses his journalistic experience to write tight, white-knuckle thrillers.

Reporter Kate Page returns in Mofina’s latest thriller, FREE FALL, a terrifying race against time as airplanes start falling out of the sky for unknown reasons. Kate Page is a tenacious heroine who can’t let go of a story even when it isn’t supposed to be hers. In FREE FALL, she butts heads with her editors, the NTSB and law-enforcement officials who believe pilot error is to blame for the mishaps. And when the untraceable masterminds behind the nefarious plot select Kate as their mouthpiece, she too becomes a target.

FREE FALL is great stuff. The kind of thriller that keeps you up late into the night reading. It also might well leave you cursing the author for scaring you to death.

You have a long history in journalism. That shows in your descriptions of the investigative reporting process. This is the fourth book in the Kate Page series. And you’ve written three other series, all featuring reporters. Can you talk about your work history and how it shapes your fiction?

I’ve been writing fiction since I was in grade school. I went to university to study English literature and journalism, hoping to find a job in the news business with the aim of gaining experience that would serve my fiction. It all came together for me when I was assigned to my newspaper’s crime beat. Unless you’ve done this kind of work, nothing prepares you for it. You see what cops, paramedics, firefighters, emergency experts see. For me, as a reporter by day, novelist by night, a light had been switched on. Covering human tragedies and dramas up close was overwhelming. But on another level, having a university degree in English literature and journalism, and having studied courses such as Religious Responses to Death and American Detective Fiction, I felt I was equipped to try to make sense of what I was experiencing. To try to convey through fiction, the truths I’ve learned.
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Fatal Odds by John F. Dobbyn

fatal oddsBy Austin Camacho

Some legal thrillers trap the reader in a courtroom, but the heroic attorneys in FATAL ODDS face international intrigue when they are dropped into the middle of a three-way gang war.

A jockey involved in a fixed race is charged with murder. Michael Knight and Lex Devlin catch the case, soon finding themselves caught in the crossfire between the Italian mafia and two Puerto Rican crime gangs. The setup offers a wealth of storylines, but the book itself is driven by the characters, starting with the main protagonist, Michael Knight, who was a prosecutor and assistant U.S. attorney in Boston before becoming an associate with a private law firm. All of which makes him uniquely suited to the cauldron of trouble in FATAL ODDS.

“I wanted him to have two ethnic backgrounds,” says author John F. Dobbyn.   “Irish on his father’s side and Puerto Rican on his mother’s side, so that he could blend into either community with fluency, as he has in each of the five novels so far.”

Michael is certainly a hero, but he’s not fearless, he’s not a weapons expert or even a hand-to-hand combat master. He may not see himself as heroic but his clients might disagree.

“His commitment to his criminal defense clients is without limitation or reservation,” Dobbyn says. “His word is absolute and unbreakable. That means that if he has to ride into hell, or walk into a bikers’ bar or the den of a mafia boss, or have a power lunch of the powerful and connected, in the client’s interest, it is not heroic. It is just keeping his commitment. Keeping his word.”

The gangs Michael faces are involved in the smuggling of endangered species. This illicit trade has become the second most profitable criminal activity in the world yet, like most of us, Dobbyn was unaware of this—until he noticed an internet article about it.

“I was overwhelmed by the depth of cruelty in which over ninety percent of the animals captured die in the transporting,” he says. “The suffering of the animals is matched only by the increasing enormity of the profits now funding every other criminal act, from drug dealing to human trafficking, by nearly every major international organized crime gang and terrorist organization in the world. And most amazing of all—I had never heard of any of it.”
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Operation Goodwood by Sara Sheridan

operation goodwoodBy J. H. Bográn

Sara Sheridan’s mysteries have been published in the U.K., and they are now heading to America.  In OPERATION GOODWOOD, a glamorous racing driving is found hanged in a burning flat on Brighton’s seafront. His neighbor, Mirabelle Bevan, finds herself conflicted by the apparent inconsistencies in the stories surrounding the driver’s death. His father is barely grieving, his friends appear to have fallen out with each other, and no apparent reason can be found for the golden boy’s suicide. Mirabelle follows the trail to Goodwood’s famous racetrack, where she uncovers a web of deceit, shameful secrets, and an unraveling family mystery that the people involved will go to any lengths to cover up.

 How did the idea of OPERATION GOODWOOD originate?

It’s the fifth entry in the Mirabelle Bevan Mysteries series, so my antenna is honed for ideas that chime with 1950s England.  When I visited the Goodwood Estate a couple of years ago and saw their collection of vintage photographs from the 1950s—especially those from the car racing track—I knew Mirabelle had to visit. It was just so glamorous—all the fast cards and aristocratic misadventures. Perfect!

What can you tell us about Mirabelle Bevan in her latest mystery?

Before I started writing the series I had never had returning characters before. I’ve got to know Mirabelle pretty well by now. She started, in 1951, at the age of 37 (which was considered well past the prime for women during that era). She was heartbroken and grieving and had had a tough war, from which she (like many women of the era) hadn’t really recovered. The series, in a way, is the story of Mirabelle cheering up. So by OPERATION GOODWOOD she has a nescient (if stormy) relationship with Detective Superintendent Alan McGregor and has gained a lot of self-confidence. In short, she’s blooming.

What has drawn you to the fifties?

It was a period we didn’t cover when I was in school—so when I started, my knowledge of the decade was drawn from Grease and some Agatha Christie. I love the 1950s now. I’m fascinated by it.  It’s the decade my parents met (at Edinburgh at a tennis party), as well as the time my father did his national service and my grandparents’ heyday. It’s the era that founded my family, I suppose. That’s what fascinates me most about history—you can’t go forward, I think, without understanding where you came from.
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The Ninja’s Daughter by Susan Spann

ninja daughterBy Nancy Bilyeau

Kyoto, 1565: A ninja named Hiro Hattori brings murderers to justice, with the help of a Portuguese Jesuit priest, Father Matteo. This is the premise of the engrossing Shinobi Mystery Series written by Susan Spann. Her acclaimed 2013 debut, Claws of the Cat, was followed by Blades of the Samurai and Flask of the Drunken Master.

In the fourth book, THE NINJA’S DAUGHTER, an actress is found dead on the banks of Kyoto’s Kama River, and no one seems to want to get to the truth—except for Hiro and Father Matteo.

We caught up with California native Spann, whose interests range from martial arts to seahorses, to find out more:

For the setting of a novel, what drew you to mid-16th century Japan as opposed to other time periods in that country?

My original inspiration for the series was “most ninjas commit murders, but Hiro Hattori solves them.” Real, historical ninjas (also called “shinobi” in Japanese) reached the apex of their power during the 16th century, which made it a natural place to set the series. I also wanted to include a Portuguese Jesuit as Hiro’s partner sleuth and to offer a “Westernized” filter for Japanese culture. Japan was closed to foreigners for much of its history, but Portuguese priests and traders lived and worked in Japan during much of the 16th century. Fortunately for the series, the timing worked from both angles.

What do other novelists writing books set in Japan sometimes get wrong that drives you crazy?

Fortunately, many of the authors currently writing novels with Japanese settings have an excellent grasp of the history and culture, so I don’t find much to criticize. (In particular, I love Barry Lancet’s Jim Brodie novels and I mourned the end of Laura Joh Rowland’s Sano Ichiro series.)

One cultural issue I notice a lot in other places is the misrepresentation of ninjas in popular culture. Real ninjas were spies as well as assassins and weapons experts—much more interesting than the black-pajama-clad supermen you see in movies and TV. While the Hollywood variety is fun in its own way, I prefer to represent the shinobi more realistically in my novels. The truth is actually far more exciting than popular culture’s version!
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The Four Night Run by William Lashner

four night runBy Jonathan Stone and William Lashner

For this issue of The Big Thrill, Bill Lashner and I interviewed each other. It was a particular thrill for me, because Bill is coming off his recent Edgar nomination for Best Novel for The Barkeep. We each have a new novel just out, just a week apart. His book, THE FOUR-NIGHT RUN, features J. D. Scrbacek, a defense attorney who prides himself on the vigorous and nimble defense of even the most reviled clients.

My new novel, TWO FOR THE SHOW, is a twisting and twisted tale told by Chas, a detective who works exclusively—and practically invisibly—for Wallace the Amazing, a Las Vegas mentalist. I was very interested in learning more about Lashner’s gutsy and witty protagonist. Fortunately, Bill seemed equally interested in learning about my characters. Our conversation follows.

William Lashner: So the thing I really admired about your novel is the way Wallace pretty much stayed off stage the whole time, and yet was pulling every string.  He hovered over the book like a God, and was really a thrilling character, but we never really saw him in a scene, except for one glimpse he gives to Chas before running away.  Was it hard to keep him up there in the stratosphere?

Jonathan Stone: Well, it’s Chas’s book.  The whole thing is told through his point of view.  And Chas has Wallace up on a pedestal.  In fact, the reader only really sees Wallace on stage—just like the rest of the world sees him.  I like him set off, separate, apart, a little more godlike than a man, as you say—so I’m glad that worked for you.

WL: It absolutely did.  If I could have slipped myself anywhere into the story to peek at what was happening, it would have been in the jungle when he became a sort of shaman.

JS: Yeah, I’d like to see him there too!  So let me ask you a little about Scrbacek.  One of the running gags of your novel is that every time Scrbacek is asked about his ethnic origin, he gives a different answer.  And all his different answers, or most of them, are believable.  It’s very funny, but it’s got a deeper point—throughout the book, he’s trying to understand who he really is, what his values are, trying to get back to and rediscover his own real identity and worth.  Could you talk a little about that?

WL: Scrbacek is lost, and the book is very much a machine for him to find himself again.  Although, I will say, that his smart alecky remarks about his heritage are also just a way for him to quip.  I’m never above putting in a joke just because.  One of the models for the book was Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, where Marley is forced to confront the ghosts of his past, present, and future to figure out what kind of man he wants to be.  Scrbacek goes through that same sort of ordeal, and it isn’t pretty.
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Brain Storm by Elaine Viets

brain stormBy Joe Moore

Changing course in the middle of a successful writing career is a big gamble. Especially moving from light, humorous novels to much darker, serious subject matter. When I heard that my friend Elaine Viets was doing just that with her new novel, BRAIN STORM, I had to find out why. It came as no surprise that her motivation grew from events in her life. Now I know that this course change will be just as successful as her previous path. Here’s what I learned.

Elaine, why write a dark psychological suspense novel? You’re best known for your funny Dead-End Job mysteries and cozy Mystery Shopper novels?

I started writing dark novels, the Francesca Vierling newspaper mysteries for Bantam Dell. Then the publisher’s division was wiped out, and I spent two years working dead-end jobs in Florida, where the work is weird and the customers are weirder. I met witches buying a book of spells in a Barnes & Noble, very old men buying skimpy outfits for very young women, and bridezillas who wanted their bridesmaids’ dresses to match the hotel carpet. They inspired the funny, traditional mysteries in the Dead-End Job series for Penguin. That series did well, and Penguin asked me to write the cozy Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper series. The series got off to a good start when Dying in Style tied for first place with Stephen King on the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association bestseller list. Meanwhile, I kept writing dark short stories for anthologies edited by Lawrence Block, Charlaine Harris and others. Josie was supposed to be a three-book series, but by book ten I felt I’d done all I could with that series. My agent rolled the last Josie book into the 15th Dead-End Job mystery.

But I’d gone through some very dark times, and my writing was turning dark. I wanted to explore the one fear that we cannot escape: our own mortality. Brain Storm is a deeply personal mystery, with hardheaded forensics.

What research did you do for BRAIN STORM?

I took the Medicolegal Death Investigators Training Course for forensic professionals given by St. Louis University’s School of Medicine. Here are the topics for just one day of the two-credit college course: We started with gunshot fatalities, explosion-related deaths, motor vehicle fatalities and drowning–before lunch. During lunch we watched a teen driving and alcohol video, which made me want to buy an armored personnel carrier. After lunch it was alcohol-related deaths, suicide, blunt trauma fatalities and more. So much more I was a vegetarian for about six weeks.
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Two For The Show by Jonathan Stone

two for the showBy Jonathan Stone and William Lashner

For this issue of The Big Thrill, Bill Lashner and I interviewed each other. It was a particular thrill for me, because Bill is coming off his recent Edgar nomination for Best Novel for The Barkeep. We each have a new novel just out, just a week apart. His book, THE FOUR-NIGHT RUN, features J. D. Scrbacek, a defense attorney who prides himself on the vigorous and nimble defense of even the most reviled clients.

My new novel, TWO FOR THE SHOW, is a twisting and twisted tale told by Chas, a detective who works exclusively—and practically invisibly—for Wallace the Amazing, a Las Vegas mentalist. I was very interested in learning more about Lashner’s gutsy and witty protagonist. Fortunately, Bill seemed equally interested in learning about my characters. Our conversation follows.

William Lashner: So the thing I really admired about your novel is the way Wallace pretty much stayed off stage the whole time, and yet was pulling every string. He hovered over the book like a God, and was really a thrilling character, but we never really saw him in a scene, except for one glimpse he gives to Chas before running away. Was it hard to keep him up there in the stratosphere?

Jonathan Stone: Well, it’s Chas’s book. The whole thing is told through his point of view. And Chas has Wallace up on a pedestal. In fact, the reader only really sees Wallace on stage—just like the rest of the world sees him. I like him set off, separate, apart, a little more godlike than a man, as you say—so I’m glad that worked for you.

WL: It absolutely did. If I could have slipped myself anywhere into the story to peek at what was happening, it would have been in the jungle when he became a sort of shaman.

JS: Yeah, I’d like to see him there too! So let me ask you a little about Scrbacek. One of the running gags of your novel is that every time Scrbacek is asked about his ethnic origin, he gives a different answer. And all his different answers, or most of them, are believable. It’s very funny, but it’s got a deeper point—throughout the book, he’s trying to understand who he really is, what his values are, trying to get back to and rediscover his own real identity and worth. Could you talk a little about that?

WL: Scrbacek is lost, and the book is very much a machine for him to find himself again. Although, I will say, that his smart alecky remarks about his heritage are also just a way for him to quip. I’m never above putting in a joke just because. One of the models for the book was Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, where Marley is forced to confront the ghosts of his past, present, and future to figure out what kind of man he wants to be. Scrbacek goes through that same sort of ordeal, and it isn’t pretty.
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Still Mine by Amy Stuart

still mineBy April Snellings

Hard-boiled detective fiction and domestic suspense are two genres that, at least historically, have rarely intersected. With some notable exceptions, the former has long been the province of macho, lone-wolf antiheroes; the latter, by contrast, is dominated by protagonists wrestling with relationships that bind to the point of suffocation.

But the most exciting genre writers delight in obscuring or altogether obliterating such distinctions, and that brings us to Amy Stuart. With her debut novel, STILL MINE, Stuart has delivered a powerful thriller that blurs the lines between the hard-drinking detective and the fragile abuse victim. Stuart’s protagonist is both, and the novel is just as concerned with unraveling the mystery of her past as uncovering the fate of the missing woman she’s trying to find.

STILL MINE centers on Clare, a woman who has carefully engineered her own disappearance. Fleeing from her husband, Clare arrives in the insular mountain town of Blackmore on the trail of Shayna Fowles, another woman who has vanished under mysterious circumstances. As Clare uses her resemblance to Shayna to endear herself to Blackmore’s secretive, often violent residents, she’s forced ever closer to revealing – and perhaps succumbing to – her own demons.

Stuart is part of a new breed of thriller writers who have internalized the seismic shifts in crime fiction’s post-Gone Girl landscape. In her first Big Thrill interview, she talks about her road to publication, marrying two genres that have rarely even been on speaking terms, and crafting a thriller that’s equal parts page-turner and character study.

STILL MINE had an interesting genesis in a writing marathon. Can you tell us a little about your path to publication?

I started the novel at a writing marathon and wrote fifty pages in a weekend. At the time, I was working on my MFA and needed a thesis project. I was leaning towards a short story collection, but then this thriller sort of poured out of me at the marathon and I was eager to keep going with it. My thesis advisor was happy to oblige.
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Arrowood by Laura McHugh

ARROWOODBy David Swatling

Last summer, at the opening reception of ThrillerFest X, I noticed a young woman standing alone in the crowd with a somewhat lost expression on her face. “Is this your first ThrillerFest?” I asked. Her eyes widened in mock mortification. “Is it that obvious? I should’ve been here last year when my book came out but I didn’t know about it.” Two nights later at the awards ceremony, everyone in the room would know Laura McHugh when her book The Weight of Blood was named Best First Novel.

ARROWOOD, her second novel, will not disappoint the many fans of her debut. Set in a small Iowa town on the Mississippi River, Arden Arrowood inherits her run-down childhood home twenty years after she witnessed the kidnapping of her young twin sisters. Upon her return, she is confronted with a discovery that forces her to question her own memory of that traumatic summer. Some called McHugh’s first novel rural noir, while others referred to it as literary suspense.  ARROWOOD could claim both labels as well, although an element of the paranormal has been added to the genre mix.

“I didn’t have any labels in mind when I wrote The Weight of Blood—I just wanted to write something that would keep the reader turning pages,” McHugh admits. “I didn’t plan any haunting in ARROWOOD aside from the sense that Arden is haunted by her past. But the story moved a bit in that direction and I didn’t shy away from it. I personally love books that blur the lines between mystery/suspense, science fiction, horror, paranormal.”

So it should come as no surprise to learn that McHugh counts works by Ray Bradbury and Stephen King as early influences, with a special nod to Shirley Jackson. “We Have Always Lived in the Castle has long been one of my favorite books,” she says, “and a house features prominently there as well. I love the narrator, the horrible family secret and the way it is slowly revealed, and the fact that the true surprise is not the revelation of who poisoned the family, but how the survivors reacted afterward. It’s one of the few books I go back and re-read periodically.”

I was struck by similar anthropomorphic qualities of Jackson’s Hill House and McHugh’s historic home Arrowood—although the two are very different. Whereas Hill House is a malevolent presence, Arrowood seems to bear an uncanny empathy for Arden. I wondered if McHugh had any personal experience with haunted houses.
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Eterna & Omega by Leanna Renee Hieber

Exploring New Worlds 

Eterna_finalcompBy Alison McMahan

When she was nine years old, Leanna Renee Hieber starred in Oliver! The Musical. From that moment on, she was determined to be an actress.

And a playwright.

And a novelist.

Not all of us see our dream clearly at age nine and then get to live it out, but Hieber did. She remained obsessed with Victorian London. “I’d always felt like I was a bit out of my time period, disconnected from the modern world. I was a kid in rural Ohio, and that feeling of being born in the wrong era was very painful. Then I heard of the concept of past lives. I knew I had a past life connection. I decided I was a reincarnate Victorian.”

Without a time machine, the best way to “back home” was through the theatrical world. Hieber majored in theater performance and minored in Victorian studies. She adapted Victorian works for the stage, from the poems of Rainer Maria Rilke to Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll’s original novel, and incorporating Alice Liddell’s diaries). Writing and staging that play proved that she had a gift for the Victorian vernacular, and the kudos the work received bolstered her confidence to set her fiction in that time as well. “It’s important to de-romanticize the era. The Victorians had many problems. I’m attracted to all of it, not just the grandeur, but also the grit.”

In spite of a grueling performance schedule, she worked on her first novel. “I travelled around the regional theater circuit for ten years after college. There was no time to write, and yet I felt compelled to write. That’s when I first started working on The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker.” (A new, revised version of that book, now simply entitled Strangely Beautiful, has just been released by Tor.)

She moved to New York City in order to pursue her acting career. One day she was at a call-back audition for a role in a Broadway play, but found all she could think about was her book. “I decided if all I could think about at a Broadway call back was my novel, it was time to stop auditioning and focus on the book.”
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Dancing With the Tiger by Lili Wright

dancing tigerLili Wright’s debut novel, DANCING WITH THE TIGER, is set in Mexico, a country the author knows well. Wright lived in Mexico twice, and she infuses this rollicking novel of art and addiction with her reporter’s eye for vivid detail.

The story begins when a meth-addicted looter digs up what he believes is Montezuma’s funerary mask, a priceless artifact. A tense chase ensues as an eclectic cast of characters pursues the treasure for very different reasons. In addition to the meth-addicted looter, there is a masked tiger, an expat art collector, a dying drug lord, a lesbian housekeeper, and most importantly—Anna Ramsey, a 30-year-old American with a history of bad choices. Ramsey needs the mask to redeem her father—and save herself.

Here, Wright chats with The Big Thrill about her first foray into fiction.

Why did you choose to set your novel in Mexico?

I fell in love with Mexico years ago during a language immersion trip to Cuernavaca. At the time, I was a newspaper reporter in Salt Lake City and was taking a night class in Spanish. My professor, John Bahoric—I dedicated the novel to him—adored Mexico and, like the Piped Piper, seduced us into following him on his annual trip there. At the time, I spoke almost no Spanish and spent most of the trip asking my Mexican host family, “Mande?” (Slang, for What?) Like John, I adored Mexico. The country was so colorful, so different from staid New England where I grew up. Soon after, I won a year-long grant to return. I studied in Guadalajara and then landed in San Miguel de Allende. A decade later, I spent a sabbatical year in Oaxaca. Mexico always calls me back.

Much of the story revolves around masks. Why?

Even in our lowest moments, it is possible, often required, that we put on our game face and carry on. Friends and co-workers often haven’t a clue that we’re hurting. I remind myself of this when people are rude or distant. Who knows what’s going on in their lives? Maybe their dog died or they fought with their husband or they are worried about money.

That was one piece. Also, in my English classes, I teach essay writing. The founder of the modern essay, Michel de Montaigne, has this quote I adore: “We must remove the mask.” A good essay, or any creative writing, requires revelation, risk, digging below the surface. This isn’t easy. Most of us prefer to gloss over uncomfortable subjects and avoid conflict. In the opening paragraph of DANCING WITH THE TIGER, the looter notes: “Few people have courage or imagination to dig.” At the risk of sounding grandiose, I believe a willingness to dig, to expose, to talk openly about hard subjects, would help society solve many ills.
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Stay Dead by Jessie Keane

stay deadThere’s something intoxicating about getting lost in a book, and since I hit pay dirt (at last!) eight years ago and started on my life as a professional writer, I’ve been busy getting lost in a whole series of them.

In 2008, I was flat broke, living in the suburbs of southern England with no heating and (after 20 years of rejection slips and forays into comedy crime and chick-lit) the firm idea that I had to give up on the idea of writing books and get a “Proper Job.”

Having a fractured home life, I left school without qualifications, missing my chance to go to art college. After that, I had loads of “filler” jobs—dental nurse, deli meat-slicer, clerical assistant. I taught myself to type (only so I could write books) and became a secretary for a short while. But what I really wanted to do was write.

I’ve always been obsessed with London, I think it’s the most beautiful city in the world, and so—obstinate to the last—I decided to give it just one more throw of the dice. If nothing happened, then that would be it. Finished.

I wrote Dirty Game, an underworld thriller set in 1960’s “swinging” London, home of the Krays and other big criminal gangs. I invented a villainous, charismatic hero called Max Carter who was hot as hell, and Annie Bailey who was a beautiful bad girl, unloved by her parents and envious of her good sister. Max and Annie came together. Fireworks!

Reader, I sent it off to agents. You know how it is at this stage. You’ll send it out into the world, your baby, to up to maybe 30 agents and few of them will even bother to answer. I sent it to six—and two answered! One demanded rewrites and said she might have someone who’d be interested, but not to hold my breath. Was she kidding? This was never going to happen. I knew it.

Only I was wrong. Next day the agent came back and said, “are you sitting down?” I had a three-book deal with a major publisher, for a six-figure sum, so I had to get on with writing book two, sharpish.
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Up Close: Eric Van Lustbader by Jessica Driscoll

Inspired By Real-Life Corruption and War

any minute nowBy Jessica Driscoll

From the prolific author of the Bourne series comes a new standalone thriller, ANY MINUTE NOW, a dark tale ripped from the headlines and inspired by Eric Van Lustbader’s fascination with the occult, the continuing war in the Middle East, and the “terrible price soldiers are asked to pay.”

“The ongoing corruption obscured by the fog of war both frighten and anger me,” he says.

ANY MINUTE NOW kicks off with Red Rover, the blackest of black ops teams, losing one of its own on a top-priority mission. The group is unexpectedly disbanded, leaving Greg Whitman and Felix Orteño to replace their lost team member with Charlize Daou. Daou, a brilliant and talented arms expert, becomes the team’s moral compass, helping Whitman and Orteño face the supernatural darkness into which she feels they have fallen.

“Charlize is a reflection of me, or perhaps part of me” says Lustbader. “I felt myself in every line I wrote for her. She’s very smart, damaged, and under-appreciated, except by the one person she truly loves. She’s a hero for our time.”

Against orders, the resurrected Red Rover team secretly hunts a protected Saudi terrorist, throwing them into the heart of a conspiracy involving the government, the Alchemists (a cabal of wealthy mystics), and a visionary striving to create a new way of waging war that could destabilize the world’s greatest superpowers.

For fans of the classic Bourne books, be assured that Lustbader is far from done with them.

“My brain is so overclocked, I’m someone who gets bored easily. I never held a job for more than two and a half years,” he says. “By then I knew more than my bosses did so there was really no point.”
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Missing Man by Barry Meier

The Haunting Tragedy of an Abduction in Iran


missing manBy Nancy Bilyeau

In December 2011, a disturbing video hit the news. In the brief clip, an American in his sixties, Robert Levinson, missing since March 2007, said to the camera: “I have been treated well, but I need the help of the United States government to answer the requests of the group that has held me for three-and-a-half years. And please help me get home. Thirty-three years of service to the United States deserves something. Please help me.”

Our media has since overflowed with horrific videos of Americans imprisoned in the Middle East. But Levinson is an unusual case. He went missing while on Kish Island off the coast of Iran, his precise status within the American intelligence community is debated to this day, and he remains missing. His wife, seven children, his many friends and former colleagues, all are scarred by the mystery of Robert Levinson.

In MISSING MAN, the nonfiction book published by Farrar Straus and Giroux, award-winning journalist Barry Meier delves deep into that mystery, painting a vivid—and troubling—picture of an American intelligence community that ultimately failed Levinson through timidity, ineffectiveness, and political infighting and fingerpointing. While ingenuity and loyalty to comrades is a central theme of TV shows like Homeland, saving one’s job trumped saving Levinson’s life at the real CIA.

“By not standing up, they basically doomed him,” says Meier of Levinson. “He was road kill.”
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Let The Devil Out by Bill Loehfelm

let devil outBy Rick Reed

Bill Loehfelm is the author of the critically-acclaimed crime fiction series about New Orleans police officer Maureen Coughlin. In LET THE DEVIL OUT Coughlin has had a brutal year as a rookie cop with New Orleans Police Department. In one year she has experienced her first arrests, her first black eye, and, after a stinging brush with the corrupt heart of her adopted city, her first suspension. She is waiting out the suspension, hoping to keep her badge, hoping to turn things around. Unfortunately, things are about to get much worse.

The FBI is in town on the trail of a ruthless anti-government militia group, the Watchmen Brigade. Nobody in the NOPD wants any part of working with the feds. Guess which suspended rookie is told she doesn’t have a choice.

With the FBI and a white supremacist militia on the loose in New Orleans, the city is one big powder keg. Find out what happens when a brilliant but reckless young cop lights a match. In LET THE DEVIL OUT you will feel the experience of a police ride-along, but you will be at a safe distance.

Mr. Loehfelm spoke with The Big Thrill about his newest novel and his writing career.

How did you catch the writing bug? What authors influenced your writing style?

I first realized I liked writing and had a knack for it early, in grammar school. High school, though, was when I caught the bug for good. I took a creative writing class at a branch of the New York Public library on Saturday mornings. That class set the hook.

As for influences, James Lee Burke is probably the reason I write crime fiction; him, John D. McDonald, and Dennis Lehane are the first crime writers I got into. Them and a childhood spent reading Batman. Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series has been a huge influence, so big I named a character in the Maureen Coughlin series after her. The Brodie series is what I hold up as a goal or a target. Mystic River was a game-changer for me. I admire the way Laura Lippman makes it seem so effortless. Megan Abbott makes it breathless; her books are like diamonds. Richard Price is a master. James Ellroy is so intense and weird.
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A Cougar’s Kiss by Frank De Blase

cougars kissBy Sidney Williams

Frank De Blasé’s new novel, A COUGAR’S KISS, takes readers on a journey back to a gritty mid-20th century world of dark deeds and mean streets. It’s that territory of pulp and noir with dangerous mobsters and beautiful women who might be even more dangerous.

In this second adventure for his crime scene photographer Frankie Valentine, following Pine Box for a Pin-Up, the hero gets called back from Hollywood glamour photography to his more treacherous New York stomping grounds.

A body has turned up, that of a childhood friend who’s been missing 10 years. Soon Frankie finds himself dealing with a hidden stash of money and remnants from his past including the mother of a junkie stripper who once led him into manhood.

De Blase sat down recently to answer a few questions about the book for The Big Thrill.

A COUGAR’S KISS is set in 1960. What about that era made it intriguing as the setting for your series and this book in particular?

I’ve always dug everything retro/classic from that era; the music, the movies, the fashion. As a crime writer, I also get a kick out of showing readers that there were no good old days. Love, lust, greed, and murder are all universal themes and like catsup, they’re good everywhere. Also, the capers I create are solved psychologically with guts and instinct rather than science. It’s hard to be a liar in a DNA world.

How do you immerse yourself in that time period as you write? Any particular music that sets the tone? Do you watch old TV series?

The immersion is more in the story once it gets rolling. I’m already immersed in music and classic movies, and the patter of the parlance that pops up throughout.
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The Calamity Cafe by Gayle Leeson

thecalamitycafeBy Basil Sands

THE CALAMITY CAFÉ is an appetizing cozy mystery that leaves your mouth watering for great cooking, even as you’re shocked by what people will do to each other. And even better—there are recipes included in the back! As an avid cook, I will definitely be trying some out.

Gayle Leeson is an author who makes an imprint with her witty storytelling, compelling mystery thrills, and some seriously delicious-looking recipes. She also writes the Embroidery Mystery series as Amanda Lee, and as Gayle Trent for the Daphne Martin Cake Mystery series and the Myrtle Crumb Mystery series.

Leeson lives in Virginia with her family and is having a blast writing the Down South Café Mystery series. I had a chance to catch up with her this month for an article in The Big Thrill.

So, which Gayle is the real you?

Although my real name is Gayle Trent, I suppose I’m all of those Gayles. At least, sometimes I wish I had a couple more of me since I wear so many hats in a day. I’m a writer, of course, but also a blogger, a new columnist for RT Book Reviews Magazine, a mom, a wife, and I’m owned by pets who are pretty demanding.

How did you get into writing?

I’d read a book that was formulaic and predictable, and then I wrote a short story to parody that book and others similar to it. I allowed my college English teachers to read it, and they told me I had real talent. That little bit of encouragement was all it took!

Are the recipes CALAMITY CAFÉ your own?

Some were passed down through the family. Others were contributed by readers. I think it’s always fun to get readers invested in your stories. The readers whose recipes were accepted were acknowledged with their recipe(s) and received a small honorarium.
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Since She Went Away by David Bell

since she went awayBy David Swatling 

“Graduate school in creative writing can teach discipline, it can help a writer make contacts, and it can put a writer in a supportive environment,” says associate professor David Bell, who holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in creative writing. “But it’s not a magic bullet,” adds the bestselling author. “A writer still has to be able to tell a good story and have the discipline to keep writing when school ends.”

David Bell’s latest suspense novel is SINCE SHE WENT AWAY, a fast-paced page-turner that Romantic Times has named a Top Pick for June. Women are disappearing in Hawks Mill, including Jenna Barton’s best friend and her teenage son’s new girlfriend. Jenna begins to wonder how many secrets one small town can hold as she desperately tries to untangle the truth.

Although Bell and I both attended ThrillerFest X last summer, we didn’t manage to meet until now. But I knew we’d get along when I discovered our shared fondness for cemetery walks.

Your first published works were short stories. How did writing them prepare you for the transition to writing novels?

Most writers start out writing short stories for practical reasons. In the length of time it takes to write one novel a writer could produce five, ten, or fifteen short stories. And short stories can teach useful skills for the suspense novelist—efficiency, concision, control. But, in the end, the only thing that can teach someone to write a novel is to write one. I tell my students they have to write a bad novel before they can write a good one, so get started on that bad one before it’s too late.

You’ve written eight novels in as many years. I saw a BBC documentary in which Scottish crime-fiction author Ian Rankin explained his strictly detailed schedule for writing a novel a year. Do you have a regulated routine? 

In order to write a book every year—and continue to work my day job as a college professor—I have to be disciplined. Since I have summers and holidays mostly free from my teaching job, I do a lot of writing then. During the academic year, I spend time generating ideas, working on outlines, and revising. I’m a creature of habit. I like routine, so this works for me.

I always make an outline. I can spend as much time on an outline as I spend writing a draft of the book. By working out as many character and plot issues in the outline, the writing of the book is a little easier. It’s a road map to where I want to go. Still, surprises crop up. My outline for SINCE SHE WENT AWAY had a totally different ending. The ending of the published book just came to me as I wrote. If I’m surprised then I figure the reader will be surprised as well.
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Breath of Malice by Karen Fenech

Breath of Malice Cover to International Thriller WritersBy Karen Harper

It was fun to interview Karen Fenech, not only because she writes in the same genre I do, but because she is so amazingly diverse and prolific yet manages to keep everything straight.  In the interview, she shares her methods for success, and her joy of writing comes through loud and strong.

What is BREATH OF MALICE about?

BREATH OF MALICE centers on an inexperienced FBI agent who catches the eye of a serial killer and becomes his next target.  It’s a game of cat and mouse . . . and she’s losing.

I see on your website that you work out extensive and detailed outlines before you write your novels or novellas.  What do you see as the advantages of this pre-thinking work?  Are there any drawbacks?

I find that the pre-thinking prep prevents me from taking wrong turns in the story or writing myself into a corner.  Having an outline, for me, is like having a road map.  It keeps me on track and gets me where I want to go.  I don’t find any drawbacks to the pre-thinking.  Thinking about the novel I intend to write in advance, cements it for me in my mind and makes it part of my real world.  I could be doing something completely unrelated when something I want to include in the novel occurs to me.  I love those moments.

You have some great author-help, reader-interest articles accessible on your website, such as “The Worst Thing About Writing” and “Finding Time to Write.”  What three helpful suggestions would you give a beginning writer, either published or unpublished?

Coming at this from someone who’s been there and certainly not an authority or writing coach, I would say that if writing is really something that you want to do, you’ll find yourself making time to do it, even if just for a few minutes every day.

A few minutes every day will add up in terms of pages. When I first started, I found it difficult to allocate large blocks of time to writing and so I didn’t.  A few minutes here and there at first, with longer writing sessions when I could, resulted in my first novel.  In the previous question I was asked about pre-thinking work, here’s an example where I found the pre-thinking served me well.  I was never far from that first story, since I’d done some prep and had a grasp of what I wanted to do with the book.  The pre-thinking helped me write more in the short bursts I was able to fit in.
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The Hemingway Thief by Shaun Harris

By Alison McMahan

Hemingway Thief_coverShaun Harris doesn’t like Hemingway.  “I don’t like his stories. I don’t like the way he writes. I don’t like the way he treated women, or the way he treated his friends. I decided this guy needs to be taken down a peg or two. This guy should not be an American hero.”

Not that he wanted to do a hit job on Hemingway. “The guy had a lot of issues. People hold him up as this idea of masculinity… He was a PT Barnum type. He recut his Red Cross uniform so that it would look like a military uniform…Selling his writing meant selling himself.”

Harris was inspired to write THE HEMINGWAY THIEF , his debut novel, while watching the movie Wonderboys. Michael Douglas’s character has just lost a huge manuscript, and utters a throw-away line about how Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, lost a suitcase full of Hemingway’s stories. Harris researched the event: in Paris, 1922, Ernest Hemingway asks his young wife, Hadley, to pack up every last scrap of his work into a single suitcase and join him in Switzerland. While Hadley waited for her train in the Gare de Lyon, the suitcase containing a year’s worth of Hemingway’s stories, vanished, never to be seen again.

Harris’s novel, set in the present day, uses that event as a jumping off point. Henry “Coop” Cooper is a successful writer of vampire romances. He’s got the formula down but he’s sick of it. He’s hidden out in a flea-bag Mexican hotel to find a way to kill his pseudonymous self. Once the press reports his alter-ego’s death, Cooper plans to restart his career writing more great literary books under his real name..

He’s distracted from this plan when he and Doyle, the hotel owner, have to rescue another hotel guest from two goons who are beating him to death. The goons want the Hemingway suitcase, and the young man knows where it is.

The three men travel across the desert in search of the suitcase, in the process up-ending every manly trope we know from adventure novels and movies like Treasures of Sierra Madre and Indiana Jones. “Growing up, Indiana Jones was my hero. I’m afraid of snakes, like him. I wanted to be an archeologist, like him, until I figured out that [what Indy does] is not what archeologists do.”
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The Image of Her by Lorna Peel

The Image of Her byLornaPeel-500By Amy Lignor

When it comes to author Lorna Peel, readers not only receive fascinating tales—both contemporary and historical—but they also receive the bounty that comes from the incredible amount of research this author completes.

Her interest in genealogy once sent Peel on a quest to delve into her own family tree. In her stories, she offers up angles that send her characters on journeys to uncover their own pasts. Living in a locale filled with history and legends, Peel remains one of the best when it comes to bringing research, creativity, and, of course, amazing romance to the written word.

We asked her about all of these things and more in this The Big Thrill interview.

Writing in both contemporary and historical genres—can you speak about the pros and cons of dabbling in both? How do you manage “multiple” brands?

I find switching from one genre to the other keeps my writing fresh. I haven’t come across any cons yet, and I hope I don’t as I’d like to continue writing both.

I don’t find managing multiple brands difficult as my novels all include a central romance, just in different sub-genres. So far, I have had three novels published—two contemporaries and a historical. In time, when more of my novels are published, I will separate the two sub-genres on my website so visitors will have the choice of visiting one or the other, or both.

Do you have a particular favorite between the two? Such as, does leaving the “present” plain to step back into the past give a certain thrill that contemporary doesn’t?

I’ve always loved history, so if I had to choose, I would choose historical. But I love writing contemporary fiction too. Both my novels, Only You and THE IMAGE OF HER, feature genealogy—a mystery set in a character’s family tree—and I find it easier to include the genealogy mystery in a contemporary novel as I can include and describe the research I’ve done on my own family tree, on and offline.
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Resume Speed, Stories by Guinotte Wise

Resume Speed-v6 2By Derek Gunn

Guinotte Wise has managed to cram a lot into the anthology, RESUME SPEED. I’m not normally a huge fan of anthologies; don’t get me wrong—I like short stories. But usually I end up reading a few stories and then go back to a novel and bounce back to the anthology after each novel. This usually means I lose track of any trend or glue that holds the anthology together.

In this anthology, though, the stories are slices of life and stand very much on their own. The fact that Wise has had many jobs comes through in every story, where he invites us to a bar or a funeral home, and oozes realism.

His last anthology was described as cinematic, compared to a Tarantino movie. This is well deserved. The scenes are set simply and accurately and the reader feels as though they have come in from the street and is already seated at the bar Guinotte describes. You can smell the alcohol soaked into the wood of the bar, a stray wisp of cigarette smoke, even hear a cough from the back of the room. Dialogue is never strained. Characters interact as you would expect them to, and the author pulls from his own experiences to ensure that each story has a realistic flavor to it, with just enough quirkiness to keep us guessing.

The writing is clear and seeps talent. You settle yourself, allow yourself to wallow in their storylines, and they end far too soon. Not that the story is not finished—I would just have liked to stay a bit longer in each scene. Characters are well drawn, obviously taken from the many people Wise has met during his varied career, and I was riveted to each story.

Wise has been a creative director in advertising most of his working life, he says, and I can see how he has been successful in this. He plays with words and our emotions, shocking, cajoling, and urging us to read one more story before we put the book away.

I managed to catch up with Wise this month and he kindly took some time out to give The Big Thrill  some background and insights into his thought processes.
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