Why the Best-Selling Author Made a Point-of-View Switch
By E. M. Powell
It’s a brave author who does something radically different in a successful long-running series. But in DEVIL’S BRIDGE, the 17th outing for New York prosecutor Alex Cooper, Linda Fairstein does just that.
In this terrific, suspenseful read, things are definitely not going well for Alex. An escaped convicted rapist is stalking her, a trial is going south, and a hacker has potentially accessed her most secure information. The book takes a dramatic—and unexpected—swerve when Alex is kidnapped and the search is on to find her.
But we readers don’t know where she is, either. Instead, we must join Alex’s lover, Detective Mike Chapman, in his increasingly desperate search. This plot device brings the reader along as fellow investigator, trying to make sense out of information as it happens. Chapman’s frustration is contagious, as is his terror over what may be happening to the woman he cares for deeply. As I turned the pages, I kept expecting to get a glimpse of Alex’s ordeal—all of the previous books have been told from her point of view. Fairstein didn’t allow me that glimpse, however. I had to go through the mill with Chapman.
The police detective’s story is written with such confidence and skill that I was surprised to hear that Fairstein approached the project with some trepidation. She had the blessing of her editor, whom she approached after the launch of Terminal City (Alex Cooper No. 16). They agreed to keep it a secret, and so off went Fairstein to the dreaded blank screen. “I got a bit nervous as I tried to make the transition,” she says. “But I know Chapman as well as I know Coop, which I kept telling myself over and over.” Another factor helped: “For years, readers asked me at signings all over the country whether there are other things I would like to write. My first answer has always been to write one of the books in this series from Detective Mike Chapman’s perspective.”
Perceiving China Through a Poetry-Spouting Sleuth
By Layton Green
For me, reading an advance copy of Qiu Xiaolong’s wonderful novel SHANGHAI REDEMPTION was the next best thing to getting on a plane and flying to the most populous city in the world. His crime series featuring Chief Inspector Chen of the Shanghai Police Department is full of true-to-life lagniappe woven expertly into the book, reminiscent of Andrea Camilleri’s hugely popular Inspector Montalbano series (whose protagonist, like Inspector Chen, has an addiction to the gastronomic delights of his home country) or Josef Škvorecký’s inimitable Lieutenant Boruvka, who works homicide cases in the Czech Republic while he navigates a Kafkaesque bureaucracy.
But Qiu Xiaolong has crafted a series that stands firmly on its own pedestal in the pantheon of international crime. Inspector Chen is a poetry-spouting sleuth who loves to munch on a warm Pork Belly Bun as much as he enjoys solving crimes in the mind-boggling sprawl of Shanghai, where futuristic skyscrapers straddle an old town whose gardens and winding byways still bear the imprimatur of ancient dynasties. According to Chief Inspector Chen, it is a city where “the streets seemed to be continuously rediscovered in the ever-changing fantasies of neon lights.”
Xiaolong’s biography could be the subject of a novel in its own right. Today he is an accomplished poet and novelist, but growing up in Socialist China, where nearly all literature was banned (unless one wanted to read the scintillating poems of Chairman Mao), he discovered literature by reading bootlegged copies of Sherlock Holmes and Jane Austen.
The Inspector Chen series has sold over a million copies and has been translated into twenty languages. It has been nominated for numerous awards, and the Wall Street Journal named Death of a Red Heroine as one of the five best political novels of all time. His latest novel, SHANGHAI REDEMPTION, drops on September 15.
Paul Mendelson began writing at school, when he should have been doing other things. On leaving school, he ran a fringe theatre company, performing classic plays, his own new writing, and revue shows. From there, he moved to the National Theatre, first front-of-house, then as an assistant director and, finally, as a playwright. His play You’re Quite Safe With Me was performed at the National Theatre when he was only 21. He also wrote for popular television shows.
Over the following years, Paul concentrated on non-fiction, producing a dozen titles on mind-sports such as bridge, poker, and casino games, as well as a weekly column on bridge for the Financial Times. He has interviewed business leaders, written about travel, and contributed on diverse subjects to many publications, in the U.K., the U.S., Australia, and South Africa. During this time, he also wrote Across the Veld—a monologue about the political and cultural transitions in South Africa, and numerous short stories.
After a number of ideas for books in other genres, he returned to his first love—crime fiction—and produced The First Rule of Survival, snapped up by Little, Brown and published last year. Lee Child said of the book: “An excellent, uncompromising crime thriller made even better by its setting.” The novel was an immediate success and was shortlisted for the most prestigious U.K. crime-fiction award—the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger. The sequel, THE SERPENTINE ROAD, was released worldwide in April.
I asked Paul about his move to writing fiction, and his choice of South Africa for the backstory.
The Search for a Dangerous Truth
By Dawn Ius
It should get easier.
The writing. The waiting.
But after penning five critically acclaimed thrillers, Sean Chercover admits that in some ways, it actually gets harder.
“What gets easier is, you’ve been there before,” he says. “So when you hit the midpoint of your first draft and you become suddenly convinced that this is the worst book in the history of books and you’re murdering trees for no good reason, you say, ‘Ah, I’ve reached the midpoint of the first draft,’ instead of freaking out that your book is fatally broken.”
This underlying insecurity, coupled with the challenges of an ever-changing publishing landscape, can cripple some writers, but for Chercover, it fuels his drive to continue doing what he describes as the best job in the world—“sitting around in my underwear writing stories.”
No doubt fans are now speculating what color boxers the Toronto writer wore while penning THE DEVIL’S GAME, the second book in The Game Series featuring investigator Daniel Byrne.
“He is a man on a mission,” Chercover says. “Having searched for faith, now he searches for the truth, wherever that search leads.”
Byrne’s faith is irrevocably shaken in the first book of the series, The Trinity Game, when after ten years and 721 cases, his search for truth reveals some disturbing earthly conspiracies, forcing him to burn his old life to the ground.
THE DEVIL’S GAME follows Byrne as he steps into a new life of secrets and lies to investigate a bizarre new strain of the plague that seems to flood the minds of its victims with visions of the future.
When the mutilated body of a young woman is discovered in the Santa Monica Mountains, LAPD Detective Jessica Allen knows she’s seen this MO before – two and a half years ago on the other side of the country.
A sadistic serial killer has been operating undetected for a decade, preying on lone female drivers who have broken down. The press dub the killer ‘the Samaritan’, but with no leads and a killer who leaves no traces, the police investigation quickly grinds to a halt.
That’s when Carter Blake shows up to volunteer his services. He’s a skilled manhunter with an uncanny ability to predict the Samaritan’s next moves. At first, Allen and her colleagues are suspicious. After all, their new ally shares some uncomfortable similarities to the man they’re tracking. But as the Samaritan takes his slaughter to the next level, Blake must find a way to stop him … even if it means bringing his own past crashing down on top of him.
“A sprawling American epic delivered with panache.” ~Barry Forshaw, INDEPENDENT
“[Cross] has created a character in Carter Blake that can easily stand alongside the likes of Jack Reacher.”~Book Addict Shaun
Growing up in the 1960s, I enjoyed watching science-fiction TV, like Land of the Giants, The Time Tunnel, and especially The Invaders. Those shows gave me everything I wanted. They took me to another world filled with adventure and thrilling escapades.
In the 1970s, I started reading science fiction instead of just watching it on TV. I loved books like The Forever War, Dune, and The Stand. They had the adventure I longed for, but they also portrayed larger-than-life battles that pitted good against evil.
Then one day I checked The Andromeda Strain out from the library. It was about a microorganism from space that invaded our world. I loved it. A few weeks later I borrowed The Terminal Man, and then Congo. Michael Crichton became one of my favorite authors. His books made my body tingle with fear, but I couldn’t figure out why I felt that way.
I later realized there’s a fundamental difference between science fiction and science thrillers—real science.
I’d venture that many science fiction writers are futurists who like to explore the possibilities of tomorrow. Crichton, and today’s top science-thriller writers, explore what is scientifically possible, here and now.
After writing two standard thrillers of my own, Pursued and Deadly Cult, I longed to explore the scientific aspects of the thriller, stories and plots that that would make my reader’s mind reel with what was possible. In this world. Today.
In the 15 years I’ve been writing thrillers, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazing people—from medical examiners and crime-lab directors to criminal profilers and homicide detectives. Because I don’t have a background in forensics or law enforcement, I’ve had to rely on experts who have generously offered their time and shared their experiences. Their real-life details have breathed life into my novels, and their friendships have enriched me personally as well as professionally. Through these experts, I’ve been able to write what I did not know.
Over the years my research has taken me through a variety of topics: the Ebola virus (Exposed); Munchausen syndrome by proxy (At the Stroke of Madness); the underground trafficking of body parts (Damaged); domestic terrorism (Black Friday); and food contamination in our school-lunch programs (Hotwire). One of the experts I met during this research told me about cadaver dogs. And ever since, I’ve been chomping at the bit to include one in a novel.
I’m a dog lover. I’ve surrounded myself with dogs my entire life, some of which have been rescues. I’ve had as many as six in my pack at one time. Each and every one of them has been a special member of my family—their entrance a celebration; their exit a deep and profound sadness. Yet I never truly realized the amazing capabilities that dogs possess until I started writing SILENT CREED. Not only do they have a keen sense of smell but they can also differentiate and sort through a variety of scents. And they do this over miles, despite barriers of dirt, water, and mounds of mahi-mahi—or in the case of SILENT CREED, debris and mud from a devastating mudslide.
Detective Chief Inspector Kate Simms is on assignment in the United States with St Louis PD, reviewing cold cases, sharing expertise. Forensic expert Professor Nick Fennimore follows her, keen to pick up where they left off after their last case – but the last thing Simms needs is Fennimore complicating her life. A call for help from a sheriff’s deputy takes Fennimore to Oklahoma: a mother is dead, her child gone – and they’re not the only ones. How many more young mothers have been killed, how many more murders unsolved, children unaccounted for?
As Fennimore’s abduction-murder leads back to Simms’s cold case, the investigations merge. Meanwhile, nine-year-old Red, adventuring in Oklahoma’s backwoods, has no clue that he and his mom are in the killer’s sights. But soon the race is on to catch a serial killer and save the boy.
“Fine attention to forensics and investigative techniques distinguishes this stellar thriller.” ~Publishers Weekly STARRED review
“Garrett evoke(s) not only the suspense of serial killings, but an emotional triangle and a tantalizingly unresolved crime that keep the pages flying.” ~Kirkus Reviews
By Matt Maxwell
Elizabeth Lowell has quietly been stirring up a revolt in both romance and thrillers since the late 1980s. She was one of the leading innovators in the field of romantic suspense, having mastered relationship-driven romance and suspense novels in her earlier career. With Tell Me No Lies, she combined the two genres, giving readers an unexpected ride that continues to today. Her newest romantic suspense novel is PERFECT TOUCH, which tells a tale of family and betrayal set against a backdrop of the rugged Wyoming landscape. High-stakes art deals, murder, and the unexpected dance of new love all come together, satisfying readers of thrillers and contemporary romance alike.
The Big Thrill sat down with Mrs. Lowell to talk about her writing career and what it’s like to break down genre barriers.
You didn’t start out writing suspense at all. How did you begin your career?
I was reading science fiction at the time; my first novel, Change, was science fiction. It is long out of print, but I’m looking at possibly bringing out a digital edition. I’ve got rights to all my science fiction backlist, thanks to contracts that weren’t able to predict ebooks and the world we live in now.
What were you able to take from that experience that makes your other work unique?
Science fiction is the ultimate “What if?” genre, with no limitations required by reality. Suspense is also a “What if?” genre, but the limitations are very much of this Earth!
What led you to add suspense elements to your romance novels? Did that dovetail with your work on Steal the Sun and the Fiddler novels?
My first romance novels were about 200 pages long. There wasn’t room in them for anything but the development of the romance. When I write 400 page novels, then there is room for both romance and suspense. Working on pure suspense (such as Steal the Sun) and mystery with a continuing relationship (Fiddler) made me want to write novels in which the romance and suspense were equal partners.
Fifteen years later, the building is scheduled for demolition. When a salvage team discovers a skeleton curled up in a locker, a hole in the left temple, Lockport’s chief of police, Neil Redfern, is called in to investigate.
When Redfern learns that his girlfriend, Bliss Moonbeam Cornwall, also graduated that fateful year, he reveals details of the grisly discovery. She insists she knows who his victim is, but before any headway can be made in the case, another grad is killed. Could the two murders be connected?
Despite being warned against meddling in police affairs, Bliss enlists the help of two former classmates to find the killer. But digging into the past proves to be a dangerous pastime. Her unconventional methods jeopardize the investigation, her relationship with Redfern, and her own life.
When Carol Childs is called to the scene of a body dump she has no idea she’s about to uncover a connection to a string of missing girls. Young, attractive women, drawn to the glitz and glamor of Hollywood via an internet promise of stardom and romance, have been disappearing. A judge’s daughter leaves behind a clue and a trip down Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame reveals a connection to a high powered real estate mogul and to a cartel targeting girls for human trafficking.
Old Hollywood has its secrets, its impersonators and backdoor entrances to old speakeasies and clubs where only those with the proper credentials can go. And when Carol Childs gets too close, she finds herself politically at odds with powers that threaten to undue her career and like the very girls she’s seeking, disappear.
“A high-speed chase of a mystery, filled with very likable characters, a timely plot, and writing so compelling that readers will be unable to turn away from the page.” ~Kings River Life Magazine
“This book was a real nail-biter! It kept my attention the entire time. A definite must read. ~Goodreads Review
The main protagonist in THE ULTIMATE THREAT is repeatedly challenged by skeptical allies as he charges forward to build an unlikely but plausible alliance to battle the spreading menace posed by freshly trained homegrown extremists. Osborne says there’s a purpose in all of this—a five-alarm purpose.
The novel is a true-to-life account about the rapid spread of religious extremism but with a chilling twist, Osborne explained: “I’ve superimposed this fictional story of terrorism onto genuine surroundings in American cities. The objective is to bring home to everyone in the West the very real danger created by the rapid spread of heinous brutality by these unprincipled savages.
“Make no mistake, we’ve grown dangerously complacent in the West. Unless we demand that our security and law-enforcement agencies be more proactive, we could easily find ourselves subjected to the same unspeakable sadism, and facing tragedies on a much larger scale than we’ve already seen in New York, Paris, London, Boston, and Ottawa. The list can only grow longer. This novel is a wake-up call.”
THE ULTIMATE THREAT is the culmination of more than five years of research and writing. Osborne says that his novel is, unapologetically, “a disturbing look at the heinous crimes of religious extremists, but it is also a deeply compassionate account of the suffering millions of people are enduring daily simply by having been in the wrong place when these savages invaded their homelands.”
Susan E. Sagarra’s debut mystery novel, CRACKS IN THE COBBLESTONE, is the story of two vastly different women who have a mutual obsession with the Titanic tragedy. That calamity presents itself to each woman in different ways to help solve a long-forgotten mystery in the quirky river town of Tirtmansic.
Sagarra has always been intrigued with the historic catastrophe. “I have an unexplained fascination with, or connection to, the Titanic disaster, and my lucky number is 12,” she said. “When I set out to write my book, I looked at the calendar the day I started writing and it was April 12, 2010. So I decided to start part of the novel on April 12 . . . of 1912. I did not even think about the year’s significance until I researched important events and realized the Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, three days after I had determined my written journey would begin.”
But this was only one of several coincidences along the way. Several years earlier, when Sagarra was the managing editor of a St. Louis, Missouri-based newspaper, she had been invited to see the Titanic exhibit at the Saint Louis Science Center. “At the beginning of the exhibit, they give you a ‘boarding pass’ that depicts a real passenger who was on the ship and you have the opportunity to experience the event as that person,” Sagarra said. “The pass gives details about the person and my passenger, a woman named Mrs. Edward Beane (Ethel Clark), was one of just twelve newlywed brides on the ship. At the end of the exhibit, you find out if ‘you’ survived. She did.”
Sagarra dug out the boarding pass from her trunk of memorabilia and researched Ethel Beane. She ended up paying homage to Mrs. Beane in the book.
The next serendipitous event occurred when she received a gift from her brother. “He gave me a book called I Survived the Titanic, by Lawrence Beesley. Mr. Beesley described how he had survived in lifeboat No. 13, which spooked me. He was in the same boat as Ethel Beane. My brother did not know I describe this woman in my novel when he gave me the present.”
Max Barrett, the protagonist of this espionage thriller, is an elite intelligence operative driven hard by events from his past. He is a member of a military unit so covert that its code name is changed every few years to remain hidden. Barrett’s new assignment is to lead a team that will secretly protect Sara, the President’s only daughter, during a U.N. humanitarian trip to Nigeria. The problem is that the Secret Service does not want him or his team anywhere near the First Daughter. Infighting ensues but soon gives way to reluctant cooperation when she is kidnapped during a deadly ambush. Worse yet, her true identity had been hidden for this trip, which gives Barrett his second bit of bad news: an insider has to be involved.
Alone and cut off from his normal resources, Barrett is forced to use all of his skills, experience, and contacts—including some shady characters outside the intelligence community—in a race against time to save Sara’s life. The trail leads Barrett on a worldwide hunt, through a labyrinth of clues that reveals a chilling truth: the kidnapping was only a small part of a much more ambitious plan. A plan with the ultimate goal of destabilizing the world.
James Abel is a pseudonym for journalist Bob Reiss, who has covered the Arctic—the setting for PROTOCOL ZERO—for the magazines Smithsonian, Parade, Readers Digest, and Outside. He also wrote the nonfiction book The Eskimo and the Oil Man about the opening of the Arctic, advised 60 Minutes on Arctic issues, and has appeared as a guest on Morning Joe, Dan Rather Reports, Al Jazeera, and Nightline, discussing Arctic security and potential conflict.
PROTOCOL ZERO begins as a party of four scientific researchers, a family of three and their guide, makes a satellite call for help, but by the time Alaskan police arrive they are all dead. It looks like a murder/suicide, but then Marine bio-terror expert Joe Rush discovers that all the dead were sick with the most fatal disease on earth, yet one that never afflicts people in groups. At least until now. Through the ages, this very real disease has given rise to myth, terror, and folk tales.
Has the microbe evolved into something even more terrible, or has it been genetically engineered? And if the latter, who is behind it? More people are falling ill in Alaska. Soon the area will be quarantined, and the race will be on to stop the illness.
How did your work as a journalist in the Arctic lead to the plot for PROTOCOL ZERO?
The region is warming so fast that scientists believe that the next big outbreak of illness may come from a cold region, not a hot one. Add to that the competition between Arctic nations for territory, the race to get oil out of the ground there, the fact that the biggest new diamond mines on earth are in the Arctic…well, the real world provides all the elements of a thriller.
THE FLAWED DANCE is a story that has been simmering on my memory burner for 50 years. I finally decided that Erin Matthews, my protagonist, has been waiting too long. She literally demanded I tell her story. I’ve hesitated this long because, in essence, her story parallels mine.
Erin’s story begins in 1968 upon her arrival in Philadelphia, after convincing a co-worker at the restaurant where she worked as a waitress to drive her from New Jersey. She has run away from her long-time lover after hitting him over the head with an iron skillet, rendering him unconscious, if not dead. After being submissive and quiet most of the five years she spent with him, nursing him back to health after he experienced a fall that fractured both feet, and being his constant companion and lover, she is unable to cope with what she has done. Never mind that she was only 22 and Johnny was 52 and running from a hit man sent by the Mob—she never dreamed she would be capable of attempted murder. Guilt becomes her motivator as she seeks redemption.
Erin moves in, sight unseen, with the brother of her driver, an elderly African-American, who once had his own issues with the Mob. As the only white girl in the neighborhood in an era of racial unrest, Erin is determined to make a new life for herself. At the same time she must watch her back in case her past catches up with her.
The steps she has to climb to reach her destination are fraught with hidden dangers, exacerbated by her own naivety and being quick to trust the wrong people. After several missteps and bad decisions, she lands a few jobs, first as a waitress, then a medical transcriber at a hospital, and finally as a go-go dancer. The last pays more than the others but also brings her into the arms of the Mob. Intrigue, betrayal, and murder follow Erin and she must do some fancy footwork to avoid getting killed herself.
In the literary sense, I’m afraid I’ve never grown up. For a lot of writers, all you have to do is look at what they were reading as kids to see what they’ll write as adults.
Back when I shared a freezing bedroom with one of my brothers in Evanston, Illinois (I remember ice on the inside of the handle that cranked the windows shut), my half of the bookcase was packed with two kinds of books.
First, there were books I could count on to scare me, including the Alfred Hitchcock anthologies for young readers I bought at the annual Orrington Grammar School Book Fair. The jubilation I felt at landing a new volume of these can only be equated now with learning that I can finally, hallelujah!, go off of one of my costly blood pressure meds. These books were filled with spooky stories by everyone from H.G. Wells to Robert Louis Stevenson, and I was always torn between rationing them out and ripping through the whole anthology as fast as I could.
As I got a bit older, the books got even more terrifying and demanding. My copy of Frankenstein had a cover that portrayed the monster as a haggard human with a jutting jaw and long, straggly hair; Karloff’s was also a great rendering, no doubt about it, but I could never give up on that cover illustration either. Thus, cognitive dissonance first entered my life.
Everyone puts down celebrity news, everyone makes fun of the people in celebrity news—and everyone loves to read celebrity news. That’s one thing I’ve learned during a long journalistic career covering celebrities from Liz, Oprah, and Michael Jackson to Kim, Miley, and Brangelina.
So when it came time to write my new thriller, I decided to make it about the mysterious death of a big name celebrity. The result is SHOOTING FOR THE STARS, in which New York Daily News reporter Gil Malloy tries to solve the murders of a legendary movie star from 30 years ago, and a present-day TV star which seems to be related.
I draw on two real-life celebrity murder cases for my fictional one—the shooting of John Lennon and the stabbing of actress Sharon Tate by the Charles Manson family. The glamorous movie star in my book—Laura Marlowe—is gunned down by what is believed to be a deranged fan on a Manhattan street. Which is, of course, what happened to Lennon on that tragic night of December 8, 1980. The trail for Laura Marlowe’s killer leads reporter Malloy back to the murderous Manson family that executed actress Sharon Tate—the pregnant wife of Hollywood movie director Roman Polanski—at her L.A. mansion in a senseless bloodbath in the summer of 1969.
But there are many other examples of celebrity crime that inspired me to write a thriller about celebrity murder—and some of them are even wilder than I or any other fiction author could ever dream up.
McNeill took some time out of her schedule this month to answer a few questions for The Big Thrill about her novel and what’s next for her writing career.
Tell us about CENTER OF GRAVITY
On the surface, the novel is about the dissolution of a picture-perfect family. The story follows Ava Carson as she navigates through bitter shock and pain after her husband announces he’s leaving the marriage.
Things get much worse, however, after Mitchell files for divorce and demands full custody of the couple’s children. It’s then that Ava is forced to wake up and face the truth that her husband is not the charming, loving man she believed she’d married.
Sounds a bit like Sleeping With the Enemy.
Like Martin in Sleeping With the Enemy, Mitchell is definitely controlling, jealous, and increasingly violent. As a powerful member of the community, he skillfully manipulates public opinion, placing Ava in devastating situations with her own friends and family.
Unlike Price’s novel, though, CENTER OF GRAVITY includes an additional domestic suspense angle, with the couple’s young children caught in the middle of Ava and Mitchell’s custody battle.
I think on some level, we all believe we’re going to live forever. There’s a kind of mental block we share that keeps us from looking too far down to the end of that road.
I’m not exempt. I’ve always had a suspicion in the back of my mind that I would outlive everyone I loved, that I would survive as everyone around me passed on. Then I held my newborn daughter in my hands. At that moment, it dawned on me that my clock was ticking faster than hers, and that she would see a world that I could only imagine.
That’s why I wanted to write what would become THE ETERNAL WORLD. There’s nothing like the prospect of your own mortality to get you thinking about eternal life.
In the book, the three main characters are all given a chance to sample the water from the Fountain of Youth. In 1527, a young conquistador named Simon stumbles upon the Fountain and the Native American tribe, the Uzita, who guard it. He betrays Shako, the woman who loves him and saves his life, and as a result, her entire tribe is slaughtered. Almost five centuries later, when the water runs out, Simon hires a brilliant researcher named David Robinton to duplicate it. David is faced with the greatest medical triumph of all time, if he can make it work. He could cure death itself—but only if he survives the centuries-old battle between Simon and Shako.
I’ve been very lucky: I’ve had very little direct experience with death. Aside from my grandparents, I haven’t lost anyone I love. And even my grandparents held on long past any reasonable expectations. My grandfather made it to 90 despite heart attacks and a broken back. My grandmother made it to 93. My father is still hammering up drywall in his seventies. My mother does more before breakfast than I manage to accomplish in an entire day.
The follow-up to the critically acclaimed Phoenix Island, which reads like “Lord of the Flies meets Wolverine and Cool Hand Luke” (F. Paul Wilson, creator of Repairman Jack) and inspired the CBS TV show Intelligence.
With a chip in his head and hundreds more throughout his body, sixteen-year-old Carl Freeman was turned from an orphan with impulse control issues into a super-soldier. Forced into the mercenary Phoenix Force group, he begins to fear he’ll never escape. Sent to a volcanic island to fight for them, he’ll compete in a combat tournament that awards teens with survival for merciless brutality. But just when all looks lost, he spies a friendly face…and possibly a way out.
On Phoenix Island:
“Fantastic… superbly suspenseful… unpredictable and frightening. Phoenix Island will blow you away.”~Mark Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of Rogue and co-author of Private Games (with James Patterson)
By Ronnie Allen
I had the pleasure of talking with two multi-published authors, Jean Rabe and Donald Bingle, who recently released—as a collaboration—THE LOVE-HAIGHT CASE FILES: Seeking Supernatural Justice. This novel is a fun ride with paranormal creatures known as OTs—Other-Than-Human—as they wreak havoc through the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. As you can tell from the title, this novel has a lot to do with the law. You’ll meet Gargoyles, Ghouls, Vampires, Fey, Ghosts, and Zombies whose characters are so well developed they might sound like living and breathing humans until you read their colorful descriptions and realize they are anything but. Each one has a unique voice—some comedic, some mysterious, and some ominous.
There’s a mix of life in this district. The OTs live amongst the humans who perpetuate many of their problems. Attorneys Thomas Brock and Evelyn Love crusade and protect the rights of these OTs. We see them in the courtroom fighting for a father’s right to see his children, and in the streets overcoming danger as they protect the lives of gargoyles doomed to die when buildings they protect are demolished, fighting breed-specific legislation, and saving a vampire being framed. I’m not telling you more. You’ll have to read the book. The plot encompasses the real life concerns and emotions of many in an urban-fantasy world.
Rabe and Bingle recently answered a few questions for The Big Thrill.
Jean and Don, I’m thrilled to be talking with you today. With thirty-one novels and four thrillers and countless stories, respectively, I’d certainly appreciate your expertise as well as I’m sure our readers would. To start, how did your collaboration evolve for THE LOVE-HAIGHT CASE FILES: Seeking Supernatural Justice? How did you divide the labor, so to speak, and what roles did each of you have? What ground rules did you set for accountability?
Jean: We approached the novel as “cases,” and we divided the work that way. I’d take a case, Don would take a case, we’d banter ideas back and forth, and we’d proof each other’s work. Made for a clean manuscript, consistent characters and dialog, and allowed the book to come together smoothly.
Newly minted FBI Agent Lucy Kincaid is settling into her job in San Antonio, Texas, when the corpse of Harper Worthington, the husband of a sitting congresswoman, is found naked in a motel on the wrong side of town. It’s up to Lucy to locate the last person to see him alive: a teenage prostitute who seems to have vanished into thin air.
When forensics determines that Harper was poisoned, Lucy and her new by-the-book partner dig deep into his life to find out who might want him dead. Why did Harper lie to his wife and his staff? Was he involved in an illicit affair? Embezzling money? Laundering money for a drug cartel? Or was he simply a pawn in someone else’s dangerous game?
Lucy’s boyfriend Sean Rogan is hired by Harper’s company to run a security audit, causing friction between Lucy and the FBI. But when Sean finds a high-tech bug in Harper’s office, an entirely new threat emerges–a far-reaching conspiracy run by a ruthless killer who will do anything to get what he wants, and kill anyone who gets in his way. And the person between him and victory is Lucy Kincaid.
By Paige Tyler
If you remember from Book 1 in my Special Wolf Alpha Team Series (Hungry Like the Wolf), the Dallas SWAT Team is made up of sixteen alpha werewolves. When you think of the word “alpha” you probably naturally think big, strong guys. And up until WOLF TROUBLE (Book 2 in the SWAT Series) you’d be right. There were sixteen alpha guys on the team, and in the Pack. But now you get to see how the dynamics change when the next alpha to join the Pack is a woman. Not only is she strong and aggressive like the guys, but she’s sexy as hell, too.
In my SWAT Series, werewolves aren’t turned from a bite, but rather by having a gene that turns on during a traumatic event. And the heroine Khaki Blake experiences one heck of an event that not just turns her into a werewolf but also forces her to leave her old life behind for a new one.
When she joins the Pack, she doesn’t expect her new teammates to be so attractive. But while they’re all big, tall and droolworthy, only one of them makes her forget her own name—her squad leader Xander Riggs. You guessed it—things are about to get complicated.
Published in rapid succession, Jason M. Hough’s first three novels, The Darwin Elevator, The Exodus Towers, and The Plague Forge, earned mountains of praise and comparisons to such authors as James S. A. Corey and John Scalzi. Now Hough returns with a riveting near-future spy thriller that combines the adrenaline of a high-octane James Bond adventure with mind-blowing sci-fi speculations worthy of Christopher Nolan’s Inception.
Technologically enhanced superspy Peter Caswell has been dispatched on a top-secret assignment unlike any he’s ever faced. A spaceship that vanished years ago has been found, along with the bodies of its murdered crew—save one. Peter’s mission is to find the missing crew member, who fled through what appears to be a tear in the fabric of space. Beyond this mysterious doorway lies an even more confounding reality: a world that seems to be Earth’s twin.
Peter discovers that this mirrored world is indeed different from his home, and far more dangerous. Cut off from all support, and with only days to complete his operation, Peter must track his quarry alone on an alien world. But he’s unprepared for what awaits on the planet’s surface, where his skills will be put to the ultimate test—and everything he knows about the universe will be challenged in ways he never could have imagined.
By Diane Kelly
Readers often want to know where writers find their inspiration. Some writers find inspiration in the headlines. Others find it in the people around them or in experiences they’ve had. In the case of my Paw Enforcement K-9 cop series, inspiration simply licked my ankle. One look down at my black and tan Shepherd mix and I realized a dog like him would make a great character for a mystery series.
Yep, I’m a big animal lover. My husband and I share our home with three dogs and six cats. Being outnumbered more than four-to-one by furry, four-footed creatures qualifies me as a “crazy cat lady” and violates a number of city ordinances. Still, even though I can’t get out of my house without fur on my clothes, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Along with the plastic poop bags and hacked-up hairballs, my dogs and cats bring love and laughter to our lives.
One of the wonderful things about dogs is their emotional honesty. Dogs don’t hide their feelings. If they’re happy, their wagging tail lets you know it. If they’re feeling threatened, the ears go back and the teeth come out. If they don’t want to move from their favorite spot on the couch, they give you a look of unmistakable disdain that says, “I was here first. Buzz off, mere human.”
Cold, emotionless and with an innate ability to recognize lies, Geiger was the best of the best in the field of Information Retrieval. Until he was asked to break his only rule and do the unthinkable – to torture a child. Something broke in Geiger’s neatly controlled mind, opening up a flood of terrible memories long kept at bay. And now Geiger is missing, presumed dead.
But, with no body ever found, there are a number of people invested in finding out the truth. One of those people is Harry Boddicker, Geiger’s old handler and friend. Another is his bitter rival, Dalton, who is determined to find Geiger and extract a final confession from him, before carrying out his deadly revenge.
But no one has reckoned on Zanni Soames – a woman more dangerous than any of them could imagine, and hell-bent on winning the race to find Geiger first.
The new novel from Mark Allen Smith is a masterfully written thriller that will send you spinning from New York to Paris and back again, and into the darkest depths of the man known only as Geiger.
Last September, news of a drug laundering operation in the Los Angeles fashion and textile district hit the airwaves. Officially called Operation Fashion Police by the FBI, the raid resulted in a haul of multi-millions of dollars cash, all in hundred dollar bills. The money was profit from the narcotics trade, most of it discovered in duffle bags and cardboard boxes. Several of the boxes were even conveniently marked “1 million.”
Now that was nice, don’t you think? Criminals labeling their own evidence.
The raid was considered to be the largest in history. Current reports state the combined value of cash and property seized at $140 million. Nine arrests were made. All pled not guilty.
The gist of the laundering operation was this: Mexican drug cartels in the United States gave bags of cash to businesses in the Los Angeles fashion district, who used the money to make or import products that would then be sold to Mexican distributors for pesos. The pesos were returned to the Mexican drug cartel.
Simplified, it would be like me selling drugs and then giving you the money I made to buy widgets. You then sold the widgets to a third party and gave me the money you made. I put the clean—laundered—money in the bank and no one would be the wiser. Seems simple, right?
By Mary Kennedy
Seven Things You Really Want To Know About Dreams
As a practicing psychologist, I find that my clients are fascinated by dreams. Most of them have read a little Freud, who called dreams “the royal road to the unconscious.” Freud believed dreams can help us access our innermost thoughts; our fears, wishes, and desires. Think of dreams as a window into our unconscious life. They can be humorous, erotic, tantalizing or terrifying.
When I came up with the premise of the Dream Club Mysteries, I envisioned a group of Savannah women who would meet once a week to eat some fabulous Southern desserts and talk about their dreams. And of course, they would solve a murder or two in every book. I thought this might be an intriguing plot device and could pave the way for some interesting characterization.
As the women reveal their dreams, they realize that they held hidden clues to the crime scene, usually in symbolic form. Sometimes they even uncover the identity of the murderer. But were these clues really “revelations” from the subconscious or merely coincidences? I remembered Freud’s claim, “There are no coincidence.” I chose to sidestep the question and leave it up to the reader to decide.
When I’m asked to speak on dreams, I find that people have strong beliefs—and sometimes misconceptions—about dreams. Here are a few questions I’ve come across.
You can only dream about things you’ve experienced in real life. Is this true?
No, of course not. Anything can happen in a dream. You can take on a new persona, explore lands both real and imaginary, and have adventures worthy of Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. Since dreams are not subject to time and space constraints, you can share a plate of marrons with Marie Antoinette (“Let them eat cake!”) one night and be part of the first space mission (“Houston, we have a problem”) the following evening.
Shelley Coriell’s THE BLIND is another dark and twisty romantic thriller in the Apostles Series. The Big Thrill caught up with Coriell to discuss her critically acclaimed series, as well as what’s lurking in her future.
Tell us about THE BLIND, the third book in your Apostles Series, which features an elite team of FBI agents who work outside the box and at times, above the law.
THE BLIND is the story of Special Agent Evie Jimenez, a fiery female FBI bombs and weapons specialist who teams up with Jack Elliott, a buttoned-up billionaire philanthropist and art collector, to track down a serial bomber who uses bombs and live models to create masterful art that lives and breathes—and with the flip of a switch, dies.
Set in the eclectic streets of the downtown Los Angeles Arts District, THE BLIND is a story of art and beauty and ultimately, power. As work-a-holic Evie hunts down an increasingly deadly serial bomber, she finds herself fighting intense feelings for Jack, a powerful businessman with control issues, and struggling with her femininity, and ideas about family. Explosions are going off everywhere in Evie’s world.
Evie Jimenez, the heroine in THE BLIND, is an FBI bombs and weapons specialist. What inspired you to write such a strong female character?
While drafting THE BLIND, I joked around that this book should come with a warning label, something like: Warning: Strong Woman Ahead! I blame my daughters.
Imagine yourself in a corner of France, with its customs and history, its Armagnac and duck confit. Then add some mystery. That was my world as I translated FLAMBE IN ARMAGNAC, the French title of this latest installment in the Winemaker Detective series by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen.
In the heart of Gascony, a fire ravages the warehouse of one of Armagnac’s top estates, killing the master distiller. Wine expert Benjamin Cooker is called in to estimate the value of the losses. But Cooker and his assistant Virgile want to know more. How did the old alembic explode? Was it really an accident? Why is the estate owner Baron de Castayrac penniless? How legal are his dealings?
The deeper the winemaking detective digs, the more suspicious he becomes. There is more than one disgruntled inhabitant in this small town. As readers are witness to the time-honored process of Armagnac distillation, the day-to-day activities of the hunt, the marketplace, and the struggles for power within the community, they get a glimpse of the traditions of southwestern France. Similarly, they are introduced to characters from all walks of life—landed gentry with noble titles, former aristocrats contriving to hold on to their status, and the working-class salt of the earth. Each has a story to tell, and Cooker has to listen carefully in order to piece together the mystery of the Chateau Blanzac inferno.
One of the colorful characters in the story is the “roving distiller,” a man who inherited the craft of turning wine into Armagnac by way of an intricate yet medieval-looking machine called an alembic that he hauls from estate to estate with his tractor. The transformation of simple alcohol into the highly prized eau-de-vie seems symbolic of complex human relationships the reader encounters in the village.
I’d just completed years of military training. I’d parachuted into stormy swamps, memorized Soviet battle plans, and “learned Russian so you didn’t have to.” Then the enemy my generation had grown up with, and the career for which I’d sweat and bled, crumbled on the six o’clock news.
What are you going to do now? Mom asked.
I went over to the dark side. I moved to Moscow. The Wall had fallen and then the Curtain—let the pillaging and plundering begin! Of course it was the locals now known as oligarchs who ransacked Russia by the billion. I did OK, landing a corporate gig peddling Western medicine.
Years passed—tough perestroika years—and my sworn enemies morphed into best friends. I came to understand that defeat had cost them more than jobs and traditions. The collapse of the Iron Curtain had also crushed their pride. They’d been a superpower one day, and destitute the next. Talk about a tough pill to swallow.
I tried to imagine how I’d react, if American pride became an illusion. I thought about how hard I’d fight to prevent it. With clenched fists, I vowed that I’d use everything I had learned, every tool at my disposal. Then I put myself in my new friends’ shoes, and asked:
Rancher Brody Fields stops cold when he receives a plea for help from Rebecca Hughes. The onetime love of his life, who was abducted along with her brother fifteen years ago, now believes the kidnapper has returned to tie up loose ends. Rebecca needs Brody’s help bringing the kidnapper—or killer—to justice.
For Brody, the job is risky, but the real danger is their unexpected Texas-sized attraction. As they uncover answers to difficult—and deadly—questions, Brody has a question of his own: Can he trust the woman who once shattered his heart?
Alannah Clark has found the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with. A magician – but magicians have secrets – secrets that might outweigh Alannah’s own dark corners. But nothing remains hidden forever.
Magic, thrills, romance, suspense, and sorrow are the emotions of John R. Little’s newest and darkest thoughts. Fans are sure to get a thrill ride as he unleashes his newest adventure.
“There are two words you don’t often, if ever, hear when describing a ‘horror’ writers’ work – Wordsmith & Elegant. But, that’s exactly what kept running through my mind as I read John R. Little’s Soul Mates. If you’ve never read any of Little’s work, you’re really missing out. Not only does he weave a wonderfully horrific tale, but commands his prose like so few in the writing community can do on a consistent basis. I’m dead serious about that and Soul Mates is no exception. I’ve read everything Little writes and you should too. You’re most certainly in for tasty treat with this one!”
~Ty Schwamberger, author of The Fields, Deep Dark Woods & Escaping Lucidity
Marion Spicer spends her days examining auction catalogues and searching for stolen works of art. She is a top-notch investigator when it comes to eighteenth-century art. But for her it’s just a job and her life is well ordered. All this changes when she inherits a huge and very prestigious collection of pre-Columbian art from a father she never knew. There are conditions attached: she must first find three priceless statues.
That is when her troubles begin. Her father’s death sparked much greed, and Marion finds herself facing the merciless microcosm of Paris art auctions and galleries, with its sharks, schemes, fences, traps, scams, and attacks. Her quest draws her into a world where people will kill for a love of beauty.
“The story is captivating, with twists and turns and murders, along with a dive into the little-known world of art specialists and counterfeiters.” ~Elle Magazine (Readers’ Panel)
“A well-written plot with all the necessary ingredients: a few deaths, lost objects and a whole collection of worrisome characters…Ideal for a moment of relaxation.” ~Elle Magazine (Readers’ Panel)
More than forty years after their release from the notorious “Hanoi Hilton,” three American prisoners of war return to Vietnam to make peace with their most brutal former captor, a guard whom they’ve dubbed, “Mr. Wonderful.” The U.S. State Department hopes reconciliation will help cement a major trade agreement between Washington and the Vietnamese. But when Mr. Wonderful is found murdered, the three ex-POWs are accused of the crime and the multi-billion dollar deal threatens to unravel. Enter pilot, still-aspiring Buddhist, and former military assassin Cordell Logan.
Working with a newly formed covert intelligence unit that answers directly to the White House, Logan is dispatched to Hanoi to identify the real killer as the trade agreement threatens to implode. What he soon uncovers proves to be a vexing and increasingly dangerous mystery. Who really killed the guard and why? Unlocking the answers will test every ounce of Logan’s ingenuity and resolve, while risking his life as never before.
Like its three predecessors in the Cordell Logan mystery/thriller series Flat Spin, Fangs Out, and Voodoo Ridge, The Three-Nine Line is a classic, pulse-pounding page-turner. Legions of loyal readers and critics alike, from Booklist, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal to Noir Journal and the Associated Press, have hailed the series for its taut writing, finely wrought characters, flashes of wry humor, and full throttle pacing. The Three-Nine Line may well be the best yet.
Their investigation into a series of claim-jumps near the booming mining community of Wallace, Idaho, suddenly turns deadly as one witness after another turns up dead. It turns out that the theft of land and mineral rights is only the beginning of a much deeper conspiracy…
Matthew and Chance follow the leads as best they can, knowing full well that their investigation has turned into a game of cat and mouse … but who is the cat in this deadly contest?
Starting in the deep woods of North Idaho and culminating in the finest, most exclusive ballrooms of high society in Seattle, Washington, follow Matthew and Chance Wilcox as they match wits against one of the worst criminals they have ever faced!
The year is 1290–twilight of the Crusades. War-weary Knight Templar, Jonathan St. Clair, is garrisoned in the port city of Acre and more interested in learning Kabbalah than fighting Moslems. He possesses an ancient scroll with a cryptic inscription, the key to unlocking the secrets of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
But none of the Jewish scholars in Acre can decipher the inscription. And time is running out. Acre will soon come under siege, and the one man able to decipher the scroll’s meaning, Rabbi Samuel of Baghdad, has been targeted for assassination.
Deep in enemy territory, St. Clair apprentices himself to Rabbi Samuel as they travel to Jerusalem, risking everything to fulfill their shared and sacred destiny as guardians of the Temple Mount.
Sure, Arielle won’t deny that she has a vivid, even wild, imagination. Sure, it sometimes runs away with her. And yes, it’s true that she never recovered from the drowning death of her older brother, Justin, ten years ago, when Arielle was a little child. She almost hopes that ghosts are real, so that she might see Justin again.
But ever since the misty morning when Arielle stumbles on the macabre sight of the body of her sister Casey’s best friend, Perdita, being lifted from a nearby pond, ghostly images begin to appear to Arielle. Can they be Perdita, reaching out as speculation about her death ramps up from suicide to foul play?
Perdita’s younger brother, Tex, is back from private school, and Arielle can’t get him off her mind, although he’s a beautiful boy with scary secrets. Worse yet, there’s no one to tell: big sister Casey’s off to college, and Arielle discovers her own sister’s cache of secret writings, along with a bizarre note from Perdita. What’s real? What’s fantasy?
In a compelling tale that hurtles toward a stunning conclusion, the imprint of grief and the boundaries of human imagination are stretched to their limits.
Coleridge Taylor is searching for his next scoop on the police beat. The Messenger-Telegram reporter has a lot to choose from on the crime-ridden streets of New York City in 1975. One story outside his beat is grabbing all the front page glory: New York teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, and President Ford just told the city, as the Daily News so aptly puts it, “Drop Dead.” Taylor’s situation is nearly as desperate. His home is a borrowed dry-docked houseboat, his newspaper may also be on the way out, and his drunk father keeps getting arrested.
A source sends Taylor down to Alphabet City, hang-out of the punks who gravitate to the rock club CBGB. There he finds the bloody fallout from a mugging. Two dead bodies: a punk named Johnny Mort and a cop named Robert Dodd. Each looks too messed up to have killed the other. Taylor starts asking around. The punk was a good kid, the peace-loving guardian angel of the neighborhood’s stray dogs. What led him to mug a woman at gunpoint? And why is Officer Samantha Callahan being accused of leaving her partner to die, even though she insists the police radio misled her? It’s hard enough being a female in the NYPD only five years after women were assigned to patrol. Now the department wants to throw her to the wolves. That’s not going to happen, not if Taylor can help it. As he falls for Samantha—a beautiful, dedicated second-generation cop—he realizes he’s too close to his story. Officer Callahan is a target, and Taylor’s standing between her and some mighty big guns.