Detectives in Search of Themselves
By Alex Segura
The sparks that eventually evolve into fully-formed novels appear to writers in different ways. A bit of dialogue. An evocative image. An unforgettable plot twist. It can vary, but it’s that initial burst of inspiration that gets the wheels rolling toward writing an actual book, even for the most well-known novelists. And, sometimes, that lasting, memorable bit appears completely out of left field.
Such was the case with the story behind the latest, all-but-guaranteed bestseller in Robert Crais’s long-running Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series, THE WANTED. Like previous Cole/Pike novels, it all started with an image. This time, however, the launching visual was a bit unexpected: a cat. Regardless, that mental picture drew Crais into the next story he wanted to tell in his long-running series, setting the stage for one of Crais’s most evocative novels, which pulls his beloved characters, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, into a dark underworld of high-stakes robbery, double-crosses, and murder.
“THE WANTED begins when a single mother comes to Elvis—she’s found things in her son’s room that disturb her,” Crais said. “Large amounts of cash, a $4,000 Rolex, things like that, fancy clothes. And the kid lies to her of course. And she comes to Elvis and says I want you to find out what he’s doing. And she of course is paranoid because he is a high school student. She believes he’s somehow involved in drugs or gangs. But it turns out not to be that at all. It’s something just as bad, maybe worse considering what happens along the course of the story. But for Elvis he finds himself in this, again, springing forth from that first moment when I knew there was a story in that moment with Elvis and his cat. He finds himself in a family unit, a dysfunctional family unit, where in essence he becomes the father figure by default.”
Crais, who in addition to writing dozens of bestselling thrillers, has a TV resume that includes stints on the writing staffs of shows like Miami Vice, Cagney & Lacey, and Hill Street Blues, points to his two detectives’ evolving lives and backstories as the main reason he continues to chronicle their adventures, decades later. Oh, and that darn cat.
“It’s always about a character moment,” Crais said. “In this book, I think it was the notion of Elvis realizing that he’s at a point in his life where personally all he has to show for himself is his cat. Now that in and of itself doesn’t lead to any kind of a story, but I think about these characters a lot. I mean, Elvis and Joe, the first book, was published in 1987. And [laughs] maybe it’s a sign of long term madness but these guys have been in my head pretty much every day for 30 years. They’re sort of like roommates; they’re shadow figures behind the plant in my office.”
While Crais’s best work is deftly plotted and loaded with suspenseful twists and unraveled mysteries, it was the idea of having Cole explore his own life choices and mortality that most interested Crais as he dove into THE WANTED.
“I find Cole and Pike fascinating. That’s why I guess I’ve given so many novels to them,” Crais said. “I guess I was seeing Elvis being in a very thoughtful, introspective mood. And his cat, who’s a main character in the book, walks in and Elvis had one line; one line came to me in that moment. And it’s Elvis saying, ‘I don’t have kids, I have a cat.’
“To the outside observer that may not seem like much, but that was the hook for me,” Crais continued. “Here’s this man, Elvis Cole, alone in his A-frame one night, and all I saw was this three second little clip, and that just moved me so deeply and in that moment my heart almost broke. It’s emotional hooks like that that really go in deep for me and drive me to chase stories. So from that singular moment, I built the story that became THE WANTED.”
Crais finds himself as engrossed in the evolution of his protagonists as his legions of fans. The difference is he has a major hand in guiding them along from book to book.
“They are men I wish I knew, they are men who, though I know an enormous amount about them, I don’t know everything about them,” Crais said. “I guess in a way that’s what I’ve continued to pursue over the course of all their novels. In each new book, I’m learning something new about Elvis Cole and Joe Pike.”
The latest Cole/Pike novel propels the characters forward, down a path Crais has been exploring since the very first Cole adventure, The Monkey’s Raincoat.
“THE WANTED goes back to Elvis’ ongoing arc across the series, and it took me a few books before I realized this, but at its core Elvis is constantly trying to create a family for himself,” Crais said. “There’s an old saying I heard a long time ago and it goes something like this — ‘Detectives are in search of themselves.’ That just struck me as true for Elvis Cole and for the stories that I’ve told in all his books. Ultimately, the detective is looking for a wholeness, he’s doing all the other things we want him to do: He’s uncovering the truth, he’s solving the crime, he’s being the avenger, he’s being the protector, but he does these things for a reason, and in Elvis’ case I think it’s because he has this big need to be that figure, not only in the lives of others but in his own life too.”
Crais made his writing bones working for television, but after a decade in Hollywood, he left the medium to take a stab at novels. It wasn’t until Crais channeled the skills he honed writing for the small screen that he saw some success, and connected with his passion for the work.
“When I left TV, I very much wanted to write books, and I started trying to transition out of TV,” Crais said. “But I had this notion in my head, erroneous and moronic, that the way writing was committed in television and films was by definition hackwork, and that true artists did not employ things like structure, or forethought, or any nonsense like that. A true artist simply approached the blank page, and began to type or scribble. Your eyes kind of roll back to your head. Yeah, and then without ever really thinking about something or investing in it, you get to the end. And you’ve got this marvellous story that you’ve created by magic. So I tried that, and that didn’t work.”
“Then I tried a second time, and I approached it in the same generalized way I’d done the first time, and I ended up with this mammoth 550 page stack of pages, and I realized, after re-reading it, that I had a 500 page beginning, and a 50 page ending, and no middle,” Crais said. “I put the brakes on after that second debacle and said, ‘You know, you’ve been telling some pretty good stories and writing some pretty good scripts in television, doing it the way you learned how to do it in television and movies, so maybe you should actually step back, employ all the lessons you’ve learned, think about these things, develop your characters, come up with an outline, find a story that actually matters to you, and approach it the same way you’ve approached everything you’ve been writing for the last 10 years.’ And that’s what I did with The Monkey’s Raincoat, and it ended up being a pretty good story.”
It’s that lesson that continues to inform Crais to this day, as the international bestsellers stack up and his series and standalones continue to collect high praise and readers. It’s also the strongest bit of advice he’d give to a writer breaking into the field today.
“Keep at it. Write what you love,” Crais said. “That may sound simplistic, but, I’ve just met so many people who, and all they wanna yap about is what’s hot now, what so-and-so publishers are buying now, or whatever the market is. Look, I guess that works for some people but not me. If you’re gonna invest this much time and energy and your life into something, well then, you might as well do it putting something down that you dearly love, you dearly enjoy, you wanna pursue and are inspired by. Because I have this innate belief that if you love it and you are inspired by it and entertained by it, then other people will be also.”
Credit for cover photograph: Kim Stanley Robinson
Finding the Humorous Edge
By R. G. Belsky
Award-winning thriller author D. P. Lyle loves to write about murder—the fictional kind in his novels, and the real thing too.
Lyle’s new book, A-LIST, is about a star actor accused of killing his young girlfriend. It’s the second in the Jake Longly series, featuring an ex-baseball pitcher and somewhat unorthodox private investigator who works (not always well) for his father.
“In this one,” Lyle explains, “Jake and girlfriend Nicole are asked by Nicole’s uncle Charles Balfour—big-time producer and director—to go to New Orleans, where Uncle Charles’ franchise A-List actor Kirk Ford has awakened with a dead girl in his bed at the famous Monteleone Hotel. Oh, the girl is a college co-ed who just happens to be the niece of Tony Guidry, a ruthless, mafia-type. Things go sideways in a hurry.”
Lyle says he created the Jake Longly character, who first appeared in Deep Six last year, to make this series comedic as well as a good mystery/thriller.
“I wanted Jake, the protagonist, to have certain qualities. Good-looking, always a hit with the ladies, not overly ambitious, not the smartest guy on the planet but smart in his own way, and likable. I also wanted him to have conflicts with his father, who is an entirely different person than Jake. But mainly, I wanted him to be a handsome, ex-jock who more or less skates through life, having fun and avoiding major conflicts.”
By Dawn Ius
“I specialize,” Agatha Christie once said, “in murders of quiet domestic interest.”
More than 100 years after the publication of The Mysterious Affair at Styles—her first novel of “quiet domestic interest”—readers continue to crave the classic whodunit, a story with a puzzle that they can solve alongside the protagonist. Novels with romantic subplots but no sex on the page, and notoriously absent of gore—a chance to enjoy the company of old friends, perhaps, with a little murder on the side.
By definition, the cozy mystery stands in sharp contrast to more male-oriented popular fiction, the hard-boiled thrillers unabashedly keen to transport readers on adventures filled with assassins, political intrigue, sex, and gratuitous violence. Cozies, on the other hand, strive to deliver a mystery within a world that is safe and relatable—but is then upended with a sprinkle of mayhem.
These stories often take place in quaint villages, beach towns, or small B&Bs, and the protagonist is more of a knitter than an international woman of mystery. Indeed, of greater importance than the murder itself is the occupation or hobby of the amateur sleuth when not solving puzzles.
“While the amateur detective has certainly stood the test of time, today’s amateur sleuth may be a doctor or lawyer or farmer,” says Wendy Tyson, author of both the Greenhouse Mysteries and Allison Campbell series. “They may not have access to the same tools as a police officer or private detective, but because of their regular profession, might be proficient with computers or know hackers who can get access to information. The amateur detective provides the writer with great freedom, and that freedom can translate into richly drawn worlds and characters with interesting personalities and unique jobs.”
Writing at a Fever Pitch
Deon Meyer is renowned for his cliff-hanging thrillers. He’s one of South Africa’s most popular authors and successful world-wide. His books have been translated from the original Afrikaans into 27 languages and have won a slew of prizes, and last year his novel Dead Before Dying was adapted as a TV miniseries in Germany under the title Cape Town. Deon also writes and produces movies and TV series for the South African market.
With all that going on, you’d think that he would be content to play out his ever-popular characters. Not if you know Deon. This year saw the release in English of a blockbuster stand-alone thriller set in South Africa in the near future titled FEVER.
Here’s how Marcel Berlins in the London Times summed it up: “It’s a crime thriller, but it’s far more. The first sentence is: ‘I want to tell you about my father’s murder.’ The actual crime takes place more than 400 absorbing, emotional and atmospheric pages later; the solution comes even later than that. The narrator, who is aged 47, tells of his teenage years when his father founded a small settlement, safe from a virus that has killed most of the world’s population. But as the community grew, so did their problems, their jealousies and the moving relationship between father and son. There are shades of Cormac McCarthy’s superb The Road, but FEVER grips even more.’
For me, this is Deon’s break-out book. Stephen King thinks so too, commenting that FEVER is “Reminiscent of The Stand and The Passage. Great stuff.”
Deon, I guess you must be very tired of this question by now, but I have to ask it. What persuaded you to set aside your highly successful and acclaimed contemporary police procedurals and thrillers for a post-apocalyptic future saga?
The Darkness That Never Leaves
By Layton Green
World-weary private investigators, talking cats, political intrigue, and a murder mystery that reaches into the troubled past of South America: What’s not to like? This month’s globe-trotting literary adventures take us to Chile, a country that stretches almost the length of South America and is home to some of the world’s best hiking, wine, and ski trails. Though known for beautiful nature and the warmth of its people, it carries the dark stain of the Pinochet regime, a brutal military dictatorship in power from 1973 to 1990.
Our interview subject, Ramón Díaz Eterovic, explores the lingering impact of the regime in DARK ECHOES OF THE PAST, the first of his best-selling novels featuring private investigator Heredia to be translated into English. Ramón is one of Chile’s most beloved authors, and delivers that rare breed of crime novel: a page-turning mystery that serves as a medium for an incisive examination of society and the human condition.
Ramón has also published novels, books of short stories, children’s books, and poetry. His work has won numerous awards, been translated into a dozen languages, and has appeared on Chilean television.
This interview was translated by Patrick Blaine.
Thanks for taking the time to chat, Ramón. We’re thrilled to have you. Can you tell us a bit more about your background? Where are you from and how did you come to be a writer?
I was born in the city of Punta Arenas, on the shores of the Strait of Magellan in Chilean Patagonia. It’s a snowy, windy place that was settled at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century by immigrants from a number of countries. My maternal grandfather was one of them, and came from Croatia. In this city I lived out my childhood and teen years. When I was 17, I traveled to Santiago, the capital of Chile, to study political and administrative science at the University of Chile. I currently split my time between Santiago and Villarica, in the south of Chile, a place characterized by beautiful lakes and volcanoes.
By R.G. Belsky
I spent a lot of years covering sensational real-life murders as a tabloid journalist in New York City. Now I write about fictional crimes as a thriller author. For me, it’s been the perfect combination. And that’s why whenever people ask me where I get the ideas for my crime novels, I tell them: “Hey, I just went to work in the newsroom every day.”
My upcoming thriller YESTERDAY’S NEWS in the spring of 2018 is about a reporter’s obsession with finding a long-lost missing child. But no crime novel could ever compare to the real-life story of Etan Patz, the 6-year-old boy who disappeared walking to the school bus on Prince Street in Soho in 1979, and became the most famous missing child case in New York City history. For years afterward, there were false tips, false leads, and false hopes about finding answers to what happened to Etan. In the end, a clerk at a bodega back then at West Broadway and Prince, only two blocks away the Patz home, was convicted of murdering him. The bodega is no longer there. But walking down Prince Street still brings back memories of that long-ago day when a little boy seemingly vanished into thin air.
I’m also working on another new thriller called The Perfect Victim about a murder in Central Park, which has been the scene of some of the most famous New York City crimes. The most notable were the Central Park Jogger (a woman jogger attacked and left for dead while running near the park’s 102nd Street Traverse Road) and the Preppie Murder Case (a young woman strangled to death behind the Museum of Modern Art at Fifth and 83rd by her date who claimed they were having “rough sex” that got out of hand). There have been many other notorious violent crimes in Central Park over the years, especially in the ‘70s and ‘80s when crime rates in the city soared. Things are safer now. But these hundreds of acres of grass, trees, and nature in the middle of New York City—where New Yorkers walk the trails, attend concerts and even go boating—is still a helluva good spot for an author to plot a murder.
The most famous tabloid crime story ever in New York City is Son of Sam, who murdered six people and wounded seven others during a series of random shootings that terrified the city from the summer of 1976 until his capture in the summer of ’77. I wrote my 2016 thriller, Blond Ice, about a woman serial killer who is a female version of Son of Sam—murdering men on the streets of New York just for the thrill of it. There were eight different shooting scenes for the real-life Son of Sam, David Berkowitz, throughout the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn. But perhaps the most notable site was near the Hutchinson River Parkway in the Bronx where, after fatally killing a young man and woman sitting in a parked car, Berkowitz left behind his first note to the police and media in which he called himself “Son of Sam.”
Then, of course, there are the sites of the Greatest Restaurant Mob Hits in New York–where top underworld gang bosses were murdered as they dined. I’ve used elements of these in my books, as have many other authors, as well as movies and TV shows like Goodfellas and The Sopranos. The most famous mob restaurant murders are: Paul Castellano on his way into Sparks Steakhouse, on 46th Street between Second and Third Avenues in midtown; Crazy Joe Gallo at Umberto’s Clam House on Mulberry Street in Little Italy; and Carmine Galante at Joe and Mary’s Italian Restaurant in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. (This last one was immortalized by a classic Page One tabloid picture of the dead Galante lying there with an after-meal cigar still in his mouth.) Sparks is still at the same location; Umberto’s is now a few blocks away from the original site; and Joe and Mary’s is gone.
The most high profile celebrity murder in New York was the death of John Lennon in 1980 by stalker Mark David Chapman outside the Dakota, Lennon’s apartment building on Central Park West and 72nd Street. I used that tragic event as partial inspiration for my 2015 thriller Shooting for the Stars, about another celebrity gunned down on the streets of New York—only this time there turns out to be a serial killer who is targeting famous people for death. The Dakota building is still at the same location and, across the street in Central Park, is Strawberry Fields, which was created to honor Lennon’s memory.
There are many more famous crime locations in New York, such as: The No. 2 downtown subway train between Union Square and Chambers Street, where Bernhard Goetz became known as the Subway Vigilante after shooting four men he said were trying to rob him; the house in Massapequa, L.I. where teenaged Amy Fisher, dubbed the “Long Island Lolita” in the media, shot the wife of her married lover Joey Buttafuoco in 1992; and even all the way back to the Kitty Genovese murder outside a Kew Gardens apartment building in 1964, which became legendary because many people supposedly heard the Genovese woman’s screams for help as she was being attacked but never called police (although the accuracy of this has since been brought into doubt).
But my own most memorable crime location was a topless joint called Herbie’s Bar in the Jamaica section of Queens where in 1983 a man held up the place, killed a man and then (for some bizarre reason) cut off the victim’s head. The result was the most famous New York Post tabloid headline ever: HEADLESS BODY IN TOPLESS BAR. I was a part of the Post newsroom then that came up with that unforgettable story and headline. Which just goes to prove that truth is really sometimes even stranger than fiction, Because, even as a fiction writer today, I could never make up a New York City crime that could quite compare to that one.
Zeroing in on Emotional Challenge
It’s a problem that bedevils even the best thriller writers: when it comes to a series character, how do you strike a balance between sketching a satisfying arc and staying true to the qualities that attracted readers to your protagonist in the first place? For Jon Land, author of the Caitlin Strong series, the answer lies not in changing the character, but in challenging her.
“I start every one of the Caitlin Strong books with a concept not just for the plot, but also for a new emotional challenge facing Caitlin,” Land says. “The key word there is ‘emotional,’ because, more than gunfights, that’s what draws people to—and back to—the series.”
In STRONG TO THE BONE, Land’s eponymous heroine must face an ordeal that’s harrowing even by thriller standards. The series’ ninth installment, out this month from Forge Books, finds the fifth-generation Texas Ranger on the trail of the man who drugged and sexually assaulted her eighteen years ago. Excavating this episode from Caitlin’s past, Land says, gave him an opportunity to take his popular character into unexpected territory.
“We never knew about this incident prior to this book,” Land explains. “So making it the emotional focal point makes STRONG TO THE BONE feel fresh and original, almost like you’re reading Caitlin for the first time even if you’ve read the other eight entries in the series.”
When Research Turns Deadly
By J. H. Bográn
Con Lehane’s MURDER IN THE MANUSCRIPT ROOM features a new case for his character in New York City’s 42nd Street Library. This time, a murder takes place in what may be the sanctum sanctorum of a library: a manuscript room.
Raymond Ambler is far from the typical sleuth with street smarts. He’s a thinker and an observer more than he’s an action hero. While he works in a library, Amble is in fact a curator of the library’s (fictional) crime-fiction collection. “Curators in libraries are subject-area specialists,” Lehane explains. “They don’t have to be experts in library science, which I’m not. Not that I’m an expert in crime fiction, but I know more about it than I know about library science.”
The story begins when Ambler begins to suspect that a researcher in the library—an Arab scholar studying ancient Islamic texts—might be under surveillance by some agency or other of the government. “Librarians are more committed to protecting the liberties this nation embraces than probably any other organized group—except maybe writers—including lawyers, politicians, academics, all of whom have caved in the past to ‘legitimate’ forces attempting to limit freedom of speech and inquiry in the name of protecting such things,” says Lehane.
Planting the Perfect Mystery
By E.M. Powell
Wendy Tyson is back with SEEDS OF REVENGE, the third installment in her popular Greenhouse Mystery series and has delivered another great cozy.
It opens with her heroine, professional farmer and amateur sleuth, Megan Sawyer, battling her way through a December snowstorm back to her home in the small town of Winsome. Megan picks up a female stranger stranded on the side of the road. The young woman is Becca Fox and she’s the niece of Merry Chance, Winsome’s nursery owner and town busybody. Becca thinks that her aunt is supporting her in her new perfumery business. But Merry has an ulterior motive: she wants to reunite Becca with her estranged father, Paul. Forget any idea of tearful family reunions. Becca promptly accuses her father of murdering her late mother—and he turns up dead shortly after. Megan soon realizes that Becca’s not the only person in Winsome who despised Paul. In the midst of growing threats that could ensnare her own family, Megan must uncover the truth before someone else in Winsome is murdered.
The intriguing plot that has murder and sinister events taking place against the backdrop of a chocolate box cover setting is something that Tyson very much intended. “The holiday season definitely inspired the book,” she says. “The winter holidays are often a time of contrasts. You have festive lights and gift giving and feasts, but you also have bad weather and feelings of loss and the recognition that not everyone has plenty. You have homecomings, but with homecomings come old conflicts and resentments. And on a vegetable farm, you have much needed downtime, but you also have less income. I attempted to capture those contrasts in SEEDS OF REVENGE. In Winsome, this gorgeous historic Pennsylvania town, you have an image of quintessential Christmas warmth and welcome, yet something evil is lurking beneath.”
The Fears of the Ordinary Woman
To wear a crown is no easy feat, but if anyone can carry it off, it’s Mary Higgins Clark, who has been dubbed the Queen of Suspense. With EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE, which she co-wrote with Alafair Burke, Clark delivers her 47th novel of suspense. It’s been estimated that Clark’s books have sold more than 100 million copies.
Trend watchers may say that for a few years now, the domestic thriller has been the hottest novel in suspense fiction, but Clark’s been hitting the top of the bestseller list with this type of book since the 1970s. So is she the originator of this subgenre? “Since most of my novels have a home base and involve people in normal situations whose lives are suddenly turned around, then I guess I am a domestic thriller,” Clark says.
The winner of multiple awards, Clark is the past chairman of the International Crime Congress and past president of the Mystery Writers of America. Her publisher, Simon & Schuster, funded the Mary Higgins Clark Award, given by the MWA to authors of suspense fiction.
EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE is the latest book in the Under Suspicion series Clark co-writes with Alafair Burke. The protagonist, Laurie Moran, is the producer of a cold-case-file TV series, smart and tough when she needs to be. While vulnerable over matters of the heart—and a widow with a child—Laurie Moran is fully capable of playing politics at work, which becomes necessary in this novel. The new male host is pushing for a show exonerating a man he personally knows murdered his much-older girlfriend, a wealthy woman who was thrown off the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art during an invite-only event.
Cait Pepper, owner of the Bening Estate vineyards, and navy SEAL Royal Tanner return to help friends who recently acquired a vineyard in Livermore, California. Sadie, an Amish girl, and her husband, Danny Lord, are excited about their new adventure of owning their own vineyard until agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency knock on their door. When Danny bought the property, he neglected to check the previous owners’ background and didn’t know about their drug connections. Desperate to save her friends from danger and embarrassment, Cait is torn between helping the Lords or the actors in her Shakespeare Festival. Will Cait’s cop skills be enough to save the Lords from the drug dealer—and the DEA—while avoiding another tragedy that could put her Shakespeare Festival in peril?
The Big Thrill caught up to author Carole Price to discuss her latest novel, VINEYARD PREY:
By Don Helin
John (J.T.) Ryan is a decorated war hero and one of the FBI’s leading investigators. While conducting an investigation, he is inexplicably put on the Code Red terrorist watch-list. Ryan’s world is turned upside down as the FBI undertakes a massive manhunt for his capture. The Bureau’s Assistant Director, Erin Welch, Ryan’s friend and boss, is put in charge of the manhunt. She suspects forces inside and outside of the government don’t just want him caught, but want Ryan assassinated. Can he evade his assassins, prove his innocence, and catch the real conspirators who set him up?
Lee Gimenez is the award-winning author of 13 novels, including his highly-acclaimed J.T. Ryan series. Several of his books have been e-book bestsellers, among them The Media Murders, Skyflash, and The Washington Ultimatum. Gimenez was nominated for the Georgia Author of the Year Award and was a finalist in the prestigious Terry Kay Prize for Fiction. All of his books are available in paperback and e-book in the U.S. and Internationally. Gimenez is a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, the Georgia Writers Association, and the Atlanta Writers Association.
Here, he chats with The Big Thrill about his new release, FBI CODE RED.
As a seventh-generation Texan, bestselling author Elizabeth Goddard was lulled to sleep as a child by the hum of the oil pumps. That rhythmic, oddly surf-like sound may have made her sensitive to the rhythms of language as well, and thus been partially responsible for her lifelong love of writing. She wrote poetry and short stories throughout her childhood and started her first romance novel at fourteen. She was also a voracious reader, tackling 2001: A Space Odyssey and Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth in the fifth grade.
Since then, she’s written more than 30 romantic suspense novels. Her 2011 romantic mystery, The Camera Never Lies, is a 2011 Carol Award winner, and she’s a double finalist for the prestigious Daphne Du Marnier Award. But she has an analytical side too. She has a degree in computer science, and before leaving the work force to homeschool her three small children and pursue her dream of becoming a writer, she worked in high-level software sales.
Her readers appreciate her uplifting, faith-based stories. When they’re feeling blue, they can pick up one of her books and forget their problems for a while. For Goddard, that means she’s doing her job. On her website, she says, “Sometimes we simply need an escape from the stress of life and the tragedies happening around us in this fallen world. We need to be refreshed and inspired, lifted from everyday life.”
This month, we welcome Goddard to The Big Thrill to share a little about her writing journey and the inspiration for new release, TEXAS CHRISTMAS DEFENDER.
Earl Javorsky’s protagonist died in his first adventure, so of course he’s back in a new book, DOWN TO NO GOOD.
Charlie Miner, who kept shuffling on this mortal coil in Down Solo despite his condition, continues his post-life career when he’s called on by cop pal Dave Putnam to help the L.A.P.D.
A psychic-to-the stars has provided information about three murders, and it’s info that makes the police department look bad. Who better to look into a psychic than a detective who’s deceased but somewhat inexplicably ambulatory?
Charlie sets out to do his best, though he’s still struggling with what he calls Swiss cheese brain and coming to terms with his situation.
Shifting from Charlie’s first-person-point of view to third-person with Dave, Javorsky leads readers on a page-turning journey that continues the explorations of a hero who was troubled even in life, and who continues to struggle with addiction and related family issues.
It’s an interesting and rousing take on crime novel territory that’s won Javorsky a lot of praise from authors such as T. Jefferson Parker, who said of the first book in the series: “Earl Javorsky’s bold and unusual Down Solo blends the mysterious and the supernatural boldly and successfully. The novel is strong and haunting, a wonderful debut.”
The Big Thrill recently posed a few questions to Javorsky about his Charlie Miner universe.
Variety, as the old saw has it, is the spice of life. Every so often, a book shows up in The Big Thrill list that’s a bit different and this is certainly one of those instances. As an avid reader of—and occasional writer of—short stories, I was delighted to take the opportunity to get Windy Lynn Harris’s take on the subject.
This is your first full length book. How does it feel?
I’m thrilled, of course, but I miss her. Picture me looking wistfully out the window, waving goodbye to a dear friend. I spent years compiling the material for this book, studying industry information, researching, attending events, talking to editors, etc. Saying goodbye to a final copy meant an end to the fun of putting the project together.
Is the sensation different to publishing short stories?
Absolutely. Maybe it’s because I have so many short pieces of writing on my desk every month. I write both essays and short stories: currently there are seven short items in late-editing or submission status around here, and that’s pretty typical for me. Seeing one of my shorts fly off to a new home is a thrilling relief. It makes room for the next idea in my head.
Do you have a favorite short story? Which one and why?
I read Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery each January to set the mood for my year. It’s more than great storytelling that I’m hoping to tap into when I dive into that story, it’s a reminder about prose that stays in your chest when the last word is done. That’s what I hope to achieve.
Douglas Wynne offers up a mysterious blend of music, mythos and mirrors in CTHULHU BLUES, the latest entry in the SPECTRA Files series, which wraps up a trilogy that began in Red Equinox and continued in Black January.
Don’t worry if you’re not up on the world of H.P. Lovecraft. There’s no need to be versed in the lore of Lovecraftian horror to appreciate the book or the series.
While it’s rich with Easter eggs, it’s accessible to anyone who loves action with a magical tinge. “You don’t have to get all of the references to follow the story, but there are all kinds of fun little nods to my favorite horror writers, to various systems of occultism, and to the great city of Boston,” says Wynne, who appropriately hails from Massachusetts where Lovecraft set many of his tales.
CTHULHU BLUES begins with strangeness swirling around Wynne’s heroine, Becca Philips, the urban explorer who became involved with the cosmic-monster-battling SPECTRA in Red Equinox.
It’s 3:33 a.m. as the book opens, the point where recurring nightmares plague Becca, and soon she’ll be facing a new villain and a plot that threatens to unleash all new cosmic terror and extra-dimensional horrors tied to effects from her experiences in previous books.
Readers can expect an experience just as engaging as previous books, which have drawn high praise for the new approach to the Lovecraftian world.
The Big Thrill recently posed a few questions to Wynne about the trilogy, his writing, and this new novel, CTHULHU BLUES.
By Terri Nolan
In her pre-writing life, Marissa Garner was a CPA. She’s not sure when she made the switch from left brain to right brain, but she finds words more fun than numbers. But her left brain years gave her the organizational skills she uses as a pantser. And as such, she can write anytime, at anyplace. Her favorite location is the family room couch, known as Command Central. It is there where she has created her latest novel, RISKY REDEMPTION, the first in the Rogue Security series.
Jake Stone is a retired assassin who begrudgingly takes an assignment because his handler insists the target—a woman—is a traitor and a security threat. The woman, Angela Reardon, does have a secret past and hidden struggles, but it’s not what it seems. As Jake investigates and gets closer to his target, he questions the mission’s justifications.
Garner’s novel is non-traditional—she doesn’t follow the usual romance formula or color inside the lines. The story is told in alternating timelines, past and present, and two points of view: the hunter and the prey. The plot structure doesn’t get hung up on its cleverness as it interweaves each story. And when the past and present meet? There is a surprise. True suspense.
This month, The Big Thrill chatted more with Garner about the thrilling first book in her new series.
ASAC Steve (Mac) McKenzie is out to prove himself by leading a task force investigating a series of murders in the heart of Washington, DC. His undercover work in an antigovernment compound twenty years earlier is related—as is the sweet, innocent girl he befriended back then. Now that girl is a beautiful woman, and she has something to hide.
Tess Fallon spent a lifetime trying to outrun her family’s brand of bigotry, but someone is threatening her anonymity by using the anniversary of her father’s death to carry out evil crimes and she’s terrified her younger brother is involved. She sets out to find the truth and comes face-to-face with a man she once idolized, a man she thought long dead. As the crimes escalate it becomes obvious the killer has an agenda, and Tess and Mac are running out of time to stop him.
Will the perpetrator use a decades-old dream of revolution to attack the federal government? And will the fact that Tess and Mac have fallen hard for each other give a cold-hearted killer the power to destroy them both?
Bestselling author Toni Anderson spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest book, COLD MALICE:
Gwen Proctor won the battle to save her kids from her ex-husband, serial killer Melvin Royal, and his league of psychotic accomplices. But the war isn’t over. Not since Melvin broke out of prison. Not since she received a chilling text…
You’re not safe anywhere now.
As trust beyond her small circle of friends begins to vanish, Gwen has only fury and vengeance to believe in as she closes in on her prey. And sure as the night, one of them will die.
Bestselling author Rachel Caine took time out of her busy schedule to discuss her latest, KILLMAN CREEK, with The Big Thrill:
Biochemist Emma Caldridge joins Jackson Rand, pharmaceutical CEO, on a humanitarian mission to deliver vaccines to remote villages in Africa. But after narrowly escaping a crew of trained assassins, Emma realizes that there is more to this mission than she anticipated. Rand is keeping secrets from her, information that could cost both of them their lives…not to mention millions more.
After its eradication nearly forty years ago, the smallpox virus is once again threatening the world. With no known cure and limited stores of vaccine, the highly contagious, deadly and disfiguring disease has the power to wipe out entire cities. Rand’s company was hired to secure the last known vials, but some have gone missing in Africa and a ruthless government now hunts them for use as a biochemical weapon.
Emma must locate these vials before the killer plague is unleashed on the innocent, ravaging a world that never expected to see it again. She runs to the border, finding and freeing hostages as she does. But an insurgency is rising around them, blocking their every attempt to escape. Surrounded and with no choice but to head to the desert, Emma must stop the virus and lead her ragtag team to freedom…if the Sahara doesn’t kill them first.
The Big Thrill caught up to bestselling author Jamie Freveletti to discuss her latest thriller, BLOOD RUN:
Fleeing a disastrous love affair, university librarian Amy Webber moves in with her aunt in a quiet, historic mountain town in Virginia. She quickly busies herself with managing a charming public library that requires all her attention with its severe lack of funds and overabundance of eccentric patrons. The last thing she needs is a new, available neighbor whose charm lures her into trouble.
Dancer-turned-teacher and choreographer Richard Muir inherited the farmhouse next door from his great-uncle, Paul Dassin. But town folklore claims the house’s original owner was poisoned by his wife, who was an outsider. It quickly became water under the bridge, until she vanished after her sensational 1925 murder trial. Determined to clear the name of the woman his great-uncle loved, Richard implores Amy to help him investigate the case. Amy is skeptical until their research raises questions about the culpability of the town’s leading families… including her own.
When inexplicable murders plunge the quiet town into chaos, Amy and Richard must crack open the books to reveal a cruel conspiracy and lay a turbulent past to rest in A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS, the first installment of Victoria Gilbert’s Blue Ridge Library mysteries.
A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS author, Victoria Gilbert, stopped by The Big Thrill to discuss her new release:
When security expert Cody Samuels finds fugitive Viktoria Mateev in hiding, he can’t believe his luck. Turning her in will be the perfect revenge on the crime family who destroyed Cody’s DEA career. But to his surprise, Cody is just in time to rescue Viktoria from assassins. He soon finds himself tracking her son’s kidnappers.
To keep her son from ruthless in-laws, Viktoria went on the run. Now she’s teaming up with a man she can’t trust. Cody’s courage and bold gambits are a temptation Viktoria can’t resist– even as the risky sacrifice guarantees they might not survive to see another holiday.
Bestselling author Jennifer D. Bokal spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel, HER ROCKY MOUNTAIN HERO:
LAPD Homicide detective Davie Richards is called to an airport parking garage to investigate the shooting of a retired U.S. Army Ranger and Vietnam War veteran. As Davie unravels baffling clues, one murder becomes two and a pattern begins to emerge. Racing to save the killer’s next victim challenges Davie’s physical and emotional endurance and tests the bonds of brotherhood and friendship.
OUTSIDE THE WIRE author Patricia Smiley spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel:
In the late 1800s, Augustus finds a job as lighthouse keeper on a beautiful but isolated island. He can’t wait to bring his new bride home to the lighthouse, set on majestic bluffs, which have laid claim to many shipwrecks.
Augustus soon suffers from the effects of self-induced isolation, as Adelia watches her husband’s gradual decline into madness.
Meet Hope, a modern-day quiet, quirky young woman with a case of agoraphobia—or so it would seem. She feels an inexplicable pull toward the lighthouse and the bluffs beyond. Hope struggles with her internal battle and seeks to find the truth about her unsettling recurring nightmares. Maybe then she can discover why she has always felt so alone and unusual.
The Big Thrill sat down with Mya O´Malley to discuss her novel, THE HOUSE THAT ADELIA BUILT:
Sacramento Police detectives John Penley and Paula Newberry investigate a case from Paula’s past. The prime suspect in the murder of a former cop is a man already serving time in prison. He has the ultimate alibi and orchestrates a plan to overturn his conviction and lays the blame on detective Newberry as bodies continue to pile up. Someone has to pay for the crimes, and as political pressure mounts, John Penley and Paula Newberry risk it all to keep the right man in prison and keep Paula out.
BURY THE PAST author James L’Etoile discussed his latest novel with The Big Thrill:
Leanna Renee Hieber brings Victorian London and New York to life and fills both cities with ghosts and monsters. Two groups of paranormally talented investigators discover that the Eterna compound—thought to be the key to immortality—is, instead, a powerful protective charm. That protection is sorely needed, for both England and the U.S. are under attack by dark forces.
Having vanquished the demonic pretender to the British throne, the now-united forces of the Eterna Commission and the Omega Department reach America ready to take on a new menace. But like the United States itself, this evil is rapidly spreading from sea to shining sea. Will the new magic our heroes have discovered be strong enough to defeat it?
With its blend of Victorian details, complex plots, and compelling characters, Hieber’s fascinating historical fantasy continues to earn critical acclaim.
Award-winning author Leanna Renee Hieber recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel, THE ETERNA SOLUTION:
After proving his innocence as a murder suspect, taking down an assassin, and being an instrumental part in solving a high profile murder, Calvin Watters believes he can finally move on—until Ace Sanders’ prison escape catapults him into action.
Something has always bothered Detective Dale Dayton about the arrest of Ace Sanders. Call it police intuition, but his inner ‘cop alarm’ keeps twitching. When Dale reopens the case, he’s introduced to new evidence that leads him into a political nightmare.
While Calvin tracks Sanders across continents and into unknown, unfriendly surroundings, Dale remains in Vegas to uncover the truth behind police corruption, prison escapes, and hired assassins. But Calvin and Dale must be vigilant, because there’s a deadly new player in town.
International bestselling author Luke Murphy spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel, WILD CARD:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope that they are entertained, and satisfied that questions they still had from book one are revealed in WILD CARD.
Earl Marcus thought he had left the mountains of Georgia behind forever, and with them, the painful memories of a childhood spent under the fundamentalist rule of his father RJ’s church–a church built on fear, penance, and the twisting, writhing mass of snakes. But then an ominous photo of RJ is delivered to Earl’s home. The photograph is dated long after his father’s burial, and there’s no doubt that the man in the picture is very much alive.
HEAVEN’S CROOKED FINGER author, Hank Early, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel:
In continuing her career-makeover quest as a for-real detective, ex-teen and reality star Maizie Albright has a big learning curve to overcome. Her chosen mentor, Wyatt Nash of Nash Security Solutions, would rather stick Maizie with a safe desk job. But Maizie’s got other plans to help Nash. When a major movie producer needs a babysitter for his hot mess starlet, Maizie eagerly takes the job. But when her starlet appears dead and then not dead, Maizie’s got more than an actress to watch and a missing corpse to find. Maizie’s hunting a killer who may be a celebrity stalker. And Maizie might be the next celebrity who gets snuffed.
Author Larissa Reinhart was kind enough to spend some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest novel, 16 MILLIMETERS:
Fifty-three years later, a phone call rips South African translator Caz Colijn out of her reclusive life. When she goes to Belgium in an attempt to trace her and her extraordinary daughter’s family origins, it becomes clear that the country’s colonial past has had as much impact on her life as the apartheid years in South Africa did.
In Ghent, professor Luc DeReu too is torn out of his familiar orbit when the woman he blames for his father’s premature death re-enters his bland existence.
While Caz and Luc try to cope with the upheavals in their respective lives, Erevu Matari and his grandson desperately need to find the nkísi taken from them more than five decades ago to fulfill their holy mission.
When the paths of these individuals intersect, it leads once again to murder and Caz is the main suspect.
The Big Thrill had the opportunity to discuss SACRIFICED with prolific South African author Channette Paul:
Scorpio obsessed, with a mind as strong as twisted steel, Henry Slater, suave, sophisticated, sexy, intelligent, and wealthy is the perfect man—except to women who tell him what he doesn’t want to hear.
Dr. John Trenton is called back to NYC for a case close to his heart, while NYPD Detective Samantha “Sam” Wright and forensic psychiatrist Doctor Frank Khaos, conflicted about their on-again-off-again relationship, take on another case—a serial killer who’s orchestrated sixteen murders across the United States over a nine-year period. The seventeenth victim is Sam’s best friend, Carrie Baines. When forensic science connects Frank to Slater, Frank is pushed to delve into his past, something he swore never to do. Meanwhile, due to the interstate nature of the crimes, the FBI gets involved, convincing Sam to go undercover. But Slater is clever, and Sam is no match for him. Will her psychic skills and police training be enough to survive this close encounter with a killer, or will she end up as his eighteenth victim? And even if she lives, is her relationship with Frank really over?
Ronnie Allen, author of SCORPIO: THE SIGN BEHIND THE CRIME, recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest novel:
When a long-hidden safe unlocks clues about why his father was kicked off the police force twenty-seven years ago and then spiraled into an early drunken death, Rick scratches to find the truth even if it proves the one thing he’s always feared.
But as he grapples with his father’s past, the woman he’ll always love begs him to find out if her husband is having an affair, or is involved in something much more sinister.
Rick may never discover either truth as killers who will do anything to protect their secrets lurk in the shadows.
Author Matt Coyle met with The Big Thrill to discuss his latest mystery, BLOOD TRUTH:
A blond-haired, blue-eyed teenager from a prominent family vanishes after teaching English to a group of immigrants. Suspicion soon falls on the men she was tutoring, inflaming tensions in the close-knit, picturesque community of Lake Holly, NY. For Detective Jimmy Vega, more is at stake than just keeping the peace. His girlfriend, Adele, heads the community center where the girl was last seen.
When a risky surrender goes awry, Vega gets tossed into a grunt detail that hides a political minefield: a person who will stop at nothing to cleave the town in two. He can’t imagine a worse turn of events—until he uncovers even darker forces at play. And no matter which way he turns, every step could cost him his job, his town, his family—even his life.
Award-winning author Suzanne Chazin stopped by The Big Thrill to discuss her upcoming novel, A PLACE IN THE WIND:
By Wendy Tyson
New York Times bestselling author Lynn Cahoon first introduced us to former English professor Cat Latimer in A Story to Kill. Now Cat, who runs a writers’ retreat in the Victorian she inherited from her ex-husband, is back in OF MURDER AND MEN. In this newest installment of Cahoon’s popular cozy series, Cat’s business partner’s wealthy beau is found dead in the horse barn, and it’s up to Cat to manage a group of aspiring authors while trying to catch a killer.
The Big Thrill sat down with Cahoon to talk about her latest novel, the appeal of the cozy genre, and the importance of writing communities.
Congratulations on the recent release of OF MURDER AND MEN. No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
There’s a bit of a power struggle between Cat’s best friend and her first love, with Cat in the middle. And an ex-Alaskan cop may get more than words done during her retreat.
What attracted you to the cozy subgenre?
I was going through breast cancer treatments ten years ago. The one good thing about cancer is you have a lot of time to think or read. I did both, but as I scoured my library shelves, I found I enjoyed mysteries. Not ones with lots of gore or action, but instead, these community-based books where I could visit a new place or bond with new imaginary friends. That’s when I found the cozy genre. I started writing Guidebook to Murder a few years later and fell in love with writing cozies as well as reading them.
Imagine Bin Laden meets Bernie Madoff—and hold on for the ride. This is how Tim Tigner describes his latest novel, FALLING STARS.
While Kyle Achilles responds to a mysterious summons from the man who forced him out of the CIA, his former partner suffers an outlandish assault. More inventive than 9/11 and infinitely more lucrative, the attack on Jo Monfort kicks off a campaign destined to set the gold standard for clever crime.
Two distressed heroes. Three dastardly crimes. And the slickest heists of all time.
This month, Tigner took time from his schedule to answer a few questions for The Big Thrill.
Describe your start as a novelist.
I started writing my first thriller in 1996 from an apartment overlooking Moscow’s Gorky Park. I was running a major medical corporation’s Russian operations at the time—a great job—but feeling unfulfilled. That initial experiment convinced me I had potential as a novelist, but I only acted on it six years later. By then I was living in Brussels, running European operations for a blue chip corporation. My family physician wrote, “Change your job” on his prescription pad. That note led to quite an interesting discussion with my fiancée. We moved to Florida and lived off savings for the next five years while I wrote my first three novels.
In 2013, I self-published those three novels—Coercion, Betrayal, and Flash—after they spent six years collecting dust on my hard drive. I was working as the CEO of a Silicon Valley startup. If our technology had worked better in clinical trials, those novels would likely still exist only as electrons.
In 2014, the first novel, Coercion, was picked up by Thomas & Mercer, ten years after I wrote it. The validation gave me courage and confidence. I abandoned my business career to pursue my passion—for the second time in my life.
Angel Luis Colón invites you on a short tour of the world as a literary mix tape to that strange Goth girl with the lazy eye who still wants nothing to do with you–no matter how good that fedora looks on your head.
So what’s in store for your brain?
Follow three major moments in the life of gambling addict and mafia muscle Sean Clarke as he goes from soft-hearted kid to full-blown bastard to broken old man.
Thrill at the short-lived and incredibly violent courtship, marriage, and honeymoon of Hank and Annie.
The set of the country’s most popular trash TV talk show is appropriately trashier than what makes the air.
Beards make absolutely terrible trophies.
Sometimes you’ll crawl through the fire and smoke for a chance at a semi-decent score and a way out of working in a place called “Meat City.”
All that along with even more violence, revenge, Lee Van Cleef, light sex crimes, and cannibals than you can shake a stick at!
The Big Thrill caught up with Angel Luis Colón to discuss his latest novel, MEAT CITY ON FIRE:
When the Deringer pistol that shot Abraham Lincoln is stolen and ends up in the hands of a Russian military general, covert agent Blake Deco is tasked by the FBI to head to the Balkans to recover the historical weapon. Meanwhile, the United States media is abuzz with news of the mysterious disappearance of Hollywood movie star Goldie St. Helen.
After Blake’s return from overseas, he receives a tip from a Mexican friend that a drug lord, obsessed with the beautiful actress, is holding her captive in Tijuana. With the help of a reluctant army friend, Blake mounts a daring rescue. What he doesn’t expect is to have feelings for Goldie—or that a killer is hunting them.
Enigmatic clues and codes from a missing colleague and brother-in-law about the seepage of sensitive FBI data lead to the sudden death of a team member and leave Delta A spinning. Two new agents, with special talents akin to Ellie’s, join the team and ramp her alarm sensors even higher. Her niece’s social media life offers clues to a horrifying network and its activities.
Working under a directive from the Director of the FBI and with the Wayward Son Protocol, Ellie and Delta A work to disentangle leads from the darknet, stem the flow of death, and bring her family home.
METABYTE author Cat Conner spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing the ninth installment of The Byte series:
Celebrated glass artist Dennis Lansing is returning to St. Petersburg, Florida, for an exhibit at the world-renowned Salvador Dali Museum. His unique style of embedding document images in his art is at the vanguard of contemporary glasswork. But as Savannah’s first boyfriend and a former apprentice to her father, Dennis’s return home has her reflecting on the past—a trip down memory lane that takes a dark turn when Dennis is found murdered at the museum with an old reference letter from her father in his pocket. A search through her father’s records sheds new light on Dennis’s history, but it seems his present life wasn’t so transparent either. Now, with a gallery of suspects to consider, it’s up to Savannah to figure out who fits the mold of a murderer.
The Big Thrill recently caught up to author Cheryl Hollon to discuss her latest release, ETCHED IN TEARS:
With her enemies unmasked and her career spiralling out of control, Kay’s determination to seek vengeance for the victims brings her dangerously close to those who want to silence her.
Undeterred, she uncovers the real reason behind a plot to destroy her career and sets in motion a terrifying chain of events.
Could Kay’s need for revenge be her undoing, or will she survive to see justice served?
Bestselling author Rachel Amphlett spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing the latest novel in her Detective Kay Hunter series, HELL TO PAY: