By Derek Gunn
Mystery and thriller writer…dog lover…dreamer—these are the words that greet you on Wendy Tyson’s website. The themes carry over into her writing and appeared in our correspondence during the writing of this article. I mean what’s not to like about this woman?
DEADLY ASSETS is the second book in the Allison Campbell mystery series but don’t let that worry you about jumping straight in. Allison Campbell is Philadelphia’s premier image consultant and helps others reinvent themselves. She is a gutsy woman who had to rebuild her life and her own confidence when an old case went wrong and she lost her practice and her husband. Today, she is well-heeled and polished and moves in a world of powerful executives, wealthy, eccentric ex-wives, and twisted ethics. And boy, are they eccentric!
Tyson’s background is in law and psychology and she lives near Philadelphia with her husband, three sons, and two of the aforementioned dogs, Labs Molly and Driggs. Tyson kindly supplied a concise summary of the first book for me, but DEADLY ASSETS is definitely a novel you can pick up and leap straight into. The characters introduce themselves quickly and the back story is revealed when background is needed.
The first thing that will strike you about this book is Tyson’s writing. I loved it from the first page; clouds bruising clear skies and ramshackle mansions that, similar to their owners, have seen better days, are just two of the well-crafted descriptions that had me breezing through the pages.
By Dawn Ius
Maegan Beaumont knows where her dark places are—and she doesn’t mind getting dirty.
Because at the bottom of that black pit is a creative force that drives her writing and inspires the creation of Sabrina Vaughn, the damaged protagonist in Beaumont’s award-winning thriller CARVED IN DARKNESS, and the sequel out this month, SACRIFICIAL MUSE.
Vaughn’s job is to hunt down murderers—a job she does very well despite her dark and tortured past. At seventeen, she was abducted by a psychotic killer, raped and tortured for nearly three months, and then left for dead in a deserted churchyard. She survived.
“There is, in all of us, a will to survive,” says Beaumont, who before becoming a full time writer and mom worked in the mental health field for nearly a decade. “I worked with countless cases of horrific abuse and if there’s one thing I have learned, it’s that the human spirit is resilient.”
Resilience is one of Vaughn’s key character traits. Even before she was abducted, she was always the girl who spent life on the outside looking in, struggling with the hand she’d been dealt and yet determined to persevere.
Beaumont knows a little something about perseverance. As a debut novel, CARVED IN DARKNESS has racked up an impressive number of awards and commendations, including the 2013 Gold Medal for suspense/thriller by an Independent Publisher. CARVED was also a Foreword Book of the Year finalist in the horror category. Despite this, Beaumont admits her publishing journey veers a bit on the crazy side.
Elle Harrison is back in Merry Jones’s latest release, ELECTIVE PROCEDURES. Recovering from her husband Charlie’s death, Elle Harrison agrees to visit a fortuneteller with a girlfriend. The fortuneteller predicts that Elle will travel, meet a new man, and, oh, by the way—Elle’s aura is filled with death, the dead are drawn to her, and death will follow her everywhere.
Elle is shaken, but she tries to ignore the ridiculous prediction. She and her pals travel to Mexico where one of them has arranged cosmetic surgery, planning to recuperate in a plush hotel suite. But more is going on at the hotel than tummy tucks.
As dangers swirl, Elle is forced to face her unresolved issues with Charlie, even as she races to find the connections between the murders before more patients—including her friend—are killed.
And before she becomes prey herself.
Tell us something about ELECTIVE PROCEDURES that isn’t mentioned in the publisher’s synopsis.
Wow, there are so many things not mentioned. But the most important part to me is the psychological issues that the book deals with. For example, the protagonist, Elle Harrison, suffers from a mild dissociative disorder that causes her to mentally drift away when she’s under stress. So when things get dicey, Elle tends to go off into her thoughts, missing sometimes critical pieces of information. Her friends have learned to deal with this aspect of her character, and they call her dissociative incidents “pulling an Elle,” and they help her cope.
Some of the other characters in ELECTIVE PROCEDURES also deal with psychological issues such as body dysmorphic disorder, which causes a distorted self-image. Some of the people seeking cosmetic surgery in the book do so because they have this disorder and think they constantly need “fixing.”
By Tim O’Mara
Since I’d just spent the previous week preparing for this interview by reading DARE MEand THE FEVER—both of which drip with the drama of teenage girls—I had the strange feeling I’d gone through high school with Megan Abbott. So I asked her, since high school is all about finding a label that fits, how would she label herself as a writer?
“I’m a crime novelist,” she said. “I can’t imagine not being a crime novelist. It’s how I understand story.”
So, what about this whole “Queen of Noir” thing?
“My stories are about people in dark places. To me, they’re stories about power. We can all relate to having something taken away or wanting something so badly. My characters often come from a position of powerlessness and yearning. Facing their own demons, and surviving.”
Yep. Sounds like high school. When I pointed out that if she were walking down the hallways of one of the local high schools, she might very well get stopped and asked to show her hall pass.
“I get that a lot,” she said. “The ‘you-look-so-young’ thing. I think it’s less about the way I look and more about that I’m from the Midwest.” She smiled. “I’m friendly.”
So how’d this friendly person get into the whole thriller/crime/noir thing?
“I’ve been reading thrillers since I was a kid, maybe ten years old. At that age, it was mostly writers like Patricia Highsmith and Ira Levin.” She must have noticed my eyebrows going up. “I was a precocious reader.”
And the brief reference to The Crucible in THE FEVER?
Teri Anne Stanley’s debut novel, DEADLY CHEMISTRY, just released and USA Today bestselling author Ruthie Knox notes that “[w]ith fast-paced, clever writing, strong heroines, and to-die-for heroes, Teri Anne Stanley is definitely one to watch!”
In DEADLY CHEMISTRY, former undercover cop Mike Gibson has been laying low, working as a maintenance man to put his troubled younger brother through college. But when a beautiful scientist enlists Mike’s help to repair the damage done to her lab by a group of vandals, Mike finds that his, and his brother’s pasts, are about to be brought to light. Laura Kane was happy having a secret crush on the hot maintenance man at Tucker University, but when the drug she was studying is stolen, Laura has a chance to get to know Mike in person. The problem is, he seems to know more about what’s going on than any maintenance man should. But then the drug turns up in the wrong hands, and Mike and Laura have to decide if their own chemistry will help, or hinder, the race to save innocent lives.
Teri Anne Stanley has been writing since she could hold a crayon—though learning to read was a huge turning point in her growth as a writer. Teri’s first stories involved her favorite Saturday morning cartoon characters, followed by her favorite teen idols. She has also authored a recipe column (The Three Ingredient Gourmet), and scientific articles (Guess which was more interesting!). Now she writes fun, sexy romance filled with chaos and havoc, populated by strong, smart women and hunky heroes.
What inspired you to jump from your earlier days of writing about cartoon characters, science, and cooking to writing suspenseful, sexy romance novels?
Well, I kind of outgrew the cartoon characters, the science stuff is a little dry (and there aren’t any nekkid parts), and I kind of gave up cooking. Even with just three ingredients—cooking is such a time suck!
Imagine being shot at point-blank range in a darkened hallway by someone you’ve never met. And imagine that your assailant promptly turns the gun on himself, depriving you of any chance of knowing why he did it. Somehow you survive the attack and manage to pull through months of surgeries and rehab and return to your job. But what if your colleagues assume you are somehow to blame, that the true motivation for the attack was something you had done? One of the cruelest injuries of the attack is the callous blackening of your name by vicious gossip. And then there is the haunting question in your own head: Why? Why did that young man shoot me?
I recently talked to Lori Rader-Day about her riveting debut novel, THE BLACK HOUR.
THE BLACK HOUR straddles two genre categories, psychological thriller and crime fiction. How would you categorize your book?
My agent called it a thriller. My press called it a mystery. I’ve heard “psychological suspense” a couple of times. I don’t know, really. Nobody knows. The greatest mystery in mystery writing is where the lines occur between marketing terms. I get why we need them—they’re in service of helping readers find the books they’ll like. With so many books being published, helping readers find your book is a real hurdle. Here’s another marketing term: discoverability. I’m hoping THE BLACK HOUR will be stored in the mystery sections of bookstores and libraries, but as for what I call it, I’ve adopted “crime fiction.” It seems the most broadly defined. I can probably promise a crime of some kind will occur.
What It’s Like to Write a Television Tie-In Novel by Karen Dionne
There are two broad categories of television and movie tie-ins. A novelization is a retelling of the show or movie. An original novel based on the show uses the show’s characters, but the story is the author’s. Neither are fan fiction, since tie-in authors are hired by the license holders to write their books.
Well-known tie-in writers include Kingsley Amis, Raymond Benson, Lawrence Block, Orson Scott Card, Leslie Charteris, Arthur C. Clarke, Max Allan Collins, Ian Fleming, Jonathan Maberry, David Morrell, and Robert B. Parker to name just a few.
Tie-in books are published by major publishing companies, sell tens of millions of copies worldwide, and regularly appear on the New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists.
Writing a tie-in novel presents a unique set of rewards and challenges. Unlike my previous novels, which were 100% my own creation, in my latest novel, THE KILLING: UNCOMMON DENOMINATOR, the story is mine, but the characters are not. They belong to the show, or more accurately, to fans of the show. My job as the author is to bring the characters fans know and love to life on the page.
When I was first asked if I’d be interested in writing an original novel based on the television series The Killing, I wasn’t familiar with the show. I purchased the pilot episode from Amazon, and was hooked. The Killing is inspired by the wildly successful Danish television series Forbrydelsen, and tells the story of the murder of a young girl in Seattle and the subsequent police investigation.
By Basil Sands
This month we introduce to you author John Donohue’s latest novel ENZAN: THE FAR MOUNTAIN, an awesome thrill ride of martial arts action that goes deeper than mere fists.
From his home near New Haven, Connecticut, Donohue is an expert on the study of martial arts. He holds a Ph.D. in anthropology, researches and trains in the martial arts, and has been banging around the dojo for more than thirty years. He is the author of ten books, including the award-winning Connor Burke martial arts thrillers SENSEI, DESHI, TENGU, KAGE, and now ENZAN: THE FAR MOUNTAIN.
Tell us about ENZAN: THE FAR MOUNTAIN.
ENZAN is the fifth book in the thriller series that features Connor Burke and his master teacher Yamashita. While a thriller, it’s also a story that explores relationships in families, between teachers and disciples, and the toll our commitment to each other sometime takes.
But if somewhat reflective it’s also action packed. It features both a modern-day adventure for the main character in the series, Connor Burke, as well as the back story of his teacher. The plot revolves around a young woman named Chie Miyazaki. She is wild and spoiled—the pampered child of a cadet line of the Imperial House of Japan. When she disappears in the United States accompanied by a slick Korean boyfriend, it sets off alarms among elite officials in Japan’s security apparatus.
The Japanese want the problem solved quietly, so they seek out Connor, who is the prize student of Yamashita Sensei. Burke suspects that he’s being used, but he accepts the assignment out of honor for his revered teacher.
A covert search-and-rescue operation turns into a confrontation with a North Korean sleeper cell, and Burke finally discovers the secret that drove Yamashita from Japan so many years ago and the power behind the decades-old connections that pull Yamashita and Burke back into danger in the service of the imperial family.
Bookstore shelves are filled with thrillers pitting courageous heroes against organized crime or terrorists. But until now we have not seen criminal and terrorist organizations pitted against each other. This inspired concept is the basis of THE WOLF, the latest novel from Lorenzo Carcaterra.
THE WOLF, the first book in what promises to be a blockbuster series, shows us the events that drive the heads of the International Organized Crime Syndicate to declare war on the international terror networks. It turns out that mobsters can be much more effective than law enforcement, which is out-numbered and encumbered by all those pesky rules.
In the novel, the highest levels of organized crime are led by Vincent “The Wolf” Marelli. He may not be a “good guy” in the traditional sense, but as the author says, if you met Vincent at a party, you’d be charmed by him.
“He’s smart and has a wide variety of interests—from art history to sports to music and movies,” Carcaterra says. “In short, he can speak on any subject and will be as interested in you as you are in him. You could speak for hours and come away having had a pleasant time and yet knowing very little about who he really is and what he really does. He is adept at keeping the focus on you and the glare away from him.”
By Jeremy Burns
She’s a veteran novelist. He’s a professor in Rome. Together, they write as Sam Cabot, whose debut novel BLOOD OF THE LAMB drew comparisons to THE DA VINCI CODE and THE HISTORIAN. The two members of this writing duo, S. J. Rozan and Carlos Dews, sat down with THE BIG THRILL to discuss SKIN OF THE WOLF, the sequel to BLOOD OF THE LAMB.
Tell us a little about yourselves and how you came to be a writing team.
Rozan: We met in Italy, through a writing workshop where we both teach. I was between projects and Carlos had an idea…
Dews: I was living my life as an expat in Rome and had a dream to write a thriller set here. I had too much respect for the thriller genre to try one on my own. Mutual friends introduced me to S. J., and the dream team (at least from my point of view) was born.
Tell us about your new thriller, SKIN OF THE WOLF.
Rozan: SKIN OF THE WOLF picks up after BLOOD OF THE LAMB, though you don’t have to have read the first to read this one. Set in the present in New York city, it involves art collectors, a ritual mask, Native Americans, and a murder at Sotheby’s. Oh, and vampires and werewolves.
Dews: SKIN OF THE WOLF sees the team we introduced in last year’s BLOOD OF THE LAMB (set in Rome) this time in New York where they race against time to prevent the catastrophic misuse of an important Native American mask. Oh, and did I forget to mention that there are vampires and shape-shifters involved?
The Africa Scene — An Interview with Annamaria Alfieri author of STRANGE GODS
Annamaria Alfieri is the author of three critically-acclaimed historical mysteries set in South America. The Washington Post said of her debut novel, “As both history and mystery, CITY OF SILVER glitters.” The Christian Science Monitor chose her BLOOD TANGO as one of ten must-read thrillers, and Kirkus Reviews said of INVISIBLE COUNTRY, “Alfieri has written an antiwar mystery that compares with the notable novels of Charles Todd.”
With that sort of track record, it’s exciting to see her focus move to Africa. Her new novel, STRANGE GODS is set in the burgeoning British East African town of Nairobi in 1911. Described as OUT OF AFRICA meets Agatha Christie, it captures the beauty and the danger of the African wild and the complexities of imposing a culture on a foreign land.
A world traveler, Annamaria takes a keen interest in the history of the places she visits. Many of her travel experiences feature on Murder is Everywhere where she blogs every Monday. She lives in New York City, and is a past president of the New York Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.
I asked Annamaria about writing historical fiction and her new series.
You have three successful historical mysteries set in South America. What drew you to Africa and to Kenya in particular?
All of my stories are inspired by the history of places I have visited. In the course of two month-long trips to sub-Saharan Africa, I became completely entranced, you might say infatuated with it. Since my ability to spend time there is limited, I decided I would satisfy my longing by being what Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen) called “a mental traveler.” That worked to the extent that I was able to produce a book out of it. My longing for Africa, however, is not at all satisfied. If anything, writing STRANGE GODS intensified it.
By George Ebey
Author Donald Bain brings us the latest in the Margaret Truman Capital Crimes series, UNDIPLOMATIC MURDER.
In this installment, Washington, D.C. PI Robert Brixton’s younger daughter is slaughtered while sipping wine with him at an outdoor café when a teenage terrorist blows herself up. This sends the cynical, furious Brixton on a quest to uncover who was behind the bombing, and takes him into the murky world of lying politicians, international arms dealers, and deceiving alleged do-gooders, including the leader of a cult on the Hawaiian island of Maui, where, to discover the truth, Brixton lays his life on the line.
THE BIG THRILL recently checked in with Bain to learn more about his work on the series as well as the ins and outs of writing political thrillers.
For those who may be unfamiliar, can you give us some insight into what the Margaret Truman Capitol Crimes series is about?
This mystery/thriller series takes the readers inside a variety of Washington, D.C. institutions and agencies in which a murder or murders take place. Margaret Truman, President Harry Truman’s daughter, with whom I worked for almost thirty years until her death in 2008, had a refreshing, highly critical eye of Washington and its goings-on, and the twenty-seven novels in the series reflect her wickedly jaded view of politics and politicians. As her father once famously said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” UNDIPLOMATIC MURDER, published by Forge this month, is the most recent book in the series. Since Margaret’s death, the books have carried my byline.
By John Clement
In preparation for this piece, I sent Leslie Budewitz, author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mystery series, an email asking if there were any questions she was absolutely sick of being asked. She told me the only thing that makes her sweat is when people ask how long it took to write CRIME RIB, the follow-up to her Agatha Award–winning first novel, DEATH AL DENTE.
She told me keeping track of her time isn’t easy, largely due to the fact that she is, for lack of a better word, busy. She’s published short stories in numerous magazines (including Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock), she’s working concurrently on two separate mystery series, and as if that’s not enough, she’s also a practicing lawyer. In fact, her book on how to write accurately about criminal law won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction—making her the only author in history to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction.
Perhaps I’m a sadist, but all that did is make me want to ask.
How long did it take to write CRIME RIB? Or, more specifically, what is your writing process, and how in the world do you juggle the demands of life, work, and your different writing projects?
When you’re not yet published but hoping to be, published authors often say, “Don’t rush—you have all the time you need for the first book, but once you get a contract and face those deadlines, it gets a bit crazy.” And while it turns out to be true, every aspiring author hates hearing it.
So I won’t say it.
Every day presents a different set of challenges. I do still practice law—personal and business litigation, and some employment matters—but part-time, with a small firm here in western Montana. When we’re busy with a case, or a client has a pressing need, I have to take care of that first thing in the morning. Only then do I feel mentally free to call up my imaginary friends and play.
By John Raab
New York Times bestselling author Heather Graham returns with her latest book in her Krewe of the Hunters series with THE HEXED. Heather is one of those rare authors who has written in several different genres, from romance to thriller to ghost stories and more. She has been listed on every major bestseller list, and if that wasn’t enough, she’s released several blockbusters this year alone: THE CURSED (the first of the newest trilogy within the Krewe Hunters series), WAKING THE DEAD (part of her Cafferty & Quinn series), and THE AWAKENING (a new reissue in her Alliance Vampires series). Out of breath yet? It is amazing that we were able to slow her down for a second and talk with her about THE HEXED among other topics, so check out her interview with THE BIG THRILL below.
THE HEXED is the second book in your newest Krewe of Hunters trilogy, that started with THE CURSED. Please tell us about the series.
I’ve always loved the concept of something beyond—or explaining what can’t be rationally explained. We know we use a very small percentage of the amazing “computer” that is the human brain, so, perhaps some people do have senses that we don’t know about. Historically, there have been mothers who have known the precise time a child is in trouble or twins who can sense something with one another miles and miles away. No one has the answer to death. And, of course, I love to believe that there is something more, and if there is . . . well, maybe some of us really can touch more than others. But, with the Krewe, the concept was to gather talented investigators and law enforcement officials who have extra sensory talents and put them together as units. So, they’re a “special” unit of the FBI, both teased by others as “ghost busters” and admired for their solve rate. They head out on cases that defy the logical. They tend to take place in cities and towns I really love—and that lend to the extraordinary. I love Salem, Mass, where THE HEXED takes place. My family has gone almost every year since I don’t know when since my husband has—seriously!—a zillion relatives in Massachusetts. The history there is incredibly sad—how we allowed people to die by “spectral” evidence can only be slightly understood by looking back at the fear people lived with in the late 1600s and the belief that the devil was real and ready to seize human souls—and bodies. There’s still so much that went on that is debatable—which makes it a perfect setting for fictional stories.
By Josie Brown
If A. J. Colucci’s latest novel, SEEDERS, is anything, it is timely, especially with scientists’ latest warnings that human-induced climate change will cause even further extinction of both animal and plant life as we know it.
Colucci uses this conclusion as the starting point for a scientific thriller that has the most unusual villains. Then again, if the goal is to stop the destruction of life on Earth, who is the “bad guy?”
Colluci’s answers will surprise you.
You are living proof that if a steady diet of horror movies and a career as a science journalist doesn’t prepare you for writing this kind of thriller, then nothing will. Still the premise of this book both surprises and horrifies. How did the concept of SEEDERS come to you?
As a small kid, I pulled an Alfred Hitchcock anthology off my mom’s shelf. It was a bunch of scary short stories that were not age appropriate, but my mom didn’t care what I read as long as there was a book in my hands. One of the stories was The Sound Machine by Roald Dahl, about an engineer who invents a device that allows him to hear high-frequency sounds, including the scream of a rose as its being cut by a neighbor. It was so damn frightening and changed the way I thought about nature. So a few years ago, while I was surfing the web and read about all the new breakthroughs in plant signaling, I knew that was going to be my next book.
By Don Helin
In his thriller, DAYS OF RAGE, Brad Taylor unleashes a plot so exciting that a Kirkus starred review raves, “A Pike Logan thriller filled with heart-thumping action and insane heroics…A fun, satisfying adventure.” The Taskforce is used to being the hunter, but this time they’re the hunted.
Intent on embroiling the U.S. in a quagmire that will sap its economy and drain its legitimacy, Russia passes a potential weapon of mass destruction to Boko Haram, an extreme Islamic sect in Nigeria. The Russian FSB believes the weapon, a relic of the Cold War, has deteriorated and is no longer effective, but they are wrong. Boko Haram has the means for mass destruction, which will be set loose upon a multitude of unsuspecting innocents on one of the world’s grandest stages.
Trying to solve the riddle of who might be stalking them, Pike Logan and the Taskforce have no idea what’s been set in motion; but there’s another secret from the Cold War buried in the Russian FSB, and exposing it will mean the difference between life and death—not only for Pike and his partner, Jennifer, but for perhaps millions more around the globe.
Brad Taylor served for more than twenty-one years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a Special Forces lieutenant colonel. During that time he held numerous Infantry and Special Forces positions, including eight years in 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, where he commanded multiple troops and a squadron. He has conducted operations in support of U.S. national interests in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other classified locations. He holds a master of science in Defense Analysis from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. When not writing, Brad serves as a security consultant on asymmetric threats. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina.
By Azam Gill
Paige Tyler’s HER PERFECT MATE (X-OPS Book 1) is set to start a cult following. When Special Forces Captain Landon Donovan is chosen for an assignment with the Department of Covert Operations, he’s stunned to find himself partnered with a beautiful woman who looks way to gentle to take down a terrorist. But Ivy Halliwell isn’t your average covert operator. Her feline DNA means she can literally bring out the claws when things get dicey. She isn’t thrilled to be paired with yet another military grunt, but Landon is different. He doesn’t think she’s a freak—and he’s got her tingling. Soon they’re facing a threat beyond imagination … and an animal magnetism between them impossible to ignore.
An impressively prolific writer, Tyler already has more publications than Agatha Christie managed in her entire career. Her mastery of the craft shows in HER PERFECT MATE, the start of the X-Ops Books. Effortless narration derives its authority from insider knowledge cleverly woven into the prose. And cluster bursts of short, sharp sentences and an astutely crafted plot propel the story at breakneck speed. In addition, original, finely-drawn and unforgettable characters keep the ball rolling at the gripping pace required of a top-of-the-line thriller. Hardly surprising, then, reviews of HER PERFECT MATE have been enthusiastic and unrestrained.
Tyler graciously agreed to answer a few questions for THE BIG THRILL.
Let’s start with a brief personal introduction.
I’m a USA Today bestselling author of sexy, romantic fiction. I’ve written over fifty books in practically every genre of romance, but my favorite is definitely the paranormal/romantic-suspense combo. My very own military hero (also known as my hubby) and I live on the beautiful Florida coast with our adorable fur baby (also known as our dog). I actually graduated with a degree in education, but decided to pursue my passion and write books about hunky alpha males and the kickbutt heroines who fall in love with them.
By Jeff Ayers
The author of more than fifty books—125 million copies in print—Clive Cussler is the current grandmaster of adventure literature. Dirk Pitt, the sea-loving protagonist of twenty-two of Cussler’s novels, remains among the most popular and influential adventure series heroes of the past half-century. In THE CLIVE CUSSLER ADVENTURES: A CRITICAL REVIEW, Steven Philip Jones explores and analyzes Cussler’s rich body of work—from the importance of Pitt to modern fiction to Cussler’s literary themes; from Cussler’s early influences to deconstructing the author’s classics, such as Raise the Titanic! and Iceberg. Cussler joins the pantheon of such acclaimed adventure writers as Rudyard Kipling, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Ian Fleming, and this overdue volume demonstrates that beneath Cussler’s immense popularity lies a literary depth that well merits scholarly attention.
Steven chatted with THE BIG THRILL about this fascinating perspective and examination of Cussler’s work.
What prompted you to write the book?
Oh, goodness, that’s a long story. Let me give you the Reader’s Digest version.
Around 1989 I was selling a lot of freelance comic book scripts to Malibu Graphics. This included a four-issue adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula that sold out its initial print run of twenty thousand and went back for a second printing, which got me thinking, if an adaptation of a classic public domain novel could sell that well, how much better would an adaptation of a recent bestseller sell? It would depend on the bestseller, of course, and Mr. Cussler’s novels came immediately to mind. They were extremely popular, but had only been adapted in a newspaper strip of RAISE THE TITANIC! and the 1980 movie of the same book. I wrote Mr. Cussler with my idea, he liked it, and Malibu, Mr. Cussler, and his agent Peter Lampack tried to work out a deal, but they couldn’t come to an agreement.
Arthur Kerns comes to the business of writing novels after a long career in the FBI and intelligence community.
So was he a spy?
“No,” Kerns said, “and if I had been I’d say no. I worked counterespionage, so you could say I was in the counter-spy business. A similar, but separate discipline.”
His latest novel, THE AFRICAN CONTRACT, is set in many countries where Kerns has worked, including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, and South Africa.
Kerns said Africa has always pulled at him.
“Years ago, Ernest Hemingway and Jack Kerouac were pop stars,” Kerns said. “I wanted to join in on the African safaris, Spanish bullfights, and of course go ‘on the road.’ When I tried writing I found I didn’t have the skills or the ideas to write a good story.
“Many years later, after a lot of hard work attending classes, conferences, workshops, and supportive writing groups, I was able to land an agent by presenting her with a respectable manuscript. Patience and perseverance won the day. Like playing football in high school, when I was a lineman, a grunt whose bruises numbed after the fourth play but kept alert enough to break through the line and nail that glamour-boy quarterback—you know the one who dated the good-looking cheerleaders. That was almost as satisfying as being told a publisher accepted my novel.”
In his latest novel, the action for hero Hayden Stone starts with a mysterious boxcar sitting, locked, in the wilds of Namibia—with people who would kill to obtain it or die if what’s inside gets put to use. Hayden travels through slums, mansions, and the shadowy world of black ops, unable to trust any of the players.
Chemical weapon attacks on international sites.
Jihadist holding Marines threatens to kill a prisoner a day.
Soldiers and diplomats struggling for a resolution.
Tom Young’s new novel offers a situation that sounds as real as a news broadcast.
In SAND AND FIRE, a Marine gunnery sergeant faces the jihadist in North Africa who has obtained chemical weapons. After inflicting casualties and destruction on a nightclub in Sicily and a crowded street in Gibraltar, the terrorist seizes members of a Marine strike force and threatens executions unless forces withdraw from his area.
The novel’s realistic tensions comes from former Associated Press journalist and retired senior master sergeant Young, who’s familiar with the world of which he writes. As in previous books—which include THE MULLAH’S STORM, SILENT ENEMY, THE RENEGADES, and THE WARRIORS—he offers a look inside a region and a world that continues to be a focus of international concern.
In this tale, heroes from previous books, Sophia Gold, now with the U.N., and Colonel Michael Parson, now working the United States Africa Command, join Gunnery Sgt. A.E. Blount, the six-foot-eight grandson of one of the first African American Marines. A rescue must be mounted for the Marines, and an unforgettable ordeal is ahead with the threat of a nightmarish outcome looming.
With the book due in stores and online outlets in July, Young, who logged nearly five thousand hours as a flight engineer for the Air National Guard in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Bosnia, and elsewhere, answered a few questions about his new protagonist Blount, the realism of his stories, and events unfolding in the Middle East today.
Writing just seemed like a natural career move for Alan Brenham, former U.S. Treasury special agent, patrol officer, criminal prosecutor, criminal defense attorney, and a current reserve deputy sheriff. His first novel, PRICE OF JUSTICE, received the Best in Police/Crime Fiction Award from the Texas Association of Authors 2012–2013 and was a finalist for the 2014 International Book Awards and the Eric Hoffer Award’s The da Vinci Eye, as well as the 2013 Beverly Hills Book Award.
Now, his second novel, CORNERED, due out in July, is launching to great acclaim. Kirkus Review, for one, praised it as “A rock-solid thriller….multiple scenes of nail-biting intensity…first-rate crime fiction…”
Perhaps the most gratifying comment comes from one of Brenham’s favorite authors, Michael McGarrity, New York Times bestselling author of HARD COUNTRY and BACKLANDS: “Alan Brenham’s CORNERED is a taunt thriller filled with murderous twists and turns that will satisfy readers who love good crime fiction. As a cop and a lawyer, Brenham has been there and done that and in this, his second outing, the authenticity of his storytelling ability continues to shine through.”
In CORNERED, not wanting history to repeat itself, Detective Matt Brady struggles to solve a case involving the disappearances of seven young women, but he quickly finds himself pitted against a criminal organization that knows as much about police procedure as he does—an organization that will do whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of him. Haunted by the memory of a kidnapping case gone wrong, Brady must now discover what happened to seven missing women, plus a murder. He is sure the cases were connected, but how?
David Salkin is what some would call a renaissance man. He’s an award-winning author, the Mayor of Freehold Township, New Jersey, and a Master Graduate Gemologist. His books have spanned military espionage, action-adventure, horror, mystery, and science fiction. In his latest, DEEP BLACK SEA, a crew of seven aboard a specially designed research submarine sit three miles down in the dark world beneath the sea. When they bring aboard the bacteria that enables certain animals to survive in the seven-hundred degree poisonous water of the black smoker, they have no idea that one of the researchers plans on using them as his test subjects.
Salkin recently answered a few questions about his fascinating new novel for THE BIG THRILL.
What can readers expect from DEEP BLACK SEA?
Nightmares. (smile.) I gave the rough draft to my brother, who told me he had nightmares after he read it. That’s perhaps the highest compliment I could ever receive when writing a sci-fi horror story. DEEP BLACK SEA is an adventure into a world which is still so undiscovered. The real science of the book makes the terrifying story believable to some extent. I mean, it’s a horror story and it’s fiction, but there’s enough hard science to make things plausible—hence the nightmares. I watched the story in my head as I wrote it. If I succeeded, the reader will be seeing the movie in their head as well, and it will stay in there for a few days making them think twice before their next snorkelling trip…
You set the novel in a submarine. What do you find intriguing about the environment?
Life on a submarine isn’t for everyone. It’s claustrophobic, dangerous, and remote. Because of the size and comfort level of this particular research vessel, it’s not as bad as a military submarine, but even so, the crew is three miles down in the black, near-frozen ocean. No one can quickly come to their rescue if they have a problem—they’ll need to figure out ways to help themselves. To have a small cast of characters in this isolated environment, surrounded by danger, creates a tension and constant stress that hopefully the reader can sense as they go through the journey.
By A.J. Colucci
When it comes to murder, Karin Slaughter pulls no punches. The internationally acclaimed author of thirteen novels believes crime fiction writers have an obligation to tell the truth. “Even though we’re writing fiction, we need to remember that the crimes we write about happen to real people every single day. We need to tread carefully. We need to honor their stories.” As a result, her novels are not for the faint of heart. The crimes are brutally realistic, the terror is genuine and the tension between the characters is palpable.
With a name like Slaughter, perhaps it was fate. Her two hugely popular series, Will Trent and Grant County, have sold more than thirty million books that have been translated into thirty-two languages. Her latest novel, COP TOWN, takes readers back to 1974 in downtown Atlanta—where a cop killer known as “The Shooter” is on the loose. Kate Murphy is a new police officer thrown into the deep end her first day on the job, wondering if it will be her last. The women of the Atlanta police department are never quite sure who their worst enemies are—the criminals on the street or their fellow cops who think that the job is no place for a woman. As the entire force hunts for the killer, it quickly becomes clear that protect and serve applies only to a chosen few.
Painting an accurate portrait of the 1970s took a lot of research, and Slaughter paints it well, especially the unabashed sexism, racism, and homophobia that existed in law enforcement. Just as she exposes the harsh reality of a brutal murder, Slaughter writes with stunning acuity about the ugliness of a police force that’s openly hostile to women and, as Kirkus notes, “drives her point home like a knife to the eye.”
Much of her research was based on conversations with a group of retired female police officers. “They are amazing ladies, and the stories they tell are both horrific and hilarious. I spent hours with them talking about the good ol’ days, and we laughed and laughed, and then I got home and read through my notes and thought, ‘Holy crap, this was just awful.’ It’s amazing what they put up with back then, and continue to put up with, because some things haven’t changed all that much.” Slaughter remarked that anyone applying to be a police officer has to take a lie detector test. “Back then, women were asked if they were virgins, how many men they’d had sex with, what type of sex they had engaged in. And while this was wrong—not just because the men weren’t asked—no one complained about it.”
It was into this atmosphere that Slaughter thrusts Kate Murphy and Maggie Lawson, two female police officers in COP TOWN. Kate is new on the force and eager to shed her privileged background by strapping on a gun, but she is unprepared for the hazing and nearly quits over the abuse she faces, not only from criminals but from men in her own department. In one particularly revolting scene, Kate and her male partner interrogate a pimp named Romeo—a character who defines the word vile. For Kate, it quickly turns into a kind of verbal rape, but for her male partner, it is both amusing and proof that women are not meant to be cops. Likewise, Maggie has been at the job for years and comes from a family of cops, yet the constant barriers she faces while tracking down a cop killer is taking its toll and “knowing her place” means doing a lot of the legwork on the sly.
By Barry Lancet
Lovers of thrillers and mysteries will find Sarah Knight’s pedigree of more than passing interest. During her long career at several major publishing houses, Knight has worked with a star-studded array of writers, including James Lee Burke, Stephen Hunter, Jeffery Deaver, Taylor Stevens, and Gillian Flynn, among many others.
Before she moved over to Simon & Schuster to work with the house’s stable of bestselling crime writers, Knight plied the editorial waters of Scribner, Henry Holt, and, most recently, Random House, where she was fortunate to edit Gillian Flynn’s DARK PLACES and then pick up a little property called GONE GIRL—only to accept a job offer from S&S soon after. She still finds leaving behind that future bestseller painful to recall.
While she continues to seek out debut talent for S&S that might one day reach GONE GIRL proportions, she also casts a wider net, searching for compelling “narrative nonfiction, memoir, travel and food writing, pop culture, and humor.”
With her strong background in suspense, it may have been something akin to fate that Knight acquired the International Thriller Writers’ latest anthology, FACEOFF. In her introductory letter to the collection’s advance reading copies, the senior editor recalled her first impressions:
The minute I saw the list of contributors, I started fantasizing about the possibilities…. This was going to be huge. Eleven stories later, I knew it wasn’t just a great concept—it was (pardon the pun) a stellar execution…. [T]his anthology is a love letter to the craft.
Once again her editorial sensibilities hit the mark. FACEOFF clambered onto the both the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists in its inaugural week.
In the interview that follows, Knight offers candid, often eye-opening observations—from further thoughts on FACEOFF, to what constitutes an irresistible book, to how editors prefer to work with authors. So let’s dive in.
Maybe you know her as Bobbye Terry, or Daryn Cross, or Terry Campbell. Either way, you know her writing is sizzling, with a dollop of humor and a side of macabre details. You could call Bobbye Terry a talented multi-tasking master, and you would be right. She worked as a hospital and hospice administrator and as a writer for national and international magazines. She wrote various articles for over ten years before she made the jump and started writing fiction.
Bobbye has a knack for character development; her characters capture true-to-life emotions and reactions. Her new novel, THE WIDOW JAMES, is no different. It features a strong female lead named Lindsay “Lindy” Deane James. She’s searching for answers in Lynchburg, Virginia, determined to prove an elderly friend sane and innocent of murder, but as she searches she uncovers dark secrets dark enough to kill for. The book is out this month.
Tell me about THE WIDOW JAMES.
It’s romantic suspense about a woman who is from Lynchburg and returns after decades in order to clear an older woman of murder charges and the potential for being found incompetent. Lindy, the widow, is a forensic psychologist and no newcomer to murder and psychological crimes. However, she left Lynchburg and has not returned except as required by her now-deceased husband because the former love of her life lives there, as well as her nemesis, a man-hungry woman named Carrie. Lindy also detests her mother-in-law, whom she nicknamed “the vulture.”
Additionally, this book is very personal to me, in that Lynchburg is my hometown and I am in the process of moving back there. Here is what I said in the dedication:
By Cathy Clamp
Most people who have stood in a security line at an airport have wondered what they would do if a bomb actually went off. DiAnn Mills’ latest novel, FIREWALL, brings that frightening image to raw, terrifying life. Taryn Young, a newlywed boarding a plane to her dream honeymoon after a whirlwind romance is caught in a bomb blast that rocks the Houston airport. When she wakes, not only is her husband missing, but the authorities consider them both suspects in the attack. She’s informed that the man of her dreams isn’t who he appears to be. In fact, he doesn’t exist at all. With her high security clearance in computers and genius IQ, Taryn isn’t normally taken by surprise, and is nobody’s fool. Something doesn’t smell right.
FBI Agent Grayson Hall, as the lead investigator, considers catching the one responsible for the attack to be his first priority, yet he can’t help feeling that despite all the evidence to the contrary, Taryn is an innocent. Is her naiveté just for show? Or is she a conspirator, the mastermind of a terrorist cell?
Half-truths, double crosses, and a ticking clock to prove her own innocence before she gets locked away forever drives the heroine to risk everything. But who can she trust? She thought she could trust her husband but he’s gone missing. Is the FBI right in believing he’s a terrorist? Or is the government trying to steal vital computer secrets from her by using her husband as bait? As Taryn and Grayson each try to solve the case, each suspecting the worst of the other, it might be that all they can do is put their trust in a higher power to guide them to the answer.
By Ethan Cross
Steve Attridge’s work has been described as “Brilliant…thought-provoking, dark, and very, very funny.”With THE NATURAL LAW, his fifteenth book, the bestselling and award-winning author continues the string of success with another exceptional book, this one featuring protagonist Paul Rook.
Rook is a philosopher and a crime investigator, but he only works for criminals. He finds them more interesting and he has a secret agenda. When a criminal client of his is brutally murdered his investigations take him into a murky world of government conspiracies and a bizarre community of lost souls living rough beneath a London Bridge.
Tell us about THE NATURAL LAW in one line.
The murder of a petty criminal leads Paul Rook, investigator and philosopher, into a world of murky politics, violence, personal crisis and strange friendships.
What kind of research did you conduct for THE NATURAL LAW?
I read and re-read key philosophical works which are important to the main character, the way he sees the world, and the crimes he deals with. The main one was Aquinas’s Natural Law, hence the title. I read a fair bit online and in newspapers about the abuse of arms and military security trades, especially in a political context. I revisited parliament to get the sensory detail. I also got out my Prague maps, holiday photos and diary to get a bit of local detail. I try to use background reading to inform character, not to impress the reader. As a reader, I like well chosen telling detail rather than pages of exposition and description, so I try to practice that in my own work. Less is usually more.
By Dan Levy
During a time when the favored attire of anti-heroes can range from a wife-beater T-shirt soaked with blood and caked with gunshot residue to whatever the nearest Wal-Mart carries to militia gear and camo paint, it’s nice to see certain heroes emerge that still value a suit.
And not a jump suit, flight suit, or space suit. In the case of TERMINAL LIFE: A SUITED HERO NOVEL, the business suit is the hero’s attire of choice. You know, the kind that spawned the pejorative “a suit” to describe a group of men usually painted as ego-inflated idiots, inept law enforcement, or establishment types that are not to be trusted.
For Luke Stark, the protagonist in TERMINAL LIFE, author Richard Torregrossa explained the power of the suit: “[Exploring] the mythic quality of the suit interested me. It’s all [Stark] has, and it empowers him. It’s like Superman’s cape.”
By giving the business suit meaning, Torregrossa not only adds depth to a protagonist that is a composite of his favorite anti-heroes, it enabled him to tap into a subject for which he is already a bestselling author and expert. This is evidenced in his book, CARY GRANT: A CELEBRATION OF STYLE.
Following the success of his style book, Torregrossa moved into thriller fiction to pursue his love for action stories—Jason Statham movies and Ken Bruin novels among the most influential—and explore storytelling beyond the constraints of nonfiction. “Fiction is what I always wanted to write, but I didn’t have the skills. After years of being a journalist and then writing the Cary Grant book, I thought I was ready to take a shot at fiction.”
By Amy Lignor
When it comes to historical suspense, there are authors who can effortlessly unearth the appeal of an era through beautiful locations and perfectly written characters. Everything from cultural points and societal issues to accents and wardrobes come together to make the reader feel as if he or she is standing beside the characters, perhaps looking into an empty grave while the night wind blows through the cracks of an old abbey, alerting everyone to the ghosts that roam the landscape. Anna Lee Huber does just that with flawless precision in each of her Lady Darby mysteries. So flawlessly, in fact, that while providing a great read, Huber also gives the reader a portal where he or she can effortlessly travel back in time.
A GRAVE MATTER is the third tale of Lady Darby, first introduced in the amazing novel, THE ANATOMIST’S WIFE. This is a woman who not only had to face personal risk, but also rose to the occasion and ended up being both heroine and sleuth. In A GRAVE MATTER, released this month, Lady Darby deals with her ever-blossoming relationship with a man named Gage, and solves a case of body snatching where the motive turns out to be far more complex than anyone will believe.
From the very first tale, Lady Darby was embraced by readers because of her strength and the passion she held for all areas of life; so it will come as no surprise that her creator shares that passion for everything from travel to music to Star Wars to an imaginative writing career that will expand in many directions, as she takes on new genres and characters in the coming years.
You write history so well—covering every aspect of a chosen time period. Are there other genres you wish to explore?
I adore Gothic suspense novels, especially anything by Mary Stewart, and I’m actually in the midst of writing one myself. It’s set during the Regency period, so still historical, but a definite departure from the Lady Darby series. I also have an idea for a contemporary mystery series with a bit of a paranormal twist. I haven’t written anything contemporary in years, but I’m hoping I can find time soon to try my hand at it.
By Brian Knight
October, 1901. Lawyer and private-inquiries agent Karl Werthen accepts an assignment to protect the famous Irish writer Bram Stoker while on a speaking tour of Vienna. Meanwhile, his colleague, criminologist Dr. Hanns Gross, has been called away to advise on a bizarre series of murders near his hometown of Graz in the Austrian province of Styria. Three women have been killed with strange mutilations and scarring patterns left on their bodies. The third and most recent victim has had her unborn baby cut from her womb. Back in Vienna, Werthen’s wife Berthe is investigating what seems to be a fraudulent breeding scheme involving the prized Lipizzaner horses. Could these investigations possibly be connected?
Matters become complicated with Werthen and Stoker’s arrival in Graz. For, having read wild newspaper accounts of vampire killings, the author of DRACULA insists they investigate.
Welcome Mr. Jones, and thanks for stopping by to visit with us.
Call me Syd, please. And it is a pleasure to chat with you.
Tell us a bit about your new historical thriller, A MATTER OF BREEDING.
In my fifth installment of the Viennese Mystery series, A MATTER OF BREEDING, to be published this month, I again use characters and events inspired by history, primary among them Georg Ritter von Schönerer, the German nationalist whose right-wing rhetoric later influenced the young Hitler when he lived in Vienna (yes, I will include Hitler in an installment in due course). Schönerer is the inspiration for Christian von Hobarty, a primary suspect in the gruesome killings of several young women in the Austrian province of Styria, a place once much associated with vampirism. Indeed, the murders are for a time touted in the press as the work of a vampire. Damned handy that Bram Stoker, author of DRACULA, is in Austria on a speaking engagement and wrangles his way into the investigation with my ongoing protagonists, lawyer and private inquiries agent Karl Werthen and real-life father of criminology, Hanns Gross. Another intriguing—for me, at least—historical tip of the hat is to the so-called Blood Countess, Elizabeth Bathory, accused of killing hundreds of young women at her castle hideaway and bathing in their blood. Von Hobarty is an anagram of the Bathory name; he is, in fact, a distant relation of that infamous clan.
By Steph Cha
Matthew Quirk is kind of a big deal. He went to Harvard, where he studied history and literature, and straight after graduation, he went and worked for this magazine of import, name is on the tip of my tongue…ah yes, The Atlantic. As if that weren’t enough to make your mom ask if he’s single, he then went on to write two acclaimed thriller novels, THE 500(his 2012 debut) and the brand new sequel, THE DIRECTIVE, both published by Little Brown.
THE 500 introduced his protagonist Mike Ford, a Harvard Law graduate tangling with the insidious Washington, D.C. elite. That novel won the Black Ribbon Award and the Thriller Award for best debut, and was nominated more or less everywhere else nominations were available. It’s been translated into twenty languages, and is currently in development as a major motion picture with Twentieth Century Fox.
His new novel, THE DIRECTIVE, follows Mike Ford as he plans an audacious heist on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It’s shaping up to be another great hit that should establish Quirk as a monster in the thriller world.
Mr. Quirk was nice enough to answer a few questions:
You spent five years at The Atlantic, reporting on matters of great intrigue. How did you make the transition to fiction? Was there a particular story or moment that made you think, “This would make a great novel”?
There were countless great stories and moments like that, so many that I almost couldn’t help but start writing fiction.
I’ve been a reader for as long as I can remember. I remember reading Nancy Drew and quickly moving on to the Hardy Boys because I craved more action. Mysteries filled the void for a while. Then I found thrillers, starting with David Morrell and Jon Land’s Blaine McCracken. Yes, I was getting action, but in my experience, most of the kicking ass was done by men. That is, until I discovered Meg Gardiner.
In my recent introduction to Meg’s stand-alone novels, RANSOM RIVER and SHADOW TRACER, I found what I consider true thriller, kick ass heroines: Rory Mackenzie and Sarah Keller. From there it was a small leap to follow Harper Flynn in PHANTOM INSTINCT, Gardiner’s latest release.
Gardiner opens PHANTOM INSTINCT with a shoot-out and deadly fire in a trendy nightclub. The bartender, Harper Flynn, tries to move her injured boyfriend, Drew, from the line of gunfire only to lose him to the devastation of the blaze that followed. A year later at a memorial service for Drew, she sees a figure watching from the shadows and wonders who it is and why they are there.
She is convinced it has something to do with the third gunman she saw, but since other survivor reports did not support her claim, the police are uninterested in pursuing what they believe is a figment of her imagination.
Believing she is on to something, Harper contacts Aiden Garrison, a policeman who was in the club on the night of the shooting. He too remembers there was a third gunman but due to a traumatic brain injury called Fregoli Syndrome or face blindness his recollections are deemed to be unreliable.
What would happen if two dozen of the world’s bestselling authors got together to pen a book of short stories pairing up their beloved series characters? If there was a thriller writer dream team? And what if the compilation was edited by #1 New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci?
Readers will find out in FACEOFF, an anthology released this week from Simon & Schuster.
In a first-of-its-kind collaboration curated by the International Thriller Writers (ITW), twenty-three critically acclaimed authors crafted eleven electrifying stories where their iconic characters go head-to-head. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for readers,” Baldacci said. “I’m honored to be at the helm of this amazing ship.”
Over the past few months, THE BIG THRILL, in conjunction with Suspense magazine, had the opportunity to talk to many of the FACEOFF authors about their stories, their collaborative process, and their reasons for participating in the compilation.[*]
But before we get into that, a little background on the project . . .
Striving to Innovate
FACEOFF begins with a dedication:
For Gayle Lynds and David Morrell
Readers know Lynds and Morrell for their bestselling novels. But what they might not know is that they co-founded ITW, which this year celebrates its tenth anniversary. In his Introduction to FACEOFF, Baldacci traces the origins of the organization, noting that “[f]rom its beginning ITW strived to innovate.” One of the ways ITW does so, Baldacci explains, is by creating its own books and using the revenue to allow the organization to operate without charging a penny to its members.
“FACEOFF was another opportunity to innovate,” added ITW’s co-president and FACEOFF contributor M. J. Rose. “All the authors are ITW members who donated their time, allowing writers and characters from different publishing houses to do something that’s never been done before. The proceeds allow ITW to charge no membership dues.”
For the authors who participated in the project, it was a chance not only to give back to an association that has done so much for writers, but also to work with people they admire. Lee Child, ITW co-president and FACEOFF contributor, added, “One of the things I like so much about ITW is that it is very collaborative. Writers are solitary people; it’s been several days since I’ve seen another human being as I finish up my current book. But ITW forces us to get out and you get a sense of collegiality; it’s fun, like a pickup jazz band. I like the organization’s way of forcing people together.”