Suspended for negotiating with an armed lunatic, rookie cop Marti Coldwater is feeling lost and unappreciated. But her day is about to get a whole lot worse when her car is run off the road by a strange, falling military craft and she rescues the lone passenger—a young British amnesiac who thinks it’s 1944.
Soon, she and her newfound companion are relentlessly pursued by murderous men in suits and a sinister Nordic assassin with a singular mission—capture the stranger and kill anyone who’s seen him.
When she uncovers a plot threatening the entire planet, Marti is thrown into a world of highly classified government programs and astonishing alien secrets. Now, her only hope of saving the world is to try to recover the memories of a man who may be the most dangerous of all—the man who calls himself Atticus.
Author J. B. Manus spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel, ATTICUS:
A hitman is loose on the idyllic islands. A killer for hire who has FBI agent, Billie Jean Martinez in his sights. Billie just happens to be the lover of Stevie, Harry Beck’s business partner. Trouble is at Harry’s door, again.
Harry has his own problems. When Billie and Stevie, and then his wife Katy, go missing, Harry has no choice but to join the chase to find them, and hope he gets to them before the hired gun. Most of all, they have to stay alive.
Author Maynard Sims recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel, CALLING DOWN THE LIGHTNING:
Detective Roger Colby thought he’d ended serial killer Morgan Laird’s murderous spree twenty-eight years ago, when Laird was relegated to a wheelchair along with a life sentence. But now the convicted killer is out on parole. Suddenly, a new series of murders start popping up, each mimicking one of the crime scenes of Laird’s original killings. As Colby reluctantly joins a federal task force investigating these new crimes, he begins to uncover a new and sinister plot so unthinkable that it’s virtually beyond belief. When Laird’s DNA is recovered from one of the crime scenes, Colby realizes that the unthinkable has suddenly become reality. Shunned by the task force, and without support, he must trace this new blood trail to its source and bring these new and brutal crimes to a stop, regardless of the consequences.
The Big Thrill had the opportunity to discuss with Michael A. Black his latest thriller, BLOOD TRAILS:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope they take away a sense of having read a good thriller.
The writing team of Del Bene and Livingston has produced another thrilling installment in the Joyce Smith series with VALLEY OF DRY BON’Z.
This latest installment sees the return of You Know Who, a serial killer that Native American Undersheriff Joyce Smith and her investigative team thought they had killed, not once but twice before. But when a series of attacks against those who helped the team unfold right before the holidays, and a team member is kidnapped from his guarded hospital room, the team gathers to examine all avenues, including those previously explored to try to get at least one step ahead of the nefarious You Know Who and rescue their friend. Not only is the weather against them, but they also have to navigate roadblocks and assaults created by mercenaries and the federal government to a final showdown.
The authors have taken a cast of characters and melded them into a tight-knit team with strengths and weaknesses and a genuine concern for each other. This team approach is unusual in the thriller genre and works well in the series. Del Bene and Livingston manage to give each team member some moments in the spotlight while furthering the story line.
If you think you know all there is to know about Peter Pan’s famous foil Captain Hook, you’ll be surprised and wonderfully entertained by the dazzling coming-of-age story that unfolds in HOOK’S TALE.
From books, plays, and movies we all know Captain James Hook to be a vicious pirate. But John Pielmeier’s novel reveals, in the form of a purported memoir, a life story far more nuanced.
“Our story begins just as he turns fourteen,” Pielmeier says, “though he narrates the story as an older gentleman looking back on his life.”
Of course, as in the original stories by J. M. Barrie reveal, Hook was not his true name. According to Pielmeier he was christened Cook, and was never really a pirate. And Hook/Cook looks nothing like the way he is always portrayed.
As one might expect, Hook’s enemy is the “notorious” Peter Pan. The reason for that, which I cannot reveal here without giving spoilers, is what drives much of the narrative. Hook faces a slew of enemies, including a London vivisectionist named Uriah Slinque, and all these characters are nearly as fascinating as the title character himself.
They call him Dr. Death. Not a surprise. Lucas Stride’s philosophy lectures promote humanitarian actions since we never know when the Grim Reaper will come for us.
Before the professor’s lecture at the Quebec City morgue, he receives a threat, insisting he assign a cash value to his life. If the note’s author isn’t satisfied with the amount, Lucas dies.
While Lucas struggles to comply with the extortion demand, Toronto cop, Jordan Blair, arrives for a tryst with private investigator, Darcy Piermont.
Her plans are derailed after Darcy is asked to locate a family friend missing since the morgue tour with his class. In their search for the professor, Jordan and Darcy uncover a series of crimes that conclude with the reality of — death.
The Big Thrill had the pleasure to discuss DEATH’S FOOTPRINT with authors Donna Warner & Gloria Ferris:
And boy is he right: his wife has left him, emptied his safe deposit box, moved their entire house to Key West, and is shacking up with Sweeney’s former partner and Best Man. Worse yet, Buck Wiggins is after him for a sixty-five grand debt. But Sweeney’s broke! So Buck sends Gooch and Gunther Canseco, twin towers of steroidal ape stuff, to tune Sweeney up each week until he pays Buck back.
And he thought life in prison sucked.
When a mysterious Cuban-American approaches Sweeney with an offer, Sweeney is forced to accept. The payoff? A cool half mil. The problem? The money is hidden inside a house in Cuba. Worse yet: on Guantanamo Naval Base, a.k.a. GITMO.
Strap on your seat belt and prepare for the ride of your life, as unlikely hero Dixon Sweeney and his beat-up Chris-Craft challenge the Gulf Stream, waterspouts, man-eating sharks, the crazy Canseco twins, the Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, the entire Cuban military, and one super sexy senorita in this hilarious romp through the Florida Straits.
The Big Thrill caught up with authors Shawn Corridan and Gary Waid to discuss GITMO:
Claire learns the secret of her dying New York neighbor: the whereabouts of Moses’ Biblical staff. With the help of an Israeli engineer and the money of a Russian oligarch, Claire sets out to recover the staff, but finds herself in a race against fanatics who will do anything to keep it from coming to light.
“Then the LORD said to Moses: Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.”
EXODUS ’95 author, Kifir Luzzatto, recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
In the words of one of the first reviews it got, “to be entertained from the first page of the story right through to the very last page.”
Edward Thurman’s battle begins when he lands his lifelong friend Danny Wilson a job aboard an Alaskan fishing vessel, the Angie Piper. The captain and most of the other crew members find Danny an inspiring, worthwhile addition to their boat as he is incredibly strong and works tirelessly without complaint. Adding to these characteristics is Danny’s amiable personality, enhanced in part by his impossible dream of one day becoming a Navy SEAL (Danny has Down syndrome).
But not all the crew members are interested in having Danny on board, and the pressure quickly rises after the Angie Piper sets sail. In the center of the tension stands Edward, who knows that above all else, he must face the nagging guilt of his own history. And this history, which includes Danny, is the one thing that keeps Edward from his own dream. In a final conflict amid vicious storms and merciless rogue waves, tragedy strikes the crew of the Angie Piper, and every man is thrown into the crudest battle of all—the battle for survival.
THE SINKING OF THE ANGIE PIPER author, Chris Riley, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his debut:
As a fixer for America’s one percent, John Smith cleans up the messes of those rich enough to afford him. But he’s no ordinary gun for hire. Smith is a man of rare gifts, including the ability to read minds. Arriving at the wedding of Kira Sadeghi, a reality television celebrity he recently saved from kidnappers, Smith witnesses a group of gunmen open fire, hitting the bride and others. Though he’s unarmed, Smith cripples one of the killers and is able to pry one word from his mind: “Downvote.”
Eager to learn more, Smith hacks into the brain of an FBI agent investigating the attack to discover the Bureau has been investigating a nefarious new threat called “Downvote,” an encrypted site on the “dark net” that lists the names of celebrities and offers a hefty bounty for anyone who can kill them—unleashing an anonymous and deadly flashmob with a keystroke.
Finding a mastermind on the internet is like trying to catch air—unless you’re John Smith. Motivated by money and revenge, he traces a series of electronic signatures to a reclusive billionaire living at sea, accompanied by a scary-smart female bodyguard who becomes Smith’s partner in his quest. The hunt for their prey will lead from Hong Kong to Reykjavik to a luxury gambling resort deep in the Laotian jungle. Yet always this criminal mastermind remains one step ahead.
The only way Downvote’s creator can stop Smith is to kill him . . . because while this diabolical genius can run, there’s no hiding from a man who can read minds.
FLASHMOB author, Christopher Farnsworth, discussed his latest novel with The Big Thrill:
Dr. Harry Olson, an American paleoanthropologist, and his wife, Dixie, have returned from the mountains of Mongolia with two live Yeti, a male and a female. A team of scientists in Harry’s anthropology department at California Pacific University are now trying to uncover a link between human and Yeti genetics. But when the Yeti escape, Harry’s in a race against time to recapture the animals, knowing only too well how the terrible consequences will be if the creatures make it off the desolate high-desert facility and reach a human city.
Richard Edde, author of YETI UNLEASHED, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Although a work of fiction, my Yeti series demonstrates that it is entirely possible that we have unearthed all of our human ancestors and cousins. What we may yet discover may entirely amaze and frighten us.
In October 1959, a young, hard-luck P.I. is lost in America, determined to untangle a series of grisly murders spreading like a disease from the set of The Alamo. Fighting for his life from a dry desert storm, to a mind-bending fog in San Francisco, and a snow-blinding mountain top outside Hollywood, Stan Wade gropes his way through drug-induced, false trails to outwit an aggressive, obsessive mass killer.
Author John Hegenberger took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss his latest novel, STORMFALL, with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Delight and joy from a wonderful journey from Texas to San Francisco to Los Angeles, all in late 1959.
Mike Reardon, the Repairman, hates to mess his own nest—to work anywhere near where he lives. If you can call a mini-storage and a camper living. But when terrorists bomb Vegas, and a casino owner’s granddaughter is killed…the money is too good and the prey is among his most hated. Then again, nothing is ever quite like it seems. Now all he has to do is stay alive—tough when friends become enemies and enemies far worse, and when you’re on top the FBI and LVPD’s list. Another kick-ass Repairman novel.
Author L.J. Martin recently answered some questions about his novel, OVERFLOW:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
A few laughs, a few chills, a sense of completion, redemption and satisfaction.
The Empire ruled by a King who would swallow the world in his madness.
The Warrior who chose to rise against her own kind in order to defeat him.
Discover the extraordinary beginnings of the Immortals and the unforgettable story of the Princess who would become a Legend.
Author A.D. Starrling recently answered some questions for the The Big Thrill about her novel, ORIGINS:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
A spellbinding story that combines history with adventure and fast-paced action. The genesis story of the supernatural action thriller series Seventeen.
By George Ebey
In her latest novel, CHILLED TO THE BONES, author Linda Kane takes her readers on an adventurous and chilling ride through the small town of Setauket, New York where four high school friends find themselves embroiled in a historical mystery more than a century old. Secret codes, murder, and lurking evil lead them almost to the point of no return.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Kane to learn more about this thrilling new story.
What location and time period is your story set in and why did you choose it?
CHILLED TO THE BONES is set in today’s time period but has a ghost and a demon from the American Revolutionary War. I choose the time period because in all of my books I have some history that I think is important to impart to people. In this one I have Tallmadge’s code for the Culper spy ring and Agent 355, a female spy who was instrumental in capturing Benedict Arnold. Most people don’t know the important role that women played in the War.
Who is your main protagonist and what has their journey been like?
My main protagonist is Dealer, an ancestor of Robert Townsend who was believed to have been the father of Agent 355’s baby. Dealer has had a bumpy road. Simcoe caused an accident that killed Dealer’s mom. Her father has a drinking problem and this gives Simcoe an opportunity to acquire the farmland of one of the relatives of the Culper Spy Ring. Dealer is a fighter, she has spunk, and with her friends she tries to save the town of Setauket, New York.
By E.M. Powell
Not everyone may be aware that there is more to the magnificent Yellowstone National Park than meets the eye. For the park, all 1,500 square miles of it, is actually a supervolcano that last erupted over 640,000 years ago. Not to get anybody concerned or anything, but that monster is still active and may erupt again. In Tim Washburn’s CATACLYSM, it does.
In this fast-paced read, park scientist Tucker Mayfield is trying to not only get the park visitors to safety but his own family, too. His is just one thread in the classic disaster format used by Washburn: multiple points of view and story lines, cuts between locations so we get different perspectives on the unfolding mayhem, and hugely exciting set pieces.
Washburn says he actually wasn’t a big fan of the disaster genre until he started writing it in a complete departure from his previous style. Powerless was the one that got him a publishing contract. “Powerless deals with a solar storm slamming into Earth and scientists say it’s only a matter of when, not if, that happens. We are woefully unprepared for such an event and are making little progress in improving our electrical grids.”
Disaster is where it’s at for him now. “It’s fun finding gruesome ways to destroy parts of the world! The key, though, is the concept must have a grain of truth to it. In CATACLYSM, the Yellowstone caldera is real and could erupt someday. The caldera lurks beneath the surface, unlike most volcanoes people visualize in their minds. Basically, it’s hidden in plain sight and that’s what fuels all of Yellowstone’s hydrothermal features. Scientists didn’t know the volcano was there until the early 1970’s. The Yellowstone caldera has erupted three previous times, and all three make the top 10 for the largest volcanic eruptions on earth.”
By J. H. Bográn
The abominable snowman has filled the imagination—and nightmares—of people for years, and has achieved a certain measure of Pop Culture status. More than a few movies deal with the monster, including the one being portrayed as an outcast in Monsters Inc. And whether he admits it or not, George Lucas paid it an indirect tribute to the yeti with the creature that attacked Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back.
Authors Rick Chesler and Jack Douglas bring us a new tale of adventure about the yeti in their book. When evolutionary biology professor Dr. Zack Hitchens loses his wife in a senseless accident, he decides to follow her dreams all the way to the “roof of the world”—the peak of Mount Everest. On the infernal mountain, Zack and his teammates battle sickness, whiteout conditions, avalanches, the oxygen-starved minds of other climbers—and something else. Something primitive and consumed with rage and seeking revenge. Something downright abominable.
The Big Thrill had the chance to chat with the authors about the new release.
What is it about the yeti that intrigued you enough to devote a whole book to it?
Jack Douglas: The initial spark of inspiration was actually the Expedition Everest ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The yeti on that coaster is portrayed as a ferocious beast, a likeness that popular culture has largely moved away from. Between the monster and the perils inherent in attempting to ascend the world’s tallest mountain, it seemed at the time like the story would write itself. But that turned out not to be the case. Instead the book required nearly two years of grueling research on mountaineering, cryptozoology, and the rich history and culture of South Asia.
By David Healey
Thriller author William “Willie” Nikkel was out fishing one day when he caught a good idea. He just happened to wonder, what if that didn’t turn out to be a big fish on his line, but a body?
Thriller writers love a good “what if” to get a story going. Nikkel was hooked, so to speak, and that idea evolved into the first chapter of his newest novel, SHIPWRECK.
This is his sixth novel to feature Jack Ferrell. Nikkel is now at work on his seventh novel about the Hawaii-based hero. The former SWAT officer and veteran thriller author took some time out recently to talk about the writing life.
Considering that he divides his time between Maui and northern California, with plenty of fishing, gold panning, and the occasional casino visit thrown in, at first glance it might seem like there wasn’t much time left to write. However, Nikkel keeps a fairly strict schedule, thanks in part to the hot weather in Hawaii.
“If you don’t fish or lay on the beach, there’s not a lot to do in Maui,” he said, a comment that may disqualify him from being a spokesman for the tourism board.
It is, however, a great place to get down to business as a writer.
“I get up early in the morning,” he said, noting that he’s at his desk by 5 am. “It’s nice and cool.”
He breaks for breakfast with his wife, Karen, around nine. Then it’s back to work. “I write all day. When I’m writing that first draft, I put in six to eight hours, seven days a week.”
There are a few perks, of course, to being based in Hawaii.
By E.M. Powell
One would expect a thru-hike of the approximately 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail to present many challenges but the discovery of a dead body probably isn’t the first that springs to mind. Yet while the location may be real, we’re in the world of a Ray Anderson thriller and readers of his first hiking-based adventure, The Trail, will expect precisely that. Hero Karl Bergman (also known as Awol, of which more later) is on his second outing in SIERRA. This time, Awol’s coming up against a murdering drug cartel who are moving product from Mexico to Canada along the PCT. The fast-moving plot sees Awol’s life on the line, along with that of his estranged son. Their only way out is to bring down the cartel’s operation.
While the exciting plot is of course fictional, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is very much not. I wondered what made Anderson first decide to use this as a setting and plot device in his novel. It turns out it’s from first-hand experience.
“My series covers major long-distance trails I’ve hiked,” he says. “My first book in the Awol series, The Trail, took place along the Appalachian Trail. In the hiking community this is the most popular long-distance trail in America and is usually hiked first. Next in popularity is probably the Pacific Crest Trail. So it was a given that book two of my series would involve the PCT.”
Bergman’s use of the alternative name of Awol is hiking related too, as Anderson explains.
“I don’t know how the convention of anonymity started, but all long-distance hikers go by trail names. Examples of trail names that I know are: Buzzard, Drifter, Song-bird, Dirty-bird, Grizzly, Angry Bear, and Vagabond. I never knew first and last names. Hikers come up with their own trail name and use that.” And Anderson has his own trail name, which is Hamlet. “I’m of Scandinavian descent, and my wife says I think too much.”
As for the fictional Bergman’s trail name, Anderson chose it to reflect the character’s past.
A ways back, and years after graduating from the University of Hawaii, Shawn Corridan won the FinalDraft Big Break Screenwriting Contest. So, he made the first of several foolish moves: he quit his day job. Then he moved from Honolulu to Los Angeles, because a Hollywood agent told him, “You have to be in it to win it.” Leaving Hawaii was mistake number two. Listening to the agent was his third mistake.
But as it happened, winning the contest got Shawn many meetings in Hollywood. So he wrote another script, GITMO, which got him even more meetings. And before he knew it he was on the SONY lot pitching a thriller he’d been noodling on, involving the world’s largest oil tanker, an impending storm, a maiden voyage, a dubious cargo, and a former-legend-but-now-disgraced salvage ship captain yearning for redemption.
Shawn left that meeting vowing to write the story some day. He fell in love while pitching it, making up plot points on the fly. He knew it was a winner, having all the elements of a great page turner. There was only one thing missing…
…Gary Waid. A boat guy and former marijuana smuggler who’d been in prison for eight years and had just been released.
Shawn called him. After all, Gary was the very guy he modeled the protagonist of his story after, a man that was “an amalgam of rivets, teak and diesel.” He’d known Gary for years. They grew up in the same small town in Florida, and graduated from the same high school, the only high school in their small town. Gary was an awesome sailor. And a good writer, a fact Shawn gleaned from reading some of the pieces Gary had written when he was released from prison.
The Cold War is back on but with a twist…a remnant, a computer chip, exists from a UFO that exploded over Russia in 1907. Now Damien Wynter, special agent for the clandestine Majic-12, is on a race to get it before SETKA, his Russian counterparts. From the canals of Venice to old city of Dubrovnik, to the pyramids of Bosnia, Wynter and Michelle Martin run a gauntlet of mayhem, destruction and death in an all out battle to obtain technology that could be the greatest boon to humankind—or launch its destruction.
David M. Mannes recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss his latest book:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
A bit of knowledge about UFOs and pleasure from reading a fast-paced action adventure novel.
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
This novel mixes science fiction with espionage and suspense that takes place in the present day. It’s not a typical thriller, nor a traditional sci-fi novel. It’s sort of like The Man from U.N.C.L.E. meets the X-Files.
By David Healey
In our connected age, it’s usually easy to reach an author for an interview, unless that author happens to be leading a group of teens on a backpacking trip in the wilderness. When Benjamin Dancer returned to the things we take for granted—such as electricity, running water, and the internet—he answered a few questions about his new thriller, PATRIARCH RUN. Dancer’s book just happens to envision what could occur in a world where we might all be on a kind of extended backpacking trip if civilization’s infrastructure falters.
Thrillers such as yours require a fair amount of research to make them plausible. What fact did you discover in your research that stood out for you?
That’s a great question. PATRIARCH RUN won high praise from Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, the author of On Killing, for getting the psychology of combat right. The story also won praise from national security experts for its realistic depiction of an underreported, existential threat to America. That threat is what stands out most to me.
One of the things I learned in writing this story is that our civilization has unwittingly evolved to become absolutely dependent on a vulnerable critical infrastructure. What I mean by that is that if the power grid were to go down today and not come back up again most of us would die.
To contextualize a statement as bold as that it might be helpful to go back a hundred years to when there were only 76 million Americans. At that time, you didn’t need electricity to meet the basic needs of the population. Food was grown outside the urban centers, and just about everybody ate locally.
Fast forward to today. There are 325 million Americans and that number is growing. Many of our urban centers have outstripped the carrying capacities of their surrounding landscapes. As a consequence, food and basic goods are shipped over long supply lines, all of which are powered by refined fuels which, of course, are manufactured with electricity.
So how is it we’ve managed to expand, in the last 100 years, the carrying capacity of the planet from about 2 billion to about 7.5 billion people? Ironically, the answer is electricity. The advent of reliable, widely-available electrical power has made possible several key technologies that have allowed us to expand Earth’s carrying capacity. Those technologies include fertilizers, pesticides, mechanical irrigation, refined fuels for farm machinery and transportation, infrastructures for clean drinking water, infrastructures for sanitation, advanced medical care, etc. Everything in that list is made available through electrical power.
So imagine a large urban center devoid of electricity. No food. No safe drinking water. No sanitation. No transportation. What we’re talking about is an apocalypse.
What’s really scary is that there are several mechanisms of destruction that have a realistic potential of bringing about that apocalypse, including a sophisticated cyber-attack, which is what the bad guy is up to in PATRIARCH RUN.
BLOOD OF BROTHERS, recently released by Black Opal Books, is set in the steamy jungles of Nicaragua during the country’s civil war. Fortunately for us, Richard Edde had not tucked himself away in such a secluded location, and willingly talked with The Big Thrill about his latest work.
What got you interested in the Nicaraguan civil war?
I have always been interested in jungles. As a child I was fascinated by the Tarzan movies. Still watch them as a matter of fact. I’m intrigued by their exotic locales and the danger that lurks within them. During the Vietnam War, my friends returned with tales of the jungle. Civil wars are always interesting—people struggling for democracy and freedom, for a better way of life. In writing a novel with a historical backdrop, it just seemed natural to combine the two.
What were the different factions at the time in Nicaragua?
After the fall of the Somoza regime, there were two rival groups vying for power and control of the Nicaraguan government. In 1961, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, or Sandinistas) was founded and the group took its name from Augusto Cesár Sandino, who led a Liberal peasant army against the government of U.S.-backed Adolfo Díaz and the subsequent Nicaraguan government in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Inspired by Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution, the group sought to be a political-military organization whose objective was the seizure of political power through the destruction of the bureaucratic and military apparatus of the previous Somoza dictatorship.
Throughout their rule, the Sandinistas became more radicalized, especially in times of crisis. For example, in 1981, the Sandinistas announced new economic policies designed to weaken the private sector grasp on farmland. They also confiscated businesses that ostensibly threatened the revolution, and took control of the finances of those who had been gone from Nicaragua for at least six months. In 1982, after Argentine-trained rebels blew up two bridges, the Sandinistas declared a state of emergency, and, among other things, restricted the Nicaraguan press.
Within a year of the Sandinistas’ capture of power, those opposed to the regime began to engage in violent actions. In the summer of 1980, crude organizations of fighters were seeking to start a counterrevolution. These disparate groups comprised former National Guardsmen, ex-Sandinista soldiers critical of the new regime, and peasants and farmers upset with Sandinista land policies. Nicaraguan exiles, including former guardsmen and members of the Conservative Party, gathered in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Miami and discussed the prospect of both unarmed and armed opposition to the Sandinistas. Many exiles came to see armed resistance as the only feasible means to moderate Nicaragua; two of them formed a political-military alliance that would come to be called the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN), the main contra faction.
By J. H. Bográn
Prologues…love them or hate them, but you’ve got to read them.
You know this little opening device of novels is the target of opposing teams. We’ve all heard about the new maxim that prologues are out. Conferences and online workshops carry this mantra. I’ve even heard people saying they make the point of skipping it. Except there are just as many authors who are still writing them, and succeeding. One such author is Paul Kemprecos whose new book, THE MINOAN CIPHER, opens with a prologue set in ancient times.
Given that the prologue plays such an important part in your new book, how would you convince the nay-sayers?
I used prologues in my detective series, and continued the practice through the Cussler books. I simply liked having an old mystery intersect with a new one. The Cussler prologue format has been highly successful, so readers must enjoy it. Whether the debate is over prologues or outlining versus seat of the pants writing, my advice is to use whatever works best for you.
In your own words, what’s THE MINOAN CIPHER about?
When robotics engineer and ex-Navy SEAL Matinicus “Matt” Hawkins is asked by a Greek archaeologist to survey a Minoan shipwreck, he eagerly agrees to dive on what may be the Holy Grail of underwater archeology. But as he descends in his submersible into the deep, where he will discover an ancient translating device, Hawkins will soon learn that an invisible No Trespassing sign has been posted on the wreck by sinister forces whose prime directive is to destroy anyone who threatens to reveal their existence.
Was it difficult to dive in and write back about Matt Hawkins?
Starting a new book is always difficult, but it’s easier having a ready cast characters who can be plugged into the plot. It’s a huge advantage knowing the backgrounds and quirks of the major players, and how they would act in a particular situation. It saves a lot of time that might otherwise be spent figuring out what makes the characters tick.
Thriller fans need to check out Jess Lourey’s Salem’s Cipher, her first foray into the thriller genre. It has hidden puzzles that must be solved to avert a national, if not international, incident. It has secret societies that have been manipulating history for decades. It has villains worthy of the name. Better yet, if you are like me, it keeps you guessing.
Lourey may have decided to make Salem’s Cipher a thriller because thrillers are “consistently good sellers,” but she found herself falling in love with the style of writing. “Every other book I write, there are some scenes that are a joy to build, and others that feel like a chore. When writing Salem’s Cipher, every scene felt breathless. I couldn’t wait to write it.”
One of the things that sets Salem’s Cipher apart from many first thrillers is its pacing. Lourey realized the importance of this and to help her prepare she immersed herself in some of the best writing out there. “Three standouts that really helped me internalize the delicate dance between pacing and character development are Alison Gaylin’s And She Was, Chelsea Cain’s The Night Season, and Catriona McPherson’s The Day She Died. I am an outliner, and so I needed my pacing to be tight before I even started writing. Those three books gave me ideas of how to do it.”
Lourey started with several goals for Salem’s Cipher. She wanted to explore the ramifications of a child’s parent committing suicide. Second, “Like most people, I spend a lot of time worrying about saying the wrong thing, ruining everything, and generally not fitting in. I wanted to explore that in my fiction in the hopes of releasing some of it. Third and finally, I love puzzles. My brain cracks and pops like a mad dancer when it gets a chance to crack a code, solve a riddle, find a treasure. I wanted to create a book like a playground for minds like mine. Salem’s Cipher is the result.”
The characters in Salem’s Cipher are not run-of-the-mill. Lourey said she had the book’s concept before she had the main character. “I asked myself what kind of woman would be at the center of this story. She had to be smart, imperfect, and real, with a reason to solve puzzles. Meet Salem Wiley: Genius cryptanalyst and reluctant heroine of the series. You learn early in the book that Salem’s father killed himself, she feels responsible and she’s been agoraphobic ever since. I also dumped all my social fears into Salem so I could figure out how to overcome them. Finally, I made her a cryptanalyst to feed my hummingbird brain.”
Salem and her best friend Bel were more challenging to write than the protagonist of Lourey’s humorous Murder-by-the-Month series, Mira James. Mira is easy to write since she and Lourey share a number of personality traits. Bel and Salem are “much more challenging to write because they are cut of whole cloth and because both of them go through such a transformation in the book.”
Dying Is Easy, Comedy Is Hard. Or Is It?
By Dawn Ius
Fans of D.P. Lyle’s darker, more noirish work may suddenly feel like they’re on the butt end of a badly written punchline, but Lyle’s new book is no laughing matter. Actually, that’s a lie. It’s funny as hell.
DEEP SIX is a comedic thriller. No joke.
While it may come as a shock to readers, the genre-shift wasn’t a surprise for Lyle, who credits his family for instilling in him the power of laughter. After eight successful dark and gritty novels, Lyle says he was ready for something light and … well, comedic.
“I had this idea for a funny story about a guy who gets bamboozled into a stakeout, and so I just started writing,” he says.
No outline. No concrete plot. No sense, in fact, of where a “comedic thriller” would even fit in today’s somewhat fickle marketplace. To Lyle’s pleasure, readers appear to be laughing (out loud!) with him rather than at him—and that is certainly something to chuckle about.
“Comedy is hard,” he says. “I could do stand-up comedy no problem, because when you’re speaking in front of an audience, you can gauge their reactions. It easier than writing. You don’t know if the one-liners and gags are making people laugh, because you write in a vacuum.”
True, but Lyle’s vacuum seems to be infused with laughing gas, because DEEP SIX is funny in all the right places, creating a page-turning experience reminiscent of Carl Hiasson’s work.
DEEP SIX centers on ex-professional baseball player Jake Longly who, despite much protest, gets sucked into doing a gig for his dad’s PI business. He’s just supposed to hang around, snap off a few shots of the suspected adulteress, and report back to pops. Easy peasy. That is, until his target gets herself killed.
An investigation into her death leads Jake and his cohorts—new girlfriend, Nicole Jemison and computer genius Tommy Jeffers—deep into a crime where murder and mayhem run rampant along the sugary beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama.
What would make a retired, independently wealthy archaeologist want to leave the comforts of his retreat in Costa Rica, join forces with an accountant from the Bureau of Audits and Reclamation, and fly to Europe in search of a mysterious notion with no foundation in reality, all while being chased by nefarious killers from a secret society older than Herodotus? Well, for starters, the accountant is coercive and, oh yes—she’s a knock-out.
Harry Thursday has been in trouble before in Robert Walton’s first novel, Fatal Snow. Now THE MASK OF MINOS takes the reader through an allegoric story retelling Theseus’ journey to becoming the ruler of Greece. Along that path, he is besotted by enemies and finally battles the son of Zeus, ruler of Crete, father of the Minotaur—half-man, half-bull. With the aid of his patron god Poseidon, Theseus brings down the once mighty kingdom in a fiery earthquake, freeing all from its oppressive dominance. And so Harry Thursday battles the secret society known to only a few as the Hyperboreans in his attempt to find—and keep them from finding—the powerful mythical mask.
Give us some insight into THE MASK OF MINOS. What does your main character, Harry Thursday, do that is so special?
THE MASK OF MINOS is the story, really, of an ordinary man cast into extraordinary situations. He’s a man no more courageous and heroic than you or me. But one of the things that is so fun about writing novels is one’s ability to put such people to all sorts of trials, run them through a plague of hardships and see how their moral strength airs through it all.
But in THE MASK, Harry carries out his destiny quite well—he mans-up, if you will—and saves the day; he even gets to kill a few people—all in the name of justice, of course, despite the fact that his general attitude is sometimes inappropriately casual for the affairs in which he’s involved.
By Basil Sands
Due to some business travel to Fairbanks Alaska I had the chance to read STARRIE by Heidi Ruby Miller in two sittings on the same day. And let me just say, I’m glad I had that opportunity. STARRIE is one ripping fast book and a well told story. I loved it! It was a perfect diversion as I looked out the airplane window across the billowing clouds and Alaskan mountains
Miller uses research for her stories as an excuse to roam the globe. With degrees in anthropology, geography, foreign languages, and writing, she knew early that penning fast-paced, exotic adventures would be her life. She’s put her experiences and studies to paper in her new, far-future novel. She took a short break from her travels to talk to The Big Thrill about STARRIE.
Please tell us about STARRIE.
This standalone novel runs concurrent with events which take place in Marked by Light, the first book of the big Ambasadora series main arc. It’s a little bit space opera, a little bit cyberpunk, and a lot science fiction adventure thriller.
Where did the character, Starrie come from? Is she based on a real person? Totally fictional? Or a secret version of yourself?
I doubt I could go through the abuse Naela did and come out of it so strongly. She reminds me a little of Aeryn Sun from Farscape with a dash of Elizabeth Jennings from The Americans, but with a better sense of humor than both.
As I read the story I was impressed by the tightness of the writing. How do you recommend new writers achieve good clean prose?
Like I tell my writing students at Seton Hill, know your intent for each scene—ideally, you will be showing characterization while moving the plot forward. A few words can be more powerful than an entire page, so make them count by eliminating redundancies, unnecessary gestures and facial expressions, and constant internal questioning by the POV character. Chapter outlines or summaries are a surefire way to keep each scene on task for me.
In college, Philip Donlay was once asked to write an article. He got a B on it, which made him angry. He sent the article off to a magazine, then, in the way of freshmen, forgot about it, until a check showed up in the mail.
This experience left him with the idea that writing is easy. Just write something, send it off, and a check shows up in the mail. Because he spent the next few decades flying all kinds of airplanes all over the world, it took him years to learn the truth.
He wrote his first three novels while working as a pilot. It was difficult, but he learned as he went. Oceanview bought his third novel. Donlay has just signed a two-book deal with them for the seventh and eight installment in the Donovan Nash (his pilot hero) series.
He’d always read thrillers, so it seemed natural to write one. And he was passionate about flying. “Most people who write about airplanes write from the point of view of the passengers,” Donlay says. “I drag the reader into the cockpit. Flying is breathtaking, naturally fast. The plane is a character. The weather is critical. There are lots of elements that make it compelling.”
There is a helicopter battle in his new book, PEGASUS DOWN, which had this reader white-knuckling her tablet as she read. It’s the sixth in the Donovan Nash series, but it stands alone perfectly well. Donlay brings a non-flying person into the cockpit, Montero, the kind of former FBI agent who sleeps with her gun and who was once Donovan’s nemesis (Book #3). She is a stand-in for the non-pilot reader who needs flying issues explained. Donlay aims to educate. “There’s a lot going on in an airplane that most passengers don’t know about and don’t see.”
In PEGASUS DOWN Donovan Nash has to rescue his beloved wife, Lauren, a CIA agent, from the middle of Eastern Europe after her mission goes horribly wrong. Within hours he assembles a crack team and a series of airplanes and helicopters, finds childcare for his five-year-old daughter, and is in Eastern Europe looking for his wife. Luckily his wife’s boss can tweak a satellite or two and help him pinpoint where she might be.
By Richard Edde
These days the line between fact and fantasy keeps getting increasingly blurred. That gray area between truth and fiction gets narrowed to a fine line. With all the advances in science and technology, the things we read in the books we buy and see in the movies can certainly cause us to pause. I have always enjoyed those novels whose plots were made plausible within a background of scientific information. The reader no longer knows what is fact or fiction but doesn’t care because the story is so good.
Since college I have been fascinated with the science of our human origins and the fossils that make up the collection of early humans and proto-humans. I read everything I could get my hands on describing Australopithicus, Homo erectus, Homo habilis, and of course, the Neanderthals. In 1974 when the skeleton Lucy was discovered in Ethiopia, it was determined to be the oldest hominid fossil yet —3.2 million years old.
It was a revelation.
By then I had graduated from medical school and actively engaged in residency training but I still found time for my “other obsession.” The fact that our human ancestors had walked on this planet over three million years earlier was almost more than I could get my young mind around.
Lucy’s discovery marked a turning point in our understanding of human evolution. Even today scientists are still learning from her. Paleoanthropologists can visit her in Ethiopia’s National Museum in Addis Ababa, to run further analyses using new technologies. Perhaps her most important contribution was to spark a wave of research that has led to the discovery of many new species. The number of known species has more than doubled since Lucy, but many parts of the story still need to be filled in. Now there are much older fossils, some six million years old.