It starts with the unthinkable. A school under siege. A shooter in the classroom. A nightmare scenario that has become all too common in today’s United States. But this time, former Delta Captain Jake Mahegan is there when it happens, face to face with a merciless gunman rigged as a suicide bomber. Without warning, the school is attacked from the outside as well—and all hell breaks loose.
When the smoke clears, Mahegan is left with a long list of unanswered questions—and a deeply personal mission. Racing against the clock, his search will take him from the tech-fueled think-tanks of a North Carolina factory to the top-secret nerve centers of embedded Iranian agents. It’s all part of a bigger, darker conspiracy that’s taking domestic terrorism to a whole new level. And it’s up to Mahegan to stop what could be the most devastating attack in U.S. history.
The dead widow not only leaves behind a million-dollar inheritance, but also a bitter accusation: From beyond the grave, she claims that one of her children killed her husband.
Tom Winter, the laconic head of security of her Swiss private bank, tracks down the children in the Azores, Manchester and Nuremberg, and finds himself entangled in a horrifying net of abuse, exploitation, and revenge.
Author Peter Beck discussed his latest novel, KORROSION, with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
A sleepless night, breathless hours of entertainment, an intercontinental flight gone by fast, being engrossed in the corrosive effects of abuse, exploitation and revenge, be it on the victims or on the witnesses.
A Nuba warrior is one of the key characters in KORROSION. He travels from his native village in Sudan to Europe, sacrificing a lot. Maybe the memory of Obado’s journey gives some insight into what’s going on with migration.
In BEFORE SUNRISE, a short, dark novel, we meet Will Fortin of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, on patrol in southern Alberta. It’s a lonely region where the sky meets the land on even terms, where the landscape exaggerates or diminishes your place in the world. If you’re lucky, trouble would never find you there. If you weren’t, this was your battleground.
It is here where Fortin experiences the worst any cop can face, the taking of innocent lives when he accidentally shoots two children while responding to a call at a farm involving a gun. His life destroyed, his guilt unbearable, Fortin, a good man, struggles as a haunted soul, aching to redeem himself.
Years after the shooting, Fortin is assigned to escort a murderer to trial in Seattle, Washington. When their plane crashes in the unforgiving Rocky Mountains, Fortin is presented with his last chance at redemption.
Coming in at about the same length as The Old Man and the Sea, BEFORE SUNRISE, is a powerful, heart-wrenching story of love, heartbreak, courage and enduring human spirit.
Author Rick Mofina recently discussed his latest novel with The Big Thrill:
By Karen Harper
I was excited to be able to interview Debra Webb for her new novel NO DARKER PLACE. We both write suspense for Mira Books, and I am impressed with her own backstory which is one of courage and tenacity. “Never give up” shouts from her heroine’s lives—and her own.
This month, she took time out of her schedule to chat with The Big Thrill about her new release, winning awards, the pros and cons of writing series characters, and her sage advice for aspiring scribes.
Please tell us what NO DARKER PLACE is about.
Detective Bobbie Gentry has one objective: to stop the serial killer who robbed her of her husband, her child, and her life. Nick Shade understands Bobbie’s pain—and her desire for vengeance. He’s on a mission of his own, and the murderer known as the Storyteller is next on his list. Nick knows that the best way to find his target is to stick close to Bobbie. But as she becomes more and more reckless in her attempts to lure the Storyteller out of hiding, he has to make a choice: will he protect her from herself even if it means passing up the chance to take out one more monster? As for Bobbie, she’s forced to decide just how much she can trust this stranger who knows so much about her. And both of them are about to learn whether or not two broken people can save each other.
Sunshine Fyfe’s dealt with the death of her Navy SEAL husband, the birth of two kids, and life’s general ups-and-downs, but five visions in five days, each showing a different version of a disturbing event? What’s that all about?
From the moment Sunny stops to help a bicyclist down on the side of the road, her calm, sane life becomes hell on earth.
Detective Luca Amorosi doesn’t start out beholden to Sunny for helping his sister. How could he, when he’s been led to believe she’s the hit-and-run driver? With the truth comes another realization—he’s falling for Sunshine Fyfe in ways he never imagined possible.
From her dead husband’s letters, Sunny gleans information that sends her spiraling into a living nightmare. Cults. Blue moons. Sacrificial lambs. She does the only thing she can to prevent the dire future her visions foretell.
Will her efforts be too little, too late, or can Sunny save her children, her family, and the man she’s come to love?
Author Ann Simas recently took time out of her busy schedule to discuss her latest thriller with The Big Thrill:
From Thriller Award winner and New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Vincent Zandri, comes the long awaited sequel to the No. 1 Overall Amazon Bestselling suspense thriller, THE REMAINS.
HORROR IN THE DARK WOODS
It’s been eight years since artist and single mom, Rebecca Underhill, was abducted and left to die in an old broken down house located in the middle of the dark woods. But even if her abductor, Joseph William Whalen, has since been killed, another more insidious evil is once more out to get her in the form of the Skinner. The son of an abusive butcher, Skinner intends on finishing the job Whalen started.
How will he get to Rebecca?
He’s going to do it through her children, by luring them into the cornfield behind the old farmhouse they live in.
HORROR IN THE DEPTHS
Now, armed with the knowledge that the Skinner has escaped incarceration at a downstate facility for the criminally insane, Rebecca must face the most horrifying challenge of her adult life: Rescuing the children not from a house in the woods, but from the abandoned tunnels that run underneath her property.
But the Skinner is watching Rebecca’s every move.
Horrifying question is: will she live long enough to save the children?
Vincent Zandri recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss his latest novel, THE ASHES.
That’s the note seventeen-year-old Haley Cooke leaves behind when she disappears from inside her high school. FBI profiler Evelyn Baine is called in to figure out who had reason to hurt her. On the surface, the popular cheerleader has no enemies, but as Evelyn digs deeper, she discovers that everyone close to Haley has something to hide. Everyone from estranged parents, to an older boyfriend with questionable connections, to a best friend who envies Haley’s life.
Secrets can be deadly…
One of those secrets may have gotten Haley killed. If she’s still alive, Evelyn knows that the more the investigation ramps up, the more pressure they could be putting on Haley’s kidnapper to make her disappear for good. It’s also possible the teenager isn’t in danger at all, but has skillfully manipulated everyone and staged her own disappearance. Only one thing is certain: uncovering Haley’s fate could be dangerous—even deadly—to Evelyn herself.
Author Elizabeth Heiter recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest novel, STALKED.
Before she began writing the Jamie Sinclair thrillers, Nichole Christoff was a broadcaster and a military spouse, living and working in an ever-changing succession of states and countries. Her experiences ranged from attending the birthday party of the King of Thailand and learning to make sushi from the chef to the Japanese Ambassador, to working on-air and behind the scenes in radio, TV, and the public relations industry.
Some of these experiences have helped to inform Christiff’s popular series featuring Jamie Sinclair, an army brat who grew up to be a security specialist and private eye. THE KILL SIGN, releasing this month, is Christoff’s fourth in the series and finds Jamie on the Mississippi Gulf Coast visiting her would-be boyfriend—a military police officer at a fictional military post—when a dirty bomb explodes on a river boat packed with military personnel.
Christoff took some time this month to talk to The Big Thrill about her new book, the progression of her main character, and what readers can expect from her next.
THE KILL SIGN is set in coastal Mississippi. You’re well-travelled and can pick from dozens or even hundreds of settings—why this one?
The Gulf Coast region is a cultural crossroads of sorts, and outside the gates of its military installations, it really is home to those infamous lingerie stores, antebellum plantation houses converted for other uses, and private hunting camps you’ll find in THE KILL SIGN. It’s the perfect place to let a thriller writer’s imagination run wild.
Dan Chase, the protagonist in Thomas Perry’s riveting new novel, THE OLD MAN, lives a quiet life in Vermont. He’s a 60-year-old retiree who takes great pleasure in walking his two loyal mutts. He’s a devoted father and grandfather who keeps in touch with his daughter by phone. Though he desperately misses his late wife, he’s generally content. Then a car appears on his tranquil street and everything changes. The driver has come to kill him for an incident that occurred 35 years earlier. To survive, Dan Chase must reawaken his survival instincts and fight a private war against younger, better-equipped, and decidedly lethal adversaries. Dan’s story takes us on a tense, often chilling ride across the United States and all the way to hostile regions of Libya.
The most compelling thrillers effectively explore how old missteps and a violent past can shatter the life of an apparently ordinary person, and THE OLD MAN certainly accomplishes that, at the same time keeping the reader turning the pages. Perry has kindly agreed to share his thoughts on THE OLD MAN, his writing process, and his future projects.
THE OLD MAN tells the story of Dan Chase, a retired 60-year-old widower who lives in Vermont and who enjoys walking his two large dogs. Yet, Dan isn’t exactly who he seems. What motivates Dan?
As a young military intelligence operator 35 years ago Chase made an ill-considered decision motivated by a misplaced but noble sense of duty. After delivering U.S. aid money to a middleman, he learned the middleman kept the money instead of delivering it to Libyan rebels. He retrieved most of the money and brought it home to the U.S., but his superiors tried to arrest him and blame him for the deaths of the rebels who went unsupplied. Enraged, he held onto the money and disappeared. Thirty-five years later, he has been married and widowed, raised a daughter who’s become a doctor, and lived a good life. But now, someone has come for him—not to arrest him, but to kill him. His motivation now is simply to stay alive
Detective Bobbie Gentry was psyched when she was offered the opportunity to work with the FBI on a special task force in the search for a heinous serial killer known as The Storyteller. What she didn’t expect was for the serial killer to follow her home on Christmas Eve…
The Storyteller couldn’t resist Bobbie no matter the risk. He murdered her husband and would have murdered her child, but the little boy got away. Now Bobbie’s fight for survival might just be more than he bargained for…
One of them must die.
Author Debra Webb recently discussed her latest novel with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
THE BLACKEST CRIMSON is the prequel to the new Shades of Death series and includes an extended excerpt of No Darker Place, the first novel in the series.
Following her diagnosis as a schizophrenic, Martha Covington has been easing herself back into her quiet life on a small island off the Georgia coast. The trouble is, Martha’s research into local healing roots has earned her an unwelcome reputation as a psychic. When an elderly couple from Atlanta tracks her down, desperate for any sign of their missing grandson, Peavy, Martha confronts a terrifying possibility: that the line between intuition and insanity may not be as clear as she’d like to believe.
Despite her therapist’s insistence that it’s all in her head, Martha travels to Atlanta to investigate Peavy’s mysterious disappearance, where she is reunited with handsome law student Jarrell Humphries. A trail of cryptic clues leads the pair deep into a heart of a dangerous conspiracy whose members will stop at nothing—including murder—to protect their secrets.
R. K. Jackson recently took some time to discuss his latest book with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope they will be both frightened and entertained, and maybe a little appalled, because the menace at the heart of this book is grounded in a contemporary reality.
No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
This book continues the story of Martha Covington, the heroine of my first novel, The Girl in the Maze. I think fans of that book will enjoy seeing Martha evolve into a more confident protagonist who at one point even breaks into full action-hero mode.
Assigned to South Florida for his first posting, Angus Green is worlds away from his hardscrabble upbringing in Scranton, PA. He has to cope with ethnic distinctions he’s never considered, a multitude of foreign languages spoken around him, and a range of crimes and criminals that boggle his mind.
While investigating a jewelry heist with its roots in Fort Lauderdale’s gay neighborhoods, Angus must learn how to use his education, his intelligence, and his good looks, without losing track of who he is and what he stands for.
The street quickly teaches him that the only way to face a challenge is to assume that he’ll survive this one—that it’ll be the next one that will kill him.
Author Neil S. Plakcy recently spent some time discussing his latest book with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
What it’s like to be a young special agent in today’s FBI and how weirdly funny crime is in South Florida.
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
As a young, openly gay FBI special agent, Angus Green brings increased diversity to the field of thriller writing.
Newly in love, 21 years old, head over heels, Martin Brown and Chloë Setreal need each other with total hunger and passion. But Chloë, a production assistant at a media conglomerate (YANAPOP in Los Angeles) is laid up with a broken leg and needs Martin to come hold her hand. Martin, in San Diego for the summer (two hours down the coast from LA) hops in his car and heads north, like the dashing hero that he is. What should be a simple, two-hour drive on the freeway turns into a nightmarish adventure through dystopia and beyond.
The plot is fun, scary, dark, and totally over the top. One thing piles on top of the other unrelentingly, as heroic Martin struggles against cosmic odds to reach the new love of his life. This is Southern California as we’ve never seen or imagined it, rich with its beaches, snowy mountains, broiling deserts, shimmering lakes—not to mention mysterious surfers, vampire girl scouts, alien taxi drivers, and other unusual persons. Thriller author John T. Cullen (many novels and nonfiction books) writes as John Argo (author of more than twenty SF and DarkSF novels.)
The author took time out of his prolific career to discuss YANAPOP with The Big Thrill:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
Well, first, here is an aspirin before we start: although it has deep layers of meaning, you don’t need to be a brain or an egghead to “get it.” YANAPOP is a fast, thrilling, vernacular race to the finish that anybody can easily understand—and love. I don’t say this as a parent (the novel is one of my children) but once a novel is done and on its way, the author goes from being a participant to an observer. I’m pleased to wave goodbye as I move on to the next project.
Readers will take one the wildest roller-coaster rides of their lives, and come away with the restored idea that imagination still has new worlds to explore. Although tightly structured and sparingly executed, this novel is one of any reader’s least formulaic novels ever enjoyed. Those who get off the ride with shaky legs and blurry vision will immediately cry for more. If I do decide to write a sequel, I will make sure this novel remains a once-in-a-million standalone. The thriller aspects are all there: the shooting, the running, the terror, the wonder (as Jeff Goldblum informs us in the Jurassic Park sequel) and above all, the relentless pacing on a nightmare stallion through the cosmos of Southern California (LA and San Diego) as few have ever experienced or imagined it.
A Writer Who Defies Expectations
Alex Kava’s literary career is a beautiful paradox. In addition to great writing, a series of accidents, surprises, and unintended consequences have helped bring us some of the most beloved mystery thrillers being written today. On the eve of the release of her latest novel, RECKLESS CREED, Kava spoke to The Big Thrill about her surprising journey.
To begin with, Kava didn’t set out to write thrillers. In fact, genre was not a consideration at all.
“When I wrote my first novel, A Perfect Evil, I wanted to capture the raw emotions of a small-town community held hostage by a killer,” she says. “My killer was loosely based on serial killer John Joubert. I worked for a newspaper during Joubert’s killing spree in the fall of 1983. He kidnapped and murdered two Nebraska boys before his capture.”
Surprise number two: Although she worked on the paper, she was not a journalist but a paste-up artist and part-time copy editor. Still, being in the building, she learned more about the case than the general public. So when she decided to write a novel, she was able to use bits and pieces from the Joubert case. By then she had already committed to writing after 15 years in marketing and advertising.
“I quit my job as director of public relations for a small college. I’d always wanted to write novels. I even had one in my bottom desk drawer that had received 116 rejections from literary agents.”
That novel remains unpublished, but she moved full steam ahead into the next, doing whatever she had to, to give herself time to write.
“I taught part-time, delivered the Omaha World Herald on the weekends, and ran up my credit cards to help pay the mortgage and living expenses while I wrote A Perfect Evil.”
With so much marketing experience, you might think she sold that novel easily. Well, not exactly, but she was sharp enough to see the lesson in her 116 rejections.
“There were too many comments in the margins that said stuff like, ‘This is too harsh to be a romance,’ or, ‘The suspense is good but you need to tone down the violence,’ or ‘Add some romance,’ ” Kava says. “I suspected that the literary agents expected a romantic suspense novel from Sharon Kava, which is my real name.”
Taking a Series to New Heights
Anyone who has attended ThrillerFest knows Jon Land, award-winning author of bestselling novels and nonfiction, including his series featuring Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong. They’ll also recognize him as a tireless whirlwind of energy, whose larger-than-life personality matches his increasingly action-packed thrillers. His latest is certainly no exception.
I met Jon Land at ThrillerFest 2012 when he gave a CraftFest session on pitching a book to agents. His advice: Speak from the heart about why your story means so much to you as a writer, why it demanded to be written. So I thought it would be fun to turn the tables and ask him to give us a pitch for STRONG COLD DEAD.
What makes the eighth story in his series as compelling as the first?
Wow, making me think right off the bat—that’s not fair! Okay, how about this: ISIS comes to Texas and only Caitlin Strong can stop them from unleashing a deadly weapon on American soil, somehow connected to a long-buried mystery on a shadowy Indian reservation. Does that make you want to read the book? As for the second part of your question, what makes STRONG COLD DEAD as compelling as Strong Enough to Die is that the characters are facing different challenges. Caitlin’s surrogate son Dylan, for example, has fallen in love with a Native American girl who may or may not be setting him up. As for Caitlin, well, she has a personal history with one of the book’s primary villains.
You’ve talked in previous Big Thrill interviews about how you developed the character of Caitlin Strong to fill a gap in the market re: women in action thrillers. Now she faces growing competition. Do you have a strategy for keeping her “strong”?
That’s another great question! As the series has progressed, the books have spiraled out into the more traditional action thriller form. The action scenes have gotten bigger, the villains badder, and the plots more devious and potentially devastating—in other words, the stakes have gotten higher across the board and that includes emotionally for the characters. I think it’s fun watching Caitlin deal with the fact that she’s become a living legend. Keeping her “strong” isn’t just about her prowess in bringing down the bad guys, it’s also about how she negotiates the politics of law enforcement and deals with the emotional demands of her lifestyle.
A Journalist on the Hunt for a Killer
By Dawn Ius
R.G. Belsky knows his way around a newsroom.
Now, with the release of the new book in his Gil Malloy mystery thriller series, Belsky deftly demonstrates that he also knows his way outside of the newsroom, delivering another gripping story featuring his hard-driving reporter with a penchant for breaking stories on the front page of the New York Daily News.
In BLONDE ICE, Malloy is inadvertently caught up in the hunt for a devious killer—a fair-haired femme fatale who is killing men for thrills.
“Serial killers are such a staple of so many things,” Belsky says. “But one thing I noticed—especially in fiction—is that there are so few women serial killers. I thought it was a fresh concept.”
Definitely, though writing about women is almost old hat to Belsky, whose previous works have included several female characters, often in a lead protagonist role.
“I find writing about women easier in some ways,” he says. “I had a lot of fun putting myself in the character’s head space. It makes it more unique, and the story flows better. If the writing was hard, I wouldn’t want to write the book.”
To loosen the process, Belsky begins with excellent character development, which is what he first looks for when reading the works of his peers. Once settled into point—or points—of view, Belsky is ready to take his cast on an epic journey of twists and turns that ultimately shape the plot.
By Basil Sands
Best Selling author Diane Capri has two action packed books coming out back to back. First is Book #7 of The Hunt for Jack Reacher Series DEEP COVER JACK. Then comes BLOOD TRAILS, a new series. Diane Capri is the New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon bestselling author of numerous series, including the Hunt for Justice and Hunt for Jack Reacher series and the Jess Kimball Thrillers .A former lawyer, she now divides her time between Florida and Michigan. Capri has been nominated for several awards, including the International Thriller Award, and she won the Silver award for Best Thriller e-Book from the Independent Publishers Association. She is currently at work on her next novel.
Diane, you’ve got two books coming out. Tell us about them.
In DEEP COVER JACK, FBI Special Agents Kim Otto and Carlos Gaspar pick up where Lee Child’s “Persuader” leaves off in The Hunt for Jack Reacher. In this exciting follow-up to the ITW Thriller Award nominated “Jack and Joe, Otto and Gaspar will wait no longer. They head to Houston to find Susan Duffy, one of Reacher’s known associates, determined to get answers. But Duffy’s left town, headed for trouble. Otto and Gaspar are right behind her and powerful enemies with their backs against the wall will stop at nothing to keep the secrets Reacher left behind.
Hunting Jack Reacher is deadly business — and lots of thrills. As Lee Child put it when this series was being conceived, “Who in their right mind would go looking for Reacher?” Otto and Gaspar are on the hunt and have lived to share their adventures with us — so far.
BLOOD TRAILS, a completely different series, tells the story of Michael Flint, an heir hunter of last resort. A forensic genealogist and former clandestine agent specializing in high-end private investigations, he promises clients he can find anyone, anytime, anywhere—dead or alive. Laura Oakwood stands to lose more than $50 million in mineral royalties if she’s not found within seventy-two hours. But she presents an extra challenge: she’s been running from the law due to her involvement in a deadly armed robbery twenty-eight years ago.
What can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy for the Hunt for Jack Reacher series?
It’s very difficult to write this series, and Deep Cover Jack was no exception. My books in this series have a long list of rules and coloring inside the lines is quite a challenge. In Deep Cover Jack, Otto and Gaspar are battling one of the biggest blizzards to hit the east coast on Thanksgiving weekend while they attempt a rescue from a remote location on the Maine coast, a fortress Reacher breached in Persuader. Reacher survived then. Everything about this story was a challenge.
Paul McGoran’s chronicle of the elegant but toxic Chitworth clan continues in THE BREASTPLATE OF FAITH AND LOVE (New Pulp Press)—his follow-up to the 2015 noir thriller, Made for Murder. The action begins in old-money Newport, then shifts to a contrasting pair of upscale and hardscrabble neighborhoods in San Francisco.
While the new novel stands alone as a psychological thriller/murder mystery combo, it also marks the start of a series featuring P.I. Stafford Boyle, a small-time gumshoe from Rhode Island. His keynote is a kind of sophisticated naivety. He’s the kind of fellow who relates his clients and their cases to his favorite film noir plots and the actors who starred in them. He’s also a dogged sleuth.
Stymied at first by a job that has him chasing down a promiscuous reality-show winner and a missing fiancée, Boyle is refocused when the trail leads to Dismas Cottage, the gilded-age mansion of the wealthy Chitworths. Under a mandate from Ivan and Claudia Chitworth to conduct a ‘discrete’ investigation of their west coast relatives, a reluctant Boyle departs the cozy confines of Newport and flies to San Francisco where he confronts:
- A pair of socialite sisters haunted by scandal;
- Two ex-cons battling over an extortion scheme;
- A family stonewalling the cops about a corpse on the staircase; and
- A youngster pondering the legacy of his serial killer daddy.
It’s a hell of a mess, but it’s all connected, and Boyle must figure out how. When the last piece of the puzzle locks into place, he’ll be forced to abandon his client and break the law to protect the life of an innocent child.
THE BREASTPLATE OF FAITH AND LOVE has a spooky sound to it. What does your title refer to?
In the novel, it’s the name of a storefront mission in San Francisco. Beyond that, it symbolizes the strength found in truth and forgiveness, something my cast of confused and volatile characters needs to contemplate. The phrase goes back to St. Paul in the New Testament.
Writing a Gutsy Heroine From the Heart
By Wendy Tyson
Hank Phillippi Ryan is well known on several fronts. She’s an award-winning on-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate and an award-winning bestselling crime author. Fans love her Charlotte McNally series and her Jane Ryland thrillers—as well as her anthologies and short stories. How does she do it all? This month in The Big Thrill, Hank shares a few of her secrets. She also gives us a glimpse into AIR TIME and DRIVE TIME, her two summertime releases from the popular Charlotte McNally series. Thanks to some innovative moves, Charlotte is back.
Congratulations on the recent release of AIR TIME and the upcoming release of DRIVE TIME. What an exciting summer—two releases in the Charlotte McNally Series in as many months. Many readers know and love your Jane Ryland thrillers, but you actually wrote the Charlotte McNally series first, and now that series is back in print. Can you tell us something about AIR TIME that’s not on the back cover? DRIVE TIME?
Uh-oh. You’re going to make me reveal one of the pitfalls of being an investigative reporter as well as a crime fiction author. The Charlotte McNally stories are so realistic, and so true to life for a reporter, that sometimes I get reality and fiction confused. (Happily the confusion is all on the fiction side. You can’t make stuff up for TV, right?)
First let me say how thrilled I am that the Charlie books are back in print. The initial releases had so many fans, and were so well received, and I actually jumped up and down when I learned Forge wanted to reissue them in those gorgeous new hardcovers. So I am endlessly grateful.
Anyway as a television reporter for 40 years, I am used to telling stories. And sometimes, in the midst of an investigation, a gem of an idea emerges that I know can grow into a compelling novel.
You know the first line of AIR TIME? “It’s never a good thing when the flight attendant is crying.” I actually said that, on a flight from Atlanta to Boston. The deadly runway incursion that had just taken place really happened. And I actually got off the plane and covered the story. What happens in the book is very different from what happened in real life. But that moment was my take-off point for AIR TIME. And trust me, you’ll never look at baggage claim the same way again.
DRIVE TIME too, has a scene or two that really took place. We did a big investigation about car recalls, and a high-tech method for stealing cars. When you get to the part where Charlie is undercover at the car dealer? That’s me. The diabolical scheme the bad guys use—I made that up. But it would work. Just saying.
Hailed as “one of the best thriller writers in the business” by Library Journal, Rick Mofina is the acclaimed author of 19 novels and many short stories. Mofina writes standalones and four series (Reed-Sydowski, Jason Wade, Jack Gannon and Kate Page). He has garnered numerous nominations and awards, including the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel in 2003 for Blood of Others. A 30-year veteran journalist for the Ottawa Citizen, Calgary Herald and Southam News wire service, among others, Mofina uses his journalistic experience to write tight, white-knuckle thrillers.
Reporter Kate Page returns in Mofina’s latest thriller, FREE FALL, a terrifying race against time as airplanes start falling out of the sky for unknown reasons. Kate Page is a tenacious heroine who can’t let go of a story even when it isn’t supposed to be hers. In FREE FALL, she butts heads with her editors, the NTSB and law-enforcement officials who believe pilot error is to blame for the mishaps. And when the untraceable masterminds behind the nefarious plot select Kate as their mouthpiece, she too becomes a target.
FREE FALL is great stuff. The kind of thriller that keeps you up late into the night reading. It also might well leave you cursing the author for scaring you to death.
You have a long history in journalism. That shows in your descriptions of the investigative reporting process. This is the fourth book in the Kate Page series. And you’ve written three other series, all featuring reporters. Can you talk about your work history and how it shapes your fiction?
I’ve been writing fiction since I was in grade school. I went to university to study English literature and journalism, hoping to find a job in the news business with the aim of gaining experience that would serve my fiction. It all came together for me when I was assigned to my newspaper’s crime beat. Unless you’ve done this kind of work, nothing prepares you for it. You see what cops, paramedics, firefighters, emergency experts see. For me, as a reporter by day, novelist by night, a light had been switched on. Covering human tragedies and dramas up close was overwhelming. But on another level, having a university degree in English literature and journalism, and having studied courses such as Religious Responses to Death and American Detective Fiction, I felt I was equipped to try to make sense of what I was experiencing. To try to convey through fiction, the truths I’ve learned.
By E. M. Powell
I’m sure we all treasure the wisdom of our friends. But I’m equally sure we envy Christopher Farnsworth this particular relationship: “A good friend of mine says that writing is painting yourself into a corner—and then flying out.” Even better is that Farnsworth has acted upon this advice. His latest release, KILLFILE, most definitely flies and then some.
For starters, it has such an original and compelling premise. Psychic John Smith was trained by the CIA to weaponize his unusual talents. Not only can he hear people’s thoughts, he can also bend the will of others to his own. He has moved on from government service to private consultancy to the very wealthiest. Hired to investigate a young software genius and recover priceless intellectual property, he rapidly finds himself the target of people willing to kill to him for his talents. And he’s no longer alone. Smith has to use his gift to protect himself and a young woman caught in the crossfire—no matter what it takes.
Now, there may be those for whom this premise has a whiff of the “look into my eyes” or trumpets at séances. I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth with KILLFILE. Farnsworth’s creation of John Smith is masterful. Smith’s gift verges on intolerable as he seeks silence and peace from the non-stop banal chatter in the heads of others. Worse, he absorbs terror, fear, and physical pain too. Within the first couple of pages, Smith’s world was reality for me. Add in relentless action and humor drier than martini-dissolved bone, and you have a winner.
His premise of the psychic spy had a long gestation, says Farnsworth. He credits his early reading in his junior high library for planting the seed. “My research started when I spent way too much time as a kid in the weird sections of the library, reading the dodgy books about psychic phenomena, unknown creatures, and other strange stuff. It left me with lots of odd facts stuck in my head—like the story of Wolf Messing—that eventually mutate into ideas.”
Lili Wright’s debut novel, DANCING WITH THE TIGER, is set in Mexico, a country the author knows well. Wright lived in Mexico twice, and she infuses this rollicking novel of art and addiction with her reporter’s eye for vivid detail.
The story begins when a meth-addicted looter digs up what he believes is Montezuma’s funerary mask, a priceless artifact. A tense chase ensues as an eclectic cast of characters pursues the treasure for very different reasons. In addition to the meth-addicted looter, there is a masked tiger, an expat art collector, a dying drug lord, a lesbian housekeeper, and most importantly—Anna Ramsey, a 30-year-old American with a history of bad choices. Ramsey needs the mask to redeem her father—and save herself.
Here, Wright chats with The Big Thrill about her first foray into fiction.
Why did you choose to set your novel in Mexico?
I fell in love with Mexico years ago during a language immersion trip to Cuernavaca. At the time, I was a newspaper reporter in Salt Lake City and was taking a night class in Spanish. My professor, John Bahoric—I dedicated the novel to him—adored Mexico and, like the Piped Piper, seduced us into following him on his annual trip there. At the time, I spoke almost no Spanish and spent most of the trip asking my Mexican host family, “Mande?” (Slang, for What?) Like John, I adored Mexico. The country was so colorful, so different from staid New England where I grew up. Soon after, I won a year-long grant to return. I studied in Guadalajara and then landed in San Miguel de Allende. A decade later, I spent a sabbatical year in Oaxaca. Mexico always calls me back.
Much of the story revolves around masks. Why?
Even in our lowest moments, it is possible, often required, that we put on our game face and carry on. Friends and co-workers often haven’t a clue that we’re hurting. I remind myself of this when people are rude or distant. Who knows what’s going on in their lives? Maybe their dog died or they fought with their husband or they are worried about money.
That was one piece. Also, in my English classes, I teach essay writing. The founder of the modern essay, Michel de Montaigne, has this quote I adore: “We must remove the mask.” A good essay, or any creative writing, requires revelation, risk, digging below the surface. This isn’t easy. Most of us prefer to gloss over uncomfortable subjects and avoid conflict. In the opening paragraph of DANCING WITH THE TIGER, the looter notes: “Few people have courage or imagination to dig.” At the risk of sounding grandiose, I believe a willingness to dig, to expose, to talk openly about hard subjects, would help society solve many ills.
By Joe Moore
Changing course in the middle of a successful writing career is a big gamble. Especially moving from light, humorous novels to much darker, serious subject matter. When I heard that my friend Elaine Viets was doing just that with her new novel, BRAIN STORM, I had to find out why. It came as no surprise that her motivation grew from events in her life. Now I know that this course change will be just as successful as her previous path. Here’s what I learned.
Elaine, why write a dark psychological suspense novel? You’re best known for your funny Dead-End Job mysteries and cozy Mystery Shopper novels?
I started writing dark novels, the Francesca Vierling newspaper mysteries for Bantam Dell. Then the publisher’s division was wiped out, and I spent two years working dead-end jobs in Florida, where the work is weird and the customers are weirder. I met witches buying a book of spells in a Barnes & Noble, very old men buying skimpy outfits for very young women, and bridezillas who wanted their bridesmaids’ dresses to match the hotel carpet. They inspired the funny, traditional mysteries in the Dead-End Job series for Penguin. That series did well, and Penguin asked me to write the cozy Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper series. The series got off to a good start when Dying in Style tied for first place with Stephen King on the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association bestseller list. Meanwhile, I kept writing dark short stories for anthologies edited by Lawrence Block, Charlaine Harris and others. Josie was supposed to be a three-book series, but by book ten I felt I’d done all I could with that series. My agent rolled the last Josie book into the 15th Dead-End Job mystery.
But I’d gone through some very dark times, and my writing was turning dark. I wanted to explore the one fear that we cannot escape: our own mortality. Brain Storm is a deeply personal mystery, with hardheaded forensics.
What research did you do for BRAIN STORM?
I took the Medicolegal Death Investigators Training Course for forensic professionals given by St. Louis University’s School of Medicine. Here are the topics for just one day of the two-credit college course: We started with gunshot fatalities, explosion-related deaths, motor vehicle fatalities and drowning–before lunch. During lunch we watched a teen driving and alcohol video, which made me want to buy an armored personnel carrier. After lunch it was alcohol-related deaths, suicide, blunt trauma fatalities and more. So much more I was a vegetarian for about six weeks.
By Matt Ferraz
In TAG, YOU’RE DEAD, author J.C. Lane presents a chase around the city of Chicago, where the innocent game of tag becomes a matter of life and death. Writing from the point of view of six different characters, the author decided to do something radically different from her previews books, published under the name of Judy Clemens. No spoilers here, though. You can see the result this month, when the book comes out.
Your book is set in Chicago. What’s the importance of this city in your story?
I have always loved Chicago. I grew up in northern Indiana, so when our family went to “the city,” it was Chicago, where we visited the Field Museum, Orchestra Hall, The Museum of Science and Industry, and The Berghoff Restaurant, with its amazing rye bread. I also lived in Evanston for a year while my dad was getting his doctorate at Northwestern University, so I have good memories from that time. A few years ago my husband took me to Chicago to celebrate my birthday, and we stayed at The Palmer House, a National Historical Landmark hotel, went to a play, and attended a recording session of my favorite NPR show, “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.” The trip was a reminder of how much I love the city, and when the idea for TAG, YOU’RE DEAD came to me, Chicago was automatically the place I wanted it to be set. The characters end up in so many of my favorite places, including the Adler Planetarium, Wrigley Field, and the Art Institute, just to name a few.
Could you picture your book taking place somewhere else?
I suppose the story could have taken place in a different big city, but Chicago has a special place in my heart, and I hope that affection comes through in the writing. I would have had to research other cities, and with Chicago’s blend of downtown, a river, a lake, two baseball teams, and all of its special buildings and museums, another city would have a completely different feel. We spoke about characters earlier, and my hope is that the city of Chicago has its own place as a character in the book!
PARAISO is the new genre-bending thriller from Gordon Chaplin. The story follows the relationship of brother and sister, Peter and Wendy, as they make their separate journeys to Paraiso, facing murder, terrorism, and many dark secrets. Gordon Chaplin very kindly took a few moments out of his Memorial Day celebrations to talk to me about PARAISO, writing, and his feverish imagination.
PARAISO opens with Peter and Wendy making a break for Mexico as children. Why Mexico? Was this important for you as an author? Have you been to Paraiso?
For the last 30 years I’ve co-owned a house in a little village in Baja very similar to Paraiso. From the moment I arrived the town and its characters seemed an ideal setting for a novel. It is known throughout the region as a magical town and recently was officially designated a Pueblo Magico, making it eligible for all kinds of government financed “improvements” which actually haven’t helped it much.
The story is written from two perspectives, Peter’s in the first person and then Wendy’s in the second. Did you identify more with Peter than Wendy as an author, and can you tell us about Peter? Do you have a similar Peter/Wendy relationship with your own siblings?
All novels draw on material the author is familiar with, starting with his or her family situation. This is all I want to say on this subject.
Another famous Peter and Wendy duo comes from classical children’s literature and throughout the book you reference Peter Pan. How did this story influence your own work?
PARAISO is the dark side of Peter Pan. My story is designed to resonate ironically with the famous fairy tale, forcing the reader’s mind into new and noir connections with material that is part of everyone’s childhood. James Joyce used a similar technique in Ulysses, his 20th century parable based on the Odyssey. It recognizes that all stories we tell each other are based on earlier stories.
By J. H. Bográn
There’s always something appealing about a reformed crook. Many of the greatest heroes started off their careers in the wrong side of the law: Wyatt Earp, the Dirty Dozen, Remington Steele, even Severus Snape and Megamind. Among this celebrity group we can count Felicity O’Brien and Morgan Stark, an unusual pair composed of a thief and a mercenary—and quite the pair they make. Note that I don’t use the word couple because their relationship is strictly platonic, with a touch of the paranormal. However, one thing is certain; they were meant to be together.
The Big Thrill had the opportunity to interview Austin Camacho about his new book, THE LOST ART ASSIGNMENT.
Say you meet me at a bookstore, how would you sell me your book?
It’s old-school action and adventure with some of the most interesting characters you’ll meet in a novel. An Irish ex-patriot jewel thief and a hardened mercenary soldier combine their talents to take on an ingenious gangsta who has the brains and the balls to take over New York city’s organized crime.
Some scenes of the book occur in places that no longer exist. Were research for them a challenge?
Actually, the research was great fun. Once I decided that our new-age gangsta had a thing for Harlem’s heyday, I dug into the era of my father’s youth. There’s a surprisingly rich bank of literature about the Harlem Renaissance, the Apollo Theater, and so forth. What an interesting place and time.
There are plenty of discussions about art and artists. Are you an art connoisseur or aficionado?
Not in the least, but since one of my main protagonists is, I had to learn a thing or two. Luckily I live close to Washington, D.C., so not only do I have access to great museums, but also to the people who work there who just love to answer art-related questions.
By Dawn Ius
Writing one novel is hard enough, but German author Melanie Raabe’s ambitious debut takes the challenge to another level by including a “novel within a novel”—a thrilling story by THE TRAP’s protagonist, a recluse novelist determined to set the perfect trap for her sister’s murderer.
If that wasn’t challenge enough, Raabe throws in a claustrophobic environment—Linda hasn’t set foot outside her home since her sister’s death—and an unreliable narrator that has been compared to those recently made famous by authors Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins.
What could have been a recipe for disaster has instead catapulted Raabe into the spotlight as THE TRAP (translated by Imogen Taylor) has sold in multiple languages and earned the author an impressive Hollywood deal. In this interview with The Big Thrill, Raabe talks about overcoming obstacles and how she’s dealing with whirlwind success.
The premise for THE TRAP is unique and really compelling—what was the inspiration for the story?
The premise was presented to me on a silver platter, really! I am always looking for interesting things, characters, or events to write about. One evening I was having dinner with a friend, and at some point she told me about an article she had read about a reclusive author who never leaves her house. I immediately wrote that down: reclusive author. On my way home from dinner my imagination started running wild: Why doesn’t this woman leave the house? What happened to her? What would need to happen to make her leave the house again? That was the origin of THE TRAP.
Unreliable narrators are all the rage right now (thanks to some wonderful books that are consistently on the bestseller list). What do you think is the allure of the unreliable narrator? How did you approach Linda’s character?
I did not resolve to go and write another book with an unreliable narrator at all, it just developed in that direction organically. I had set my mind on writing about this woman who has not left her house in 11 years and who lives very much in her own head. It soon became clear to me when I started working under this premise, that this very lonely woman lacks all the correctives that ordinary people have. She does not communicate with others on a daily basis, she very much lives in her memories and in her imagination. She is destined to have distorted thinking.
My unreliable narrator does not know she is unreliable. She is actually trying to be truthful, and I like that about her. I think an unreliable narrator works best if it isn’t self-serving, but really fits the character that is telling the story.
By John Clement
Hollie Overton grew up in a tiny Texas town with a population that hovered just under 20,000. Painfully shy as a teenager, she was encouraged to audition for a local production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The moment she stepped on stage, a lifetime in the arts began. After studying theater at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and writing at Hunter College and Burlington College, she moved to Los Angeles, where she joined the writing staff for the CBS drama, Cold Case. That led to two seasons writing for Lifetime’s The Client List and the ABC family drama Shadowhunters. Her debut thriller, BABY DOLL, will be published in the UK by Penguin Random House and by Hachette Red Hook in the States.
Knowing a little bit about your personal life, especially your childhood, I think it’s hard not to draw parallels to your novel, its story and characters. Can you talk a little about that? How much did your personal life influence BABY DOLL?
The initial idea for BABY DOLL came at a time when I was unemployed, having lost my TV writing job and planning a wedding I knew we couldn’t afford. While I battled my anxiety, I spent a lot of time watching the news and that’s when the story broke about Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who held three women captive for ten years. What those girls endured was unthinkable and I found myself obsessed with what would happen next. My mother and my twin sister Heather are the most important people in my life and I couldn’t imagine what would happen if we were separated for that long or how we’d pick up the pieces. I kept thinking how each of us would handle such a horrible loss; so that was the jumping off point.
There were a lot of relationship and character moments in BABY DOLL that came from real life. To me, the twin dynamic is the heart of the novel. My twin sister, Heather and I are best friends, and I have a lot of twin friends. It’s an amazing relationship, but it can also be incredibly co-dependent (or dysfunctional depending on the day, week, month, etc). I wanted to play that out in a novel. But I also wanted to show the good parts of being a twin. There are things that my sister did or that I blamed her for doing that play a big role in BABY DOLL. It’s fun working out my issues in my writing. It’s basically free therapy
This has a similar vibe to ROOM. What is the fascination with this kind of thriller, and why is it important to focus on escape and recovery vs capture and torture?
These types of stories are fascinating because they expose people’s darkest nature. A man who will take what he wants no matter how unlawful or immoral goes against everything that society teaches us. I felt really drawn to telling a story about that through the perspective of a multitude of characters. I knew that Emma Donoghue created a beautiful book when she wrote Room, a story all about surviving captivity. But I always saw BABY DOLL as an entirely different book. It’s the aftermath of captivity. That’s why Lily, my main character, escapes in the first chapter. We never go back inside the cabin where she was kept. I always wanted to explore how Lily’s abduction alters the course of everyone’s lives, especially her twin sister Abby. To me, that’s the heart of BABY DOLL, the relationships and how Lily’s kidnapping shattered their family and what it takes to put the pieces back together.
L.S. Hawker broke into the thriller world with The Drowning Game, which is an ITW Best First Novel nominee and a USA Today bestseller. Now, she has released BODY AND BONE, the powerful story of Nessa Donati, a late-night radio show hostess. She has a three-year-old son who doesn’t speak, a soon-to-be-former spouse who is a chronic substance abuser, and an Internet troll who evolves from an ugly pest to a threat to her safety.
Ms. Hawker is an avid music aficionado whose own music library includes more than 160,000 songs. She provides thematic playlists for her books on her website.
We interviewed her by email.
Your heroine in BODY AND BONE does a graveyard-shift radio show. Your description of the tiny studio and the conflict with the producer has the heft of reality about it—what research went into this part of the book?
I pulled the graveyard shift at the one major-market station I worked for. It had just switched to an automated system, so I got to babysit a computer from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. overnight—no board or voice work. The general manager was a lunatic who forbade me from doing anything but literally staring at the machine for eight hours—even reading. He caught me one night editing the public affairs show in the production studio during my shift and screamed at me as if I’d abandoned my guard post on the Berlin Wall.
Nessa’s radio studio is modeled on a small-market midwestern station where I worked, but the producer isn’t based on anyone who worked there—he’s an amalgam of hipster types that I’ve butted heads with through the years.
A Game-Changing Female Protagonist
Brad Meltzer writes carefully crafted, high-stakes thrillers loaded with secret history. So he’s delivering a hot story to the thriller crowd while making legions of nerds very, very happy. (Their fact-checks on the Internet while reading Meltzer’s books often lead to loud exclamations of “He was right about that!?”) While not writing his bestselling novels, Meltzer also crafts nonfiction for adults and children and hosts History Channel shows. Oh, and he writes comic books.
Meltzer’s 2015 thriller, The President’s Shadow, featuring brilliant National Archivist Beecher White, was the third in a successful series. His latest book, THE HOUSE OF SECRETS, co-written with Tod Goldberg, introduces a new kind of main character for Meltzer: Hazel Nash. When she was six, her father taught her that mysteries need to be solved. Hazel’s father is Jack Nash, the host of America’s favorite conspiracy TV show, “The House of Secrets.” Even as a child, she loved hearing her dad’s tall tales, especially the one about a leather book belonging to Benedict Arnold that was hidden in a corpse. Now, years later, Hazel wakes up in the hospital and remembers nothing, not even her name.
Meltzer took some time to catch up with The Big Thrill and talk career, history, and the care and feeding of readers.
This book, without giving anything away, revolves around Benedict Arnold, a fascinating man from history and, of course, a traitor. You’ve written about Thomas Jefferson and George Washington in the past, both great men. How long have you wanted to put Benedict Arnold in a thriller?
For years. Truly. The last moments between Benedict Arnold and George Washington are among the most heartbreaking in U.S. history. When Washington learns what’s happened, he’s devastated. They say it’s the only time the father of our country is ever seen crying. But the craziest part is what happens next: Benedict Arnold writes to George Washington and asks his old friend for three things: 1) To protect Arnold’s wife Peggy, who everyone now wants to hang too. 2) He tells Washington that all of the commander’s aides are innocent and have nothing to do with Arnold’s treason. And 3), in one of the oddest requests a person could make in such a moment, Benedict Arnold asks that his clothes and baggage be sent to him.
Think about it. Benedict Arnold has just put a knife in the back of his best friend, become one of the most hated men since Judas, has basically abandoned his life, and his wife is in danger of being murdered—and what does he ask for? He wants his luggage. He even says he’ll pay for the expense of sending it. And for some reason, Washington obliges. It’s a moment no one can explain: Washington hates this man. He spends the rest of the war hunting him and calling for his death. So why in God’s name does he send Benedict Arnold a final care package? And what’s in this so-called luggage? To this day, no one knows the answer. As for my theory, it’s in THE HOUSE OF SECRETS, of course. (How’s that for a tease?)