By George Ebey
The Black Stiletto is back in the final novel of this stunning five-book saga. This time, everything will come to an end and all secrets will be revealed. It’s 1962. Judy Cooper’s former lover and his psychotic sister set out to ruin the very pregnant Stiletto, forcing her to flee to Texas for a showdown. In the present, the Alzheimer’s that afflicts elderly Judy is in its last stage, but her son and granddaughter continue to protect her from the assaults from her past.
Mr. Benson recently checked in with THE BIG THRILL to provide some insight into the origins of the character and to explain what it was like to bring his long-running series to its exciting conclusion.
Let’s talk about the genesis of the series. How did THE BLACK STILETTO first come about?
I had an idea for a story in which a grown man is taking care of his mother in a nursing home—she has Alzheimer’s—and he discovers some dark secret about her past that no one knew about. I didn’t know what that dark secret was, so the idea sort of sat on the back burner. My mother-in-law died of Alzheimer’s, so my family went through that ordeal. Then, in 2009, I was having lunch with my literary manager, Peter Miller, and he said, “Raymond, you need to come up with something that women would like, because women buy books more than men.” Since there were a zillion superhero movies coming out, I facetiously said, “How about a female superhero?” We laughed and then he got serious and said, “That’s actually not a bad idea. Think about it.”
So I went home and did think about it. Then I combined the Alzheimer’s story with the female superhero idea and voila! It all fit. The dark secret was that the mom was a masked vigilante back in the 1950s/early 60s. (No super powers.) So I created the mythology that the “Black Stiletto” was a female crime fighter in New York and L.A. between 1958 and 1962, and then she mysteriously disappears. No one knew who she was, but she became a legend. Then, in the present, her grown son discovers her secret. It became two parallel stories—one in the present and one in the past.
Is FEAR CITY really the last Repairman Jack?
After twenty-two novels and a short story collection about the guy, I think it’s time to give him a rest and move on. But I don’t like to say “never.” If a good idea that’s right for Jack pops up, I’ll write that sucker, but the days of a new Repairman Jack novel every fall, year in and year out, are done.
Why do you think Jack has been so popular?
I can only go by what readers tell me. Males like his blue-collar nature: he hates jazz and art films; he loves B movies and classic rock. They feel he’s a regular guy they could sit down with and knock back a few beers. Woman readers—and there are so many more than I ever anticipated—tell me he’s a white knight, someone you can count on to be there when you need him.
All right then. FEAR CITY ties up The Early Years Trilogy. What prompted the trilogy?
The readers. The main line of Jack’s story is covered in the sixteen novels from THE TOMB through NIGHTWORLD. I’ve always said I’d never go past NIGHTWORLD and, in that case, “never” is a true word. When you meet Jack in THE TOMB he is already an experienced, streetwise urban mercenary. He’s seen a lot and learned a lot the hard way. I’d already done three YA novels about his teen years, but readers wanted to know how he morphed from a callow Jersey boy to the guy in THE TOMB. How did he make that transition?
By Kay Kendall
Tim Hallinan is a writer’s writer. Search for him online and you will find platoons of famous authors who admire Hallinan’s work. During his stellar career, he has produced three series of thrillers with outstanding reviews. Surprisingly, his is not yet a household name, but that is about to change. As the year draws to a close, 2014 holds promise as Hallinan’s breakout year.
For one, there’s the success of his Junior Bender series, starring an LA-based thief who moonlights as a private eye for other criminals. Book two in the series, LITTLE ELVISES, was nominated for the Silver Falchion (August 2014) and is also a current nominee for the Shamus, to be presented at Bouchercon 2014 in Long Beach, California. Book three, THE FAME THIEF, was nominated for the Lefty award at Left Coast Crime (March 2014). Were that not enough, the series has
been bought for NBC television primetime by British actor and comedian Eddie Izzard. The pairing of Izzard and Junior Bender is inspired. Bender, the master thief, has comic characteristics as well as deep wells of sorrow he occasionally dips into, more as he ages through the novels. Izzard will produce and possibly star in the new series. Beyond Junior Bender, let’s not forget Hallinan’s incredible Simeon Grist series, featuring a hard-boiled, over-educated private eye.
But what may cement 2014 as Hallinan’s breakout year, is the latest book in his Poke Rafferty series, featuring adventurous travel writer Rafferty who has settled down in Bangkok, Thailand, with his reconstructed family comprised of wife Rose, a former Bangkok bar girl, and their adopted daughter, Miaow. Debuting on November 4, book six of the series—FOR THE DEAD—focuses on teenaged Miaow’s struggle to reconcile her former life on the Bangkok streets with her current circumstances—living with Poke and Rose in comparative luxury. Miaow’s boyfriend is the son of a diplomat, and they attend a pricey private school. Still, Miaow wonders where she really belongs, and why crooked police are trying to kill her.
By Jeff Ayers
“Stressed out” has been Lyle Deming’s default setting for years, but now the ex-cop is escaping the anxieties of police work by driving a cab in a new theme park. Nostalgia City is the ultimate retro resort, a meticulous re-creation of an entire small town from the early 1970s, complete with period cars, music, clothes, shops, restaurants, hotels—the works. But when rides are sabotaged and tourists killed, billionaire founder “Max” Maxwell drafts Lyle into investigating—unofficially. Soon he gets help from 6’2 ½ Kate Sorensen, the park’s PR director and former college basketball player. Together Lyle and Kate must unravel a story of corporate greed, conspiracy, and murder in Mark Bacon’s debut DEATH IN NOSTALGIA CITY.
Mark Bacon chatted with The Big Thrill.
When did you realize you wanted to write?
Writing classes in high school got me started. I took journalism and wrote for the school paper and I took creative writing and had short stories published in the high school magazine. I think I was initially attracted by the mystique of being a newspaper reporter, which eventually I was.
With your journalism background and success in writing non-fiction what prompted the change to fiction?
I’ve always liked writing, in part because it’s the hardest work I can do reasonably well—and get paid for. At this point in my life, I wanted to try something different and since I’ve always read mystery and suspense novels, crime was a natural. Mystery flash fiction came first then I thought I had enough to say to make a novel interesting. Now I’m hooked.
What sparked the idea for DEATH IN NOSTALGIA CITY?
My inspiration for DEATH IN NOSTALGIA CITY came from several sources.
1. I started my career as a newspaper reporter in Southern California and I covered the police beat every day. I learned how cops work and a little about how they think.
New York Times bestselling author J. Carson Black loves horseracing. She also sings well. And writes well! Just ask Michael Prescott, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.
He has this to say. “Sweeping from suburban California to the New Mexico desert, from an assassins’ marketplace in Austria to the killing grounds of Iraq, HARD RETURN is an amped-up thrill ride showcasing one of the most enigmatic and unforgettable antiheroes in fiction today. Part Jack Reacher, part Jason Bourne, Landry is a loner, a lover, a father, a killer, and the last thing his enemies will ever see.”
In HARD RETURN, Cyril Landry has been a dead man since he escaped a firefight off the coast of Florida three years ago. In all that time, the former Navy SEAL has been living off the grid to protect his wife and teenage daughter, who have mourned him and moved on.
Five days a week, Landry watches from a distance as his daughter Kristal leaves school—his only chance to see her. One day a shooter unloads his M-16 on the students, killing several—including Kristal’s boyfriend, Luke. Landry takes out the gunman with a single sniper shot before melting back into the city. But this wasn’t a typical massacre, and the clues add up to only one conclusion: someone knows Landry’s still alive.
J. Carson Black also writes under the pseudonyms Margaret Falk and Annie McKnight. Recently I had the chance to ask her a few questions:
In your early days as a writer, you wrote mainly romances, albeit exciting romances. What made you switch to the thriller genre?
My first published book was a ghost story called DARKSCOPE. After that, I wrote a straight historical novel, THE TOMBSTONE ROSE, but had to cut it in half and add a lot more romance to get it sold. Then I wrote romantic suspense books. But I remained unsatisfied—I was looking for something. That something came in the form of a Michael Connelly novel, and I fell hard. Not long after that, I picked up James W. Hall’s MEAN HIGH TIDE in an airport, and it just turned a light on for me. I read more and more of the great authors in that genre, and finally knew I’d found my passion: crime fiction and thrillers.
By Kay Kendall
TRUTH BE TOLD is the latest thriller by Hank Phillippi Ryan. Deemed “the incredible master of plot” by Suspense Magazine, Ryan combines foreclosure fraud, a twenty-year-old murder case, and a secret romance between a reporter and a cop into a fascinating and plausible tale. In a rush of snappy prose she brings to life believable characters set against a backdrop of financial and political shenanigans in Boston.
This is the third novel in Ryan’s series featuring investigative reporter Jane Ryland. The first title was The Other Woman, released in 2012, in which Jane Ryland and detective Jake Brogan cross paths in their respective professional capacities and romantic sparks ignite. This book won the MWA/Mary Higgins Clark Award. Its sequel, The Wrong Girl, won both the Agatha for Best Contemporary Novel and the Daphne du Maurier Award earlier this year.
Ryan burst onto the mystery/thriller scene seven years ago with Prime Time, which won the Agatha for Best First Novel. TRUTH BE TOLD is now her seventh book, and was just named a Library Journal Best of 2014. All her thrillers win rave reviews, awards, and nominations. Her fame and readership have grown with each successive book. She offers a helping hand to aspiring writers as a founding teacher of the Mystery Writers of America University and has served as president in 2013 of the national organization Sisters in Crime.
When you consider that Ryan has become a well-read, highly regarded author on top of an enormously successful and busy journalism career, then the mind does boggle. Since 1983 she has been the on-air investigative reporter for WHDH-TV, NBC’s affiliate in Boston. To date she has won thirty-two Emmy Awards and twelve Edward R. Murrow Awards for her investigative and consumer reporting. And still, she had time to be interviewed for ITW’s THE BIG CHILL.
Welcome, Hank. Your career as an award-winning TV journalist would keep most people busy enough. But in 2007 with twenty-eight Emmys already on your shelf, your first thriller, Prime Time, was published. It went on to win the Agatha Award for best first novel. What propelled you to add a second career?
I love how you ask about “adding a second career” as if that’s something a person could plan. So much of it is luck. And timing, and being at the right place at the right time. And recognizing that. Plus hard work. And—luck.
Like her protagonist in the new thriller COLOR BLIND, author Colby Marshall has synesthesia, a neurological condition characterized by involuntary perceptions and associations—associating colors with emotions or individual people, for example. Although she had published two previous thrillers, The Trade and Chain of Command, Marshall hadn’t written about synesthesia until COLOR BLIND, the first in a new series about forensic psychiatrist and criminal profiler Dr. Jenna Ramey. Synesthesia can’t solve crimes, but it can guide Jenna in her dealings with suspects and witnesses who want to hide what they know.
In COLOR BLIND, Jenna sets aside her private practice temporarily to assist her former employer, the FBI, in solving murders committed by a team dubbed the Gemini Killers. One of the killers, Isaac Keaton, appears in the book’s opening scene, as he picks off innocent victims in a crowd. Keaton quietly surrenders. But who is his partner, and how can Jenna Ramey persuade the smooth, manipulative Keaton to talk to the police before the partner commits another mass murder? Keaton, Jenna soon discovers, knows entirely too much about her own background, and he apparently has a bond with her mother, a clear-headed psychopath who successfully faked incapacitating mental illness to avoid being tried for her violent crimes. Reconnecting with her dangerous mother is one of several avenues Jenna follows as she assists investigators.
Marshall, a ballroom dancer, choreographer, and occasional stage actress as well as a novelist, lives in Georgia with her family and a legion of pets. Recently she talked about COLOR BLIND, how synesthesia figures in the plot, and her plans for Dr. Jenna Ramey in this new series.
Synesthesia may be difficult for most people to grasp. Could you describe it from the inside—what it’s like for a person who has the condition?
Different types of synesthesia manifest differently, so I can’t claim I know what every type is like to experience. However, some types are self-explanatory. Someone with lexical-gustatory synesthesia, for instance, might taste beets when they hear the word “cake,” and that tends to be a fairly easy concept to communicate.
What if you had to say goodbye to everyone you loved in just five short days? Debut author Julie Lawson Timmer’s riveting novel FIVE DAYS LEFT takes you on a heartbreaking journey alongside a woman who must do just that. Mara Nichols has everything—a wonderful marriage, successful career, and adoring daughter until a stunning diagnosis unravels her entire world. As she counts down her final days, she considers her dwindling choices and wrestles with the decision she knows in her heart is the right one. A parallel story intertwines with Mara’s. Scott, a virtual friend of Mara’s who lives across the country, prepares to say goodbye to the child he was only supposed to have for one year but that has become like a son to him. FIVE DAYS LEFT illustrates in emotionally wrenching narrative, the lengths to which we will go to protect the ones we love.
THE BIG THRILL caught up with Julie and she agreed to answers some questions.
What was your motivation for this story?
First, thanks so much for having me!
A few years ago, a friend of mine died after a long struggle with cancer. She was in hospice for the last several months of her life and she was spectacularly brave in facing what she knew would be her last months, weeks, and days. During that time, and after she died, I was consumed with thoughts about what that must have been like for her—to know she wouldn’t be there for her kids’ graduations, their weddings, et cetera. I decided that writing about someone dealing with a fatal, incurable disease would be a way to explore the feelings my friend might have had. I also felt that exploring and writing about those feelings would be a way for me to honor her, even if the book was never read by anyone else. I chose Huntington’s because I didn’t want (or believe I had any right) to write my friend’s story. FIVE DAYS LEFT is not biographical in any sense.
I wanted to give Mara a break from her difficult situation, and adding the online group allowed me to do that. When I was casting around in my imagination for an online friend who Mara could become close to, Scott materialized, as did his job as a middle school teacher and coach. Technically, Scott and his wife are limited guardians of Curtis, not foster parents. Foster parenting involves months of background checks and classes and applications, et cetera, while being a limited guardian is a relatively immediate process, at least in Michigan. Given the urgency in Curtis’s situation, the foster system wasn’t appropriate. However, the concept of fostering and being a limited guardian are similar in that ultimately, you are caring for, making sacrifices for, and often loving deeply, a child who isn’t your own, and whose future is not in your control. In this regard, foster parents and limited guardians are in a similar position as stepparents, a role I hold. As a stepparent, I also care for, make sacrifices for, and deeply love, children whose future isn’t in my control, and I wanted to explore that.
By Kay Kendall
Calling all anglophiles plus fans of psychological thrillers and Oxbridge novels! Here is a dandy book for you by Christopher J. Yates. Even figuring out the title’s meaning provides a puzzle to solve—BLACK CHALK.
The plot unfolds from two alternating points of view. One is told by a first-person narrator, a recluse who lives in New York City in the present day. The second is third person-narration from fourteen years earlier, when five young British students and one American meet at Oxford University. They become friends, and then deadly rivals. They begin a game that seems at first casual and then turns ferocious as it takes over their lives. Four young men and two women, all of keen intelligence and unique personalities, are driven to win.
And so—as Sherlock Holmes famously said to Watson—“The game is afoot.” The prospect of fun, competition, and a cash prize of ten thousand pounds gets the six players to sign up. Yet, losing a round means that a player must perform a humiliating task. Gradually the tasks become excruciatingly upsetting. Finely tuned psyches are damaged. Friendships are broken. Eventually, a life is lost. What caused this innocent game to become so devilish? Who is the villain in this piece?
Christopher Yates loves puzzles—of this there is no doubt. Even figuring out which main character provides the first-person narration takes more than a few pages to figure out. Is there something in his English blood that draws him to devise and decode enigmas? Perhaps he had an older relative who worked with Alan Turing at the venerated Bletchley Park during World War II. Suffice it to say, after leaving Oxford and working in the law for a time, Christopher turned to puzzle development, even representing the UK at the World Puzzle Championships. He still freelances as a puzzle editor and compiler.
By Terry DiDemenico
First Boston in JAMAICA PLAIN, then Los Angeles in MONTECITO HEIGHTS, and now Texas in ADOBE FLATS. Jim Grant finds himself an unwelcomed visitor as the novel opens. Unwelcomed is putting it mildly, it resembles outright hostility. But why?
Grant knew why he was in Absolution, Texas. It was the starting point of a simple enough mission. He wanted to return an heirloom to the father of his lover and former colleague. Buying a train ticket to Absolution didn’t cause concern, but the conductor’s reaction to where he wanted to disembark and the wizen man who turned up at the nearly abandoned station did. It is only a short time later that Grant is on the run for his life. Then his simple mission turns to trouble as he works to bring justice to the small town being terrorized by a tyrant. Outgunned and outmanned, Grant relies on his razor-sharp instincts to outsmart and outfight an army of Texans led by a kingpin who has everything to lose.
The brainchild of author Colin Campbell, Jim Grant, AKA Resurrection Man, is an ex-West Yorkshire cop who relocates to the United States and is attached to the Boston Police Department. The nickname came in JAMAICA PLAIN after an image of him, wearing a bright orange jacket and arms outstretched, hit the media.
Grant is an interesting character who brings to mind elements of Jack Reacher and Harry Bosch with his own British twist. That twist comes directly from Campbell. “They say that most authors include parts of themselves in their characters. Ian Fleming liked fine food so James Bond likes fine food. Lee Child favored the head-butt at school so Jack Reacher favors the head-butt. I’m six foot four and wear an orange windcheater. And I’m left-handed. Partly that’s just a creative shortcut. If I don’t have to think about how Grant looks or thinks I can concentrate on the story and the action.”
Campbell continues, “Jim Grant has a similar mindset to me, but he’s better at everything than I ever was. That’s the other thing authors do. James Bond was a better secret agent than Ian Fleming. I’ve never been head-butted by Lee Child.”
By Josie Brown
If you’re looking for an author with a versatile voice, no one fits the bill like John Lutz. At your local bookstore, you’ll find his award-winning novels shelved under Police Procedurals, Espionage, Thriller, and Historical. You’ll also be impressed with the numerous awards he’s garnered: the MWA’s Edgar, the PWA’s Shamus, not to mention the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s Golden Derringer Lifetime Achievement Award.
Hollywood likes what it reads, too. Lutz’s novel SWF SEEKS SAME was made into SINGLE WHITE FEMALE with Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh, and his book THE EX was an HBO movie.
His new novel, FRENZY, is the latest in his series featuring Frank Quinn, a former homicide detective, who goes up against a serial killer he’s crossed paths with before.
Lutz explains why the murderer deserves an encore.
Why bring back this particular nemesis of Frank Quinn’s?
I suppose I sensed that this villain had more to offer. Also, he seemed capable of producing the most angst in Quinn. Quinn understands that it takes a thief to catch a thief, and that might also apply in various ways when it comes to serial killers. It’s the timeless relationship of hunter and hunted.
The body count is fast and furious in this book. It starts out with six dead women in a hotel room, all of whom were tortured before being murdered–same night, same man. How did the plot for FRENZY come to you?
Possibly Richard Speck gave me the idea. The murders of eight student nurses in the same place at the same time seemed almost incomprehensibly tragic. Also infuriating, because Speck, until the time of his death, seemed only mildly ruffled by the pain and horror he had wrought.
By Ken Isaacson
After graduating from Harvard University, Weyman Jones served as an enlisted man and then a junior officer in the Navy. He began his writing career with short stories and went on to publish three books for young readers. His historical novel for pre-teens, THE EDGE OF TWO WORLDS, went to seven printings and earned the Lewis Carroll Shelf and the Western Heritage Awards. A non-fiction book on computers was published in several languages, and his biography is included in SOMETHING ABOUT THE AUTHOR, a reference series about prominent authors of juvenile and young adult literature.
Following his retirement as vice president, public affairs for the Grumman Corporation, he began writing thrillers. EVIL IN RETURN is his latest page-turner.
Jones graciously agreed to answer a few questions for THE BIG THRILL.
Tell us about EVIL IN RETURN
The title, “Evil in Return” is from Audin: “Those to whom evil is done do evil in return.” It’s about a contemporary Cherokee who believes he should avenge his ancestors by killing descendants of those who wronged them. The aboriginal Cherokee had a belief system like that. This guy wants to revive the ancient tribal values by posting videotapes of his payback on YouTube for the Cherokee to see.
I think there’s a pattern here. This isn’t the first time you’ve written about revenge or obsession, is it? What is it about those themes that intrigues you?
I think we read fiction to taste powerful emotions and experience high-risk moments. I create characters driven by obsession to meet those expectations.
EVERYONE LIES, first in a series by A.D. Garrett, was a hit in the UK, delivering vivid characters, an intricate story set in the violent Manchester, England underworld, and forensics details with the ring of authenticity. The American edition, recently released by St. Martin’s, received raves from Kirkus and Booklist and a starred review in Publishers Weekly, which praised the novel’s brisk pace and its balance between the intricacies of forensics and the cerebral instincts of criminal investigation.
In EVERYONE LIES, two former colleagues who almost destroyed each other’s careers in the past reunite to solve a string of murders that no one else is taking seriously. Kate Simms has spent five years rebuilding her life after being demoted for giving forensics analyst Nick Fennimore privileged information about the disappearance of his wife and daughter. Fennimore has been quietly teaching at a Scottish university and mourning his murdered wife and his still missing child. They should stay away from each other. But if they don’t work together, the killer may never be caught.
The series is a collaborative effort by crime writer Margaret Murphy and forensic scientist Dave Barclay, writing under the pseudonym A.D. Garrett. Murphy, who does all the writing, is the CWA Award-winning author of nine psychological suspense novels under her own name (all now available as e-books through her website). Recently she talked about the new series and about partnering with Barclay.
First of all, Margaret, welcome to ITW! I understand you’re a new member.
ITW has been incredibly welcoming, and I just want to take a moment to say how strongly I feel that both writers and fans benefit from having an organisation like this to introduce readers to writers and to support those writers in their work.
By Amy Lignor
Joan Hall Hovey is the definition of an “artist.” From her writing that has taken the form of suspense novels, as well as short stories and articles, this woman has not only taken the suspense world by storm, but also dabbles in the theater community. In addition, Joan makes time to work with other authors, giving them the information and help they need to embrace their talent and become a part of the literary world.
Born and raised in Saint John, New Brunswick, Joan has a family she adores, including Scamp, the family dog. She looks out every day at tall pine trees and the stunning view of the Kennebecasis River. But although that view is certainly inspiring, her fans will tell you that it is Joan’s view—the scenes and characters within her own creative mind—that is truly unforgettable. This is a talent who brings vibrancy to the page, creating locations that, even in the light of day, chill readers to the bone.
The works of Poe, King, and other masters of the mystery world inspired Joan to write. And now, with her latest novel—THE DEEPEST DARK—she once again hits the nail on the proverbial head, drawing readers into a world of fear that will leave them absolutely breathless.
Let’s begin at the beginning. You have an incredible mind for suspense, and are able to weave together an absolutely frightening plot. When was it that you decided to become a suspense author? Was there a specific reason why you chose that genre?
Like most authors of suspense, I have always been drawn to the dark side of human nature. From childhood I loved anything that was scary; from zombies to vampires to noir movies. Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Vincent Price—these were my anti-heros. I read stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson, and others. When you love the genre, you immerse yourself in voices that write in that genre, until finally you want your own voice to rise from the page.
By J.H. Bográn
In the new book PLAGUES OF EDEN, Army Chaplain Jaime Richards is back and the race is on to stop a madman bent on unleashing the plagues of ancient Egypt against the modern world. Fiery hail, water to blood, darkness, death of the firstborn. Can Jaime stop the catastrophe and save the mysterious Sword 23 from the clutches of a psychopath?
Interesting plot, but also fascinating is the fact that these two co-authors first met in the sixth grade. I had the opportunity to interview both Sharon Linnéa, and B. K. Sherer. Although I asked them both the same questions, it is interesting how different their responses are.
What can you tell us about Jaime Richards?
Sharon: Jaime is a young woman who is smart, thinks on her feet, is funny, sure of herself, unsure of herself, and will always be found in the thick of things. She acts with courage and determination even when she’s terrified. She’s an army chaplain (and a Presbyterian minister) who has let hard times in her past—including the deaths of her parents when she was young, and the death of her husband, Paul by a suicide bomber—mature into a true compassion for others. As an army chaplain, she is willing to do anything to be with her soldiers in whatever they’re going through.
As an agent of Eden, Jaime saves the world on a regular basis, because—hey, someone’s got to do it. Jaime thinks she has terrible luck with men, but the truth is, she attracts the most interesting guys. Interesting, however, doesn’t mean easy to deal with.
Neither army chaplains (who are noncombatants) or agents of Eden carry firearms, and neither does Jaime. Nor does her fellow agent, the mysterious Yani, for that matter.
B. K.: Jaime really cares about people (maybe too much), and is an excellent problem solver, both of which are very important qualities for a chaplain. Soldiers have all kinds of problems, and very often they just need someone who cares enough to help them think through possible solutions to their problems. These are also critical attributes for an agent of Eden, and this is why the role is such a perfect fit for her. But this also leads to her great frustration: that there are only so many hours in the day and she can only be in one place at a time. Between her personal needs, the needs of her soldiers, and the needs of Eden, something has to give. Most of the time what gives is her personal needs.
You can leave the army, but the army doesn’t leave you. Not always. Not completely, notes Jack Reacher—and sure enough, the retired military cop is soon pulled back into service. This time, for the State Department and the CIA.
Someone has taken a shot at the president of France in the City of Light. The bullet was American. The distance between the gunman and the target was exceptional. How many snipers can shoot from three-quarters of a mile with total confidence? Very few, but John Kott—an American marksman gone bad—is one of them. And after fifteen years in prison, he’s out, unaccounted for, and likely drawing a bead on a G-8 summit packed with enough world leaders to tempt any assassin.
If anyone can stop Kott, it’s the man who beat him before: Reacher. And though he’d rather work alone, Reacher is teamed with Casey Nice, a rookie analyst who keeps her cool with Zoloft. But they’re facing a rough road, full of ruthless mobsters, Serbian thugs, close calls, double-crosses—and no backup if they’re caught. All the while Reacher can’t stop thinking about the woman he once failed to save. But he won’t let that that happen again. Not this time. Not Nice.
Reacher never gets too close. But now a killer is making it personal.
By Jeff Ayers
It seemed an innocent enough idea. After Barnaby Gilbert got laid off with a nice severance, his boss suggested he take up a new hobby to fill up his free time. On his regular commuter train, Barnaby got an idea what that hobby would be. He decided to satisfy a curiosity he’d long had. An avid birder, he began tracking some regular passengers—people he’d always wondered about—to see where they went and what they did. In following a Chinese man, a schoolgirl, and a sexy woman, he used the same techniques he had to add hawks and herons to his life list. But in THE COMMUTER, a quirky, compelling, tongue-in-cheek thriller, he found out pretty fast that humans were a much more dangerous species.
Patrick Oster is a managing editor at Bloomberg News in New York. He was previously editor-in-chief of the National Law Journal and has worked for Business Week in Europe, Knight Ridder in Mexico, and covered the White House, State Department, and the CIA as Washington Bureau Chief of The Chicago Sun-Times.
He recently took the time to chat with THE BIG THRILL.
When did you realize you had the writing bug?
While doing some long-form journalism that used personal tales to tell a real-life story. For example, while reporting from Mexico I did a big take-out on what had happened to Oscar Lewis’s Children of Sanchez, one of whom I met while covering Mexico City’s twin earthquakes in 1985, 25 years after his classic work.
I used that story as part of my 1989 book, THE MEXICANS: A PERSONAL PORTRAIT OF A PEOPLE. And Lisa Drew, my editor at William Morrow, the hardcover publisher, said my use of real life short-stories in the book indicated I had some talent to write fiction, which is just another kind of story telling. So how could I not give it a try?
Working in journalism, what prompted you to want to write books?
For THE MEXICANS, it was mostly a desire to tell a fuller, more interesting story than is allowed in the space allotted newspaper stories. I also had accumulated a lot of information about Mexico in my four years there that never made it into my daily newspaper stories.
By Derek Gunn
Whitley Strieber needs no introduction to readers of my generation. The superb WOLFEN and THE HUNGER shot him into the limelight and the equally noteworthy COMMUNION and NATURE’S END served to keep him there to this day. We have had mostly non-fiction in later years, though many consider his work on THE VISITORS and alien abductions to be fiction and file it as such in bookstores. While this has been a constant argument with Strieber’s work over the years, and Strieber is adamant that his work on aliens is factual, there is one point that is irrefutable—he is a superb author and capable of delivering fantastic work.
His latest novel, ALIEN HUNTER: UNDERWORLD is the second in his Flynn Carroll series. It is a thriller of the highest order. I had not read the first in the series but it doesn’t take too long to catch up and enjoy the ride.
Flynn Carroll works for a very secret organisation. He is tasked with finding and stopping the most lethal and driven criminals on the planet. To make it even more difficult, the criminals are, in fact, from another world and have access to technology so far ahead of ours that they anticipate every move he makes.
Recent events see Flynn operating on his own and he is forced to seek help from some old friends whose skills may just help even the odds. Added to the mix is the police force from the alien world who want to censure Flynn for their own reasons but are reluctant to help clean up their mess.
Flynn also discovers that all is not as it seems within his own organization and that there are things they do not want him to know. As time runs short and the alien mastermind gets ever closer, Flynn is forced to examine not just his enemy but his own origins as well.
By Jeff Ayers
On May 5, 2014, Jack Bauer returned in “24: Live Another Day” to restart the ticking clock on the groundbreaking and Emmy Award-winning drama. 24: DEADLINE will answer some of the questions of what happened to Jack in the four years between the end of season eight and the new “24: Live Another Day” event series.
The time is 5:00 p.m.: One hour ago, federal agent Jack Bauer was declared a fugitive. If he wants to survive, he must get out of the country, and he doesn’t have much time. With his former colleagues in the Counter Terrorist Unit now dead, under arrest, or shut down, Jack has no resources to call upon, no back-up, and nowhere to go—only his determination can drive him on. One thing remains clear to him: the promise he made to his daughter Kim. Jack vows that he will see Kim one last time to tell her he loves her—before he drops off the radar forever.
Tor/Forge books editor Melissa Frain said, “Few shows have ever been able to achieve what “24” has on television. As passionate fans of the show ourselves, we’re thrilled to help fill the gap between the devastating events of last season and Jack’s highly anticipated return in “24: Live Another Day” with 24: DEADLINE. And regarding the author, James Swallow: “With his background as a veteran tie-in author and a long-time fan of “24,” we think James has the perfect sensibility to tell the world just what happened to Jack Bauer after the clock wound down at the end of season eight.”
With that in mind, THE BIG THRILL took the time to chat with James Swallow.
By John Raab
New York Times bestselling author Wendy Corsi Staub returns with her latest book THE PERFECT STRANGER. Staub has written more than seventy-five books and continues to raise the bar in the suspense-writing genre. Her last book THE GOOD SISTER has been optioned for television by Fox, and she will release another book this year called THE BLACK WIDOW. Her trilogy, which ended in early 2013, won the 2013 Westchester Library Association Washington Irving for fiction award.
Staub has sold over four million copies of her books, and has also written under the pen name Wendy Markham, whose name could be seen on the USA Today, Barnes & Noble and BookScan bestseller lists.
She is here to tell THE BIG THRILL about her latest book, THE PERFECT STRANGER.
What can you tell us about the book that is not on the back cover?
The heroine and her fellow bloggers are breast cancer survivors. They’ve all turned to the Internet for kindred support that they couldn’t find in their own daily lives. They’re strangers who have gradually let their guards down online because they’ve been in each other’s shoes; they can share things with each other that their family and friends in the real world couldn’t possibly understand. That bond has strengthened them, but—they realize too late—has also made them vulnerable.
Landry Wells is your main character in THE PERFECT STRANGER. Who is she?
Landry is a genteel southern wife and mother who has always lived her life according to plan, only to have it turned upside down with a cancer diagnosis. You don’t face your own mortality and wage a fierce battle against a deadly disease without being profoundly transformed. Landry has recently learned how to put aside her natural reserve and reach out to strangers, offering—and drawing—strength. Her hard-won battle not only shattered her carefully constructed walls and taught her that there are no guarantees, but left her virtually fearless—which is a good thing, because a new predator now has her in the crosshairs.
By Dawn Ius
New York Times bestselling author Chelsea Cain launches into August with ONE KICK, the first in a thrilling new series featuring Kick Lannigan, a young woman whose tragic past has given her a special—and deadly—set of skills.
“Famously kidnapped at age six, Kick captured America’s hearts when she was rescued five years later. Now, twenty-one, she finds herself unexpectedly entangled in a missing child case that will put her talents to the test.”
Though a definite departure from the Archie Sheridan/Gretchen Lowell thrillers for which Cain is known, ONE KICK embodies the same heart-pounding brilliance HEARTSICK fans have come to know and love.
“This book is positioned to reach a wider audience,” Cain says. “Some readers are afraid of the HEARTSICK books—many people thinks of them as horror. I’ve dialed it down a little in ONE KICK.”
Though she admits, for some, the distinction is faint.
Since childhood, Cain has been drawn to the thriller genre, getting her literary feet wet with detective stories and mysteries.
“I wanted high stakes, puzzle and peril,” she says. “I loved looking at the yellow spines of those Nancy Drew books and knowing there was another one. There was always such a great comfort in knowing the character survived.”
CROSS PURPOSES introduces a finely drawn Manhattan private investigator, Barney Moon, who upholds Spade and Marlowe’s moral order.
The creative genius behind Barney Moon is Edgar- and Emmy-nominated, Thomas B. Sawyer, who is a novelist, screenwriter, and playwright. He was the head writer/show runner of the classic CBS series, Murder, She Wrote, for which he wrote twenty-four episodes. He has also written two other high-concept thrillers, NO PLACE TO RUN and THE SIXTEENTH MAN.
In CROSS PURPOSES, PI Barney Moon is a driven man. He lives to solve cases. But as a born-and-bred New Yorker, Barney considers anything outside of New York alien territory. And the worst place of all is Los Angeles, which is exactly where his next case takes him.
Unlike his PI, Sawyer is a Chicagoan transplanted to Los Angeles via New York. Even so, he can identify with Barney’s plight. Sawyer was kind enough to grant an exclusive interview to THE BIG THRILL.
MURDER, SHE WROTE brought you worldwide recognition. How do you feel about it today?
One of the most-fun, most-satisfying experiences of my life. I’m forever thankful for the luck to have worked with and written for Angela. A long-running hit like that is sooo rare in a career. And the bonus of working with Jerry Orbach and so many other wonderful actors is almost indescribable.
Novelist, script writer, TV director, lyricist, writers’ teacher and mentor —which is your favorite hat?
Love all of ‘em, but I guess I’d have to say that being writer/show runner is the best and most satisfying, long term. Antic, social, but still with lots of control.
By Brian Knight
LETHAL CODE tells the shocking and frighteningly possible story of a massive, anonymous cyber-attack on the United States by an unknown enemy and the unforgettable men, women, and children who fight back against the invisible invasion.
Thomas Waite’s new novel, LETHAL CODE, is available now, and Mr. Waite is here to talk about it.
Tell us a bit about LETHAL CODE.
Sure. Back in 2012, former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta gave a startling speech about U.S. vulnerability to cyber warfare. He said that our country could face a “cyber Pearl Harbor” attack that would cause massive physical destruction and loss of life. LETHAL CODE is essentially a fictional, yet plausible, novel about such a horrific scenario. In my book, unknown terrorists have crippled the nation’s power grid and brought our country to its knees. Widespread panic and violence ravage the country and the terrorists issue their ultimatums and vow an apocalyptic reckoning.
The heroine in LETHAL CODE is Lana Elkins, head of a major cyber-security company—and former top NSA operative—who returns to her roots to spearhead the Agency’s frantic efforts to combat the enemy’s onslaught on its own terms. While she and her superiors take action to infiltrate a terrorist hotbed overseas, much closer to home ruthless jihadists with a nuclear bomb hijack a busload of schoolchildren—including her own daughter—and race toward a rendezvous with Armageddon in America’s largest city.
LETHAL CODE isn’t meant to just be a fast-paced cyber-thriller; it is a cautionary tale for a public largely unaware of a potential cyber war of cataclysmic proportions from an unseen enemy. I did a lot of research and interviewed quite a few experts for this novel. So while LETHAL CODE is a work of fiction, most of the technologies, cyber attack vulnerabilities and cyber war scenarios are based on facts. The novel is the first of a new series of cyber-thrillers. I am currently working on finishing the second.
By Steph Cha
M. P. Cooley is having a good summer, thanks to a frosty winter thriller of a debut novel. ICE SHEAR launched just last week, to much praise and fanfare, including a nod from the one and only Oprah (it was listed as one of the best reads of this summer by O, the Oprah Magazine). The novel, per a starred review in Publishers Weekly, offers a “strong, fast-paced narrative and an intriguing heroine” as well as a plot that encompasses “politics, a burgeoning meth industry, and biker gangs.” It features glittering ice and lots of bad people, and you know you’ve been missing your fictional meth fix since the end of Breaking Bad.
It’s been a busy week in Cooley’s corner, but she was nice enough to sit down with THE BIG THRILL and answer some questions:
Congratulations on your new book! How does it feel? Did you do anything fun to celebrate?
It feels wonderful. I’m writing a series, and it’s easy to get caught up in the next target and the next deadline. I try to celebrate the milestones in small ways, but for my publication day I had a huge party and book launch!
What’s been the most exciting part of the process?
Finding my people, definitely. My agent Lisa Gallagher and I bonded over our love of the same crime writers. A passionate belief in female heroes who are strong yet vulnerable led to long discussions with Rachel Kahan, my editor, and was one of the main reasons I signed with Morrow. And conferences are incredible, meeting readers and writers who are as passionate about crime writing as I am.
By Dawn Ius
Maegan Beaumont knows where her dark places are—and she doesn’t mind getting dirty.
Because at the bottom of that black pit is a creative force that drives her writing and inspires the creation of Sabrina Vaughn, the damaged protagonist in Beaumont’s award-winning thriller CARVED IN DARKNESS, and the sequel out this month, SACRIFICIAL MUSE.
Vaughn’s job is to hunt down murderers—a job she does very well despite her dark and tortured past. At seventeen, she was abducted by a psychotic killer, raped and tortured for nearly three months, and then left for dead in a deserted churchyard. She survived.
“There is, in all of us, a will to survive,” says Beaumont, who before becoming a full time writer and mom worked in the mental health field for nearly a decade. “I worked with countless cases of horrific abuse and if there’s one thing I have learned, it’s that the human spirit is resilient.”
Resilience is one of Vaughn’s key character traits. Even before she was abducted, she was always the girl who spent life on the outside looking in, struggling with the hand she’d been dealt and yet determined to persevere.
Beaumont knows a little something about perseverance. As a debut novel, CARVED IN DARKNESS has racked up an impressive number of awards and commendations, including the 2013 Gold Medal for suspense/thriller by an Independent Publisher. CARVED was also a Foreword Book of the Year finalist in the horror category. Despite this, Beaumont admits her publishing journey veers a bit on the crazy side.
By Tim O’Mara
Since I’d just spent the previous week preparing for this interview by reading DARE MEand THE FEVER—both of which drip with the drama of teenage girls—I had the strange feeling I’d gone through high school with Megan Abbott. So I asked her, since high school is all about finding a label that fits, how would she label herself as a writer?
“I’m a crime novelist,” she said. “I can’t imagine not being a crime novelist. It’s how I understand story.”
So, what about this whole “Queen of Noir” thing?
“My stories are about people in dark places. To me, they’re stories about power. We can all relate to having something taken away or wanting something so badly. My characters often come from a position of powerlessness and yearning. Facing their own demons, and surviving.”
Yep. Sounds like high school. When I pointed out that if she were walking down the hallways of one of the local high schools, she might very well get stopped and asked to show her hall pass.
“I get that a lot,” she said. “The ‘you-look-so-young’ thing. I think it’s less about the way I look and more about that I’m from the Midwest.” She smiled. “I’m friendly.”
So how’d this friendly person get into the whole thriller/crime/noir thing?
“I’ve been reading thrillers since I was a kid, maybe ten years old. At that age, it was mostly writers like Patricia Highsmith and Ira Levin.” She must have noticed my eyebrows going up. “I was a precocious reader.”
And the brief reference to The Crucible in THE FEVER?
Bookstore shelves are filled with thrillers pitting courageous heroes against organized crime or terrorists. But until now we have not seen criminal and terrorist organizations pitted against each other. This inspired concept is the basis of THE WOLF, the latest novel from Lorenzo Carcaterra.
THE WOLF, the first book in what promises to be a blockbuster series, shows us the events that drive the heads of the International Organized Crime Syndicate to declare war on the international terror networks. It turns out that mobsters can be much more effective than law enforcement, which is out-numbered and encumbered by all those pesky rules.
In the novel, the highest levels of organized crime are led by Vincent “The Wolf” Marelli. He may not be a “good guy” in the traditional sense, but as the author says, if you met Vincent at a party, you’d be charmed by him.
“He’s smart and has a wide variety of interests—from art history to sports to music and movies,” Carcaterra says. “In short, he can speak on any subject and will be as interested in you as you are in him. You could speak for hours and come away having had a pleasant time and yet knowing very little about who he really is and what he really does. He is adept at keeping the focus on you and the glare away from him.”
Imagine being shot at point-blank range in a darkened hallway by someone you’ve never met. And imagine that your assailant promptly turns the gun on himself, depriving you of any chance of knowing why he did it. Somehow you survive the attack and manage to pull through months of surgeries and rehab and return to your job. But what if your colleagues assume you are somehow to blame, that the true motivation for the attack was something you had done? One of the cruelest injuries of the attack is the callous blackening of your name by vicious gossip. And then there is the haunting question in your own head: Why? Why did that young man shoot me?
I recently talked to Lori Rader-Day about her riveting debut novel, THE BLACK HOUR.
THE BLACK HOUR straddles two genre categories, psychological thriller and crime fiction. How would you categorize your book?
My agent called it a thriller. My press called it a mystery. I’ve heard “psychological suspense” a couple of times. I don’t know, really. Nobody knows. The greatest mystery in mystery writing is where the lines occur between marketing terms. I get why we need them—they’re in service of helping readers find the books they’ll like. With so many books being published, helping readers find your book is a real hurdle. Here’s another marketing term: discoverability. I’m hoping THE BLACK HOUR will be stored in the mystery sections of bookstores and libraries, but as for what I call it, I’ve adopted “crime fiction.” It seems the most broadly defined. I can probably promise a crime of some kind will occur.
By Steph Cha
Matthew Quirk is kind of a big deal. He went to Harvard, where he studied history and literature, and straight after graduation, he went and worked for this magazine of import, name is on the tip of my tongue…ah yes, The Atlantic. As if that weren’t enough to make your mom ask if he’s single, he then went on to write two acclaimed thriller novels, THE 500(his 2012 debut) and the brand new sequel, THE DIRECTIVE, both published by Little Brown.
THE 500 introduced his protagonist Mike Ford, a Harvard Law graduate tangling with the insidious Washington, D.C. elite. That novel won the Black Ribbon Award and the Thriller Award for best debut, and was nominated more or less everywhere else nominations were available. It’s been translated into twenty languages, and is currently in development as a major motion picture with Twentieth Century Fox.
His new novel, THE DIRECTIVE, follows Mike Ford as he plans an audacious heist on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. It’s shaping up to be another great hit that should establish Quirk as a monster in the thriller world.
Mr. Quirk was nice enough to answer a few questions:
You spent five years at The Atlantic, reporting on matters of great intrigue. How did you make the transition to fiction? Was there a particular story or moment that made you think, “This would make a great novel”?
There were countless great stories and moments like that, so many that I almost couldn’t help but start writing fiction.
I’ve been a reader for as long as I can remember. I remember reading Nancy Drew and quickly moving on to the Hardy Boys because I craved more action. Mysteries filled the void for a while. Then I found thrillers, starting with David Morrell and Jon Land’s Blaine McCracken. Yes, I was getting action, but in my experience, most of the kicking ass was done by men. That is, until I discovered Meg Gardiner.
In my recent introduction to Meg’s stand-alone novels, RANSOM RIVER and SHADOW TRACER, I found what I consider true thriller, kick ass heroines: Rory Mackenzie and Sarah Keller. From there it was a small leap to follow Harper Flynn in PHANTOM INSTINCT, Gardiner’s latest release.
Gardiner opens PHANTOM INSTINCT with a shoot-out and deadly fire in a trendy nightclub. The bartender, Harper Flynn, tries to move her injured boyfriend, Drew, from the line of gunfire only to lose him to the devastation of the blaze that followed. A year later at a memorial service for Drew, she sees a figure watching from the shadows and wonders who it is and why they are there.
She is convinced it has something to do with the third gunman she saw, but since other survivor reports did not support her claim, the police are uninterested in pursuing what they believe is a figment of her imagination.
Believing she is on to something, Harper contacts Aiden Garrison, a policeman who was in the club on the night of the shooting. He too remembers there was a third gunman but due to a traumatic brain injury called Fregoli Syndrome or face blindness his recollections are deemed to be unreliable.