I’d like to open a door to another history, an alternate history, where wonderful heroes we know and love go on even more fabulous adventures than they did in their real lives. Standing right on the other side of that door is Francine Mathews, whose WWII spy thriller TOO BAD TO DIE will be released this month.
It’s a pleasure to interview Mathews, a writer right at the other spectrum of political fiction than me: she writes historical thrillers and I write “right-the-hell-now” ones; she has written more than twenty books and I’ve written one. It’s a match made in heaven and I was a little giddy when I received the opportunity to conduct the interview.
For those of you who don’t know Mathews, she studied history at Princeton and Stanford, and then worked as an intelligence analyst at the CIA for four years. She’s written twenty-five novels under two names—the other being Stephanie Barron—most of them historical fiction dealing with real-life historical figures.
To start, would you tell our readers about TOO BAD TO DIE? What inspired the novel?
You know, when I wrote JACK 1939 a few years ago—about Jack Kennedy’s six-month odyssey through Europe when he was twenty-two and Hitler was embarking on his invasion of Poland—I kept running into Ian Fleming. He knew everybody Jack knew, on two different continents, and he had a finger in every one of World War II’s spies as assistant to the Chief of Naval Intelligence. I like to write about real people in unreal situations. When I realized Fleming had actually planned the Tehran Conference, which Hitler intended to explode by assassinating Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt—I thought, okay, that’s the next book!
You may want to rethink what you do in public—at least if you’re a character in Ryan Quinn’s exciting tech thriller END OF SECRETS, where Hawk, the eye in the sky, might just be watching while you sit on the subway or walk along the street, unaware of the camera aimed right at you.
CIA agent Kera Mersal is recruited to a black-op team code named Hawk. Her first assignment—find out how four people could disappear seemingly into thin air. An ominous message written in graffiti haunts Kera as she comes across it time and time again—Have you figured it out yet? The action draws you in from the first page and doesn’t let up until the last word. The Big Thrill caught up with author Ryan Quinn to ask him a few questions about his latest book.
Tell us something about END OF SECRETS that we won’t find on the back cover.
The stakes in a thriller typically involve very obvious life-and-death scenarios: a psychopath killer, a terrorist, a loose nuclear bomb, that sort of thing. And those sorts of stakes are present in END OF SECRETS as Kera, the main protagonist confronts powerful people who have killed to protect the secrets she’s trying to uncover. But as a writer and, frankly, as a real live human living in our modern world, I’m interested in other stakes as well. Things like privacy and the digital footprints we are all creating every day. Things like the cultural tension between art and entertainment, or between news and entertainment, and how we ought value such things. So the characters in END OF SECRETS face these modern-day conflicts too, just as all of us will have to grapple with them well beyond the foreseeable future. As a reader, you don’t need to scratch your head over all this stuff to enjoy the book. But it’s there, and I hope it thrills a few readers in its own way.
The level of technical expertise in your book is impressive. Tell us about your research.
I’m not a tech-inclined person. But I’ve become so interested in the implications of new technologies—especially ones pertaining to privacy, surveillance, and espionage—that I overcame my indifference to the nitty-gritty details of computing and networks in order to be able to tell this story in a credible way. To do that, I had to lean heavily on research. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It was a pretty intense crash course, but I got to design the curriculum and I got hooked on the thrill of learning about this world, which is both impressive and scary. Most of my new knowledge came from nonfiction books about the CIA and NSA, cyberespionage, hacking, surveillance, and data-mining. I listened to audiobooks of these while out on long runs. That’s how I find the time to do most of my research. To compliment that in-depth research, I never hesitate to use Google and Wikipedia to track down a few specific details to round out a description of something. In the end, I think my layman’s origins helped me express all the technological details in a way that non-techie readers like me still find accessible.
In SHADOW KNIGHT’S MATE, Jay Brandon offers a tightly structured and thematically layered conspiracy thriller that pulls out all the stops. Jack Driscoll is a member of The Circle, a covert organization ostensibly protecting US interests for two centuries. When the organization is attacked by an unknown antagonist, what appear to be doubles of Jack are sighted in Europe. While he tries to combat the subversions occurring around him he meets Arden, a girl whose motivations remain as shadowy as the narrative.
Tell us about SHADOW KNIGHT’S MATE.
In the book, Jack Driscoll is a young member of a very secretive, loosely organized group known as The Circle, which has operated behind the scenes for generations, protecting American interests. They work through subtlety and suggestion. As Jack says, “None of our members has held elected office in more than two hundred years. Not even a local school board. Actually, two of our members were First Ladies of the United States, but not the two you would think. Very few of us were CEOs, either. More commonly we were the assistant to the Human Resources Director. These were the people to whom presidents and CEOs turn in times of crisis. Mycroft Holmes, not Sherlock.”
But in SHADOW, they seem to have been discovered, as several of their members are attacked at the same time America is. And someone is targeting Jack directly, with impersonators of him appearing around Europe. Jack goes to Europe to investigate, taking with him (against his will) Arden, the youngest and most accomplished member of The Circle. Even in this group of geniuses and world-class networkers, she scares people with her abilities to read people and make connections. And Jack isn’t sure of her intentions.
By John Darrin
Alex Shaw is a bit of an enigma to me. On the one hand, he’s created a fictional ex-SAS-now-MI6 operative and, Shaw acknowledges, “Aidan Snow is me if I’d been in the SAS.” On the other hand, he’s written a stageplay about a time-traveling, double-glazing salesman (a replacement window salesman, for all of us non-Brits) and he’d like to see Ricky Gervais in the lead role.
On the third hand (?), he used to teach drama at an exclusive private school in Ukraine. Isn’t drama a way of life for teenagers? Why would he have to teach that? And did the parents of his students know of the fictional worlds he was creating in his head? I guess they were impressed by all the letters that followed his name. B.A., for one, but I’ve got one of those so it can’t be too impressive. I don’t even know what a “P.G.C.E.” is, so I’m impressed there. I wonder if the Queen gave that to him with a sword blade on his shoulder—he lives in England, after all.
But he also sometimes lives in Kyiv (more on that, later) and has spent a good deal of time travelling Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East for some small company called Siemens.
“My scariest experience was being smuggled through a Hezbollah checkpoint in Lebanon. My oddest evening was drinking whiskey at the British Embassy in Saudi Arabia with some very high-up Saudi officials.”
His current literary work is COLD BLACK, and it is the second full-length adventure of Aidan Snow. Here is how Alex describes it:
Abduction…Assassination…Al-Qaeda…An International Conspiracy… Former SAS Trooper turned MI6 operative, Aidan Snow is caught in a maelstrom involving East, West and Middle East, endangering the world’s supply of oil.
What’s better than watching Homeland on TV? Reading Andrew Kaplan’s page-turner about Homeland’s cast of characters. His latest novel, HOMELAND: SAUL’S GAME, takes us into the story before the television show begins.
In this adventure, CIA operations officer Carrie Mathison is leading a mission to capture a master terrorist when she discovers a deadly threat inside the Agency. But unlike the first book of the series, HOMELAND: CARRIE’S RUN, this one doesn’t just focus on Carrie. This time Saul, Brody, Dar Adal, and, in fact all the key characters put in an appearance. And their back stories are fleshed out in more detail.
“The books explore the past of these characters,” Kaplan says, “including the childhood, the things that make these characters who they are. For the Brody character in particular, that was essential.”
That’s because, while many U.S. soldiers have been taken captive, none has turned into a jihadi traitor. So one wonders what made Brody, a native-born United States Marine, turn. It was never adequately explained in the show, so Kaplan knew he had to deal with it if Brody was to be a character in his book. Early on, when Kaplan first got involved with Homeland, he asked for the show “Bible.” That’s what series showrunners use to establish character biographies, characteristics, season arcs, and so on. He was stunned to learn they didn’t have one (they do now).
“In other words, thirty seconds before the Homeland pilot begins and Carrie walks into that prison in Iraq, she didn’t exist,” Kaplan says. “For my first Homeland book, I wound up creating everything in her past before that moment. In the new book, HOMELAND: SAUL’S GAME, I do the same for the other key characters, especially Saul and Brody.”
Military action dominates today’s thrillers, but diplomacy can generate even more tension and suspense. If you need proof, read Todd Moss’s hyper-realistic and high-powered debut thriller, THE GOLDEN HOUR.
The novel revolves around a sudden crisis in Africa. A coup d’état in Mali overthrows the president and the State Department is counting on its new experimental Crisis Reaction Unit to handle the situation. The unit is the brainchild of Judd Ryker, who recently left academia to test his theories in the real world of international diplomacy.
Ryker is not the typical gun-wielding thriller hero. He’s a soft-spoken professor who finds being chief of the Crisis Reaction Unit a major challenge.
“Judd’s much more comfortable with numbers than people,” Moss says. “This, he finds, is a problem for a diplomat. Judd quickly learns that he must build personal relationships to figure out what’s going on and to do his job.”
Of course, the challenges mount quickly. A senator’s daughter is kidnapped in Timbuktu. A violent new Jihadist cell rises in the desert. The American embassy is at risk of a terrorist attack. And Ryker has just one-hundred hours to set it all right again.
Parts of the story may sound fantastic, but Moss knows whereof he speaks. A former top American diplomat in West Africa, he draws on his real-world experiences to reveal both the exhilaration and the frustrations of modern-day diplomacy. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sent him in to negotiate after the 2008 coup d’état in Mauritania. Today he works at a Washington DC think-tank and still deals with men very much like his fictional Ryker—successful and brilliant analysts who, in his words, “could work on their people skills.”
By Kay Kendall
Debut author Matt Cook combines piracy on the high seas, electromagnetic pulse technology, and terrorist ambitions to form a dazzling thriller. Thrown together in a dramatic stew of a book are one kidnapped Stanford professor, his beautiful and brilliant daughter, a dashing doctoral candidate, a Special Forces veteran, a mysterious mastermind, and two Russians—one good, one bad. Despite his youth, this author really knows how to cook, bringing all these ingredients to a rolling boil.
An assured debut, SABOTAGE is due from Forge Books on September 9. Here is a classic thriller in the fullest sense of the word. The terrorist mastermind will sell the stolen EMP technology to the highest bidder, even if it means placing horrible capability into dangerous hands. Worldwide powers are in contention, knowing their dominance is threatened.
Matt wrote the first draft of his thriller at age nineteen, and the week before its launch, he will turn twenty-five. While an undergraduate at Stanford University, he published two nonfiction books, one of them award-winning, and co-founded California Common Sense—a non-profit dedicated to government transparency and data-drive policy analysis. In addition, as a close-up magician and former member of the Magic Castle Junior Society, Matt has performed in Hollywood and across the globe. He delights in weaving exotic locales into his stories, drawing from more than eighty countries he has visited. For his charitable work supporting the American soldier, he was honored with the President’s Call to Service Award. He is now midway through his doctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania as a National Science Foundation Fellow.
Matt graciously agreed to answer a few questions for THE BIG THRILL.
Your debut thriller SABOTAGE launches on September 9. How did you manage to bring it to fruition, maintain your graduate career in economics, write an award-winning non-fiction book, and perform as a close-up magician? In short, how do you juggle and keep so many different balls in the air at once?
Life is a smorgasbord. Some people say, “I’ll just have the shrimp.” Not me. I want to try everything from the fondue to the hams to the cupcakes. One of the challenges of coming back from a smorgasbord is balancing the plate. You have to layer everything so it all fits. Life is the same way. Sometimes it means being stubborn, keeping at a project when there’s something else you’d rather be doing. It also means staying organized—keeping to-do lists, writing down your thoughts before sleep. That helps you avoid those moments of sheer panic when you think you’re going to drop the plate. I’m also fortunate to be working with talented individuals and teams, including my entertainment attorney, literary agent, publicists, and publisher—and for grad school, my professors and research partner.
Arthur Kerns comes to the business of writing novels after a long career in the FBI and intelligence community.
So was he a spy?
“No,” Kerns said, “and if I had been I’d say no. I worked counterespionage, so you could say I was in the counter-spy business. A similar, but separate discipline.”
His latest novel, THE AFRICAN CONTRACT, is set in many countries where Kerns has worked, including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, and South Africa.
Kerns said Africa has always pulled at him.
“Years ago, Ernest Hemingway and Jack Kerouac were pop stars,” Kerns said. “I wanted to join in on the African safaris, Spanish bullfights, and of course go ‘on the road.’ When I tried writing I found I didn’t have the skills or the ideas to write a good story.
“Many years later, after a lot of hard work attending classes, conferences, workshops, and supportive writing groups, I was able to land an agent by presenting her with a respectable manuscript. Patience and perseverance won the day. Like playing football in high school, when I was a lineman, a grunt whose bruises numbed after the fourth play but kept alert enough to break through the line and nail that glamour-boy quarterback—you know the one who dated the good-looking cheerleaders. That was almost as satisfying as being told a publisher accepted my novel.”
In his latest novel, the action for hero Hayden Stone starts with a mysterious boxcar sitting, locked, in the wilds of Namibia—with people who would kill to obtain it or die if what’s inside gets put to use. Hayden travels through slums, mansions, and the shadowy world of black ops, unable to trust any of the players.
Jason Bourne has a new identity.
That is, he’s asked to take on an all-new persona in his newest adventure, ROBERT LUDLUM’S (TM) THE BOURNE ASCENDANCY by Eric Van Lustbader.
In this book, as the jacket copy notes, Bourne is asked to become a Blacksmith, “someone hired by high-level government ministers fearful of assassination attempts.”
As part of the job, Bourne is given the impossible task of impersonating the official he’s defending at a political summit meeting in Qatar. The impersonation works well, until gunmen storm the summit and kill all on the scene. Everyone except Bourne, who quickly discovers it’s not the minister who’s the target.
It’s Bourne himself.
Kidnapped, he’s transported to the underground bunker of an infamous terrorist named El Ghadan (“Tomorrow”).
El Ghadan holds Soraya Moore—former co-director of Treadstone, and a close friend to Bourne—as his captive along with her two year old daughter.
Meanwhile, the President of the United States is in the midst of brokering a historic peace treaty between the Israelis and the Palestinians—an event that El Ghadan is desperate to prevent. He demands that Bourne carry out a special mission: kill the President and if Bourne refuses, Soraya and her daughter will die. Bourne must make a monstrous choice: save Soraya and her daughter, or save the President of the United States.
It’s not a change of pace, which is still frenetic, but it is a bit of a new direction for the former intelligence operative Bourne from the black ops program Treadstone. He was introduced in Ludlum’s THE BOURNE IDENTITY (1980) as an amnesiac whose formidable skills emerge in a fight and flight for survival.
By George Ebey
A new twist on history awaits in Graeme Shimmin’s new novel, A KILL IN THE MORNING.
The year is 1955 and something is very wrong with the world. It is fourteen years since Churchill died and the World War II ended. In occupied Europe, Britain fights a cold war against a nuclear-armed Nazi Germany.
In Berlin the Gestapo is on the trail of a beautiful young resistance fighter, and the head of the SS is plotting to dispose of an ailing Adolf Hitler and restart the war against Britain and her empire. Meanwhile, in a secret bunker hidden deep beneath the German countryside, scientists are experimenting with a force far beyond their understanding.
Into this arena steps a nameless British assassin, on the run from a sinister cabal within his own government, and planning a private war against the Nazis. And now the fate of the world rests on a single kill in the morning.
THE BIG THRILL recently got in touch with Graeme to discuss his process and what he has in store for us next.
A KILL IN THE MORNING re-imagines the World War II / Cold War eras and gives us a world where the Nazi regime still exists in the 1950s. What excited you about this idea and how does it differ from other stories that may have tried a similar approach?
What excited me about writing A KILL IN THE MORNING, was an image I’d had in my head for years of hanger doors grinding open to reveal an amazing super-weapon that I could never quite see. I also had inspiration from all the classic spy novels I’d read. When I started writing, all those ideas just seemed to flood out. About half-way through, I suddenly realized how it had to end and that it was really going to work. I sat back and just thought that “this is the story I was born to write.” It was an amazing moment. I felt like a sculptor, chipping away and finding the sculpture was already there inside the marble.
SIN is quite a departure from your other books. Tell us why you decided to go in another direction?
Interesting question. My previous books, the TRILOGY OF THE CHOSEN and CORNERSTONE, all part of the Phantom Squad Series have been categorized as Inspirational Thrillers. To be honest, I never set out to place faith in my writing. It just happened. My writing is very organic and that’s what developed. Once it did, it seemed right, so the inspiration / faith factor stayed. With SIN, I felt a different pull. I wanted to write a female protagonist who matched the story. At the center of SIN is the world of human trafficking—a gritty, dirty business that is rampant worldwide, including the United States. Sinclair O’Malley was the right protagonist for the series. She is bold with a take-no-prisoners attitude. Although she lacks a filter, her heart is in the right place. So, to answer your question, I wanted to match the tone of the character with the tone of the subject.
You mentioned wanting to write a female protagonist. As a male writer, what challenges did that bring?
At the beginning of the process, it seemed like it would be easy. I drew on the strong women I have known and the ones in my own life. With the help of Shannon Raab at Suspense Publishing, I soon found out it wasn’t quite so easy after all. She helped me tread that fine line between attitude and testosterone. Make no mistake, Sin is all female. She just fires on all cylinders at all times. She was tough to reign in, but I think with the help of Shannon and others, I found that delicate balance. In the end, the readers will let me know.
By Arthur Kerns
When Diversion Books, Inc. published my debut novel, THE RIVIERA CONTRACT, the event signaled a milestone in my career, or should I say careers. After serving twenty-four years with the FBI I embarked on a twenty-year quest to have a novel of mine appear in print. While learning the craft of writing, I traveled to over sixty-five countries as a security consultant for US diplomatic establishments throughout the world. These travels are reflected in my novel, an espionage thriller set in France and the French Riviera.
Although writing for the high school newspaper was fun, I knew then fiction was my goal, but for a long time I really didn’t have anything to say. After college and three years in the Navy, I joined the FBI, spending most of my career in counterintelligence and counterterrorism. Following retirement from the FBI, foreign travel as a consultant opened my eyes to new worlds. Some countries I visited were off-limits to tourists and mainstream travelers. After work, in some exotic country, I’d record my impressions in a journal. Those journals have proven good resources for my current novel and especially its sequel, THE AFRICAN CONTRACT, both featuring the CIA operative, Hayden Stone, who combats international terrorists and occasionally romances beautiful women.
Chris Pavone, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author, is a man of intrigue. I suppose you could call him a renaissance man, although, man of intrigue does roll off the tongue nicely. He’s a New Yorker at heart, who attended Cornell and later worked for various publishing houses, at one, he even specialized in cookbooks. Before his journey into fiction, he wrote a small wine journal called THE WINE LOG. Chris then spent time with his wife and two kids in Luxemburg as an expat and used the time well, writing his blockbuster debut novel, THE EXPATS. In March, he releases his exciting follow-up, THE ACCIDENT. It’s a tale about a literary agent drawn into a complex web of betrayals over a mysterious manuscript detailing dangerous information that proves to be deadly.
Chris graciously agreed to answer a few questions for THE BIG THRILL
Tell us about THE ACCIDENT. We’re all curious (and excited!) to know what to expect as a follow-up to THE EXPATS.
A literary agent named Isabel Reed receives an anonymous manuscript, revealing dangerous secrets about a powerful man—and then people start dying. Isabel is drawn into a complex web of betrayals among media figures in New York, Washington, and Los Angeles, plus a couple of spies in Copenhagen (characters who appeared in THE EXPATS!) as well as the author in Zurich, with interrelated back stories in Paris, London, and a winding country road in upstate New York, long ago and late at night, which is the scene of the eponymous accident.
What made you pick up a pen and start writing?
I’ve always wanted to, and at age forty I had an unusual experience that (a) I thought would make the basis for a decent book, and (b) gave me the time to write. So, it was time to give it a try.
By Ethan Cross
Brad Thor named Marc Cameron “one of the hottest new authors in the thriller genre” and called his new book “an engrossing, non-stop tale of action, deceit and international intrigue.” With TIME OF ATTACK—the fourth book in the Jericho Quinn series—Marc Cameron has raised the stakes yet again for Quinn and the world.
Fear Is Contagious
In a small town in Utah, people are contracting a horrific disease with alarming plague-like symptoms. The CDC quarantines the area but outbreaks are already being reported in China, Japan, and England. Evidence suggests this is not a new strain of superbug—but an act of war, an orchestrated deployment of unstoppable terror…
Special agent Jericho Quinn, hell-bent on finding the sniper who attacked his family, steps into an even bigger, and deadlier, conspiracy: a secret cabal of elite assassins embedded throughout the globe. Infecting the very fabric of the free world.Exterminating targets with cold, silent precision. For Quinn, it’s as insidious as the virus that claims new victims each day—and he plans to wipe it off the face of the earth…
Tell us about TIME OF ATTACK in one line.
TIME OF ATTACK follows Jericho Quinn moments after STATE OF EMERGENCY ends, with the release of a deadly plague and the snap of a sniper’s trigger.
By Cathy Clamp
Ex–CIA station chief Mark Sava has settled into a new, easy life as a spy for hire. But then his girlfriend, Daria, discovers the private intelligence agency employing Sava is connected to a strange plot involving a mysterious orphan that somehow has started a black ops war between the CIA, foreign governments and Naval Intelligence. Discovering who is behind the plot will take every skill Mark has and force him to ask favors of people he’d rather not be indebted to. In this third installment of the Mark Sava Spy Thriller series, author Dan Mayfield has once again featured the political tensions and gripping stakes that BOOKLIST has called “skillfully handled.” THE BIG THRILL sat down with the author to talk about his newest thriller and what’s in store for the future:
This is the third book in the series, set in a part of the world few Americans have heard about. What inspired you to have the character assigned to the Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan region?
The long, sensible answer would require me to offer up caffeine injections as a courtesy to readers, so here’s the somewhat-incomprehensible short version: an interest in history and international relations led me to Iran; Iran led me to Azerbaijan (they share a border and majority religion); and Azerbaijan led me to Kyrgyzstan (Azeri and Kyrgyz are both Turkic languages). That and I love to explore.
You seem to rip your plots right out of the newspaper headlines. How do you keep from getting too close to real events, while still keeping it realistic?
I don’t worry about getting too close to real events.
About eighteen months ago, at a lunch meeting with my publishers, and agent, David Headley, I was asked if I’d ever thought of writing a character to alternate with my main one, ex-MI5 officer, Harry Tate (RED STATION, TRACERS, RETRIBUTION, and DECEPTION, with the fifth, EXECUTION, on the boil).
“Of course I have – and could,” I said, fingers crossed beneath the table. Well, in these uncertain times, it pays to be positive. Besides, I like a challenge. I’d also written three books in the Inspector Lucas Rocco crime series set in France in the 1960s (DEATH ON THE MARAIS, DEATH ON THE RIVE NORD, and DEATH ON THE PONT NOIR published by Allison & Busby), and was into the fourth, DEATH AT THE CLOS DU LAC, so perhaps sensed it was time for a change.
The change became a desire to try something darker, with more edge, yet still with the up-to-the-minute themes that I’ve used in the Harry Tates.
Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne series about a secret agent who has lost his memory requires little introduction. This, the 11th installment, and 8th written by Eric Van Lustbader, continues the saga of one of the most popular and compelling characters in modern fiction.
Jason Bourne has escaped powerful governments, outsmarted countless assassins, and defeated terrorists’ plans for global chaos. But now, Bourne wants only one thing: retribution.
Bourne’s friend Eli Yadin, head of Mossad, learns that Ouyang Jidan, a senior member of China’s Politburo, and a major Mexican drug lord may have been trafficking in something far more deadly than drugs. Bourne agrees to investigate, but only because he has a personal agenda: Ouyang Jidan is the man who ordered Rebeka–one of the only people Bourne has ever truly cared about–murdered. Bourne is determined to avenge her death, but in the process he becomes enmeshed in a monstrous world-wide scheme involving the Chinese, Mexicans, and Russians.
I had the good luck to ask Eric Van Lustbader questions as I devoured THE BOURNE RETRIBUTION.
Following the death of Rebeka, Bourne drifts and struggles to excise the images of her murder from his mind. But when Mossad leader, Yadin, approaches him with a task, he finds his opportunity to fulfill a brutal vendetta: to kill the man who ordered the assassination of his love.
After last year’s harrowing experience with a gruesome serial killer in Key West, rock-star-turned-PI Nicholas Colt has decided to hang up his investigator hat and settle into a nice quiet life of teaching guitar and spending time with his family. Or so he thinks…
Unfortunately, everything changes when an undercover Department of Defense investigator named Diana Dawkins comes crashing into his life. Diana tells Colt he has been recruited into The Circle, a super-secret organization charged with protecting the country from a variety of threats, foreign and domestic. Diana needs Colt’s help, and she’s willing to pay him well for it.
Suddenly, Colt finds himself a key player in an elaborate effort to defend the president of the United States against an assassination attempt. His hush-hush missions for Diana and The Circle are becoming increasingly surreal—and deadly. Colt realizes he could lose everything, even the wife he loves. Will he be able to stop the terrorists in time? And at what cost?
Valerie Plame, whose own career as an undercover CIA agent was effectively ended when her cover was blown by several members of the George W. Bush Administration in 2003, has collaborated with seasoned suspense author Sarah Lovett (the Sarah Strange series) to write the first of a series of thrillers focusing on a female CIA agent, Vanessa Pierson.
The first book in the series is BLOWBACK, which has earned blurbs like this from David Baldacci: “Plame and Lovett have hit a home run in their fiction debut.”
James Patterson said, “Want to read a thriller about the real CIA and how it actually works? Then dive into this corker from former agent Valerie Plame and Sarah Lovett.”
Plame, herself, who was the subject of the film FAIR GAME (Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, 2010) has said, “In some respects this is a reflection of my younger self when I served in the CIA, with all the faults that hindered me and all the attributes that helped my career. Vanessa is not a fantasy—her world and actions are real, with all their attendant complications and consequences.”
The 24 questions that follow deal with Plame’s life and the life of her fictional alter ego, Vanessa Pierson, in the suspenseful debut thriller novel BLOWBACK:
Alan Jacobson knows a thing or two about evil.
He writes thrillers about bad people doing very bad things–but he also spent two decades working with the FBI, Scotland Yard and the U.S. military. So he’s seen the worst things humans do to each other, up close, and knows how hard it can be to catch the smartest predators.
Jacobson also knows how to write stories. Five of his books have been optioned by Hollywood.
NO WAY OUT is the latest novel featuring FBI profiler Karen Vail, who’s sent to London after an art gallery is bombed and a mysterious 440-year-old manuscript surfaces.
“Jacobson has written the thriller of the year—fast plot, incredible character development, and chilling atmosphere. No Way Out has everything you can ask for in a thriller.” — THE STRAND MAGAZINE
How has your hero, Karen Vail, suffered and changed from the first novel to NO WAY OUT?
In life, when we face challenges and obstacles, and overcome them—or succumb to them—we grow as individuals. Good writing mirrors this fact of life and results in characters with greater depth: they learn things about themselves, they gain wisdom, perspective, experience. And they use those new found sensibilities to tackle future challenges that cut across their paths in future novels.
Andrew Kaplan is best known as the author of two spy thriller book series: SCORPION and HOMELAND. A former journalist, war correspondent and businessman, he covered events around the world and served in both the U.S. Army and the Israeli Army. The CIA has tried on a number of occasions to recruit him and he has consulted with think tanks that advise governments. He is the author of eight international bestselling novels, including DRAGONFIRE and WAR OF THE RAVEN in addition to the SCORPION and HOMELAND series and his works have been translated into twenty languages. Recently three of Amazon’s top 20 thrillers were his SCORPION books. His film-writing career includes the James Bond classic, GOLDENEYE. He is the author of the highly anticipated, HOMELAND: CARRIE’S RUN, an original prequel novel based on the award-winning hit television series, HOMELAND and is currently working on the next book in the HOMELAND series.
HOMELAND: CARRIE’S RUN
In this original prequel novel to Showtime’s award-winning hit series HOMELAND–“the best thriller on American television” (NEW YORK POST)–CIA Intelligence Officer Carrie Mathison is sent on a mission to Beirut and Iraq that will radically transform the course of her career and her life.
By Dan Levy
When Leo J. Maloney was finally able to tell his family that he’d spent his professional life in Black Ops for the United States, you can imagine how they might have reacted. “My family didn’t know about what I did until very late. When I first told my daughter, she just looked at me like I had nine heads.”
Maloney explained that sharing his stories with others gave his daughter what she needed, “Last September, when I had my book launch for TERMINATION ORDERS (Maloney’s debut novel), I read a chapter from it, then there was a Q&A session. People were asking me things that she never asked me. All of a sudden, she put her sunglasses on. Then, every once in a while, she’d take her hand and bring it up under her eye.
“When it was done, I walked up to her, ‘Are you okay?’ She said, ‘You know Dad, I had no idea the sacrifices you made.’ That was really a touching moment between her and I.”
In his first novel, Maloney introduced us to Dan Morgan a Black Operative that this very much Maloney, maybe with fewer grey hairs. In Maloney’s second novel, which launched August 27, 2013, Dan Morgan is back in SILENT ASSASSIN. This time, Morgan is pulled in when every other option has failed. His mission is to find Nikolai Novokoff, a ruthless KGB officer turned international arms dealer. He will locate the weapons of mass destruction the rogue terrorist is threatening to unleash on the world, and terminate with extreme prejudice.
For love of country or love of a woman?
These are two of the choices FBI analyst/undercover specialist Jake Bernstein faces when he goes undercover for the Joint Counter Terrorism Center. His mission in Silicon Valley: Identify the masterminds behind what the JCTC chief believes is a coordinated terrorist plot that may involve five American cities. Posing as a disaffected biotech scientist, Jake is recruited and tested in a harsh, brutal way. But slowly, the pieces of a terrorist plot begin to emerge. To prove his loyalty to radical Islam, he must first pass the ultimate test of total obedience. It is a test so despicable and shocking, Jake doubts he can follow through with it. But if he cannot do this, the undercover operation will fail. Thousands of lives are at stake!
As the cell lies in wait for the final call to carry out mass murder, Jake must make a fateful choice. Do his duty and stop the terrorist plot? Or save the woman he loves? Is Jake clever enough to do both?
Australian author, James Phelan, gives us another dose of heart-pounding, ripped-from-the-headlines action in BLOOD OIL featuring the investigative journalist and ex-special operations navy diver, Lachlan Fox.
Oil prices are rocketing. Terror attacks have destabilized the global economy. The White House believes the Nigerian oil fields are the key to safeguarding America’s future…but someone else sees them as an opportunity to increase their own power.
Traveling from New York to Nigeria, investigative journalist and ex-navy operative Lachlan Fox is hunting the story. He’s seen combat action before but this time it’s personal. Wrestling with demons that push him right to the edge and leave him exposed like never before, will Fox uncover the truth in time? Or will his quest for revenge see him go too far?
This June, Alex Koves, a cunning and lethal U.S. Intelligence asset, will be unleashed on the world. This is what happens when a journalist with three decades of experience conceives a thriller. He births a ripped from the headlines page turner. And if events play out as they do in the novel, nothing will ever be the same.
Lurking in the shadows, away from any government oversight, a secret partnership has been formed between an Israeli spymaster pulling the strings of the most efficient killing machine the Mossad has to offer and an exclusive billionaire boys club that wants to dictate the New World Order. In their pocket is a powerful U.S. senator who aspires to the presidency. Success means vast wealth and increased power, and they’ll stop at nothing to succeed.
CIA operative Nora Mossa is trained to kill when the situation calls for it. She’s also capable of disappearing into thin air. Being efficient, deadly, and beautiful, however, won’t be enough to protect her after her mentor Erica Janway is assassinated in her Maryland home. With everyone in the Agency suspect, Nora turns to the only person capable of keeping her alive while she uncovers the truth behind Janway’s demise—her former lover and ex–CIA agent Alex Koves. That is, if he will even speak to her.
With danger lurking in every corner of the globe, Koves and Nora must stay alive long enough to piece together the clues to a deadly plot capable of killing thousands in the Middle East. And the clock is ticking….
Andrew Kaplan is a former journalist and war correspondent covering events around the world. He served in both the U.S. Army and in the Israeli Army during the Six Day War and worked in military intelligence. The CIA has tried on several occasions to recruit him. He has consulted with groups that advise governments and as president of a technical communications company worked on a contract basis with a number of leading U.S. corporations and government agencies. He is the author of several international best-selling novels including HOUR OF THE ASSASSINS, DRAGONFIRE, and WAR OF THE RAVEN, though he is best-known as author of the Scorpion series. His latest novel is the stunning SCORPION DECEPTION, coming this June from Harper Collins.
Who is Scorpion?
Scorpion is an American ex-CIA agent turned independent intelligence contractor. He is hired for missions – often the most difficult – by organizations like the CIA. His code-name, “Scorpion,” is derived from an incident in his childhood in Arabia. Although there’s plenty of action, unlike the Mitch Rapp/Scott Horvath types, Scorpion is a loner whose missions have more to do with real international espionage than the slam-bang stuff. Agencies have to think twice before they hire him because he’s a man with his own moral code; a knife that can cut both ways.
Tell us about SCORPION DECEPTION.
A brutal hit squad attacks the U.S. embassy in Switzerland (written before Benghazi), stealing highly classified CIA files and leaving no one alive. There are no clues to their identity. Congressional leaders demand military action and the CIA turns to Scorpion. But Scorpion is unwilling to get involved . . . until he learns his name is at the top of the stolen list. The story rockets from the refugee camps of Africa and across Europe to Tehran’s ruling inner circles. With war hanging in the balance, Scorpion must survive a manhunt while trying to outwit a brilliant spymaster known only as “the Gardener”.
By Brian Knight
Thom Carlyle had it all: the rowing trophies, the Oxbridge education, the glamorous girlfriend. But on a glorious summer evening in Harvard Square, Thom is murdered—pushed from the top of a Harvard bell tower. The New England Chronicle sends a beautiful, feisty, but troubled reporter named Alexandra James to investigate. It is the story of a lifetime. But it is not what it seems. Alex’s reporting takes her abroad, from the cobbled courtyards of Cambridge, England…to the inside of a network of nuclear terrorists…to the corridors of the CIA…and finally, to the terrorists’ target itself.
Mary Louise Kelly’s debut novel, ANONYMOUS SOURCES, is available soon, and she’s graciously agreed to tell us about it.
Tell us a bit about your new release, ANONYMOUS SOURCES.
It’s a spy thriller, complete with assassins, double-agents and terrorists. But it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are scenes that some of my early readers say had them doubled over in laughter.
My protagonist, Alexandra James, really carries the story. She’s a fascinating mix of sass and vulnerability. André Breton once described one of Frida Kahlo’s paintings as “a ribbon around a bomb.” That pretty much sums up Alex James.
How much research goes into a story like ANONYMOUS SOURCES?
A surprising amount, actually. Given that it’s fiction, you would think you could just make everything up.
But – perhaps because of my training as a reporter – I was obsessed with getting the details right. I visited every setting described in the book personally, from the Eliot House bell tower at Harvard, to the room where they serve tea at Claridge’s Hotel, to CIA headquarters.
By Gary Kriss
What follows reveals the “who done it” for Joseph Badal’s THE LONE WOLF AGENDA, so you have a few seconds to click on to another piece. Starting to count: three . . . two . . . one. OK, that’s it. You had your chance. Here goes.
Whitey did it.
No, not Whitey Bulger. Geez! We’re talking Joseph Badal here, not Dennis Lehane! And, THE LONE WOLF AGENDA is the fourth book in Badal’s Danforth Saga, a series featuring Bob Danforth, his wife Liz and their son, Michael. This latest installment pairs Bob, who’s been called out of retirement by The Company—his old company—with Michael, a senior DELTA Force officer, and pits them against an OPEC-supported terrorist group allied with a Mexican drug cartel.
“This story is an epic adventure that will chill readers as they discover that nothing, no matter how diabolical, is impossible,” Badal predicts. And he knows what he’s talking about, having lived his words, although in his case diabolical refers to product not person.
For thirty eight of his sixty eight years, Badal was a prominent and highly successful figure in the banking and financial services industries. But he had another calling, one that was instilled in him while growing up in Philadelphia.
“Storytelling was an integral part of growing up, where much of family history was passed down from grandparents and parents to children,” he’ recalls. “Our parents told us stories that were high on adventure and heroism, and each of us, in turn, was the hero of a story our parents related. I loved hearing these stories, being a part of them, reading adventure stories and now writing them.”
What if Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian FSB officer allegedly murdered by polonium 210 poisoning in London in 2006 on the orders of Moscow, wasn’t the intended – or only target?
As with all my books, whether this, the Harry Tate spy series, the Inspector Lucas Rocco police series (set in France in the 1960s), or the Gavin & Palmer series set in London, I like to use real events as a jumping-off point for the storyline.
For EXECUTION, I had picked up on recently renewed demands by Litvinenko’s family for a detailed investigation into his murder, and proof that it was the FSB and Moscow involved. I found myself thinking about what might have happened if it turned out that Litvinenko wasn’t the only victim to be targeted.