Khaled Talib is a former international journalist. In his new thriller, INCOGNITO, he takes us on an international journey to find a kidnapped pope.
Any interesting stories about your research for INCOGNITO? How many popes did you have to kidnap to get it right?
From what I’ve read about popes through the centuries, several have suffered violent ends. In the initial phase, I thought of writing a murder mystery. It would’ve been easier to kill the pope. Then I started to get more ambitious. I decided to take him alive. My editor told me it’s impossible because the Pope’s security is tight. So I showed him how it could be done. I actually created a step-by-step plan. My editor then agreed with my theory. It’s not an idea I plucked from the air, but something I while researching the Pope’s movements. So I began writing the story. I think it sounds believable.
They say truth is stranger than fiction. As a former journalist, would you agree?
Yes, I totally agree. Of course, if you tell me vampires exist, I’ll laugh out loud. But there are some things that we can’t deny. We have all witnessed miracles and things happening that are out of the ordinary. Common knowledge says if a man falls off a building, he dies. Yet we have seen how some have survived. In some cases, they get up and walk away. How did that happen?
Jame DiBiasio is an American journalist and author who moved to Hong Kong twenty years ago and has remained in Asia ever since.
His second novel, BLOODY PARADISE, is set in Thailand’s island of Koh Samui, a vacation paradise. His first novel, Gaijin Cowgirl, was located in Japan, and his non-fiction book, The Story of Angkor, focused on the famous monuments and temples near Siem Reap, Cambodia.
We interviewed him by email from his home in Hong Kong in January.
Why this setting for BLOODY PARADISE?
Because Koh Samui is fantastic. It’s a beautiful island. Thai food is delicious. You can rent holiday homes cheaply. Thai culture is welcoming, but also different to what many foreigners are used to. Writers devote a lot of creative energy toward imagining their settings, so why not pick a setting I enjoy? That way it’ll be fun for readers who want to come with me.
I have never lived in Thailand, but visit it regularly.
Belfast 1988: A man is found dead, killed with a bolt from a crossbow in front of his house. This is no hunting accident. But uncovering who is responsible for the murder will take Detective Sean Duffy down his most dangerous road yet, a road that leads to a lonely clearing on a high bog where three masked gunmen will force Duffy to dig his own grave.
Hunted by forces unknown, threatened by Internal Affairs, and with his relationship on the rocks, Duffy will need all his wits to get out of this investigation in one piece.
Author Adrian McKinty recently took some time away from writing to discuss his latest thriller, POLICE AT THE STATION AND THEY DON’T LOOK FRIENDLY with The Big Thrill:
When Tokyo Detective Kenji Nakamura’s phone rings with the news that his mother’s death ten years ago wasn’t an accident, his world begins to unravel. New evidence links her to a young woman, whose body was found dolled up like a movie star and tossed in the gutter like an abandoned plaything. With the help of part-time English translator Yumi Hata, Kenji begins to piece together what really happened the night his mother died. But the closer he gets to discovering who killed the Painted Doll, the more he fears that the truth will destroy all that’s left of
his fractured family.
Author Jonelle Patrick recently discussed her latest novel with The Big Thrill:
How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
Not many books are able to step behind the tourist curtain in Japan. This book gives readers a chance to meet the kind of characters they couldn’t get to know without learning the language, and pulls them inside the eye-popping subcultures that are usually hidden from outsiders.
By Sheila Lowe
In the sixth book of the Forensic Handwriting mysteries, what should have been a routine afternoon on the witness stand for handwriting expert Claudia Rose turns into a shocking assault that leaves her traumatized. Then her getaway to the UK lands her in trouble with the FBI and New Scotland Yard—Detective Joel Jovanic’s homicide case has followed Claudia to London where she finds herself unexpectedly allied with the chief suspect.
I’m not a good traveler. More to the point, I’m a hermit who is happiest home alone behind my computer keyboard. But last year, when I learned that my younger son was getting married in Germany, of course I had to leave my hermitude and make the trip. Ben, who was a rock star, had met Tuba, a stunning (inside and out) Turkish-German woman and decided to settle down. Or, as he put it, “trade in his leather pants for a polo shirt.”
Coincidentally, I’d received an invitation to lecture two days after the wedding at a meeting of the British Institute of Graphologists. I’ve lived in the US for most of my life, but I’m British-born and consider England home (my many political posts on Facebook notwithstanding, I still carry a green card). I decided to set some of my book there and happily accepted. Thus, the wedding trip became a research trip, too (not to mention a tax write-off.)
Set in the ancient town of Bad Homburg, the wedding could not have been more perfect. Maybe it was the influence of the five-hundred year-old homes and the castle, but even my ex-husband and I got along for four whole days, a record. I’d flown to Germany with my older son, Erik, and his girlfriend. They stayed on, while I made the one-hour flight from Frankfurt to London—my very first solo trip overseas. This hermit was inordinately pleased with herself.
At Heathrow, I boarded the Express train to Paddington, where I discovered that the hotel room I had booked at the meeting venue was the size of a walk-in closet. The headboard and footboard of the twin bed touched each side wall and the bathroom could have worked in a cruise ship cabin (a small one.) But when I woke on Sunday morning in that tiny bed, childhood memories flooding over me, I couldn’t stop grinning and saying, “I’m in London!”
Writing a Military Thriller with Potent Authenticity
Something interesting happened at Thrillerfest 2012. A spark turned into a flame, and that flame now blazes atop Amazon’s bestseller list.
What specifically happened at said conference? The get-together for the debut-author class. As Jeff Wilson puts it: “Brian and I met in 2012, when we were both debut authors. Honestly, I’m not all that comfortable in those kinds of social situations, and so I had made an effort to seek out other military veterans, thinking these would be men and women I would have things in common with.”
It looks like Jeff Wilson and Brian Andrews did find that common ground. September 1st is the publication date for their book written together, TIER ONE, winning praise from both high-ranking naval commanders and bestselling authors like Jon Land, who says, “It is one of those rare thrillers that combine blood-curdling action sequences with the steep emotional price paid by modern-day warriors behind all the gunfire.”
I caught up with this hot writing duo to post some questions for The Big Thrill. (Full disclosure: I was in the 2012 class too, and can attest to the Andrews & Wilson chemical reaction.)
Let’s start with this. What did each of you think of your future co-author the day you met at Thrillerfest?
WILSON: Brian and I hit it off immediately. We were both Navy, we had daughters the same age, we both were all about family. We swapped sea stories and became great friends that first night, emailing each other frequently after we left NYC. Our wives became fast friends, and now our daughters are pen pals and video chat. The families have really become close.
ANDREWS: Jeff has a wry sense of humor and tons of charisma, plus an incredible military and medical pedigree. He’s the real deal. On top of that, throw in the fact that our professional interests and family values are pretty much identical, and our friendship was inevitable.
Crime Fiction Ripped From the Headlines
In 1987, Inspector Allan Banks made his first appearance in the crime novel Gallows View. Canadian author Peter Robinson won glowing reviews for his novel, which followed Banks’ move from London to the Yorkshire town of Eastvale. This summer marks the 23rd outing for the tenacious Banks, in the novel WHEN THE MUSIC’S OVER. In between the two publications, Robinson’s series has earned a loyal following, consistently good reviews, and awards ranging from the Anthony and the Barry to the Edgar and CWA’s Dagger in the Library.
WHEN THE MUSIC’S OVER is set in Eastvale, as were its predecessors. Robinson, who was born in Leeds, draws on his childhood memories of Yorkshire, in part, to create the fictional town. Robinson has said: “Eastvale is modelled on North Yorkshire towns such as Ripon and Richmond, with cobbled market squares, rather than the kind with one main high street, like Northallerton or Thirsk. I had to make it much larger than those towns, of course, otherwise who would believe there could be that many murders? I’ve probably killed the population of the Yorkshire Dales three times over as it is!”
His new novel is a taut and well constructed mystery that, while following a murder investigation, also fearlessly plunges into controversies raging in England in recent years. Robinson, a Toronto resident who teaches writing, discusses his work with The Big Thrill.
In WHEN THE MUSIC’S OVER, you write about not one but two highly polarizing subjects: the connection between young, poor English women and immigrant sex trafficking, and the past sexual crimes of a celebrity. What motivated you to incorporate both? Do you see a thematic connection?
Yes. I first thought it might be two different novels and then I realized that the stories shared a theme. In both cases, underage girls are exploited and abused by men, and those individuals and institutions supposed to help them—also mostly men—fail to do so for a variety of reasons, different in each case. Running the two stories together also allowed me to compare and contrast sexual attitudes of the late 1960s with those of today.
How important is it to bring social inequality and injustices and pressures into crime fiction, and not just write a murder-mystery procedural?
It depends on the writer. For many, the straightforward murder-mystery procedural is enough. I’ve written some books like that, myself, and I’m proud of them. But one of the things that drew me to crime fiction in the first place—through Chandler, Ross Macdonald, Simenon and Sjöwall and Wahloo—was that it is also an excellent way to highlight society’s failings and injustices.
By J. H. Bográn
PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: the end of the line. Lawless, drug-soaked, forgotten—it’s where bad journalists go to die. For once-great war photographer Will Keller, that’s kind of a mission statement: he spends his days floating from one score to the next, taking any job that pays; his nights are a haze of sex, drugs, booze, and brawling. But Will’s spiral toward oblivion is interrupted by Kara Saito, a beautiful young woman who shows up and begs Will to help find her sister, June, who disappeared during a stint as an intern at the local paper. Cambo offers a hundred kinds of trouble a young reporter could get mixed up in—but June came with secrets and terrors of her own. Cambodia is not the only place she’s traveled, or the worst, and the more Will learns about her past, the more danger they both are in . . .
When you read the above description, you immediately feel transported to an eerie state of mind, I know I do. That’s part of the fun of reading noir thrillers; the inner conflict is usually more relevant than any bullets flying. It is also compelling. You must find out what happens next. Welcome to the world of debut author Nick Seeley. This is CAMBODIA NOIR.
Was there a particular incident in your life as a journalist that triggered CAMBODIA NOIR?
In 2003, I worked briefly in Cambodia as an intern at a daily newspaper—much like June does in the novel. Wild, sometimes terrifying things were happening all around me: drug busts, political murders, a disputed election. The country and its people had faced unimaginable tragedy, and were still being exploited by global markets, corrupt politicians, sex tourists, and more. Being in the middle of all that was doing strange things to my head, and I wanted to try and capture the feelings evoked. This book was my way to do that. It’s a fantasy, for which I created a set of fictional incidents that roughly parallel some of the things I saw happen at the time. My author’s note at the end of the novel explains a bit more of this.
By H.B. Moore
At the age of 14, I met the Coptic pope, Patriarch Shenouda III, who lived in exile in Alexandria. The Coptic Church is the largest Christian religion in the Middle East, and according to tradition, the church was established by St. Mark in the first century, taking on a different position over Christology from that of the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. I’d traveled to Egypt with my father on a business trip, and for an American teenager from Utah, this trip was the beginning of my fascination with ancient Egypt.
As an elementary school student, I’d lived in Maadi, Egypt, but those memories had well faded by my teen years, limited to over-crowded trains and the dark soulful eyes that stared at our family wherever we went. Arriving in the hot, dusty, noisy city of Cairo in 1985, I couldn’t help but be transported back in time to a place where royal barges floated the Nile and henna was used to decorate a woman’s body.
Despite the crowds of tourists, the traffic congestion, and the air filled with exhaust and dust, there was something magical and timeless about the land of Egypt. Once we drove past the inner city and stopped at the Coptic Museum in Old Cairo, the landscape shifted. Stately palms shaded the walkways of the museum, and within the walls, legends surrounded each artifact display, some still waiting to be told.
Something changes inside of you when you’re faced with stories thousands of years old. Curiosity blossoms and questions tumble out faster than can ever be answered. With a Biblical scholar for a father, not only did I have a close resource to ask all my questions, but he could also direct me to the better channels of research and opinion. And as we know, there are many differing opinions in the eclectic world of scholarship.
By J. H. Bográn
In THE CAPITALIST, St. John Larrimer’s fraudulent financial investment is revealed and he flees to his luxurious Caribbean retreat. The money of course has been safely laundered in real estate and off-shore accounts. “It’s how capitalism works,” says Larrimer. It’s Darwin, with cash. Unfortunately for him, Louis Morgon, a defrocked CIA operative, is one of Larrimer’s victims. Louis didn’t lose much, but Pauline, his lover, did, and worse, her brother, who was responsible for their investments, took his own life. For Louis Morgon, injustice on this order is an itch that has to be scratched. And he’s not above a little fraud of his own to bring Larrimer down.
Besides writing novels, the author has made a living as cartoonist for The New Yorker. In this novel one can perceive the distilled and elegant sarcasm that you find in good cartoons, except this time he’s using the words instead of the image.
The Big Thrill had the chance to catch up with Peter Steiner, who gently answers our questions.
Where did the idea for THE CAPITALIST come from?
I wanted to write about the excess and corruption of contemporary American capitalism, so I invented a thieving Wall Street capitalist and allowed the story to evolve from there. I knew that Louis Morgon was going to somehow come into the story, but I didn’t know how until he appeared on the scene.
What can you tell us about the protagonist?
Morgon is a 75-year-old defrocked CIA agent who lives in France. He has been in all of my books. This is his fifth appearance. He lives in France and, though he tries his best to stay out of trouble, it always seems to find him.
Without giving away the ending, what can you share with us about the antagonist?
St. John Larrimer is a smart and ruthless Yale graduate who goes into finance for two reasons: it is a world of slippery ethics and the shortest way to great wealth. Thanks to his misdeeds on Wall Street, his world intersects with Louis’s.
What kind of research did you have to do for this book?
I did a lot of reading beforehand about Wall Street and the banking sector. I also read up on Pakistan, which is where the story begins, on Russia, etc. In fact, given the way I write (without a plan or plot beforehand) and the instant availability of information on the Internet, I researched as the need arose,
Is there a book video trailer?
Nope, but I have attached a copy of a cartoon I did to promote the book.
Speaking of cartoons, your most famous piece with the legend “In the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog,” has become a staple of Internet humor. It originally represented your dislike of the web back then, but 23 years later, has your relationship with it improved at all?
I’m a regular user of the Internet, so I’m not a complete netphobe. But I think it’s an extremely dangerous and eventually injurious thing. First off, I find it to be a colossal time waster. More importantly, I think it is seriously and permanently damaging our humanity. Facebook, Twitter and other so-called social media seem anti-social to me. They appeal to both our voyeuristic and exhibitionistic tendencies in dangerous ways. Truth, factuality, civility and other civilizing characteristics of our selves are being eroded and severely damaged by the Internet. The Internet encourages sociopathy and isolation. And we are becoming stupider as a people. Other than that, I think it’s wonderful.
What are you currently working on?
I’m well into another Louis Morgon novel. And I’m working on getting my new graphic novel called An Atheist in Heaven out, probably as a limited edition art book.
What is the one question about your books that you feel has never been asked?
I’ve never been asked why my books are so un-thrilling if they’re supposedly thrillers? There are no car chases, little violence, and no gunplay. One shot is fired in THE CAPITALIST. In fact it’s true: I can’t write conventional thrillers. I’m too interested in writing about real life.
In my books you often know who done it. The story is about how he’s going to get what’s coming to him. The thrill comes (I hope) from the journey, not from violence, sadism, explosions, or other programmed mayhem. I am interested in human characters with all their inherent contradictions and complexities. No one is all good or evil; everyone is a real and confusing mix. They behave in surprising and unpredictable ways, especially when their lives get difficult. And the outcomes of their interactions are almost never possible to predict. Add to that the fact that I’m a humorist in some sense, or at least an ironist, and that I’m optimistic about the human spirit, if not the world, then . . . well, there’s the answer to the never-asked question.
Peter Steiner is a Cincinnati native. He did a stint in the Army, followed by graduate school. He then got a PhD. and taught German at Dickinson College. He left teaching to become an artist, painting and drawing cartoons. In 1979 he began selling cartoons to The New Yorker. For the next 25 years he made his living mainly as a cartoonist, but also as a painter. In the 1990s he started writing novels. Although the first one went unpublished, the second one—A French Country Murder–was published by Saint Martin’s Press in 2003. Since then other books followed. THE CAPITALIST is his fifth novel.
To learn more about Peter, please visit his website.
A Deadly Search for the Truth
By R. G. Belsky
Jeff Abbott left readers eager for more when he ended Inside Man, his last Sam Capra thriller, with a shocking cliffhanger. Sam–a betrayed ex-CIA agent who now owns bars around the world while battling international crime –discovered that the brother he thought was dead is somehow still alive. Now we get the answers about that–and a lot more–in THE FIRST ORDER, the fifth book in the Sam Capra series.
“I like when readers are impatient for the next book; that means I’m doing my job,” Abbott said when I asked him about using the final few pages of his previous book to set up the story for THE FIRST ORDER. “I think you always want to leave them wanting more. There, I wanted to set up very clearly—after Sam has dealt with a hugely dysfunctional family in Inside Man—to make his own family seem even more troubled.”
Like all of the Sam Capra books, the search for the truth about his brother Danny puts Sam in the middle of a fascinating, complex plot with extraordinary ramifications for both the entire world and Sam himself.
“THE FIRST ORDER can be summed up in one sentence: Sam has to stop his brother from assassinating the Russian president during a visit to America,” Abbott said. “He has to use all his skills to both stop his brother and save his brother. It’s a thriller, it’s a novel about family and all the choices Sam has made in his life since his brother was presumed murdered. His brother’s death defined who Sam was: CIA agent and then later, an avenger of wrongs and a helper of the helpless. Now all those choices he made are called into question. Danny let Sam think he was dead for years—what kind of brother does that and why? This is the fifth novel in the series, and so much changes for Sam in this one.”
The premise for the best-selling Sam Capra series – which has won numerous awards and received much acclaim – is a devastating series of life changing events that Abbott set up very quickly in ADRENALINE, the first book. Sam loses his wife, his child, his CIA career and his freedom in the opening pages – which move at such a breakneck pace that it totally sucks you in from the start.
Brendan Rielly graduated from college with a major in Government and Legal Studies—but as is the case in his family of storytellers, his heart led him to fiction writing at Notre Dame and his first novel, AN UNBEATEN MAN.
This month Rielly answers a few questions for The Big Thrill about what it was like to write his first thriller, and what comes next for the characters, and for the author.
Tell us about AN UNBEATEN MAN.
Michael McKeon is a microbiologist at Bowdoin College who discovers a microbe that consumes oil and turns it into natural gas. Because of the potential to unlock difficult-to-tap oil reserves or to clean up huge oil spills, this should be a breakthrough that defines a career, but instead, Michael’s life is ruined when The Global Group kidnaps his wife and adopted daughter to force him to weaponize the microbe and deploy it against Russia and Saudi Arabia, destroying their oil reserves and crippling those countries. Still haunted by the deaths of his parents and sister when he was young, Michael will do anything to save his wife and daughter, even if it means undermining the efforts of the United States, Russia, and Saudi Arabia to implement a Middle East Marshall Plan, unleashing global chaos.
A microbe that can destroy Russia’s and Saudi Arabia’s oil is an intriguing idea. What did you do to try to get the science as correct as possible?
A lot of research. I’m an attorney, not a scientist, but I never wanted to write a legal thriller. The idea of a microbe that could destroy oil jumped into my head and wouldn’t get out, so I began digging and found some lab research into a microbe that could consume oil in the Canadian tar sands and release natural gas as a potentially cleaner way to develop that energy resource. The idea of weaponizing that development is, fortunately, just mine. I did a ton of research and worked with professors from Bowdoin College, the University of Southern Maine, and the Max Planck Institute in Germany. I think I may have worried the German professor because every time he would answer a question, he would caution me (and reassure himself): you know, you can’t really do this, right?
By Eyre Price
Douglas Corleone followed an unusual route to becoming an author of legal thrillers. Diving deeply into the wave of courtroom mysteries flooding bookstore shelves in the nineties, he was inspired to become a lawyer. Fiction morphed into fact and Corleone practiced criminal law until he edged toward burnout and took up the pen himself.
Now, with GONE COLD, his seventh novel between 2010 and 2015 and third in the Simon Fisk series, Corleone finds himself toiling just has hard but having much more fun, and doing it on the shores of Hawaii instead of pounding the heated pavement of New York City on his way to court. Along the way, he garnered the Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award and was a finalist for a Shamus.
With the latest Fisk just released, the previous one now out in paperback, and the first of his Paul Janson stories based on the Robert Ludlum character on the shelves, Corleone has his hands full. Fortunately, he found the time to sit down for a few minutes with The Big Thrill.
You started your career as a criminal defense lawyer in New York City. What inspired you to make the transition to fiction and what was that process like?
Ironically, the legal thrillers of the 1990s—especially those of John Grisham, Steve Martini, and John Lescroart—inspired me to become a criminal defense attorney in the first place. Once I began practicing law, I returned to those novels and realized they’re fairly silent on the day-to-day lives of criminal lawyers—and for good reason. Practicing criminal law (in New York City at least) generally entails a lot of crowded subway rides between boroughs and sitting around courtrooms for hours while you wait for your cases to be called. The other difference is that the clients in those novels are innocent, which isn’t usually the case in real life. The only novel that really comes close to what it’s like to practice criminal law in a big city is The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly. I think Michael Connelly’s being a non-lawyer was an asset to him in crafting Mickey Haller—he not only captured the routine but the weariness most of us feel after a few years (something lawyers who write fiction might not want their protagonist to admit in a novel). By the time I quit the law, I was already tired of practicing, so the process was liberating. Writing Kevin Corvelli was a blast. It was later—when I had to balance writing with the business of writing—when I started to miss the handshakes and retainer agreements, even the prison visits.
The Lost Concerto is the story of a widowed concert pianist who is swept up in a decades-old secret and a search across France for her missing godson.
A woman and her young son flee to a convent on a remote island off the Breton coast of France. In a seafarer’s chapel high on a cliff, a tragic death occurs. The terrified child vanishes into the mist. So begins The Lost Concerto, a compelling blend of suspense, mystery, political intrigue, humor and romance, with strong, fully-realized characters.
A personal note from Helaine:
I wrote the book that I wanted to read.
That meant writing about something I love – classical music. In The Lost Concerto, it is music that sets this story apart, music that tells Maggie’s story.
There was just one small problem… I can’t even find middle C on a piano. So that meant research. Hours and hours and hours of research. The good news is that one article on music led to missing music, and that article led to music lost during WW2, and – voila! – a plot was born.
By Eyre Price
International man of action, Dominic Grey, has fought cults and criminals all over the globe. In his next escapade, he takes on THE SHADOW CARTEL. We recently sat down with Dominic’s creator, Layton Green, and asked the world-traveler-turned-bestseller about his journey to the top of the bestseller list and where he plans to go from here.
You have a diverse background, from intern for the United Nations to ESL teacher in Central America, from tending bar in London to selling knives on the streets of Brixton. How have your varied experiences across the globe influenced your writing?
In an irreplaceable way. Some writers claim to write better from their imagination (though conscious imagination is of course influenced if not dictated by experience), and I believe it was Graham Greene who famously said he didn’t need to visit a place to write about it. Every writer’s journey is different, but for me, yes, my life’s experiences are such stuff as novels are made of.
You have a legal background, as well. How did your training in the law influence you as a writer?
I started writing novels while I was working at my first law firm (many would argue that I had already written plenty of fiction), and in the beginning, I had to retrain my writing style to be creative rather than dry and linear. But my legal training has helped me tremendously with plotting and research.
Robert Wilson’s adrenaline-laced background alone is enough to inspire his fiction: a night-long battle for life without painkillers, being held up at gun-point in Africa, facing a pride of lions, cycling to Spain and Portugal. He has, to a large extent, walked the walk so he can talk the talk.
Wilson, whose books have been translated in twenty-two countries, recently answered a few questions for The Big Thrill about his life and latest novel, YOU WILL NEVER FIND ME. Enjoy the narrative voice of this disciplined, prolific, and versatile writer whose kaleidoscopic experience and approach to the craft of writing will enthrall you.
Let’s start with a short introduction.
I’ve written thirteen novels including the Bruce Medway noir series set in West Africa and two Lisbon books with WW2 settings the first of which, A Small Death in Lisbon, won the CWA Gold Dagger in 1999 and the International Deutsche Krimi prize in 2003. I’ve written four psychological crime novels set in Seville, with the Spanish detective, Javier Falcón. Two of these books (The Blind Man of Seville and The Silent and the Damned) were filmed and broadcast on Sky Atlantic as “Falcón” in 2012. A film of the fourth Falcón book was released in Spain in 2014 under the title La Ignorancia de la Sangre Capital Punishment. The first novel in my latest series set in London and featuring kidnap consultant, Charles Boxer, was nominated for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger. This was followed by YOU WILL NEVER FIND ME in 2014 in the UK, and April 2015 in the U.S. The third book in the series, Stealing People, will be published in June 2015 in the UK and 2016 in the U.S.
By Jeremy Burns
It’s Americans’ favorite time of year: tax season. With a tax code at tens of thousands of pages and an entire industry built up around helping ordinary citizens figure out exactly how much they owe, paying income tax has been among our most maligned of patriotic duties for nearly a century.
But what if federal income tax is, in fact, illegal?
Such is the bold question at the heart of Steve Berry’s latest thriller, THE PATRIOT THREAT. Once again, series hero Cotton Malone undertakes a globetrotting adventure to uncover the truth behind an explosive historical secret.
The government of the United States draws ninety-one percent of its total revenue from personal and corporate income tax. The tax codes that allow the government to levy the tax are built upon the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, but what if that amendment was never properly ratified? And what if proof of that failure fell into enemy hands? THE PATRIOT THREAT offers just such a scenario, built—as with all Steve Berry adventures—upon real, but little-known historical facts. Discrepancies in the amendment’s wording and cryptic warnings from the Secretary of State who presided over the process in 1913 could point to as many as twelve states’ ratifications being void, nullifying the amendment, eliminating the government’s ability to collect income tax, and bankrupting the country in one fell swoop.
When an exiled member of the North Korean elite, Kim Yong Jin, stumbles across documents that could destroy the United States, he sees his opportunity to win back his place in power. And unlike most of characters throughout his career, Berry loosely based Kim after the real deposed heir to the North Korean throne—Kim Jong Il’s older brother and political exile, Kim Jong-nam. The fascinating real-life scenario leading to his exile gives the antagonist a plausible and strong motivation for his actions throughout the story. Lucky for America that Cotton Malone is on the same Mediterranean cruise as Kim. Backed by Magellan Billet agent Luke Daniels and director Stephanie Nelle, Malone must stay a step ahead of Kim and ferret out some hidden truths, long buried in the past.
Treasury agent Isabella Shafer is a new character helping out, potentially filling a void left by Cassiopeia Vitt (but not to worry, Berry says, Cassiopeia will return). Kim’s daughter—Hana Sun—is another character Berry says he enjoyed writing, a smart yet conflicted young woman who proves an interesting dynamic in the tale. Her presence also allowed Berry to examine the awful North Korean death camps, where 200,000 people are currently confined.
CITY OF BLOOD, Frederique Molay’s gripping thriller that held the French enthralled, is now set to work its magic across the spectrum of the English speaking world.
In the novel, which was recently translated into English, a major Parisian modern art event gets unexpected attention on live TV, causing Police Chief, Nico Sirsky, and his elite crime squad, to rush to the La Villette Park and Museum complex, built on the site of the French capital’s former slaughterhouses. Three decades after a tragic banquet, renowned artist Samuel Cassian is inaugurating the first archeological dig of modern art. Excavators uncover a skeleton in the presence of the international press.
Two questions smolder: could the bones be those of the artist’s own son, and does that death have anything to do with the current string of nightclub murders by the “Paris Butcher”?
The investigation takes Nico Sirsky and France’s top criminal investigation division from artists’ studios, to autopsy theaters and nightclubs in hopes of tracking down the murderer who threatens to turn the City of Lights into a City of Blood.
Writing has always been a passion for Molay, author of the award-winning international bestseller The 7th Woman. A laureate of Science Po, France’s prestigious Higher Institute of the Social Sciences, she began her career in politics and administration. She relinquished her position as Chief of Staff for the Deputy Mayor of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Paris, for election to the local government in Saône-et-Loire. She also spent her nights pursuing a passion for writing, nourished since she wrote her first novel at the age of eleven. After The 7th Woman took France by storm, Molay dedicated her life to writing and raising her three children. She has five books to her name, including three in the Paris Homicide series.
By George Ebey
New Zealand resident and author Sharlene Almond brings us INITIATED TO KILL, the first instalment in her new series that blends aspects of history with a modern day twist.
In this first outing, two men from different generations are initiated into a powerful organization that has sought control of the world and uses their power for destructive ends.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Sharlene to learn more about this series and her plans for the future.
Tell us a little about INITIATED TO KILL.
INITIATED TO KILL is the first in the Annabella Cordova series. All of the books in the series have a part-historical, part-present day focus.
In this story, Annabella Cordova quickly becomes embroiled in a conspiracy involving the university she studies at. When her roommate goes missing, it becomes very personal. Her past gradually unveils, as she is closer to this than she could have possibly imagined. A childhood accident causing permanent deafness enables Annabella to use her other senses to read facial and body language, and detecting lies in people, including suspects.
What first inspired you to write tales involving history and modern-day crime?
When I was younger, I had a little notebook in which I would jot down ideas of things one day I would like to write about.
By John A. Connell
There is a whole world—literally—of thrillers and mysteries being produced in non-English speaking countries, a rich tapestry of characters and stories, many of which, unfortunately, never make landfall on Anglophone shores. Great stories, no matter the genre, can transport you to other lands and offer worldviews of people from different cultures, to see an alternate vision of the world through very different eyes. Combine that with a passion for thrillers and mysteries, and, voila, you have all the ingredients for a truly compelling read. So when the opportunity came up to write about Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne’s thriller SHADOW RITUAL, I jumped at the chance.
Two savage murders set opposing forces on a deadly collision course that spans the European continent. One is a sinister occult society with Nazi roots on the cusp of discovering the final pieces of a puzzle that could reveal an ancient Freemason ritual that promises to unleash immense power. The other is crack police detective and high-ranking Freemason Antoine Marcas, who reluctantly joins fiery intelligence officer Jade Zewinski in a desperate chase to track down the ruthless assassins. To identify the perpetrators of an ever-widening spiral of violence, they, too, must unravel the secrets of the mysterious ritual, and in doing so they become the assassins’ next targets.
Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravennes live and write in France, and their thrillers, featuring Antoine Marcas, have been translated into seventeen languages and sold over two million copies worldwide. SHADOW RITUAL, the first book in a series of nine Marcas thrillers, has sold 250,000 copies, and is the first to be translated in English. Let’s hope there are more English translations of their Antoine Marcas series to come.
By George Ebey
Author Gigi Pandian’s latest book, QUICKSAND, gives us the third entry in her Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt series.
This time around, Jaya Jones finds herself on the wrong side of the law during an art heist at the Louvre. To redeem herself, she follows clues from an illuminated manuscript that lead from the cobblestone streets of Paris to the quicksand-surrounded fortress of Mont Saint-Michel. With the help of some interesting characters, Jaya delves into France’s colonial past in India to clear her name and catch a killer.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with Gigi to learn more about her and QUICKSAND.
Can you tell us a little about QUICKSAND and the series it’s set in?
QUICKSAND is the third book in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery series, but it stands alone, too. In each book in the series, history professor Jaya Jones solves a present-day crime linked to a historic treasure that has to do with India’s colonial history.
In QUICKSAND, Jaya has the best intentions but finds herself part of an art heist at the Louvre. She discovers that the theft is part of a much bigger treasure hunt that has led to murder, and to set things right she enlists the help of an ex-thief and a ninety-year-old French stage magician. The hunt takes them from Paris to Les Machines de l’île in Nantes to the ancient fortress of Mont Saint-Michel, where Jaya discovers hidden secrets of France’s colonial past. But a dangerous thief will do anything to silence Jaya before she can reveal what she knows.
The previous two books—Artifact and Pirate Vishnu—have been treasure hunts that led from San Francisco to the Highlands of Scotland and the southern tip of India, respectively.
By Dawn Ius
In his twenty-five years as a business executive and management consultant, Douglass Seaver has authored dozens of articles, guest editorials, and even a chapter in a marketing book. Now, Seaver adds a full-length novel to his already impressive publishing resume, with the debut of his international suspense, THE FOURTH RULE.
THE FOURTH RULE is the story of two brothers—one a missing Green Beret, the other, Matthew Grant, charged with keeping a secret. When the CIA approaches Grant to help solve the mystery of his brother’s disappearance, readers are taken on a twisting journey of suspense and intrigue, culminating in a high stakes gamble of life…and peace.
Here, Seaver talks about what inspired THE FOURTH RULE, his transition to fiction, and what he’s working on next.
Congrats on your debut, THE FOURTH RULE. It sounds fascinating. What was the inspiration for this story?
When I was fourteen, my dad told me a story about a man who rose every morning, got dressed, had breakfast with his family, and left for work. He rode the elevator down to the lobby, exited his apartment building, walked across the street to the local bakery, and bought a chocolate croissant. He returned to his building, went down to the basement, hid the white bakery bag with the croissant, and went on to work. At the end of the day, the man returned to his building, went to the basement, threw the bag and the chocolate croissant into the furnace, and then went up to his apartment and family.
Four decades later, I remembered the story, and it led me to think about keeping secrets. I became fascinated by the impact secrets might have on those who keep them. That curiosity became the backbone of the plot for my novel.
Susan Froetschel’s 2013 novel Fear of Beauty and its just-released sequel, ALLURE OF DECEIT, mark a strong departure from her previous mysteries, leaving more conventional settings behind and immersing readers in the daily life of a village in Afghanistan. Fear of Beauty, the story of an illiterate Afghani woman who must circumvent the rules of her society to learn the truth about her young son’s death, received numerous honors, including the Youth Literature Award from the Middle East Outreach Council, a best mystery-suspense award from the Military Writers Society of America, and a nomination for the Mary Higgins Clark Award.
ALLURE OF DECEIT continues the story of these Afghan characters. After a tech entrepreneur dies in a terrorist attack, organizations in developing countries scramble to grab the vast fortune that will be distributed through his posthumously-created foundation. The farming village of Laashekoh, Afghanistan, is chosen by a health team promoting reproductive rights as a recipient of the foundation’s largesse—although the local people feel no need for this outside interference. When a group of aid workers visiting the village goes missing, foul play is suspected.
Fraud, murder, and culture clashes fuel the conflict, but Froetschel describes ALLURE OF DECEIT as, above all, “a family saga” centered on the husband and wife who appear in both novels.
Would you tell us more about ALLURE OF DECEIT and its characters? Do many of the characters from Fear of Beauty make return appearances?
Fear of Beauty is the story of an illiterate woman, Sofi, who is desperate to learn the truth about her son’s death, and ALLURE OF DECEIT is the story of her husband, Parsaa, and his efforts to protect the village of Laashekoh, isolated and rural with a micro-climate ideal for farming, from change. Parsaa is a village leader who is relieved that U.S. troops have left Afghanistan, but must still contend with charities that try to deliver unwanted assistance. His son, Siddiq, who has a mind of his own, balks at leaving the village to attend school, and questions a village practice of shaming entire families for crimes committed by any one family member. A director of a huge charitable foundation manipulates funding and programs to figure out why her son was killed. Parsaa secretly visits a childhood friend for help understanding the persistence of aid workers, but the friend has ulterior motives.
David Swatling’s debut thriller CALVIN’S HEAD, set in Amsterdam, is suspenseful, atmospheric, violent, and yet playful. Literary while very much accessible. Using rotating points of view, the story is about what happens when a young homeless man with a dog attempts the riskiest gambit imaginable: trying to manipulate a calculating, conscienceless killer.
After a career of acting followed by journalism, Swatling, who has lived in Amsterdam since the 1980s, branches out into fiction with impressive results. He sold his novel to Bold Stroke Books.
You grew up in a small town. How did you land in New York City?
As a kid I dreamed a Disney agent would discover me mowing the lawn and whisk me away to Hollywood to be the next Huckleberry Finn. That never happened. But when I got to Syracuse University to study theater, I had no intention of remaining in rural upstate New York. My new destination: the bright lights on Broadway. That never happened either. I did play the butler in an Off-Broadway hit, The Passion of Dracula.
Did anything in your acting career help you later on with your storyteller craft?
Absolutely—everything from theater history to acting class! It’s all about story, whether it’s Shakespeare or Sam Shepard. From classics you learn about structure, pacing, conflict, climax, all the elements to keep an audience on the edge of their seats. As an actor you get inside a character’s head, create his back story, figure out how he moves, how he thinks. The playwright provides dialogue but the rest is up to you and your imagination. I think that’s why many thriller authors have a theater background.
By E. A. Aymar
I almost missed the deadline for this article and it’s all Barry Lancet’s damn fault. I got so absorbed in his second thriller, TOKYO KILL, that I ended up reading it slower than I usually do, savoring each line, observing how expertly and subtly the plot twists and complications were built. Those who are familiar with Lancet’s JAPANTOWN, which was a Barry Award finalist for Best First Novel and optioned for television by J. J. Abrams and Warner Bros., will be excited to catch up with Jim Brodie’s newest adventure, which takes place largely in Japan and pays homage to that country’s beautiful and mysterious customs and society.
These customs are introduced to the reader both through Brodie’s interactions and personal knowledge, as well as through his side career as an art collector. The two cases he’s been involved with have both involved relics related to Japan’s past, and the country’s history is revealed to the reader as Brodie begins to unravel the mysteries behind the homicides that end up on his doorstep.
In addition to his writing, Barry Lancet has worked in publishing. He resides in Tokyo, and was gracious enough to answer some questions about his work (the Russian spy story is especially fascinating):
Your debut novel JAPANTOWN won four “best” book citations, is a finalist for a Barry Award, and has been optioned for TV by J. J. Abrams. Do you feel any pressure for the next installment in the series?
No, I’ve been too busy. JAPANTOWN reprinted three times before publication, and a fourth was scheduled the week the book came out. All the interest generated a lot of interviews and talks so, ironically, I had no time to think about the second- or third-book jitters when it came time to write them. I just jumped right into stories. I already had several threads for the books in mind, and so it was a smooth transition.
TOKYO KILL begins with a Japanese proverb, The reverse side also has a reverse side. What does that mean to the story?
The quote is true of the Jim Brodie books and life in Japan in general. Think of it in terms of a coin. You look at a coin, and you think, “Okay, the coin’s on heads.” Something happens and the coin is now on the reverse side, tails. But then something else happens, the coin’s face changes again, but it is neither heads nor tails. It’s something else entirely. Does the coin have three sides? What’s going on?
By Jeremy Burns
Ridley Pearson has dozens of published novels under his belt, including international thrillers that span continents, conspiracy-laden crime thrillers, and even adventures set behind the scenes at Disney World. With his latest novel, the third installment of his Risk Agent Series, Pearson takes readers into the high-stakes world of art theft set against the equally fascinating backdrop of Istanbul. The author sat down with THE BIG THRILL to give readers a glimpse of the excitement to come.
Tell us a little about yourself.
First and foremost, I’m a dad and husband. Marcelle and I have two daughters, who are seventeen and fifteen, and a young man who came late to our extended family, a son from Kenya, who’s twenty-one. I’ve been a storyteller for most of my life, including time spent as a musician and screenwriter. I’ve been incredibly fortunate and often lucky in my publishing life. I have forty-eight published novels behind me, and I hope a good deal more in front.
Tell us about your new thriller, THE RED ROOM.
THE RED ROOM is the third novel in an espionage series that features two protagonists (a challenging concept). The John Knox and Grace Chu books are more character-driven than my procedural crime novels, but have the same focus on fast pace and high stakes. THE RED ROOM is set in Istanbul and involves the sale of “gray market” art.
By Ian Walkley
They say it helps to write what you know. Michael Niemann—a Ph.D and Adjunct Professor of International Studies at Southern Oregon University—has the right background to offer us a taut, authentic and intricate thriller of Africa that will satisfy fans of Wilbur Smith and Gerald Seymour.
In LEGITIMATE BUSINESS, protagonist Valentin Vermeulen, a Belgian investigator for the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services, is tasked with a routine audit of the UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur when a UN policewoman is killed. Her best friend claims she was targeted because she complained about shoddy armored personnel carriers (APC). Vermeulen’s investigation leads him to a gunrunning scheme operated by a British military contractor with more at stake than a few APCs with bad starters. The civil war in Darfur is about to turn much deadlier unless Vermeulen can prevent a cargo of stolen missiles from reaching its destination.
Michael graciously agreed to answer some questions for THE BIG THRILL.
Why did you make your protagonist, Valentin Vermeulen, a UN investigator? Do you have a background in the UN?
Once I decided to pursue writing fiction, I wanted to write thrillers and mysteries that were international in scope. John le Carré is probably my strongest influence in this regard. His novel THE CONSTANT GARDENER is, in my opinion, the finest example of such writing. Finding the right protagonist was one of the biggest obstacles. I didn’t want to create yet another intelligence agent, who, by definition, has to follow particular national loyalties—probably a reflection of my hybrid background, a German who’s lived in the U.S. for over thirty years. That led me to the UN. I came across a news story about an investigation of Pakistani peacekeepers. That introduced me to the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). I dug up every bit of information I could find and the character of Valentin Vermeulen began to take shape. OIOS investigators don’t carry weapons, have no powers of arrest, nor are they allowed to use force. But they have a lot of latitude in their investigations, as long as they are UN related. I try to exploit that contradiction as much as possible.
Who does the U.S. government call upon when a mission requires perfect stealth, execution, and discretion? Meet the newest recruits to the expanding Sigma Force universe—former Army Ranger Tucker Wayne and his stalwart companion, Kane, a military working dog of exceptional abilities — in:
THE KILL SWITCH
The mission seems simple enough: extract a pharmaceutical magnate from Russian soil, a volatile man who holds the secret to a deadly bioweapon. But nothing is as it appears to be. A conspiracy of world-shattering scope unravels as Tucker and Kane struggle to keep one move ahead of their deadly enemies.
From the frozen steppes of Russia to the sun-blasted mountains of South Africa and Namibia, a biological threat millions of years in the making strikes out at the heart of America. All that stands in the way from a global apocalypse: one man and his dog. But can even Tucker and Kane thwart an ecological menace out of the ancient past to save the world’s future?
By Tom Wilde
One of the first people who read my novel THE BLOOD OF ALEXANDER thought that the story really shows my love of history.
She was dead wrong.
It wasn’t love of the subject that drove me to write it, quite the contrary: It was my frustration with of all of the impenetrable mysteries that abound throughout human history. All those things we have lost, forgotten, or just plain destroyed that sparks my imagination while simultaneously vexing me and robbing me of sleep.
Plato’s Atlantis, was it real? What about the City of El Dorado? What became of the Lost Roman Legion? Or the Amber Room? Or the Roanoke Colony? Genghis Khan wanted to insure that his tomb remained undiscovered, and so far, he’s pulled that one off.
Whatever happened to Alexander the Great?
In October 1943, a U.S. destroyer sailed out of Philadelphia and supposedly vanished, the result of a Navy experiment with electromagnetic radiation. The story was considered a hoax—but now Juan Cabrillo and his Oregon colleagues aren’t so sure.
There is talk of a new weapon soon to be auctioned, something very dangerous to America’s interests, and the rumors link it to the great inventor Nikola Tesla, who was working with the Navy when he died in 1943. Was he responsible for the experiment? Are his notes in the hands of enemies? As Cabrillo races to find the truth, he discovers there is even more at stake than he could have imagined—but by the time he realizes it, he may already be too late.