By Basil Sands
DiAnn Mills’s titles have won two Christy Awards, been shortlisted for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol Awards, and appeared on the Association for Christian Retail and Evangelical Christian Publishers Association bestseller lists. She’s a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, and co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and the Blue Ridge Novelist Retreat. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.
Mills’s latest release, LONG WALK HOME, centers on a kidnapping in South Sudan that brings three very different characters together: an Arab Christian pilot who runs supply flights for a humanitarian relief organization; an American doctor who has spent years practicing in Sudan; and a colonel with the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army. When the doctor’s young assistant is abducted, the three work together to plan an unlikely rescue, only to find themselves tested in ways they never anticipated.
Mills took some time from her pre-release schedule to talk with The Big Thrill about her own experiences in South Sudan and offer some advice for new writers.
If you’ve been looking for crime fiction with a global twist, you’ll want to follow Valentin Vermeulen, the UN investigator featured in NO RIGHT WAY, the latest international suspense novel from Michael Niemann.
This thrilling story is set in 2015 when Syrian refugees, fleeing their own civil war, were pouring into Turkey. The United Nations Office for Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) sends Valentin Vermeulen to Turkey to ensure that aid funds sent by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees are used correctly. What he finds is that millions of dollars are unaccounted for.
Valentin is well suited for this kind of investigation. He’s a lawyer driven by a strong sense of justice, something that goes back to his teen years when his father lost his farm near the North Sea. Valentin’s knack for numbers has made him the go-to guy for financial crimes in the OIOS which investigates fraud in UN operations around the world. And as the author says, he likes his beer—unless he’s working.
“There is a single-minded stubbornness to him that can rub people the wrong way,” Niemann says. “It led to his divorce and his estrangement from his daughter that lasted a few years until he made amends. Readers will experience Valentin as a hero in that he doggedly pursues the bad guys and usually achieves his goal. But he doesn’t see himself as a hero. He’s got a job to do and he does it. At times he’s frustrated, even bitter, but he doesn’t strut his stuff.”
By K. L. Romo
No author mixes life in Greece with suspense like Jeffrey Siger. From the Parthenon in Athens to the party life of the mega-wealthy on the island of Mykonos, Siger immerses readers in all things Greek.
In his newest police procedural, THE MYKONOS MOB, Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis and his number two, Yianni Kouros of the Special Crimes Unit become entangled in ruthless mob warfare as they investigate the murder of a retired police colonel who specialized in security shakedowns on the wrong side of the law.
Andreas and Yianni leave Athens for the party island of Mykonos to investigate the slaying of Colonel Aktipis. As they piece together facts, they realize that the island’s dark criminal elements are at the heart of the assassination. But which of the powerful crime bosses? After escaping a hit man’s attempt to murder them, their investigation intensifies as they shake up the island’s most powerful players.
When Yianni falls for an American ex-pat named Toni, a piano-bar performer whose day job is tracking down stolen property for wealthy tourists, the investigation becomes even more complicated. Toni and Andreas’s wife Lila vow to help a young girl escape a life of prostitution at the hands of the son of Angelos Karavakis, the island’s premier crime boss. Not only must Andreas and Yianni protect themselves, but the safety of Toni and Lila come to the forefront.
Can Andreas and Yianni infiltrate “the world of the night” to find the muscle behind the growing number of murders? And what will happen if the power of the Mykonos mob families plummets into chaos?
Natalie March is a successful surgeon enjoying a busy life in Washington DC. As her demanding career has left little time for friends or romance, her deepest relationship is with her mother, Vera March, a Russian immigrant and MS patient confined to a rehab center. Vera is still haunted by the fact that her Ukrainian parents were sent to the gulag, Stalin’s notorious network of labor camps, when she was just a baby. All her life she has presumed that they perished there along with millions of other Russian citizens. Natalie would do anything to heal her mother’s psychic pain: it’s the one wound that she, a doctor, cannot mend.
When a young Russian dancer comes to Natalie’s office claiming to be her cousin, and providing details about her family that no stranger could know, Natalie must face a surprising truth: her grandmother, Katarina Melnikova, is still very much alive. Natalie is thrilled to think that her Russian relatives are reaching out after so many years. In fact, her cousin has a darker motive for making contact. Suggesting that her family is in grave danger from Putin’s government, she pleads for Natalie’s help to defect, and Natalie soon finds herself caught in a web of shocking family secrets that will pit her against Russian security forces and even elements within her own government.
How far will Natalie go to find Katarina M. and satisfy her mother’s deepest wish?
Masterfully plotted and beautifully written, FINDING KATARINA M. takes the reader on an extraordinary journey across Siberia—to reindeer herding camps, Russian prisons, Sakha villages, and parties with endless vodka toasts—while it explores what it means to be loyal to one’s family, one’s country, and ultimately to oneself.
Acclaimed author Elisabeth Elo spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing her latest thriller, FINDING KATARINA M.:
Max Anger is a man on the edge. A former fighter in an elite band of special-ops soldiers in Sweden, Anger is haunted by battle scars, a childhood spent in the Stockholm archipelago, and his own mysterious family past. Now behind a desk at Vektor, a think tank conducting research on Russia, he’s met his match—and fallen in love—with fierce fellow operative Pashie Kovalenko. Like all of Vektor, she’s set her sights on the tenuous future of her country.
When Pashie goes missing in Saint Petersburg, Anger rushes headlong into a volatile Russia, where a new president is about to be elected in the midst of a technological revolution. At the movement’s heart is a start-up Pashie had been investigating, one surrounded by rumors of organized crime and corruption. But the truth is more shocking than Anger could have ever expected.
Now time is running out for Pashie. Racing through a storm of violence and deception, Anger gets ever closer to a sensational secret—and to the Russian madman with dreams of restoring one of the cruelest regimes in the history of the world.
The Big Thrill caught up with Max Anger creator, Martin Österdahl, to discuss his latest thriller, ASK NO MERCY:
In THE SECOND LAW, Lynn Dayton Thriller #3, TriCoast Energy executive Lynn Dayton is visiting the company’s San Francisco refinery when it comes under attack. Saddened by the fiery deaths of several workers, she traces the explosion to software malfunctions and contacts cybersecurity chief Kanak Singh to track it back to the source.
Lynn is still reeling when a TriCoast lease bidding manager is killed in New Orleans, the seeming motive the theft of his computer containing billion-dollar secret offshore bid plans. Then her longtime mentor and good friend is gunned down in front of her in a Louisiana swamp. Lynn races against time to uncover a complex plot that stretches from murder in Vienna to a natural gas terminal attack in the Baltic to a major Caribbean oil installation off U.S. shores, all due to a high-stakes government takeover bid fronted by a mysterious group called the Second Law. Who are these people and worse, who is the mole inside TriCoast feeding them so much deadly information? Unless she can find out, thousands more are scheduled to die.
Award-winning author L. A. Starks sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss the third installment of her Lynn Dayton thriller series, THE SECOND LAW:
By George Ebey
John Wayne Falbey brings us international thrills in his latest work, A DEADLIER BREED.
As the story unfolds, Islamic terrorists have moved five nuclear weapons to a point just over the border in Mexico with a plan to detonate them in major American cities within days.
To avoid the widespread panic that public knowledge of the situation would cause, the newly-elected president of the United Sates turns to a secretive, dysfunctional paramilitary group known as Sleeping Dogs.
Their leader, Brendan Whelan, has a marital crisis on his hands, and a traitor within the administration is leaking vital security information. Compounding the threat, a group of unique killers has been recruited for the purpose of eliminating the Dogs. Time is critical and Whelan and the Sleeping Dogs face their most dangerous challenge yet.
The Big Thrill reached out to Falbey to learn more about this exciting new thriller.
Many years later, classical pianist Maggie O’Shea is preparing her return to the world of music. Instead, a nightmare of a haunting rhapsody and hundreds of roses from a deranged stalker propel her into a world of terror. Forces drive her to revisit the mystery of her mother’s death, her father’s startling disappearance, and a terrible secret from World War II. Maggie finds herself on a collision course with a brutal, disfigured killer who threatens those she holds dear—an aging pianist with a long-buried secret, a haunted cellist, a charismatic Maestro, and the crusty retired colonel she has come to love.
Chord by chord, Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody becomes the heart of this story of profound loss, courage and love. Music tells our stories . . .
The Big Thrill caught up with DARK RHAPSODY author Helaine Mario to discuss her latest thriller:
In 2001, Kabul is suddenly a place of possibility as people fling off years of repressive Taliban rule. This hopeful chaos brings together American aid worker Liv Stoellner and Farida Basra, an educated Pakistani woman still adjusting to her arranged marriage to Gul, the son of an Afghan strongman whose family spent years of exile in Pakistan before returning to Kabul.
Both Liv and her husband take positions at an NGO that helps Afghan women recover from the Taliban years. They see the move as a reboot—Martin for his moribund academic career, Liv for their marriage. But for Farida and Gul, the move to Kabul is fraught, severing all ties with Farida’s family and her former world, and forcing Gul to confront a chapter in his life he’s desperately tried to erase.
The two women, brought together by Farida’s work as an interpreter, form a nascent friendship based on their growing mutual love for Afghanistan, though Liv remains unaware that Farida is reporting information about the Americans’ activities to Gul’s family, who have ties to the black market.
As the bond between Farida and Liv deepens, war-scarred Kabul acts in different ways upon them, as well as their husbands. SILENT HEARTS is an absorbing, complex portrayal of two very different but equally resilient women caught in the conflict of a war that will test them in ways they never imagined.
Award-winning journalist, Gwen Florio, recently spoke with The Big Thrill about her latest novel, SILENT HEARTS:
Eight months after confronting the Pendulum killer, John Wallace is losing himself in a dangerous warzone in a misguided attempt at penance for the deaths that he believes he caused. But an assassination attempt leads Wallace to realize that he has once again been targeted for death. This time, Wallace is prepared and, tracking down his would-be assassin, he discovers a link to his nemesis, Pendulum.
That link is the missing piece of a puzzle that has tormented FBI Agent Christine Ash ever since they confronted Pendulum, but with no Bureau support she has been unable to pursue her case. Wallace’s proof puts her back on the trail, but it also exposes them both to terrible danger.
Confronted by a powerful, hidden enemy, Ash and Wallace must overcome impossible odds if they are to avert a dangerous challenge to the networked world that threatens to destroy our entire way of life.
Author, screenwriter and filmmaker Adam Hamdy took time out of his busy schedule to discuss his latest thriller, FREEFALL:
Europe, 1940: Posing as a friar, a British operative talks his way into a Belgian monastery just before Nazi art thieves plan to whisk everything of value back to Berlin. No thief, that night he adds an old leather Bible to the monastery’s library and then escapes.
London, 2017: A construction worker discovers a skeletal arm bone with a rusty handcuff attached to the wrist, all that remains of a courier who died in a V-2 rocket attack.
The woman who will put these two disparate events together—and understand the looming tragedy she must hurry to prevent—is Russian historian and former Soviet chess champion Larissa Mendelova Klimt, “Lara the Bookworm” to her friends.
Lara will learn the significance of six musty Dictaphone cylinders recorded after D-Day by Noel Coward—in real life a British agent reporting directly to Winston Churchill—and understand precisely why that leather Bible played such a pivotal role in turning Hitler’s guns to the East. And she will discover the new secret pact negotiated by the nefarious Russian president and his newly elected American counterpart—maverick and dealmaker—and the evil it portends.
Mitch Silver, author of THE BOOKWORM, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest thriller:
Dead clients are bad for business, something that Tom Winter, head of security at a private Swiss bank, knows only too well. When a helicopter explosion kills a valuable client and a close colleague, Winter teams up with the mysterious Egyptian businesswoman Fatima Hakim to expose the truth behind their deaths.
Together they follow the money trail around the world and back into the Swiss mountains, the NSA watching their every move. As they start closing in on the truth, Winter and Fatima turn from being the hunters to the hunted, finding themselves in a deadly, high-stakes race against the clock.
Award-winning author Peter Beck spent some time discussing his latest thriller, DAMNATION, with The Big Thrill:
An expedition off the Italian coast reclaims a World War II-era German midget submarine. When the two-man sub is opened, it contains a single corpse, and an artifact from Adolf Hitler’s bunker that was thought to be lost to history.
On Long Island, an elderly man and woman are brutally murdered. FBI Agent Link Johnsten is called in to assist local authorities and to maintain the victims’ secret. When six unsent letters are discovered in their home, one piques his interest. It’s addressed to his friend, CIA agent Samuel Tolen.
Chinese-American physicist Dr. Sing Liao is abducted after making an astonishing, yet terrifying, scientific breakthrough. The intersecting lives of Dr. Liao, a rogue FBI agent, and a billionaire shipping magnate collide. With ties to Nazi Germany, Tolen and Johnsten are swept up in a frantic chase to uncover Adolf Hitler’s darkest secret. At stake is the life of an 11-year-old savant–and possibly the end of the world.
The Big Thrill recently caught up with co-authors Gary Williams & Vicky Knerly to discuss their latest thriller, BLOOD LEGACY:
All they want is for him to go into North Korea and extract three women; a daughter and granddaughters of NK’s ambassador to China, who wants to defect. Since he’s the former head of NK’s nuclear program, the U.S. is more than merely interested in him.
The Big Thrill caught up to prolific author L. J. Martin to discuss his latest novel, THE K FACTOR:
Five years is a long time, even longer if you think of it in dog years. For Clarissa Goenawan, that’s how long it took from the conception of her exquisite debut, RAINBIRDS, to publication. And some of that time was actually spent writing it.
If you’re looking for a straight suspense thriller, with murder, mayhem, car chases, stuff blowing up and the world as we know it at stake, RAINBIRDS is probably not for you. But if you’re in the market for an intelligent, well-written, thought-provoking novel, what Goenawan calls “a literary mystery with an element of magical realism set in Japan, a coming-of-age story masquerading as a murder mystery,” then RAINBIRDS is right up your alley.
RAINBIRDS doesn’t read like a first novel. You know the kind: precious and derivative. Instead, it appears to have sprung forth from a talented writer who’s been around longer than 29 years—“I’m turning 30 this year (gasp), but until my birthday in April, I’m going to insist I’m in my twenties”—and who’s carefully developed a plot and characters that grab you from the get-go and don’t let go.
The story is set in motion with the murder of a young woman, Keiko, the older sister of Ren, who visits the fictional small town of Akakawa (inspired by one of the suburban cities in Indonesia Goenawan visited as a child), where his sister moved years earlier to teach. While mourning her death, Ren hopes to find out who murdered her and why, but instead finds what he really wants is to get closer to his late sibling.
Fifty-three years later, a phone call rips South African translator Caz Colijn out of her reclusive life. When she goes to Belgium in an attempt to trace her and her extraordinary daughter’s family origins, it becomes clear that the country’s colonial past has had as much impact on her life as the apartheid years in South Africa did.
In Ghent, professor Luc DeReu too is torn out of his familiar orbit when the woman he blames for his father’s premature death re-enters his bland existence.
While Caz and Luc try to cope with the upheavals in their respective lives, Erevu Matari and his grandson desperately need to find the nkísi taken from them more than five decades ago to fulfill their holy mission.
When the paths of these individuals intersect, it leads once again to murder and Caz is the main suspect.
The Big Thrill had the opportunity to discuss SACRIFICED with prolific South African author Channette Paul:
A military coup has swept through Thailand and one of the effects is the placement of Thailand’s first female prime minister under house arrest. The plan is to hold a show trial, convict her of corruption, and then send her to prison. Once in prison it is easier for the army to eliminate her. But there might be one thing standing in the way–Jack Shepherd.
Jack Shepherd is a lawyer with a reputation as a troubleshooter and is the first person the prime minister’s supporters contact. After all, the plan is simple: sneak into Thailand, grab his old friend from right under the nose of the Thai army, and keep her alive long enough to get them both out of Thailand again. Piece of cake, right?
This is the major focus of Jake Needham’s DON’T GET CAUGHT and the latest installment in the Jack Shepherd series. Jake took some time from his writing to answer a few questions for ITW.
DON’T GET CAUGHT is the first novel of yours I read. I was struck by its ease and authenticity. How do you achieve this?
I’m not comfortable writing about any location that I don’t know well enough to make it feel real on the page. A sense of place might be the single most important element for me in each of my books. I want readers to know how every place I’ve put in every book feels. How it looks, how it sounds, how it smells.
Nicole Nelson and Ahmed Masud are a dynamic, highly successful Philadelphia couple. They are partners in a thriving plastic surgery practice, are very much in love, and they adore their young son, Alex. But cracks are beginning to appear in their fairy-tale life: lingering post-9/11 prejudice against Arab men, accumulating malpractice lawsuits for Ahmed, and most recently, pressure from Ahmed’s wealthy family in Cairo for him to return to Egypt—permanently—with his son.
The Masud family pressure becomes a demand as the Hosni Mubarak regime is seriously threatened by protestors in Egypt. Ahmed’s family owes their control of the Egyptian cotton empire directly to Mubarak cronyism. If Mubarak goes down, the Masuds will surely lose their wealth, maybe even their lives. They need Ahmed back in Egypt to implement their plan to move their fortune and family out of Egypt and into South America.
Ahmed must make a decision—stay with Nicole in America or obey his father. And what about their son?
Tragic consequences, which Ahmed could have never foreseen, propel both the Masud family and the Nelson family on a path toward unspeakable tragedy.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Patricia Gussin discussed her latest novel, COME HOME, with The Big Thrill:
By Karen Harper
Lise McClendon writes fiction from her home in Montana. She is the author of twelve novels, short stories, and articles. In 1997 she wrote and directed the short film, The Hoodoo Artist, featured at the Telluride Indiefest. She has served on the national boards of directors for Mystery Writers of America and International Association of Crime Writers/North America. She is on the faculty of the Jackson Hole Writers Conference and co-presents a novel workshop for writers.
Please tell us what your book is about.
This mystery follows the story of Merle Bennett, one of five lawyer/sisters, who in the first in the series inherit a stone house in France. In this, the fifth installment, Merle takes a leave from her job in New York City at Legal Aid for an extended stay in France. A tightly-wound go-getter with a penchant for list-making, she is under the illusion, not uncommon, that just being in France cures a person of all his or her ills. Her ‘bliss’ makes her French boyfriend laugh. Pascal is a cop in the Wine Fraud Division of the Police Nationale and has seen his share of the underbelly of ‘La Belle France’. When someone he put in jail years before returns with revenge on his mind, things definitely take a dark turn. Merle starts out a bit dreamy, writing a novel about the French Revolution, but rallies the forces to save Pascal.
Paris, July 1999: Private investigator Aimée Leduc is walking through Saint-Germain when she is accosted by Suzanne Lesage, a Brigade Criminelle agent on an elite counterterrorism squad. Suzanne has just returned from the former Yugoslavia, where she was hunting down dangerous war criminals for the Hague. Back in Paris, Suzanne is convinced she’s being stalked by a ghost—a Serbian warlord her team took down. She’s suffering from PTSD and her boss thinks she’s imagining things. She begs Aimée to investigate—is it possible Mirko Vladić could be alive and in Paris with a blood vendetta?
Aimée is already working on a huge case; plus, she’s got an eight-month-old baby to take care of. But she can’t say no to Suzanne, whom she owes a big favor. Aimée chases the few leads she has, and all evidence confirms Mirko Vladić is dead. It seems that Suzanne is in fact paranoid, perhaps losing her mind—until Suzanne’s team begins to die in a series of strange, tragic accidents. Are these just coincidences? Or are things not what they seem?
The Big Thrill caught up with MURDER IN SAINT-GERMAIN author, Cara Black, to discuss her latest thriller:
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.