By Virna DePaul
The action in James Thane’s debut thriller novel, No Place To Die, begins immediately when Phoenix attorney Beverly Thompson is snatched from her garage and her husband is brutally murdered. When four others quickly fall victim to the same killer, homicide detective Sean Richardson is assigned the case.
Even as Sean hunts for the killer and his next victim, his opponent proves to be both clever and elusive. Soon, Sean questions whether Beverly will survive, let alone see her husband’s killer brought to justice.
“NO PLACE TO DIE is a two-in-one treat, a convincing police procedural bolted to a nail-biter suspense novel.” – Sam Reaves, author of MEAN TOWN BLUES
“NO PLACE TO DIE is an auspicious beginning to what I hope will become a series. Sean and Maggie make a great crime-solving team.” -Barbara D’Amato, author of DEATH OF A THOUSAND CUTS
Recently, I interviewed Mr. Thane. Here’s what he had to say about his writing journey, his story, and his upcoming release.
You’ve written nonfiction. What inspired you to write your first novel?
One morning I was working on a non-fiction project when the idea for a crime novel popped into my head. I’ve always loved reading crime fiction, though it never occurred to me that I might try writing it. But once the idea got a hold of me, it wouldn’t let go. I finally gave in and started playing around with it. I assumed that the notion would flame out pretty quickly and that I could then get back to my “real” book. Surprisingly, though, it didn’t. I kept working on the idea and every day something new seemed to happen to keep the story moving forward, and characters appeared as needed. Finally, after several months, I had a completed novel. Sadly, it didn’t sell; but I was now hooked by the idea of writing fiction and so began work on the book that would ultimately become No Place To Die.
At one time you had aspirations of being a lawyer. Your debut novel, No Place To Dieinvolves a man who kidnaps his former defense attorney and hunts down the jury that wrongfully convicted him. What kind of research did you do for your story and did it bring up any lingering desires to practice law?
Most of the research for the book involved scouting locations and interviewing people about police procedures, the medical issues involved in the book and the like. The project did not resurrect any lingering aspirations of becoming a lawyer. Sadly, I’ve already become addicted to the idea of belonging to a profession where I can work virtually anywhere, at practically any hour of the day or night and without ever having to go into an office, fight the morning traffic or (God forbid) put on a suit and tie to go to work!
You chose a female defense attorney as your antagonist’s kidnapping victim. Any reason why or any challenges/thematic opportunities this posed?
While my antagonist does attack a number of male characters, including a male attorney, I chose a female attorney, Beverly Thompson, to be his principal victim simply because I thought that, as a woman, she would be a more sympathetic character. I think readers are much more likely to root for and be concerned about a woman in jeopardy than a man. This is probably particularly true, given that the book’s main victim is an attorney. Mindful of Shakespeare’s suggestion of several centuries ago, I didn’t want my readers rooting for my villain and against my victim.
Is there a message in your novel you want readers to grasp?
Not really. I hoped to write a book that would entertain readers, and I wasn’t really concerned about infusing the book with any social or political message. I am concerned about the myriad of ways in which personal privacy seems to be rapidly eroding in an age of the Internet, computerized databases and video surveillance cameras. I’m also alarmed about the way in which the desert is being relentlessly plowed under in the Phoenix metro area for the sake of building one ticky-tacky subdivision after another and about the consequences of that development for the environment and for the quality of life in the Valley. Some of those concerns are reflected in the book, but I didn’t want to turn it into a screed about those issues.
A recent article in the Arizona Republic indicates No Place To Die reads like an “insider’s” view of Phoenix. Can you tell us about the setting of your novel and what it adds to the story?
I fell in love with the Phoenix area when I first came here on vacation a number of years ago. Despite what some people would have you believe, this is a city with a rich and very interesting history. The image that the city often presents–or that is presented on its behalf to tourists and other outsiders–is that of a sunny, bright and warm vacation destination filled with resorts, spas, swimming pools and great golf courses, set in the middle of a beautiful desert mountain valley. But, as should be clear to everyone now, given the recent debate over immigration that has exploded onto the national scene, Phoenix is also a diverse metropolitan area of great contrasts, socially, politically and economically. There’s a lot going on just beneath that bright surface, and for a writer using Phoenix as a setting, the potential story lines are practically limitless.
What novels are you reading now?
I’m currently reading The Gentlemen’s Hour by Don Winslow who is one of my favorite writers. It’s a sequel to The Dawn Patrol and is set in and around the San Diego surfing community. I’m also reading The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall, a thoroughly enjoyable book.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?
Every morning when I get to my desk and settle in, I’m absolutely convinced that this will finally be the day that no ideas will come to me and that my writing career will slam to an abrupt halt. Fortunately, that has not happened yet, (although tomorrow will probably be the day!). Once I get over that hurdle and the words begin to flow, I settle in and enjoy the process a great deal. For me, the principal challenge is just getting to that point each and every day.
How have you chosen to market yourself as a debut author?
I’m doing everything that one is advised to do. I’ve developed and sent out press kits to every market that seemed realistic. I’ve supplemented my publisher’s efforts by sending out additional review copies. I’ve set out a tour schedule and am visiting as many bookstores as possible in addition to those where I am doing a formal signing or event. I have a website and I’m otherwise as active as I reasonably can be on the Internet. This has been probably the most difficult part of the process for me. Like lots of other writers, I tend to be something of an introvert; I’d prefer just to stay locked in my garret writing and let other people attend to the marketing end of things. Sadly, in this day and age that is not an option.
Do you have any advice for other debut authors?
To be honest, I’m still at such an early stage in this process myself that I’d feel foolish attempting to offer advice to anyone else. I would only say that I have learned a great deal and have profited enormously from the advice offered on the websites of groups like ITW and MWA and from the various online discussion groups that focus on crime fiction writing. I’ve been extremely fortunate in that one of the country’s great mystery bookstores, The Poisoned Pen, is located in Scottsdale. The store hosts a very active schedule of writers’ events and over the last few years, I have seen virtually all of my favorite writers there, often several times. I’ve learned a great deal from attending those events and listening to those writers and I would encourage any other beginning writer to take advantage of those opportunities if they are available.
Do you have anything specific to say to your readers?
I certainly want to thank those people who have been willing to take a chance on a debut novelist and buy No Place To Die, and I particularly want to thank those who have come out to attend the early events on my tour schedule. As an avid reader myself, I know that investing both your money and your time in a writer you’ve never read before is always something of a gamble, and I really appreciate the fact that people have been willing to do so. I hope that they’ve felt that both the time and the money were well spent.
Can you tell us a little about the next novel you’re working on?
The second book in this series is titled Until Death, and it will be released in 2011. It takes place three months after the conclusion of No Place To Die, and features the same central characters. The novel opens with the brutal beating death of a prominent Phoenix developer. Within the next couple of weeks, two more local businessmen are murdered and Sean Richardson must discover who has targeted these men and why before the killer claims any additional victims.
For more information, go to http://jameslthane.com
J. L. Thane is a native of northwestern Montana. He has worked as a sawyer, drycleaner, used car salesman, ambulance driver, bottle inspector, and historian. His earlier work has appeared in a number of magazines and journals.
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