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By Terry DiDomenico

A man and his toys

One of the really cool things about thrillers is that there is always a possibility it could be real. Reality stepped in while Chuck Barrett was on vacation. There he met a man who became the inspiration behind his title character – the TOYMAKER. How cool is that?

Of course, it helped that Chuck already had a hero waiting—from his successful debut novel THE SAVANNAH PROJECT—in Jake Pendleton, an investigator for the NTSB.

In THE SAVANNAH PROJECT, Jake is sent out to investigate what appears to be a routine aircraft accident. Somehow that routine is disrupted by an assassin who tries to stop him from finding the truth behind what he sees as sabotage.

Picking up exactly where THE SAVANNAH PROJECT left off, THE TOYMAKER draws Jake further into the mysterious world of international intrigue. No longer with the NTSB, Jake’s first assignment reunites him with Gregg Kaplan. Their mission: rescue a fellow agent held captive in Yemen. Immersed in the world of spies, Jake finds the line between right and wrong blurring and as his judgment is called into question he is assigned a mentor—an eccentric old man who sees beyond Jake’s flaws, a man who makes “toys for spies.” A man known as The Toymaker.

Terrorism falls into the background, the larger picture collapsing, as Jake’s focus narrows to a killer from his past who is forcing him to decide who to sacrifice.

With a number of possible stories for Jake, this plot was not Chuck’s original idea for the second Pendleton tale. But when he met his “toymaker”, he promptly changed course. Chuck said, “Some of Jake’s perils and personal issues in TOYMAKER were portions of the intended second story but the end result is much better than the original plan.”

It was having this real character who made THE TOYMAKER easier to write. “Writing TOYMAKER was just plain fun. And writing about a man I knew made it even better. Capturing his mannerisms and weaving them into the story made me actually feel like he was part of the story,” Chuck added.

One problem area in writing THE TOYMAKER was its beginning. “I rewrote Chapter 1 several times and each time was drastically different,” Chuck said. He found help at AgentFest 2011. Pitching to Katharine Sands “she said my opening was horrid and that I needed to include some of the toymaker’s gadgets from the onset…so I did. She was right. Chapter 1 turned out great.”

The art of changing to adapt to circumstances is a valuable tool for an agent and Chuck found it valuable as well. He tried to outline THE TOYMAKER in the same way he did THE SAVANNAH PROJECT but it just wasn’t working. However a conversation with Harlan Coben at ThrillerFest in 2010 changed that. Harlan said he “only knew the beginning, the ending, and a major twist. I thought, I know all those things so I decided to just sit down and write and see where it took me. I was surprised.”

The whole TOYMAKER experience has been surprising. The advanced technologies that are out today were “certainly an eye opener for me and I love that stuff.” Luckily for his readers, more of these ‘toys” will be in upcoming books.

A typical day for Chuck begins early with coffee and newspaper while watching the sun rise over the lake. He retreats to what is fondly referred to as “the dungeon.” His office is most often found shrouded in room darkening blinds to keep the sun and the heat at bay, hiding the wonderful view. There he checks e-mails, social media, and his Amazon numbers. If writing that day he demands “total, uninterrupted solitude.” No wife allowed and everything turned off in order for him to concentrate.

Now retired from his air traffic controller job, Chuck has found: “I seem to have less time to do anything and wonder how I did it before.” He points out both his books were written before he retired in May 2011, with THE TOYMAKER taking less than a year to complete.

In speaking about other Jake Pendleton stories Chuck explained the growth of his main character over the first two books. “I wanted a character who had to grow. A character who was out of his element, in over his head; who struggled to overcome things he knew nothing about. He had a ways to go from just a happy-go-lucky guy to the character he is at the end of THE TOYMAKER. By then he is fleshed out and he is the character I want to continue throughout the series.”

Looking forward to writing more of Jake’s exploits, Chuck hints there might be a spin-off. “In the future there may be a Gregg Kaplan series and I suspect that Jake and Gregg will make cameo appearances in each other’s series,” Chuck said. “Just a thought.”

“THE TOYMAKER was a blast to write—it’s fast and furious with, what the reader will think, a predisposed purpose.” According to Chuck: “The reader will be surprised.”


Chuck Barrett, a Florida native, grew up in Panama City. A graduate of Auburn University, Barrett is a retired air traffic controller of over 26 years experience and veteran commercial pilot and flight instructor spanning over three decades of flight experience.

Barrett’s first novel, THE SAVANNAH PROJECT, was released in March 2010. In 2011, THE SAVANNAH PROJECT became an award-winning novel, winning awards in ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award, International Book Awards, and Reader View’s Reviewer’s Choice Awards.

To learn more about Chuck Barrett and THE TOYMAKER, please visit his website.

Terry DiDomenico
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