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By Don Helin

In his debut novel, THE DEEP ZONE, James M. Tabor unleashes a story so thrilling that New York Times #1 Best Selling Author Brad Thor says, “The ANDROMEDA STRAIN for the 21st Century.  Ladies and gentlemen, meet James M. Tabor – The new Michael Crichton.”

In the story, a brilliant and beautiful scientist and a mysterious special ops soldier must lead a team deep into the Earth on a desperate hunt for the cure to a deadly pandemic.

Biography:  James M. Tabor is the award-winning and bestselling author of two nonfiction books about adventure and exploration.  An O. Henry Award winner, he was the writer and host of the PBS series, THE GREAT OUTDOORS, and the executive producer of the History Channel special, JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE WORLD  A mountaineer, caver, and master diver, Tabor served as a Washington D.C. cop.

I caught up with Jim a few days ago and had a chance to ask him some questions.

Is there anything special you’d like to tell us about THE DEEP ZONE?

I’ve always admired authors who used setting so well that it became a character in its own right.  Hardy famously did it with Egdon Heath, of course.  James Dickey, in his poetry and the Chatooga/Cahulawassee in DELIVERANCE.  James Lee Burke with the steamy regions of Louisiana, and Martin Cruz Smith with seamy Moscow, to name some I admire.  I’ve spent time in a number of exotic settings – mountains, oceans, caves, Washington D.C.’s mean streets, and others.  I thought one way I could distinguish my fiction was to take readers to those places, along with my heroine, Hallie Leland.  Thus THE DEEP ZONE is set in a super cave, Cueva de Luz, which as Hallie discovers, is alive in its own magical way.  Subsequent books in the Hallie Leland series will take readers into other realms that come alive, in their own ways, as well.

Did any particular event inspire the plot?

I’ve always been fascinated by bacteria and viruses.  Not in the Howard Hughes bizarro way – I don’t wash my hands 8,000 times a day.  I find them intriguing because they are the oldest form of terrestrial life, without which we cannot survive.  Yet, they represent the most serious current threat to our species, given the rapid evolution of drug-resistant microbes and the abundant stores of bioterror weapons available to lunatics and fanatics.  When I learned about a mysterious “superbug” that was killing our soldiers in Iraq, I was interested.  When I learned about the apparent government efforts to suppress reports about the bug, I was intrigued.  The more I learned, the more I thought this could be the germ of an exciting thriller.  I can tell you that it was exciting as hell to write, and I hope readers have as much fun with it.

What are you doing to promote your books?

First and foremost, admiring and thanking my Random House/Ballantine Books team –  editor Mark Tavani, publicity director Cindy Murray, and marketing director Quinne Rogers – for their amazing work on the book’s behalf.  Their campaign has been in the works for a year, and has included more tactics than I could list here.  I am very fortunate to have such a team in my corner.  A key action was getting ARCs in the hands of masters of the genre who provided invaluable early quotes.  I still blush at being compared to Michael Crichton and Jules Verne, but not enough to keep me from repeating those blurbs here.  Getting ARCs in the hands of trade media editors – Kirkus, Library Journal, Goodreads, etc. – has been key.  So was the effort to involve readers and reviewers at Amazon and other major outlets.  The Amazon Vine Reviewers have been especially enthusiastic.  I personally maintain my own website, keeping it as fun and current day to day as I can.  I’m reaching out to all the national media people who interviewed me during the run up to my last book, BLIND DESCENT, including THE DAILY SHOW with Jon Stewart.  That appearance was a hoot, and I’m happy to say that Jon is as cool in person as you’d expect him to be.  I’m maxing out Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn networks, and trying to involve other authors, friends, and family as well.  My kids, predictably, have countless Facebook friends.  Since one son is a writer and the other a musician, their networks are well suited to communicating about books.

What’s next?

Random House/Ballantine offered a two-book contract, so I’m writing the second book in the Hallie Leland series right now.  Its working title is THE DARK SECRET.  Without giving away too much, I can say that Hallie travels to another remote, bizarre, lethally dangerous and “alive” realm.  I can also say that this is above ground.  Well, mostly.

When you’re not writing, what are you doing (hobbies, family, etc.)?

I’ve lived in Vermont most of my life so I ski all winter, both downhill and cross country.  We skate on lakes and rivers when they freeze.  When the ice melts, I dive to wrecks in Lake Champlain, the St. Lawrence River, the Atlantic, and elsewhere.  I do some cave diving in Mexico, too.  I like to run with my German Shepherd, Sig and until last year rode our Morgan horse, Nikki through the spring, summer, and fall.  Not far from our house lies Blueberry Lake, a fantastic place for open-water swimming to stay in shape.  Come autumn, I head off into the forest around our land for grouse and woodcock hunting.  I don’t do as much outdoor rock climbing as I used to, but do get on the indoor climbing walls once or twice a week.

A favorite Jacket Blurb:  “All the Suspenseful wallop of Michael Crichton’s, THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, Stephen King’s THE STAND, and Jules Verne’s JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH.”  Katherine Neville, New York Times bestselling author of THE EIGHT.

Your book sounds great, Jim.  I look forward to getting a signed copy, maybe at Thrillerfest.


James M. Tabor is the award-winning and bestselling author of two nonfiction books about adventure and exploration. An O.Henry Award winner, he was the writer and host of the PBS series, “The Great Outdoors,” and the executive producer of the History Channel special, “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” A mountaineer, caver, and master diver, Tabor served as a Washington, D.C. cop.

To learn more about James, please visit his website.

Don Helin
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