Print Friendly, PDF & Email

TOR-djTHE BIG THRILL recently sat down with acclaimed writer F. Paul Wilson to talk about his latest novel, FEAR CITY, and to ask whether this is really the end of the iconic Repairman Jack.

Is FEAR CITY really the last Repairman Jack?

After twenty-two novels and a short story collection about the guy, I think it’s time to give him a rest and move on.  But I don’t like to say “never.” If a good idea that’s right for Jack pops up, I’ll write that sucker, but the days of a new Repairman Jack novel every fall, year in and year out, are done.

Why do you think Jack has been so popular?

I can only go by what readers tell me. Males like his blue-collar nature: he hates jazz and art films; he loves B movies and classic rock. They feel he’s a regular guy they could sit down with and knock back a few beers. Woman readers—and there are so many more than I ever anticipated—tell me he’s a white knight, someone you can count on to be there when you need him.

All right then.  FEAR CITY ties up The Early Years Trilogy. What prompted the trilogy?

The readers.  The main line of Jack’s story is covered in the sixteen novels from THE TOMB through NIGHTWORLD.   I’ve always said I’d never go past NIGHTWORLD and, in that case, “never” is a true word.  When you meet Jack in THE TOMB he is already an experienced, streetwise urban mercenary.  He’s seen a lot and learned a lot the hard way. I’d already done three YA novels about his teen years, but readers wanted to know how he morphed from a callow Jersey boy to the guy in THE TOMB.  How did he make that transition?

So the readers spoke and you listened?

Yeah, I’m smart like that.  The Early Years Trilogy starts in 1990 with COLD CITY, shortly after he arrives in Manhattan.  DARK CITY picks up a few months later in 1991.  FEAR CITY waits almost two years before tying up all the threads of the first two, ending with the World Trade Center bombing in early 1993.

The three YA novels aren’t a true trilogy; they can be read in pretty much any order.  Does order matter in The Early Years?

Definitely.  I approached The Early Years as a play in three acts.  Over the years covered you witness Jack evolving from clueless to savvy.  Along the way you see the bonds with Abe and Julio develop—how Julio wouldn’t have his bar if not for Jack, and how Abe was such a determining influence on his life.

Book one, COLD CITY, had so many disparate elements and plotlines, I wondered how you were ever going to tie them up by book three.

Trust me, you weren’t the only one! The ideal—but totally unfeasible—way to write a trilogy would be to finish all three books before you publish the first. That way you avoid all those cold-sweat moments during the writing of book three when you curse yourself for including or not including something in book one and it’s too late to make the change.

Let’s see…you have threads for Jack, Julio, Abe, Arab bombers, Gambino Family mobsters, a smuggling ring, a Dominican gang, sex slavers, the Mikulski brothers… who am I missing?

Ernst Drexler and the Septimus Order are players, and the Lady with the dog makes a couple of appearances.

Right. A large cast.

But that’s my favorite kind of thriller: You start out with all these characters going their own way like ships at sea, but all the while seemingly random events are forcing them to adjust their headings this way and that until everyone winds up on a calamitous collision course. It’s the toughest way to plot a thriller, but the payoff is immensely satisfying.

FEAR CITY introduces a freelance torturer named Adèle Moreau.

Yeah—Dr. Moreau. I couldn’t resist. The Wells character was a vivisectionist, so I had to name my torturer Moreau. She’s this fussy French woman known as La Chirurgienne who popped out of my subconscious. It sounds odd, but I had a ball with her POV scenes. She doesn’t think of herself as a torturer but as a “noci-researcher”—a pain scientist. She doesn’t like blood and thinks violence is tres crude. Pain perception is still mysterious. Cut your hand and most people think the pain is in their hand, but it’s really in their brain—you don’t feel pain until the nerve impulses reach your brain. I have La Chirurgienne very frustrated because she’s working on a guy who has learned to alter his pain perception pathways.

What comes after COLD CITY? Is there life after Repairman Jack?

I sure as hell hope so. I’ve just finished a mystery-quest-thriller my agent should be taking out in the near future.

Good luck.


FPaulWilson-lowdpiF. Paul Wilson is the award-winning, NY Times bestselling author of over fifty books and many short stories spanning horror, adventure, medical thrillers, science fiction, and virtually everything between. More than nine million copies of his books are in print in the US and his work has been translated into twenty-four foreign languages. He also has written for the stage, screen, and interactive media. COLD CITY, DARK CITY and FEAR CITY feature the early years of his urban mercenary, Repairman Jack. Paul resides at the Jersey Shore.

To learn more, please visit his website.