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hardBy Christine Goff

New York Times bestselling author J. Carson Black loves horseracing. She also sings well. And writes well! Just ask Michael Prescott, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.

He has this to say. “Sweeping from suburban California to the New Mexico desert, from an assassins’ marketplace in Austria to the killing grounds of Iraq, HARD RETURN is an amped-up thrill ride showcasing one of the most enigmatic and unforgettable antiheroes in fiction today. Part Jack Reacher, part Jason Bourne, Landry is a loner, a lover, a father, a killer, and the last thing his enemies will ever see.”

In HARD RETURN, Cyril Landry has been a dead man since he escaped a firefight off the coast of Florida three years ago. In all that time, the former Navy SEAL has been living off the grid to protect his wife and teenage daughter, who have mourned him and moved on.

Five days a week, Landry watches from a distance as his daughter Kristal leaves school—his only chance to see her. One day a shooter unloads his M-16 on the students, killing several—including Kristal’s boyfriend, Luke. Landry takes out the gunman with a single sniper shot before melting back into the city. But this wasn’t a typical massacre, and the clues add up to only one conclusion: someone knows Landry’s still alive.

J. Carson Black also writes under the pseudonyms Margaret Falk and Annie McKnight. Recently I had the chance to ask her a few questions:

In your early days as a writer, you wrote mainly romances, albeit exciting romances. What made you switch to the thriller genre?

My first published book was a ghost story called DARKSCOPE. After that, I wrote a straight historical novel, THE TOMBSTONE ROSE, but had to cut it in half and add a lot more romance to get it sold. Then I wrote romantic suspense books. But I remained unsatisfied—I was looking for something. That something came in the form of a Michael Connelly novel, and I fell hard. Not long after that, I picked up James W. Hall’s MEAN HIGH TIDE in an airport, and it just turned a light on for me. I read more and more of the great authors in that genre, and finally knew I’d found my passion: crime fiction and thrillers.

Many of your books begin in the Arizona desert. It’s as though you have the southwest in your bones. Are you from that region, or are you just drawn to the setting?

I live in Tucson, Arizona. Tucson is a funky cross between a big town and a small city, set in an incredibly beautiful area. It takes less than an hour to drive up Mt. Lemmon into spruce country—over 9000 ft. in elevation, and the saguaros in the valley and foothills are breathtaking. We’re 98 kilometers (yes, that’s what it says on the mileposts) from Nogales, Mexico. My parents and their friends would drive down there to shop, and inevitably we’d go to one of the liquor stores—most people in those days made liquor runs. I always got the black bear toy from the Oso Negro bottle.

Tucson has a lot of characters—many of them just passing through or holding on. But we natives are proud of our town and the blend of Hispanic and Anglo cultures here. When I sold my first book, I went to the mystery bookstore here in town for a J.A. Jance signing. I told her I was going to be published, and she sat me down and gave a ton of advice—hours worth. It was my introduction to this wonderful community of authors—so many of whom will make time for a newbie.

A lot of your books also blend in horses. What is it you love about horseracing?

I was hooked early on. As a kid I read every book I could get my hands on about horse racing, and steeped myself in the history. And I had horses. When I researched one of my books, DARK HORSE, I followed this wonderful ol’ boy racehorse trainer all over the backside at both Rillito Downs in Tucson, and Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico. There’s nothing like the backstretch of a race track. It’s a world all of its own.

You have published 15 novels and a number of short stories. HARD RETURN is the second in your Cyril Landry series. I notice that you have also published a book in the Laura Cardinal series this year. How many books do you write a year, and how do you choose what to work on?

I think writing a novella and a book is probably the best I can do. Laura Cardinal’s easy to write because I know her so well.

I keep starting series even when I don’t intend to. I have three female deputies/detectives and one tough guy. One of these days I’ll bring them all together into one book, and let them fight it out. My husband made the remark I should write a “Charlie’s Angels” type book with my three female detectives. He’s recovering nicely in the hospital, so send flowers.

Cyril Landry is a complicated man. An ex-Navy Seal, he has worked as a hired assassin in The Shop, his wife and daughter think he’s dead, he has a lover…and he, literally, took over in The Shop and made it about him. Now he’s back in HARD RETURN. Do you have plans for third book in the series?

Cyril Landry pretty much writes himself. He was supposed to be a nameless, faceless assassin in THE SHOP—the leader. I just threw whatever name happened to drift through my transom at him. On the second page of the book, he asks the operative upstairs about the people in the bedroom, and the guy says “A couple, laying down.” And Landry says, “Lying down, not laying down.” Turns out he has this thing about correcting peoples’ grammar, among other odd behaviors. Before I knew it, he’d taken over half the book.

I’m working on the third book in the Cyril Landry series now. It’s called SPECTER BLACK, and it will mostly be set in New Mexico and explore stuff like cloaking technology.

J. Carson Black is a talented writer, who loves nothing better than to tell you a story. Be prepared. Once you start reading HARD RETURN, you won’t put it down to the end. This story pulls you in and holds on—it’s a ride you want to take. For more information on J. Carson Black, the Cyril Landry series and her other thrillers, please visit her website. This is one writer you don’t want to miss! Oh, and did I mention, she loves horseracing.


blackHailed by bestselling author T. Jefferson Parker as “a strong new voice in American crime fiction,” J. Carson Black’s thriller THE SHOP reached #1 on the Kindle Bestseller list, and her crime fiction thriller series featuring homicide detective Laura Cardinal became a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. Black earned a masters degree in operatic voice before switching to writing novels and has since written fifteen novels.




Christine Goff
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