By Dawn Ius
After a two-year hiatus, Thomas Perry returns to his bestselling Jane Whitefield series with, A STRING OF BEADS—a fast-paced thriller about how abandoning the past can sometimes be the hardest thing to do, even when your life—and the life of those you love—depends on it.
It’s a book Perry has wanted to write for some time, but it wasn’t until he received a letter from a fan that he found true inspiration.
“I acquired a friend who might be called my ‘culture guide,’ an expert in Senca culture,” he says. “He’s a Canadian lawyer specializing in rights issues concerning the Iroquois nations, who live on both sides of the border.”
He’d read all of Perry’s books, and while he enjoyed the stories, he was able to share expertise that not only helped Perry understand some of the more intricate parts of the Seneca culture, but also got him fired up to return to this series.
“He had a lot to say that was new to me, and new to readers, and so, I knew it was time to write,” Perry says. “I could hardly wait.”
In A STRING OF BEADS, Jane Whitefield is enlisted by the eight clan mothers of her tribe to find one of her childhood friends who has been accused of murdering a local white man. But as she retraces the steps of a walking trip she and her fellow tribesman took together at age fourteen, she soon realizes the police aren’t the only ones after him—and bringing Jimmy back before he is killed or arrested might be much more dangerous than she anticipated.
As long-time fans know, this is not the first time this character has made a resurgence.
“When I had written the first book of the series, The Vanishing Act, around 1990, I realized I was finished with that story, but not finished about Jane. I started a second book about her,” Perry says, noting that his editor then encouraged him to expand the series to at least five books. “After that, I was ready to give it a rest. I went back to writing stand-alone novels.”
When asked, Perry told readers he planned to someday return to the Whitefield series, but it wasn’t until one of his fans asked a poignant question that he really considered re-entering Jane’s world.
“Someone wrote and asked, ‘Have you retired, or are you dead?’” he says. “I looked back and realized that nine years had passed since the last Jane book. I felt that these loyal readers deserved some consideration. At this point, I hope to keep telling Jane stories periodically, as long as readers are interested.”
The character has been instrumental in helping him become a better writer, particularly because the series is written from a female perspective, which is sometimes challenging for men.
“Very early on, I realized that in a crisis, any serious person of either sex turns his attention outward, to the events that are happening and the tasks that must be done. Nobody thinks about gender when he’s ducking bullets or running from enemies,” he says. “My wife is always my first reader, so she catches me when I have lapses of imagination or judgment.”
Perry can now return the favor, acting as a great sounding board and beta reader for his wife, Jo, whose first novel, Dead is Better, comes out in early 2015. While Perry is the more experienced novelist at this point, the two have been writing together for years, sharing a screenwriting gig on a prime-time television show for eleven years before leaving the business, hand in hand.
“I knew that one day the office door would open, and only one of us would be alive, or that we could be together forever,” he says. “Fortunately, it was the latter. At times we’ve missed TV, and the right offer might have lured us back at some point after our kids were old enough not to need much attention. But there are good reasons why there are few TV writers over forty. I’m now over sixty-five, and what I really love to do is write prose fiction.”
Perry’s next project is another stand-alone thriller called Forty Thieves.
Thomas Perry is the bestselling author of twenty-two novels. His books have won a number of awards, including the Edgar, the Barry, and the Gumshoe. His METZGER’S DOG, STRIP, and THE INFORMANT were all New York Times Notable Crime Books.
To learn more about Thomas, please visit his website.