A Deadly Search for the Truth
By R. G. Belsky
Jeff Abbott left readers eager for more when he ended Inside Man, his last Sam Capra thriller, with a shocking cliffhanger. Sam–a betrayed ex-CIA agent who now owns bars around the world while battling international crime –discovered that the brother he thought was dead is somehow still alive. Now we get the answers about that–and a lot more–in THE FIRST ORDER, the fifth book in the Sam Capra series.
“I like when readers are impatient for the next book; that means I’m doing my job,” Abbott said when I asked him about using the final few pages of his previous book to set up the story for THE FIRST ORDER. “I think you always want to leave them wanting more. There, I wanted to set up very clearly—after Sam has dealt with a hugely dysfunctional family in Inside Man—to make his own family seem even more troubled.”
Like all of the Sam Capra books, the search for the truth about his brother Danny puts Sam in the middle of a fascinating, complex plot with extraordinary ramifications for both the entire world and Sam himself.
“THE FIRST ORDER can be summed up in one sentence: Sam has to stop his brother from assassinating the Russian president during a visit to America,” Abbott said. “He has to use all his skills to both stop his brother and save his brother. It’s a thriller, it’s a novel about family and all the choices Sam has made in his life since his brother was presumed murdered. His brother’s death defined who Sam was: CIA agent and then later, an avenger of wrongs and a helper of the helpless. Now all those choices he made are called into question. Danny let Sam think he was dead for years—what kind of brother does that and why? This is the fifth novel in the series, and so much changes for Sam in this one.”
The premise for the best-selling Sam Capra series – which has won numerous awards and received much acclaim – is a devastating series of life changing events that Abbott set up very quickly in ADRENALINE, the first book. Sam loses his wife, his child, his CIA career and his freedom in the opening pages – which move at such a breakneck pace that it totally sucks you in from the start.
I asked Abbott how he came up with such a dramatic and exciting premise for the series. “I wanted to connect the reader quickly with Sam and his situation, and so I introduce
you to him and you see he’s on the verge of a really good life, and then I take it all away from him. Those first few chapters came to my mind fully formed. I get a lot of ideas but those scenes were just stuck in my head and so I wanted to write them and see where they took me.”
One of the most popular characters in the books is Mila, a mysterious woman
who is Sam’s friend (most of the time) and trusted confidant who helps him out of countless near death situations.
And it turns out that Abbott is intrigued by Mila just as much as the readers.
“I love writing her. I knew she was going to be important but she really asserted herself
in every scene, she just became more and more important. When a character does that, I feel you should go along with it. In THE FIRST ORDER, she faces a devastating choice: one that is going to change her life, and Sam’s, forever.”
In all of the books, Sam Capra travels around the world; kills people by all sorts of unorthodox methods; and gets involved in dangerous international criminal adventures at every turn. So how much research does Abbott have to do to make the books realistic?
“I travel to most of the locales in the series to do research. I’ve been to London, Amsterdam, New York, San Francisco, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Miami, and more. I couldn’t do as much of that for THE FIRST ORDER, due to scenes set in Afghanistan and Russia (particularly in a former Soviet city of science that remains closed to outsiders). But I have research sources (such as a friend who is a military officer who did multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan and was willing to be interviewed and read drafts of certain scenes.)
“I look at a lot of photos and pictures, read interviews and background books, use
Twitter as a specialized news feed for particular topics—what you can find on the internet now is nothing short of astonishing. I often have the idea for the Sam story first and then I do enough research to get started. I often don’t know yet what I need to research until the story takes initial shape. Then I go back and do more research. It’s kind of a back-and-forth process.”
Interestingly enough, Abbott actually interviewed with the CIA for an analyst position when he was in college, but decided “we would not be a good match.”
‘It’s an important distinction that I am not writing about the actual CIA in the books,” he pointed out. “Sam worked for a fictional division, but he’s entirely out of the CIA…I’m not constrained by how they do things.”
Abbott has written several other series and stand-alone thrillers – and his next book will be a stand-alone. But he said he loves writing Sam Capra and plans to do so for a long time.
“I have so much more to say about him,” Abbott said. “He’s an unsually young
hero for suspense fiction. What will he be like as his experiences change him? What kind of dad is he going to be as Daniel gets older? What would Sam Capra be like in his forties or fifties? I could write about him for years. Hopefully, I will.”
Jeff Abbott is the New York Times bestselling author of many suspense and crime novels. His books have been Summer Reading Picks by THE TODAY SHOW, GOOD MORNING AMERICA, O THE OPRAH MAGAZINE, and USA TODAY. He is a past winner of the Thriller Award, the Agatha Award, and the Macavity Award, and is a three-time Edgar nominee. He makes his home in Austin with his family.
To learn more about Jeff, please visit his website.