May 8 – 15: “Which recent event would you love to include in your next novel and why?”

thriller-roundtable-logo5This week we’re talking current events with ITW Members Bonnie Hearn Hill, Lisa Preston, Sam Wiebe, Sasscer Hill, Bob Doerr and A. J. Kerns: Which recent event would you love to include in your next novel and why?


Sasscer Hill, formerly an amateur jockey, was an owner and breeder of racehorses for decades. Her multiple award-nominated mystery and suspense thrillers are set against a background of big money, gambling, and horse racing. Her new “Fia McKee” series, to be published by St. Martins, Minotaur, won the 2015 Carrie McCray Competition for Best First Chapter of a Novel and was a runner up for the 2015 Claymore Award.


Sam Wiebe is the author of the Vancouver crime novels Last of the Independents, Invisible Dead, and Cut You Down (forthcoming, February 2018). Wiebe’s work has won the Arthur Ellis award and the Kobo Emerging Writers Prize, and he was the 2016 Vancouver Public Library Writer in Residence. His short fiction has appeared in ThugLit, Spinetingler, and subTerrain, among other places.


Lisa Preston’s experiences as a mountain climber, fire department paramedic and police sergeant are channeled into fiction that is suspenseful, fast-paced, and well acquainted with human drama. She has lived in Arizona, California and Alaska and now makes her home in western Washington.



This is the third in the Kit Doyle series and the author’s seventeenth novel. A California native, Bonnie Hearn Hill is passionate about how conflict changes us and both allows and forces us to discover new truths about ourselves. A mentor to numerous writers, she has appeared on a Central California television’s book segment for fourteen years.



yemenArthur Kerns is a retired FBI supervisory special agent and past president of the Arizona chapter of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO). His award-winning short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies. He is a book reviewer for the Washington Independent Review of Books. Diversion Books, Inc. NY, NY published his espionage thriller, The Riviera Contract, and the sequel, The African Contract. The third in the series, The Yemen Contract, was released in June 2016.


Before becoming a full time author, multi-award winning author Bob Doerr specialized in military counterintelligence and criminal investigations for 28 years. His published works include nine mystery/thrillers that have garnered a variety of awards and three fantasy novellas for middle grade readers. One of his Jim West mysteries, No One Else to Kill, was a winner in the 2013 Eric Hoffer Awards. The Military Writers Society of America selected Bob as its Author of the Year for 2013. In very short fiction, Bob came in second in the Writers Police Academy Golden Donut Award in 2012.


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  1. This is a great question. Probably because I worked for a newspaper for many years, I’m attracted by stories in the news–stories that make me ask, “What if?” Previously, I was intrigued by off-the-grid communities. Right now, I am interested in women who have been or claim to have been kidnapped and the influence of social media on these cases. That’s probably what I would write about now. I’m eager to hear what everyone else has to say.

    1. Bonnie, interesting that we both see story ideas revolving around abductions. There’s something about being taken forcibly from your home, losing your connection to loved ones that has the ability to speak right to the hearts of most people. Readers of these kinds of stories usually care about and root for the victim, so it’s a great starting point for a novel.

  2. Since the Thoroughbred racetrack is the anchor around which I build my mystery-thrillers, a recent news article about the slave trade really grabbed my attention. Law enforcement in Louisville Kentucky has been having a tough time in recent years dealing with a huge influx of underage kids, forcibly bought to Kentucky for Derby week by purveyors of the human sex trade.

    People come to the Derby to party and I guess for some, no-strings-attached sex with a youngster is their pick off the menu. Disgusting, since they must know the kid is probably a slave.

    My newest series features “Fia McKee” a law enforcement agent for the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau. The bureau’s mission is to protect the integrity of horse racing, and because there is so much money involved in betting the ponies, the margin for crime is very wide. Though vice is not really Fia’s bailiwick, she’s brave, has a big heart, and has been known to go maverick if the crime speaks to her on a visceral level. This one would. I see potential for a good thriller in Louisville on the first Saturday in May.

    1. You’re right. Events in the news either grab me or not. For some time, I was following articles about men who poison their wives. I’m not sure why it intrigued me, but I ended up not writing about it.

      Where do you get your ideas?

  3. Our most recent presidential elections caused a major rift in our society, the likes of which haven’t been seen in a long, long time. To say there’s no love lost between one side and the other would be an understatement. I was just starting a new book when the elections occurred, and I couldn’t help but wonder whether the US might get to the point that the more extreme members of a future losing party, who still worked inside the government, might actively plot to assassinate a new president. With this plot idea in mind, I’ve begun writing my next work of fiction. While I have not taken sides or even identified political parties, real world personalities and events have certainly given me a lot to work with!

      1. Although I’ve only started writing my story, one thing I’m trying to do is to not identify the president’s party or his/her gender. While this past election is over, I have no doubt we’ll see more women leading their party’s ticket, and unfortunately, I imagine we will only get more polarized before we get our act together and have some real coordination between the parties.

  4. Events, a bit like product placement or transient slang, can be tricky to include, as it can date-fix the novel right out of the eternal present. The connection offered to the reader is real, and it can be a bit of an Easter egg delight. I have a character planning an illegal border crossing into Texas into Texas and she’s advised about the Triple Ts, which she misunderstands as triple tease. It’s a reference to Tiny Trump Towers, which I enjoyed creating for the story.

    Bonnie’s mention of women who have been *or claim to be* abducted intrigues me, as does the influence of social media on the case. As a former Crimes Against Children Unit detective, I can say that Sasscer has a tough but important story to tell, too. Bob’s plots ia a good example of what-iffing a scenario. Snatched-from-the-headlines plots engage readers.

    1. You’re right, Lisa. I wrote my early books before Google or text messages.

      I’d like to hear more about your character crossing into Texas. Have you finished that book?

      I just sold a standalone set on the San Joaquin River in Central California. I live about five minutes from the river, and a friend and I frequently drive there with coffee after working out.

      For some time, I have wanted to write about friendship, about women, and about what happens when something goes wrong.

  5. The French elections and the results on Sunday are fodder for an upcoming thriller. My protagonists, Hayden Stone and Sandra Harrington, in the Contract series are set to fight terrorists in Paris and throughout France. The results of the election have an effect on the degree of cooperation between the US intelligence community and the French spy agencies. The workings at the street level between the two groups usually continue to be effective, no matter what party is in office, but at the top levels, political posturing can at times an affect on the overall success.

  6. I don’t know if “love” is the right word, but the most concerning recent development to me is the Fentanyl crisis. Fentanyl is a cheap synthetic opioid that’s used to cut (water down) other drugs. It often leads to overdoses, and an incredibly small amount, the size of a grain of sand, can be lethal.

    I live in Vancouver, which is also the setting for my novel Invisible Dead. In a city with the first safe injection site in North America, fentanyl has made the drug trade infinitely more lethal. Last year there were 933 overdose deaths in the province of B.C., and unless something changes, we’re on track for 1300 this year.

    Overdoses can be prevented with a drug called Naloxone, which reverses overdose effects. But Naloxone can be hard to come by. Economics and government response play a part in this.

    Fentanyl has become a full-blown crisis that has received very little media attention, and while I don’t look at it as a fun topic to write about, stories like these are what crime fiction is uniquely suited to address, and bring to a wider audience. is a good resource if you’re interested in learning more.

  7. Interesting, Sam. Of course, a person intentionally ingesting opiates won’t take naloxone because it would counteract the narcotic, ruining the high. As a paramedic, I routinely administered naloxone to OD patients and sometimes they came up swinging–I have a vivid memory of working to get a patient’s hands off my partner’s throat after I injected the Narcan.

    Bonnie, you might really enjoy Carla Buckley’s novel The Good Goodbye, which explored soured relationships between daughters of two women.

    Arthur, you’ve got some great fodder there. And you make a great point about how things are often not so different at the street level of cooperation even when there is a lot of political posturing. The underlings show up and do their jobs as best they can.

    1. Cooperation on the street level involves not only personal relationship, but the mutual need to get the job done. As one French agent told me over coffee, let the prima donnas do their dancing, we go out and get our shoes dirty. (May have lost something in the translation)

    2. Lisa, I am off to buy Carla’s book. I co-host a book segment on a Central California television network, and I read constantly. Thanks for the tip. Right now, I am focusing on novels about secrets, and I welcome any recommendations, either here or at

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