Burns Goes for “Big Concept” with New Thriller
By Rick Pullen
Take a pinch of Dan Brown, sprinkle in a little Steve Berry, add a lot of US history, and stir in a political soliloquy or two, and you have the recipe for Jeremy Burns’s new thriller, THE FOUNDING TREASON.
This is the fourth thriller for Burns, who is barely 35. His globetrotting stories take readers on international jaunts and then some.
Though THE FOUNDING TREASON spends most of its time in the US, it sure doesn’t slow down—its protagonist, historian Jonathan Rickner, is constantly on the run with his unexpected companion, Chloe Harper.
Burns always wanted to do something creative with his life, with youthful dreams of becoming a singer/songwriter and video game designer. But he also had a penchant for reading and discovered in college he wanted to write.
“I’ve always been a storyteller. I’ve always had a creative bent,” he says.
Combine that with degrees in computer science and history, and a love for international travel, and it was almost a foregone conclusion he would be writing thrillers filled with historical clues and modern twists in the same vein as Berry and Brown.
His first novel, From the Ashes, was published in 2012, just three and a half years after he graduated from Florida State University. It sold well, hitting number one in historic thrillers on Amazon and charting to number three on Barnes & Noble.
But then life happened.
It was another four years before his next novel, The Dubai Betrayal, appeared. That followed two years of Burns teaching in the Middle East’s architectural spectacle to ultra modernity, where he taught English and literature to students from 47 different nationalities. Marriage, a child, and a full-time job back in Florida serving as communications coordinator for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, also took their toll on his writing time.
Until this year, he hadn’t published a thriller since 2016. So his publisher, The Story Plant, decided to do something unusual to recapture his readership. It published his third novel, The Flagler Hunt, in early April and his fourth, THE FOUNDING TREASON, just seven weeks later on the heels of Memorial Day.
His book will also get a big boost as his publisher is placing his title in Hudson News stores around the country this summer.
THE FOUNDING TREASON does what many writers have tried—take a ride on the Kennedy assassination conspiracy merry-go-round. But his novel is more like a roller coaster with infrequent stops so you occasionally have a chance to catch your breath.
“The book started as two projects,” he says. “A JFK book and then a book about the Society of the Cincinnati. I wanted the culprits to be someone who no one has fingered before. I wanted to put a new spin on it.”
Being a historian, he read everything he could on the JFK assassination and the various conspiracy theories surrounding it.
“Most conspiracies, I think, are a lot of fun, but bunk. I was just looking for holes in the stories and what pieces were out there that would fit together,” he says. “Obviously, some conspiracy theories have proven true…but a majority are ridiculous.”
Though no doubt helpful in crafting a thriller plot.
Burns is a firm believer in research—that’s the historian in him—so he visited nearly every site in his latest novel, traveling from his home base in Florida to Boston, Cincinnati, and Washington to check out various scene possibilities.
This latest novel ties history with a mystery, and involves his protagonist being hunted—dashing from one historic locale to another while searching for clues in a race against time.
“I’ve always loved the idea of hidden treasures lost to history…I blame it on growing up on Indiana Jones,” he says. He was also inspired by the movie National Treasure.
THE FOUNDING TREASON also involves Venezuela, which has been making headlines for months. A little bit of good timing, he admits. “I try to tap into the evolving zeitgeist, but if you’re too close, it’s easy to fall into parody or get overtaken by events.”
Burns is now hard at work on his next novel, The Lafitte Gambit, which is scheduled for summer 2020. He hopes his publisher’s promotional push this year will re-establish his readership, and he vows not to allow a lengthy gap between future works.
Though his latest three-year gap is understandable. During that time he completed work on his MBA degree, which he earned this spring. So between his studies and family life, he’s had little time to write. What time he had was often at night after his son, Graham, was put to bed.
And even though life for the young father seems to be settling down, that won’t last long. He’s wrapping up research on his next novel and plans to complete the first draft by November, when he and his wife, Meredith, are expecting their second child. And if that’s not enough, they’re in the process of purchasing a new home.
Like three of his novels, next year’s thriller will be another following Jonathan Rickner on a whirlwind adventure exposing the present by digging through the past. It will deal with a connection between the Trail of Tears, the War of 1812, the lost treasure of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the founding of the Ku Klux Klan. Just the idea of combing all of those major events is enough to make your head spin.
“I’ve always liked the big concept thriller,” Burns says. “I’ve always liked the excitement of them—the grand escapism.”
It looks like his next novel will indeed fit the bill.