By Dan Levy
Considering that his latest book, NEW YORK MINUTE, is Bob Mayer’s 77th published novel, it might be hard to believe that he can still find new avenues of character development to explore.
In fact, the protagonist in Mayer’s latest novel mirrors much of his own life—both lived in the Bronx in the 1970s, both went to West Point, both are Special Forces veterans. However, a health discovery in Mayer’s personal life helped give rise to Will Kane, a hero with an unusual inner battle to fight, in addition to the conflicts that surround him.
In this The Big Thrill interview, Mayer shares more about his prolific writing journey, and gives us insight into his new thriller, NEW YORK MINUTE.
You seem to have a wide variety of interests relative to your fiction writing. Why does that appeal to you as opposed to taking a single character and exploring him across 20 to 30 novels?
My career would be an example of bad advice to aspiring authors. I’ve written whatever has interested me, including nonfiction. Don’t do that! Or do. Rules are made to be broken. I’ve written a lot of science fiction, including the almost 3-million copy selling Area 51 series. I started in the thriller genre with the Green Beret series, and now I’m back there, so I’ve completed an interesting circle.
Please talk about how experience as a Green Beret helped you with your novel writing. Were there times when your experience made things more difficult to write?
I can tell when reading thrillers whether the author has actually experienced some of the things they write—and frankly, it’s not necessary. There are many very good writers out there who don’t have the deep background in what they write. The people who would notice are the ones who lived it and they often don’t want to read about what they lived. My violent scenes tend to be fast and abrupt. When I attended a martial arts world championship overseas and watched the masters at work, what was amazing was the speed. The same with a gunfight. The quick and the dead.
NEW YORK MINUTE seems to be autobiographical in many respects. What made this the right time to write this story?
Will Kane and I share many things in common: Bronx childhood, West Point, military training, Infantry, Special Forces, martial arts training in the Orient, etc. Several years ago, before writing this book, I underwent a battery of tests on my cognitive functioning and it turns out I’m on the autism scale. High-functioning, but definitely there. That made me re-evaluate everything as I now had a valid why behind the what of my life. I’m still learning and working on it. I understand enough now in order to be able to write a character with a similar problem who is unaware of what the problem is.
Tell me a bit about Will Kane. What do you like about him? What keeps him human? What’s one thing that truly separates him from Bob Mayer?
Will Kane is a broken person who sort of knows he is, but can still function. He’s not anywhere close to Maslow’s self-actualization, but he has some touchstones of consistency that make him a good man: he can be counted on; he would never deliberately hurt anyone who didn’t deserve it. The “deserving it” part is the key to his arc. He’s also high functioning autistic but doesn’t know it. It will be interesting to see how readers react to his reactions, which aren’t normal, especially in social situations. The difference between us is he’s younger when he experiences his tragedies, and he deals with them somewhat selfishly and hasn’t realized it. That will be part of the series arc. He blames others for things without really knowing the true story, so he misjudges people at times.
There’s a theme in your story that I’d to explore a bit further: Q: who protects the sheep from the evil wolves in our world? A: Another wolf. Why is this theme meaningful to the story and something you hope will resonate with readers?
That line actually comes in the second book, Lawyers, Guns and Money. In another (rule-breaking) flashback scene when Will Kane is an altar boy in the Bronx, a visiting priest from Africa asks Kane that question, not expecting an answer, but leaving it resonating in the young boy’s head until he has to answer it as an adult. Who protects people when the law isn’t and can’t be the answer? Who protects those who can’t protect themselves? Regardless of how he acquired his skills, Will Kane is the perfect wolf based on his life experiences and training. If not him, who?
Unlike science or period fiction, it seems setting your novel in the late 1970s required you to maintain a balance between being authentic for your readers who remember that time and those who weren’t born yet. Did recreating the 1970s culture, technology, language, etc. present a unique challenge for you? If so, would you talk about it?
Story-wise it’s interesting writing in a time period where you literally had to “drop a dime” to call someone. No cell phones, no personal computers, etc. But it actually streamlines the story. New York City was on the brink in 1977. It was certainly an interesting time. The climactic scene takes place in the abandoned Nabisco Factory, which is now the most expensive real estate in the City called Chelsea Market. As a New Yorker would say: Who knew?
Bob Mayer up in New York, City, graduated West Point, served in the Infantry and Special Forces (Green Berets). After leaving active duty he studied martial arts in the Orient. He is the New York Times bestselling author of over 75 books.
To learn more about bob and his work, please visit his website.