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Five people travel to a Mexican, Cartel-owned, all-inclusive resort for different reasons: Johnny, who escaped his bondsman and stole a trunkload of money from his bookie, hides at his uncle’s resort. Gage, the bondsman, travels to Mexico to get his daddy’s handcuffs back from Johnny. Murdock, the bookie, travels to Mexico with two associates to get Johnny, the money, and his 10 percent fine. To do so, Murdock attempts to blackmail Samuel, an Olympic athlete, who’s facing possible sanctions and attempting the Olympics for the sixth time. Samuel is in Mexico for a family vacation and to contemplate his future; he meets a girl. Jeanie, a reporter and Samuel’s ex-girlfriend, travels to Mexico with her cameraman to get an exclusive interview with Samuel about his future, and, at the request of Samuel’s family, attend Samuel’s intervention.

The Big Thrill managed to catch up with author Mark Atley and had a chance to discuss his debut thriller, THE OLYMPIAN:

Without spoilers, are there any genre conventions you wanted to upend or challenge with this book?

Wanting to tell the story and have a hero, but without getting in the head of the hero. Also, advancing the majority of the story through dialogue.

No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?

Although the cover says five characters, there are several “secret” characters that are just as important as the five. They were a lot of fun to write and fully round out the ensemble cast.

What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?

The biggest challenge in this book was telling multiple storylines without getting into the hero’s head. The biggest opportunity in the book was finding a comfortable voice that’s similar to Elmore Leonard.

How does this book make a contribution to the genre?

This book is in the vein of Elmore Leonard and brings back that type of “cool” storytelling that is missing. It’s fun and entertaining. It’s what a book should be.

Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?

The book is based on a Sports Illustrated article written about Michael Phelps. From there the characters exploded onto the page. The characters came first. The setting could be anywhere.

What’s the one question you wish someone would ask you about this book, or your work in general?

Where did the idea come from?

The Sports Illustrated article. I want to talk about how Samuel from the book is based on a lot of the real-life facts of Michael Phelps.


Black Rose Writing published Mark’s debut novel, THE OLYMPIAN, at the end of June 2019. His short story “Amber Alert” won Honorable Mention in a local contest. Recently, Ink and Sword Magazine (Twitter) featured Mark in their December 2018 Crime Issue. Mark holds two degrees in journalism and works as a detective for a suburb of Tulsa, OK. He has overcome learning disabilities and struggled with dyslexia.

Feel free to find him on Twitter at @mark_atley, and follow him on Facebook.