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Crafting a Reluctant Killer

By K. L. Romo

Author Bill Brewer weaves a lethal tale of a hired-killer in-the-making in DAWN OF THE ASSASSIN.

David Diegert lives a miserable life—his family is poor, his father is an alcoholic, and his brother despises him. And because he’s half Ojibwa, he’s ridiculed at school, taunted by the nickname Tonto.

“Diegert felt the Ojibwa part of him was the root of all his problems; the ostracism, the taunting and fighting, the just plain being ignored by all the cool kids was because of being an Ojib-white.”

To wrap his arms around the rage that fills him, Diegert joins the military—a legal way to strengthen his inner warrior—but soon loses control of the temper that has always doomed him to trouble.

After his short-lived army stint, a chance encounter lands Diegert in the middle of an underground criminal element where he must kill to survive. Framed for a murder he didn’t commit and not able to prove his innocence, Diegert lives in the shadows and makes a life-altering decision: he will make a living doing what he does best—hurting people. He will use his talents by performing the job of an assassin. But how far can he go before the guilt consumes him?

“He willed himself to hold on to the feelings of guilt and recrimination that surfaced after killing. Diegert didn’t want to become someone addicted to violence, a junkie seeking a kill to get a thrill. He held the guilt in and nurtured it, swallowing its poison. He would try to crush any kill thrill with the guilt of having killed.”

Bill Brewer

Rich with action scenes, this story compels readers to empathize with a man whose survival depends on his physical strength, even though the guilt of hurting others battles with the adrenaline rush of overpowering them. He is a “reluctant killer,” a “good guy tinged with gray.” Reminiscent of the movie Point of No Return starring Bridget Fonda, DAWN OF THE ASSASSIN paints a portrait of one whose career choice permanently determines his future. There is no going back.

Author Bill Brewer explains his inspiration for making his protagonist a dangerous anti-hero readers can cheer for.

“It’s between the lines of black and white that I find the most interesting aspects of human behavior. Any character who breaks the first commandment will live with doubt, in shades of gray. I describe Diegert as ‘reluctant’ because he never wants to kill, but when he does he finds the experience is an overwhelming adrenaline rush, followed by crippling guilt. He can dissociate his emotions of empathy and get in the zone like a lethal athlete. When he’s in mission mode, it’s full bore and wide open. Later, when contemplating his actions, he’s plagued with guilt, regret, and self-loathing. Even when he appears so pragmatic, he still feels the pain. He doesn’t have the personal capacity to communicate his torn feelings. He is an anti-hero because he himself doesn’t consider his actions to be heroic.

“I think readers can relate to Diegert if they’ve ever felt uncertain about what to do with their lives. Diegert’s choices are extreme, but he represents people who are capable, talented, intelligent yet uncertain, uninspired, and unsure about the choices in front of them.

“I began this series with the origin of Diegert’s career as an assassin; as the story expands, he moves through a substantial character arc. This journey will require him to look inside himself, consider the consequences beyond the moment, and force him to confront the contradictions of being an assassin. I hope readers will cheer for Diegert as he develops from a conflicted young man into an action hero who must tame his demons to be a positive force in the world.”

Nestled within the emotional turmoil and extreme action of the story, Brewer includes another moral dilemma for readers to consider—the widening wealth gap and unbalanced concentration of wealth and power in our society. Brewer likens Diegert to Robin Hood.

Goofing Off: Brewer and his wife demonstrating the “lighter” side of life.

“The story of Robin Hood emanates from a time when wealthy kings subjugated common folk. Powerful men owned all the land and extracted its riches from those who worked it. Hood represented the will of the poor people and was a hero willing to break the laws of enslavement.

“In our current society, there is an unprecedented rise of a very small, but elite, class of people who exert their wealth, power, and influence over ordinary people. I want readers to see the subtle ways in which this transition is happening and the very real possibility that powerful people could undermine and transcend governments. The super-rich could provide solutions to problems while gaining control through their provision of products and services. The desperate struggle of people at the bottom of the ladder will lead to dangerous behavior. I hope readers become sensitive to the changes that are occurring in our society and realize the impact these changes will have on our future.”

Brewer explains that the thriller genre is the perfect vehicle for characters to behave in a way that may not be acceptable to civilized society.

“When people recognize that wealth and power are being concentrated in the hands of a very few, it makes them angry, which leads to frustration and a desire to act. Characters in thrillers act out in ways civilized people do not. Diegert is a pawn caught up in a game of kings. Thrillers place a normal person in the position of having to succeed against immense odds while global threats, as well as personal issues, are at stake. Novels get readers to feel something while experiencing the emotions of the story; fiction is often more effective at eliciting awareness and change through the experience of the characters.”

Brewer brings his knowledge as a human anatomy and physiology professor into his writing, creating authentic results from the fight and battle scenes included in the novel.

“Knowing anatomy and physiology influences the way I describe the path of bullets, the damage from a knife, and the impact of concussive force and its resulting nerve, vessel, and joint injuries.

“I find the greatest intrigue lies where the physiological and psychological coincide. When Diegert enters a confrontation, he gets a rush of epinephrine flooding his bloodstream which creates tension and anxiety through which he must maintain focus. The hormones stimulate the limbic system in his brain as he goes primal, intent not only on surviving but on kicking ass! With brain chemicals pushing him to prevail on his missions, Diegert becomes a lethal asset, entertaining readers with physiological factors woven into the story.

“Fun fact: An adult has five liters of blood in the body. Once in the story, Diegert must do the math to make sure he doesn’t lose too much blood to parasitic attackers. An adult will lose consciousness and possibly die if they lose 1.2 liters of blood.”

Brewer’s love of thrillers—and his need to captivate, transfix, and entertain his readers—has been influenced by Mark Greaney and Vince Flynn. In his favorite thriller—The Gray Man by Mark Greaney—”the character, Court Gentry, is under constant tension to save a little girl. With an amazing backstory, the action is frequent, compelling, and central to the storytelling. The protagonist is good but dangerous, and not materialistic or over-confident—he’s happy to sleep under a bridge if it’s necessary to his mission. This book made my nerves tingle while I read it and caused me to want to write a thriller.

“Both Greaney and Flynn have produced characters who face global issues—nuclear threats, terrorist plots, the initiation of war—as well as harm to family and loved ones. Fans enjoy these stories through their identification with the protagonists; the more dangerous and threatening the circumstances, the more invested the readers become. The hero must prevail.”

And is there anything about Brewer his fans may not already know?

“I love dinosaurs, fascinated by them since I was a kid. I’m grateful to Michael Crichton who made them cool again with Jurassic Park. Scientific discoveries in the last ten years have revealed many amazing facts about these ancient creatures. If you doubt the impact of climate change, just remember it was a dramatic change in the earth’s climate that extinguished those incredible species.”


K. L. Romo
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