Sean Tennant and Molly Winter are living quietly and cautiously in Houston when a troubled, obsessive stranger shatters the safety they have carefully constructed for themselves. Sean is at a shopping mall when Henry Alan Keen, scorned by a woman he’s been dating, pulls out a gun at the store where she works and begins shooting everyone in sight. A former soldier, Sean rushes toward Keen and ends the slaughter with two well-placed shots—becoming a hero with his face plastered across the news.
But Sean’s newfound notoriety exposes him to the wrath of two men he thought he had left safely in his past. One of them blames Sean for his brother’s death. The other wants to recover a treasure that Sean and Molly stole from him. Both men are deadly and relentless enemies, and Sean and Molly will need to draw on all their strength and devotion to each other if they hope to elude them. Thus begins a cross-country chase that leads from Texas to Montana, from Tennessee to New York to Michigan, as the hunters and their prey grow ever closer and, in a heart-stopping moment, converge.
Author Harry Dolan met up with The Big Thrill to discuss his thriller, THE GOOD KILLER. Here’s what he had to say:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
THE GOOD KILLER is, I think, the most straight-ahead thriller I’ve written, and I hope that it works as pure entertainment. But if you dig a little deeper it’s a book about love and loyalty. It’s about reckless decisions and their consequences. It’s about regretting one’s past and searching for redemption.
What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?
One of the biggest challenges with this book had to do with point of view. My previous novels tended to follow a pattern, with scenes from the point of view of the protagonist alternating with scenes from the point of view of the villain. In this novel, I have two protagonists: Sean Tennant, an ex-soldier (and The Good Killer of the title), and his lover, Molly Winter, who is a strong character in her own right and is often separated from Sean and acting on her own. I also have two sets of villains, who are frequently working at cross-purposes from each other. When you add in the Houston police detective who’s searching for Sean and Molly, I’ve got half a dozen viewpoint characters, which makes for an interesting juggling act. But I found that working with a cast of characters like this has its advantages. By cutting from the POV of one character to the POV of another, you can build suspense and drive the story forward.
Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?
I often find as I’m writing a book that a minor character takes on a life of his own and demands a bigger role in the story. In this book, it was Nick Ensen, a shiftless twenty-two-year-old who was originally meant to be a minor henchman of the lead villain, a Detroit crime boss named Jimmy Harper. Nick turned out to have hidden depths, and he ended up becoming something more than I had expected him to be.
Without spoilers, are there any genre conventions you wanted to upend or challenge with this book?
In all of my novels, I’ve tried to resist painting the characters in black and white. I’ve tried to show the humanity of the antagonists that my main characters struggle against. That’s especially true of THE GOOD KILLER. The main villain, Jimmy Harper, isn’t motivated by money or a desire for power. He’s someone who’s been wronged, and he genuinely believes that he’s looking for justice.
What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?
There are many writers who have influenced me, but for the moment let me focus on two. I read Gregory Mcdonald’s Fletch mysteries when I was nineteen or twenty, and they definitely left an impression. Mcdonald was a master at writing witty dialogue and using it to move the story ahead. Some of his plots are close to perfect: the kind of puzzles that leave you guessing all along, until the pieces fall into place with the final reveal. Later on, I discovered Michael Malone, who has written a series of novels featuring a pair of homicide detectives in a fictional college town in North Carolina. Time’s Witness is the finest of them. It’s full of strong characters, local color, and compelling action, and the narrator’s voice is truly distinctive. It’s a book that deals thoughtfully with issues of race, and it’s been compared to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, with good reason.
Harry Dolan is the author of the mystery/suspense novels Bad Things Happen (2009), Very Bad Men (2011), The Last Dead Girl (2014), and The Man in the Crooked Hat (2017). He graduated from Colgate University, where he majored in philosophy and studied fiction-writing with the novelist Frederick Busch. A native of Rome, New York, he now lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.