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NCIS Special Agent Linus Schag is no stranger to violence and bloodshed, but when he’s sent to Iraq to take custody of two Navy SEALs suspected of murder, he finds himself thrust into a manmade inferno as coalition forces fight to free northern Iraq from the Islamic extremist group called ISIS.

The explosion of an IED allows the SEALs, suspected of killing a fellow commando, to escape and flee up the Tigris River in a stolen Navy patrol boat. Schag pursues the SEALs in another boat, assisted by an Army criminal investigator, a vengeful Iraqi interpreter, and a hostile Navy boat crew. Facing danger at each bend in the river, Schag and his companions endure ambushes, firefights, and friendly fire as he tries to discover the secret that lures the SEALs straight into the dark heart of an ISIS-made hell on earth.

Martin Roy Hill recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest thriller, UPRIVER.

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

UPRIVER is a mystery wrapped up in a war story, or a war story wrapped up in a mystery, if you prefer. Its inspiration came from numerous reports of flagging morale among US forces worn out by repeated combat deployments due to the Iraq/Afghan wars and the ISIS crisis that I read when I was a Navy analyst in combat casualty care. If I want readers to take away one thing, it’s this: that constant adventurism by our country is wearing down our military forces.

Martin Roy Hill

Martin Roy Hill

How does this book make a contribution to the genre?

UPRIVER, as with my other thrillers, takes on a serious subject—in this case, the emotional and mental impact of war. I like to think thrillers can be more than an exciting read; they can be a means for social commentary, something that many critics contend can only be done by more literary works.

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

I don’t think I’ve upended any conventions. As I said, I think thrillers can be a source of social commentary, but I don’t believe that’s new. Many books taught in literature classes today were the thrillers of their time. Think about Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness or Lord Jim, or H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds. They are considered great literature today, but they were written basically as thrillers.

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

My early influencers were the Lost Generation writers like Hemingway, Dos Passo, and Remarque who emerged after WWI. I’m from the Vietnam generation myself, and I saw some of the same disillusionment in our generation as the Lost Generation did. Contemporary authors who have influenced me include ITW cofounder David Morrell, as well as James Rollins and many others. I think David, more than anyone else, shows how the thriller genre can encompass so many different subgenres.


Martin Roy Hill is the author of the Linus Schag, NCIS, thrillers, the Peter Brandt thrillers, DUTY: Suspense and Mystery Stories from the Cold War and Beyond, Polar Melt: A Novel, and EDEN: A Sci-Fi Novella. His latest Linus Schag thriller, The Butcher’s Bill, received the Best Mystery/Suspense Novel of 2017 from the Best Independent Book Awards, the Clue Award for Best Suspense Thriller, the Silver Medal for Thrillers from the Readers Favorite Book Awards, and the award for Adult Fiction from the California Author Project. His latest Peter Brandt mystery, The Fourth Rising, was named Best Mystery of 2020 by the Best Independent Books Awards, 2020 Best Crime Thriller by the American Fiction Awards, and the 2020 Clue Award for Best Suspense Thriller by the Chanticleer International Book Awards.

To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.