When a mysterious American calling himself Michael Hall arrives in Berlin to join Germany Now, a far-right group, he must prove himself by shooting a prominent Jewish anti-Nazi activist or face certain death. Afterwards, Germany Now welcomes him into its ranks, planning to use his weapons expertise to create a dictatorship dedicated to the Nazi ideals of ‘Blood and Soil.’
Michael, though, has attracted the deadly attention of an unexpected enemy, Lisette. The girlfriend of a neo-Nazi leader, Lisette has a dark secret. To avenge the assassination of her father years earlier, she infiltrated the group, slowly eliminating the killers among them, and has targeted Michael as her next victim. But is Michael the murderer she believes him to be? And by killing him, could Lisette unknowingly destroy the only chance to save German democracy?
Award-winning writer S. Lee Manning took some time out of her busy schedule to talk with The Big Thrill about her latest espionage thriller, BLOODY SOIL:
Was there anything new you discovered or that surprised you as you wrote this book?
I always discover new things about my characters when I write a book. Even with a series, sometimes my characters will surprise me. What also surprised me was the research I did into Day X, which was actually a thing in Germany, although its appearance in my book is based on but not identical to the real “Day X” plot that was the focus of a series by the New York Times.
What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?
Always hate this question. I think most writers read prodigiously and draw on bits from everything they read as well as everything they experience. But what books have influenced you is one of those questions that we’re supposed to be able to answer. So my stock answer is John Le Carre, Daniel Silva, Gail Lynds, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Jane Austen. And, yes, I know the list makes no sense.
Is there a question that you feel is important to you and/or your novel?
Do you think a far-right takeover of the government with a return to the Nazi ideals of 80 years ago is actually likely or realistic—in Germany or the United States?
I think it’s a lot more likely and more realistic than any of us who are not of that mindset are comfortable believing.
What attracts you to this book’s genre?
I like political/espionage thrillers because the stakes are large and the outcome hinges on the characters’ abilities to deal with an uncertain and high-risk situation. It’s a great way to explore character and yet keep my attention. (I have ADHD.)
What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?
The challenge and the opportunity were the same: writing about a neo-Nazi threat in a way that was both credible and yet original. Nazis are such attractive villains, they also become cliches. And yet, if you’re looking for larger-than-life villains, it’s hard not to write about them. It was also a challenge and an opportunity to write about present-day Germany and present an even-handed picture.
An award-winning writer, S. Lee Manning is the author of international thrillers, Trojan Horse, Nerve Attack, and Bloody Soil. She spent two years as managing editor of Law Enforcement Communications before embarking on a subsequent career as an attorney that spanned from a first-tier New York law firm, to working for the State of New Jersey, to solo practice. In 2001, Manning agreed to chair New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (NJADP), writing articles on the risk of wrongful execution and arguing against the death penalty on radio and television in the years leading up to its abolition in the state in 2007.
After taking a class in stand-up at the Vermont Comedy Club, she was a semi-finalist in the 2019 Vermont’s Funniest Comedian contest, and she still performs stand-up on occasion. Manning lives in Vermont with her husband and very vocal cat, Xiao. She is currently working on the next Kolya Petrov novel.
To learn more about the author and her work, please visit her website.
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