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Landlord Gabriel Angueira is trying to put his life back together. His teenage daughter, Megan, was seriously injured in a car accident caused by her own drunk driving, though Gabe blames himself. Since the accident he has spent every day taking care of her, reflecting on his failures as a father, and trying to rebuild his relationship with his ex-wife, Anya.

So, when a woman wants to rent the house on Shadow Drive, Gabe hands her the keys without a second thought—or doing a background check. Once she moves in, he discovers everything she told him was a lie: her name, her story, her previous address. Gabe knows nothing about this mysterious woman, but she knows a lot about him—and quickly begins destroying the house from the inside out. Gabe soon realizes she’s specifically targeted him and the house on Shadow Drive but has no idea why.

Now Gabe must figure out who this woman is before she unearths his family’s secrets and takes down the house—along with his entire life as he knows it.

Nolan Cubero recently spent some time with TheBigThrill to discuss his debut thriller, SHADOW DRIVE:

Nolan Cubero

A novel is such a major undertaking; there’s the writing of it, of course, then you’re spending months and months revising, polishing, and then promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?

Initially, I felt interested in the central idea, in the mystery, in all the twists and turns in the story, but as I was writing it, I started to feel a strong interest in the characters. They’re all sort of struggling in their own way. Gabe and Anya are trying to put their marriage back together after years of being divorced. They are trying to understand how they could have failed as parents in a way that led to their daughter drinking and driving and injuring herself. Gabe’s handyman Pete is someone who’s trying to move forward after getting over a drug addiction. The story has all these tense moments, all this mystery, and it just gripped me to think about how these characters, who had already been through so much and who were struggling just to get through the day to day, would deal with the increasingly intense situation.

Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?

Someone told me how they once rented a home to a tenant and how the tenant immediately covered all the windows of the house in newspaper. I started wondering why someone would do that, and as I started thinking up reasons, I started thinking up the plot to SHADOW DRIVE.

When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?

I have met lots of landlords, typically first generation people, who own a few rental properties. They aren’t big landlords, just people trying to make some side income on an investment, but who do the handywork themselves so they don’t lose money on the investment, and who—it seems to me—try to treat their tenants with respect.
When I had the idea for SHADOW DRIVEe, I knew I wanted the main character, Gabe, to be like one of those kinds of landlords. Someone with a positive attitude, with a trusting outlook. I wanted to see how that viewpoint held up when faced with an antagonistic and mysterious new tenant.

Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?

I saw this episode of “Impractical Jokers” once where the challenge was that one guy had to get another guy to pull a quarter from someone’s ear, but he couldn’t say the word “quarter” to explain it. To get the guy to understand, he started talking about those little fruit drinks where you poke your finger through the foil. Realizing that the audience might not understand, one of the guys listening in took apart his microphone so the other guy couldn’t hear, looked at the camera, and explained to the viewer that in Staten Island, they called these drinks “quarter drinks.” Then the show just kept going.

I wanted this book to feel like how that moment felt. Like someone was taking you aside, explaining things to you, bringing you into their world. But just for a brief moment. Then the story keeps going. My favorite crime fiction does that. I always liked the way Dennis Lehane had Patrick Kenzie explain Boston to you. Or the way Michael Connelly had Mickey Haller explain the legal system to you in The Lincoln Lawyer books. I wanted Gabe in SHADOW DRIVE to take readers aside and explain Louisville, landlording, and his life to them in a similar way. But even though he knows his world, Gabe doesn’t know anything about the world of crime and mystery he’s thrown into. He’s not a criminal, a private investigator, or a detective. He’s just an average person who gets drawn into a tense circumstance.


Nolan Cubero is a writer and director originally from Louisville, Kentucky. He studied linguistics at Brooklyn College and is currently a law student at UCLA School of Law. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and son. Shadow Drive is his first novel.

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