The Big Thrill Discusses THE ASCENT with Adam Plantinga
Kurt Argento is an ex-Detroit street cop who can’t let injustice go—and who has the fighting skills to back up his idealism. When he runs afoul of a corrupt sheriff in Missouri town, he’s brutally beaten and thrown into a maximum-security prison. Julie Wakefield, a grad student who happens to be the governor’s daughter, is about to take a tour of the prison. But when a malfunction in the security system releases a horde of prisoners, a fierce struggle for survival ensues and Argento must help a small band of staff and civilians, including Julie and her two state trooper handlers, make their way from the bottom floor to the roof to safety.
All that stands in their way are six floors of the most dangerous convicts in Missouri.
Adam Plantinga recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss his debut adventure thriller, THE ASCENT.
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?
I wrote a main character that I identified with and am quite fond of, so it was a pleasure to spend a few years with him. I also believed in the book’s plot device (a dangerous prison with a security system gone haywire) and enjoyed creating challenges for the characters to overcome in sometimes unique ways. It was like designing a deadly obstacle course.
Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?
No exact moment, but I’ve always been fascinated by fictional tough guys, from Robert B. Parker’s Spenser to Robert Crais’ legendary ex-soldier Joe Pike. I wanted to write a character with that hard-boiled DNA but who also still had weaknesses and vulnerabilities, because it can be hard to make Superman interesting. I also wanted to use my police experience to inform the book.
Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?
Dan Simmons’ Hardcase trilogy was influential, where he just puts his (anti) hero through his brutal paces. Movies where a band of survivors have to make their way through a hellscape, like Aliens and The Poseidon Adventure.
In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?
The book is fiction, but I’ve used my decades of police experience to include some insights into overcoming fear, tactics for fighting, and some sociological observations. Being a cop is a front row seat to one of the greatest shows on earth. I’ve tried to infuse my book with some of those ringside observations.
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?
My main character is an ex-cop who has experienced a family tragedy (the death of his wife) and that’s been done before. But I wanted to put a different, authentic spin on it. I think I was able to do that because I know cops and how they act and think. I also wanted a redemption arc for my character and to do that, I had to put him through a meat grinder.
What can you share about what you’re working on next?
I have a two book deal with Grand Central, so I’ve already written a sequel to THE ASCENT that will be coming out in 2025.
Adam Plantinga’s first book, 400 Things Cops Know, was nominated for an Agatha Award and won the 2015 Silver Falchion award for best nonfiction crime reference. It was hailed as “truly excellent” by author Lee Child and deemed “the new Bible for crime writers” by The Wall Street Journal. His second book, also nonfiction, is Police Craft. Plantinga began his career in law enforcement in 2001 as a Milwaukee police officer. He is currently a sergeant with the San Francisco Police Department assigned to street patrol. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, daughters, and Chow Chow named Ziggy. THE ASCENT is his debut novel.
To learn more about the author, please visit his website.
THE ASCENT with ADAM PLANTINGA