Someone is assassinating CIA field officers and Jake Keller's name is next on the list in the latest thrilling novel from the author Publishers Weekly calls "a fresh voice in the crowded spy thriller field." Jake doesn't know who is trying to kill him and he doesn't know why. Still, it's a threat he can't ignore. When his small plane crashes in the Alps, Jake is the only survivor. A rescue helicopter soon arrives, but the men inside are not there to save anyone. They are determined to complete the murderous job they started. Jake escapes from the mountainside deathtrap, but it won't be the only attempt on his life. If he's to have any chance at surviving, he'll have to find out who's behind the killings. But the circle of people Jake can trust is distressingly small as he suspects that someone inside the Agency is feeding his every move to the very people who are trying to end his life. Jake's quest takes him to the candle-lit cathedrals of Paris and the rain-slicked streets of London. He makes contact with old friends and new enemies along the way—but his true nemesis may be closer than he imagines.
Jack Ryan, Jr., will do anything for a friend, but this favor will be paid for in blood in the latest electric entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling series.
Jack Ryan Jr would do anything for Ding Chavez. That’s why Jack is currently sitting in an open air market in Israel helping a CIA team with a simple job. The man running the mission, Peter Beltz, is an old friend from Ding’s army days. Ding hadn’t seen his friend since Peter’s transfer to the CIA eighteen months prior and intended to use the assignment to reconnect. Unfortunately, Ding had to cancel at the last minute and asked Jack to take his place. It’s a cushy assignment–an all expense paid trip to Israel in exchange for a couple hours of easy work, but Jack could use the downtime after his last operation.
Jack is here merely as an observer, but when he hastens to help a woman and her young son, he finds himself the target of trained killers. Alone and outgunned Jack will have to use all his skills to protect the life of the child.
A few quick questions with author Don Bentley
1. Did you name the book Target Acquired after you wrote it, or did you already have it in mind based off an idea beforehand?
Since it’s a Tom Clancy book and not my series, the publisher gave me a list of names they’d already preselected. I voted for Target Acquired and that’s what they went with.
2. I’ve heard you speak about the difference in writing the point of view for Jack Ryan Jr. vs. the Matt Drake series. How was it getting to know Jack Ryan Jr. as a character?
Getting to know Jack Jr. was a ton of fun. I tried to peel back his a character in a way that was new and maybe hadn’t been done quite the same way before. You’ll have to let me know how I did!
3. What do you love most about the Tom Clancy books?
I love how Tom introduced you to military tech in a way that made you feel as if you were strapped into the F-14 right beside the pilot. He truly was one of the greats, and I would have loved to have had the opportunity to meet him.
Plastic surgeon Lou Edwards’s life is complicated by two major issues.
One, his wife has lupus, possibly due to leaking silicone from breast implants Edwards himself inserted. And two, his malpractice insurance has been canceled, as it has been for many other plastic surgeons, due to the burgeoning breast implant problem.
But it gets worse.
Shortly after Edwards threatens an insurance company president on national TV, the president is found murdered in his penthouse.
Dr. Jim Bob Brady once again finds himself doing a bit of investigating, this time on behalf of a colleague. But how well does he know this colleague? Is the investigation worth the threat to Jim Bob’s own life? Will he discover that it was a burglary gone bad? A lover’s quarrel? Or is this an act of revenge?
Act of Revenge: A Medical Thriller
by John Bishop, MD
Excerpted from Act of Revenge: A Doc Brady Mystery. Copyright © 2020 by John Bishop MD. All rights reserved. Published by Mantid Press.
Monday, February 10, 1997
“JIM BOB! Jim Bob? Can you hear me?”
I was stunned but not unconscious. My first concern was that I had sustained another head injury. I had been mugged a year and a half ago and had spent ten days in a coma after developing a subdural hematoma, a collection of blood between my brain and skull requiring surgery. The hair on my shaved head had taken seemingly forever to grow back out to a length and texture I could brush. I wasn’t prepared to go through all that again.
“I’m okay, I think,” I said to Mary Louise. She was kneeling down over me, skis off. “Thanks for not being in front of me. I might have hit you, too. Where’s the guy I ran into?”
“He’s up the hill. I’ll go check on him.” And with that, she headed back up the slope.
Since I had landed face down in the snow, I used my corduroy cap to clean off my goggles and face in an attempt to see what was going on. I was partially buried in the foot-high drift, but when I assessed that my extremities were intact and my vision was relatively normal, I managed to turn myself around.
I sat up and saw my wife kneeling down over the man I had run into twenty yards behind me. One ski was off, and the other was twisted about 45 degrees, half-buried in the snow. Unfortunately, his leg was still attached to it. My skis had come undone, and God only knew where they had landed. Probably in someone’s condo.
I had heard of a ski accident that occurred on the same slope wherein a crash between two skiers had resulted in a lost ski sailing down the hill and crashing through a picture window into the living room of a residence. No one was hurt, at least in the home, but I’m sure it gave them quite a start. And some decent kindling.
I abandoned my ski poles, which had still been attached to my wrists with their adjustable loops, and stepped up the hill to join Mary Louise and the unknown assailant. A thought crossed my mind that perhaps I was the unknown assailant. Whatever the situation, I hoped the man had experienced enough of a shock to render him an amnesiac but not unconscious or damaged.
“Are you okay?” Mary Louise was asking him repeatedly as I arrived on the scene. Several other skiers had gathered as well and had already placed their skis in the ground, tips up and crossed, the universal sign of an injury requiring the ski patrol’s attention.
The man was on his side. His eyes were open.
“Listen,” I said, “I’m a doctor. I need to check your pupils and your arms and legs. Don’t be frightened. Okay?”
His pupils reacted normally to light. I felt his neck.
“Any pain here?” I asked as I gently moved his cervical spine from side to side. “Any numbness? Arms or legs?”
He shook his head. “My leg . . . killing me.”
“I’m sure. I’ll get down there in a minute.”
The man’s arms, chest, head, spine, and right leg all seemed to be in working order. It was time to address the crucial issue.
“Listen,” I explained, “my name is Jim Brady. I’m an orthopedic surgeon from Houston. I need to check out this left leg and try to decide if you’ve got a fracture in your femur or tibia or if you’ve got a knee ligament injury. I may not be able to tell, but I’d like to try before the ski patrol arrives.Okay?”
“I don’t want you to move it. Hurts too bad.”
“Well, the medic will have to move it to get you onto the stretcher. Your leg’s kind of twisted out at an angle. If I can figure out what’s wrong, I may be able to make you more comfortable by moving it. Let me try.”
He nodded. I gently felt his femur, the thigh bone, with both hands. No pain. Same with the tibia and fibula, the two bones connecting the knee to the ankle. When I felt his knee, however, even through his bulky, waterproof ski pants, I could feel the enlarged joint. He winced.
“It’s your knee, probably a ligament tear. If I can get your ski off andstraighten out the leg, you’ll feel a lot better. I want you to hang on for a minute.”
“Man, it’s killing me! Just leave it alone!”
I paused, then slid down toward his boot release, had Mary Louise support the ski to minimize the torque, and unsnapped his boot from the binding. He moaned for a second, but I quickly untwisted the leg, brought it parallel to the other, and laid it down.
“Damn it! I told you not to—huh. Feels better.”
“See,” I said, “you should have trusted me.”
“Sort of hard to trust a guy who runs you over, wouldn’t you say?”
I assumed amnesia wasn’t going to be a problem for him.
Two members of the ski patrol arrived on separate snowmobiles pulling stretchers. One of them had probably been intended for me. I was glad to decline it. I helped the medics get my victim onto the stretcher and bind him down to minimize the shock of the journey to Snowmass Ski Clinic. I felt obligated to accompany them.
“Are you by yourself? Is there anyone we can notify?” Mary Louise asked. “I’ll be glad to make a call. Whatever you need.”
“Guess you better call my wife, tell her I’m hurt. I hate to upset her,though.”
“Where are you staying?” she asked him.
“Wood Run Condos. Just down the hill. I was headed home.”
“So were we,” Mary Louise said. “Why don’t I just run by there. We’re at the Chamonix. You’re only a block or so away. How would that be?”
He nodded and sort of smiled. “That’d be real nice, ma’am. I’d appreciate
She looked at him for a minute, waiting. “I need your name and condo number,” she said patiently, like a schoolteacher waiting for a third grader to figure out the times tables.
“Oh, sure. Sorry. I’m Lou Edwards. Her name’s Mimi. We’re in 530 Wood Run. And thanks.”
“It’s the least I can do,” Mary Louise said, looking at me like she was very glad I was okay, but not happy that I had run over the poor man. I didn’t blame her.
About the Author:
John Bishop MD is the author of Act of Revenge: A Doc Brady Mystery. Dr. Bishop has practiced orthopedic surgery in Houston, Texas, for 30 years. His Doc Brady medical thriller series is set in the changing environment of medicine in the 1990s. Drawing on his years of experience as a practicing surgeon, Bishop entertains readers using his unique insights into the medical world with all its challenges, intricacies, and complexities, while at the same time revealing the compassion and dedication of health care professionals. Dr. Bishop and his wife, Joan, reside in the Texas Hill Country. For more information, please visit:
“Eric Steele and author Sean Parnell are the real deal.”— Lee Child
Special operative Eric Steele, introduced in Man of War, is on the hunt for a formidable Russian terrorist in this high-intensity tale of international intrigue from the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Outlaw Platoon.
Badly injured while stopping a rogue agent from obtaining weapons of mass destruction, elite warrior Eric Steele is drawn back into service before he’s ready when unknown assailants break into his home near Pittsburgh, injuring his mother and stealing his father’s pistol.
An Alpha—an elite soldier under the direct command of the president of the United States—Steele is hell-bent on finding the attackers and bringing them to justice. While tracking his foe, Steele discovers he’s become entangled in a far more sinister plan that’s already been set in motion.
A terrorist named Zakayev, once locked away in a maximum-security prison in Russia, has escaped and joined forces with Hassan Sitta, a man who’s shown his prowess and ingenuity with a spectacular bomb planted somewhere in the Middle East that hasn’t been ignited—and no one can find. But that is only the beginning of a horrifying plan that, if it succeeds, will shatter international alliances and bring the world to the brink of war.
Now, the hunted must turn the tables on the hunter—Steele must find a way to stay alive and stop Zakayev before innocent lives are lost.
This is one of the best new series on the market. Eric Steele and the covert Alpha system is awesome. As an Alpha, highly skilled operative Eric Steele has direct access to the president of the United States, as well as unique resources that make this series a joy to read. There’s also what I call an “entertainment factor” revealed in Steele’s character and overall tone of writing. Wonderful.
About the Author
Sean Parnell is the author of the bestselling memoir Outlaw Platoon. He is a retired Army Infantry captain who served in some of the heaviest combat of the Afghan War. He recounts those battles in vivid detail during his leadership presentations for the nation’s most successful teams and corporations. He is also the Co-Founder of the American Warrior Initiative, a charity that honors and empowers our nation’s veterans. Sean lives with his three children near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Welcome to the Dark Age
The award winning, top-rated saga that sold a half-million copies returns in the next season of the Extinction Cycle. Welcome to the Dark Age.
Survivors thought the extinction cycle ended, but a powerful evil lurks in the shadows…
Eight years ago, an engineered virus ravaged the globe, infecting and transforming humans into apex predators called Variants. Billions died, civilization collapsed, and the human race teetered on the brink of extinction.
Nations banded together and heroes rose up to fight these abominations. On the front lines, Captain Reed Beckham and Master Sergeant Joe “Fitz” Fitzpatrick of Delta Force Team Ghost fought against the Variant hordes. With the aid of CDC Doctor Kate Lovato, they helped lead humanity to victory.
Now, almost a decade after the end of the war, civilization has slowly clawed toward recovery. In the Allied States of America, survivors live in outposts where they have rebuilt industry, agriculture, and infrastructure. The remaining Variants are believed to be dying off under destroyed cities and the abandoned frontier.
But evil and intelligent forces dwell in the shadows with the starving beasts, scheming to restart the extinction cycle and end humanity forever. And once again, Beckham, Fitz, and Kate will rise to fight them, joining forces with new heroes to try and save what’s left of the world.
READER NOTE: You don’t have to read the first 7 books of the Extinction Cycle to jump into Book 1 of Extinction Cycle: Dark Age. This new season is a self-contained storyline. For returning readers, this book takes place after book 7, Extinction War.
This is post-apocalyptic fiction at it’s best. It all begins with Extinction Cycle when a secret military sponsored bioweapon is deployed on US soldiers in Vietnam. They wanted a super soldier, but they got more than they bargained for. A deadly viral mutation commenced and caused a near extinction of the human race. To say it was a rude awakening to billions of innocent civilians is an serious understatement. Extinction Shadow: Extinction Cycle Dark Age Book 1 is season 2 of the series and can be read without the prior books. BUT, I would highly recommend it after reading Extinction Shadow. I have to say this series has me completely hooked. The storyline, action, science, characters, variants, and the fight for survival are all too real.
Bioweapons. An explosive, unrelenting and highly contagious virus with irreversible effects.
Captain Reed Beckham and Master Sergeant Joe “Fitz” Fitzpatrick of Delta Force Team Ghost fight on the front lines against hordes of Variants, infected and mutated humans; while others such as CDC virologist Dr. Kate Lavato does her fighting in the lab. The science supporting the story is very intriguing so there’s NEVER a dull moment. They’re fighting a battle where science is critical and understanding the enemy is key. Dr. Kate Lavato is plays a pivotal role for the survival of the human race. At least, what’s left of it. Extinction Shadow is full of exciting genetic engineering.
Extinction Shadow: Dark Age book 1 is not only awesome, but also available in audiobook format for listeners. This season 2 of the series will be narrated by the ever popular R. C. Bray. And if you know R.C. Bray you KNOW its’ going to be good. Need I say more?
- Narrated by: R.C. Bray
- Length: 9 hrs and 31 mins
- Unabridged Audiobook
- Release date: 08-13-19
- Language: English
- Publisher: Blue Heron Audio
Nicholas Sansbury Smith is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Hell Divers series. His other work includes the Extinction Cycle series, the Trackers series, and the Orbs series. He worked for Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management in disaster planning and mitigation before switching careers to focus on his one true passion–writing. When he isn’t writing or daydreaming about the apocalypse, he enjoys running, biking, spending time with his family, and traveling the world. He is an Ironman triathlete and lives in Iowa with his wife, their dogs, and a house full of books.
Sign up for Nicholas’s spam-free newsletter to learn more about future releases, how to claim a book patch, special offers, and bonus content. Subscribers will also receive access to exclusive giveaways. Newsletter link
Anthony J Melchiorri is a writer and biomedical engineer living in Maryland. He spends most of his time developing cardiovascular devices for tissue engineering to treat children with congenital heart defects when he isn’t writing or reading.
How do you determine if your idea is viable enough for a complete novel?
Because I don’t plot, every book idea evolves as I’m writing. Usually, I have a spark of an idea — a premise, a set-up, a character conflict — something that interests me. If the idea isn’t working, I tweak it as I write. Sometimes, a story just flows and the idea was better than I thought. Other times, the initial idea isn’t strong enough to carry a novel — I’ve actually written a couple short stories/novellas on ideas that were good but not “big” enough for 100,000 words. But after three dozen books, I usually know based on the initial story concept whether the idea is viable.
Do you approach writing every book the same or does it vary?
Yes. I start with an idea and a character and go from there. I don’t plot. I start at the beginning and write (mostly) linearly. At about the end of the first act (roughly page 100-150) I almost always get stuck and go back to the beginning. I add/cut/edit extensively. Then I finish the book. The first 150 pages usually takes me twice as long to write as the last 300 pages. And, ironically, it’s usually the first act that has more editorial notes than the last act. Go figure! But I can’t seem to do it any other way.
What are the bare essentials of your writing process?
A computer and caffeine. LOL. Seriously, I write every day. I start in the morning and write until the kids come home from school—and often later. I wish I could say I write XXX number of words a day then shut it off, but no. I write anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 a day. Some days—especially in the last act as I’m nearing the end of the book and am really excited about what’s happening, I can write up to 10,000 words in a day. It’s rare, and they need a lot of editing! (For example, once I wrote an entire chapter with no dialogue tags because I was typing so fast!)
How would you say your writing process has changed over the years?
Mostly, no. But I have noticed one fundamental change. My first five or six books I wrote from beginning to end, a “sloppy copy” and when back to edit. I wrote fast, a lot of it was a mess, but I had the confidence that I could clean it up in edits. Now, I can’t seem to do that. I edit as I go. About book seven, I realized that if I think I’m writing something that isn’t working, I can’t continue. I have to go back and fix it. This isn’t about the word choices or grammar, it’s about story. If the story isn’t working quite right, I can’t continue without fixing it. The good news is that my first draft is usually really clean and tight. The bad news is that it takes me a lot longer to write that first draft. Now, and for about the last 10-15 books, at the beginning of the writing day, I re-read the last scene or chapter I wrote to get me back into the story (editing as necessary) then write the next scene or chapter.
How do you break down your story into scenes?
Did you enjoy writing the next Lucy Kincaid books, Storm Warning and Nothing to Hide?
I always love writing. I’m doing what I love. Even when I’m struggling with a story or a scene, I love it. Storm Warning was particularly fun because I knew it was going to be a novella and I could focus on one linear story. The benefit is that I don’t worry about sub-plots, and the story itself tends to be more fast-paced. This has been true for all the novellas I’ve written, so they’re a lot of fun to write. Nothing to Hide started with a solid premise — I wanted to call the book Two Lies and a Truth because each of the widows lied to Lucy about something and Sean’s son Jesse lied to him about something. The book is really about the lies we tell to protect others, and the lies we tell to protect ourselves.
Anyway, by the end of the book I loved the way it turned out, though I’ll admit at the beginning of the third act I had no idea how I was going to catch the killer (though by that point I knew who it was. And no, I didn’t know when I first started writing who was guilty!)
How are these two stories related to one another?
They really aren’t, other than sharing the main characters. In fact, Storm Warning more directly relates to the upcoming Lucy Kincaid book Cut and Run. The novella was set against the backdrop of a storm and flooding outside San Antonio. In the beginning of Cut and Run which takes place two months later, Lucy’s team identifies four bodies that had been uncovered in a mass grave after the flood waters passed. Nothing to Hide takes place between those two stories.
How does Lucy’s background in psychology help her solve cases?
Criminal psychology has always fascinated me, and I’ve read a lot of books about the subject, as well as true crime. Psychology is a tool that can be learned, but mostly it’s a tool that many cops use based solely on experience. So to me, Lucy has the best of both worlds—she’s been trained in criminal psychology, and she has a lot of experience both before and after she became an FBI agent. Now that she has nearly two years under her belt as an agent, she has more confidence in her abilities, but she still calls in those who have more experience to help—as any good investigator will do.
What dilemma is she facing trying to solve the crimes in Nothing to Hide?
The biggest problem with this case is that there is no apparent motive. The victims are very loosely connected (all married men under forty, all driving home alone at night, all killed by the side of the road when they exited their vehicle for no known reason.) But the men didn’t know each other; no one in their circles knew each other. They were of different races and socio-economic status. They had different family structures. The attack itself was quick but not painless, and as Lucy and her partner quickly learn, each injury was specific. The lack of motive for these crimes is what is keeping Lucy from solving it quickly—plus, there is little forensic evidence. If the crimes are truly random, Lucy recognizes that they won’t be able to solve the murders until the killer slips up and there’s a witness or physical evidence left behind. And so far, nothing.
As an aside, I wrote the killer so smart that even I had a hard time figuring out how to solve the crimes! I went back to a statement made by retired cop Lee Lofland in one of his blogs: every contact leaves a trace. That means that the killer had to have left something behind, even if they don’t know what it is. So they go back and look more carefully at each crime scene. And while the evidence they do find doesn’t give them enough to find the killer, it does give them a direction to pursue.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Allison Brennan believes that life is too short to be bored, so she had five children and writes three books a year.
Allison has penned more than two dozen thrillers and many short stories. RT Book Reviews calls Allison “a master of suspense” and her books “haunting,” “mesmerizing,” “pulse-pounding” and “emotionally complex.” RT also said that “The Lucy Kincaid/Sean Rogan books are getting better and better!”
COLD SNAP, was a finalist for Best Thriller in the Thriller Awards (ITW) and FEAR NO EVIL (2007) and COMPULSION (2015) won the Daphne du Maurier award. Allison has been nominated multiple times for RWA’s Best Romantic Suspense award, and the Kiss of Death’s Daphne award.
Allison lives in Northern California with her husband, five children, and assorted pets. Her current release is STORM WARNING: A Lucy Kincaid Novella, and NOTHING TO HIDE Lucy Kincaid #14 Available now.
About Leigh Russell
After many years teaching English in secondary school, internationally bestselling author Leigh Russell now writes crime fiction full time. Published in English and in translation in Europe, her Geraldine Steel and Ian Peterson titles have appeared on many bestseller lists, including #1 on kindle. Leigh’s work has been nominated for several major awards, including the CWA New Blood Dagger and CWA Dagger in the Library, and her Geraldine Steel and Ian Peterson series are in development for television with Avalon Television Ltd. Journey to Death is the first title in her Lucy Hall series published by Thomas and Mercer.
Your new book Suspicion, is out April 22. What do you enjoy about writing psychological thrillers?
What I enjoy most about writing, is the freedom to explore how other people might respond when they encounter difficulties and challenges. All of my books begin with a “What if” question. In the case of Suspicion, the question was: ‘What might a woman do to preserve her marriage, if she discovered her husband was having an affair?’ Writing psychological thrillers allows me to live someone else’s fictitious life for a while, and experience their story vicariously.
How does your approach to writing differ between a psychological thriller versus a police procedural?
My police procedurals are written mainly from my detective’s point of view, but they also include chapters that take readers inside the mind of my killer and other characters. This adds tension for readers, who often know more than the police investigating the murder. My stand alone psychological thrillers are written in the first person. Although readers only know what the narrator knows, they can still deduce information for themselves. Writing in the first person focuses more closely on the character of the narrator, and his or her private thoughts and feelings, which affects the readers’ engagement with the narrative, but writing from different points of view can be more dramatic. Both types of story are fun to write, and I enjoy the challenge of switching between third person and first person narratives.
What motivated you to write psychological thrillers?
As a writer, I don’t believe we choose our stories. Rather, our stories find us. So when the idea for this book occurred to me one day, complete with the voice of the protagonist, all I had to do was write the story in her words – although they are my words really, because she is my creation.
What’s a typical writing day like for you?
There is no ‘typical’ day for me. Every day is different. I wake up as late as possible, and most days my husband brings me a cup of tea in bed, by which time I’m usually already working. I write on an ipad with goes with me everywhere, so I can work anywhere. Once I am up and about, if I’m not otherwise occupied my day will be spent writing, but it is extremely rare for me to have a completely free day. Life often gets in the way of my writing, but I consider myself fortunate to have a family who place so many demands on my time. I wouldn’t change anything about my life, except to have more hours in the day.
Tell us about the investigation that Detective Sergeant Geraldine Steel is working on in Rogue Killer.
In Rogue Killer, a rough sleeper is killed in a seemingly random attack. The killer is careful to leave no clue to his identity, and the police are stumped. Then a second body is discovered. Geraldine is worried some of her colleagues might not investigate these murders as thoroughly as they should, because the victims were homeless. Meanwhile, a young girl has run away from home and witnessed a murder at night on the streets of York. Her eye witness account could help the police to track down the killer, but she is too frightened to come forward.
Who is the man killed in the attack?
The man killed in the first attack is a rough sleeper who is known to the local homeless shelters, but has no family who would miss him or mourn for him. Sharing news of a murder with the victim’s family is the part of her job Geraldine usually finds the hardest, but she is desperately sad about the solitude this victim endured in his life.
Name some of your favourite books of 2019.
I haven’t read many books published in 2019 but books I have read so far this year include the weighty Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, a tour de force which he wrote at the age of twenty-eight. Unusually, most of my reading this year has been non-fiction as I am writing a trilogy set in Renaissance Italy. Historical fiction is a completely new departure for me and it has required a lot of research into a fascinating period in history.
In terms of books actually published in 2019, I’m looking forward to reading The Testaments by Margaret Atwood which is published in September, as I enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale .
Author Tempeste Blake interviews mystery writer Samantha Goodwin on her new release – Murder At Macbeth.
It’s MYSTERY THRILLER WEEK (www.mysterythrillerweek.com) and I’m doing a little happy dance. I’ve made great new friends at this event and found some fantastic reads to add to my library.
And speaking of new friends. Samantha Goodwin, author of Murder at Macbeth, and I recently sat down over tea and had a chat about … okay, really we talked via email and messenger, but I’m painting a picture so play along … we sat and drank tea and chatted about writing and books, especially those of the mystery variety, and here’s how some of the conversation went.
T: Do you have any writing habits or superstitions?
S: I handwrite everything as I find my ideas flow better! It’s great because it means I can write anywhere, my favourite location is outside on those rare sunny English days. It is however, not the most time-efficient way of writing as then I have to spend time typing everything up as I go along and start editing!
T: Where did you get the inspiration for your story?
S: I was inspired by a newspaper article about a London West End actor who was accidentally stabbed live on stage. That got me thinking; what if that had been intentional? What a dramatic way to murder someone and believe you could get away with it.
I’ve always been fascinated by the superstitions surrounding Macbeth about it being cursed and the fact the play itself is about corruption and deception provided an interesting parallel to the murder mystery. Plus, I found the concept of interviewing suspects who are also actors really interesting; they could so easily be playing a part to hide the truth.
T: How long did it take you to write your novel?
S: It took me one year to finish the complete first draft of my novel and then another year to complete the editing. Which considering I was working full time and pregnant while writing it, I was really pleased about! I carved out time to write every day but it usually ended up being only 30 minutes in the morning before work or 1 hour during my lunch break. At first it seemed completely impossible to write an entire book with such little time, but before long I found I could get into the swing of it and write pretty quickly. I actually found the balance of doing my editing and looking after a newborn much more difficult. I did a lot of one-handed typing while holding a sleeping baby!
T: I know asking about favorite characters can be like asking about a favorite child or pet, but . . . do you have a favorite character or one you’d love to bring back in another story?
S: I love both of the detective characters, I’ve deliberately set the novel up so it could work as the first in a series so it would be great to bring them both back in future stories. The astute Detective Inspector Finley Robson leads the murder investigation. Smart and resourceful, he has an uncanny ability for getting to the bottom of the toughest cases. However, he is also struggling to overcome his own troubled past and finds the unusual theatrical case resonates deeply with him. Detective Sergeant Nadia Zahra is his tenacious, no-nonsense partner who has risen quickly through the ranks to become one of the youngest detectives at the London Metropolitan police force. Fiercely loyal, she maintains a healthy disregard for bureaucracy and is a force to be reckoned with.
Follow the remainder of the interview on Tempeste Blake’s website: Author Interview: Debut Mystery Author Samantha Goodwin
Evil never dies…
What was it like writing your first book?
Writing is something I’ve done all my life. Over the years, I’ve written quite a few manuscripts – my first serious attempt was submitted in 1980! I still have it in a box in my office. So in a way, I don’t view this as my first book – it’s just the first one that I’ve managed to get published! What I can say is what it was like making the conscious decision to write seriously and with purpose, rather than simply as a hobby that I loved. Previously I’d had to fit my writing around life. Bringing up a family, building a career and then a business – the kind of things we all do, but which makes writing consistently and productively very difficult. In 2017 I attended the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival and met and chatted to several successful authors, agents and publishers. It left me with the feeling, that if I was going to give getting published my best shot, then I had to make the commitment to write full-time – or as near to that as possible. My manuscript for ‘The Murder Mile’ had been something I’d picked up and put down sporadically for a few years. Halting the process when ‘life’ got in the way. I came away from Harrogate determined to treat writing as my ‘Day Job’, and set myself the target of having it ready for the next Harrogate Festival in July of 2018. It wasn’t an easy decision by any means. I still needed to make a living and needed an income. But I worked out the minimum I could manage on, and then committed to working from home as much as possible to maximise my writing time. I run a private therapy practice locally, as well as my corporate work, and the practice became the mainstay of my income during the following year. Fate ‘tested’ my decision when I was offered major contracts, which would have taken me away for months at a time. Something I knew would derail my writing plans. So I gritted my teeth and turned them all down.
It was fabulous being able to think of each day as a ‘writing day’. I tried to be disciplined and get into my office around 10am and work until I really couldn’t write anymore, but I rarely finished before 6pm or 7pm. I finally knew what it must feel like to be a ‘proper’ writer and I absolutely loved it.
What were the most challenging aspects?
Getting into the discipline of making sure that I wrote productively every day. By Productively, I mean, writing words that actually moved the plot along. Developed characters, scenes and plotlines. I realised that giving myself the luxury of a full day of writing was great – but it was too easy to disappear down the rabbit hole of research and not actually do the writing. I know some would-be authors who get so hooked on research that they never actually complete their book.
‘The Murder Mile’, required quite a bit of research in places, but if I was ‘in the zone’ and the words were really flowing – instead of stopping when I hit something I needed to look up, I would just put a note to myself in red which said “Insert [Whatever it was] here later”. Then carry on with the storyline that was flowing.
Another challenge is when I’d hit what others refer to as ‘Writer’s block’. I don’t know how that feels to other authors, but for me those were days when I would stare at the page and literally not know how to start or move things forward at all. My imaginary friends just weren’t talking to me some days. On those occasions I would go back a couple of chapters and re-read what I’d written and do a running edit. Changing words, looking for mistakes and oiling the ‘clunky’ bits. Invariably once I got to where I’d finished the day before, I’d found my voices again and it began to flow. If that didn’t happen, then at least I was comforted by the fact that I’d spent the day productively editing the manuscript and cleaning things up, which saved time at the end.
What’s your creative approach to writing?
For me a plot always begins with a ‘What if?’ I hear a story on the news or read something in the paper and think ‘that’s interesting….I wonder what if…?’ It can bubble away for weeks, months or in the case of ‘The Murder Mile’ several years. Percolating and fermenting until it drips out to form the words on the page. I also always start with the end in mind. Once I know how it will end and I have the ‘How done it’, I start to develop the rest. I’ve heard other authors use the terms ‘Plotter or Panster’. Which means do you plot it all out before you begin and have the complete story arc? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants and just hold on for the ride? I suppose if my experience with this book is anything to go by, I do a bit of both. Sometimes I have a plan, but then the characters say or do something I hadn’t foreseen and that leads us down a completely new path – and it’s often much better than the one I had planned out. I love it when the characters take on a life of their own and start to run things. I just watch it unfold, as if it’s a movie, and write down what I’m seeing. That’s a great feeling and I know at that point that it’s really working and the characters I’ve created have taken on a life of their own. Magical!
What helped you the most in learning how to write a novel?
A lot of authors I’d met were members of writing groups or had done creative writing courses or had a background in journalism. And at first I thought maybe that was the secret? Maybe you had to have that kind of formal training in order to write a book that publishers would want. Happily I’ve since discovered that isn’t the case – which is just as well as none of those things apply to me.
My answer is rather simple. For me at least, reading is and has always been the key to learning how to write. How can you write books if you never read them? How do you even know what you would want to write in the first place, if you don’t know the type of books you enjoy reading?
I read on 2 levels. The first is for the enjoyment of it. Then I think about what worked in the book? How did the writer create suspense / drama? How did they make sure you wanted to turn the page? Take it apart and examine the mechanics of it or of a particular aspect of it that grabbed you, and see how it was done. I do that all the time. Not just with books, but with films / TV programs or even lyrics in a song. I analyse them and look at the nuts and bolts of how they were put together and what made it work – or not work.
Writing is a craft and like any other craftsman practice makes perfect. So as well as reading, I learned how to write a novel, by doing it. Over and over. Not for profit, but just because I loved the process. In reading the kind of novels I aspired to write and studying the work of the best authors in my chosen genre. Like studying the work of the great masters.
What does Jo McCready do as a Forensic Psychologist?
Forensic Psychologists generally are involved with the assessment and treatment of criminal behaviour. They work with prisoners and offenders, as well as Police and other professionals involved in the judicial and penal systems.
Most people are familiar with the role in programmes like ‘Criminal Minds’ and ‘Cracker’, which concentrate on the part they play in criminal profiling. In The Murder Mile, Jo McCready is one of the small number of ‘Celebrity’ Profilers. She has come to public attention by appearing on TV documentaries about serial offenders and subsequently writing books about her cases. She has also been involved in the past in helping to bring killers and serial rapists to justice through her profiling skills. She works as an independent consultant to the police who call her in to advise on offender behaviour and draw up profiles of offenders to assist them in their investigations.
Jo has a wealth of experience in the Criminal Justice System and working with killers, many of whom she helped to track down or gave evidence as an expert witness at their trials, which help secure their convictions. Her database of facts and criminal cases, built up over many years and her knowledge of criminal psychology, helps her to look at a scene and draw conclusions about the possible offender, which the police can use to narrow down the type of people they are concentrating on in their investigation.
Who was Martha Scott and why was she seeing Jo Mcready?
Martha Scott is a young woman who has been admitted to a psychiatric unit, suffering from severe anxiety and depression. She’s haunted by nightmares of a time when, as a heroin addict she believes she murdered prostitutes by stabbing them. When Jo McCready is called in to help her unlock the memories of what actually happened, she unlocks an ‘alter ego’ who claims to be Jack the Ripper and thanks Jo for setting him free to kill again. Shortly after, Martha is found murdered in the same way as Jack the Ripper’s first victim in 1888 and a sequence of serial killings begin, replicating the murders of the Victorian Era ‘Jack’.
How do you unlock a repressed memory?
It’s believed that the unconscious mind (which is the repository for all our experiences and memories) can block, or prevent a person accessing a memory, because it’s associated with a traumatic event. A kind of protection mechanism to prevent further damage to a person’s mental health. Such memories can be accessed during hypnotherapy, and if they are a result of trauma, the therapist needs to be one specially trained in the treatment of trauma and probably Post Traumatic Stress. In short, the process has to be done with a therapist. It’s not something you can do on your own. In the book, Jo McCready has become an authority on memory resolution after trauma, and has written books about it. So she is called in to see if she can help Martha, who seems to be suffering from the condition.
How did the plot for The Murder Mile develop?
When I tell people about my book, one of the first things I’m asked is where the idea came from? I suppose the short answer is that it sprang from the job I do. I’m a behavioural analyst – a profiler by trade. But it was during my work in the psychotherapy practice that the idea for the book first presented itself. I was a newly qualified hypnotherapist and I was treating a lady for anxiety. She wanted hypnotherapy to help her to relax. My client was in a deep state of hypnosis, when suddenly, her eyes flew open and she turned her head slowly to look at me. The bright blue eyes I had noticed during our therapy session, had turned into black dots that stared coldly into mine. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. But then she spoke to me. Gone was the soft gentle voice of the lady I had met earlier. Out of the petite body of this frail woman, came the deep guttural voice of an old man!
If anyone else had described this encounter, I wouldn’t have believed them. But the transformation in front of my eyes was as real as it was shocking.
The ‘man’ I was engaging with now, told me that his spirit was inhabiting her body. He said he liked it there and warned me to “back off” and leave them alone. I found myself entering into a bizarre conversation with this alter ‘personality’, during which he threatened to kill me if I interfered or ‘exorcised’ him. Needless to say, I left him exactly where he was!
On bringing my client back from her hypnosis session, it became apparent that she was blissfully unaware of the presence of her dark companion, and I certainly didn’t enlighten her!
As I said earlier my ideas spring from a central question, which is – “What if?” I found myself replaying that hypnosis session and asking…”what if an alter ego appeared during therapy like that and threatened to commit murder now that he was ’free’”?
What if a series of murders began – replicating exactly what the alter personality had promised to do? There had only been two people in the room that night. Only two people who could know what was said…what if one of those people became his first victim? The therapist would be the only one left…she would have to work out how that could happen.
It would be the ultimate “locked room” mystery, but it would be a locked mind instead and the therapist would have to find the key to explain it.
It was an intriguing premise, but I wanted to write crime fiction – not ghost stories, so I knew I had to come up with a way of making it a ‘flesh-and-blood’ killer committing the crimes. How could that be possible in this scenario? It bubbled away for a few years and as I became more experienced and gained more knowledge in the field of psychology and hypnotherapy, I started to formulate a ‘How done it’. Once I had that, it was obvious that the protagonist would have to be the Psychologist and so Jo McCready was born. Then the rest fell into place.
What’s DCI Callum Ferguson’s role in the story?
Callum Ferguson is a Detective Chief Inspector in the West Yorkshire Police. He is the senior investigating officer into Martha’s murder. He and Jo McCready met the previous year when Jo was called in as a Forensic Psychologist to assist in a case he was involved with. Callum and Jo had a romantic history in the past, which simmers below the surface during their time together on the Jack the Ripper copycat case featured in The Murder Mile.
What’s the relationship like between Police Intelligent Unit profiler Liz Taylor and Jo McCready?
Liz Taylor-Caine is West Yorkshire Police’s own Forensic Psychologist. She is younger and less experienced than Jo McCready and seriously resents Jo’s involvement in the current case. Jo tries not to tread on Liz’s toes, but Liz is bitter and it soon becomes clear that she will do anything to undermine Jo. Although Jo tries to maintain a professional relationship with the other woman, it is safe to say that the two are definitely not friends and allies.
About Lesley McEvoy
Lesley McEvoy was born and bred in Yorkshire in the North of England and has had a passion for writing all her life. The writing took a backseat as Lesley developed her career as a Behavioral Analyst / Profiler and Psychotherapist – setting up her own Consultancy business and therapy practice. She has written and presented extensively around the world for over 25 years specializing in behavioral profiling and training, with a wide variety of organisations. The corporate world provided unexpected sources of writing material when, as Lesley said – she found more psychopaths in business than in prison! Lesley’s work in some of the UK’s toughest prisons was where she met people whose lives had been characterized by drugs and violence – a rich source of material for the themes she now writes about.
What do you enjoy most about writing historical mysteries?
I’ve always enjoyed reading historical mysteries, and writing them feels much the same (though more work, haha). I love stepping back into a different time, whether it’s through research or while plotting within the worlds of my characters. I’ve known them all for so long now, after seven books in one series and three books in another.
How important is the setting in historical fiction?
Since the term “setting” indicates both place and time, I would say that setting is absolutely crucial to historical mysteries. A given time period will influence and constrain the main characters of a story in terms of travel, communication, the interpretation of evidence, their comportment while out in society, and so on.
What is the Pinkerton Agency?
It was the first major private investigation and security agency, founded by Scotsman-turned-American Allan Pinkerton in 1855. The icon is an open eye that reads “We Never Sleep,” hence the term “private eye.” The Pinkertons were mostly men, and the work was both subtle (acting as covert operatives and infiltrating criminal organizations) and brutish (strike-breaking and security). Pinkertons have broken up criminal syndicates, protected President Lincoln in one early attempt called the Baltimore Plot (this was before the Secret Service guarded presidents), thwarted bank robberies and train robberies…the list goes on.
There were a few women operatives—Kate Warne being the most notable of them—and their assignments were more of the covert variety, which is where my protagonist, Pen Hamilton, comes in.
In Never Sleep: The Chronicle of a Lady Detective #1, describe the nature of Penelope’s relationship with her estranged husband.
If it were a Facebook designation, it would read: It’s Complicated. As the Chronicles continue, I reveal more of their past, both the good and the bad. Frank Wynch is a recovering alcoholic and that of course makes any relationship difficult. The two love each other after a fashion, but whether they can make it work is another question—especially on Pen’s side, as she’s quite guarded around him. In Never Sleep, Frank asks Pen to help him with a case. It’s the first time they’ve spent any time together since their separation. She agrees, despite her discomfort—she wants to secure a job in her own right at the Pinkerton Agency, and the successful outcome of the case with Frank would make that possible.
In The Mystery of Schroon Lake Inn: the Chronicle of a Lady Detective #2, who is William Pinkerton and what is his role in the story?
William Pinkerton, son of the agency’s founder Allan Pinkerton, runs the Pinkerton Chicago office by this time. He assigns this case (and others) to Pen. He gets a bit more involved this time around, as he comes up with a disguise Pen can use to better infiltrate the inn and keep an eye on the guests. Pen has never posed as a spirit medium before…can she pull it off? She’d have to be truly clairvoyant to know….
In The Case of the Runaway Girl: The Chronicle of a Lady Detective #3, what is Penelope going up against?
Pen is up against quandaries that are both professional and personal in book #3. Professionally, she’s navigating the powerful worlds of big business and back-room politics (with some anarchists thrown in) as she works to keep the two young ladies in her charge safe from unscrupulous people.
Personally, there is the complication of another love interest in the form of the dashing, somewhat-reformed Phillip Kendall. He’s very interested in Pen and she’s drawn to him despite herself, even though she doesn’t fully trust him. Is he truly reformed, or is he out for himself?
What are some interesting historical facts of the 1880’s?
That’s quite an open-ended question, but I’m happy to share a fun backstory I picked up while researching THE CASE OF THE RUNAWAY GIRL. Several scenes from that book take place at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC (now the site of the Renwick Gallery). The building was so grand in its heyday and housed such a wonderful collection it was dubbed “The American Louvre.”
William Corcoran, a very wealthy businessman with southern sympathies, had acquired an extensive art collection and in 1859 commissioned the gallery to be built to house it all. The site was prime real estate, at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 17th Street.
However, when the Civil War started, things got too hot for him, so he decided to move himself and his family to Europe to wait out the war. The Corcoran Gallery was mostly completed by then, though not the interior. The Quartermaster Corps seized Corcoran’s building to use as a supply depot for the Union Army, and proceeded to finish the interior with cheap materials and partition the space into storage rooms and offices.
William Corcoran returned after the war and wanted his gallery back. It was returned to him in 1869, but not the back rent that he claimed he should be paid. He worked with the original architect to have all the modifications ripped out and the gallery completed, which opened in 1874.
If you want to read more, I recommend American Louvre by Charles J. Robertson (D. Giles Ltd, 2015).
What’s next for you?
I just finished book #7 of the Concordia Wells mysteries…UNSEEMLY FATE. By the time this interview comes out, it will be released!
Beware of rich men bearing gifts…
It’s the fall of 1899 and the new Mrs. David Bradley—formerly Professor Concordia Wells of Hartford Women’s College—is chafing against the hum-drum routine of domestic life.
That routine is soon disrupted, however, by the return to Hartford of the long-hated but quite rich patriarch of her husband’s family, Isaiah Symond. His belated wedding gift is a rare catalogue by artist/poet William Blake, to be exhibited in the college’s antiquities gallery.
But when Symond is discovered in the gallery with his head bashed in and the catalogue gone, suspicion quickly turns from a hypothetical thief to the inheritors of Symond’s millions—Concordia’s own in-laws. She’s convinced of their innocence, but the alternatives are equally distressing. The gallery curator whom she’s known for years? The school’s beloved handyman?
Once again, unseemly fate propels Concordia into sleuthing, but she should know by now that unearthing bitter grudges and long-protected secrets to expose a murderer may land her in a fight for her life.
Available May 1st at these online retailers:
BN, Apple, Kobo: books2read.com
About K.B. Owen
K.B. taught college English for nearly two decades at universities in Connecticut and Washington, DC, and holds a doctorate in 19th century British literature.
A mystery lover ever since she can remember, she drew upon her teaching experiences to create her amateur sleuth, Professor Concordia Wells. There are seven books in the Concordia Wells Mysteries so far.
K.B. also has another series, about the adventures of a lady Pinkerton in the 1880s, entitled Chronicles of a Lady Detective. There are three novellas/novels in the Lady Detective series so far.