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Q&A with Marcus Sakey for "A Better World" and Blake Crouch for "The Last Town"

Crouch_Sakey2Bestselling authors Blake Crouch and Marcus Sakey are the Ben Affleck and Matt Damon of the crime fiction genre. These two write, research and even make s’mores together. Learn more about their bromance writing styles and friendship.

Blake Crouch: So the second book in your Brilliance Saga was just published. It's called A BETTER WORLD, and I think it's even better than the first, BRILLIANCE, so congrats!

Marcus Sakey:  Thanks!  I’m really proud of it.  It picks up a couple of months after the first, and since I’ve always imagined the saga as a trilogy, I think of it as my The Empire Strikes Back.  Like that film, you don’t need to have seen the first to enjoy, although it’s more fulfilling to start at the beginning.

This is actually the first time I’ve written a series, and it’s an interesting challenge.  There are some great things about writing a sequel, like knowing the characters and having plot forces in play.  But there are also real frustrations, like trying to seed in backstory from the last book.  That must have been particularly tricky in your new book, THE LAST TOWN, given that it’s the third in a series--and that it starts in a pretty intense way.

B: It was really challenging. I would even go so far as to say that THE LAST TOWN (which is the third and final book in the Wayward Pines Trilogy), was the hardest book for me to write, and I've written twelve.

M: Showoff.  Why was this one the hardest?

B: The bonuses you mentioned to writing a series are great.  But there comes a point where you've just had enough of this world and you're kind of ready for a hot new thing. At least that's how I felt by the time I type "the end" on this series. Not that I didn't have an absolute blast writing it, but three years in one world with one set of characters is a lot.

M:  That’s why I’ve only written stand-alones in the past.  As much as I dig my characters, by the end of a book, my feeling tends to be, “Thanks, see you, don’t let the door hit you on the imaginary ass.”

And man do I know what you mean about the hot new thing.  Whenever I’m in the middle of a book, I find that ideas for other novels are almost unbearably sexy.  They’re whispering in your ear, telling you that they’ll meet you at the motel on the highway, that no one needs to know.  But at least for me, I know if I cheat on the book I’m writing to romp with a new one, chances are I’ll end up screwing it up with both.  Do you feel that way?  Or can you see other ideas?

B: No, once I've committed to an idea, I stick with it. I played that game early on in my career where I was three chapters in and then another idea came calling. But the problem is, it's not the new idea that's so attractive, it's the relief it promises from having to actually figure out the book you're writing. But you'll have to figure out that idea as well, so I've found it's always better to stick it out. Believe in the idea you committed to.

M:  Exactly.  When I come back to the hot new ideas later, they never seem as sexy.

B:   To wrap this up, we should share with people how we came up with the ideas for Brilliance and Wayward Pines.  We were together when it happened….

M:  Yes we were.  At 14,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies.

B:  You had come to visit me in Durango, Colorado, for a camping trip.  We didn't realize it at the time, but we were both in between books and trying to figure out what our next projects would be.  So we hiked up to this gorgeous lake and we were talking the entire time about how we wanted our next books to be different, bigger, world-building.

M:  The intention was to be hardened mountain men and spend several nights in the backcountry--

B:  But you wimped out.

M: You wimped out!

B:  I merely suggested that our brainstorming session (which is what the trip was turning into) might be more productive over steaks and martinis and soft mattresses instead of sleeping bags….

M: I will confess that my arm didn’t need twisting.

B: At any rate, we spent the next several days in a scenic little mountain town in southwest Colorado, coming up with the bones of Wayward Pines and Brilliance.  

M:, Now the trips are part of that tradition.  You came out to Chicago a couple of months ago when we were both between books, and we did the same thing.

B:  Minus the mountain.

M:  Minus the mountain.  But the same process, only informed by what we’ve done before.  Hey, there’s our adorably clever ending--we’ll get meta on it, and point out that we’re making our careers into a series.  


Guest Post by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg: Favorite Crime-Fighting Duos

LeeandJanetAny great series, or standalone book, start with interesting characters in compelling situations; these people and their relationships inspire us, often make us laugh, and through their interactions we understand the more about who they are and the world they are in than any description ever could.  With this in mind we asked Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg, authors of the Fox and O'Hare series, starring their crime-fighting duo Nicolas Fox and Kate O’Hare, to tell us about their favorite duos:

Janet Evanovich:

Nick and Nora Charles –Dashiell Hammett’s detective duo in his best-selling and last novel, The Thin Man.  It was written in 1934 and is as much a comedy of manners as a mystery novel.  I love that it’s a boozy reflection of pre-prohibition America.

Spenser and Hawk –When I decided to leave romance and move into crime fiction, this was the series that inspired me.  I loved Robert B. Parker’s clean construction and tough, wise-cracking characters. 

Elvis Cole and Joe Pike –This is like the west coast Disneyland version of Spenser and Hawk.  And this is said by someone who LOVES Disneyland.  Bob Crais gives us clever dialogue, fast action plot lines, and ups the ante with an evolving main character.

Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck –I’ve been reading these comic books since I was a kid.  If anything gave me a love of adventure it was Donald, Huey, Dewey, and Louie.  They took me to the moon, the Amazon, the Klondike, and led me to Aztec ruins.  All in full color.  If only I could get them on e-book life would be perfect!

Lee Goldberg:

Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin  - Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe is a brilliantly eccentric, outrageously fat detective who (almost) never leaves his New York brownstone and Archie Goodwin is his good-natured, resourceful, out-going legman, who brings the suspects and clues to his boss.  It's their wonderful relationship and Wolfe's marvelous speeches, more than the sometimes half-baked mysteries, that are the great pleasures of these books. 

Encyclopedia Brown and Sally Kimball - Donald J. Sobol's Leroy "Encyclopedia" Brown is a 12-year-old detective whose brilliant deductions constantly befuddle and enrage his adversaries. He'd probably get beat up every day if not for Sally Kimball, his defacto assistant and bodyguard. I fell in love with mysteries thanks to these short, but clever puzzles that always played fair with the clues.  

Jim Hardman and Hump Evans - They are the best detective team you've never heard of, the heroes of a terrific series of out-of-print 1970s paperbacks by Ralph Dennis. Hardman is a disgraced ex-cop and his African-American buddy Hump is a former pro-football player sidelined by a knee injury who work together as quasi-PIs in Atlanta...and who aren't above breaking the law to make a buck. Hardman is Spenser without the self-confidence or moral superiority, and Hump is Hawk, only not so fearsome and homicidal. 

Patrick Kenzie & Angela Gennaro - Dennis Lehane's Boston detective team won't ever be mistaken for Nick & Nora Charles. Their complex, realistic relationship evolves, sometimes in heartbreaking and infuriating ways, over the course of the gritty, complicated cases that they tackle and that always emotionally affect them... and often haunt them...for years.



Guest Post by Blake Crouch, Author of the Wayward Pines Series

Blake_crouch_author_photo_2013Blake Crouch, author of The Wayward Pines Series, talks about his favorite thrillers set in remote locations and small towns:

I’m definitely more of a thriller than a mystery guy. I love huge, high-concept ideas, supported by a breathless pace. There is something uniquely terrifying and claustrophobic about taking a huge story and placing it in a small town, in the middle of the forest, or a post-apocalyptic wasteland.  When you can’t just call for help and have the entire might of the NYC police force rush to your aid, the stakes somehow feel higher, and hope is suddenly in short supply. Here’s my top 6 list for these kinds of thrillers that have set the bar for everything else I read:

Testament – David Morrell

If you think James Dickey’s Deliverance is the ultimate man against nature/survivalist thriller, check out Morrell’s second novel about a family on the run in the mountains of Wyoming. Unrelenting and not afraid to delve into the darkest of places.

Vertical Run – Joseph Garber

What if you went to work one day and everyone you saw tried to kill you? I’m such a sucker for setups like that and this thriller pays it off in spades. Also, the book’s framing device, which takes place in the remote, High Sierra, is some of my favorite writing of all time.

Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton

Will this high-concept thriller about dinosaurs brought to life in our time ever be topped? I’m not holding my breath. Intelligent, scary, lightning-paced, and all in support of the coolest idea ever put to page. This is the thriller all other thrillers want to be when they grow up.

The Road – Cormac McCarthy

So unbelievably sad and so gorgeously written. Much of it is just a father and son wandering through a post-apocalyptic wasteland, covered in ash, but when McCarthy turns up the juice, your heart won’t be able to stand the tension.

Shutter Island – Dennis Lehane

A paranoid, WTF-is-happening thriller if ever there was one, and the reveal at the end, so rare in novels like this, will leave your jaw on the floor.

The Girl Next Door – Jack Ketchum

I hesitate to even put this novel on the list. You shouldn’t read it. It’s dark, dark, dark, upsetting, and did I mention dark? But something about this story of a young girl who’s being kept in a basement in an otherwise quintessential American neighborhood is the most compelling thing I’ve read in a decade.


Guest Post by Karen Harper: Small Towns Are Scary

91rRsF9%2B8KL.__AA300_[1]New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper walks us through the twist and turns of her romantic suspense novels that take place in small towns where eccentric characters abound and the enemy is too often “us.”  It’s someone the heroine knows and trusts, someone who is keeping deadly secrets.  What a great contrast:  a charming Americana ambience vs. fear and terror.  And often, with a small police force, average citizens must help solve crimes which seem worse in a rural than an urban setting.

In my new Appalachian suspense novels, small town, rural settings really up the ante for an average woman facing fear and crime.  When a murder or kidnapping occurs in such a charming place, the shock is magnified over that of urban crime, where we almost expect something to go wrong.  A long-deserted, picturesque barn can provide a setting more scary than an empty urban apartment building.  Many Americans long to escape to the country, but danger lurks there too, the kind that seems more dreadful set amidst fields and forests, quaint stores and down home restaurants.    

In Shattered Secrets, the first book in The Cold Creek trilogy, (with Forbidden Ground and Broken Bonds to follow at two-month intervals) danger hides in the tall cornfield surrounding a charming, old farmhouse.  Appalachian foothills loom over the rural area and small town of Cold Creek where young girls have been disappearing for decades. 

I love setting terrifying events in lovely settings because being pushed into a grain silo can be as deadly as a bullet in my suspense novels.  Fear is much more primitive and unsettling.  In a way, this is Stephen King territory, but in my books, there is a dangerous love story also woven throughout and an uplifting ending.

 Although strange people and unique criminals can certainly abound in the big, bad city, I have found small town and rural characters to be more eccentric, unique and therefore, fascinating.  Often the villain is someone known to the main characters, which means betrayal and treachery on an intimate, personal level.  Sadly—tragically—the enemy is too often “us,” someone trusted and perhaps loved. 

I’m always thrilled when readers tell me they had no clue who the murderer or kidnapper was until the last chapter.  One of my favorite reviews said it best: “Harper, a master of suspense, keeps readers guessing about crime and love until the very end.”  (Booklist, starred review, on Fall From Pride.)

The isolation of people in small towns and the surrounding rural fields and forests means help is not just a quick phone call away as in the city.  In some rural areas with rolling hills, especially in the Appalachians, cell phones don’t work.  Even with moonlight and starlight, it can be intensely dark in the country at night, and, of course, really dark scenes work well too.  I’ve also written two trilogies set among the Ohio Amish, who only use lanterns and don’t want to call the police, even if they have a public phone nearby.  And getting help in a horse and buggy can mean a long ride on a dark road.

 Police in rural areas can be a great distance away, even if someone in danger can get through to them.  In my Maple Creek trilogy, my Dark Road Home trilogy, and now in the new Cold Creek trilogy, the small police force tries its best, but danger seems much more terrifying in what should be a safe setting, especially if the heroine, with the hero’s help, must save her own life. 

An old, abandoned insane asylum, a defunct coal mine, an Indian burial mound—you may never look at small town and rural life the same way again if you read a Karen Harper romantic suspense novel!  Keep the lights on at night and your window locked.  Enjoy!

Guest Post by Gregg Hurwitz, Author of "Don't Look Back"

Gregg,IMageNew York Times and internationally best-selling author Gregg Hurwitz's gives us his top mystery, thriller, and suspense page turning must reads.

For me it all started with Stephen King. I remember reading Salem’s Lot late at night when I was in fifth grade, hiding under my bed, flashlight tucked between my cheek and shoulder. To this day, I swear I heard the crunch of gravel outside my window, coming ever nearer. It was my first realization that books could do that. The effect that book had on me was terrible and exciting and magical and I found myself dreaming about one day corralling that magic for myself, putting particular words on a page in a particular order in a way that made other people feel things as if they were actually real.

My parents kept their most delicious books on the top shelf of a floor-to-ceiling cabinet so I had to risk life and limb to reach them. Scaling the shelves while trying to hug my weight forward so the whole thing didn’t topple down on top of me—it was a precarious venture. The books with the best covers were up there. And the ones with the best sex scenes, like Clan of the Cave Bear, eagerly circulated around Mr. Burns’s junior high Spanish class with key passages underlined. But I digress. Jaws. Maybe the best cover ever. That naked swimmer. The phallic rise of the monster from the depths of the murky unconscious, coming not just for her, but for anyone who dared crack the pages. I read it in a breathless gulp. Then I plowed through the rest of Peter Benchley’s works. I wrote him letters too, always proudly penning my age beneath the signature: Gregg Hurwitz, age 11. I told him that one day I wanted to be a writer just like him. And I thanked him for Jaws and Jaws 2, The Island and The Deep and The Girl of the Sea of the Cortez. In one of the more embarrassing moments of my young life, he wrote back claiming that as much as he’d like to, he couldn’t take credit for Jaws 2, as he didn’t write it.

My high school in San Jose—Bellarmine College Prep—had an extraordinary English department. I was fortunate to take seminars on Faulkner and Joyce, Dostoyevsky and Dante, and to dive headlong into Shakespeare’s tragedies. From Grendel’s arm hung from the rafters to Gatsby’s green light at the end of the dock, the images and themes we discussed were abundant, as many as our growing brains could gobble up. This built the foundation I brought to reading what I consider the finest thriller ever written.

Red Dragon. It exists on a different level for me. Impeccably paced, sumptuously written, and check-all-your-closets scary. It felt like riding a roller coaster with one eye on the loose cog in the cart in front of you. I never knew when it was gonna veer, loop upside down, or simply leave the prescribed tracks and send me plummeting into a whole new order of terror. For all the professorial psychological insight Thomas Harris brings to the characters, he never once loses sight of the story or indulges in the superfluous. Dolarhyde’s backstory is downright Faulknerian. It’s not simply that it rings with emotional truth; it’s that you feel it in your bones. In Red Dragon, Harris fused the two aspects of story I love most—the kind of plotting that makes your heart claw up your throat, and the sort of resonant emotional depth that pulses in your gut—a fictional heartbeat beneath the one knock-knock-knocking against your ribs.

I suppose that’s the ultimate goal for me, my own green light across the water. To write something that achieves that perfect seesaw balance between plot and character, pacing and depth. There is no such thing as “perfect” in literature but there are those beacons that make me want to keep swimming toward the light.

Guest Bloggers: Don Mann and Ralph Pezzullo

Hunt the FalconSEAL Team Six and Thomas Crocker are back hunting their most elusive adversary yet: The Falcon.

When the White House needs someone to track down a group of dangerous terrorists who have been assassinating U.S. diplomats in posts all over the world, who do they call? Tom Crocker and his SEAL Team Six special operators, aka Black Cell. They’re the black ops specialists who are often tapped when anything highly sensitive, time-critical and extremely dangerous has to be done.

This time they raid a bomb-making factory in Thailand where Crocker and his team discover a group of Iranian terrorists holding Venezuelan passports, which points the finger of blame directly at the Iranian Quds Force. And here’s the little known true fact(the one that DC officials never talk about): the United States has been fighting a secret war with the Iranian Quds Force for years. They’re the group behind many attacks against Americans in Iraq (including the rocket attack on the Green Zone) and Afghanistan. Currently, they’re fighting alongside pro-Assad forces in Syria, and they also have a branch of operatives in Venezuela known as Unit 5000 that is in the business of shipping cocaine to Europe and using the proceeds to attack the West, and particularly the United States.

No one talks about them because they’re so nasty and as part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, take orders directly from the religious leaders of Iran – not the president, but the mullahs. They are, without a doubt, a state-sponsored Islamic terrorist group, much better trained, armed, funded and more insidious than al-Qaeda. And in Hunt the Falcon they’re lead by Crocker’s nemesis and the man behind his wife’s kidnapping in Tripoli (depicted in the previous book in the series Hunt the Scorpion) Farhed Alizadeh – the Falcon.

The question is: what are they up to now? And why are they operating right under our noses? To find the answers, Crocker and his men crisscross South America, trying to stay one step ahead of Unit 5000 operatives. When the latest technical gadgetry from DARPA fails during a raid on the terrorist hideout, Crocker has to rescue one of his wounded men the old-fashioned way: climbing a fence and improvising his way out with bullets flying.

Believe it or not, that’s just in the first hundred pages. And it’s only a fraction of Crocker’s problems. People back home in Virginia depend on him, including a wife at home who is trying to cope with PTSD and a father who seems to have fallen in love with a much younger woman.

The pace and severity of the physical and mental challenges Crocker and his men must face as they attempt to head off catastrophe push them to the brink of exhaustion. But even when they’re asked to undertake a final “suicide mission” deep behind enemy lines without backup, or a credible exfil plan, Crocker and his men answer the call.

--Don Mann and Ralph Pezzullo

True Confessions of a Santa Claus

Guest post by author Alan Russell.

St.NickMost writers go to great lengths to try and get the details of their books right. I've worked with homicide teams and private investigators so as to allow me to write authoritatively about characters and investigative work. I have traveled to unusual and remote locations to get the feel and essence of that place. As a writer, I am always seeking out that ever elusive verisimilitude--I want my books to have that "truth-like" feeling.

When envisioning my novel St. Nick, I knew my main character was going to be a reluctant mall Santa Claus, but everything else was still fuzzy. Because I didn't know much about the world of Santa Claus, I decided the only way to write about that character was to experience the life of a mall Santa.

Many of the things I experienced as Santa I was able to have my main character, suspended cop Nick Pappas, also experience. One of the "hazards" of being Santa Claus is that there is no place for your body to breathe. You are wearing a large layer of padding, and have a heavy uniform draping your body. On your face is a beard, on your head is a wig, and atop your head is a hat.  Your hands are covered in white gloves, and on your feet are black boots. It's crazy hot, and I perspired copiously, even though people couldn't even see me sweat because of the beard and wig. The "elves" that I worked with were constantly filling my water bottle. Every day I had to carefully dry my sodden mass of batting (padding).  On one occasion I didn't do a very good job of that, and suffered so much that I decided to have my character Nick experience the same thing. Another on the job hazard comes from the overactive bladders of young boys. I missed that bullet, but one of the other Santas I worked with took one for the team.

Working as a Santa Claus proved to be invaluable to writing the book. I learned firsthand about sore backs (inevitable when you lift so many children into your lap), how to divine mumbled youthful toy requests, the brainwashing effect of Christmas Muzak, and the North Pole politics among elves. I can tell you the only thing shriller than an air raid siren is a terrified five-year-old who is letting the world know he wants nothing to do with a bearded stranger in red pajamas. And then after a day of such screaming, and just when you're thinking Jonathan Swift might have been on to something with his "A Modest Proposal," you get dewy eyed when another five-year-old wraps her arms around you and says, "I love you, Santa Claus."

Like my character Nick, I was terrified working my first day in the North Pole. Seeing a line of kids waiting to talk to a legend will do that to you.  I had stage fright and doubts. Was I the right person to make a child's visit with Santa special?

Seeing Santa brings back memories for many. Some remember their first visit to Santa Claus. Some remember taking their children to see him. As for me, I'll always look back fondly at my four weeks of being Santa Claus. My novel St. Nick shares those times, and is my grown-up letter to Santa.

Exclusive Q&A with Matt Kindt on Red Handed

Matt Kindt the writer of MIND MGMT and Justice League of America sat down with us to talk about Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes, his take on the classic crime thriller and homage to Dick Tracy. 61jP1N8QN0L

Charlie Chang: I’m a huge fan of detective/mystery thrillers so I’m very excited about Red Hand. Tell us about the book.

Matt Kindt: Well, I can you that I’m a huge fan of crime. Not crime, but crime books (laughs), I’m against crime. I read all the Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler; I’m a huge fan of film noir, those movies from the 40s and 50s. I also love heist movies and all that stuff. So what I started to do a crime book, it was kind of like when I did Super Spy. I read every spy thing I could get my hands on so that wouldn’t repeat it. I did the same thing with Crime, I read everything and tried to figure out some little chink in the armor of Crime books that hasn’t been done yet and try to worm my way into that. So I set up the challenge for myself of doing a Crime book where nobody’s gets killed in it, there’s no heist or some big thing where someone is stealing something. I mostly made it, it’s 99% death free, [laughs] but I wanted it to be more about the nature of crime and ask questions like “What is Crime?”, “Is it even a Crime?” because I’m naturally a rule follower so I don’t break the rules but I’m constantly thinking about ways to skirt the rules.

CC: Like the grey areas

MK: Yeah, like, by the letter of the law I’m not disobeying the law but it’s skirting the issue. You know, this makes Red Handed sound like the most boring crime book ever but it’s actually very exciting, there are things getting stolen, somebody does die, but I just wanted to do something that was a Crime book and had everything that I loved about that genre but was different than anything else that had been done before.

CC: In great Crime movies and TV dramas music is a big driving factor in creating the overall mood and atmosphere of what’s playing out in front of the audience. What kind of music do you hear while reading Red Handed?

MK: I’d say it’s pretty 60s jazzy, probably Dave Brubeck, put that one and then read it.

CC: What did you read as part of your research? Any newspapers?

MK: [Laughs] Actually no, I tried to read everything in the genre so all my research was really based around making sure that I didn’t do something that already existed. The other was I grew up reading Dick Tracy and I love it so there’s definitely a heavy homage to Dick Tracy because what’s funny is, the stuff you read as a kid, you really don’t realize how much that informs so much of your work. I love cutaway views and gadgets and I look back and all the stuff I’ve done and it helps me remember why I love those things subconsciously. So there’s a Detective in there who’s got a 100% success rate and he solves every crime so he’s basically Dick Tracy. Then I wanted to pit him against weird and odd crimes so I put him in a real world situation where there’s something more important than just solving the crime. Figuring out what causes people to become criminals and make this detective answer those types of questions but in a very exciting way cause that’s starting to sound boring again [everybody laughs]. There’s action, there’s car crashes.


This interview was conducted and written by Kindle editor Charlie Chang. Interested in comics and graphic novels? Sign up for Comics Delivers, a weekly email featuring the best in comics each week - from weekly booklists to deals and exclusive content from creators.

Guest Blogger: Michael Connelly

The Gods of GuiltDefense attorney Mickey Haller returns with a haunting case in the gripping new thriller from best-selling author Michael Connelly.

In my new novel, The Gods of Guilt, the Lincoln lawyer Mickey Haller likens the practice of law to juggling chain saws: It can be dangerous, especially if you catch it by the wrong end. I think writing a novel is the same way. There are many pitfalls. You have to be careful and steady with your juggling. Still, every book is a challenge in its own way, and those challenges are set by the juggler himself. So there is no use complaining about it. If you want to take the easy route, then juggle marshmallows.
When I wrote The Gods of Guilt, I think I went with chainsaws. I gave myself a challenge that probably nobody would notice but myself. I just wanted to see if I could pull it off.

First of all, I wanted the book to function as an entertaining legal thriller with lots of intrigue, courtroom drama, and subterfuge. I wanted a few surprises too, including the death of a secondary character that the reader wouldn’t see coming. None of that was really secret in terms of the structure of the book. They were needed ingredients and difficult enough to juggle and keep in the air. The secret agenda I added was with regard to two of the main characters. While functioning as a fast-moving thriller, the book’s true center revolves around the relationship between Mickey Haller and his 16-year-old daughter, Hayley. I wanted that strained relationship to be the engine that drives Mickey’s choices and desires through the book. The book is, after all, called The Gods of Guilt. I wanted Mickey to be operating from a standpoint of seeking redemption in his daughter’s eyes, and if he succeeded, then he would save the relationship that means so much to him and ease the guilt that weighs him down as the story begins.

But here’s the catch—or, I should say, the challenge. I did not want Mickey and Hayley to have a single exchange of dialogue in the book, let alone meet face-to-face. I thought this was necessary, at least in the first half of the book, to underscore how deep the rift was between this father and daughter and how difficult it would be to bridge the gap. I wanted Mickey’s efforts to reach out and to explain his actions to be unrequited. I wanted his phone calls to go unanswered, his texts unreturned. When the centerpiece trial got underway, I wanted Mickey to turn from the defense table to look for his daughter in the public gallery, only to see she was not there.

I hope you pay attention to this as you read my novel. I know there is one scene where Mickey watches his daughter from afar, and another off the page where Hayley visits without Mickey really knowing it—you’ll understand what that means if you read the book. You’ll then be able to decide if the challenge was successfully met, and if it was the right choice. Can the father-daughter relationship be the true center of the book if the two principles never talk to one another on the page? You be the judge.

— Michael Connelly

Guest Blogger: Michael Robotham

BombproofMichael Robotham has been an investigative journalist in Britain, Australia and the US. One of world's most acclaimed authors of thriller fiction, he lives in Sydney with his wife and three daughters.

They say that a novel often begins with two ideas colliding, which makes it sound like nuclear fusion, all heat and light and energy. My creative process is much more like a car crash where I play the crash scene investigator, turning up in the aftermath and trying to piece together the evidence.
Bombproof began like that for me.
It tells the story of Sami Macbeth – the unluckiest man in the world, who is wrongly imprisoned for a jewel theft and is mistakenly perceived to be the greatest safebreaker in the world. While this guarantees Sami respect in prison, it also means that once outside, he’s a man in demand.
Sami wants nothing to do with gangsters and safe breaking. He wants to lead a quiet life, play his guitar and dream of being a rock god – but when his sister is kidnapped and held hostage, he has no choice but to play along.
Bombproof begins with an explosion on the London Underground, which Sami survives, but he soon becomes Britain’s most wanted man because he can’t reveal what he’s carrying.

The idea for the novel came to me not long after July 2005 London transport bombings, when fear and suspicion gripped the city. I often travel on the Underground with a small rucksack containing water and notebooks. I noticed how people would glance at the bag between my feet. It made me wonder what would happen if I had something else in the bag – not a bomb, but something else illegal. What if I refused to have it searched?

The other story that was still fresh in my mind was the death of Jean de Menezes at Stockwell Tube station in South London. He was shot dead by firearms officers who mistook him for a suicide bomber. After giving no warning, they fired seven shots into his body. De Menezes was an innocent man – a Brazilian electrician, who couldn’t understand what the police were shouting at him.

I didn’t want to make light of such a tragedy, but I did want to explore the sense of community hysteria that is triggered by a terrorist attack.
Bombproof is a little different from my past novels. Instead of being a tense and often suffocating psychological thriller, it’s full of sex, violence, one-liners and hopefully some laughs. It’s like something that Quentin Tarantino might film, or a Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels full of gangsters, corrupt police, stand-over men, pimps and colourful women.
I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it.

--Michael Robotham