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Interview with author Jon Land at ThrillerFest 2014

on August 17th, 2014 in Blog Posts, News, Normal by | No Comments

Jessica Mazo interviews Jon Land, VP of Marketing of the International Thriller Writers (ITW), and author of The Caitlin Strong series, at ThrillerFest in NYC. Tom O’Brien shoots/edits. For more author interviews subscribe to our channel.

Hear from Jon as he chats about the International Thriller Writers organization and the current state of the publishing industry from an author’s perspective.


Jon Land talks about STRONG DARKNESS

on August 17th, 2014 in Blog Posts, Normal by | 4 Comments


Radio Feature: Friendship with guest Jon Land on Empowered Living Radio

on August 17th, 2014 in Blog Posts, News, Normal by | No Comments

Check out this Blogtalk Radio podcast of my interview with Tori Eldridge from Empowered Living Radio. We talk about everything from childhood, movies, writing, mentoring and how they all apply to friendship. (original article here)

Below the player, I have included the show’s information for your convenience!

New Books Internet Radio with Authors On The Air Books on BlogTalkRadio

Empowered Living Radio host Tori Eldridge welcomes New York Times bestselling author Jon Land to chat about Friendship. Jon has written 28 novels (including Caitlin Strong and Blaine McCracken series), is an associate member of the US Special Forces, the VP of Marketing for the International Thriller Writers Organization, and an all around friendly human!  http://www.jonlandbooks.com

Recorded at http://thrillerfest.com 

Tori Eldridge is the author of Empowered Living Expanded Edition: A Guide to Physical and Emotional Protection. http://ToriEldridge.com

Music by Jim Kimo West http://jimkimowest.com

This podcast is trademarked and copyrighted by Authors on the Air Global Radio Network LLC http://authorsontheair.com

Thanks to our sponsor Michael Lowndes and PML Media, our website professionals at http://www.pmlmedia.com


STRONG RAIN FALLING wins two awards!

on July 22nd, 2014 in Blog Posts, News by | No Comments

I’m thrilled to report that STRONG RAIN FALLING, the last book to feature Caitlin Strong, won both the 2013 USA Best Book Award and the 2014 International Book Award in the Mystery/Suspense category.



Strong Darkness Preview

on July 22nd, 2014 in Blog Posts, News by | 4 Comments

 

On September 30th, Caitlin Strong is crashing her way back into your library with STRONG DARKNESS.

 

Stay tuned for more information. And as a special treat, enjoy this sneak peak at the new adventure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1

San Antonio, Texas

Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die!”

Caitlin Strong listened to the chant repeated over and over again by the Beacon of Light Church members who’d decided to picket a young soldier’s funeral here in San Antonio in pointless protest. The words were harder to make out across the street beyond the thousand-foot buffer the protestors were required to keep, but clear enough to disturb the parents of an army hero who just wanted to bury their son in peace.

What are you going to do about this, Ranger?” Bud Chauncey, the young man’s father, asked her.

I’ve requested that they vacate the premises, sir,” Caitlin told the man. “My orders are to do no more than that as long as they keep their distance. It’s the law.”

Chauncey, who owned several car dealerships in the area, turned toward the Beacon of Light Church members gathered on a patch of fresh land up a slight rise across the road Mission Burial Park had purchased in order to expand. His eyes looked bloodshot and weary, his face held in an angry glare that captured the frustration over being able to do no more about their presence here than he could for the son he was about to lay to rest. He stretched a hand through stringy gray hair to smooth it back down, but the breeze quickly blew it out of place again. Chauncey always looked so strong, vital and happy on his television commercials, leaving Caitlin to wonder if this was even the same man. His neck was thin and marred by discolored patches of skin that looked to have come from radiation treatments. His hands were thin and knobby and she noticed them trembling once he moved them from his pockets. She caught a glimpse of tobacco stains on the tips of his fingers and nails and thought of those radiation treatments again.

Thousand feet away?” Chauncey questioned.

Legislature passed a law restricting protests to that distance to funerals held in the state.”

Chauncey gazed back at the mourners gathered by his son’s gravesite waiting for the service to begin. He and Caitlin stood off to the side of the building funeral cortege at Mission Burial Park, the cemetery located on the San Antonio River where her father and grandfather were buried in clear view of the historic Espada Mission.

Why don’t you explain that to my boy, Ranger?”

It sounded more like a plea than a question, a grieving father looking for a way to reconcile his son’s death in the face of picketing strangers paying him the ultimate disrespect. Blaming gays and their lifestyle for the landmine that had taken a young man’s life when he threw himself on two other soldiers to save them.

The world might be full of shit,” Chauncey resumed with his gaze fixed across the road, electricity seeming to radiate out of his pores with the sweat to the point where Caitlin figured she’d get a shock if she stretched a hand out to comfort him. “But that doesn’t mean we ever get used to stepping in it.”

I’ll be right back, sir,” she told Bud Chauncey and headed toward the street.

 

 

CHAPTER 2

San Antonio, Texas

It seemed like too nice a day to bury somebody as gifted as Bud Chauncey’s son Junior. An All-District athlete in three sports, Homecoming King and senior class president who’d joined the army’s ROTC program. He went to Afghanistan already a hero and came back in a box after his platoon was hit by a Taliban ambush while on patrol. It was bad enough when good boys died for no good reason Caitlin could see. It was even worse when it happened while a war was winding down and most back home had stopped paying attention.

Caitlin was thinking of Dylan Torres, the eighteen-year-old son of the man she considered, well, her boy friend, as she walked toward the road and grassy field across it in the process of being dug out to make room for Mission Burial Park’s expansion. Bud Chauncey’s son Junior had been barely a year older when he died and she couldn’t help picturing Dylan patrolling a desert wasteland with M-16 held in the ready position before him. Still a boy, no matter how much he’d been through or how many monsters with whom he’d come into contact. Currently in Providence, Rhode Island where he was in the midst of his freshman football season for Brown University.

Caitlin had read that Junior Chauncey had been accepted for admission at the University of Texas at Austin where he hoped to do the same. Dylan had a junior varsity game next weekend, if she remembered correctly. Junior would never don helmet and pads again.

That thought pushed a spring into her step as she strode across the road now crammed with cars, both parked along the side and inching along in search of a space. The funeral was being delayed to account for that, giving Bud Chauncey more time to suffer and the Beacon of Light Church more time to make their presence known. Alerted to their coming, television crews from five local stations and at least two national ones she could see had arrived first, their cameras covering all that was transpiring on both sides of the road.

Crossing the street, Caitlin thought she felt a blast of heat flushed by a furnace slam into her. It seemed to radiate off the protesters turning the air hot and prickly as they continued to chant. The sky was cloudless, the heat building in the fall day under a sun more like summer’s from the burn Caitlin felt on her cheeks.

Caitlin recognized the leader, William Bryant Tripp, from his wet-down hair, skin flushed red and handlebar mustache, and angled herself straight for him across the edge of the field that gave way to a drainage trench the width of a massive John Deere wheel loader’s shovel. The trench created a natural barricade between the Beacon of Light Church members and what might as well have been the rest of the world, while the big Deere sat idle between towering mounds of earth set further back in the field.

Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die!”

Mr. Tripp,” she called to the leader over the chants. He’d stepped out of the procession at her approach, smirking and twirling the ends of his mustache.

It’s Reverend Tripp,” he reminded.

Caitlin nodded, trying to look respectful. “There’s people grieving a tragic death across the way, Reverend, and I’d ask you again as a man and a Christian to vacate the premises so they might do so in peace. You’ve made your point already and I believe you should leave things at that.”

The smirk remained. “Peace is what this church is all about, Ranger, a peace that can only be achieved if those who debauch and deface the values of good honest people like us repent and are called out for their sins.”

Gays had nothing to do with putting that brave boy in a coffin, sir. That was the work of a bunch of cowardly religious fanatics like the ones serving you here today.”

The smirk slipped from Tripp’s expression, replaced by a look that brushed Caitlin off and sized her up at the same time. “We’re breaking no laws here. So I’m going to ask you to leave us in peace.”

Caitlin felt her muscles tightening, her mouth going dry. “You have every right to be here and I’m here to protect your rights to peaceful assembly as well as the rights of the Chauncey family to bury their son without a sideshow. The problem is that presents a contradiction it’s my duty to resolve. And the best way to do that is to ask you and your people to simply leave in a timely fashion.”

Tripp shifted his shoulders. He seemed to relish the threat Caitlin’s words presented. “And if we choose not to?”

You’ve made your point for the cameras already, sir. There’s nothing more for you to prove. So do the holy thing by packing up your pickets and heading on.” Caitlin gazed toward the protestors thrusting their signs into the air in perfect rhythm with their chanting. “Use the time to paint over those signs, so you’re ready to terrorize the next family that loses a son in battle, Mr. Tripp.”

Tripp measured her words, running his tongue around the inside of his mouth. It made a sound like crushing a grape underfoot. Caitlin could feel the sun’s heat between them now, serving as an invisible barrier neither wanted to breach.

It’s Reverend Tripp,” he reminded again.

I believe that title needs to be earned,” Caitlin told him, feeling her words start to race ahead of her thoughts.

Tripp stiffened. “This church has been serving Him and His word since the very founding of this great nation, Ranger. Even here in the great state of Texas itself.”

Those other military funerals you’ve been picketing from Lubbock to Amarillo don’t count toward that, sir.”

I was speaking of our missionary work back in the times of the frontier; the railroads and the oil booms. How this church tried to convert the Chinese heathen hordes to Christianity.”

Heathen hordes?”

It was a fool’s errand,” Tripp said, bitterness turning his expression even more hateful. “The Chinese made for an unholy, hateful people not deserving of our Lord’s good graces.”

But you believe you are, thanks to hurting those good folks across the way, is that right? Problem is you’re not serving God, sir, you’re serving yourself. And I’m giving you a chance to square things the easy way instead of the hard.”

Tripp sneered at her. “Such threats didn’t work in Lubbock or Amarillo and they won’t work here either.”

I wasn’t the one who made them in those cities, Mr. Tripp. You’d be well advised to listen this time.”

And what if I don’t?”

Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die!”

The chanting had picked up in cadence, seeming to reach a crescendo as the funeral goers squeezed themselves around Junior Chauncey’s gravesite across the road so the ceremony could begin. Caitlin watched the members of the Beacon of Light Church thrusting their picket signs into the air as if they were trying to make rain, the image of their feet teetering on the edge of recently dug drainage trench holding in her mind.

I guess I’ll have to think of something,” she told Tripp and started away.

 

 

CHAPTER 3

San Antonio, Texas

 

Caitlin looped around the perimeter of the protesters, her presence likely forgotten by the time she reached the John Deere wheel loader parked between matching piles of excavated earth. She recognized it as a 644K hybrid model boasting twenty tons of power that could probably level a skyscraper. Caitlin had learned to drive earlier, more brutish versions while helping to rebuild a Mexican family’s home after they’d been burned out by drunken kids for a pot deal gone wrong. Trouble was the drug dealer who’d screwed the kids actually lived across the street. Caitlin’s father had arrested the boys two days later. Considering them dangerous criminals, Jim Strong made them strip to their underwear and left them to roast in the sun while he waited for back-up to assist him in a cavity search. Jim had organized the rebuilding effort, financed ultimately by the restitution paid by the accused boys’ parents to keep them out of jail. Caitlin’s father had brokered that deal as well.

The hybrid engine of the 644K sounded a hundred times quieter than the roar coughed by the older version and handled as easy as a subcompact, when Caitlin started it forward.

Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die! Sinners repent or more will die!”

She couldn’t hear the chanting anymore, imagining it in her mind with each thrust of the picket signs into the air. It was loud enough to keep the protestors from detecting her approach, even when she lowered the shovel into position and let its teeth dig maybe a foot down into the ground.

Caitlin plowed the growing pile of dirt forward as if it were snow after a rare Texas blizzard. The back row of the protesters turned just as the wall of gathered earth crested over the shovel. Caitlin imagined the panic widen their eyes, heard screams and shouts as they tried desperately to warn the others what was coming.

Too late.

The massive power of the John Deere pushed the earthen wall straight into the center of the pack fronted by William Bryant Tripp himself, driving the mass forward without even a sputter. The last thing Caitlin glimpsed were picket signs closer to the front stubbornly clinging to the air before those holding them were gobbled up and shoved forward.

Down into the drainage trench.

Caitlin pictured Reverend Tripp toppling in first, imagined the trench as a mass grave or, better yet, the week’s deposit zone in the local landfill. Because that’s where the members of the Beacon of Light Church belonged in her mind, dumped in along with the other stench-riddled trash.

Some of the protesters managed to peel off to the side to escape the John Deere’s force and wrath, and Caitlin didn’t brake the big machine until the earthen wall she was dragging stopped on the edge of the trench. Portions of it sifted downward, forestalling the efforts of Tripp and his minions to climb out. So she gave the Deere just a little more gas to trap them a bit longer.

Caitlin cut off the engine at that point. Her gaze drifted across the street to the funeral ceremony for Junior Chauncey where to a man and woman everyone had turned around to face the other side of the road. They saw the members of the Beacon of Light Church visible only as hands desperately clawing for purchase to pull themselves from the trench into which Caitlin had forced them. She hopped down out of the cab and walked around the wall of dirt and grass the John Deere had helped her lay.

Then, to a man and woman led by Bud Chauncey himself, the funeral goers started to clap their hands, applauding her. It got louder and louder, reaching a crescendo just as the television cameras began rotating feverishly between both sides of the road and reporters rushed toward Caitlin with microphones in hand.

She leaped across the trench, brushing the microphones and cameras aside, the sun hot against her flesh.

“You’re going to pay for this, Caitlin Strong!” she heard Tripp scream at her, as he finally managed to hoist himself from the ditch. “The Lord does not forget!”

“Neither do I, sir,” Caitlin said calmly, regarding the dirt clinging to him no amount of shaking or brushing could remove. It turned his ash gray hair a dark brown, making him look as if he was wearing a vegetable garden atop his head. “And you’d be wise to remember that.”

 


The Tenth Circle – A New McCracken Adventure Approaches

on October 23rd, 2013 in Blog Posts, Normal by | 1 Comment

McCracken’s back! And I couldn’t be happier. Jon Land’s The Tenth Circle is a knockout thriller blending history, cutting-edge science, and nonstop action. Ancient mysteries, ghost ships, and a modern threat like no other…this is a novel that grips you by the throat and refuses to let go until the last page.
–James Rollins, New York Times bestselling author of The Eye of God

The Negev Desert, Israel; the present

 

“We have incoming, General! Anti-missile batteries are responding!”

General Yitzak Berman focused his gaze on the desperate scenario unfolding in amazingly realistic animation on the huge screen before him. Eight missiles fired from Iran sped toward all major population centers of Israel in a perfect geometric pattern, about to give the nation’s Arrow anti-missile system its greatest test yet.

“Sir,” reported the head of the analysts squeezed into the underground bunker from which Israel maintained command and control, “initial specs indicate the size, weight and sourcing of the missiles…”

“Proceed,” the general said when the analyst stopped to swallow hard.

“They’re nuclear, sir, in the fifty kiloton range.”

“Targets?”

Another young man picked up from there. “Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, the Mediterranean coast, the Sinai, our primary airfields . . .” He looked back toward Sherman. “And here, sir.”

“Anti-missile batteries are launching!” a new voice blared through the strangely dim lighting that seemed to flutter as the missiles drew closer.

And Sherman watched the animated simulation of dozens and dozens of Israeli Arrow rockets, along with larger American Patriots, shooting upward in line with the incoming missiles. Four hits were scored in the maelstrom of animated smoke bursts, more rockets launched to chase down the remaining four nukes that had survived the fist salvo.

“We have two more confirmed downed!” yet another young voice rang out.

But the bunker fell silent as the sophisticated animation continued to follow two surviving Iranian missiles as they streaked toward Tel Aviv and Haifa.

“Schmai Israel, hallileh hoseh,” one of the young voices began, reciting the prayer softly as the missiles’ arc turned downward, on a direct course to their targets with nothing left to stop their flight.

“Order our fighters holding at their failsafe positions to launch their attacks,” instructed Berman. “Destroy Iran.”

He’d barely finished when two flashes burst out from the animated screen, bright enough to force several squeezed into the bunker to shield their eyes. As those flashes faded amid the stunned silence and odor of stale perspiration hanging in the air, the bunker’s regular lighting snapped back on.

“This concludes the simulation,” a mechanical voice droned. “Repeat, this concludes the simulation.”

With that, a bevy of Israeli officials, both civilian and military, emerged from the rear-most corner of the bunker, all wearing dour expressions.

Israel’s female defense minister stepped forward ahead of the others. “Your point is made, General,” she said to Berman. “Not that we needed any further convincing.”

“I’m glad we all agree that the Iranian nuclear threat can no longer be tolerated,” Berman, the highest-ranking member of the Israeli military left alive who’d fought in the Six-Day War, told them. “We’ve been over all this before. The difference is we’re now certain our defenses cannot withstand an Iranian attack, leaving us with casualty estimates of up to a million dead and two million wounded, many of them gravely. Fifty simulations, all with results similar to the ones you have just witnessed.” He hesitated, eyes hardened through two generations of war boring into the defense minister’s. “I want your formal authorization.”

“For what?”

“To destroy the Iranian nuclear complex at Natanz.”

Israel’s defense minister started to smile, then simply shook her head. “We’ve been over this before, a hundred times. Our army can’t do it, our air force can’t do it, our commandos can’t do it, and the Americans are saying the very same thing from their end. You want my authorization to do the impossible? You’ve got it. Just don’t expect any backup, extraction, or political cover.”

Yitzak Berman returned his gaze to the wall-sized screen where animated versions of Tel Aviv and Haifa had turned dark. “The man I have in mind won’t need of any of that.”

“Did you say man?”


Why Choosing A Setting Is Important

on March 28th, 2013 in Blog Posts, Normal by | 1 Comment

Know the best advice I’ve gotten as a writer in the past decade or so?

 

            “When writing a scene, always know where the light is coming from.”

 

            That wise counsel came from my brilliant editor, Natalia Aponte, her thinking that if you describe the scene from the origin of the light, everything else would take care of itself, and she couldn’t be more right.  Shadows splay across characters’ faces, further exaggerating the conflict and suspense.  Light shines in a hero’s eyes, preventing them from seeing a gun in the villain’s hand.  See, for me where let’s call it the Aponte Rule comes into play is making sure all scenes are described from the inside looking out, and not the outside looking in.  That makes the characters seem more like spectators to the action instead of active participants, and it also serves to pull the reader further into the story, making they feel a part of the action.

 

I’m a thriller writer, meaning setting is especially crucial since so much of my work is based on the complex choreography of action scenes where I become like a film director in measuring out every step.  In that regard, some settings become virtual characters in their own right.  Let’s use my latest book PANDORA’S TEMPLE, featuring the return of my long-time series hero Blaine McCracken after a 15-year absence, as an example.  The bad news is that Pandora’s temple, built to house the mythical Pandora’s box, was an equally mythical structure so nobody’s really sure what it looks like.  The good news is that Pandora’s temple was a mythical structure so nobody’s really sure what it looks like.

 

Huh?

Once you decide to call a book “Pandora’s Temple,” you have to reveal that particular setting at some point, no question about it since to do otherwise is to risk letting the reader down.  So I had incredible liberty to describe the setting as I visualized it but also an incredible responsibility to do so credibly and believably.  How could a structure that dates back to 1670 BC still be around today?  How could it have been preserved?  Why hadn’t it been found before?  And what happened to the mythical box (that was actually a jar) stored inside it? Those questions pose the kind of challenges intrinsic to any writer dealing with historical reinvention or re-imagining.  But it also means the reader is being treated to a setting the likes of which they’ve never encountered before.

 

Setting, you see, especially in the kind of thrillers I write, is a function of story.  The villain of PANDORA’S TEMPLE is a recluse suffering from a rare and deadly ailment that forces him to live in what is essentially a massive hyperbaric chamber.  I could have put it anywhere, but I decided upon something rare and colorful, that being a fortress built on the peak of the Pyrenees Mountains in Spain.  The setting proved so rich and elaborate, I ended up using it as the setting for the climactic battle as well.  It lent itself perfectly to the kind of staging I was looking to do.  Not my original intention, but one that’s both fitting and organic to the book, so I went with it.

 

As I intimated before, in thrillers like PANDORA’S TEMPLE, settings are pretty much places where action and other stuff happens.  The book opens with Blaine McCracken rescuing four college student hostages from a Mexican drug lord.  I made the drug lord’s headquarters an old Spanish fort, defensible and fortified enough to make McCracken’s task all the more difficult.  That way, when McCracken and company lay waste to all that’s around them, you can picture every move.  Smell the grilling food and feel the dusty air against your face.  The setting has the effect of injecting life into the scene.  Contrast that with another sequence set in a New Orleans office building.  Sounds simple enough, except for the fact that killer, out-of-control robots run rampant shooting up everything.  In that case the setting was mundane, even dull.  Just what’d you expect until everything goes horribly wrong in the last place you’d expect it to.

 

Getting back to the Pandora’s temple itself, I had to ask myself two questions:  where could it be and where do I need it to be for the needs of the story?  Well, underwater seemed a natural fit for a whole bunch of reasons, but it had to be under-underwater to explain why it’s escaped detection for so long while remaining generally whole.  So I came up with the notion of creating the world’s largest underwater cavern, modeled after some very real and very big versions found in Mexico.  That allowed me to add a giant squid to the mix because, setting doesn’t just serve the demands of story, it helps create story.   But PANDORA’S TEMPLE also includes a bunch of scenes set on an offshore oilrig that  forced me to do a ton of research to make sure I got everything as right as possible.  After all, nobody knows exactly what a massive underground cavern, mountaintop fortress, or ancient temple necessarily looks like.  An offshore oilrig is something different entirely.  You could look up on Wikipedia to find all the mistakes I could’ve been guilty of, meaning I couldn’t be guilty of any.  So for different settings, different rules apply.

 

Let me show you what I mean.   Close your eyes and visualize yourself on a beach in summer.  What’s the first thing you see in your head?  Is it a person coming toward you, is it something glistening off the water, is it your own footprints in the sand behind you, or somebody else’s ahead of you?  Any of these can quickly become an integral component of the story.  And where’s the light, the sun?  Is it in your eyes?  Is it reflecting off the water?  Does it make it hard to make out who that person coming toward you is?

 

In books there are no wrong settings and no right settings.  There are places characters need to go to accomplish what they wouldn’t be able to otherwise.  And if the writer always knows where the light is coming from, he or she will nail it every time.


What Makes a Thriller?

on March 21st, 2013 in Blog Posts, Normal by | 1 Comment

Bookstores and libraries love to categorize. Generally ‘crime’ gets its own spot, whereas a ‘thriller’ will get placed within the ‘general fiction’. So what separates ‘crime’ from a ‘thriller’ and when do the bookstores and libraries get it wrong?

 

 

            That’s actually my absolute favorite question in the world.  Could take a whole book to answer, but let me try to give you the gist of things here.

 

First off, some background:  For much too long, thrillers were the bastard stepchildren of the publishing industry.  Denied a firm placement of their own, they have struggled to carve out an identity and definition separate from mysteries and crime stories.  Sure, there’s some overlap, quite a bit sometimes, but for our purposes today, let’s review the primary criteria that define what makes a thriller distinct.

 

1)  STAKES:  In his first book, Killing Floor, the great Lee Child introduces his iconic Jack Reacher character stopping over in a town where his brother, coincidentally, was just murdered.   Now if Reacher was concerned only with finding his brother’s killer, we’d have a mystery.  Along the way, though, he uncovers a massive counterfeiting plot that his brother had been investigating.  So the book isn’t just about investigating a murder, it’s about seeking revenge on the perpetrators and bringing down their crime ring in the process.  That’s a perfect example of how a book’s stakes figure into defining what that book is.  Think back to James Bond’s cinematic debut in Dr. No and the great line where Bond, lighting a cigarette, responds flippantly after the evil genius villain has just sketched out his plan:  “World domination . . .  Same old plan.”  Maybe so, but stakes as high as that are what help make a thriller a thriller.

 

2)  A HERO IN JEOPARDY:  Another key element in distinguishing a mystery or crime novel from a thriller is the plight of the hero.  In a mystery, we follow the investigation through the eyes of the hero who is chasing the perpetrator while not always being threatened by that perpetrator or larger forces surrounding him.  But a thriller places the life of the hero at risk, in danger.  In order to survive, he or she must get to the bottom of what’s going on.  The villains must not just be caught, they must be stopped.  See, thrillers are at their heart quest stories in the grandest tradition and for that reason they are often intensely personal.  Remember the great Hitchcock film The Man who Knew Too Much?  Jimmy Stewart’s son is kidnapped to stop him telling the authorities what he knows, so the only way to get the boy back is to stop the bad guys himself.  The ultimate quest with the lives of his entire family hanging in the balance as he gets to the root of an assassination conspiracy.

 

3)  AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION:  Jumping off a bit from the point above, thrillers are almost invariably about stopping something really bad from happening, not just investigating something that already has happened.  It’s not a mystery, so much as a puzzle where the hero must fit all the pieces together in order to preempt a truly evil plot sure to harm lots of people.  In that sense, the thriller form is interactive, asking the reader to play along with the hero in assembling all the clues.  The villain, in turn, is determined to stop the hero’s efforts which creates the kind of nail-biting suspense that lies not only in wondering whether the hero will survive, but also whether he or she will succeed in preventing the Really Bad Thing from happening.

 

4)  SETTING:  Thrillers, for the most part, are defined by their rapid-fire pace.  And that kind of pacing tends to move the heroes around a lot as they embark on their quest to stop the Really Bad Thing.  The great tales of James Rollins and Steve Berry take us all over the world, any number of countries per book.  While there are plenty of exceptions to this, Lee Child’s books foremost among them, the nature of the thriller has long been defined by characters shifting about settings both dark, mundane and exotic in a staccato-like fashion.  Like a treasure hunt, where each clue leads to another that takes the hero somewhere else.  This is in stark contrast to mysteries or crime tales which normally take place in a single city or, even, town.

 

5)  HOLDING UP THE MIRROR:  Mysteries and crime tales are seldom motivated or defined by societal concerns.  Contrast that with the modern evolution of the thriller.  The great paranoid conspiracy books by Robert Ludlum, like The Holcroft Covenant and The Matarese Circle, were spawned by the Watergate era where government became the enemy.  Ronald Reagan restored trust to government but also reignited the Cold War, giving birth to the likes of Tom Clancy and a whole spat of thrillers more interested in machines than men.  The end of the Cold War that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s pretty much killed the thriller form for a while.  Sales plummeted, as thriller writers sought a new identity, a new enemy.  We got both on 9/11.  Suddenly a whole new generation of bad guys were born in Islamic terrorists, obviously capable of doing the Really Bad Thing thought to be only the product of fiction until that fateful, redefining day.  The post 9/11 era, that birthed the likes of Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, Daniel Silva, and Alex Berenson, reinvigorated the thriller form and planted the seeds for the explosion of the genre’s popularity today.  All of a sudden, we needed heroes again, and characters such as Mitch Rapp, Gabriel Allon and Scott Harvath more than fit the bill.  If we couldn’t kill the boogeyman in real life, at least we could kill him in fiction, and the new wave of heroes was more than up to that task.  But thriller writers are also ahead of the curve as well.  Before he created Hannibal Lecter, Thomas Harris foresaw 9/11 in Black Sunday, his brilliant book about a terrorist attack on the Super Bowl.  The Really Bad Thing in Ian Fleming’s 1961 Bond novel Thunderball was nuclear terrorism.  Who could have known?

 

 

I could go on with this forever, but any writer needs to know when to stop, when enough is enough.  There are no absolutes in this business and exceptions surely to every rule.  Thrillers are as broad as our imaginations, elegantly encapsulating what the great John D. McDonald defines as a story:  “Stuff happens to someone you care about.”  To that, let me add “lots of” stuff and someone you care about “who’s in danger.”  Now, that’s a thriller!


Strong Rain Falling, the new Caitlin Strong Installment, revealed!

on March 18th, 2013 in Blog Posts, Normal by | 4 Comments

“Caitlin Strong, Texas Ranger, rides again in Jon Land’s latest action-packed tale.  This one, involving the Mexican drug trade, grabs you fast and holds you tight.  Land knows how to write, how to plot, and how to tell a hell of a story.  One of the best and most original thriller series written today.  An excellent read.”

 Nelson DeMille, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Panther

“Strong Vengeance ranks as the best and most exciting piece of the series so far, with great characters and a complex multi-dimensional plot.  This makes it official: Caitlin Strong is the world’s number one tough gal. Other heroines may now compete for the silver or bronze.”

–The San Jose Mercury News

 

Mexico, 1919:  The birth of the Mexican drug trade begins with opium being smuggled across the U.S. border, igniting an all-out battle with American law enforcement in general and the Texas Rangers in particular.

 

The Present:  Fifth Generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong and her lover Cort Wesley Masters both survive terrifying gun battles.  But this time, it turns out, the actual targets were not them, but Masters’ teenage sons.

 

That sets Caitlin and Cort Wesley off on a trail winding through the past and present with nothing less than the future of the United States hanging in the balance.  Along the way they will confront terrible truths dating all the way back to the Mexican Revolution and the dogged battle Caitlin’s own grandfather and great-grandfather fought against the first generation of Mexican drug dealers.

 

At the heart of the storm soon to sweep away America as we know it, lies a mastermind whose abundant power is equaled only by her thirst for vengeance.  Ana Callas Guajardo, the last surviving member of the family that founded the Mexican drug trade, has dedicated all of her vast resources to a plot aimed at the U.S.’s technological heart.

 

This time out, sabotage proves to be as deadly a weapon as bombs in a battle Caitlin must win in cyberspace as well.  Her only chance to prevail is to short-circuit a complex plan based as much on microchips as bullets.  Because there’s a strong rain coming and only Caitlin and Cort Wesley can stop the fall before it’s too late.


Why I Brought McCracken Back

on November 27th, 2012 in Blog Posts, Normal by | 11 Comments

Okay, confession time. The truth behind the return of my original series hero Blaine McCracken was not based on planning or inspiration. It was based instead on seizing a fresh and wonderful opportunity based on another opportunity lost.

See, around a year and a half ago Clive Cussler parted ways with one of his long-time co-authors. Turned out my agent happened to represent another of those co-authors and was intimately aware of the opening as well as the whole process, certainly enough to believe I’d be the perfect fit given that my McCracken books owe a lot of their inspiration to Cussler’s terrific Dirk Pitt series.

Now I’m somebody who attacks such an opportunity like a pit bull; I wasn’t about to just put my name forward with a resume of titles and hope for the best. No, I decided instead to go all-in by writing an extended sample. Here’s where the fun begins because, like my nine-book McCracken series, all of Cussler’s series are high-concept based. So I put brain to the grindstone, did some thinking followed by research, and discovered that no thriller writer had ever done a book using the mythical Pandora’s box as a jumping off point. Such historical speculation has long been the basis of this kind of book, Clive’s and mine included, so I had the germ of an idea I knew rocked:

What if Pandora’s box was real?


Click to watch

Well, it turns out the box was really a jar, but that’s beside the point. The real
point for our purposes anyway is that Clive decided to go in a different direction.
Disappointing for sure, but this business is all about getting up off the mat, brushing
yourself off, and getting back into the fight. To digress slightly, I had recently placed the
first five long-out-of-print McCracken titles with a wonderful company called Open
Road Integrated Media that had reissued them in digital format, giving new life to the
series and the character. So here I was with a hundred and fifty pages of a potentially
great adventure and nothing to do with them. But not for long because, thanks to Open
Road, I had something to do with them indeed: convert the story that was basically made
for Blaine McCracken into a McCracken story.

It was one of the smartest things I ever did and also one of the easiest, since
trying to tailor my writing for someone else hadn’t been much fun at all, while going
back to my old pal Blaine was a blast from the start. I added an extended rescue
sequence prologue to reintroduce McCracken to readers and rewrote the original pages
which exploded with the kind of life, energy and pacing that had come to typify the nine
previous McCracken books. I’m not saying it was easy, because the high-action thriller
form requires an elegant and seamless choreography to make the extended action
sequences seem fresh and original, as big and broad as what long-time McCracken fans
had come to expect.

Look, I stopped writing books featuring him fifteen years ago mostly because I
thought I’d taken his character as far as I could, along with the fact that the end of the
Cold War sort of sounded a death knell for these kind of thrillers. Fortunately I was
wrong on the first count and, thanks to the great writing of authors like James Rollins,
Steve Berry, Vince Flynn and Brad Thor among others, this kind of thriller found itself
very much back in vogue in the wake of 9/11.

In other words, the timing was perfect to bring Blaine McCracken back. Perfect
but also challenging. First off, the stakes had to be typically high. The McCracken
books were highly influenced by Ian Fleming’s James Bond. That meant the fate of
the world, or at least the country, had to be hanging in the balance. Good thing I had
my Pandora’s box idea, along with something else I’d been playing around with: dark
matter, the least understood and potentially most powerful (and, thus, deadly) force in
the universe. The disaster aboard the Deepwater Horizon stuck in my mind, planting a
seed of an even more epic disaster on an offshore oilrig as the basis for maybe the biggest
action-adventure tale I’d ever penned. Absolutely perfect to center around McCracken
and certain to please his most ardent fans who expect nothing less of him.

Uh-oh, though, I had another problem: as a deep cover operative who cut his
teeth in Vietnam’s Operation Phoenix, he’d have to be around 60 years old unless I
wanted to cheat a la Robert Parker who made the mistake of making his wondrous
Spenser a Korean War vet meaning he’d be around eighty-five now and still kicking butt.
But cheating the reader was no way to reintroduce McCracken and had I made him, say,
forty-five, he’d have been killing Vietcong at the age of ten. So I decided to age him
normally and introduce him in Pandora’s Temple about to celebrate his 60th birthday.
The phone has pretty much stopped ringing and time seems to have passed Blaine by,
when the call that brings him back to action comes.

And that’s one of the things that brought him back to life for me. I realized he
made the perfect metaphor for so many successful businessmen and women who find
their jobs outsourced or phased out when they reach the same age, thanks to the current
economy. I knew I had a theme that would create an emotional resonance in Pandora
that would help elevate it above the run-of-the-mill thriller and make it not just a worthy
addition to the series, but maybe the best one yet. Lucky number ten!

Once I realized that, I was able to swiftly recapture McCracken’s voice and his
sharp, thoughtful exchanges with his right-hand man, the seven-foot indestructible and
wise Johnny Wareagle. It happened organically and didn’t need to be forced at all,
although I did go back and add some scenes to help recapture the magic between them
that helps define who they are and the eternal quest they find themselves on.

Because at heart all great thrillers are quest stories and McCracken’s quest here is
to find Pandora’s box because that’s the only way to save the world. But this time out in
saving the world, Blaine is also saving himself from the scrapheap, and watching him
come to embrace that opportunity as the story goes on imbues the book with just the
verve it needed to do justice to a hero who’s been away from the page since 1998.

Based on the early response to Pandora’s Temple there’s no way he’ll be away
for that long again and I’m already dreaming up his next challenge, the next topic no
one’s ever written about before, that will serve Blaine well. While we await that time,
and while you enjoy this book, I have a question for you:

Who’s your favorite series hero and why?

Love to hear what you’ve got to say. After all, without you there’d be no Blaine
McCracken and there’d be no Jon Land.