Monday, 11 December 2017

Books to look forward to from Head of Zeus

January 2018

Eighteen Below is by Stefan Ahnhem.  ON A HOT SUMMER'S DAY. The police chase a speeding car through the streets of Helsingborg. When they reach the quay, the driver keeps going, straight into the cold, dark water.  A TRAGIC ACCIDENT. The body recovered from the wreck is Peter Brise, a wealthy tech entrepreneur. Fabian Risk and his team are confident this is a suicide. Young, rich, successful, Brise just didn't know how to ask for help.  TURNS EVERTHING A LITTLE COLDER...   But then the autopsy reveals something unexpected. Brise was already dead when his car crashed. He'd been brutally murdered two months ago. His body was frozen in perfect condition, at eighteen degrees below zero...

Grace Ozmian, missing daughter of a tech billionaire has been found.  Most of her, anyway. Her head is still missing.  Lieutenant CDS Vincent D'Agosta knows his investigation will attract fierce media scrutiny, so he's delighted when his old acquaintance FBI Special Agent A.X.L. Pendergast is assigned to the case.  But neither man is prepared for what lies ahead. A diabolical presence is haunting New York City and Grace is only the first of many victims to be murdered... and decapitated.  As mass hysteria sweeps the city, it will take all of Pendergast's skill and strength to unmask this most dangerous foe - let alone survive to tell the tale.  City of Endless Night is by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.

February 2018

Dead Men Whistling is by Graham Masterton.  A garda sergeant is found beheaded with an Irish tin whistle sticking out of his neck. He was due to give evidence at a major inquiry into police corruption. His murder sends a clear message to any future whistleblowers: only silence is safe.  The inquiry hinges on the arrest of one of Cork's most ruthless drug dealers. Though there was evidence to convict him, he walked free. DCI Katie Maguire is determined to expose the full truth.  But when another officer is murdered in the exact same way, Katie finds that murder is the best way to stop people talking.

Eight years a soldier, Peter Ash came home from Iraq and Afghanistan with only one souvenir: what he calls 'white static', a buzzing claustrophobia due to post-traumatic stress that has driven him to spend a year roaming the Pacific coast's mountains and forests, sleeping under the stars. But when a friend from the Marines commits suicide, Ash returns to civilization to help the man's widow and two young children. While repairing her dilapidated porch, he makes two unwelcome discoveries: The first is a dog, the meanest, ugliest dog he's ever laid eyes on, guarding a Samsonite suitcase; the second unwelcome surprise is the suitcase's contents - $400,000 in cash and four slabs of plastic explosive. Just what was his friend caught up in during his final days? Ash will find that the demons of war aren't easy to leave behind...  The Drifter is by Nick Petrie.

Like Lions is by Brian Panowich.  Clayton Burroughs is sheriff of Bull Mountain and one-time black sheep of the brutal and blood-steeped Burroughs clan. It's been a year since a rogue government agent systematically crippled the family's criminal empire that left two of the brothers dead, and Clayton, the youngest and only surviving member of the clan, broken and haunted by wounds that may never heal.  Now Bull Mountain is vulnerable, ripe for predators wanting to re-establish the flow of dope and money through the town. And the death of a boy belonging to a rival clan brings the wolves straight to Clayton's door.  The only good son born of a crooked tree, Clayton wants to bury his bloody family legacy for good. But he'll need to call on it if he wants to save his family, and his mountain, from the destruction that awaits.

March 2018

The Disappeared is by C J Box. The new State Governor, Colter Allen, needs a favour from Game Warden Joe Pickett. The British consulate is asking questions over in Denver: a rich English woman visiting a high-end guest ranch has gone missing. Joe has a habit of investigating outside the lines of the local law and Allen needs this done quietly. But Joe's inquiries soon uncover not one, but three missing women.  At the same time, with his friend Nate Romanowski, he's called to investigate a serious federal crime: the killing of several bald and golden eagles. The more questions Joe asks about each case, the clearer it becomes someone wants him to disappear.  And the answers, when they finally come, reveal a violently darker Wyoming that he ever imagined.

April 2018

In the Cage Where Your Saviors Hide is by Malcolm Mackay.  The independent kingdom of
Scotland flourished until the beginning of the last century. Its great trading port of Challaid, in the north west of the country, sent ships around the world and its merchants and bankers grew rich on their empire in Central America.  But Scotland is not what it was, and the docks of Challaid are almost silent. The huge infrastructure projects collapsed, like the dangerous railway tunnels under the city. And above ground the networks of power and corruption are all that survive of Challaid's glorious past.  Darian Ross is a young private investigator whose father, an ex cop, is in prison for murder. He takes on a case brought to him by a charismatic woman, Maeve Campbell. Her partner has been stabbed; the police are not very curious about the death of a man who laundered money for the city's criminals. Ross is drawn by his innate sense of justice and his fascination with Campbell into a world in which no-one can be trusted.

Queen's Jubilee, 1977: Cassie Baker sees her boyfriend kissing another girl at the village disco. Upset, she heads home alone and is never seen again. Millennium Eve, 1999: DCI Paul Mercer finds Cassie's remains in a field. Now he must prove the man who led him there is guilty. When Mercer's daughter asks Stella Darnell for help solving the murder, Stella see echoes of herself. Another detective's daughter. With her sidekick sleuth, Jack, Stella moves to Winchcombe, where DCI Mercer and his prime suspect have been playing cat and mouse for the past eighteen years...  The Death Chamber is by Lesley Thomson

May 2018

Ex-journalist Kay and her family are spending the summer in a rented farmhouse in Vermont. Kay is haunted by her traumatic past in Africa, and is struggling with her troubled marriage and the constraints of motherhood. Then her husband is called away unexpectedly on business and Kay finds herself alone with the children, obsessed by the idea that something terrible has happened to the owners of the house. The locals are reticent when she asks about their whereabouts; and she finds disturbing writing scrawled across one of the walls.  As she starts to investigate she becomes involved with a local man, Ben, whose life is complicated by his own violent past, his involvement in a drug-trafficking operation, and his desire to adopt an abused child.  Their two stories collide and intertwine, heading towards a dramatic denouement.  The Underneath is by Melanie Finn

The End of Days has been predicted for the last two thousand years. But now, without warning, it is upon us.  Braverman 'Bravo' Shaw, member of a secret Franciscan splinter sect, has survived a battle as old as time itself: the battle between good and evil. Working with his once-blind sister, Emma, and his confessor, Fra Leoni, Bravo went to war with the Fallen, Lucifer's advance guard and emerged with The Book of Deathly Things - Lucifer's first and last Testament.  Now, back in New York, the book's secrets have revealed themselves to Emma. With the testament stolen by Bravo, Emma realises the Fallen army will awaken fully. And come to claim what is theirs.  Four Dominions is by Eric Van Lustbader.

A young Czech girl, missing for eight days, is found abandoned in a deserted playground. She is so traumatised she cannot speak.  DCI Eve Clay is on her way to try and interview the victim, when another case is called in. Two Polish migrant workers have been found dead in their burnt out flat. But this is no normal house fire. The men's bodies were set alight, after the killer had clinically removed both of their hearts.  Then reports come in that the Czech girl's mother has disappeared.  Then Clay and her team receive an anonymous call. Someone else will die before the day ends.  Killing Time is by Mark Roberts.

June 2018

Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Nemsis is by Eric Van Lustbader.  Jason Bourne returns. He's fought against the NSA, black off-site cyber operations, a Somali terrorist organisation and been accused of treason against the US.  Now the Russians have planted a mole to uncover Bourne's secrets and launch cyber-warfare against the United States.  Meanwhile, Bourne's former colleague, Soroya Moore, needs his help. Six highly skilled field agents have disappeared, the body parts of three found in a national park in Georgia. Facing death and destruction in the shadows of civilisation, Bourne will battle his deadliest nemesis yet.

Death Notice is by Zhou Haohui.  Online, a vigilante announces their intention of meting out justice for unpunished crimes. Users are invited to submit names for judgement. Those found guilty will be sentenced. And there is just one punishment: death. Despite publishing the name of each victim and the date of execution - their death notice - the police are simply unable to stop the killer. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) is assembled, comprising a criminal psychologist, a SWAT captain, an Online Surveillance Officer and Detective Luo Fei. As they pursue the killer, the SIT will be drawn ever deeper into dark and dangerous territory. What is the connection to a highly classified eighteen-year-old case that saw two similar 'death notice' murders? What is Detective Luo's personal connection to that case? And finally, what crimes might the members of the SIT guilty of? And what will they do to keep them secret?

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Books to Look Forward to From Quercus and MacLehose Press

January 2018

Zen and the Art of Murder is by Oliver Bottini.  Louise Boni, maverick chief inspector with the Black Forest crime squad, is struggling with her demons. Divorced at forty-two, she is haunted by the shadows of the past.  Dreading yet another a dreary winter weekend alone, she receives a call from the departmental chief which signals the strangest assignment of her career - to trail a Japanese monk wandering through the snowy wasteland to the east of Freiburg, dressed only in sandals and a cowl. She sets off reluctantly, and by the time she catches up with him, she discovers that he is injured, and fearfully fleeing some unknown evil. When her own team comes under fire, the investigation takes on a terrifying dimension, uncovering a hideous ring of child traffickers. The repercussions of their crimes will change the course of her own life.

Late one night a man walks into the luxurious home of disgraced banker Harry McNamara and his wife Julie. The man launches an unspeakably brutal attack on Harry as a horror-struck Julie watches, frozen by fear.  Just an hour later the attacker, JP Carney, has handed himself in to the police. He confesses to beating Harry to death, but JP claims that the assault was not premeditated and that he didn't know the identity of his victim. With a man as notorious as Harry McNamara, the detectives cannot help wondering, was this really a random act of violence or is it linked to one of Harry's many sins: corruption, greed, betrayal?  The Confession is by Jo Spain.

Husband and wife Niamh and Ruairidh Macfarlane co-own Ranish Tweed: a Hebridean company that weaves its own special variety of Harris cloth, which has become a sought-after brand in the world of high fashion. But when Niamh learns of Ruairidh's affair with Russian designer Irina Vetrov, then witnesses the pair killed by a car bomb in Paris, her life is left in ruins.  Along with her husband's remains, she returns home to the Isle of Lewis, bereft.  The Paris police have ruled out terrorism, and ruled in murder - making Niamh the prime suspect, along with Irina's missing husband, Georgy. And so French Detective Sylvie Braque is sent to the island to look into Niamh's past, unaware of the dangers that await her.  As Braque digs deeper into the couple's history, Niamh herself replays her life with Ruiairidh, searching her memory for those whose grievances might have led to murder. And with each layer revealed, and every unexpected twist uncovered, the two women find themselves drawn inexorably closer to a killer who will not turn back.  I’ll Keep You Safe is by Peter May.

February 2018

The Dark Angel is by Elly Griffiths.  Dr Ruth Galloway is flattered when she receives a letter
from Italian archaeologist Dr Angelo Morelli, asking for her help. He's discovered a group of bones in a tiny hilltop village near Rome but doesn't know what to make of them. It's years since Ruth has had a holiday, and even a working holiday to Italy is very welcome!  So Ruth travels to Castello degli Angeli, accompanied by her daughter Kate and friend Shona. In the town she finds a baffling Roman mystery and a dark secret involving the war years and the Resistance. To her amazement she also soon finds Harry Nelson, with Cathbad in tow. But there is no time to overcome their mutual shock - the ancient bones spark a modern murder, and Ruth must discover what secrets there are in Castello degli Angeli that someone would kill to protect.

The Memory Chamber is by Holly Cave..  You are going to die. You can preserve a handful of special memories forever.  Which ones would you choose? True death is a thing of the past. Now you can spend the rest of eternity re-living your happiest memories: that first kiss, falling in love, the birth of your children, enjoyed on loop for ever and ever.  Isobel is a Heaven Architect, and she helps dying people create afterlives from these memories. So when she falls for Jarek, one of her terminal - and married - clients, she knows that while she cannot save him, she can create the most beautiful of heavens, just for him.  But when Jarek's wife is found dead, Isobel uncovers a darker side of the world she works within, and she can trust no one with what she finds...

1985. Kazumasa Yuuki, a seasoned reporter at the North Kanto Times, runs a daily gauntlet against the power struggles and office politics that plague its newsroom. But when an air disaster of unprecedented scale occurs on the paper's doorstep, its staff are united by an unimaginable horror, and a once-in-a-lifetime scoop.  2003. Seventeen years later, Yuuki remembers the adrenaline-fuelled, emotionally charged seven days that changed his and his colleagues' lives. He does so while making good on a promise he made that fateful week - one that holds the key to its last unsolved mystery, and represents Yuuki's final, unconquered fear.  Seventeen is by Hideo Yokoyama.

It's Christmas in Culiacan and Detective Edgar "Lefty" Mendieta can't believe his luck. An old flame has returned with a teenage son he knew nothing about. Happiness seems to finally beckon for our careworn hero. The only snag is that Jason Mendieta wants to follow in his father's footsteps-even as Mexico's drug war descends a slippery slope toward chaos.  While Lefty pursues a lunatic who has taken to bumping off dentists with a heavy-calibre pistol, a secret agent infiltrates a meeting of the drug lords and hears Pacific Cartel boss Samantha Valdes implore her underlings to stay out of the war. But an audacious murder provokes Samantha to change her mind and launch a wave of grisly killings across the country.  Samantha then persuades Lefty to help her find the killer that pushed her over the edge. The truth he discovers will underline an old adage: revenge is a dish best served cold. No quiet family Christmas for our detective.  Name of the Dog is by Élmer Mendoza.

April 2018

1957, Munich. Bernie Gunther's latest move in a long string of varied careers sees him working for an insurance company. It makes a kind of sense: both cops and insurance companies have a vested interest in figuring out when people are lying to them, and Bernie has a lifetime of experience to call on.  Sent to Athens to investigate a claim from a fellow German for a ship that has sunk, Bernie takes an instant dislike to the claimant. When he discovers the ship in question once belonged to a Greek Jew deported to Auschwitz, he is convinced the sinking was no accident but an avenging arson attack. Then the claimant is found dead, shot through both eyes. It's a win for Bernie's employers at least: no one to pay out to even if the claim is genuine. But who is behind the murder, and why?  Strong-armed into helping the Greek police with their investigation, Bernie is once again drawn inexorably back to the dark history of the Second World War, and the deportation of the Jews of Salonika - now Thessaloniki. As Europe seems ready to move on to a more united future with Germany as a partner rather than an enemy, at least one person in Greece is ready neither to forgive nor forget. And, deep down, Bernie thinks they may have a point.  Greeks Bearing Gifts is by Philip Kerr.

Too soon to see.  Polished. Professional. Perfect. Dead. Respected scientist Dr Eleanor Costello is found hanged in her immaculate home: the scene the very picture of a suicide.  Too late to hide.  DCS Frankie Sheehan is handed the case, and almost immediately spots foul play. Sheehan, a trained profiler, is seeking a murderer with a talent for death. Too close to breathe.  As Frankie strives to paint a picture of the killer, and their victim, she starts to sense they are part of a larger, darker canvas, on which the lines between the two blur.  Too Close to Breathe is by Olivia Kiernan.

May 2018

Blood Feud is by Anna Smith.  Kerry Casey thought she'd made a life away from the dirty dealings of her gangster family. Her father wanted to make them legit - her brother Mickey had other ideas, and now it's got him killed. When Mickey's funeral turns into a bloodbath at the hands of a group of anonymous shooters and Kerry's mother is killed in the crossfire, Kerry finds herself at the head of the Casey family, and desperate for revenge.  Running a crime empire is not a job she ever asked for, and not one she wants, but Kerry is determined to fulfill her father's wishes and make the Caseys go straight. First, though, she will find the men who murdered her mother, and she will take them down, no matter what it costs.

Everyone in Southend remembers the night of the fire. Two lives were saved from the burning Marineland resort, while metres down the beach another was lost when a young woman was raped and murdered. The killer was never found. Now, twenty-five years on, DI Grace Fisher is handed new DNA evidence that could blow the cold case wide open. But what are the chances of really getting to the truth after all this time? Meanwhile, eager would-be journalist Freddie Craig decides to prove himself by conducting his own investigation and turning his findings into a true-crime podcast. It will be good for his CV, and maybe he'll even make a breakthrough in the case. Experienced hack Ivo Sweatman is flattered when the cub reporter turns to him for advice, but as Freddie becomes more obsessed with the case, Ivo starts to worry that the line between fact and wishful thinking is becoming dangerously blurred...  Wrong Way Home is by Isabelle Grey.

Firefly is by Henry Porter.  From the refugee camps of Greece to the mountains of Macedonia, a thirteen year old boy is making his way to Germany and safety. Codenamed 'Firefly', he holds vital intelligence: unparalleled insight into a vicious ISIS terror cell, and details on their plans to strike at the heart of Europe. But the terrorists are hot on his trail, determined he won't live to pass on the information.  When MI6 become aware of Firefly and what he knows, the race is on to find him. Luc Samson, ex-MI6 agent and now private eye, finds himself recruited to the cause. Fluent in Arabic thanks to his Lebanese heritage, Samson's job is to find Firefly, win his trust and get him to safety.

Salt Lane is by William Shaw.  No-one knew their names, the bodies found in the water. There are people here, in plain sight, that no-one ever notices at all.  DS Alexandra Cupidi has done it again. She should have learnt to keep her big mouth shut, after the scandal that sent her packing - resentful teenager in tow - from the London Met to the lonely Kent coastline. Even murder looks different in this landscape of fens, ditches and stark beaches, shadowed by the towers of Dungeness power station. Murder looks a lot less pretty.  The man drowned in the slurry pit had been herded there like an animal. He was North African, like many of the fruit pickers that work the fields. The more Cupidi discovers, the more she wants to ask - but these people are suspicious of questions.  It will take an understanding of this strange place - its old ways and new crimes - to uncover the dark conspiracy behind the murder. Cupidi is not afraid to travel that road. But she should be. She should, by now, have learnt.

Out of Thin Air: The True Story of an Impossible Murder in Iceland is by Anthony Adeane.  1974.  Iceland is an idyll: a farming community, cut off from much of the rest of the world.  Crime is rare, murder is rarer still.  Then two men disappear.  Foul play is suspected.  The country demands a resolution.  Police launch the biggest criminal investigation in the country’s history.  Finally, six people confess to two violent murders and are sent to prison.  It seems the nightmare is over.  But in many ways the nightmare has just begun.

June 2018

Parma is blanketed in snow, but this pristine, white veneer cannot mask the stench of corruption. Its officials are no longer working for its people - only for themselves - crime is out of control and resentment festers in every district.  Commissario Soneri remains at heart an idealist, so the state of Parma wounds him more than most. And now he is presented with three mysteries at once, each more impenetrable than the last.  In a river creek on the outskirts of the city, tipped off by a local, he finds a mobile phone that rings through the night but holds no data; an elderly patient with senile dementia is reported missing from a hospice; and the mayor of Parma, who was reported as taking a holiday on the ski slopes, has disappeared off the face of the earth - just when he seemed certain to be implicated in a seismic corruption scandal at city hall.  The Lizard Strategy is by Valerio Varesi.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Andrew Gross and The Saboteurs

I often quote a line from Stephen King’s ON WRITING that always resonates in my consciousness –
“Life is not a support system for the arts, it’s the other way around”
For I find “reading fiction” my way of coping with what the random nature of reality throws at me. I find it helps reduce the anxiety that is inherent in the human condition. I can always find succor, distraction as well as enlightenment from my fiction reading. Reality and Fiction are interrelated, especially when it comes to Thriller Novels - and the latest narrative from Andrew Gross is just such an animal.
The Saboteur is a heroic historical thriller set during WWII in Norway, where we see Gross research an espionage operation that took place by the Allied Special Operations Executive [SOE] to destroy the Norsk Hydro [which now trades as the Norwegian Chemical Company YARA] fertilizer plant that the occupying Nazi’s converted to the production of ‘D20 : Heavy Water’ – a pre-requisite [at that time] for the enrichment of Uranium; which was required for Hitler’s dream of building a Nuclear Device ahead of the US Manhattan Project. 
Gross took a conscious [and brave] decision several years ago to change direction in thematic terms of his bestselling contemporary thrillers toward the historical end of the genre. Though if you reflect upon Gross’s writing, you’ll realize that he in fact has come full circle, for he debuted as a fiction writer by penning [in-concert] with James Patterson a historical thriller, a novel that dazzled me, and many others - THE JESTER.
Mike Stotter and I first met Andrew Gross [and Jim Patterson] in New York during Thrillerfest 2006 in New York. At that time Gross had penned several other work with Jim Patterson, but eventually published thrillers alone - which he recounted for Shots HERE.
Over the years I would bump into Andrew at various conventions and conferences – and as I loved THE JESTER so much, I would often tease him to return to penning historical thrillers, and last year my wish was realized when Gross did just that. He left HarperCollins US and HarperCollins UK joining Macmillan UK and St Martin’s Press / Minotaur US with a WWII Thriller that literarily sucked the air from my lungs - THE ONE MAN.  I would interview Gross at the time, as I was floored by not only the ambition of this novel, but also its execution.
The interview was hosted at Jeff Peirce’s The Rap Sheet and for me, very enlightening regarding not only the work of Gross, Patterson but also about the world of thriller writing – and it can be accessed by clicking here.
Gross followed up The One Man with an extraordinary thriller, again a WWII adventure tale entitled THE SABOTEUR which will have a title change in the UK for its upcoming Paperback Release to THE SPY.  
For the record, The One Man became one of my favorite thriller novels of 2016, and in 2017, The Saboteur also makes my top thriller novels of the year listing. I naturally called Andrew up, as I had a few questions I needed to ask as his writing has become very important to me, to help me cope with the alarming reality I see surrounding us, with this rise of the so-called populism and lurch toward the Right-Wing in geopolitics.
As the world needs heroes, and heroic deeds - I would urge you to seek out The Saboteur; because the excitement of ‘doing the right thing’, as well as seeing the compassion for humanity [and care for the weakest members of society] is important to me – as well as the bare knuckle action of defeating the bad guys, truly inspirational.
The Saboteur is all the more exciting because at the spine of this novel, lies the real life heroism of men and women; a tale of truly inspirational bravery that defeated evil – click here to read about the real life events that helped defeat the evil of Nazism.
Ali : After your decision to change the direction of your writing from contemporary thrillers to a WWII historical setting, can you tell us how that decision has affected you – both mentally as well as commercially?
Andrew : Mentally, it gave me a renewed sense of purpose in my work. Writing about the Holocaust in THE ONE MAN, I was doing something heftier than simply writing a thriller. I was dealing in themes and leitmotifs that were larger than clues or motives, or even suspense. I was creating something that spoke to the Jewish tradition, culture, family, and loss. Even in THE SABOTEUR, it was really about heroism and sacrifice, and the moral choice between duty and feeling. So it’s been galvanizing for me. Commercially, I was lucky that THE ONE MAN was my largest book to date, in the U.S., even though it didn’t get high on the bestseller lists like previous books. It had a tremendously long tale and continues to sell. So I’m pleased with the new direction.
AK : And what about your new publishers, Macmillan in the UK and St Martins / Minotaur in the US – how supportive have they been?
AG : Well, completely supportive. They bought into the change—literally. I told them before they purchased THE ONE MAN that I was putting traditional, “suburban” thrillers behind and intended to focus on moments in time where a pivotal choice had to be made. Once you try and change the brand, there’s no going back.
AK : So after the startling THE ONE MAN, we see the shadow of Nazi aspirations for perfecting a Nuclear device again appear in THE SABOTEUR, was this planned as it seems you have an interest in Nuclear Chemistry / Uranium Enrichment?
AG : This question comes from a man with a scientific background and I’m a guy who could barely get through eighth grade Earth Science. Even though both books are linked by the thread of the Allies frantic to beat the Germans to the atomic bomb in WWII, that was really only the delivery system, so to speak, for what I was trying to do, which as I said, was transport people in time to moments where selfless courage defeated overwhelming force and power. And of course it didn’t hurt that in each, the stakes of failure were so high that it ratcheted up the suspense to the highest level. And I did layer in just a little science just to show high school friends how I’ve evolved. No, just kidding. To give a sense of what the stakes were, I thought it important to make the reader invest in the science just a bit, as my characters had to invest in what they were trying to overcome.
AK : And you mention Kirk Douglas and “The Heroes of Telemark” so I am assuming you have researched this period of WWII in detail; though I am impressed that you didn’t allow the science to slow the narrative’s velocity. What’s your take on research in thriller fiction as opposed to “I make shit up” ethos in the writer?
AG  : Well, books set historically, especially WWII and even more so, the Holocaust, can’t get too far in the “I make this shit up” zone. I’m not a believer in over-researching. I don’t like to smother a reader in how much work I’ve done to prepare. But just enough to “sell” the scene effectively. You notice Alfred grilling Leo on the science in THE ONE MAN, but the back and forth in the teacher-student dynamic, or better, the arrogant young genius and the desperate, dying professor made it entertaining, as it was peppered with humor.  In THE SABOTEUR, teaching a bit of atomic science to commandos who were more at home trudging through storms than sitting in classrooms, made it an easy lesson for the reader too.
AK : I enjoyed The Saboteur immensely, as it embodies how important it is do what is right, which is best illustrated by Kurt Nordstrum the leader of the Saboteurs – so tell us how you shape ‘character’ as a novelist.
AG : Well, that’s not the easiest of questions, but I suppose in my heroes, I start with an idealized version of what I think is heroic, (courage, an innate sense of what is right, selflessness and romantic), then carve and whittle it down into an identifiable regular person who has to convince themselves to measure up. I like unassuming, wry, quiet and unafraid, but someone who grows much larger in taking on what is required of him. I suspect somewhere these people are generally an idealized version of myself, who I would want to be, given that I sit all day behind a computer and the biggest moral courage I show in a day is whether to feed the dogs lunch meat from my sandwich or not.
AK : There is much tragedy in the lives of the protagonists and antagonists in The Saboteur, and from there springs motivation. How important is ensuring the characters have the requisite level of motivation? But being conscious that too much back-story [as to the origins of the motivation] could slow the narrative, or too little makes characters one dimensional
AG : Yes, well, being a hero because one is brave or a bad guy because he is mean, or insane, have never been very satisfying for me. A hero must have weakness and frailty too. And there has to be something that pushes them to stand ahead of others, and things like guilt and shame can be part of that too. In the case of Nordstrum in THE SABOTEUR, since he is a last survivor so to speak, and the things he loved gone, that gives him both a nothing to lose fatalism and lost love to give him moral courage. 
Even the bad guys have to have depth too, depth of motive. When you write Nazis, or in the case of SABOTEUR, Fascists or sympathizers, it can’t just be that when they put on the uniform they’re bad. In the case of Lund, my Quisling officer, he was an outcast from the time he was ten, and the false sense of power he received from obsequiously climbing his way up the ladder in the secret police, made his battle with Nordstrum a match of showing his superiority, to someone who had made him feel small from his youth.
AK : There’s an Alistair MacLean feeling in The Saboteur, a Scottish writer whose work dominated the thriller genre in novels and films in the 1970s. I know many writers such as Dennis Lehane and Lee Child were avid readers of his work. Were you also a reader of Alistair MacLean; and if so, can you name your favourite work from his canon [both novel as well as film adaptation]?

AG : Yep. The Guns of Navarone or Where Eagles Dare. Both, excellent movies from my youth too. I wanted to write a big, sprawling action-suspense WWII story, and McLean was the master. I used his name (brand) in my pitch to the publisher before I wrote a word. No one’s writing these kind of stories now. Of course in WWII, there was such a defined sense of good and evil that every story fits into our own ingrained values of good overcoming evil and as long as you make them believable and root-able, letting the good guys win.
AK : I was highly impressed by Edoardo Ballerini’s reading of the Audible version of The Saboteur [as well as The One Man] as he is an excellent vocal artist – so tell me if you’ve heard it also, and what are your thoughts about the audio versions of your work?
AG : I think he’s brilliant. I couldn’t be happier. To tell you a story, I never listened to one of my own books before, since THE BLUE ZONE, my first. Whoever did that book was so bad I never listened to another, even though I got to approve the readers. Ballerini changed my view! We had a long drive to a wedding I said, what the hell, everyone tells me the guy’s pretty good, let’s see. My wife and I were mesmerized. He handles accents and suspense superbly. And if you had asked me how many I sold of any audio recording before I couldn’t have told you, because it was such a rounding error, but THE ONE MAN sold almost 20,000 downloads in the U.S.  And THE SABOTEUR is following in suit.
AK : In Britain some thrillers are sometimes termed “Blokey” referring to their appeal to be steered toward male readers. Your work however often features strong women, and their presence is far from stage dressing – so what’s your thoughts about gender in thriller fiction?
AG : Ahem, gender, at this particular moment in the U.S. is very much in the news. And politicized. And I always feel that no matter what I say on this subject, I say the wrong thing. But I have always admired and found attractive strong-willed women. I come from a family of them. (I also spent 15 years in the women’s apparel biz before writing.) I find nothing sexier than a women who stands up to do the courageous thing. My original contract dating back to working with James Patterson, was because... “This guy does women well!” So even my WWII books are read by as many women as men. In THE SABOTEUR, there are two principal women, both who arrive in the second half of the book. One has that measure of heroism. The other becomes a believable love interest for Nordstrum in a short amount of time. They are different, but both succeed, I’m told. I don’t know, I just have a knack. Trust me, my wife would tell you, it’s not because I pay much attention to her……smiling carefully……

AK : Speaking of those two strong female characters, Hella and later Natalie Ritter who were adroitly evoked despite resting in the shadow of Kurt’s late wife Anna-Lissette. How do you write inside the mind of a woman?
AG : Well, I kind of started this above, but there is always a bit of the underdog in women, because, in thrillers as in life, they are always trying to impose sense and order on a crazy world run by stronger men. I guess I start with what I like in a women: boldness, wit, guile, firm footing, and brains. There could not be two more different people in the SABOTEUR than Hella (the resistance fighter) and Natalie (who sees in Nordstrum the heart and decency he has inside) and throws aside that she is Austrian and he is Norwegian. But both pick up on these qualities and work, I think, and, in a very short amount of time. By the way, even Nordstrum’s shortlived girlfriend Anna-Lissette comes off as convincing, I think, and she doesn’t even get a whole scene!
AK : I thought the dénouement was elegantly realized with the Austrian Cellist August Ritter of the Vienna Philharmonic, and his daughter Natalie. I enjoy endings that allow the reader to project their own thoughts onto the narrative rather than the author wrap up the climax with bows and ribbons. I know some editors favor the clear ending, with no trailing cables – while others allow a little wriggle-room for the reader’s thoughts – so what’s your take on endings?
AG ; They just have to be satisfying. What are the emotional stakes you’ve created in the book and how does the ending back that up and resolve it? I generally don’t like bleak. Or un-resolved. But I don’t like the fairy tale either. It has to be totally believable because that is the lasting message you get from the book. It’s what you carry with you as a reader. In THE SABOTEUR, you don’t know till the last page how it resolves. (The last line even! But don’t look….laughing…….) The stakes there—Nordstrum, a hardened warrior who has taken on a critical mission that to achieve it endangers the one person he has opened himself to love, Then there’s the “ does he survive or not?”, as well as the different feelings in the reader with each possible outcome. So excitement, believability, and resolution. That’s my three take-home points of an ending.

AK : I consider your work to sit at the top of the heroic edge of the thriller genre, and Kurt’s Father Alois, has a slogan  “a true man goes on until he can go no further, and then he goes twice as far” – tell me where did this line come from?
AG : Sadly, I didn’t make it up. It’s a Norwegian saying I came upon. But it illuminates the center of the Norwegian heart, of sturdy, dedicated, selfless men of the outdoors who rise to every challenge. In THE ONE MAN it was easy to touch upon Jewish archetypes to give meaning to Nathan’s character. In THE SABOTEUR, this one line is the heart of Nordstrum’s character and that of the Hillmen of Norway.
In a sentence, you know who these men and women are, and what’s at their core – they never give in.
AK : So what’s next for Andrew Gross? More Nuclear Chemistry and Adventure? Or are you tempted to team up with Jim Patterson, for a historical ‘Bookshot’? Perhaps even a coda to The Jester? As you know I had to ask……….
AG : No, I know you’ve wanted to reprise on JESTER since we first met over a decade ago, But I just finished something pretty good, I think. And personal. Built of my own family’s stories and legacy. It takes place in NYC between 1905-35, during the early stages of the women’s clothing business [when it was populated by gruff, tough characters]. Back then, the union was taken over by the Jewish mob (who trust me were much more violent than the Italian mob—they all grew up on the Lower East Side without a dime and faced ridicule and prejudice. So it’s the story of a brash, young garment entrepreneur who rises from nothing and has to go head to head against the mob-run union, and one murderous crime boss in particular who he was standing up to since his youth. Provisionally, I’m calling it, UNDER MANHATTAN BRIDGE. It’s kind of a cross between GREAT EXPECTATIONS and THE GODFATHER.
AK : Well that is intriguing me, and so I looking forward to it – and many thanks for your time.
AG : Always fun being with you, Ali!
For more information about the thriller writing of Andrew Gross click here and to read about the real-life hero of Telemark, Joachim Ronnenberg, Leader of Operation "Gunnerside" click here
I thoroughly recommend THE ONE MAN as well as THE SABOTEUR as outstanding thriller novels that will make you take stock of life, as well as make you think as they entertain and make the heart pump, like a Uranium enrichment centrifuge.
Ideal for Christmas presents for those who like to think, while being entertained.