Interview and Review by Scott Butki
Readers may find it hard to accept that Nothing Short of Dying is Erik Storey’s first novel – it has the kind of action and adrenaline that will make you feel like you just went on a caffeine bender. Plus, it is that rare action novel that has both an excellent plot AND well developed characters – rare for any thriller, let alone a debut novel.
“He’s a rugged wandering adventurer. He’s spent almost two decades roaming the third world, making his living with a rifle, trying to help the little guys. He considers himself outside of any law other than Nature’s, so he is able to do things you and I can’t.”
Nothing Short of Dying, set in Colorado, is the start of a series, and I will definitely be looking forward to what happens next to its protagonist, Clyde Barr. As the series begins, Barr has just been released from a Mexican prison. He hopes to stay out for a while, but a call from his sister, who has been kidnapped, pulls him back into his old pattern of breaking laws and fighting bad guys. Clyde is aided in the quest to find Jen by Allie, another well-rounded character who has gotten out of a jam or two, who he meets while hunting for his sister. Allie’s character and their interactions help keep the story sizzling.
As Clyde continues his efforts to find his sister, Jen, and steal her away from drug manufacturers and deals, we the readers delve into Clyde’s back story, which includes time in other countries and three continents helping fight injustice but often getting hurt in the process. We also learn the origins of the deep bond between the two siblings – their childhood was marked by the physical abuse of their mother and, when they tried to fight back, Jen and Clyde. All his life, we learn, Clyde has followed his own code of honor, one that has gotten him hurt often, both physically and emotionally.
Storey’s is a fresh voice and an excellent one. I suggest you check out this book as we are going to hear more from him. Indeed, the novel comes with praise from some of my favorite authors: Lee Child, Craig Johnson, Lori Armstrong and Jeffrey Deaver.
I was lucky enough to be able to interview Storey by email.
“Clyde has two books in his pack at all times. In this book it’s a copy of Haggard and Nietzsche, neither of them that easy to read, meaning Clyde isn’t as dumb as he looks.”
Scott Butki: Which came first, the plot or these thick rich characters?
Erik Storey: Location actually came first, then characters, and plot last. I wanted to write about my part of Colorado, and needed a character that could match the rugged and rough country. I came up with Clyde, put him on the Western Slope of Colorado, and gave him an enemy to fight. After that the plot kind of fell together.
SB: This is an amazing debut since you pack such adrenaline and depth into these stories. Are these characters you have been thinking about for a long time?
ES: Thank you. I guess I’ve been thinking about a Clyde-like character for years, but hadn’t been able to get him down on paper the way I wanted. He finally started to form and fill out when I wrote the last fifty or so versions of the book.
“I wanted to write about my part of Colorado, and needed a character that could match the rugged and rough country.”
SB: How did this story come together and how much did the finished product vary from what you first envisioned?
ES: I took four years and at least fifty different drafts to get the finished product. I wrote a couple of versions of Clyde because I didn’t really know who he was until after I finished the first draft, and I didn’t like him as much as I thought I would. Clyde originally resembled more of a mountain Travis McGee than what he is now, which is to say that he changed twenty or so times during the revisions. Now, finally, he is the character I always wanted to write about.
SB: How would you describe the protagonist Clyde Barr?
ES: He’s a rugged wandering adventurer. He’s spent almost two decades roaming the third world, making his living with a rifle, trying to help the little guys. He considers himself outside of any law other than Nature’s, so he is able to do things you and I can’t. The other side of that outlook, however, is that he occasionally ends up wrongly imprisoned. He’s different than most other heroes in the genre because he isn’t a super spy, he’s not an ex-cop, and he’s never been in the Special Forces.
SB: What qualities do you share with Clyde Barr?
ES: Our love of the outdoors, our affinity for rifles, and our low-tech ways. Also our love of reading. It’s often overlooked, but Clyde has two books in his pack at all times. In this book it’s a copy of Haggard and Nietzsche, neither of them that easy to read, meaning Clyde isn’t as dumb as he looks.
SB: Is this the start of a series or a stand alone?
ES: This is the start of a series. There is another book coming, and hopefully many more if people like and support Clyde Barr.
SB: What kind of research did you do for this book?
ES: I did a lot of research on the drugs and dealers that the book describes, and some for the weapons involved. The rest was heavily reliant on my own experiences. The towns they travel through, for instance, are all towns that I’ve lived and worked in.
“I learned the names of animals and plants in my area, I learned the hard way how cold it is on a dog sled, how hard a saddle can be after riding twenty hours straight, and how scary lightning is above timberline.”
SB: Did you really spend your last $9 mailing the manuscript to Lee Child’s literary agent?
ES: Yes. I spent the last nine dollars in our checking account for that month. We were living paycheck to paycheck back then, just like most of the people we knew. It was a shot in the dark, but one that luckily paid off.
SB: How did your former jobs as a rancher, wilderness guide, dogsled musher and hunter help you when writing this book?
ES: I guess those jobs would be considered experiential research. I learned the names of animals and plants in my area, I learned the hard way how cold it is on a dog sled, how hard a saddle can be after riding twenty hours straight, and how scary lightning is above timberline. I put these little details in my writing, and I hope it adds some realism that people will appreciate. Also, I learned from guiding that I enjoyed sharing my love of the outdoors with the people I took out. Now I get to do that by writing about the area I love.
SB: Lastly, what’s it like to be getting praise for your first novel from such amazing authors as Lee Child, Craig Johnson and Lori Armstrong, who each knows something about suspense and thrillers?
ES: I am honored beyond belief. These are my literary heroes, and I can hardly believe that they liked my book, let alone wrote such great blurbs. I spent a lot of time writing gushing thank you notes to each of them.
You can find copies of Nothing Short of Dying on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.