Wallace Stroby Shows The Hard Word Book Club How To Plan a Heist

kings of midnight


The Hard Word Book Club meets Wednesday, July 29, at 7 pm, on BookPeople’s third floor, to discuss Kings of Midnight, by Wallace Stroby. Stroby calls in to make this a special Hard Word occasion. All book club books are 10% off in the month of their selection.


July’s Hard Word Book Club looks at one of the best crooks since Parker. Wallace Stroby’s Crissa Stone is a heist-woman doing scores to get her mentor and lover out of prison. Crissa Stone, as a professional thief with a sensitive side, brings a fresh take and and stronger emotional core to the heist novel while still being very hard-boiled. One of the best examples of Stroby’s Stone novels is Kings Of Midnight.

In Kings Of Midnight, Stroby uses true crime as a part of his crime fiction, using the 1978 Lufthansa Robbery made famous by the film Goodfellas. After the robbery it was believed most of the robbers were murdered by their ringleader or the mafia. While some money was found, over five million was never recovered. Kings Of Midnight uses the premise that the remaining loot could or could not be in the home of a mob boss. At least that is what Crissa is told by Benny, a former mobster loosely based on informant Henry Hill. if she can trust a former snitch, it’ll be a big pay off. Either way, the troubles she already has with the mob will expand.

There is a lot to discuss about Kings Of Midnight: the anti-heroine, using real crime in crime fiction, honor among thieves. Luckily, Wallace Stroby joins the Hard Word Book Club in a conference call the day of discussion to help us out. Join us on BookPeople’s 3rd Floor at 7PM, Wednesday, July 29th. The book is 10% off at the register to those who attend.

You can find copies of Kings of Midnight on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Craig Johnson


This Thursday, May 21st, at 7 PM, our pal Craig Johnson is back in the store. His latest Walt Longmire novel, Dry Bones, has the Wyoming sheriff involved with a murder investigation that is right in the middle of a fight for the rights to a rare and sizable Tyrannosaurs Rex fossil. Longmire must also deal with an unexpected tragedy that strikes close to him. We caught up with Craig to ask a few questions (he mostly answered) about his book, his state, and the direction of the series.


MysteryPeople: Much of Dry Bones‘ plot revolves around the discovery of the most complete Tyrannosaurus fossil and who has the rights to it. In your research, what was the most surprising thing you learned about the dino-world?

Craig Johnson: That scientists are just as capable of heinous activity as the rest of humanity. You would think that by pursuing the high-minded tract of empirical data that they would be above the petty squabbles and backbiting that plague us mere mortals, but that’s not the case. In the historic battles between Cope and Marsh, two of the greatest paleontologists in American history, they salted each others’ sites with incorrect bones, wrote horrible articles about each other, and at one point one of them had the skull of the other on his desk. All of which makes the dinosaurs seem pretty civilized.

MP: The subject reinforced the idea of how history has been an important element in the series. How does history apply to Walt’s part of the country?

CJ: Well, there’s history and then there’s history… Less than 20% of native religious items and bodies have been repatriated to the tribes, which in this day and age is ridiculous. Wyoming is the outdoors. As your good buddy James Crumley once said, “The west is the out of doors, just go to Casper, Wyoming and look at the town. That’s not the West, but look out and away, that’s the West.” I think westerners are confronted by the natural world to a greater degree, and the history is all around us, whether it be teepee rings from a couple hundred years ago, or bones from sixty-five million.

MP: Dry Bones’ plot is comparatively “light’, compared to your last few novels, yet almost halfway into the story, a large personal situation occurs that throws a somber shadow over the book. What do you have to consider when dealing with different tones and moods in a novel?

CJ: Without giving too much away, it’s happening all around us just now. Police officers are being lured into situations and being killed. I’m afraid that the truth of the matter that when you buckle on that gun belt and pin that badge on in the morning you’re never sure if you’re going to be coming home that night. You can have the characters in crime fiction blithely move from novel to novel, but that really isn’t honest to the material. When tragedy strikes it’s almost always unexpected.

MP: I thought this was your best use of Dog in the series. Other than a sounding board for Walt, what else does he bring to the stories? 

CJ: He humanizes Walt and makes him a better person, just like all our pets do for all of us if we let them. There are 5,416 species of mammals on this planet and that’s just the mammals. I think realizing we’re a part of the natural world and not some dominant species that towers above it is a good thing for all of us. We’re part of a miraculous instance that we need to be aware of, if for no other reason than to be in awe of it.

MP: This is another Walt Longmire novel where the land is as dangerous as the murder suspects. What is the most precarious circumstance you have found yourself in with Wyoming nature?

CJ: When I complain to my wife that dinner appears to be late:)

Probably up on the mountain in the Cloud Peak Wilderness area. I climb Cloud Peak every other year in the Bighorn National Forest, sometimes by myself, and it’s humbling to be that far out and having to rely on only yourself with 1,731 square miles of wilderness surrounding you. Especially if the weather turns bad at thirteen thousand feet…

MP: Dry Bones feels like it’s setting up Walt for a some big changes and possible compromises of who he is. Can you tell us some of the things he will have to confront for the next ten books?

CJ: No. Sorry–you’ll have to keep reading.


Craig Johnson comes to BookPeople with his latest Longmire novel, Dry Bones, on Thursday, May 21st, at 7 PM on BookPeople’s second floor. Events are free and open to the public. In order to join the signing line, you must purchase a copy of Mr. Johnson’s latest. You can find copies of Dry Bones on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Can’t make it the event? Purchase a copy ahead of time online or over the phone and we’ll get it signed for you! 

MysteryPeople Q&A with Terry Shames

Were happy to host Terry Shames on Monday, November 10th at 7PM, along with Stinking Rich author, Rob Brunet. Her latest, Dead Broke In Jarret Creek, pulls her hero Samuel Craddock, back into his job as Chief Of Police when his town goes bankruptcy. It also looks like a murder is tied to the bankruptcy. We caught up with Terry to talk about the new novel.


MysteryPeople: Had you planned to bring Samuel back as chief?

Terry Shames: Not at all. When I started thinking through all the ramifications of a town going bankrupt, I realized it was perfect for Samuel to step in. He doesn’t need the money, and he has the experience of being a chief of police, so what better solution?

MP: What do you think makes him take the job?

TS: In my mind, he never hesitated to say yes. The easy answer to your question is that he knows that taking the job provides a quick solution to a daunting problem. He feels a sense of responsibility for “his” town. But digging deeper, there’s more to it. After Samuel’s wife died, he was at loose ends. As Jenny Sandstone said in A Killing at Cotton Hill, the book that introduced Samuel, he’s too vigorous a person to be satisfied with tending his cows all day. It’s important that he have a mission that engages him physically and mentally. He knows he’s good a keeping the peace and at figuring at solutions to criminal problems that arise in the town.

MP: Much of the plot of Dead Broke In Jarrett Creek revolves around the town’s bankruptcy, Is this occurrence more common than we know in small towns?

TS: During the economic downturn that happened in the early 2000s, several towns, large and small, went bankrupt across the country. I don’t really know how many. But when I read about them, what struck me is that many of the economic problems of the towns seemed to stem from mismanagement. I thought it would be an interesting problem to write about, since it meant not having enough money for basic services, like police.

MP: This book seems to have more humor. Were you looking for more levity after telling a somber story like The Last Death Of Jack Harbin?

TS: It wasn’t intentional, but you’re right, it’s a lighter book. I actually think there was a fair amount of humor in Jack Harbin, but it is definitely darker. In Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek I enjoyed the humor and the little twists and turns of the plot. I just turned in the fourth book in the series to my editor, entitled A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge, and it is very dark. So it looks like maybe I’m into a rhythm of alternating between writing a light book and a dark one.

MP: I really like Bill Odum, the part time lawman who helps out Samuel. What does he provide our hero other than back up?

TS: He’s a fresh, young face of law enforcement. He provides an opportunity for Samuel to teach someone what he knows about the town and the difficulties of murder investigation. At the same time, Odum knows some new tricks that Samuel doesn’t know. I also like Zeke Dibble. He’s more jaded than Samuel, but he’s willing to put in his time.

MP: The Samuel Craddock books have such an authentic Texas feel. What do you want to get across about your home state?

TS: It’s the characters I’m interested in.The setting I use is Texas because I know it deeply—I know the terrain, the sights and smells and the people—the way they behave and talk and live. Honestly, I think the people I write about could live anywhere. They are “just” people. Here is one of my favorite review quotes—this from the Dallas Morning News:

“Many writers dive straight into coarse comedy when they create stories set in rural Texas. Their 21st-century cowboys race about in gun-laden pickups. They drink and brawl in bad-news bars and feast at chicken-fried restaurants where waitresses plop down world-weary wisdom with each side order of cream gravy.

Terry Shames avoids these exaggerations in her new Samuel Craddock mystery series. It is said frequently in small-town Texas that everybody knows everybody. Yet the vaunted simple life in rural communities sometimes is rife with family feuds and complicated loyalties…In the Samuel Craddock mysteries, (Terry Shames’s) portrayals of Texas people, places, things, customs and speech are believable, carefully balanced and, best of all, entertaining.”


Copies of Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek are now available on our shelves. Terry Shames will be at BookPeople with Rob Brunet on Monday, November 10 at 7PM. Pre-order your signed copy today!

 

MysteryPeople Q&A: Mark Pryor

buttonman
We’re always thrilled to have Mark Pryor back a new Hugo Marston book. This Saturday at 3PM, he’ll be signing and discussing The Button Man, taking us to London and Hugo’s past, looking at his early days with an early assignment as head of embassy security and how he met his ally, Meryln. Molly asked Mark some questions about the book beforehand.


Molly: You have chosen to represent a version of England experiencing the hangover of a more judgmental and restrictive era. Did you set out to show the link between conservative social politics and vigilantism? Do you feel that British conservative politics are on the upswing?

Mark Pryor: Let me start by saying, or emphasizing, that issues like politics, religion, and Beatles v. Rolling Stones should never be (in my humble opinion) front and center in crime fiction. The soapbox I possess is very small and is never produced when I’m writing. These issues reverberate in the back of my mind, as they do with us all, and so creep into themes and sub-plots. They are capillaries not aortas, country roads, not freeways.

That all said and understood, and in the context of The Button Man, I think that inevitably there is a strong link between vigilantism and a perceived better time, between the vigilante and a combined sense of impotence and nostalgia. A lot of my stories begin for the characters way before Chapter One, with a dose of personal history that surfaces and propels them into action. So it was here – a character feels powerfully that injustices would be lessened if the past could be resurrected. And since society as a whole won’t do it, the character will.

And you’re right, there is a parallel here between the story and the way I see things. To be fair, I’ve not been to England that much since I left but I do follow the news closely. And times have been hard for a lot of people, which makes them long for better days. They can’t see what’s coming up in the future so they look back. One area where this is true is immigration – if you think feelings are running high here, have a look across the pond. At least here there seems to be an acknowledgment a fix is needed, some sort of accommodation. But in Europe, not just in England, a lot of people are harking back to yesteryear, wanting to blame their travails on the open borders and wrap themselves in the comforts of the past.

Molly: You grew up in England, now living in Austin, and your character is a Texan living in England and then France. Why did you decide to write the character that way?

Mark: Originally, it was to honor my new home. I love Austin, I love Texas, and so I started there with Hugo. As must be obvious, I also love Europe and there’s no better start to a story than to drop someone where he doesn’t belong. Of course, Hugo adapts and loves being in Paris, and London, but a Texan strolling the boulevards of the City of Lights in his cowboy boots, well, I guess that was an image I couldn’t resist.

I had an interesting discussion with some people about Hugo recently. An older gentleman said that Hugo was the very image of an American. That took me (and a couple of other people) aback because I think people’s image of the average American may be a little less flattering. But he explained that he was thinking of Hugo’s Texas as the wild west, and Hugo himself as a cowboy figure. I didn’t have a cowboy in mind when I created him but it struck me that the gentleman was absolutely right – he’s the cowboy sipping his whiskey in the saloon, watching, staying out of trouble but able to handle himself when need be. I love that image of Hugo now, a modern cowboy.

Molly: The Button Man is a rather kinky novel at times. What made you want to explore the BDSM scene and its dynamics in a murder mystery?

Mark: Just so we don’t scare people off, I’ll point out that any kinky happenings take place off the page! But yes, I did want to use something a little different to spice things up, and I have several reasons. First, I wanted to challenge Hugo. I always tell people that he’s the most open-minded and live-and-let-live person, he doesn’t judge at all. He’s also very phlegmatic in his daily life. My fault, of course, I made him that way. But I wanted to press him a little, take something that’s totally foreign to him and see how he’d deal with it, what assumptions he’d make. I could have done it with a grisly murder or some other more criminal way, but this just struck me as more fun. And yes, after his initial surprise, he does manage to have some fun with it.

I also liked the idea of inserting something into the novel that ran strongly counter to the stuffy image a lot of people have of the English. It’s a broader point, I think, because it’s so true that you never really know what your friends and neighbors might be getting up to. And isn’t that sort of a fun idea? I personally love that about life, the knowledge that my neighbor might secretly be hoarding priceless stamps, that the English teacher across the street has fantasies about becoming a cat burglar, or that the old lady I walk across the road used to be a dominatrix.

Molly: Merlyn is such a fascinating character. What was the inspiration for her?

Mark: Thank you. As with most of my characters, she’s an amalgam of people I’ve known. And, I guess, people I’d like to know. I think I like Merlyn a lot because she really exemplifies two extremes – a great confidence and strength, but also a great delicacy of feeling. She’s also the only one to tell Hugo what’s really going on, she’s the one able to reach across from the kinky world he finds himself in, to explain it and try to make sense of it to him. The thing is, to do that she has to reveal secrets about herself, ones that most people would be embarrassed to share but she doesn’t feel any of that. She is the person that she is, exploring her inner desires with curiosity and honesty, not shame. Wouldn’t we all like to be a little more like that?

Molly: Your previous novels in the series have taken place in France, and The Button Man, as a prequel, takes place in England. What did you find most enjoyable about the change of scene? Do you have plans for Hugo Marston to travel elsewhere on the continent?

Mark: Like most people, I have great nostalgia for the place I grew up. I wanted to share that with my wife and kids, and then I wanted to share it with Hugo and my readers. So it made perfect sense to feature the village of Weston (where I grew up) and have something grisly happen in the churchyard there. People keep telling Hugo about the legend of Jack O’ Legs, too, from the village and I’ve always thought it a cool story, one worth sharing.

One of the traits Hugo and I share is a love of travel, seeing new places. And basing my books in Europe seems like too good of an opportunity to waste, for both of us. So yes, in the next book Hugo (and Tom) will have to go to Barcelona. The daughter of a young friend is missing and they trace her to Spain… I think after that I’ll return to Paris for book six. Maybe Bordeaux will feature, I don’t know yet. But definitely back to France. After that? Well, he and I will have to wait and see.


Mark Pryor will speak and sign The Button Man this Saturday, September 13, at 3pm. Copies of The Button Man are available on our shelves and bookpeople.com

MysteryPeople Q&A with Glenn Gray

GlennGray_TheLittleBoyInside

Glenn Gray’s The Little Boy Inside & Other Stories has won us over, but the collection has earned fans beyond MysteryPeople. Both Joe Lansdale and Scott Phillips are fans of his work. A practicing radiologist, he often uses medical anomalies to launch into his genre-bending tales. We put a few questions to Glenn and here’s what he said.


MysteryPeople: In simple genre terms, you’re all over the place. How would you describe your work?

Glenn Gray: Some kind of twisted medical type stuff maybe? Not really sure. I’ve heard it referred to as body horror, weird fiction and medical noir. I never really thought much about genre, I just write and see what happens. The medical stuff seems horrific to some readers, but to me, it’s often funny. I write the kind of stories I’d want to read, and I found over time I got a kick out of writing certain types of stories. Certain genres overlap in my mind anyway, like noir, horror and crime. To me, it’s all just dark. If I had to pick one description of my work, friend and writer buddy David James Keaton early on dubbed my
stuff as Cronenboiled or Cronenbergian noir, which I really dug. I owe DJK for that one.

MP: Much of your work comes from your experience in the medical profession.  What do other writers who are non-practicioners get wrong about the field?

GG: I’m an anatomy nut, so any description of anatomy has to be correct. And things have to make sense from an anatomic or physiologic standpoint. For example, if there’s a knife or gun wound to the neck, and the jugular was sliced, it wouldn’t be pumping fountain-like arcs of blood. The jugular is a vein, it doesn’t pump. It’s a minor point because it’s next to the carotid artery, which will pump, so if one is cut it’s likely the other will be too. Those are the kind of details that stand out to me. Fun part is, I’ve had writer friends message me and ask all sorts of wild questions, like the proper way to rip someone’s head off with bare hands, or if something with a medical element sounds plausible. It’s great fun being able to help out that way.

MP: Who are your influences?

GG: Roald Dahl, Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Chuck Palahniuk and Joe R. Lansdale, to name a few. Mostly because they write what I like to read and write, dark and often with a humorous component. And usually a little twisted or with a fantastical element. I like stuff that goes off the rails but has some basis in reality, however minor. So the reader thinks, this is a little crazy, but I wonder if it could really happen? They all write a lot of short fiction too, which is cool because I love reading the short stuff.  And they’re hard to pinpoint on genre, which helps enforce the notion that it just doesn’t matter. Write whatever the heck you want, what makes you happy first, then worry about it later. That’s the way I see it anyway.

MP: Do you have any interest in doing a novel?

GG: Working on it. I just finished a sci-fi novella and I’m working on a second collection of short fiction as well. The novel is turning out to be a mix of genres like the short stuff.  Some medicine, some crime and some weirdness.

MP: What is your main aim for the reader when you write?

GG: First and foremost is to entertain. I want the reader to have fun. The bonus is if they feel something. Something visceral. Queasy maybe? And think about their body in a way they haven’t before. About how complex the body is, how we’re all just one mishap away from disaster. How so many organ systems keep functioning in concert day after day. It’s amazing to me that more doesn’t go wrong more often.

MP: Is there anything too gross to write about?

GG: Nah. Don’t think so. And I’ve learned that everyone’s definition of gross is very different. I think any topic can be written about, it’s just how you do it. It’s all about the angle.


Copies of The Little Boy Inside & Other Stories are only available on our shelves at BookPeople. Stop by or give us a call at (512) 472-5050 to pick up your copy today!

MysteryPeople Q&A with Ace Atkins

Ace Atkins’ fourth Quinn Colson novel, The Forsaken, has the combat vet-turned-sheriff, looking into an old crime that a black drifter was lynched for. It has biker gangs, shoot outs, and fun dialogue as well as looks at race, family, retribution, and our relationship with the past. Ace is the author of fifteen books, including the New York Times-bestselling novels in continuation of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series, and has been nominated twice for the Edgar Award for Best Novel with his first two Quinn Colson novels.

Meet Ace Atkins here at BookPeople on Monday, July 28 at 7PM.


MysteryPeople: In The Broken Places you looked at religion in the South. Here you address race some. What did you want to get across about that subject in your culture?

Ace Atkins: A discussion on race and religion is definitely hard to escape when writing about the South. I don’t know if I really had an agenda about either only a good story to tell. In The Broken Places, the easy tale of religion as fraudulent was turned a bit. But in The Forsaken, the dirty, harsh tale of hate crimes is as ugly as the truth. There are a
lot of attitudes that have changed down here in the last 30 years. But it’s far from gone.

MP: The book deals with the past of his town and his family. The past seems to be an important theme in Southern literature. Do you think the area has a different relationship with it than other parts of the country?

AA: History is certainly an important theme in two of my favorite writers — William Faulkner and James Lee Burke. Southerners just obsess on it more. I can see the whole history of the town — a recent history — from settlement shortly before the Civil War all the way up to today. This was a harsh country, wild country I’m writing about. The people
are certainly more hardened. The family stories are core to who we are.

MP: Family is playing a bigger and bigger role as the series goes on. What do you want to explore in that dynamic with Quinn?

AA: We’ve talked about this a lot — the ridiculous preconceived notions of the limits of a crime novel. I love the form — there are no constraints for me. The interaction between Quinn and his family — their personal struggles — is something I wanted to tell from the very beginning with these books. That’s the fascinating and the draw for me moving forward. The Colson family is everything in this series.

MP: There are chapters set in the past dealing with Quinn’s father and his involvement with a particular crime. How did it feel to write a finally be writing a character who has only been talked about in the last three books?

AA: I felt it was about damn time. I’ve been teasing readers for the first three books about Quinn’s dad. I just had to run across a storyline that would involve him. He had to be key to the story. When I ran across the true event of these two teen girls in 1977, I saw a way for this to be part of Jason Colson’s personal story.

MP: Pop culture plays an important part in your books. Some authors are afraid to use it. What draws you to it as a part of your work?

AA: I’m a kid who grew up in a world bombarded by popular culture –books, movies, music. I love the good and the bad. It just seeps into our everyday world it’s tough to ignore. Whether it’s a reference to a classic Western like High Noon or having a character listening to a God-awful Kenny Chesney song, it’s just true to the modern world.

Probably my most use of pop culture was in my novel, Infamous — set in 1933.

MP: The Forsaken is dedicated to two men who recently passed Elmore Leonard and Tom Laughlin (AKA Billy Jack). What qualities in their work do you hope reflects in yours?

AA: Elmore Leonard was my hero. I was lucky enough to get to know him a bit. And I learned a lot from him. All the stuff I love about writing novels can be found in Leonard’s work.

Tom Loughlin was a guy who made films about the stuff he believed in — they were tough, exciting and also had something to say. There’s a lot of Billy Jack in Quinn Colson. I love that movie and that story of a soldier returning home and having to fight a corrupt world means a lot to me.


Ace Atkins speaks about and signs The Forsaken here at BookPeople on Monday, July 28th at 7pm. The event is free and open to the public. If you’d like a signed copy of one of Ace’s books but can’t make it to the event, you can order signed, personalized books via our website, bookpeople.com.

MysteryPeople Q&A With Meg Gardiner

meg gardiner
~interviewed by Molly

This coming Saturday, June 28th at 4PM, MysteryPeople will be welcoming Meg Gardiner to the podium to discuss and read from her latest, Phantom Instinct. Molly already reviewed Phantom Instinct, but was able to catch up with Meg before Saturday’s event to get the full scoop.

Molly O.: Your two main characters, Harper and Aiden, are hobbled in their pursuit of justice by Harper’s past as a juvenile delinquent and Aiden’s traumatic brain injury, which leads him to see enemies everywhere. Their flaws drew me in to their characters much more so than any of their more heroic attributes, especially in the case of Aiden. What was your inspiration for creating such flawed characters?

Meg Gardiner: I want to write about characters who have their backs up against the wall. For a novel to be suspenseful, the characters must be vulnerable to real danger. If they have no flaws, no limitations, then they face no real challenge. That story’s boring.

Even Superman has Kryptonite.

The only real way to find out what characters are made of is to crack their world in half. Then you learn whether they can fight their way clear of the debris, rescue people who need help, and rebuild from the wreckage.

Harper Flynn was forced into crime in her teens. To escape, she broke the world she grew up in. It was a dirty getaway. She has always feared that it would come back to haunt her. Now it has.

Aiden Garrison wants justice for the victims of the shootout where he suffered the traumatic brain injury. But that injury has smashed his life as a lawman to pieces. He’s searching for some new way to soldier through.

Phantom Instinct is about how Aiden and Harper try to fight past all these flaws to stop a killer before he gets to them and the people they love.

MO: Where did you get the idea for Aiden’s condition in particular?

MG: Fregoli Syndrome is a kind of face blindness. It causes the mistaken belief that the person you’re looking at is actually someone else in disguise. I stumbled across it while reading, and thought: there’s trouble for a cop. A delusional misidentification disorder.

Aiden can no longer trust his own eyes. And the department no longer trusts him with a gun—after all, at unpredictable moments he becomes convinced that a friend, colleague, or the kid bagging his groceries is actually a hired killer in disguise.

MO: Much of the dramatic tension in Phantom Instinct stems from Harper’s difficulty in convincing anyone that she and her loved ones are in danger, and the suspense is doubled by Harper’s struggle to deal with her life in danger but also to convince others that her life actually is in danger. Do you think that this atmosphere of paranoia and disbelief is integral to the thriller?

MG: Some thrillers work brilliantly when you know exactly who’s good and who’s bad. But this book is about trust. Harper and Aiden are drawn toward each other, but with everything they learn, the less they trust each other. They need to work together, but every secret that’s exposed sends them further off kilter. They have to decide: who should you trust? When do you take a leap of faith? Their lives depend on jumping the right way.

MO: Was Harper’s incredible resourcefulness a motivation in denying her help early on?

MG: Never make it easy. Trouble builds character. That’s Thriller Writing 101.

MO: I particularly enjoyed the combined use of cyber-crime and good, old-fashioned thievery by the modern criminals of Phantom Instinct. Many thrillers focus on technology based crime as entirely separate from thuggery, but in Phantom Instinct, one strategy leads naturally to the other. Do you think that these tactics are indicative of the future of criminality, or do they belong more in a thriller than in reality?

MG: Law enforcement agencies including the FBI will tell you that cyber crime is a growth industry. Street gangs and organized crime have realized they can make serious cash without butchering the competition.

But at some point, thugs gonna thug. As they do in the book.

MO: How much of these tactics did you see in your law career?

MG: My practice was in commercial litigation, not criminal law. The only crooks I wrestle with are the ones I invent.

MO: You’ve written series and stand-alones, and are adept at each. What do you get from writing a stand-alone that you can’t get from a series, and vice versa?

MG: With a series you can explore the characters’ world, build it up, blow it up, and put it back together again. Over the course of multiple books, you have the scope to dive deep into the characters lives, and to let them develop. And some characters need more than one adventure.

But some stories demand to be told that don’t fit with a series. That’s when I write a stand-alone. A novel about an ex-thief who teams up with an injured cop to catch a killer before he kills again… that story needs to have the ex-thief and the cop at its heart. So Harper Flynn and Aiden Garrison are the heroine and hero in Phantom Instinct.

MO: I really enjoyed your strong sense of place when writing about Los Angeles and surrounding Southern California. You lived in the UK for quite some time. Was it the change of place that made you want to revisit your home and explore the territory for darker themes?

MG: I started writing about California when I moved to the UK. I loved England, but missed Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. I also came to realize that the British saw Southern California as wildly exotic. I was only too happy to write about a place I adored, and which fascinated my new friends.

MO: What attracts you to writing about Southern California in particular?

MG: There’s a dream version of California: wide open cities, seas, deserts, huge skies, hope and promise and endless possibility. Of course, pain and darkness inevitably churn beneath the bright sun of paradise. The juxtaposition makes California a fertile ground for novels—thrillers, noir, pulp, you name it. It always has. In my novels, empty souls want to drag down those who try to make a place in the sunlit world.

I love California. Now I’m living in Austin, and still love writing about the state where I grew up.


Meg Gardiner will read from & sign her new novel here at BookPeople on Saturday, June 28th at 4PM! You can pre-order signed copies of Phantom Instinct now via bookpeople.com, or find a copy on our shelves in-store. Also, check out Molly’s review of Phantom Instinct on the MysteryPeople blog!