Interview with Eric Storey

Erik Storey has done it again:  He’s written a book with so much action and excitement that one doesn’t need coffee or caffeine to stay alert – this book’s got enough adrenaline to make such things unnecessary.

Erik let me interview for his first book, Nothing Short of Dying, which was published on this blog  Along with others I was shocked that his debut novel could be so good, so exciting, so tight.

The same is true for his second book about Clyde Barr, A Promise to Killwho was well developed in the first book and further developed here.  Clyde has a rough back story, which includes time in other countries and three continents helping fight injustice but often getting hurt in the process. All his life Clyde has followed his own code of honor, one that has gotten him hurt often, both physically and emotionally.

That continues to be the case with the new book as Clyde wants to help the residents of a town in the grips of a biker gang.

Erik was kind enough to let me interview him again by email

Scott Butki: How did this story idea develop?

Erik Storey: My editor and I swapped ideas over numerous emails and calls. We eventually came up with the basics for the plot, and with the location I’d already chosen, we thought we had a pretty solid idea for a book. Then, all I had to do was spend months writing the thing.

Scott: For your first book I asked in an interview which came first, characters or plot and you said it was location that came first. Was that also the case for this one?

Image result for erik storeyErik: Location, or place, came first. The Northern Ute Reservation isn’t far from where Clyde was last seen, and I really wanted to set a novel in that area. I grew up near there, and it’s a place rarely talked about, even in towns that border it. Like most reservations, it’s a foreign land to most folks.

I also wanted to twist the old Western plot line of the wandering-hero-comes-to-town-and-saves-it by having Clyde come into town to help, but realizing the people there are more resilient and tougher than himself. He assists, but in the end it is the people that live there that come out on top.

Scott: You write, at one point, that your protagonist , Clyde Barr, is just looking for a place of peace and quiet. Why is that so hard for him to find?

Erik: Two reasons:

First– even in the wilderness, a place of beauty and relative quiet, Clyde can’t suppress the horrid memories and the recurring dreams of his past.

Second– No matter where he goes he encounters people. Despite the Western US’s abundance of wilderness areas, they are all full of hikers, campers, and outdoor travelers. And sometimes he doesn’t even make it to the mountains before there is someone who is in desperate need of help.

Scott: He seems stuck in a role, namely go to a new place and then become a reluctant hero, in this book’s casé helping a town invaded by a biker gang. Why does that say about Barr? Or about the nation?

Erik: Clyde’s role is the same as so many others whose stories are told around campfires. He’s the Western version of the wandering hero, the knight errant, the Ronin, or globe-trotting adventurers from the 20’s and 30’s. We love to tell and listen to these stories, because I think we all wish that in times of trouble someone would come in and help us take care of the problem, then leave without asking for anything in return.

Clyde thinks it’s important to help those that need it because he knows from personal experience how the underdog feels. He also has seen too many good people go down and promised himself that if he could do something, he would.

Clyde is a man we all wish was around during times of crisis. A man who believes it is his duty to help anyone in need, even without taking any kind of oath. He sees people on an individual level, and wants to make a difference. Because of this driving force, if he is around people he will help. And if he’s alone, he will be racked with guilt and depression. It’s a no-win situation that he thinks will be solved if he spends more time in a more remote area.

Scott: Will Clyde ever find a place of peace and quiet or would that just result in the series ending?

Erik: He might, but he would be disappointed. It was his goal for years, but it was also an excuse to travel. His real purpose was something else. When you dedicate your life to helping, you might find the lack of opportunities to do so unnerving. I would guess that Clyde would come up with an excuse to go out and look for another adventure.

Scott: How are you similar and different from Clyde? For example, do you, like him, find It hard to back away from a fight and/or injustice?

Erik: Clyde and I have a lot in common. We both share the same discomfort with the modern, technologized world, and are both more comfortable out in the middle of nowhere. We’re similar in our hatred of injustice, but that’s where we start to differ. I can’t just jump into a fight, at least not anymore. Most of us feel that rage when we see something wrong, but we know the repercussions of punching someone in the face. There is a part of us, though, that wish we could and get away with it, and that is why reading about someone like Clyde is so much fun.

As for backing down from a fight, we know that Clyde doesn’t—often to his detriment. I was similar back when I was young and dumb. I inadvertently researched quite a few fight scenes in roughneck bars, bunkhouses, logging camps, and parking lots. I’ve got kids and responsibilities now, and try to avoid all of that as much as possible.

Scott: Did you intentionally choose to not have Clyde have a military or law enforcement background? Why?

Erik: I did it intentionally for a few reasons. The first is simple. I don’t have any military or law enforcement background. Because of that, I wouldn’t be able to bring enough of the experience and knowledge to the page that I think is important in thrillers to give them a sense of realism. I do have experience in the outdoors, and hunting, so I gave him a background that uses those to enhance the stories.

Secondly, although I love the thriller genre, I think it is over-saturated with heroes who are ex-cops, cops, former Special Forces, and super spies, and I wanted Clyde to be different. He has the prerequisites that you need in these types of books: ability to fight, to shoot, and to survive—but his path to learning them was different and I hope it makes Clyde unique.

Scott: How do you go about researching your books?

Erik: I read every article and non-fiction book about the subjects I want to include in the novel, then try and visit the area I’m writing about as often as possible. Since I set my series close to home, this isn’t very hard to do. I’m also very lucky to have worked so many odd jobs and have had so many strange experiences in so many places across the West. I can simply look back on old journal entries to add fodder to the fiction.

Scott : Whats next for Clyde?

Erik: I’m deep into the writing of the third one, and am one of those writers who believe that if you talk about your work in progress the magic will disappear. So you will have to ask me that question again in a few months.

MysteryPeople Review: ODD NUMBERS by Anne Holt

MysteryPeople Contributor Scott Butki splits his time between education, advocacy, and reviews and interviews. You can find a full list of his interviews and reviews at http://thinkingandtalkingandacting.blogspot.com/2015/11/an-index-of-my-interviews-with-authors.html. Below, you’ll find his review of Anne Holt’s latest Norwegian noir, Odd Numbers,  a disturbing and timely read. 

  • Review by MysteryPeople Contributor Scott Butki

9781451634730With Odd Numbers Anne Holt has written a fascinating, intricate novel about life in Norway in awful, exhausting circumstances. The book is the ninth and penultimate in her series featuring cold case specialist Hanne Wilhelmsen.

The novel’s action begins with a bomb going off in an upscale part of Oslo, targeting the Islamic Cooperation Council’s headquarters and killing 23 people. Law enforcement suspects an extremist organization is responsible for that and future attacks. That said, they are finding it hard to prove that assertion.

Holt does an excellent job explaining what characters in Norway think about Muslims living in Norway – some are racists, some encourage diversity, and many draw less clear lines.

Interestingly, Holt explains in a postscript that “comments placed, directly or indirectly, in the mouths of extremists on both sides in the novel are slightly paraphrased quotes from real statements.”

This part of the novel was difficult for me to read considering all of the seemingly senseless attacks against civilians around the world in recent months and years. In a word, it’s still too raw.

It probably didn’t help that I finished this book and typed up this review the weekend Nazis and white supremacists rallied in Charlottesville, Va., reminding us that the kinds of hate Holt described are front and center here still.

There’s a subplot that I prefer regarding solving a cold case decades old, with more interesting characters and plot twists.

I am new to Holt’s writings and would probably have liked and understood some parts of the book better had I read the earlier novels. That said she proves with this book why Jo Nesbo has called her the “godmother of modern Norwegian crime fiction.”

You can find copies of Odd Numbers on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

 

A Thrill Ride of a Novel: MysteryPeople Q&A with R. G. Belsky

  • Interview and Review by MysteryPeople Contributor and Reporter Scott Butki

R. G. Belsky does two things quite well as a mystery author: He shares what the news media life is really like and he tells one hell of a great story, always complete with a few fake endings and excellent twists.

As a fellow former newspaper reporter who still pays much attention to my first profession I really get excited when I saw a writer who is sharing not just the newspaper lore but more importantly shattering the stereotypes and explaining the problems rampant in the industry, particularly reporters having to do more with less.

‘…when people ask me where I get the ideas for my fiction, I’ve always said: “Hey, I just go to work in a newsroom every day!”’ – R. G. Belsky

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Jon McGoran

Interview by MysteryPeople Contributor Scott Butki

With his new novel, Dust Up, Jon McGoran has written a book full of adrenaline, and plot twists, and  the controversial and contemporary topic of GMO foods. His choice of topic makes sense since McGoran has written about food and sustainability for 20 years and spent some of that time advocating for labeling genetically engineered foods.

For an idea of how such a book reads, think the kind of adrenaline rush delivered by Jeff Abbott or Lee Child, but with information reminding readers of the potential problems of GMO foods.

Dust Up was my first exposure to McGoran, but I liked it enough that I now plan to read McGoran’s two earlier books in this series, as well as any new ones to come. Each of McGoran’s books features Detective Dolye Carrick.

I interviewed Mr. McGoran via email:

“He starts to pull at those and some other strange threads to reveal a massive plot involving genetically altered heroin, biopharming, designer pathogens, and what I maintain to this day is the most outrageously sinister utilization of butterflies anywhere.”

Scott Butki: How did you come up with this story?

Jon McGoran: A lot of the underlying ideas in the series as a whole are things I’ve been following for a long time, but the main ideas specific to Dust Up came to me from several places.

Character wise, I wanted to take a look at where Doyle Carrick, my protagonist, was after the events of Drift and Deadout: his increasing disillusionment with the police, his burnout, his growing awareness of the issues he’s been confronting. Where Doyle is in his life is an important aspect of the book that I started to think about as I was outlining Deadout, the previous book in the series. The political aspects of the plot originally came from an interview with John Ostapkovich, a reporter at Philly’s KYW-AM. We started talking about how the US aggressively pushes America’s biotech products around the world, especially among countries with more stringent regulations, applying all sorts of leverage through food aid and trade deals to get them to drop those regulations. There are some scientific ideas in Dust Up that emerged out of the research that I did for Drift and for Deadout. I’m really excited about the science at the heart of Dust Up. The idea at the heart of the book — which I don’t want to give away — came to me in a moment of cackling glee.

SB: Why did you decide to set part of the story in Haiti?

JM: I knew Dust Up was going to take place on an international scale, but I chose Haiti for a number of reasons. It has a history of rejecting genetically engineered products, sometimes in very dramatic fashion. It is a frequent aid recipient, often confronted by drought, and plagued with political instability, and it has a long history of unwanted foreign interventions.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Ian Rankin

  • Interview by Scott Butki

Ian Rankin brings three investigators – Rebus, Clark, and Fox – back together for his latest novel, Even Dogs In The Wild. Ian Rankin joins us at BookPeople Sunday, January 31st, at 3 PM to speak and sign his latest. Regular contributor to the MysteryPeople blog Scott Butki interviewed Rankin about his latest novel, writing the iconic Rebus, and his writer friends. 


Scott Butki: How did you come up with this story?

Ian Rankin: Someone in a bar told me the story of a drug dealer who supposedly hid a large stash of dope and money in some woods outside his village. When he died of natural causes, the villagers went on a treasure hunt. That gave me the notion of the treasure hunt, which I turned into a story involving gangsters on the trail of something stolen from them. Then one night an image came into my head of someone pointing a gun at another person. The gunman is in the garden of a house and it is night and the intended victim can’t see them. I wondered: who is the gunman, who the victim, why is this happening and what will the intended victim do about it? I had the beginning of my novel.

SB: I saw on the Internet where you mentioned, before the title was made public, that the title of your next book was also the name of a catchy song. Were you surprised to then have fans trying to guess the song title?

IR: It was part of the fun, letting fans know the book would be named after a song and then seeing if any of them could guess what it might be. (Nobody did, but then it is a pretty obscure song.)

“I feel sorry for fans who make the pilgrimage to the Oxford Bar in Edinburgh, seeking Rebus out and finding only his creator seated at the bar. I’m a bit of a let down – not as dark, brooding, complex or dangerous as Rebus!”

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MysteryPeople Q&A: Scott Butki Interviews Robert Crais

  • Review by Scott Butki

With The Promise, Robert Crais has taken on a difficult challenge. The Promise combines two sets of characters from separate books and puts them all in a new book. I think we have all read books where authors have tried something like this and it just didn’t work. Well, good news – this one works! Crais takes K9 handler Scott James and his dog Maggie and brings them together with smartass private eye Elvis Cole and his business partner Joe Pike.

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MysteryPeople Q&A: Scott Butki Interviews Sascha Arango

  • Interview by Scott Butki

With his new book, The Truth and Other Lies, Sascha Arango has set and surpassed a high bar. His plot and style remind me of the great Patricia Highsmith.

The protagonist, as the book starts, has a problem: His wife has been secretly writing the popular novels that he claims to pen. And his mistress is getting in the way. When he tries to kill one but perhaps kills the other, things go crazy and your blood gets pumping. If you like good plot-driven mysteries, give this book a chanceYou can find copies of The Truth and Other Lies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

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Scott Butki Interviews Shane Kuhn

Post by Scott Butki
Shane Kuhn is a new force to be reckoned with. His new mystery/thriller, Hostile Takeover, is a roller coaster of energy, adrenaline and plot twists. This is his second book in his series. In his first book, The Intern’s Handbook, protagonist John Lago explains how his company trained people to be hired by companies as interns… So they could go on to assassinate whoever they were instructed to take out. In The Intern’s Handbook, Lago kills his boss, Bob, previously in charge of teaching interns physical and survival skills.

Kuhn explains all this on page 9 of Hostile Takeover: “It was actually a genius concept and the perfect cover for wet work, if you’re into that kind of thing. To quote Bob, my former and thoroughly dead boss, ‘Interns are invisible. You can tell executives your name a hundred times and they will never remember it because they have no respect for anyone at the bottom of the barrel, working for free. The irony is that they will heap important duties on you with total abandon. The more of these duties you voluntarily accept, the more you will get, simultaneously acquiring trust and access. Ultimately, your target will trust you with is life and that is when you will take it.”

Wild but brilliant concept, right? Things get even crazier for John when he falls for Alice, a fellow “intern.” This results in situations that go from affection to trying to kill each other in a matter of seconds. And of course they do what assassin couples do, namely marry but still try to kill each other. Kuhn writes tightly, meaning no wasted words and little time spent on descriptions, opting instead for action scene after action scene.You feel like you’re along this quick reckless ride yourself. Just hold on and enjoy the ride.

I interviewed Kuhn by email about his first two books, as well as his full time work in the entertainment field, including writing and directing credits.

Scott Butki: How did you come up with the stories for these two books, the idea that interns would actually be hit men?

Shane Kuhn: First, I have been obsessed with creating an original assassin story ever since I started film school in the 90’s. The problem was, there were so many great movies and books, that coming up with something unique was difficult. Then, in 2009, I was working on a TV show pitch that dealt with corporate crime – portraying the world of corporate criminals as far more powerful and sinister than even the mafia or drug cartels. Who else pillages billions in retirement funds and still gets multi-million dollar severance packages? In this process, I thought about the strata of players, from bosses (execs) to minions (admins and interns). Then I focused on interns because there is an inherent humor associated with interns, and I like black comedy. Also, I wanted to subvert the idea of interns as minions and actually empower them. That’s when it clicked. That’s the perfect cover for an assassin.

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Stranger Danger: Scott Butki Reviews Harlan Coben’s THE STRANGER

the stranger harlan coben

Post by Scott Butki

You know that famous saying that there are a limited number of plots? Well, with his latest book, Harlan Coben, has just added one more to the list. We’ve all read books, especially thrillers, where a friend or family loved one turns into an enemy and you fight for your life. See Gone Girl, etc, for that plot-line.

Or those books where protagonists are fighting their enemy, adversary, nemesis; be it Sherlock versus Moriarty, Americans fighting Russian leaders in the 80s, or, more recently, those same Americans fighting Middle Eastern terrorists. In both cases plot-lines often involve plot twists which regularly involve secrets.

Coben, in his new book, The Stranger, explores another concept: What if strangers approached you and, without any obvious motivation, told you something about your daughter and/or wife that just destroys you and,potentially, your family? As the book kicks off, the protagonist, Adam Price, is approached by a stranger who tells him that his wife used a website to fake a pregnancy. When he asks her about it she essentially disappears. Meanwhile, a mother is told a completely different secret about her daughter that is similarly shocking and destructive to their family.

Who are these strangers and why are they sharing these secrets? Not since viewing Alfred Hitchcock’s classic noir Strangers On A Train, based on the Patricia Highsmith book of the same name, have I been so wary of strangers. Stranger Danger indeed! I don’t want to say more for fear of giving up spoilers.

I am embarrassed to admit, given that I read about 50 books a year and do at least 15 interviews of authors a year (indexed here), that The Stranger is the first Harlan Coben book I have read. Given how strong and engaging I found the plot-line to be, I will soon be reading more by him.


Harlan Coben comes to BookPeople Thursday, March 26, at 7 PM on BookPeople’s second floor. Mr. Coben will be speaking and signing his latest oh-so-chilling thriller,The Stranger. All BookPeople events are free and open to the public. You must purchase a copy of the book in order to join the signing line. Copies of The Stranger are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.