BILL RAPP – Writes from the Viewpoint of a CIA Agent

Bill Rapp began his professional life as an academic historian of Modern Europe (B.A.: University of Notre Dame; M.A.: University of Toronto; Ph.D.: Vanderbilt University) but left after a year of teaching at Iowa State for something a little less sedentary.  So, he spent the next 42 years working at the Central Intelligence Agency as an analyst, diplomat, senior executive, and consultant.

 

Bill started writing while still working full-time at the Agency, but after his retirement in 2017, he has devoted the majority of his time to his fiction and, most recently, to his Cold War Spy series.  He claims that this series allows him to combine his twin passions of history and the world of intelligence.  It also provides him with an opportunity to draw on the lessons he learned and things he’s seen over the last 40-plus years and, hopefully, provide readers with a realistic glimpse of what it’s like to live and work in that world. Bill also has a three-book P.I. series set outside Chicago, where he grew up and currently lives with his wife, older daughter, and their two dogs outside Chicago.  He belongs to the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers, and the International Association of Crime Writers.

A Turkish Triangle, a quick summary:  It is October 1962, and the Cuban missile crisis has the world on a nuclear edge.  CIA officer Karl Baier is sent to Turkey to investigate the deaths of three Soviet assets, all of whom have either disappeared in the bowels of the KGB headquarters in Moscow or were shot execution style in Ankara and Istanbul.  It isn’t long before Baier realizes that the three deaths are only the tip of an espionage iceberg and part of a much more ambitious Soviet operation to undermine America’s posture and policy in the Middle East, the Caribbean, and beyond.  Before his assignment is over, Baier will face challenges to his mission, his integrity, and his perception and understanding of the people he has spent his career with inside the Agency.  This is the fifth book in the Cold War Thriller series.

What brought you to writing?    I have always loved literature, a term I define as broadly as possible.  In fact, during my undergraduate years, friends were surprised to learn that I was a history major because I spent so much time reading fiction.  During my graduate studies, I found that I occasionally needed a break from reading history, and I was lucky to discover the works of such masters as Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald.  Not only did I find those books incredibly enjoyable, but they were also inspiring and challenging.   Once I started dabbling in the world of mysteries and thrillers, I couldn’t stop.  I started with a private eye series, naturally, but soon found that my background in intelligence–and a new publisher–led me to a new series in espionage fiction.

What are you currently working on?  A Turkish Triangle is the fifth book in the Cold War series, all of which lead the reader through the 1940s, 50’s, and 60’s as we faced off with several adversaries. but principally the Soviet Union, in a global competition.  The series began in the ruins of postwar Berlin in 1945 and then progresses through such seminal events as the Hungarian revolt and Soviet invasion, the building of the Berlin Wall, and now the Cuban missile crisis.  In the next book, CIA officer Karl Baier–the protagonist throughout the series–is sent to Vietnam in 1964 by then-Director John McCone for his assessment of the developments, challenges, and prospects as Washington prepares to Americanize the war effort.  The Director warns Baier not to get involved in operational activity while on this particular assignment, but, of course, as a prototypical operations officer, Baier cannot resist when he discovers the makings of a budding espionage plot that illustrates the dangers and complexities the US faces in that environment. The new book is tentatively titled Assignment in Saigon.

What kind of research do you do?  Given my background in history, I am already familiar with much of what went on during the Cold War.  However, that information does not suffice for a deep probe into the specific events of the period.  So, I do additional reading before I begin to familiarize myself further with the setting and environment for the story, which fortunately gives me an excuse to buy more history books (which drives my wife crazy).  But then, like most authors, I find it necessary to do a second, more specific round of research as questions arise over individual items and occurrences as the story unfolds.  For example, I often need to find more information on the weapons or automobiles that appear in the story, not to mention the roles of certain historical individuals I introduce.  That is also where I can focus more effectively on the physical world as it existed at the time.

Where do you place your settings – real or fictional locations?  All my locations are real.  I use specific events and crises as the backdrop to the stories to bring the reader to the heart of the Cold War and to help them understand the ambiance, mindset, and perspectives of the period and how the characters react to the challenges of that time.  My publisher was the one to suggest this series, and I readily agreed, noting that there are numerous events during the Cold War that provide an intriguing and exciting setting for the novels.  That also allows me to create stories that stand alone, despite the use of a single protagonist and other characters that often reappear in the various editions.  Each setting and time are unique, which makes for a unique story.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process?  I think there are two aspects to that question.  The first has to do with my impatience.  It’s basically why I am a pantser and not a plotter.  Aside from the fact that I find the former more fun and more creative, I also find that once I start thinking of a story or plot, I want to just sit down and put pen to paper.  The other aspect that applies to the Cold War series in particular, is the challenge of placing myself and my characters in an accurate environment for the period.  By that, I do not mean the proper physical backdrop–as important as that is– but rather the outlooks, perceptions, and preferences.  Writing some 50 to 80 years after the fact, it’s easy to fall into the trap of making your characters prescient and omniscient. I know how the various crises turned out, or I know what sort of pitfalls we fell into in Vietnam, for example.  Karl Baier and the other characters did not have that advantage.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Well, there are still numerous Cold War crises that await Karl Baier.  The largest on the horizon would be the Czechoslovak experiment in “Socialism with a human face”  and the subsequent Soviet invasion it produced.  I also skipped right past the Korean War and am wondering if there isn’t a way to travel back to that time, much as Philipp Kerr did in his Bernie Gunther series.  Also, now that my family has moved back to the Midwest after four decades in the Washington, D.C. area, I’m tempted to revive the suburban noir series starring P.I. Bill Habermann, which is set in the Chicago area and principally my hometown of Naperville.

For those interested in learning more about my books, please visit my website at billrappsbooks.com.  Copies of all the books are available on Amazon, from my publisher Coffeetown Press, at Barnes & Noble, or at bookstores near you.

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

  1. John G. Bluck

    Bill Rapp has had an interesting life, and I look forward to reading his books. I also lived in the general area outside of Chicago where Bill now resides. It reminds me of how differently people’s lives unfold as the years go by.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Bill Rapp writes with a sort of retrospective historical hindsight that covers important events in our history, but also reminds us that these events are more than things we read about in a history book. Although his books are fiction, they are also reminders that heroic individuals were involved in making these situations turn out for the better. I highly recommend his books. He’s walked the walk and knows what he’s talking about.

    Reply
  3. Jim Guigli

    I met Bill in Las Vegas at the PSWA Conference. I read two of Bill’s books and think they are first rate.

    Reply

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JIM GUIGLI – Author and Man of Many Talents

A student of many interests, Jim Guigli, has been a SCUBA diver, auto-mechanic, and gunsmith . . .toured Quantico as an FBI Citizens Academy graduate and earned BFA and MA degrees in Art/Photography. Jim is an active member of SMFS, PSWA, & Sacramento CWC.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Both. Start pants, finish with structure.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Real with fictional subparts.

Tell us about your writing process: I get an idea, a title, or one sentence, and then I write.

For example, my short story, Blood on the Stairs, was an idea and a title.

I like the old Dell Map Back mysteries and follow them on eBay. One title, Blood on the Stars, by Brett Halliday (pen name of Davis Dresser) appeared often, but I always read it as, Blood on the Stairs (touch of dyslexia). I put that new title with an idea that came to me after I attended a Left Coast Crime Conference:

What would happen if the attendees at a writers’ conference were encouraged to visit (bother) real local private investigators during the conference?

I already had my PI, Bart Lasiter, and my setting, Old Town Sacramento, with Bart’s fictional building and office. Then I added a murder and some what-ifs to get:

Bart attends a Crime Writers Conference and pencils in a murder.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Both. Start pants, finish with structure.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Real with fictional subparts.

Tell us about your writing process: I get an idea, a title, or one sentence, and then I write. For example, my short story, Blood on the Stairs, was an idea and a title.

Blood on the Stairs is available from Amazon in the fine anthology Murderous Ink:

Crimeucopia – We’ll Be Right Back – After This!

https://www.amazon.com/Crimeucopia-Well-Right-Back-After/dp/1909498424/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1701815141&sr=1-3

How do our readers contact you? jimguigli@sbcglobal.net
Website: https://www.jimguigli.com/

4 Comments

  1. Marilyn Meredith

    Hi, Jim, nice to see you again. I’ve enjoyed your writing too.

    Reply
    • Jim Guigli

      Thank you, Marilyn’ I always appreciate your support.

      Reply
  2. Jim Guigli

    Thank you George and Mike. Keep writing.

    Reply
  3. Michael A. Black

    Jim Guigli is the real deal. He’s an excellent writer and one of the modern masters of the short story. Rumor has it, and I hope it’s true, that he’s working on a novel. I’ve enjoyed his Bart Lasiter stories and just picked up the anthology, Crimeucopia Strictly Business with Jim’s new story, “Just a Dream.” And on top of all that, he’s one hell of a nice guy too.

    Reply

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JAMES L’ETOILE – Write What You Know—While You Can

James L’Etoile uses his twenty-nine years behind bars as an influence in his award-winning novels, short stories, and screenplays. He is a former associate warden in a maximum-security prison, a hostage negotiator, and director of California’s state parole system. His novels have been shortlisted or awarded the Lefty, Anthony, Silver Falchion, and the Public Safety Writers Award.

Face of Greed is his most recent novel. Look for Served Cold and River of Lies, coming in 2024. You can find out more at www.jamesletoile.com

 There’s this old saw in literary circles that authors should write what they know. I don’t necessarily agree with that guidance because I often find it more interesting to write about what I want to know. If I’m interested, then maybe the reader will be as well.

But there was a piece of that advice that stuck with me as I wrote Face of Greed. Write what you know, but write it while you can. There is a plotline in the book dealing with the main character’s mother, who is struggling with the ravages of cognitive decline—dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Detective Emily Hunter is a hard-charging investigator working to solve a complex murder of a political powerbroker who has to balance that demanding job with acting as a caretaker for her mother.

Emily’s burden is something many of us with aging parents have experienced or might have waiting for us in the years ahead. It’s a scary thing, and for the purpose of the story, in Face of Greed, it keeps Emily off balance. She’s sure-footed in her role as a detective with keen instincts and a solid partner in Javier Medina to follow the clues and bring down the bad guy. But with dementia and Alzheimer’s, Emily struggles.

One day, her mother is living independently, and the next, she’s had to move in with Emily because her memory lapses had gotten to the point when she nearly burnt her house down, forgetting the stove was on. It’s an insidious disease. Emily has a conversation with her, and she seems “with it,” aware of what’s happening around her. Then, the next moment, she loses touch and thinks Emily is still in high school.

Emily has to balance her responsibilities to her mother as her primary caregiver with the demanding job of a homicide detective. She has no family to rely upon, and she’s not the kind of person to ask for help. Emily must step outside her comfort zone and not only ask for help to care for her mother but make critical decisions for her long-term care.

So where does all this come from, you ask?

I was once in Emily’s shoes. My mother had dementia in her later years. It crept in slowly, and, as I found out, those who experience dementia become clever about filling the gaps in their memory. They’ll invent an idea that fits, and they’re convinced it’s what really happened. For example, I found Mom dressed and ready to go to a doctor’s appointment when I went to her place. I picked her up, and halfway there, she forgot where we were going and decided we were going to the grocery store instead. Another sign was simple decision-making would cause anxiety, so she found a workaround common to people with dementia. At a restaurant faced with dozens of menu options, the deception is, “What are you having? Oh, that sounds good. I’ll have that too.” It’s a workaround so they don’t have to make that decision. All the sensory input from the menu can’t get through.

As a caregiver for an aging parent, the roles are suddenly reversed. You’re now the parent to the much older child. And that dynamic can create a great deal of friction. Emily experiences it, and so did I. The person living with dementia sometimes realizes their life, who they were, is slipping away. They feel lost, disconnected, and alone. Some experience Sundowner’s Syndrome, where they try to leave wherever they are to get “home.” Their perception of home may be a fragment of memory from the distant past.

Caregiving can be difficult for the caregiver as well. It’s exhausting and mentally draining listening for the next sound of an escaping parent or that phone call that they’ve run off or hurt themselves.

I wanted to bring this into Face of Greed for a couple of reasons. It makes Emily struggle to balance her life. She feels guilt and sadness over her mom’s situation. And she realizes she can’t do this alone. She must bring other people into her life and let them help. Asking for help isn’t something that comes naturally to Emily—wonder where she got that from?

But I also wanted to talk about dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease because so many of us have gone through this—parents are aging, and this is an unfortunate common experience. I’ve gotten feedback from many readers who tell me that Emily’s struggle in this area resonated with them. They’d felt similar demands and struggled to find the help their parent needed.

It makes Emily a bit more multi-dimensional, and as tough as she seems, she’s got a big heart. It opens her up to people coming into her life at the right time—as she’s the better for it. I guess we all need to be a little more like Emily. And we all need to write what we know while we can because we don’t know what the future will bring.

Visit Amazon to meet Emily: Face of Greed (A Detective Emily Hunter Mystery) – Kindle edition by L’Etoile, James. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

 

14 Comments

  1. Ana manwaring

    This is such an important topic. Thanks for tackling it Jim. I’ve got Face of Greed on the TBR list. My mom also had dementia and it was heartbreaking. She lived long enough to forget her family.

    Reply
  2. Marilyn Meredith

    I just finished Face of Greed, and really enjoyed it. Lots of surprises.

    Reply
  3. Joan Long

    I enjoyed Dead Drop and can’t wait to read this new novel. I just moved it to the top of my TBR list! Thank you, Jim, for sharing this story with your readers.

    Reply
  4. Thonie Hevron

    Thank you all for sharing this powerful post. Jim and Donnell, you have my heartfelt sympathy. When my mom passed unexpectedly, I found her hair curlers in the refrigerator. I took that as a sign that she went before experiencing the worst of dementia as you both did. Establishing a connection with the reader like this can be moving and inspirational if handled well. Thank you for your candor, Jim…and Donnell.

    Reply
  5. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    i fully intend to add Face of Greed to my list. I read Dead Drop, another Jim’s books and I have to agree he is a fantastic writer with wonderful characters and twists that are surprising and create more dimensions to the overall story. The fear of dementia or Alzheimers plays on the minds of many elderly persons, myself included. As writers we keep our minds active and pray for the best. My mother had dementia and it pulled at my heart strings. My wife and I are both 77 yr old orphans as our parents have passed. We relish in the visits of our six children, eleven grandchildren and eight great children. They keep us young and busy.

    Reply
  6. Michael A. Black

    I’ve known Jim for years and can attest that he’s a wonderful writer. He’s able to utilized his vast experiences, and also create characters that you care about and want to root for. Nor does he shy away from difficult subjects, as Face of Greed obviously shows. I highly recommend his excellent books.

    Reply
  7. Craig KIngsman

    Thanks for a great book, Jim. My mom had Alzheimers too. I wasn’t her care giver but did experience some of what you mentioned when I visited. Thank you for taking us on the journey.

    Reply
  8. Karen A Phillips

    Thank you, Jim, for including the difficult subject of dementia in your book. It’s a wonderful way to depict the multi-faceted character of Emily. I use the word “wonderful” from a writer’s perspective, as dementia certainly isn’t “wonderful.” My parents are 87 and showing signs of cognitive loss. I am educating myself on how to best care for them. I’m thankful I have a brother to help. And people like yourself, who can share their wisdom and experience.

    Reply
  9. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Heartbreaking and touching. This post helped wake me up. Thank you.

    Reply
  10. Margaret Mizushima

    Jim, your book sounds fascinating and I can’t wait to read it. My mother also developed dementia before her death almost fourteen years ago but her heart and lung disease took her before it got too severe. You’ve illuminated a subject that so many face. And I always enjoy your books!

    Reply
  11. Marilyn Meredith

    I’ll have to get this one. Being as old as I am, when I forget or lose something it does make me worry a bit.

    Reply
  12. James L’Etoile

    Thanks for hosting me on the blog, George! Truly appreciated and I hope folks get something from this piece of Emily’s character.

    Reply
  13. Donnell Ann Bell

    Jim, my deepest condolences. I have Face of Greed on my TBR pile. Forgive me if I wait a few months; I’m proud to promote you and attest to your talent. I lost my mom to dementia in November so I’m afraid it’s wait too fresh. But this is such an excellent post and reminder.

    As a segue to your point, I met a woman who was doing her mother’s memoirs while she was fading. She found her mother had led a dual life while researching her background. There are some parts of history that will never be recorded. I have mother’s wonderful stories of growing up, nurses’ training and life afterward. Need to compile all these memories as fast as I can.

    Best wishes on a wonderful sell-through!

    Reply
    • James L’Etoile

      Donnell, I’m so very sorry for your loss. You’re in my thoughts. A collection of your mother’s stories would be a wonderful way to honor her memory.

      Reply

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JOHN SCHEMBRA – Veteran – Mentor – Friend – Award-Winning Author

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and in 1969, I was drafted into the U.S. Army.  After basic training and military police school, I spent a year with the 557th M.P. Company at Long Binh, South Vietnam, in 1970. Upon completing my military service, I joined the Pleasant Hill Police Department. I retired in 2001 as a Sergeant after 30 years of service.  I was then hired as the lead Emergency Vehicle Operations Course (EVOC) instructor for the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office.  I have earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Administration of Justice and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration through California State University.

My writing career began when another Sergeant at the police department, a fellow Vietnam veteran, and I swapped stories of our experiences in Vietnam.  The other members of the department would listen and began to encourage me to write down my stories.  They said it would make a good book.  So, taking heed of their advice, I started my first novel.  After two years, I began shopping for a publisher, choosing to go the small press route.  I was lucky enough to be accepted for publishing by Writers Exchange, and the Vince Torelli series was born with the publishing of M.P., A Novel of Vietnam.  

I continued my writing endeavors with my second book, relying on my 30 years of police experience for authenticity. I used the same main character as in M.P., Vince Torelli, now 25 years older and a homicide inspector with the San Francisco Police Department. I have written five books in the Inspector Torelli series, one stand-alone thriller with a paranormal element and a demonic possession horror story. I am currently hard at work on my ninth book, the first in the Detective Sergeant Louisa (Louie) Princeton, Richmond County Sheriff’s Dept, Georgia series.

All my life, I have been an avid reader.  I remember my mother taking my brother and me to the local library every two weeks so we could check out books.  Reading has always been one of my favorite pastimes, and I have always admired authors who could spin a good tale.  As such, I get much more pleasure from hearing a reader say they enjoyed one of my books than the royalties from the sale.  By the way, my favorite author is Edgar Rice Burroughs.

I want to thank George for having me as a guest on his wonderful blog. He is an accomplished, award-winning author in his own right, and I am proud to call him my friend.

People often ask me what my favorite thing about writing is. I answer unequivocally—researching places, events, and the history of the locations where the stories take place. By making Vince Torelli a San Francisco PD homicide inspector, it is easy, and exceeding interesting, to research scene locations, like the 19th-century tunnels under the city utilized by the killer in The List, to landmarks like Mt. Davidson, where the climax of Blood Debt takes place, to extensive research into demonic possession and exorcism for An Echo of Lies. I have to say- that was VERY frightening!

When I’ve changed locations to places out of the San Francisco Bay Area and California— as I did in several of my books—to Tennessee, Atlanta, Augusta, Northern California, South Carolina, and others, it sparked my research gene to find real places—hotels, restaurants, streets, highways, etc. Most key scenes in the five Vince Torelli books are in those places. Even in my Vietnam book, a work of fiction based in part on some of my personal experiences, takes place in real places, and all the military units—American, South Vietnamese, Viet Cong, and North Vietnamese are actual units that were operating in the area at the time. Using real places, streets, and buildings in my books, I think, adds a touch of realism for the readers. I have received several comments that they recognized certain places and liked it very much. It adds a visual reference to the scene and drama being played out as they read.

As a fun thing, I’ve used the address of my childhood home in one of my books and the name and address of my best friend, a big fan of my books, in another, and knowing my friend will be reading the book, I didn’t tell him what I had done. I gave him a copy and awaited his phone call when he got to where he was mentioned. I also have dedicated a couple of my books to special people in my life, living and deceased. That is special to their families and me.

So, can you tell how much I enjoy writing?

In closing, If I could advise any aspiring writers, there would be two things. First—sit your butt down and write, write, write—the basic mantra for writers.

Second, have fun doing it! It will make your writing more enjoyable and the finished product better!

Please take a moment to visit my website—currently being updated— where the first chapters of some of my books are posted, along with a couple of short stories. And thanks for taking the time to read this.

www.jschembra.com

Follow me at my Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100023497601286

12 Comments

  1. Deven Greene

    Thanks for sharing your interesting story, John. It was very inspiring. You have many accomplishments in addition to your writing. I really enjoy your books and urge anyone who hasn’t read them to pick some up!

    Reply
  2. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    I’ve several of John’s book and enjoyed them very much. Not only is John a great writer he never hesitates to help other writers. As a member of the Public Safety Writers Association, John has given me many tips to help my writing and he made a great president as well.

    Reply
    • John Schembra

      Thanks for the kind comments, Joe. Much appreciated, my friend.

      Reply
  3. Dave Wolf

    I first became acquainted with John when he reviewed my novel “Probable Cause for Vengeance” several years ago. Since then, I have read several of his books, beginning with “MP, A Novel of Vietnam”, also the Vince Torelli mystery series and most recently, “Sin Eater”. All are excellent reading and keep you eagerly turning the pages. He writes from experience and the way he tells the stories, puts you right there with the characters. John is an accomplished author and I look forward to reading many more of his captivating stories!

    Reply
    • John Schembra

      Glad you have enjoyed my books, Dave. I really like getting comments like yours, and thanks for your support.

      Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    I’ve been honored to know John for several years and can attest that he’s an exceptionally talented writer. I’ve read many of his books and I’ve enjoyed them all. He exemplifies the very best in what makes America so great. John, thanks for your service, both military and in civilian law enforcement. Stay safe, brother

    Reply
  5. Mysti Berry

    You’re a natural-born storyteller, John! Thanks so much for all you’ve given to the writing community!!!!

    Reply
  6. Nicholas Chiarkas

    Impressive story and excellent books. Welcome home, brother.

    Reply
  7. John Taylor

    Great guy & writer. Write a best seller, John!

    Reply
  8. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    This was an inspiring post, John and George. John, I love the researching bit too.

    Reply
  9. Lisa Towles

    John, Thank you for your Service and your series sounds wonderful 🙂

    Reply
  10. Camille Minichino

    What an impressive life of service, John. Thank you for all of that, and for sharing your stories through your fiction. And thanks, George, for highlighting a fellow author.

    Reply

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MICHAEL A. BLACK – Veteran – Police Officer – Western Author

Michael A. Black is the award winning author of 50 books. A retired police officer, he has done everything from patrol to investigating homicides to conducting numerous SWAT operations. He wrote eleven novels as Don Pendleton in the Executioner series and many Westerns in the Gunslinger series under the name A.W. Hart. His recent novel is in the Trackdown series, Devil’s Lair.

Devil’s Lair – With witnesses falling and a federal case against the cartel in ruins, ex-army ranger Steve Wolf and Special Agent Lucien Pike head to Mexico, chasing both a traitor and an irresistible reward. But betrayal thrives in the heart of darkness, dragging them into a merciless battle where survival is a blood-soaked quest with no mercy given or expected.

When death comes knocking, there’s no quarter given or expected.

Do you write in more than one genre? Most of my stuff is in the mystery and thriller genres. I’ve also been published in other genres, including westerns, sci-fi, horror, pulp fiction, young adult, and sports. Mysteries and thrillers will always be my first love, but I also believe in genre blending. My Western novel, Gunslinger:          Killer’s Ghost, is a Western but also a monster story.

What brought you to writing? I’ve been writing all my life. I wrote my first short story in the sixth grade. I was always begging the teacher to let me write a short story. One Friday, she relented and told me I’d have to read it in front of the class on Monday. I struggled all weekend. After I read it aloud, the teacher gave me a “D—Poor Work” grade and told me never to do it again. I look back on this experience as invaluable. It foreshadowed my entire writing career: I got my first assignment, my first deadline, my first writer’s block, and my first rejection, all in three days.

What are you currently working on? My latest book in the Trackdown series is Devil’s Lair. It follows the continuing adventures of ex-army ranger Steve Wolf, who served time for a war crime he didn’t commit and has been trying to clear his name while working as a bounty hunter. He also has some very powerful enemies who set him up and are trying to kill him. In this entry in the series, he gets to strike back a little.

Who’s your favorite author? If I had to pick a single writer who influenced me more than most, I’d have to say, John D. MacDonald. He was a real pro.

How long to get your first book published? My first one never got published. Looking back, It was that bad—a lot of rookie mistakes. I’d gotten some short stories published, so I knew a bit about writing. I wrote a second manuscript and felt it had legs. I sent it off with high hopes and optimism and started a third novel. I’d written the opening line one morning: It had been a year of ups and downs… Then the mailman came, and I found my second manuscript had come back with a rejection letter. I sat down and stared at the computer screen for a long while, trying to decide if I wanted to continue. After a time, the second line came floating to me: More downs than ups. I liked the sound of it and made a solemn vow right then and there that I was going to finish writing the manuscript and I was going to make it the best I could, even if I was the only person who would ever read it. This one eventually became my first published novel.

Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? A few authors have done this, and I always thought it was a dumb move. I suppose you could make a case for your hero to die heroically, but it would pretty much end any chance of a continuing series. Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes and eventually had to bring him back.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist? It’s a simple formula: introduce conflict and make things worse as the plot progresses. Then, when it reaches critical mass… BOOM! You have your climax.

What obstacles do you face when writing about historical figures? The biggest problem is avoiding anachronisms. I just read a book set in 1913, and the author still had Maximillian as the emperor of Mexico. He was executed in 1867. Naturally, this ruined it for me, and I didn’t finish it. This unfortunate practice of rewriting history started a few years ago and needs to stop. It’s not only irritating, it breeds stupidity.

What is the best book you have ever read? I’d be hard pressed to pick just one, but I’d have to say James Dickey’s Deliverance is in my top ten. Dickey was a nationally recognized poet who spent ten years crafting the novel. The imagery is stunning, and the writing is lyrical. After I read it, I reread the opening and realized he’d foreshadowed the entire story in that first line.

Do you have any advice for new writers? You can’t be a good writer unless you’re first a good reader, so read all you can and learn from it. Take the time to perfect your craft, get feedback on your work, and try to write every day, even if it’s only one line.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? If you’re looking for a good thriller, I’d appreciate it if you’d check out my new one, Devil’s Lair. It’s got a little something for everyone—action, thrills, and romance. And many thanks to you, Big George, for this opportunity to be on your blog once again.

How do our readers contact you?

Give me a shout at DocAtlas108@aol.com

I’m a member of the VFW, the FOP, the WWA (Western Writers of America), and the PSWA (Public Safety Writers Association).

4 Comments

  1. Thonie Hevron

    A wonderful interview, George and Michael! I loved Michael’s tips on craft and his insights into process. I also have read many of Michael’s books and he’s the real deal.

    Reply
  2. Vicki Weisfeld

    Laughed out loud at your first writing foray. Very efficient getting to that rejection! Thanks, Mike and George!

    Reply
  3. Violet Moore

    The Westerns are my favorites too.

    Reply
  4. Marilyn Meredith

    I’ve read many of Mike’s books–he’s definitely a pro. His Western series i my favorite.
    He’s also the program chair for the Public Safety Writers’ Association.

    Reply

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