Thursday, October 17, 2019


According to the Pew Research center, 26% of those who had read a book in the past 12 months said that what they enjoyed most was learning, gaining knowledge, and discovering information, while 12% said they liked the entertainment value of reading, the drama of good stories, the suspense of watching a good plot unfold.  That was back in 2012 when the world was a simpler place to live.  I suspect that 99% of people buying Jeanine Pirro’s book, “Liars, Leakers and Liberals,” are conservatives who want reinforcement on their conservative philosophy.  Just as 99% of people who bought Michelle Obama’s book, “Becoming,” were political progressives.  Unfortunately, people don’t buy books to discover another political point of view.  They want comfort in knowing their point of view is the right one. 

This brings me to people who read thrillers.  I truly believe (without research to back me) that people read thrillers because they want to see justice prevail.  This is true of conservatives and liberals alike.  Everyone wants to see the hero overcome obstacles to save the day.  Why?  Because our lives have become so stressful and so unfair and so partisan that we can’t see justice ourselves.  That bully at school or work is not going away and there seems to be no consequences anymore.  That’s where fiction comes in to play.  A good writer has the ability to get you invested in the protagonist and watch him or her face challenges, just like you.  They face obstacles and bullies and sinister villains who antagonize them and cause pain.  We can sympathize, even empathize with their challenges.  But all the while we are convinced the protagonist will get his/her revenge.  It may be as simple as overcoming these obstacles without ever causing harm to the villain, but more times than not, the bully gets theirs. 

In today’s political climate, everyone has been affected by the barrage of media outlets inundating us about the White House and Washington’s behavior.  The Trump supporter will relate their hero’s retribution as if the villain is a liberal.  The resister will see this as an affront to the Trump presidency. Either way, thrillers allow us resolution where the real world will not.

The reason why movie theaters are stacked with superheroes is because we know who will win and yet we still show up to see how it happens.  If you already know Ironman will succeed, why bother going?  Yet we do, don’t we?  It’s the same with books.  Readers want the challenge.  They want our protagonist to face an uphill battle because it makes the win so much more enjoyable, doesn’t it?  It gives you a sense of justice prevailing.  Something you rarely find on the cable news, or in newspapers or social media.  It’s cathartic. 

One of the reasons I’ve never given my Nick Bracco character a political persuasion is because I don’t want my readers to choose sides.  We’re all on the same team.  Right versus wrong.  It should be as simple as that.  Why reminder us of our differences when we could team up against the challenges we face together. 

Bottom line, people read thrillers for entertainment and to escape the real world.  Because right about now, that’s a really good place to be.    

Monday, March 11, 2019


Peter Leonard is a stellar writer.  I know, I’ve read five of his books and have never been disappointed.  His work is taut and tense and humorous, sometimes all at once.  He takes you on a ride and you don’t really care where it’s going as long as he’s at the helm.  It’s the main reason I contacted him for a quick interview.  His latest thriller is titled, “Raylan Goes to Detroit,” where he breathes new life into U.S. Marshall, Raylan Givens, a character who his father Elmore Leonard created back in the early ‘90’s.  It’s the same Raylan Givens who was the main character of the FX hit series, “Justified.”

I mention his famous father with apprehension, because Peter’s writing acumen is phenomenal all by itself and he deserves more recognition for his body of work.  If you like gritty thrillers with realistic characters who speak like real people, then you need to get one of his books.  Start anywhere, they all stand alone by themselves.  Now here’s Peter:      

1-Raylan Goes to Detroit was so satisfying because Raylan reacts exactly how you would imagine.  Did you feel any pressure to keep his voice and actions within the framework of his past experiences?

I felt very comfortable stepping into Raylan’s boots. He was like an old friend. And yes, I thought it was important to keep Raylan's sound and attitude from Elmore's previous novels: Pronto and Riding the Rap and his short story: Fire in the Hole.

2- Forgive me if this is too personal, but your novels are so proficient, your father must’ve been very proud of your accomplishments.  Was there ever a time that you wished your last name was Shlotsky?     

Being Elmore’s son was a blessing and a curse. Probably more of a curse.  Every review I received early on compared my first couple books to his forty-five. It was frustrating and unfair but that’s the way it is. However, that kind of negativism motivated me to get better. And now I’m often favorably compared to my father.

3-No matter what the plotline, your readers are led through your stories by interesting characters doing interesting things.  These are true page-turners.  Do you have to know where you’re going?  Or is it all by feel?

I start with a character in a situation and build from there. I know how the book begins and often where it’s going to end. But I don’t know how I’m going to get from point A to point B. I try to keep the reader off balance. I try to create a plot/story that isn’t obvious. If I’m not surprised the reader won’t be.

4-I suspect that you would write thrillers even if you never were paid a dime for them.  Is that a helpful criteria for an effective novelist? 

I might have written a couple books without being paid. But I’ve always worked for money.
And writing a book, although satisfying and entertaining, takes a lot of time and effort.

5- What future projects do you have lined up?

I’ve just finished a novel called Sweet Dreams. The main character, Kate McGraw is a US marshal and the lone female on the alpha male fugitive task force in Detroit.  The character is based on a female marshal I rode with for a few days. I think it’s my best work to date.

Monday, February 11, 2019


This is the end of one of my favorite books, "The Lion's Game," by Nelson Demille, so if you have any intention of reading it, stop right now.  Basically it just confirms that the good guys survive.  So, anyway, after 900 pages of thrilling drama, the protagonists John Cory and Kate Mayfield finally escape a harrowing encounter with a viscous Libyan assassin, nicknamed the Lion.  Here is the final scene where they set up the sequel very well:   

Gene pointed to the distant treeline and said, “We found fifty-two shell casings on the ground.  I’ve never heard of so many shots fired by a sniper at two people.  That guys really wanted what he couldn’t have.”
I think he was telling us that the game wasn’t over.
The treeline was making me a little nervous, so we moved on. Gene showed us where Ted Nash had been found on a riding trail, less that a hundred meters from the VORTAC, with a single round through his forehead.  I have no idea where Ted was going, or what he was doing there in the first place, and we’d never know.

Considering we were on our honeymoon, I’d suggested we’d seen enough, and we went back to the ranch house, had a Coke, ate a few jelly beans, and moved on to points north.
We had left Kate’s cell phone back in New York, not wanting any calls from friends or assassins on our honeymoon.  But just as a precaution, we both brought our guns along.
You never know.

Thursday, February 7, 2019


I'm going to update this blog regularly with classic thriller scenes.  These are scenes that are either tense, funny, or in the case below, both.  I may even begin a poll with my readers voting on their favorites.  You can leave comments with suggestions and I'll definitely add them to the mix.
Below is a scene from the opening chapter of Elmore Leonard's Freaky Deaky.  Chris and Jerry are bomb technicians who were called to the house of a known mobster who's sitting on a chair with a bomb underneath.  Chris and Jerry left the mobster alone inside, screaming at them to fix his problem.  They're walking to get their equipment to diffuse the bomb, when they strike up a conversation about Chris's wife.  Enjoy:  

“What it is,” Chris said, “Phyllis says things even some guys would like to but don’t have the nerve.”
“Yeah, ‘cause she’s a woman,” Jerry said, “she doesn’t have to worry about getting hit in the mouth.”
Chris shook his head. “I don’t mean putting anybody down or being insulting.  Like, we’re at a restaurant, one of those trendy places the waiter introduces himself?  This twinkie comes up to the table, he goes, ‘Hi, I’m Wally. I’m going to be your waitperson this evening.  Can I get you a cocktail?’ Phyllis goes, ‘Wally, when we’ve finished dinner, you gonna take us out and introduce us to the dishwasher?’  She goes, ‘We really don’t care what your name is as long as you’re here when we want something.’”
Jerry grinned, adjusting his Tiger baseball cap.  “That’s good, I can appreciate that.  Those guys kill me.”
They drew on their cigarettes.  Chris looked at his, about to say something, working the butt between his thumb and second finger to flick it away, and the French Doors and some of the windows on this side of the house exploded out in a billow of gray smoke tinged yellow.  They stood looking at the shattered doorway, at the smoke and dust thinning, settling over glass and wood fragments, shreds of blackened green-and-white debris on the patio, silence ringing in their ears now.  After a few moments they started down the drive, let the people waiting in front know they were okay.
Chris said, “Yeah, the twink comes up to the table, says he’s gonna be our waitperson.  But you have to understand, Phyllis wasn’t trying to be funny, she was serious. That’s the way she is.”