“Big Dogs and Big Ideas”

Sinc Talk Recycled Reads

A few weeks ago I presented a program in Austin for Sisters in Crime’s Heart of Texas chapter. Here’s a write up of the first half of my talk.

The Gardiner Chronicles

In order to complete a 95,000-word novel, Meg Gardiner needed a compelling main character and a big idea to hang her story on. “It only took me decades to learn that,” laughs Gardiner, the Edgar-winning, best-selling thriller author of Phantom Instinct.

Gardiner’s parents were teachers who encouraged her writing in a pragmatic way. “My dad’s car was full of books, the trunk and back seat. I thought everyone lived like this.”

More at the link.

Apropos of nothing: a photo of a giant donut

Big Donut

No context for you!

I took this photo a few days ago. I thought you might like to see it. Movie fans: can you name the film in which this sign wreaks havoc on the streets of Los Angeles?

10 books that have stayed with me

On another social media hangout (the one founded by Mark Zuckerberg), several friends and relatives tagged me to play a game. Fortunately, it didn’t involve breaking and entering, or even singing in public. The challenge: name 10 books that have stayed with me over the years.

Here’s my list:

The Stand, Stephen King
Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe
Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand
Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle
Get Shorty, Elmore Leonard
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
A Stained White Radiance, James Lee Burke
The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Richard Rhodes

These aren’t the only books that have stayed with me, of course. They’re ten that really packed a punch. They’re books I’ve read more than once, or shoved excitedly into friends’ hands, insisting that they be read now. They’re books that have haunted and inspired me for years.

If anybody else feels like playing: add your list in the comments.

Texas Book Festival, here I come


I’m happy to announce that I’ll be taking part in the 2014 Texas Book Festival. No, that’s inaccurate. I’m honored, jazzed, and stoked that the festival has invited me. Tens of thousands of book lovers will descend on the festival next month. 275 authors have been asked to take part. It’s really great that I’m one of them.

The festival takes place in Austin, on the State Capitol grounds. It runs the weekend of October 25-26.

And it’s free. So come on down, y’all. I’d love to see you.

The Dirty Secrets Club: Norwegian edition


If you’ve been waiting for a thriller to read in Norwegian, here’s the translation of The Dirty Secrets Club. I love this cover, with the color and darkness and hint of fantasy. Because the novel has plenty of it. It’s interesting that Jeffery Deaver’s generous quote is translated (“En vinner på alle måter. Dårlig selskap en rystende thriller.”) but the tagline is in English: TRUTH OR DARE. OR DIE.

The title translates as Bad Company. Which the novel also has plenty of.

Question Time 2014: Answers Part V

My visit to my old high school turned out well, even though I spent a few minutes sitting on a chair in the hallway outside the principal’s office. I spoke to the creative studies class, and told them how I went from writing for the school paper (the year of the infamous Cafeteria Exposé) to writing novels that are shelved in the school library. The kids were bright and eager and almost all of them stayed awake. Success!

Now, to wrap up Question Time 2014.

Dana Jean asks:

Can we ask personal questions? Are you a grandma yet? If so, Any thoughts for a children’s book?

Yes. No. No.

laurenob asks:

Does Secretariat belong on the list of the 100 Greatest Athletes of All Time?


Exhibit 1: the 1973 Preakness. Secretariat breaks leisurely and is in last place after the opening quarter mile. But on the first turn, Ron Turcotte realizes what a deceptively slow pace the leaders are setting, and urges Secretariat to take control. Just look at the move he makes around the turn. Muscular yet effortless. He eats up the ground and the field, and keeps going, to convincing victory.

Exhibit 2: the 1973 Belmont. As they say in the law, res ipsa loquitur. The thing speaks for itself.

Chills. Every damn time I watch it.

Thanks for all your great questions, everybody!

Question Time 2014: Answers Part IV

Eddie asks:

What other genre(s) would you be tempted to try besides crime? Conversely, what other genre(s) would you rather eat fiberglass that write in? And on both questions, why?

I’m tempted to write in genres that I love: science fiction, high adventure, political/espionage thrillers. But romance? Bake me a fiberglass cake — I couldn’t do it. I don’t have the patience or skill to focus an entire book on the romantic fortunes of two characters. Likewise, slice-of-life literary novels about suburban midlife crises? Even thinking about that bores me. Waiter, two slices of cake, with napalm icing!

Rich K asks:

Here is one I have wondered about for awhile which I would ask every author I might eventually meet. When choosing a theme or plot, how do you decide on where to set it? I understand growing up in California you would be familiar with the area for your characters to wreak havoc upon, so I wanted to know what drew you to Oklahoma City (yes, I know you were born there) and then into New Mexico. Will we see a novel set in Austin sometime in the future?

My novel that opens in Oklahoma City, The Shadow Tracer, is a combination of road trip, chase story, and Road Warrior narrative. I wanted the action to unfold across wide open, wild, and forbidding landscapes. That’s the American Southwest. If something goes wrong on a desert highway in New Mexico, you’re on your own, sister. The environment becomes an antagonist in its own right. I wanted the heroine of the book, Sarah Keller, to face all kinds of demons in a hellish landscape.

Also, I love New Mexico. My grandparents lived in Roswell. I spent many summers there, and our family explored that part of the country — from Carlsbad Caverns to Ruidoso to White Sands. Setting the novel there allowed me to incorporate a fantastic part of the country into a life-or-death story.

Of course, when my family visited New Mexico, we did it in a Ford station wagon. Whether it was a hellish trip is a question you’d have to ask my parents, who put up with four kids demanding, Are we there yet?