JB Turner’s debut thriller, HARD ROAD, just came out from Exhibit A Books, and JB kindly answered a few of my questions about the book, his writing, and more!
Please welcome JB to the blog!
Your brand new book, Hard Road, just came out in July from Exhibit A! Will you tell us about it and its heroes Martha Meyerstein and Jon Reznick?
Hard Road is a conspiracy thriller. It begins with a call to an assassin called Jon Reznick from a shadowy man known only as Maddox. Since Reznick’s wife died on 9/11, he has tried to keep his dangerous world hidden from his 11-year-old daughter. But when he’s ordered by his handler, Maddox, to assassinate a man in an upscale Washington DC hotel, he discovers the target is not who he first appears to be.
He is quickly drawn into a web of murder, extortion and treachery and finds himself fighting to outwit not only the clandestine group intent on hunting him down, but also to evade capture by FBI Assistant Director Martha Meyerstein. But it’s not only Reznick’s survival that’s at stake. A terrifying plot by a foreign government to bring the United States to its knees is underway. And only Reznick can stop it.
With regards the heroes of the book, or anti-hero in Reznick’s case, the first thing to say is that he is a loner, who lives just outside Rockland, Maine, and carries out assassinations as and when required, his daughter at an exclusive boarding school. Meyerstein is a workaholic, high-flying FBI Assistant Director, originally from Chicago, but tasked with heading up the investigation. She works herself and her team hard. But when she becomes involved in the investigation, she strikes up an extraordinary partnership with Reznick as they realize America is under threat.
You have a background in journalism, but what inspired you to write fiction?
I love writing and always aspired to write my own stories. News journalism is a great grounding to learn about writing factual stories, whilst feature writing allows a more nuanced and in-depth exploration of a story. It also gives you the discipline to complete a story and work to a deadline. Michael Connelly, a writer I very much admire, is an ex-journalist. But the thing about writing fiction, and thrillers in particular, is that it is just a hell of a lot of fun. If you want a character to go to the edge, or even over the edge, you can. You want a good baddie, then you can write that. If you want an assassin you want to root for, you can. What’s not to like?
I have to ask…how did you celebrate when you found out that Hard Road had sold?
First thing I did was tell my wife and that evening we cracked open a bottle of champagne, thrilled that my book would be on sale across America and the UK. It was just a great feeling to get that call from my agent, and delighted to be hooked up with a new crime/thriller imprint, Exhibit A, who loved the book.
What kind of research did you do for Hard Road?
A heck of a lot. I met with the FBI in Miami, Miami-Dade Police, Miami Beach Police, not to mention extensive liaison with the FBI HQ in Washington DC who were, I have to say, beyond reproach in their professionalism and helpfulness. I also got some advice from an ex-Delta operator, which was very important. But I also was fortunate to get hooked up with countless people in the military and the government who gave me snippets of information on technology, assassination techniques, geo-political questions and a whole bunch of crazy stuff. I also read widely on the FBI, but found one of the most useful sources was the Washington Post’s excellent Top Secret America series of articles about the growing and shadowy influence of unaccountable companies and contractors who work for the government, notably the NSA, CIA etc.
Why crime fiction? What do you love most about the genre?
I’ve always been drawn to writers like James Ellroy, Richard Stark, James Lee Burke, American writers who I very much admire. The subjects they write about include murder, mayhem, politics, corruption and a bunch of dark material. But more than anything, I think what drew me to their work was their portrayal of flawed men, in particular. I write thrillers, so Hard Road is not a mystery where a murder has been committed and a detective investigates. The plot has to be propelled forward and the stakes must be high and ideally the protagonist is in a race against time. I hope I’ve achieved that with Hard Road.
Are there any particular authors or novels that have influenced your writing?
All the above, but Jack Kerouac is one of my all time favorites, as is George Orwell, author of 1984 and Animal Farm. The humanity, great writing and anti-authority/authoritarianism strikes a chord with me. Henry James and Scott Fitzgerald I also very much admire.
What do you like to see in a good book?
A lot of people talk about character being crucial. I disagree. Aristotle, no less, considered plot the most important element of drama, more important even than character. He said that a plot had to have a beginning, a middle and an end. But the most importance aspect, according to Aristotle, was the plot’s ability to arouse emotion in the audience.
I think a reader should feel anger, fear, loathing and any number of emotions, as they become immersed in a story. Horror writer Stephen King is a master storyteller. The reader is immersed and consumed with fear and dread as the plot strands develop. The late James Herbert was another master of the horror genre. Just read Rats and I dare you not to be consumed with terror.
Is there anything that will make you put down a book, unfinished?
If it is boring, dull, clichéd or just dot-to-dot. I think a writer must dig deep and propel a reader into a magical world. In the world of the thriller, that must include a rollercoaster ride, cinematic settings, pace, intensity, occasional violence and a sense of foreboding all around.
Will you tell us something about yourself that isn’t in your bio?
I like music. A lot. The Stones, The Beatles, The Kinks, The Ramones, The Fall, John Martyn, The Cure, and a whole bunch of stuff. Love films. The Deerhunter, Heat, Payback, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Shining, Taxi Driver. Well, you get the picture.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
I spend time with my family. I have a wife and two kids. And nothing is more important to me than them. We swim together, cycle together, relax and watch a film together. But when I get time to myself, apart from when I’m writing, I’m developing ideas for future books.
What’s next for you, this year and beyond?
Putting finishing touches to the follow-up, HARD KILL, out July 2014 in US and UK. But then I will start work on the third Reznick/Meyerstein thriller.
About HARD ROAD:
The first in a series featuring Jon Reznick, covert assassin for the US Government.
Since his wife died in the Twin Towers, Jon Reznick, a covert assassin for the US Government, has cared about nothing except his eleven-year-old daughter.
But when he’s ordered by his handler to kill a man in an exclusive Washington DC hotel, he discovers his intended victim is really a government scientist working on a secretive military project.
Reznick is quickly ensnared in an extraordinary web of murder, extortion and double-crosses – and then his daughter’s safety is threatened as well.
But Jon isn’t just up against the shadowy group who want the scientist eliminated. FBI chief Martha Meyerstein wants Reznick captured as well.
And soon both Reznick and Meyerstein find themselves in the middle of a terrifying plot by a foreign government to launch a bio-terrorism strike against the United States.