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Michael Pronko Author Interview

Michael Pronko Author Interview

The Last Train revolves around Michiko Suzuki and the team of detectives that are investigating the train murders. What was the inspiration to the setup to this thrilling novel?

For quite a few years I was writing about jazz every week, so I was always going to Roppongi and Shinjuku and Shibuya, nightlife parts of the city. I’d see the hostesses who work in all the clubs there, and they would often be in the jazz clubs. They were almost always strikingly attractive, but underneath that seemed some sadness. Whatever one thinks of their work, the women seemed smart. What impressed me most, though, was the great personal dignity with which they carried themselves. So, I started wondering what kind of life those women lived, and what if they turned the tables. What if one of those people-savvy women took things into her own hands to do things men usually do? And what was this odd dynamic between men and women that seemed so unfair to women, but then again, was something else, too. Many Japanese women might not even say Japanese society is unfair exactly, perhaps because Tokyo is home to a vibrant urban culture where women are incredibly free to do what they want and live how they like. But, what would that freedom turn into if taken to an extreme? Michiko is that extreme. The men struggle to catch up.

Michiko is the daughter of a factory owner whose mother died when she was young. Her character continues to get deeper as the story progresses. What did you use as a starting point for the character and what was your guidance as you built the character?

I think the way Michiko grew as a character was based on my observation of women, and men, in Tokyo, but all kinds of women, not just hostesses. There’s a lot of people TO observe in Tokyo, for one thing, but I like to talk and interact with people as much as I can. Michiko is a “typical” character in that her experience parallels the shift in Japan from a manufacturing society, which is where Michiko grew up, to an information and service society, which is how she makes money. I wondered how that shift affected women? Is it easier for women to adapt to economic changes than men, or harder? Michiko is working class in origin, growing up above a factory, but she turns herself into something else altogether through her own efforts. She’s tough and resilient, which is how I see most Japanese women, and yet still very feminine in traditional ways. She has no hesitation to compete in a man’s world, and to do it on her own terms. Like many characters, once she was created, everything followed from that.

The novel takes place in Tokyo. Why did you choose a train station in Japan as the setting to your novel?

Trains are one of the things I love most about Tokyo, but they are also these huge masses of steel shooting through a very densely populated city. Just as America is built around the car, Tokyo is built around trains. Suicides on the train lines, sadly, happen all too often.

I came upon the clean-up after a suicide one time years ago, and the image stayed with me.

Like every other commuter, I have been stuck waiting on a train or a platform when a suicide shuts down the entire train system. It’s so shocking because usually everything runs on time. So, I guess, if you transplant the American car chase to Tokyo, it becomes a train chase, or a chase on a train. I also like that as a setting because trains and train stations are great levelers. Everyone takes the train, together, equally. I also love trains and train stations because I can completely indulge in people-watching. It’s startling how many people you see in a day. Still, it’s never so lonely as in a crowd, and there’s always a crowd in Tokyo.

What is the next story that you are working on and when will it be available?

The next novel is called Japan Hand and Detective Hiroshi is again in the lead, together with Sakaguchi. They investigate the death of a long-time Japan specialist who helped negotiate the complicated relations between Japan and America, including the US military bases in Japan. That novel should be out by December of this year or early 2018. The next one after that is called Thai Girl in Tokyo and will be out in spring of 2018. I’ve finished writing those both, so they’re now being edited and polished.

Pages: 348 | ASIN: B071DPXP7M

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The Tenth Nail

Nate knelt beside the dead girl. This wasn’t his first homicide, it wasn’t even the first dead prostitute he’d investigated. It wasn’t the first strangling death he’d been assigned to. But, this one bothered him.

Maybe it was her youth, she appeared to be in her early twenties. Maybe it was her looks, as death had yet to rob her of her beauty. Maybe she reminded him of his own daughter, Lizzie, who was only a few years younger. Maybe it was something else entirely.

The big detective looked over the body, careful not to touch or disturb her. He had one of the best crime scene technicians, Winston Rawls, and he did not want to make his job harder.

“Look at her fingernails,” Rawls observed from the other side of the body.
“What about them?”
“Most of them are broken and some are torn free of the quick. Some are missing.”
Nate slowed his visual scanning of the girl and focused on her hands. Rawls was right, the nails were ragged, broken, and torn. Some of her fingers ended with just the bloody fingertips.
It made his injured finger hurt. Maybe this was why this murder haunted him from the start.

The girl’s hands were bagged in plastic to preserve evidence that hopefully was there. Gently, Nate lifted a hand, holding it on his open palm. He looked at the girls eyes, that looked down and away from him.
“I don’t know what happened that led you to this place. I don’t know why you chose to live the life you did. But you deserved better than this.”
Rawls looked at Nate with an expression that asked, “What are you doing?”
Nate glanced at the technician and then focused again on the girl’s hand.
“I promise you, I give you my word, I will find who ever did this to you and I will bring him to justice. I will hold him accountable for this. Rest assured.”
Gently, as if he didn’t want to wake her, Nate lowered the girl’s hand to the pavement. He stood and Rawls stood with him.
“Do you want to tell me what that was all about?”
Nate studied the bearded tech, “I made her a promise.”
“Nate, you and I both know solving the death of a streetwalker is one of the hardest crimes to solve. Unless she was killed by her pimp, or another girl jealous of her, the doer is a complete stranger. There’s just not enough to tie the two people together.”
Rawls shook his head, “You’ve worked more of these than I have. You know how difficult this is going to be.”
Nate looked at Rawls, placed a hand on the technician’s shoulder, “I made her a promise.”
He turned and walked from the alley, giving the technician a controlled wave, “See you at the morgue.”

The Tenth Nail is the story of a homicide detective obsessed in finding the killer of a streetwalker. It is fast paced, with well developed characters and a twist at the end most will not see coming.

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The Assassin’s Trail

The Assassin's Trail (Sean Kruger, #2)

Once again we are plunged into the world of Sean Kruger and his particular brand of justice in The Assassin’s Trail by J.C. Fields. While reading the first novel in the series is not necessary, it does provide excellent backstory for those who like to know everything. We follow Kruger once again as he gets pulled into another debacle. While he might groan about it, Kruger is excellent at his job and his reputation precedes him. With such greatness comes great expectations. Can Kruger deliver? Or will the case be his undoing? Hold on tight for a wild ride as we follow our favorite FBI special agent as he hunts down his prey. Fields shows us crime drama at its best: twists, turns and heightened anticipation for the good guy to win. The question then becomes, at what cost?

You can tell this is not Fields’ first time writing a book. A lot of attention and care went into the crafting of this story. A complication that can arise when writing a book in a series is losing track of subtle details and hoping your readers don’t notice. Happily, there is none of that in this installment of the Sean Kruger novels. The way Fields’ crafts the world of Kruger is deliberate and very well done. There is no shortage of action and readers will find themselves glued to the pages in order to find out what happens next. Some true crime stories can lag in the middle or when there is no action present making them almost a chore to read. You won’t find that here and even if crime drama isn’t your thing, this is a hard book to pass up. It’s not filled with useless jargon or procedures and policies only die-hard fans or those who work in the field can understand. This was truly a piece meant for the reader.

What makes a good story in this genre is suspense, action and realism. If the crime is too outlandish or the way the criminal is discovered is too unrealistic it can ruin the entire experience for the reader. Fields understands this and crafts the tale to reflect that. Readers will need to prepare their hearts for the twists and turns in this book as Fields’ expertly dangles disaster in front of us. There are no complaints about this easy to read and equally easy to enjoy story.

There is so much to gain and so little to lose from enjoying The Assassin’s Trail by J.C. Fields. The action is well paced and the story doesn’t suffer for it. The realism makes our main character, Sean Kruger, that much more relatable. While he is a special agent with the FBI he really just wants to enjoy his life. That is something we can all relate to. Kruger doesn’t seem able to catch a break on the work-life balance of things. Things will come to a grinding halt though as Kruger is faced with the greatest decision of his career. Is this the end of Special Agent Sean Kruger? You’ll have to read it to find out! You won’t be disappointed.

Pages: 317 | ASIN: B01JAW1VI8

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The Testimony of a Villain

Testimony of a Villain: A Raw, Dark, True Crime Thriller by [Harrell, Aaron G.]

The Testimony of a Villain by Aaron Harrell is a dark, slick ride into the gritty alleys of the inner city. The book is not your typical crime thriller but one with a social lens that can only be given substance by one who has lived it. The reader follows Manuel Doggett, a boy who lost everything to be formed by the streets and remade in its’ dark image. He is out for retribution not redemption when an opportunity arises to have his vengeance on one of the murderers of his family.

Harrell provides a fresh and new take to the “true crime” thriller. His style is so firmly set in the bitingly grime reality of the inner city that the reader could even give this novel a new sub-genre of socio-economic thriller. The new threads do not stop there either, because the plot of the book itself is almost like a hero’s journey in reverse. Manuel is the classic anti-hero and one that does not once look to the audience for sympathy. Instead, there is only apathy towards almost everything, except towards the memories of his past.

The weaving of the inner city struggle and the complex inner life of Manuel makes this novel a stand out for readers of not only crime thrillers, but also those who wish to delve into the dark, broken mind of a man walking the line between light and shadow. The writing is fraught with graphic images of both violence and sex and is not for the weak-hearted.

I found myself enjoying the book from the start, because of the quick and realistic dialogue and the meta conversation about corruption, justice and social strata. There are a lot of binaries at play here, between the poor and wealthy, justice and injustice, and morality and immorality. Harrell does a fantastic job with surveying these issues, touching on them just enough without becoming too explicit. I can only guess at what Harrell’s personal experience has been with the inner city, but I very much appreciated the taste of authenticity that he lends to the narrative.

I find Manuel to be a compelling character. Most readers may find something akin to the backstory of Batman here, but there is a real human struggle that Harrell puts on display often.

Overall, I do believe that The Testimony of a Villain stands up to the best the crime thriller genre has to offer. It makes for a pleasurable read for any fans of such novels!

Pages; 489 | ASIN: B06XG6FYVH

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Evolved From A Pirate

J.C. Fields Author Interview

J.C. Fields Author Interview

The Fugitive’s Trail centers on the skills of Special FBI Agent Sean Kruger as he must track down a fugitive that apparently doesn’t exist. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting novel?

Dropping off the grid and disappearing has always intrigued me. How would someone do it? What skills set would a person need to accomplish such a feat? So the book started with a basic, what if.

The character of Sean Kruger was conceived in 2006 when I was involved with an online writing blog. The original character was just, Kruger. A scallywag, a nefarious individual with no moral scruples. During the blog, he became Sean Kruger. My laptop hard drive is littered with discarded stories about him. Gradually, over the years, as I developed the character, he evolved from a pirate to a person of moral integrity. And finally an FBI Agent, the character we find in the Trail series.

As the concept of a story concerning dropping off the grid started to grow, I decided it was a great venue for introducing the reincarnated version of Sean Kruger. One thing led to another and The Fugitive’s Trail was born.

JR Diminski appeared in an early draft of the story, originally conceived as a throw-away character. The more I wrote more about him, the more intriguing he became. I know it sounds weird, but as you write, some characters become more important to the story. Such was JR’s future. He is now as important to the Trail series as Kruger. After a comment by my oldest son, I am planning a standalone novel with him as the main protagonist.

Sean Kruger is an FBI agent and I felt that the daily interactions of the agency was well handled. Did you do a lot of research to maintain accuracy of the subject?

A lot of research, reading and a chance encounter with an FBI agent on a plane bound for California.

I have more experience with corporate bureaucracies than I care to discuss and the FBI is a huge bureaucracy. Looking back on my business background, it was easy to extrapolate how a huge entity like the FBI would function.

The Fugitive’s Trail is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a crime, drama, and suspense as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?

A passion for reading was a gift from my mother. Authors like, Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Daniel Silva, David Baldacci, James Rollins, Lee Child, Frederick Forsyth, Craig Johnson, Ben Coes, and numerous Indie Authors were consumed before I started The Fugitive’s Trail. The adage of ‘write what you enjoy’ is how I approach novels. As you can see from the books I read, my influences include various genres.

I don’t outline, but I know where I want to start and I have a general idea of where I want to finish. The exciting part of the journey is the middle. So, to answer your question, it happens organically.

I have zero qualms about cutting wholesale sections of a manuscript if it stops working. The Fugitive’s Trail took five years to write. But during those years, I learned a lot from numerous starts and stops encountered along the path. The original manuscript is nothing like the final book.

A good editor is essential to a good novel. I was lucky, I found a good editor. It also helps to have an active critique group.

This is the first book in the Sean Kruger series. Where will book two take Sean Kruger?

Book two of the series will find Kruger pursuing homegrown terrorist. A third novel, planned for a summer 2017 release, will feature Kruger confronting the return of a serial killer introduced in my short story titled “The Forgotten Brother Affair.” This story is available for free on my website.

The original plan was to write a trilogy, but a fourth novel, with Sean Kruger as the protagonist, has over 40,000 words in a first draft. I am not sure about the title at this stage, I haven’t decided if it will be a “Trail” book or not.

I am striving to write distinctly different books with each installment. So many authors write the same book over and over and after a while it gets boring. My goal is to keep from going down this path. If I do, the Trail series will conclude.

For now, I have a few more Kruger stories up my sleeve.

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

The Fugitive's Trail (Sean Kruger, #1)

In the lobby of a prestigious Wall Street investment firm, one man is dead and another seriously injured. The man accused of the crime now a fugitive.

When the Director of the FBI personally orders Special Agent Sean Kruger to New York City to find the fugitive, Kruger questions the reason. Told to shut up and do his job, he starts looking into the case. What he finds is troubling. Eye-witness accounts seem contrived with little variance between individual testimonies. The more he hears, the more he feels someone is manipulating the story.

As the investigation unfolds, he discovers the only information known about the fugitive is a HR file from a former employer. Public records of the man do not exist.

The fugitive is a ghost. A ghost who has disappeared.

When Kruger unearths information the investment firm lied about the incident in the lobby, he learns there is a possibility the fugitive was defending himself. He also discovers another individual is searching for the fugitive. An individual who has no interest in allowing the truth to be discovered.

When the cat and mouse game turns lethal, Kruger must use all of his skills and experience to find the truth, protect the fugitive, and ultimately stay alive.

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Rude Boy USA

3 StarsAuthor Victoria Bolton pays homage to the 1960s gangs of New York with her book Rude Boy USA. It’s the classic story of an underdog gang trying to take the seat of power in a world of murder, corruption, sex and drugs. The story follows the four members of Chimera; a gang led by the driven but big-hearted Bernie. John is his second in command; African American, good looking and unhappily married. Ben, the Italian American ex-veteran struggling with a drug addiction, is the little brother wanting desperately to be taken seriously. And Jerome, the well-adjusted African American with intelligence and a dream, is the son Bernie never has to worry about. Together they make up the misfit family of Chimera, flawed in their own ways and equally determined to make something of their lives.

These characters have numerous dimensions that create a clear picture with their narratives, but in contrast, the two female characters Bolton introduces, feel somewhat two-dimensional. On one side you have Edina who is a white, manipulative woman, both offensive and single-minded with her bigotry. And on the other side is Celia; a beautiful African American woman who is the angel to Edina’s devil, extremely attractive, with a heart of gold. Moreover, Celia’s motivations in the story stem from a desire to better educate herself, but are quickly reduced to a will they/won’t they love saga that overshadows her previous occupation. Though not an uncommon occurrence, the story would have only been meatier had the female characters received the same attention to detail as their male counterparts.

Character development aside, the story touches well upon racial tensions that would have been rife at the time. However, some situations err on the side of stereotype rather than exploring any deeper issues, but where it can, the story embraces some of the realities of the time and the author is able to keep the reader interested.

Nevertheless, this is indeed a crime thriller with a topic that has obviously been well researched by Bolton. She takes you deep into the heart of New York City and provides a picture of a community that the reader can see very clearly. Ultimately this feels like a story about loyalty and belonging to something. With an underlying romantic story threaded throughout, Rude Boy USA has something for everyone, with enough twists and turns to keep die hard thriller fans engaged and want to immediately pick up the next book in the series.

Pages: 283 | ISBN: B019E76CMY

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