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I Wanted Them to be Horrified

MJ Preston Author Interview

Highwayman follows a highly intelligent serial killer with plans to take his rampage to the next level. What were some influences you felt guided your story?

I did an abundant amount of research on subjects with similar traits to the character I wanted to write. When I began developing the Highwayman character, I was constantly reminded of the myriad real-life criminals that inspired him. Serial murderers like Ted Bundy, Luka Magnotta, the Toolbox Killers, Roy Norris and Lawrence Bittaker, all influenced the creation of Highwayman’s character.  So, when you ask,  “what influences?” they weren’t the traditional works of authors I generally read. Much of my influences were police reports, documentaries, true crime literature, and that kept me grounded.  Writing a story about a highly intelligent serial killer that even if they are smart, even if they have the advantage, at their core, there is still something wrong with them. Normal people don’t hunt other humans. That personality defect alone separates them from society and removes the illusion that they are somehow superhuman or impervious to mistakes.

Lance is a villain that I loved to hate. What were some ideals that guided his character development?

The preamble to your question pretty much nails the fundamental mission I had when I created Lance. I didn’t want readers to like him.  I wanted them to be horrified by his lack of empathy, narcissism, and psychopathy. In other words, I wanted him to be as realistic to fiction readers as real-life serial killers are to those that read true crime.

The criminal process, as well as the details on FBI procedures, were all fascinating. What kind of research did you undertake to ensure things were accurate?

I did a lot of reading, including interviews with serial killers conducted by law enforcement,  and watched 100’s of hours of documentaries on the subject and subjects.  I also consulted with true crime writers about the characters they had studied like Ted Bundy. I contacted police agencies, asking questions that raised eyebrows.  Nothing beats calling the police and asking strange questions. Examples: “What would happen if I found a body here?” or “Does a vehicle submerged in water still yield fingerprints?” I overdosed on research, but I don’t proclaim myself any type of an expert as I’m sure I can be taken to task on some issues.

This is book one in the Highwayman series. What can readers expect in book two?

Highwayman was a slow-burn, introducing us to Lance and his ambitions over roughly eight years. The follow-up book, FOUR, which is now available, focuses on Lance’s big project of mass murder realized. There’s a lot more action, and it moves faster because the timeline of the story is a much shorter eight weeks.  Lance has elevated his status to number one on the FBI’s Most-Wanted list, but there is no more mystery. Law enforcement knows who the Highwayman is and they’re coming. Maxwell is moving with a posse of investigators to stop the Highwayman for good, and now it’s personal. Lance has left Maxwell an arrogant parting shot at one of the crime scenes. AGENT MAXWELL:  COME AND FIND ME. Signed: HIGHWAYMAN.

The condescension of a fugitive, yes, but Lance is about to see his plans altered as he tries to escape a relentless force of law enforcement.

Readers can also expect visitations from characters from the first book, like Cole Abraham, Lonnie Perkins, and many others. While this book will conclude the Highwayman story, it is not the end of the series. In future books, there will be more tales of murder and mystery about the monsters who walk among us every day.

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The most terrifying monsters are real and walk among us every day.
Meet Lance Belanger, he has only one ambition, to be the most infamous killer of all time. After murdering a single mom and her toddler child, Lance indoctrinates himself into the world of serial murder. Before long, the bodies start turning up all over the country. Each victim is incapacitated by a puncture wound to the spine, then, while still alive, they are dismembered, their arms, legs, and head are severed from the torso.

FBI investigators call their killer “Highwayman.” But beyond the multi-state dumping of staged victims, the killer has left them little else to go on. With no DNA or forensic evidence, veteran FBI agent Lewis Ash is in a race against retirement as he tracks the elusive murderer.

Meanwhile, Lance has other plans that will up his game and increase his body count. In a web of murder that reaches from the United States to Bucharest, Romania, a diabolical plan is set into motion to attract the most dangerous predators the world has to offer.

Can the FBI stop this killer before he sets his plan into motion?


HIGHWAYMAN (The Highwayman Series Book 1) by [MJ Preston]

Highwayman is the first installment of the two-book miniseries by M.J. Preston following serial killer Lance Belanger. Orphaned while in college and recipient of a large inheritance that he uses to fuel his insidious desires, Lance carefully crafts the art of murder, studying from the “best,” like Ted Bundy, while recognizing their flaws and refuses to let himself fall victim to other serial killers’ mistakes. Readers are able to watch Lance evolve and perfect his murders with an almost painful level of detail.

What I really enjoyed about Highwayman was how Preston truly kept the focus on Lance throughout the novel. At first I was exhausted by how evil he is – I was craving a protagonist to root for against him! But, as I progressed in the novel, I enjoyed how Preston created a strong supporting cast of stars to fight Lance’s evil acts. FBI Agents Lewis Ash and David Maxwell provide the “Law and Order: SVU” vibe, while surprise star Norris Connelly, also known as The Regulator, balances a truly impressive line between hated and sympathetic character.

Highwayman is exceptionally thorough in its descriptions of both murder and crime-solving, and I appreciate the thought and detail that Preston includes. He thoughtfully incorporates professional details both on the villain’s side as well as the protagonists’, which will appeal to serious thriller lovers and SVU addicts. The novel is full of fascinating facts about the inner workings of the FBI and local police and how they prioritize and track criminals, as well as morbid but mesmerizing facts about murder and the psyche of serial killers.

Highwayman succeeds because of its creativity and attention to detail. As someone who has read and watched an almost embarrassing amount of crime novels and film, I have never read something quite like Highwayman. Preston defies stereotypes in his creation of a modern monster, and the addition of 21st century technology and savvy is quite refreshing. Without giving anything away, I can say that the ending left me craving more, so I was pleased to discover that Preston has already released the second and final Highwayman novel.

If you’re looking for a book to thrill you, horrify you and keep you up at night with a mixture of terror and fascination, then Highwayman by M.J. Preston is for you. Highwayman is unlike any novel I have read, and I would highly recommend this novel to any reader seeking both a thrilling and carefully woven story. Preston has succeeded in creating a story that surprises at every turn and authoring a villain that you love to hate.

Pages: 472 | ASIN: B07T445DYZ

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