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Between the lines with Jon Land (Q&A)

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Today, Hartford Books Examiner extends virtual greetings to Jon Land.

Since debuting with The Doomsday Spiral in 1983, Land has written more than thirty novels—including The Tenth Circle (Open Road Media, $16.99), out in paperback and digital editions tomorrow and featuring enduring protagonist Blaine McCracken. His first series titles were the McCracken novels, though it was his Ben and Danielle series featuring a Detroit cop and an Israeli detective that first garnered attention in the thriller community. Land also writes a highly acclaimed series featuring Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong; Strong Justice (2010) was named a Top Thriller of the Year by Library Journal and runner-up for Best novel of the Year by the New England Book Festival. The author makes his home in Providence, Rhode Island.

The Tenth Circle is Land’s thirteenth novel to feature Blaine McCracken, and pre-publication buzz has been effusive. New York Times bestselling author James Rollins enthused, “McCracken’s back! And I couldn’t be happier. Jon Land’s The Tenth Circle is a knockout thriller blending history, cutting-edge science, and nonstop action. Ancient mysteries, ghost ships, and a modern threat like no other … this is a novel that grips you by the throat and refuses to let go until the last page.” Further, Peter James, #1 international bestselling author of the Roy Grace novels, noted, “Jon Land is one hell of a writer. His vivid recreations of the past, his characterizations and his non-stop ticking clock tension had me turning the pages so fast they were smoldering. I really loved this book.”

From the publisher:

Blaine McCracken races to stop terrorists from unleashing an ancient weapon of unimaginable power at the president’s State of the Union speech

Blaine McCracken pulled off the impossible on a mission in Iran, but his work has just begun. Returning to the US, he faces another terrible threat in the form of Reverend Jeremiah Rule, whose hateful rhetoric has inflamed half the world, resulting in a series of devastating terrorist attacks. But Rule isn’t acting alone. A shadowy cabal is pulling his strings, unaware that they are creating a monster who will soon spin free of their control.

Finding himself a wanted man, McCracken must draw on skills and allies both old and new to get to the heart of a plot aimed at unleashing no less than the tenth circle of hell. A desperate chase takes him into the past, where the answers he needs are hidden amid two of history’s greatest puzzles: the lost colony of Roanoke and the Mary Celeste. As the clock ticks down to an unthinkable maelstrom, McCracken and his trusty sidekick, Johnny Wareagle, must save the United States from a war the country didn’t know it was fighting, and that it may well lose.

Now, Jon Land shares a few pages from the book of his life …

1) As a child, did you wear your literary lust loud and proud or were you a closet bibliophile?

I liked to read but nothing out of the ordinary so far as volume goes. But I can remember reading THE EXORCIST cover to cover on a rainy Saturday afternoon when I was maybe 15. It was a truly magical experience that sticks with me today because it was the first time I got utterly lost in a book. You might even say that day marked the beginning of my writing career in a lot of ways.

2) What book(s) were you likely to be caught keeping company with under the covers?

I always leaned toward pop entertainment. The first adult books I read was the James Bond series by Ian Fleming—I think a lot of thriller writers share that experience. They were so far ahead of their time and they left an indelible mark on my consciousness, not just because they were the first thrillers I read; they also to this day set the benchmark for the style in which I write. Victor Hugo once wrote that good writers borrow and great writers steal. And, boy, have I ever stolen a lot from those groundbreaking books.

3) What are you reading currently & what is your initial impression?

You caught me at a good time because I’m reading Stephen King’s DOCTOR SLEEP and Michael Connolly’s THE GODS OF GUILT right now and both are terrific. King has simply never been better and revisiting Dan Torrance and his tragic experiences at the Overlook Hotel in THE SHINING is like literary déjà-vu. And the Mickey Haller series, I think, are the best legal thrillers being written today and Haller is a wonderful character. I know most of Connolly’s fans prefer Harry Bosch, but I come down on the side of Haller.

4) What one book do you always recommend when asked?

That’s a great question and if I had to say one, it would be William Goldman’s seminal MARATHON MAN. As close to a perfect book, both as a novel and a thriller, as I’ve ever read. I actually read it after seeing the movie and it was still like experiencing the story for the first time. And, in great credit to Goldman, even though I’d seen the movie, the book’s big twist utterly floored me. Never saw it coming, even though I surely should have. This is definitely a must-read for anyone who reads thrillers and, especially, those who write them.

5) Which of your own books would you suggest to readers & why?

I always recommend the latest which are, theoretically anyway, the best and most topical. In my case that would be STRONG RAIN FALLING, my latest Caitlin Strong book, and THE TENTH CIRCLE, of course, featuring Blaine McCracken. Based on the response, it would be difficult not to say that STRONG RAIN is my best book ever, but I love a lot of the things I’ve done in THE TENTH CIRCLE too and think that book will be every bit as well received. The other thing that would be fun about reading both is that these two protagonists seem to be growing together: Caitlin becoming more of an action hero and Blaine becoming more introspective and contemplative. Didn’t plan it that way, but they have a mind of their own.

6) Is there a book or author that readers would be surprised to know you’ve read and liked?

Oh, man, that’s a tough one. Read is one thing—liked is something else again. I’ve read William Burroughs but can’t say I like him. And I was reading a lot of transgressive fiction for a while which led me to Dennis Cooper but, upon further review, his books are excessive and pretty much crap. I’d have to go with Harold Robbins. He gets slammed a lot for being a hack but in his prime, books like THE ADVENTURERS, THE DREAM MERCHANTS, and THE CARPETBAGGERS, he was a wonderful storyteller whose books changed the way fiction was thought of and marketed. He pushed the envelope and draped his characters in power, greed and lust. Trashy at times, but the stuff holds up even today and is much better written that you think. He was actually way ahead of his time.

7) Who is the one author that would, or did, make you weak in the knees upon meeting?

(Laughs) You know, the first time I met David Morrell, who’s one of my idols and a true literary giant, was in the Jacuzzi at ITW’s first Thrillerfest in Phoenix. We still laugh over that story, soaking up the bubbles next to somebody I was meeting for the first time and whose work was incredibly influential to me. As far today, I guess Stephen King. The man is a true giant, not just because of his sales, but also because he continues to write beautifully and passionately. A great storyteller first and foremost. Sure, he’s had some clunkers along the way but for the most part he has continued to craft wonderfully written and beautifully crafted tales about unique and special characters.

8) Has there been an “I’ve made it” moment in your career?

No, because I haven’t yet, at least not up to my own expectations. You can't let yourself be satisfied or content as a writer; you’ve got to stay hungry and maintain your passion the way King has after so many years and book. Look at Lee Child and James Lee Burke—they’re better now than they’ve ever been. Now, that said, it’s equally crucial to be appreciative of my standing. As writers, we only look up at that which we aspire to reach; we seldom look down, which in my case, would mean viewing 99.9% of the writers out there who would kill to be where I am just as I would kill to be a New York Times bestselling author. As an aside, I know how much so many of the authors above my standing have helped me and I strive to do the very same thing to those not quite at my level. Those I admire most in our industry have become among my closest friends. How often can you say that?

9) What is your greatest literary ambition?

Being able to pay the bills without anxiety every month and never falling behind again . . . and making the New York Times bestseller list! I’d also love to expand my horizons further into film. Lots going on there right now but nothing to report definitively at this point. Check back with me soon!

10) Fill in the blank: Hartford Books Examiner is _____.

. . . a breath of fresh air when it comes to incisive, thorough book reporting.

***

With thanks to Jon land for his generosity of time and thought.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for HBE’s full review of The Tenth Circle.

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