FAST FIVE: Welcome, Gordon, and thank you for visiting today for this interview. Your novel, Dead Reckoning, was a fast one-day read for me. Your story offers something for every mystery/thriller fan. Rather than the 140 characters we’ve grown accustomed to on Twitter, can you share with us a more detailed account of the novel and your research for Dead Reckoning?
GORDON KESSLER: In Dead Reckoning, a young woman investigator goes undercover aboard a small US Navy ship to find out why its crewmembers are disappearing one by one. Not knowing whom she can trust, Janelle “Spurs” Sperling encounters high seas, drugs, sexism, homophobia, love and murder aboard a ship of horrors before discovering the real danger. She is thrown into non-stop, life-threatening situations as she uncovers startling clues while teaming up with both friend and foe to stop an unthinkable terrorist plot to kill thousands of Americans.
She soon discovers that the ones wearing the white hats aren’t always the good guys as memories of a traumatic childhood event come back to slap her in the face and reveal that she is an unwitting pawn in a deadly game between the US government, ruthless terrorists and her own family.
She has but one choice. The only way to stop a catastrophe of enormous proportions is going to be…Suicide!
All hands: stand by for heavy rolls—we’re coming about and heading into the storm!
For research, I had a few connections, and I did a bunch of Internet searches and book research, as well. I’m friends with a former F-18 pilot, so I interviewed him to get the feel of realism I needed for flying the “Super Hornet”. I also leaned back on my experience as a US Marine and being aboard a warship for a short time (6 mos.). In addition, I made a couple calls to an NCIS supervisory special agent and passed a few emails back and forth with him. I actually completed the novel over a year before the TV series JAG came out, and Dead Reckoning was published in paperback and hardcover a couple of years before the TV series NCIS debuted.
I have a bit of a conspiracy theory I like to consider about that time: John Grisham’s former agent Jay Garon (a former actor with Hollywood ties) was considering the manuscript for representation—had it for over a year. He ultimately rejected it. A year later he passed away and JAG came out on TV a month after his passing (hmmm). Grisham ended up suing Garon’s company for bilking him from tons of royalties he wasn’t paid for some Hollywood deals. JAG’s first episode was about a murder aboard a warship—someone falls—and it featured a female JAG agent as one of the leads. A-humm! Probably just coincidence? I did love that series (JAG), but it was ridiculous to think that these military lawyers were running around risking their lives while investigating military crimes, most of the time in place of NCIS investigators. At least the ever popular NCIS TV series has that going for them.
FAST FIVE: Your conspiracy theory is interesting, though a sad warning for others of us who are trusting with our ideas. For your protagonist, is “the job” the most important part of her life?
GORDON KESSLER: The job with NCIS is the most important part of Spurs’ life because she’s turned to it to find stability from a traumatic childhood with repressed memories. She’s an Okie, “tough as Oklahoma red clay” as her mother used to tell her. She’s smart and persistent. She’s loyal. And, she’s afraid of water—as a child, she watched as her mother ran out into the ocean and never came back. With a chauvinistic retired admiral for a father, what else could she do to confront her fears but to get into an agency where she’d find it necessary at some point to be on the ocean and working in a very male oriented business. Her father loves here, but isn’t at all fond of what he thinks is a very inappropriate role for a woman.
FAST FIVE: The Mystery/Suspense genre is the focus of Fast Five interviews, but what unique twist makes your novel stand out?
GORDON KESSLER: Dead Reckoning is a mystery thriller with very high stakes and risk. It’s supercharged with action. The inexperienced female protagonist must overcome incredible odds just to survive, let alone save thousands of lives. She must “grow up” in a matter of days, confront her fears, bias’s and prejudices, and become a much better person to understand the danger she’s in and confront it head on. In the middle of the investigation, she finds and loses love, then finds it again. All the while, she’s unknowingly being used by not only the bad guys as well as the good guys, but also by her own family. In the end, she must make a decision that will mean sacrificing her own life in the action-packed and dramatic finale. Will she live? In the conclusion, all the craziness ties together, but leaves a huge hole in Spurs’ heart and soul.
FAST FIVE: How does your main character’s profession draw her into suspenseful situations, (murder, for instance?)
GORDON KESSLER: Being a Naval Criminal Investigative Service special agent, it’s part of her job. However, working undercover is a bit unusual for a rookie.
FAST FIVE: Is this book part of a series, and are you working on a sequel?
GORDON KESSLER: I’ve considered a sequel and I have a few really fun ideas for that second and possibly third novel. This book was well received by women and men alike, so it’d probably be a good idea. My biggest problem is that I have great ideas for sequels for both of my other big thrillers Brainstorm and Jezebel. And I’m currently working on a series of at least six men’s action/adventure novels called “The E Z Knight Reports”. There’s just never enough time….
FAST FIVE: I hope you’ll have just enough time for a Fast Five “if/then” scenario: If Paris is not an option, then where would you most like to spend your time writing and why?
GORDON KESSLER: I enjoy seclusion and nature when I’m writing, but I like to be a part of the human race once in a while for breaks. I’d say a cabin near a small port town in Maine, close enough to easily sail or motor to, would be one of my top three. A small village in Colorado, maybe near Crested Butte might be similar in appeal, with considerably different landscape. Northern California would be one of the top three, as well.
Thanks for this opportunity!
Author of: thriller novels BRAINSTORM, JEZEBEL and DEAD RECKONING; and THE guide for fiction writers, Novel Writing Made Simple.