Monday, August 9, 2010

Guest Blogger, James Hayman

Today I’d like to welcome author James Hayman as the special guest blogger here at Thoughts in Progress as he makes a stop on his virtual blog tour.

Hayman’s latest release is CHILL OF THE NIGHT. Here is a brief synopsis: “Lainie Goff thought she had it all. The ambitious young attorney was brilliant, beautiful, and on a fast-track to a lucrative partnership at one of the top firms in New England. But then, one cold night, a dark and ugly secret comes back from Lainie’s past and she pushes things too far. Soon her body is found, frozen solid in sub-zero temperatures at the end of the Portland Fish Pier.

A mentally ill woman named Abby Quinn witnesses the brutal crime. But when she tells what she has seen, nobody will believe her. Not until she too mysteriously disappears. In The Chill of Night, Portland homicide detective Michael McCabe finds himself finds himself fighting memories from his own past as he races to find the killer before another life is lost.”

Hayman joins us to talk about why he loves thrillers.

I love thrillers. I love reading them. Writing them. Writing about them. 

I don’t think there’s any formula to writing a thriller but most of the good ones seem to share a lot common elements. 

Most start off with a bang and as often as not a dead body. 

They have a hero or heroine we like and want to keep reading about book after book. Among my personal favorites are Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, Tess Gerritsen’s  Jane Rizzoli, Ian Rankin’s John Rebus, James Lee Burke’s Hackberry Holland and, most recently, the late Stieg Larsson’s incredible Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth Salander. 

The best thrillers feature a villain we fear but are fascinated by.

It might be an evil genius like Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lechter.  It might be a psychopathic killer who hides behind a cloak of normalcy like Michael Connelly’s The Poet.  Or it might be a seemingly ordinary guy turned monster like Jack Torrance in Stephen King’s The Shining (For my money King’s best book and maybe the best horror/thriller ever written or filmed.). The bad guy might even be non-human. A nasty fish, for example, as in Peter Benchley’s Jaws or an even nastier killer virus as in Michael Crichton’s great first novel The Andromeda Strain .

Great thrillers always move fast and there’s plenty of action along the way. And the stakes are almost always high. (Can the hero save the girl as in my first effort The Cutting...or maybe even save the entire planet...before time runs out and more people die.)

There are endless sub-genres of thrillers. Here are a just a few of them with a few examples of books, both old and new, in each category that I personally enjoyed and, if you haven’t read them, you may too:

·    Medical thrillers: Robin Cook’s Coma. Tess Gerritsen’s Harvest. Michael Palmer’s The Last Surgeon.
·    Legal Thrillers: Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent and his recent sequel Innocent. John Grisham’s non-fiction legal thriller The Innocent Man.
·    Spy Thrillers: John LeCarre’s classic Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Alex Berenson’s more recent John Wells series starting with The Faithful Spy,

·    Historical Thrillers: Alan Furst’s The Foreign Correspondant, Caleb Carr’s The Alienist, Ken Follett’s Eye of the Needle (one of the great thrillers of all time). Stefanie Pintoff’s In the Shadow of Gotham.
·    Cops and Private Eyes. Sue Grafton’s T is for Trespass, Michael Connelly’s The Poet, and Henning Mankell’s Faceless Killers.

Like McCabe, I’m a native New Yorker. He was born in the Bronx. I was born in Brooklyn. We both grew up in the city. He dropped out of NYU Film School and joined the NYPD, rising through the ranks to become the top homicide cop at the Midtown North Precinct. I graduated from Brown and joined a major New York ad agency, rising through the ranks to become creative director on accounts like the US Army, Procter & Gamble, and Lincoln/Mercury.

We both married beautiful brunettes. McCabe’s wife, Sandy dumped him to marry a rich investment banker who had “no interest in raising other people’s children.” My wife, Jeanne, though often given good reason to leave me in the lurch, has stuck it out through thick and thin and is still my wife. She is also my best friend, my most attentive reader and a perceptive critic.

Both McCabe and I eventually left New York for Portland, Maine. I arrived in August 2001, shortly before the 9/11 attacks, in search of the right place to begin a new career as a fiction writer. He came to town a year later, to escape a dark secret in his past and to find a safe place to raise his teenage daughter, Casey. There are other similarities between us. We both love good Scotch whiskey, old movie trivia and the New York Giants. And we both live with and love women who are talented artists.

There are also quite a few differences. McCabe’s a lot braver than me. He’s a better shot. He likes boxing. He doesn’t throw up at autopsies. And he’s far more likely to take risks. McCabe’s favorite Portland bar, Tallulah’s, is, sadly, a figment of my imagination. My favorite Portland bars are all very real.

James, thanks for guest blogging here today. It’s interesting to find out what thrillers you like. These are some great books you’ve mentioned.

James Hayman’s website is


  1. Great post - I remember reading Coma when I was a teen and I loved it! One of the classics.
    Will check out The Chill of Night.

  2. Will definitely check out Chill of Night. I love thrillers as well :)

    W.I.P. It: A Writer's Journey

  3. Thanks for sharing this. James' passion for thrillers really comes through and it was great hearing his thoughts on his genre.

  4. High stakes and a fast pace...that's exactly what I think of, too, when I think of a good thriller.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the genre, James, and best wishes with your tour!

  5. Mason - Thanks for hosting James.

    James - You've mentioned two really excellent thrillers: The Silence of the Lambs and The Poet. Normally, I wouldn't have thought of either as a thriller, but they certainly meet the criteria of what "counts" as a thriller. You've got some good reasons for loving thrillers, too. Thanks for sharing them and I wish you the best in your writing.

  6. James, I too love thrillers. I've read Coma,by Cook but mostly read John Grisham. They are fast pace and exciting. Your book sounds like that too.

    Mason, thanks again for hosting great authors.

  7. Great guest post! I think he hit the nail on the head - for some reason I am fascinated by the villians in the thrillers I enjoy.

  8. I love thrillers and I recently read Chill of the Night, which was a good read.

  9. Sounds like a great read - thanks for sharing :)

  10. I love these lists of thrillers...It was "thrilling" to find so many of my favorite reads listed here! 'The Poet' is one of my all-time favorites.

    I am always fascinated by books set in Portland. It doesn't seem an exciting place, rather laid-back actually. But it is that beautiful, natural exterior that makes it such a haunting place for thrillers and mysteries.

    This looks like a great book! Thanks for hosting, Mason.


  11. Even though you and McCabe have differences, it sounds like y'all are also quite alike and there's perhaps a lot of you in him.


  12. James, thanks for guest blogging here today. Learning about thrillers is always fun.

    Hi everyone, thanks so much for stopping by.

    Hi Lynda, nice to meet you.

  13. I love thrillers, and I'm going to add this one to my list.

  14. I wonder where thrillers by Lincoln and Child fall into the equation?

  15. Interesting post. I love a good thriller James. You have mentioned a few here that I have enjoyed.

    Hi Mason, happy scribbling. :)

  16. Wow! This sounds like a thriller alright. I love the premise.

  17. Love a good thriller and Chill of the Night sounds like a great one. Thanks for sharing, Mason and James!

    Hey Mason - I'm taking my new novel, "Beware the Devil's Hug", on virtual blog book tour in mid-October. Could I interest you in hosting a stop? If so, please contact me off-blog at: marvwilson2020atgmaildotcom, ok?

  18. What a fun comparison between yourself and your main character. My husband and I both enjoy thrillers, so my want-to-read list is growing again - I added your book and several you mentioned in the in the interview.

  19. Hi Mason and James .. that was great - a story or two in itself .. I was carried along - so I'll have to keep an eye open and get myself a copy of your thriller "Chill" ..

    I've always loved thrillers since a child .. consumed them voraciously ..

    Enjoy the week and I loved the guest interview - thanks .. Hilary

  20. Wow, sounds powerful! I'll look forward to reading it! Right now, in 100+ heat index, The Chill of the Night sounds good! LOL

    Sylvia Dickey Smith

  21. Thanks for the info. Sounds like a great read.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.