Killer Year–The Class of 2007

Gumshoe A Go-Go
March 10, 2008, 1:32 pm
Filed under: Killer Year Members, KillerYear Friends,

Major congratulations to our very own Sean Chercover for his Gumshoe Best First nomination. And we extend more heartfelt congrats to friend of Killer Year/Former Mate Phil Hawley too! Way to go!

Here are all the Best First nominees:


Sean Chercover – Big City, Bad Blood (William Morrow)

Philip Hawley, Jr. – Stigma (Harper)

Lisa Lutz – The Spellman Files (Simon & Schuster)

Craig McDonald – Head Games (Bleak House Books)

Nick Stone – Mr. Clarinet (HarperCollins)

Wishing you all the luck in the world!!!!


Moments in Crime
January 13, 2008, 11:32 pm
Filed under: Jason Pinter, JT Ellison, Killer Year Founders, KillerYear Friends

Stop by St. Martin’s new blog Moments in Crime all week for sneak peeks at anthology news, posts from Jason, JT and MJ Rose, comments from the Killer Year crew, and an all out party prelude to the publication of KILLER YEAR: STORIES TO DIE FOR!!!!

Happy New Year!!!!
January 2, 2008, 11:46 am
Filed under: JT Ellison, Killer Year Founders, KillerYear Friends, | Tags: ,

Amazing, isn’t it? 2007 is gone, baby, gone. Which means our debut year has drawn to a close.

My mates have already summed up the spirit of Killer Year. My life will always be richer for these incredible people. We’ve held private high-five ceremonies, have cried and laughed, rooted for one another, argued like the brothers and sisters we’ve become. 13 siblings, a cooperative class of writers who found common ground and struck out to make ourselves a name. I think we’ve succeeded.

At the end of January, our long-awaited anthology will be in stores. I have to tell you, a finer collection of stories hasn’t been put together. With the leadership and gravitas of Lee Child and Laura Lippman, the spirit defined by MJ Rose, the incredible stories form Ken Bruen, Allison Brennan and Duane Swierczynski, and the amazing efforts of our Killer Year class, this is truly a collector’s item.

The coming months will see the sophomore efforts for our group. And the next books by these fine authors will show that this wasn’t a fluke, that the writers that comprise Killer Year are the real deal.

Sadly, the arrival of 2008 means we’re no longer the debut class. ITW has started a debut author program, which is chock-full of incredible talent. Led by C.J. Lyons, the new class will no doubt go forth and make us all proud. It’s humbling to know that we’ve influenced the renaissance of these cooperative efforts among writers. As Laura Lippman so succinctly states in her anthology coda, we aren’t the first, nor, hopefully, will we be the last.

We’ll continue this blog, leaving the archives intact for those who want to see where we came from. When we have news, book releases and something to say, we’ll post it here. Our website, created by the most incredible Bill Cameron, houses all our current information. Stop by anytime for updated bios, book information, and the like.

I wish there was more to say. This has been an amazing year. I have a lump in my throat because it’s over, but I know we’ll all go on to bigger and better things. My thanks to you, the readers and supporters of Killer Year, for giving us so much of your time. You made this all worthwhile.



Literature and Lead
December 13, 2007, 11:54 am
Filed under: KillerYear Friends | Tags: , , , ,

James O. Born, the coolest writer/cop on the planet, has surpassed himself with his first installment of “Literature and Lead,” an exposé into the mind of a writer with a few frustrations under his skin. The link to Naked Authors can be found here.

To view the video without an explanation, try this link.

Ahh, the life of a creative gunslinger.


Some of the early reviews are coming in for the anthology, and we’re thrilled to share them here.

From Library Journal:

Well worth a look…

“Why writers who deal with the dark side of human nature are among the most collegial is a mystery in itself. What is not in doubt, though, is the quality of this collection resulting from that collegiality, with 13 of its 16 stories by writers who published their first novels in 2007 and were mentored by established authors under the auspices of the International Thriller Writers organization. Some of these stories—which, as editor Child notes, are ‘far, far harder to write than novels’—push the edge of the genre and snag the memory, among them Marcus Sakey’s exploration of love and the difference between wanting and needing in ‘Gravity and Need.’ Sean Chercover’s Chicago P.I. Ray Dudgeon keeps a case from going south, Gregg Olsen gives a final twist to his tale of a true crime writer, and Jason Pinter shows how things can go inexorably wrong in an instant. The mentors’ introductions to these stories, plus brief biographies at the end, should entice readers to longer works by these promising new authors. Even amid a recent rash of anthologies in the genre, this one is well worth a look.”

From Kirkus Reviews…

Sixteen shades of noir, all interesting, some compelling.

Three of Child’s contributors—Ken Bruen, Allison Brennan and Duane Swierczynski—are seasoned pros, but the collection’s gems come from the 13 members of the younger set. Derek Nikitas’s “Runaway,” for instance, is a superbly ambiguous chiller about an adolescent girl who may or may not be a real runaway, or for that matter real. In Toni McGee Causey’s artfully composed “A Failure to Communicate” introduces the indomitable and irresistible Bobbie Faye Sumrall, a steel magnolia whose steel will cause three lowlifes to rue the day they took her hostage. “Perfect Gentleman” by Brett Battles and “Bottom Deal” by Robert Gregory Browne are both lean and taut, expertly crafted in the good old hard-boiled tradition. In Marc Lecard’s sly “Teardown,” a hapless loser arrives in the wrong place at what turns out to be exactly the right time. Gregg Olson’s autobiographical “Crime of My Life” features a surprise ending that actually surprises. The quality is less consistent among the other entries, but, remarkably for a collection this ample, there’s no sign of a clinker.

An anthology so worthwhile that it comes within an eyelash of deserving the hyperbole Child (Bad Luck and Trouble, 2007, etc.) heaps on it in his introduction.

From Publishers Weekly…

For this impressive crime anthology, bestseller Child (One Shot) has gathered 13 stories by newcomers and three by veterans. Such established writers as David Morrell, James Rollins, Gayle Lynds, Ken Bruen and Allison Brennan introduce tales by such rising stars as Marcus Sakey, Brett Battles, Robert Gregory Browne, Sean Chercover and Gregg Olsen. Some selections, like Olsen’s “The Crime of My Life,” hit like a hard swung sap. Battles’s “Perfect Gentleman” is more like a knife that slides in easily, then twists in the gut. Browne’s “Bottom Deal” features a PI that would be at home in a lineup with Spade and Marlowe. Sakey’s “Gravity and Need” lets the reader bleed out slowly, while Chercover’s “One Serving of Bad Luck” earns a rueful smile. Not every entry is a winner, but the disturbingly good new talent showcased in this volume bodes well for the future of the genre. (Jan.)


We’ve updated our website as well, stop by and take a look. The Killer Year is drawing to a close, but the website will have all our current information.

Guest Blogger Theo Gangi
October 28, 2007, 2:50 pm
Filed under: JT Ellison, KillerYear Friends

Meet Theo Gangi, author of Bang, Bang and a member of ITW’s debut author class of 2008 — First Kill!




I went to college at an open, lush campus in the suburbs of Baltimore. One chilly, blustery evening I was walking against light, falling hail with a group of friends. One guy, Marcus, had his hood up and walked backwards, facing the opposite direction to the rest of us.

“Why are you walking backwards?” I asked him.

He smiled, like the answer was obvious. “Beats the hell outta walking forwards.”

Like Marcus, I seem to have walked the road to my first published novel backwards.

In high school I wrote short stories, and they were good, better than anything else I was doing in high school. So when I got to my calm, suburban college campus I sought the writer-in-residence. He read my story and liked it. Sitting in his office, as he took a second read of a short I wrote called So What, based on the Miles Davis song, he recognized something in the structure and exclaimed, “(Expletive), this is better than I thought.”

My mother later exclaimed on the phone that he was Madison Smartt Bell, and he was a big deal. He was being nominated for a National Book Award.

I hadn’t heard of him.

I worked with Madison for all four years. He passed my first novella on to his agent and encouraged me to pursue fiction as a career, as counterintuitive as that sounds.

My next stop was Columbia’s MFA program, where a professor of mine saw a gun in a chapter of another novel and said, “So clearly we’re dealing with noir here.”

I had never read noir.

I was writing about city kids, and I was interested in those I knew who had gotten caught up in the shadier side of things. I had no idea this meant I was writing noir. My first reaction was defensive, especially due to the disdain that professor clearly had for genre fiction. This was, after all, a man who, on the first day of class gave us three writing samples—Faulkner, Hemmingway, and himself. And no, you haven’t heard of him.

Thanks to the assistance of another Columbia Professor, David Plante, my work found its way to another agent, this one at ICM. The agent told me I was the next Richard Price.

I hadn’t heard of him either.

So I went and read Clockers and loved the heck out of it. I figured ‘the next Richard Price’ wasn’t so bad, so I took the agent’s suggestions and rewrote my novel. By then, he’d lost interest in ‘the next Richard Price’. He passed the book on to a junior agent at ICM. The junior agent wanted to represent the book. He signed me up and when I asked him how he wanted to sell me, he said as “The new Elmore Leonard.”

I hadn’t read him either. I was clearly evoking something with my writing I wasn’t quite up on. At Columbia, we read Virginia Wolf, Gertrude Stein and Eudora Welty regardless of the sort of work we were doing.

So I stumbled into the thriller genre—literally. I was playing basketball at the gym at Columbia, and as I made a move to the basket my knee popped right out of the joint.

I needed extensive surgery and it would be months before I’d be able to walk around. So I took the opportunity during recovery dive into thrillers—starting with Hammett and Chandler and working up to Connelly and Leonard. I read at least a dozen of Elmore Leonard’s books. By the time I was walking around again I had written a draft of my first published novel.

The concept for Bang Bang came from idiosyncrasies of street idiom. A ‘bang’ is slang for a con-on-con robbery, and a ‘stickup kid’ is a rogue criminal who preys on other criminals. So I began to wonder, what do you call a stickup kid who’s a grown man? That became the opening sentence of the book. Izzy’s character grew from there—a guy from the streets who’s savvy enough to know he’s a walking contradiction.

I wanted to write a book about this stickup kid because he most embodies the modern urban equivalent of the cowboy: a lone gunman obeying a private moral code within a system of justice beyond the law. Elmore Leonard showed how the urban crime thriller was really a relocated western. When he couldn’t sell his westerns anymore, he reapplied his conceptions to a modern city and remained relevant for the rest of his career.

Like the classic story of the mysterious cowboy with a past, Izzy has done some bad things. I don’t excuse him, but I offer an opportunity for redemption. I grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where various races and classes are stacked on top of one another in a constantly evolving property market. You learn that identity is never fixed and set, but is perpetually being reinvented.

My father runs a prisoners advocacy organization called the Correctional Association, and I’ve visited prisons since I was young. This made me very aware of the discrepancy of quality of life in a given city. My father showed a great empathy to people who were locked up, or otherwise lost in a flawed system. So my challenge was to present Izzy’s world in an objective way—illustrating both why he’s there and why he wants out.

Bang Bang is more than a street thriller, but a slice of urban clutter where different walks of life constantly connect, challenge and bang into each other.

My education process was, to say the least, unconventional. I wouldn’t recommend walking backwards—I stepped into many potholes and could have wandered clear off course. That said, there’s no one way to do anything. Just keep your eyes open, whichever direction you face.



Welcome Fellow Debut Thriller Author Karna Small Bodman!
April 10, 2007, 6:47 am
Filed under: KillerYear Friends

I was scheduled to be in the staff car with White House Press Secretary, Jim Brady, on March 30 – the day of the assassination attempt. I was his Deputy at the time. At the last minute, Jim said, “You know, there’s a lot of work to do here, a ton of press calls to return. Why don’t you stay back – I can handle this one alone. It’s no big deal – just a speech to some union group over at the Hilton. I’ll be back around 2:30.” He never came back.

We all know that as Jim and President Reagan walked out, John Hinkley fired 6 shots in 3 seconds, combat style with two hands using a devastation bullet that was supposed to explode inside the victim. It didn’t explode because he was using a smaller gun – a 22. Later, after surgery, we learned, but never announced to the country, that the bullet was lodged one inch from the President’s heart.

That day along with many others will always be seared in my memory and when I sat down to write my first novel, CHECKMATE, I spent a lot of time reflecting on those personal experiences, figuring out that I had a heck of a lot of material for a series of political thrillers. Authors are always asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” Of course, any daily newspaper gives a writer a veritable Petri dish of plot points, but I decided that being there is even better.

After that initial job in the press office, I later became Senior Director of the National Security Council where we were dealing with crises on almost a daily basis…any one of which could be turned into a pretty good thriller: The assassination of Sadat (by Islamic Jihadists!), the attempted assassination of the Pope, the rise of the Greens and anti-nuke parties over our deployment of INF missiles in Europe, the terrorist attack on the cruise ship, “Achille Lauro” and their killing of an innocent American, the shooting down of the Korean jetliner with an American Congressman on board (I used that one in my second novel, GAMBIT, out next winter), the explosion of the space shuttle with the school teacher on board; and then there was the bombing of Libya. Now that was actually the basis of Nelson DeMille’s great story, THE LION’S GAME and when I met him at Book Expo, I told him I had been in the Situation Room the night we bombed Libya, so his book brought it all back to me.

The inspiration for that first thriller, CHECKMATE, was President Reagan’s announcement of his Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”). I did a ton of research and realized that in Reagan’s day, there were 8 countries with the missiles and technology to be a threat to us. Today, there are 30 countries with those capacities – and many are NOT our friends. As George Bernard Shaw said, “The best way to get your point across is to entertain.” So I put together a story about a young woman who works for a defense contractor. She invents a breakthrough technology for a defense against cruise missiles, foreign agents are trying to steal it for their own wars abroad, a National Security Council staffer tries to help her while a lecherous Congressman is more interested in her bod than funding her project (hey, it’s Washington!).

I pitched the book to an editor I met at a writers’ conference. We decided to work together. I got an agent and then began a rather long process of finalizing the manuscript. The editor sat on it for months at a time while she was busy with other projects. Then I would get an email saying, “We need to add some more tension here. Can you kill off a character by page 100?” I couldn’t figure out who to kill off at that point, but I did compress the action down to two weeks and we finally had a deal. But that was okay. I knew that nobody prints a first draft. After all, Tolstoy rewrote Anna Karenina 17 times!

Now I had a published novel, but as all my author friends tell me, writing is about 25% of your life, marketing is 75% and boy, is that ever true. Publishers don’t do much for a new author. Oh, they may negotiate the table space in front of the major bookstores (every inch of space on that “New Release” table is paid-for real estate). Even then, it would only be for about two weeks. Then they may ask you to do a couple of signings in book stores. But, for a first-time author, those can be a monumental waste of time. I mean, there you are sitting at a little table on the first floor – or the 4th floor (!) – of a bookstore, totally dependent on a few strangers happening to amble by and being willing to plunk down $25 for a book by an author they never heard of.

Media exposure would be great, but most radio and TV producers book authors of non-fiction books. They want news hooks. You know – “How I lost 18 pounds in 18 days” or some such. Okay, so I actually have some news hooks with my missile defense story since we currently are deploying missile defense systems around the world as a hedge against North Korea, Iran or any number of rogue groups. But still – it’s a tough sell.

So I decided that having a “captive audience” was the best way to go. I contacted dozens of organizations, alumni groups, libraries, author series, even Republican Clubs (since I could tell Reagan White House stories) and ended up putting together a book tour where I have 72 speeches/events for various groups around the country. Granted, I will be spending a ton of my own money on transportation/hotels because I won’t be reimbursed for most of this. However, I figure I’m building up a “fan base” if I could call it that. And at every speech/signing (yes, I’ve done a few), I have a little “sign up sheet” where I ask people if they’d like to leave their email or home address JUST so I can drop them a note when the sequel comes out. I’ve now got dozens of pages of emails – it’s a start.

Also, I learned that it’s important to attend as many writers conferences as you can and especially get to the International Thriller Writer events (this year’s Thrillerfest is in New York July 12-15 – writers, editors, agents and just plain thriller fans will gather – it’s a total blast!)

Finally, for a debut author — or an old hand at the process – we all are inundated with “interesting requests” along the way – the people who come up to you at a signing, tell you their life story and how it’s SO intriguing, but admitting they can’t write and then saying, “So you write it – we’ll split the profits,” or the woman who sent me an email after one of my speeches saying, “I have a friend here from Mongolia who’s written a book on the Mongolian economy – can you get it published?” (Not quite my genre), or the woman who handed me a huge envelope saying, “When you get a chance, could you please critique this? It’s the first three chapters of my nephew’s novel – he’s 13!” And so it goes.

Now, if you happen to read this and have a question or two – I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a note through my website: