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!!!!


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.




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.

How Much is Just Enough

Now that THE MARK has been out for a few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of receiving a fair number of emails from readers. Most have been positive, a scant few negative. But though the negative nellies, for the most part, enjoyed the story, they were extraordinarily quick to point out one or two places in the book where, let’s just say, I either made up facts or actually made an error. I’ve received three emails alone from readers who felt I didn’t accurately depict a stretch of highway near Cincinnati.

Now every author wants to offer as much authenticity as possible in their novels. They want readers to be able to see, hear, and smell their locations and characters (ok, maybe not always smell the characters). So at what point is artistic license allowed to kick in, or should readers expect every detail in a novel to be 100% accurate and honest?

When I went to the Romantic Times convention in April (man, is that a story to be told over a six pack), I sat in on a panel featuring Charlaine Harris, bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse vampire mysteries. Charlaine made several tongue-in-cheek jokes about how “thankful” she was when readers pointed out mistakes in her books. And if you read the acknowledgments page in just about any Harlan Coben novel, he ends by saying, “I’m a novelist. That means I make stuff up.” It seems as much a defensive statement as a statement-of-fact. No doubt both authors, having written many books with readers likely in the millions, have received their fair share of letters from readers pointing out exactly where they “made stuff up,” and how they should be ashamed of themselves for doing so.

Interestingly the more fictitious something is, the more it’s likely allowed to pass reader scrutiny. I doubt Anne Rice ever received a fan letter saying:

Dear Anne – I just finished INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE, and had to point out a glaring mistake in your book. There are no such thing as vampires. They don’t exist. I’m surprised your editor didn’t catch this. Hopefully they can correct this in future printings. Other than that I enjoyed your book.

I suppose it has to do with “world building,” that inaccuracies are allowed provided they are consisted with the larger picture you’ve painted. There are many authors who do much more research for their books than I do. Probably some who do a lot less. I did considerably more research for my second novel, THE GUILTY, than a I did for THE MARK, and I’m certain I’ll get more angry letters from readers. Know why? Because I made some stuff up.

So how much is enough (or too much?) authenticity? And to what extent are you allowed to make stuff up?

Jason Pinter

author of THE MARK

The Man in Black Blog

25 Things I Learned at ThrillerFest

1)     Arizona looks just like New Jersey, only with palm trees (credit Sarah Weinman).

2)      Pretty much any panel where they serve booze is going to be fun. It’s an added bonus if the panel is about sex as well. I will never again think about inserting Tab A into Tab B without laughing. Or hear someone say, “This is the thrust of what I’m saying” without thinking of John Lecroart. Um, ok, let’s move on.

3)      Steve Berry has an AWESOME southern accent. He makes me want to raise him on a farm. (Funniest moment of the “Sex and Booze” panel: Steve Berry recalling a conversation with his ex-wife after THE AMBER ROOM was published, where she told him to stop writing sex scenes because he should stick to writing what he knows)

4)      Rob Gregory Browne would make a really good P.I. That is, if we didn’t learn he’d do pretty much anything for $10.

5)      Douglas Preston owns a terrific collection of floral shirts.

6)      The Killer Year class is just an awesome group of people. But Marcus Sakey is too attractive to be a part of it. Something might need to be done about this.

7)      When a writer asks a doctor how much money they make, it’s considered rude. When a doctor asks how much money a writer makes, they have a moral obligation to answer.

8)      Alexandra Sokoloff has a fall-back job that pays better than writing. That’s just not right.

9)     I’m really jealous of Allison Brennan’s delivery schedule.

10)  Phil Hawley makes us all feel like we need to work out more (this might have had something to do with meeting him for this first time as he came back from the gym all good and sweaty)

11)  R.L. Stine is just about the funniest person alive. Seriously. No, really.

12)  If I’m ever arrested, I could do a lot worse than having Paul Levine or Michele Martinez represent me.

13)  Jim Born sounds like he’s been on a lot of witness stands.

14)  Women think Barry Eisler is really hot. We might have to kill Barry Eisler.

15)  Christine Kling’s life sounds a hell of a lot more exciting than any character I’ve read in a book.

16)  Harley Jane Kozak wasn’t totally appalled when I told her I was a big fan of “Necessary Roughness” and “Arachnophobia.”

17)  The MIRA folks are really freaking cool. And if they ever decide not to renew my contract, I learned some dirt (thanks to those margaritas) that I’m totally using for blackmail.

18)  Killer Year t-shirts looks pretty great on an important critic (David J. Montgomery) and a New York Times bestselling author (Allison Brennan).

19)  Thanks to Tess Gerritsen, I now know what a body looks like after it’s fallen out of a plane. (urp)

20)  With just a little more pushing, we could have gotten David Terrenoire to walk into that sorority function.

21)  If I hear, “I have six manuscripts, can I send them to you?” one more time, I will commit a homicide.

22)  If a person argues with you during your panel, it doesn’t matter what you say. They’re right. Accept it and move on.

23)  Thriller writers are not big fans of the New York Times.

24)  Every person who’s ever written a thriller is represented by Scott Miller.

25)  I can’t WAIT to read the books by the class of 2007. And meeting a lot of them in person only made me want to read them more.

Now I had to leave early to attend a wedding, so hopefully other KY members can add to this list…Have at it…

Killer Year Clubhouse – Dispatch #1

Let me tell you, living here at the Killer Year Clubhouse isn’t always easy. Okay, I’ll grant you we’ve all only been here just over a week, but someone – and I’m not naming names – has been leaving their wet laundry in the washer for hours after the load is done. (Might have to call a group meeting on that one.)

Good thing this is a big place. We’re up on the hill, and there’s this great view from the deck. Added bonus: a huge cooler built into the bench around the rim of the deck, and someone’s been keeping it full of beer and other bottled alcoholic beverages. But let me make this clear, we have a strict NO ZIMA policy.

There are fifteen bedroom, thankfully – the last thing I wanted to do was share a room with a writer…they can be SO neurotic. Among other rooms, we also have a large library, a community room, a dinning room, and a shooting range built into the basement.

We spent the first afternoon hammering out a few rules. After all, if we’re going to be jammed in here together until the end of 2007, it’s best to get a lot of things straight up front. Here’s a sampling of some of the things we’ve come up with:

1. A Red card taped to the outside of a bedroom door means DO NOT DISTRUB under almost any circumstance. This includes, but is not limited to: fires, tornado warnings, earthquakes, visits from friends or relatives. The only exceptions are if the particular person’s agent or editor shows up or if it’s a food delivery guy (pizza, Thai food, Italian, you get the idea.)
2. A Yellow card means the person inside might be writing, but they’re open to being interrupted. In other words, “Please take me away from this painful task.” (And, no Mr. World Cup fan…two yellow cards do not equal a red card.)
3. We worked out a cooking schedule and a cleaning schedule…well, on the cleaning it wasn’t so much working out a schedule as deciding the spouses of those who are married (all immediate family members living in another house just down the street) would take care of it for us. We haven’t told them that yet, though.
4. No two writers can have a crisis in confidence on the same day. To elevate this possibility, we’ve created a sign up calendar, so we could mark which day we want in advance.
5. Every evening at 8 p.m. there will be critique sessions on the patio (weather permitting.) These sessions are voluntary, and are focused on helping each of us create the best work possible. Any unsubstantiated negative comments will be punishable by temporary suspension of Internet privileges.
6. Running through the halls screaming like a lunatic is completely forbidden. Except, of course, for your assigned crisis day.
7. Ditto on running through the halls naked.
8. Toni is NOT allowed to tell how her breasts lead to a career in crime fiction without making sure no liquids are being consumed at the time.
9. To make Sandra – our only Canadian – feel at home, we have decided to shut off the water to the house every third Thursday.
10. Though both CJ and Phil are doctors, they are excused from diagnosising any little pain or rash one of us might develop.
11. Oddly, Jason has offered to act as house doctor if necessary. He says he’s read about doctors in books, plus remembers watching episodes of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman while he was growing up, and feels he can handle it. (Thank you Jason.)
12. No using shooting range after 10 p.m.
13. No shooting at each other.
14. If an accident does occur in the shooting range, anonymous calls can be made to Jason’s room at ext. 12.
15. Cursing is completely permitted, but if words or terms are used incorrectly then the offender is fined $5 for each offense.
16. No one is to ever mention the fact that J.T. once killed a man…subject closed. I’ve already said too much.
17. Marcus is only allowed to impersonate the Hoff on his crisis day.

We tried to come up with a rule about sexual research, but were unable to come to any agreement. It’s still being debated.

The big news this week is that just over half of us (8 if you’re counting) are off to ThrillerFest this week. Rob has rented one of those oversized Winnebago’s and we’re all piling in for the trip. Hopefully the seven staying at the house won’t get too rowdy, but the look in Sandra’s, Gregg’s, Derek’s, Marc’s, Patry’s, Thomas’, and Bill’s eyes when we told them we’d be gone for a few days didn’t leave me with an easy feeling.

Still what the hell. We’ll be riding the party bus to Phoenix…

…I hope Rob picked up a map, too.

Brett Battles
The first Jonathan Quinn Thriller coming
Spring 2007
Bantam Dell

Anger is More Useful Than Despair
June 26, 2006, 4:00 am
Filed under: Jason Pinter, Killer Year Founders,

A few years ago, I went to my first writers conference. It was before I started working in publishing, while I was putting together the scraps of my first novel (that bears suspicious resemblance to OPAL MEHTA, but that's another story). I decided that if I was going to be serious about writing, it would benefit me to be around other writers, both professional and aspiring. In all fairness, a good deal of the other participants had much more experience than me, publishing work in various literary journals and magazines. One girl even had–sweet Zeus's beard!–a literary agent!

I applied to be in the novel writing class, but by the time I registered it was full. So I ended up in the short story section. I'd written a few short pieces, mainly for classes in college, and they were pretty well received by my college peers who loved reading my stories about "old women who smelled like feet." My short stories weren't what you'd typically expect when reading short stories. They were mainly comedic shorts, pretty slapsticky, and the one I submitted to be critiqued was about a college student on the worst family road trip of all time.

It was pretty funny. But it wasn't very good.

The teacher for the class was a very-well respected author and member of the high-up literati. An older man with a Colonel Sanders beard, let's call him 'CB.' (and yes, the letters 'CB' are his real initials. Let the speculation begin) I didn't expect much applause when it came my time to be critiqued, knowing the story had its issues (one of them being that it didn't really have–what do you call it–an ending). So when it was my time, I expected the worst. And I got it. And then some.

CB tore me and my story apart. His first words were, "When I finished reading this, my first thoughts were it wasn't a short story." I don't think CB liked me very much. Maybe it was my age at the time (22), maybe it was the fact that my story didn't involve lonely misanthropes gazing longingly into the sun, but he basically acted like I was the only dumb kid in a class full of prodigies. And maybe he was right, and I just didn't realize it. But I swallowed my pride and listened to the critique. Many of his points were valid, and I probably became a better writer for it.

When the conference ended, all the participants and authors got together for a farewell banquet. I'd bought books by all the authors, including CB's most recent work. Before I left, I asked CB to sign my copy of his book. He smiled, and took a pen from his jacket. I couldn't wait to see what this intelligent man of letters would write to me, what erudite words of widsom he would offer for a young man looking for literary guidance. He scribbled in the book, handed it back to me, and I opened the cover to see what he'd written. And there, in neat script, were five words:

To Jason: Keep on Truckin'

I stared at it in disbelief. "Keep on Truckin?"

I was outraged. It was obvious CB was completely blowing me off. He might as well have written, "Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out." It was clear CB didn't think I had much to offer the literary profession, and  because of that didn't have to offer me much in turn. I left the banquet steaming mad. Mad at CB for his mocking scribbles. Mad at myself for not writing a good enough story to merit something better. And swearing to not stand for what I felt was one of the most insulting moments of my life.

So I remebered that moment every time I sat down to write. My anger fueled my desire to hone my craft. I wanted the day to come where I could show CB my published work. Maybe sign a copy for him with the words, "I Done Trucked."

So anyway, I want to thank CB, wherever he is, for his words of wisdom. They ended up motivating me more than any other platitudes I could have imagined. I don't think that's quite what CB had in mind, but it doesn't matter. 

Thanks, man. Don't let that truck grill hit you in the ass.

And to everyone else, I think there's a lesson here. If somebody tells you that you aren't good enough for something, that you don't fit the mold, than you aren't worth their time, don't despair. Don't turn the emotion inward. Turn it outward. Prove them wrong. Harness the despair and turn it into anger. Both you and your work will be better for it.

Jason Pinter

author of THE MARK

Coming July, 2007 from MIRA books