Monday, August 29, 2005

A Chat with Tess Gerritsen

Hi All,

TROUBLESHOOTER launches tomorrow night at Dutton's in Brentwood, then I'm on the road from there - Bouchercon, Phoenix, Boston, Seattle, Palo Alto, San Jose, Orange, Costa Mesa, San Diego and more. To find out where else, check out "the tour" section of my site. Before I head off, I wanted to post this interview with Tess Gerritsen, one of my favorite writers - and people.



Tess Gerritsen Speaks With Gregg Hurwitz About Troubleshooter,
Outlaw Biker Gangs, and Liquid Heroin

TG: You decided to bring back the infamous Tim Rackley in this novel. Why now?

GH: I never set out to write a series, but Tim got under my skin in a way that no other character of mine had. After THE KILL CLAUSE, I had another story I wanted to write, but Tim kept worming his way into the plot. I found that including him in THE PROGRAM gave me a lot of great creative opportunities. By the time I began TROUBLESHOOTER, Tim was fully in the driver’s seat. It’s the first time he’s truly back with the Marshals, with complete federal resources behind him, working his deadliest case yet.

TG: TROUBLESHOOTER focuses on outlaw biker gangs of California. What kind of research did you do to learn about these gangs?

GH: First off, I learned how to ride a Harley (badly). And I rode a lot of the biker routes through the LA canyons, including the Malibu trail where Tim’s first confrontation with Den Laurey takes place. I also spent a lot of time interviewing cops and FBI agents who worked biker units. Some specialized law enforcement articles about handling outlaw biker gangs filled in the blanks.

TG: Who was the most interesting person you met in the course of your research?

GH: One former agent was of great help, having ridden undercover with biker gangs for seven years. I flew out to meet him in Miami and spent a few days drinking beers with him and swapping stories (his were much better than mine).

TG: The use of a very technical, and gruesome, medical procedure in this novel ties together the mysterious death of underprivileged women and the distribution of a highly advanced form of liquid heroin – where did you come up with this idea?

GH: This was another of the fun parts of my research. I wanted to find an ingenious smuggling device, something worthy of Den Laurey and the Sinners. But everything I came up with felt somehow standard. I was doing some related research and a bunch of different ideas all came together at once. A medical journal article I read collided with an agency document I’d gotten ahold of about airport security and the idea was born. I don’t want to give anything away, but let’s just say that the more I looked into my fictional scenario, the more plausible—and unique—it seemed.

TG: You’ve put Rackley in some truly horrific situations, from losing his daughter to being manipulated by a mind control cult. Now in TROUBLESHOOTER you make Tim face the possible loss of his wife and unborn child. Why do you choose to interweave the personal and professional life of Rackley so tightly?

GH: The Rackley series is really an action-meditation (how’s that for an oxymoron?) on vigilanteism. Because of that, I wanted to raise the stakes on the factors that tempt Tim to act outside the law. At the end of THE KILL CLAUSE, he returns to a position he previously held, but with newfound conviction—he recognizes the importance of the law, sometimes even over justice. That conviction is tested in TROUBLESHOOTER in an entirely different manner. And the question becomes: with so many deadly skills at his disposal, can Tim hold on to lawfulness?

TG: Can we expect to see Rackley on the big screen any time soon?

GH: Here’s hoping! I had a lot of fun adapting THE KILL CLAUSE for Paramount, and am looking into opportunities for the other books in the series.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Tim Rackley's Resume

Tim Rackley
Deputy U.S. Marshal
Central District Office
Roybal Federal Building
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Email care of:

U.S. Army
• Enlisted, age 19, Sept 1988
• Joined Army Rangers, 1990
o Close Quarter Combat School, Night Movement School, SERE School, HALO School, Jumpmaster School, Pathfinder
School, Land Nav, Sniper School, Demo School, SCUBA, Urban Warfare, Mountain Warfare, Jungle Warfare
o Eleven years service, honorable discharge

United States Marshals Service
• Central District, California
• Escape Team, Nov 2001-Feb 2003
• Arrest Response Team Member, Nov 2001-Feb 2003
• Three Outstanding Performance Ratings
• Two Distinguished Service Awards
• Forsyth Medal of Valor
• Hiatus: May 2003-April 2004 (aftermath of daughter’s murder and resultant entanglement with the Commission until
invocation of The Kill Clause)
• Return to Service: April 2004-present
• Major Case: busted The Program, a mind-control cult with operations north of Los Angeles

• December 21: Escape of Den Laurey, Laughing Sinner Nomad on Highway 10 outside downtown Los Angeles. Two
deputies U.S. marshals killed during escape
• Laurey accorded Top Fifteen Case Status
• Tim Rackley, aka, Troubleshooter, enlisted as Task Force Leader

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

On The Road – And In The Lab – Again

Usually when I start formulating ideas for my next thriller, the course I need to chart to conduct research is pretty clear. Minutes to Burn—go to Galápagos. Do No Harm—shadow doctors in emergency rooms. The Program—sneak undercover into mind-control cults. But for Troubleshooter, I had an odd mix of sub-topics to delve into.

First and foremost were the outlaw biker gangs. I figured there was no way I could write about bikers without learning to ride a Harley. One of my buddies has his motorcycle license, so I convinced him to rent a Fat Boy and teach me. Off we went to some back roads of the Valley, me taking mental notes before giving it a spin solo (what the hell—the deposit was on his credit card). Then we hit a few biker hang outs and I started to get a feel for the slang and the swagger. The Rockstore, at which a key scene in the book is set, is where we stopped for beer and burgers.

It took some doing, but I tracked down an FBI Special Agent in charge of the Violent Gangs Task Force in San Francisco, who gave me some time and started bringing me up to speed on the inner culture of the gangs. But I realized I’d need even more. I wanted to talk to someone who not just tracked and busted gangs, but who understood them from the inside out. Through one of my Navy SEALs buddies (a consultant for Minutes to Burn), I got ahold of a former undercover agent who’d ridden with biker gangs for seven years. We arranged a meeting, and I flew cross-country to meet him in Miami. He’d grown up in the gangs, and riding in such dangerous company for so many years meant he’d really become part of the culture. He didn’t despise bikers at all—they were a part of his life, even though his inside intel had helped dismantle some of the gangs’ criminal activities. We spent two days and nights talking and drinking, and he really helped me hammer out some of the details, the drug distribution scenarios in particular.

The drug smuggling device I came up with on my own, and that took me into a world of research about body packing. My desk drawers are stuffed with articles from medical journals about gastrointestinal products and procedures (I’m being purposefully vague here so as not to give away a key element of the plot). My father and sister are both gastroenterologists, and their input on the specifics proved invaluable.

I also had to do a crash course on corpses and cadaver preparation. I’d conducted an interview for Do No Harm with a lab tech, during which he’d literally carved up a cadaver to send the parts to various anatomy labs, so I was already familiar with some of the basics (duck when the Sawzall revs up, wear goggles and waterproof boots). But I had to round out my knowledge of the particulars even further, so I got ahold of a few mortician textbooks from tiny educational presses and gave those a read. I spent part of a Hawaiian vacation perusing them, and they drew some odd glances around the pool. It seems I get more used to such looks with every new book….

Friday, August 05, 2005

Requiring No Attribution

"To play Daisy Duke, I mean, that's like an iconish ... is that a word ... iconic figure," she said.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Winning Minds and Minds

Never have I written a novel with the grander social good in mind. I like to think I'm not that arrogant, and I have little interest in writing propaganda (Capitalism is Good! by Ayn Rand). As the good man Seinfeld says, "Not that there's anything wrong with that;" I just don't view it as my job. I've always wanted to put myself in the service of the story that I'm telling - first and foremost - and having an agenda underlying the narrative seems a cheat. I can't know all the "morals" of the story I'm writing in advance and shape the plot to those ends. That said, one of the aspects of writing crime fiction that I love is that I get to punish people - or types of people - who piss me off. Having discussed mind-control cults with a buddy who lost his sister into one, I set out to research them (dark, twisted, psychological - what's not to love?). And I found the research endlessly fascinating. I created my own cult in THE PROGRAM, complete with narcissistic leader, and had a lot of fun doing it.

When the book came out, it drew some interesting remarks from reviewers. More than a few mentioned it should be required reading for anyone before going to college, because it peels back the veneer and shows the strategies which mind-control cults use to recruit. A cult's inner workings, finally on display. Others recommended the book for friends, relatives, people traveling - the list went on and on. I even got invited to UCLA's social psych department to lecture on mind-control techniques.

Though I didn't write The Program as some act of public good, it's certainly been gratifying to see that it has helped some people in ways that are - dare I say? - concrete.

I received the following email the other day (details have been exed out to conceal the identity of the sender - and the email will self-destruct in 30 seconds):
Hi Gregg,
At xxx I sat at your table and asked a lot of questions last year. I loved The Program. In fact that book helped a good friend of ours here in xxx. Turns out their son and wife are involved with some religious cult and they can't seem to get them to realize that all this group wants is money. I loaned them your book to read on how it is done. Now they have a better insight. Can hardly wait for the new book. Are you riding in biker groups to get a feel for your writing?

Maybe TROUBLESHOOTER will be used to help people getting sucked into biker gangs....