Can we talk?
When you wrote Orphan X, you created in Mr. Evan Smoak, a character that we had to root for. Sure, he’s a killer, but, we like the guy. He’s smart. He’s ruthless. And even when bad things happen, like a Navy Seal, he never quits, never gives in, and eventually triumphs. No matter how clever the villain, no matter how hard the government tries, Evan comes through.
And Gregg, may I tell you that we really like the realism woven in to your books. Using Kimber pistols, spoofing wi-fi, and a dozen other touches that ensure your readers you would not lead them astray. People shot with a .45 stay down. Ballistics are properly conveyed. Tactical shooting is conveyed realistically. Small arms are properly described. Your timing and sequences have the feel of something you personally spec’d out with keen observing eyes. There’s no false reality here. We love that!
Evan uses his wits and his brains to stay ahead of the bad guys, and even though riddled through with guilt, he brings a measure of humanity to what he does. When he wins, we win. It feels…personal. Thank you for that.
So, when Nowhere Man became available on Audible, I bought a pre-publication copy and counted the hours until it was time to listen.
And it was worth the wait. But, if I had only known where this bus was going….
As an aspiring author I have taken numerous classes and seminars on how to write thrillers. I’ve yet to write one, so that makes me something of an expert on what NOT to do, but you’ll agree that the advice I’ve received is accurate. We know the secret is to have a great character, believable problems, and thrilling but believable resolutions. That means the bad guy has to be very bad, and usually, that he has to be a step ahead of the good guy. The Evan Smoak collection: check, check, and check.
I won’t spoil Nowhere Man for people who have not read it, but I have to tell you Gregg, when I said before that it was personal, going through this book (and it is an experience to weather) was like watching a home invader rummage through your drawer of treasured possessions and then being made to watch as that villian smashes them one by one. I mean, really, Evan Smoak was treated like one of those canvas dog toys that the guy at Petco said “even a Rottweiler can’t tear this up.” Evan can’t be beaten, just like that dog toy can’t be chewed to pieces. Except, my tiny American Eskimo patiently ripped it to shreds over the course of two weeks. Yeah, I felt like Evan was that dog toy.
When Evan failed, and he failed a lot in this book, I would shut it off and go do something else for a while, because I could not bear to hear the retribution that would be visited upon him, or the innocents, and when I listened again my stomach again churned in knots. Ugh. Can you not just let the guy win?
I think my final breaking point was after the escape where he almost made it. I turned the book off and I didn’t listen for weeks. And then, when I would get a few minutes into it, again I would have to turn it off. Finally, I started skipping chapters (chapters I have now been able to enjoy) until I could again bear to listen. Once the bad guy got what he wanted, I could breathe easier because I could see the dark outlines of a plan (although even there you threw us a curve ball, didn’t you?). And the unreliable narrator trick was very well done.
They say that all’s well that ends well. But seriously, I’m 62 years old this year. I think you turned my hair whiter, and I may have an ulcer now. You just can’t do this to your readers, brother. You create a character we love, then you take him below Dante’s 9th level of Hell and make us watch? What are you, a sadist?
Now, I think you can count on me to read Hellbent, the next Orphan X book, but if it goes anything like this one, where the pain is ratcheted up mercilessly, honest to God, Gregg, I may have to stop listening.
A man can only take so much!
Now, all of the above must sound like a criticism to you; it is not. It is the best tribute I can write. Where events in a book are so real, so shot through with trial and travail that you begin to be angry that your hero is suffering “too much” it means that you are now in a league at the top of the mountain: the “rarefied air” of writers like Koontz, Baldacci, Connelly, and Crichton. In this book, you eclipsed them all. And having read every one of Koontz’s books, I can honestly say that is tough to do.
Thank you for writing such an excellent book.
The Second Amendment Lawyer