Wednesday, December 9, 2015

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: John Pearce, Author

John Pearce, Author
John Pearce’s recently-released LAST STOP: PARIS is an international suspense thriller and a sequel to his previous thriller, TREASURE OF SAINT-LAZARE. Set in Paris, LAST STOP: PARIS intends to pull the reader into the city as the protagonist works to identify the black-market seller of anti-aircraft missiles.

A former journalist for the International Herald Tribune, Pearce knows Europe well and particularly Paris, where he lives off and on when not in Sarasota, FL. In addition to writing and traveling, Pearce writes a blog He is currently working on a third novel that will combine the characters from the first two novels.  

Q: Reviewers describe your newest release, LAST STOP: PARIS, as an international mystery, full of suspense and adventure. What are the elements that make it a mystery? Or would you describe it as more of an adventure than a mystery? A thriller? What makes it so?

John Pearce: I was amused that Kirkus, in its rather fulsome review, had trouble characterizing it. The first book was clearly a historical mystery (and in fact won a national “best-of” award for the category). In LAST STOP: PARIS, the mystery is the identity of the ultimate bad guy, who was responsible for the misery in Eddie Grant’s life but always seems just out of reach. The thriller part is very topical – the black-market sale of deadly anti-aircraft missiles known as manpads, which Eddie and his sidekicks must thwart to prevent the physical and financial carnage that would result if two loaded airliners were shot down at De Gaulle Airport.

Q: Why did you decide to write a sequel to TREASURE OF SAINT-LAZARE: A NOVEL OF PARIS? Did you leave some loose ends in TREASURE?

John Pearce: I intended to write one book, but after no more than two or three chapters I realized the story was bigger than that. It would have been a very large single volume.

Q: How helpful is Paris as a setting to create suspense, intrigue, and/or romance? Would these two stories be different if set in New York, London, or San Francisco?

John Pearce: I write about Paris because that’s the big city I know best, it’s where I live for part of each year, and I am a true fan. While I could set similar a story in another big city, it wouldn’t have the flavor of Paris. Eddie is a dual national, at home in both the French and American worlds. He distinguished himself as a military officer in Operation Desert Storm, and proudly wears the ribbons of both his Bronze Star and his Legion d’Honneur. His father, and all the Grant men before them, were also military officers, and his father was an American military spy behind German lines in France and elsewhere in the world (that’s another book).

Q:  How did you create your protagonist, Eddie? Is he based on someone you knew? Would you describe him as a “hero?”

John Pearce: Like all my characters, Eddie is an amalgam of people I know and people who live only in my imagination. I’d be very surprised if there is a person alive who would see himself clearly in Eddie.

Eddie would not consider himself a hero, but his friends would. His goal is to be an ordinary man living an ordinary life, but outside forces make that impossible and he always rises to the occasion, with a little help from his friends.

Q: Is the concept of “hero vs villain” relevant to LAST STOP: PARIS? Do you define your villains clearly, or are they a mixture of good guy/bad guy?

John Pearce: The concept is very relevant. The villains are the type of people I consider most villainous – people willing to injure, even kill, simply for financial gain. The true villains in both my stories are genuinely evil, but be careful jumping to quick conclusions about any of them. There’s at least one major surprise on the horizon.

Q: How helpful was your career as a journalist to develop the plots and characters for your novels? Were you able to transfer the skills required for writing non-fiction articles on economics etc. to writing fiction?

John Pearce: Journalism taught me to gather information and organize it so it can be used to construct a story. Learning to write in the long form was a challenge, so much so that I shelved the novel for a year and dug deeply into the art and craft of writing novels. When I came back to it, the writing went much more smoothly.

Q: How do you create suspense? Again, what enabled you to write a thriller after a career as a journalist?

John Pearce: Suspense comes from putting people into difficult situations and watching how they dig out. Sometimes I have the resolution in mind before I begin to write, but it’s amazing how many scenes develop themselves organically only after I start to put words on paper.

Good journalists, good novelists and good short-story writers have one trait in common: they are good story-tellers. They can communicate the facts of an event or a situation in a way that readers can understand. The journalist of the type I was (just the facts, ma’am) has less freedom of writing style, while the truly literary novelist is free to create elegant phrases that flow smoothly across the page. As a novelist, I’m somewhere in between, I think.

Q: Did you write your PARIS novels strictly to entertain or do you sneak in a few key messages?

John Pearce: Entertainment is my main goal, but I also want my readers to feel like they’re physically present in my scenes. One of the most charming reviews I received for TREASURE said something like, “I’ve never been to Paris until now.” That reviewer understood what I was trying to do.

I didn’t set out to make any political or social points, but several reviewers thought I had. Of course, it’s the rare writer who can create a story free of his own experiences and viewpoints. But my stories aren’t tracts of any sort.

Q: What’s next?

John Pearce: I’m about 40% finished with a third novel, which will reunite the characters I assembled in the first two books, plus or minus. As I envision it now, it will have more of an espionage flavor to it.

After that, I want to write the story of Eddie’s father, Artie, a Harvard-trained lawyer who FDR lured out of the business world in the 30s to become a military spy (at a time when it wasn’t done for someone of his class to join the military). If it works the way my preliminary outline says it should, it will be a sweeping yarn.

Q: Tell us about John Pearce. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

John Pearce: I read quite a bit. You can’t write novels unless you read them. I like music – my wife Jan and I live in Sarasota, an arts city on the West Coast of Florida, and we have a pretty full schedule of concerts through the winter this year. We travel, to Paris and elsewhere. This year we’ve been to Chattanooga and Knoxville for the Civil War history, plus New York and Washington. The opening chapter of the next book takes place in Miami, so we’ve gone there a couple of times, including a great long weekend at the Miami Book Fair.

And I look for interesting things to do. In Paris this year, for example, we were “discovered” by the casting director for a film the Paris Opera Ballet was producing and wound up playing the part of rather stereotypical American tourists, with speaking roles, no less. I wrote about the experience and linked to the film a few weeks ago on my blog,

For someone who’s a fan of music and the arts, the best part of it was the opportunity to spend an entire day on the stage, in the rehearsal halls, and in the seats of the Opera Bastille, one of the great houses of the world.


About John Pearce

John Pearce is a part-time Parisian but lives quite happily most of the year in Sarasota, FL. He worked as a journalist in Washington and Europe, where he covered economics for the International Herald Tribune and edited a business magazine. After a business career in Sarasota, he spends his days working on his future books - The new one, LAST STOP: PARIS, is a 2015 project. It is a sequel to TREASURE OF SAINT-LAZARE.

For several months each year, he and his wife Jan live in Paris, walk its streets, and chase down interesting settings for future books and his blog, They lived earlier in Frankfurt, Germany, which gave him valuable insights for several of the scenes in Last Stop: Paris.

Summary of LAST STOP: PARIS (from Kirkus)

When readers last saw Eddie Grant in Treasure of Saint-Lazare (2012), he was hot on the trail of Nazi war loot in the company of his on-again, off-again lover, Jen. As readers return to Eddie’s shadowy world of undercover deals and thugs in the employ of crime bosses, they find a quieter, more mature Eddie, now married to Aurélie, a scholar of some note, and living in pleasant domestic bliss. Onto this romantic scene come several of Eddie’s friends, who alert him to suspicious activity within his social circle, involving a man with criminal intentions and an interest in gold. Shortly afterward, a mysterious murder implicates another character from Eddie’s past. As he looks into the matter, Aurélie soon finds herself in danger; at the same time, Jen reappears in Eddie’s life, and he’s simultaneously drawn to her and eager to avoid falling into bed with her again. Soon, he and his comrades must track down another ring of criminals and protect themselves from fatal retribution. Although sequels often suffer by having less energy than first installments, Pearce’s second foray into Eddie’s world has no such trouble. The pacing races from chapter to chapter as characters become more fully fleshed-out—particularly those in Eddie’s ring of friends. Jen provides a nice foil as an engaging modern woman who can take care of herself. Pearce again accomplishes every thriller writer’s aim: creating characters that the readers can root for and a believable, fast-paced storyline. The climax and denouement bring the storylines together neatly, but fans will see that there may yet be room for another book in the series. 
An exhilarating journey that will satisfy the most avid thriller reader.
-Kirkus Reviews
Extract from LAST STOP: PARIS (Ch. 8)

        Aurélie ran for the métro, certain she could lose Max in the maze of tunnels that connected three subway lines.
       “Help me!” she called out, as loudly as she could. “He’s trying to kill me!” Heads turned, first toward her and then toward Max, who hesitated for only an instant.
        Two steps at a time, she ran down the stairs to the platform, only to see the red lights of a departing train recede down the tracks ahead. The sign above the platform told her the next wouldn’t arrive for two minutes. She calculated quickly that she could run the length of the platform to the complicated system of transfer tunnels that make up the station, but after twenty yards the heel of her left shoe broke. In the few seconds it took to remove both of them,         Max caught her arm in a viselike grip.
        “End of the line, lady,” he gasped. He was panting hard from the run.
        As people arrived for the next train they started to gather around the curious sight. Most backed away when they saw the knife in Max’s hand — except for one shabbily dressed young man who had been asleep behind the row of chairs lining the station wall.
        Aurélie was strong and in better condition than Max was, from lifting weights and the long runs she and Eddie made frequently along the Seine, but she knew she could not beat him in a knife fight, so she played for time. She grabbed Max’s wrist with both hands and pushed the knife away while the young man moved in with his backpack. She flexed her toes and gripped the rubber buttons of the warning strip, pushing hard to keep Max off balance until she felt the cold wind that every arriving train pushes ahead of it, then heard the sound of brakes as the train entered the station. The sound rose an octave as the driver saw the fight and began a full panic stop.
        A second before the train passed, she planted her foot behind Max’s ankle and pushed him with the last of her strength. He dropped the knife so he could hold her with both hands, but it was too late — by then she had tipped him beyond the point of no return. She released her death grip on his right wrist and he tumbled headlong in front of the hundred-ton train. His anguished scream died abruptly as the first car rolled over him.
        The young man grabbed Aurélie tightly around the waist to pull her out of the way, but even with his help they bounced a dozen feet along the side of the slowing train.
        She turned to look at him. “You are a brave man. Thank you.”
        “I am a soldier, or at least I was. Where did you learn to fight like that?”
        She picked one of the blue plastic chairs lining the station wall and sat down. “It’s the second time I’ve been threatened by a man with a knife,” she said. “After the first I swore I’d never be the victim again, so I made my fiancé teach me. He was also a soldier.”
        “It worked. What did you say to that man just as you pushed him in front of the train?”
        “I told him to tell his friends in hell that I sent him.”

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