1. How did you come up with the title?
The title, The 13th Target, came very early, even before I had a main character and a plot direction. I knew I wanted to write a story with the Federal Reserve as the backdrop. Since the heart of the Federal Reserve consists of the twelve regional banks, my "what if" premise was what if the ultimate target of a terrorist plot was something else? I didn't know what the thirteenth target was. I had to discover it along with my main characters.
2. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I try to be careful with any messages in my novels. I don't want to turn the stories into sermons. But this country has been and still is in the midst of terrible economic turmoil, and I think our monetary policy and institutions deserve careful scrutiny. I hope readers will be curious to learn more on their own, particularly that the Federal Reserve isn't really a federal agency. There are good points that lift it above politics, and bad points because it is basically supervised by bankers and leaders of financial institutions. I was struck by the Academy Award Winning documentary Inside Job that demonstrated how greed coupled with"self-regulation" basically went undisclosed and unaccountable to the American public.
3. How much of the book is realistic?
I tried to make the Washington, D.C. backdrop as realistic as possible. I lived in D.C. and worked in television during the Watergate scandal, so I witnessed how conspiracies create a frenzy. That culminated for me when I directed TV news coverage from the front of the White House the night Nixon resigned. In the book, the ability to uncover the conspirators depends upon secrecy and trust, extremely rare commodities in Washington.
I made several trips to D.C., interviewed a former secret service agent and had discussions with an executive in the Public Information Office of the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors. Could something I create in the novel happen in the real world? I'll leave that for the readers to decide.
4. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?
I'm satisfied with the story, however, I wish I'd been able to simplify some of the factual information about banking and the Federal Reserve. The fact that it's complicated is why it's difficult to understand. Frankly, I can make more sense out of Einstein's Theory of Relativity than derivatives, hedge funds, and printing currency on demand.
5. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The hardest part of writing this book was keeping up with changing current events. The danger with a topical book is the fluctuation of the events that propel the real world experiences. During the course of writing the book, news reports revealed stimulus money from the Fed going to foreign-based institutions, mammoth amounts of money beyond the TARP fund being lent by the Reserve during the meltdown, the rise of Occupy Wall Street, and the multiple crises sweeping the European Union.
I'm grateful that I had a short time between completing the book and publication (approximately six months) so that I could incorporate these changes so that the story is a valid reflection of its time.
6. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
In addition to learning about the Federal Reserve, I learned some surprising things about the groups that oppose it. Some of them are way out there, blaming the powers behind its establishment of everything from the assassination of President Lincoln (nearly fifty years before its founding) to the assassination of President Kennedy (nearly fifty years after its founding). What does that portend for an event nearly one hundred years after its founding?
Anyway, I thought such extreme conspiracy views were the makings of a good thriller, and, to my knowledge, no one had yet mined that storyline.
7. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
My interest in writing originated with my interest in stories. From my first "recorded book" that was a 45rpm record of The Little Engine That Could with appropriate beeps for when to turn the page, through The Hardy Boys, Sherlock Holmes, to contemporary writers, I've always loved a great story. My career in film and television has been about stories, primarily documentaries. I guess my interest in writing fiction grew out of wanting to balance my collaborative film and TV work with the more solitary pursuit of creating worlds on the printed page - and now electronic book page.
8. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Wow, that's a tough question. It's usually the author of the last book I read that I enjoyed. In the thriller/mystery realm, I like Michael Connelly. His work always seems well researched, and I like how he's let Harry Bosch develop and then introduced Lincoln lawyer Mickey Haller into that same world. One of my favorite series features Andy Carpenter of Paterson, New Jersey. Written by David Rosenfelt, the stories are infused with the dry sense of humor of the chicken-hearted, yet decent lawyer Carpenter. His musings can be laugh-out-loud funny. And then I can't neglect the classic works of Hammett, Chandler, and Ross McDonald. They still influence writers today. One writer who was ahead of her time was Patricia Highsmith. I hope her work enjoys a resurgence as Strangers on a Train and the Ripley novels really explored the psychological complexities of villains and heroes alike.
9. Tell us your latest news.
I'm excited about the release of The 13th Target and the favorable reader response. My two series are set in the mountains of western North Carolina so both the location and the thriller genre are new for me. I have a book, Double Cross of Time, scheduled for release in late fall that's set in the year 2030. This thriller from the near future finds a thirty-five-year-old scientist confronted by an elderly man claiming to be himself. He's come back to destroy his work and the particle accelerator that made it possible. I was interested in exploring two conflicting quotations: "To thine own self be true" and "He's his own worst enemy." I know this is out of "character" with earlier adult novels, but I enjoy letting a story idea take me in new directions.
Currently, I'm working on a new Sam Blackman book for July of 2013. I return to the mountains and a little known place called The Kingdom of the Happy Land. It was a commune founded by ex-slaves in the decades after the Civil War, and it was ruled by a king and queen. So, King George wasn't the last monarch to have a kingdom in America. Tying that to present day Asheville will be the challenge.
10. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
What can I say to my readers? Simply thank you for being readers. I'm only part of the equation and the story isn't complete until they bring their own interpretation and creation to it. I appreciate my readers trying new things with me, as series change and develop, and as stories cross genres and time periods. As I continue to travel down fictional highways, I hope to keep up with my regular cast, Barry Clayton and his funeral home, and Sam Blackman and his Asheville adventures, while remaining open to new possibilities. A big thank you to those readers who join me on the journey.
About the Book
A tense, timely and provocative thriller set during an age of Wall Street corruption, financial meltdowns, and the downgrading of the U.S. credit rating, The 13th Target takes aim at the secretive Federal Reserve. Long the target of conspiracy theorists, the Federal Reserve controls the nation’s money supply. But who controls the Federal Reserve? And what if those in the shadowy corridors of power would target anything—or anyone—who threatened their interests?
After his wife dies of cancer, Rusty Mullins quits the Secret Service to repurpose his life. When he joins a Washington, D.C. private protection company, Mullins is assigned to guard Paul Luguire, a Federal Reserve executive and its chief liaison with the U.S. Treasury.
Mullins and Luguire form a strong friendship. So when a police detective calls in the middle of the night with word of Luguire’s suicide, Mullins doesn’t buy it. His doubts are only reinforced by Amanda Church, a former Secret Service colleague now in the Federal Reserve’s cyber-security unit. Amanda has uncovered a suspicious financial transaction initiated by Luguire only days before his death.
Even stranger, Amanda finds that the transaction has been erased from Federal Reserve records and the money was wired from an offshore account in Rusty Mullins’ name. Someone is setting Rusty up. And when the president of the receiving bank is murdered, Mullins rockets to the top of the suspect list.
Dogged by a tenacious reporter developing leads, Mullins follows a conspiratorial trail of killing and kidnapping that leads from a shadowy mastermind to the possible destruction of America's financial system.
Twelve targets are known. But the clock is ticking. . . and only Rusty Mullins holds the key to what—or who—is the thirteenth target.
A pulse-racing political thriller that sizzles from first page to last, The 13th Target will leave readers wondering where fact ends and fiction begins.
Publication date: July 3, 2012
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Formats & Prices: Hardcover, ISBN: 978-1-59058-615-0, $24.95, 306 pages
Trade Paper, ISBN: 978-1-59058-617-4, 306 pages, $14.95
Large Print Trade Paper, ISBN: 978-1-59058-616-7, $22.95, 430 pages
About the Author
Mark was born in Hendersonville, NC, near Asheville. He went straight from the hospital to the funeral home where his father was the funeral director and the family lived upstairs. The unusual setting sparked his popular Barry Clayton series and launched his mystery writing career.
Mark is the author of eleven mystery novels: five set in the fictional NC mountain town of Gainesboro, three set in Asheville, one in Washington D.C., and two mysteries written for Young Adults and set in the Charlotte region.
His novels have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Booklist. The CHICAGO TRIBUNE wrote,“As important and as impressive as the author’s narrative skills are the subtle ways he captures the geography – both physical and human – of a unique part of the American South.”
Mark is a veteran of the broadcast and film production business. In Washington D.C., he directed numerous news and public affairs programs and received an EMMY Award for his documentary film work. Through his company, MARK et al., he writes and produces videos for corporate and broadcast clients.
His years in Washington inspired his latest thriller, THE 13TH TARGET, involving a terrorist plot against The Federal Reserve.
Mark and his wife Linda have two daughters: the older, Melissa Thomson, is an elementary school teacher in Northern Virginia and the author of the Keena Ford Journals, a children’s series published by Penguin Press. His younger daughter, Lindsay, works as an Account Executive with Stratacomm, a strategic communications firm in Washington D.C.
Mark lives in Charlotte, but he and his wife Linda can be often found in the NC mountains or the nation’s capital.
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