DEBORAH CROMBIE: A big welcome here at Jungle Red to Jon Land! For our THRILLER FORTNIGHT, we've had two authors with male protagonists this week. Now Jon is going to give us a different twist. I love the premise of this book, and I love that Jon's heroine, Caitlin Strong, is a Texas Ranger. Here's a little set-up for Jon's new Caitlin Strong novel, STRONG VENGEANCE:
1818: In the Gulf waters off the Texas coast, the pirate Jean Lafitte and his partner Jim Bowie launch an attack on the Mother Mary, a slave ship carrying an invaluable treasure.
The Present: Fifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong finds herself investigating the murder of an oil rig crew that had found the long-lost wreckage of the Mother Mary. But the crew also uncovered something else beneath the surface of the sea—something connected to a devastating attack about to be launched on the United States by a mad American-born cleric who has recruited an army of homegrown terrorists.
With the stakes higher and evil darker than any she has encountered before, Caitlin races to find the connection between the treasure pilfered centuries before and the deadly secret hidden on the bottom of the ocean today. This as she struggles to raise the teenage sons of her imprisoned lover Cort Wesley Masters who secures his release just in time to join the fight by her side.
But shadows and subterfuge abound, starting with Teofilo Braga, a waste management baron hiding secrets born of his own past that are somehow linked to the threats America is facing. Caitlin’s desperate path plunges her deep into that past and an unsolved mass murder committed near the island refuge of Lafitte himself.
Caitlin’s only chance to defeat the terrorists lies in first solving that 30-year-old mystery. In the end, only the strongest of vengeance can win the day, Caitlin and Cort Wesley standing with guns ready to save the country from the greatest threat it has ever faced.
Now, Jon tells us why he chose a female protagonist for his thrillers.
CAITLIN STRONG: ACTION HERO!
Female action hero. For many thriller fans, that’s an oxymoron. And you can’t really blame them. A woman capable of mixing it up with the likes of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher? Come on, no way, right?
Wrong. Caitlin Strong, who returns this month in Strong Vengeance, is a Texas Ranger capable of mixing it up with just about everyone. Her past three adventures have pitted her against a villainous Haliburton-like company responsible for torturing her husband (Strong Enough to Die), a renegade Mexican colonel about to launch a guerilla war against the U.S. (Strong Justice), and a radical right-wing militia intent on starting a second civil war (Strong at the Break). Now in Strong Vengeance she’s up against homegrown Islamic terrorists planning to wipe out the United States as we know it. Those plotlines may seem more fit for Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone, James Rollins’ Sigma Force, Brad Thor’s Scott Harvath, or Vince Flynn’s wonderful Mitch Rapp. Only difference is they’re men . . . and not Texas Rangers either.
See, it comes down to credibility. Building a believable female action hero starts with a foundation the audience will buy into and the Texas Rangers form the perfect basis for that. These lawmen (and now lawwomen!) have been legends for nearly two centuries now, coming to exemplify the lone hero so vital to the development of American fiction in general. The Rangers’ exploits have reached a mythic, virtually iconic level and they remain to this day symbols of standing up for what’s right no matter the odds. Which describes Caitlin dead solid perfect.
Of course, some will say that casting female Caitlin in the all-male Texas Rangers strains credibility in its own right. So I made her not just a Ranger, but a fifth generation Ranger with her forbears all being veritable legends in this exclusive community. That helps lead to her being accepted but, ultimately, she has no problem proving herself against bad guys every bit the equal of those run down by Caitlin’s father Jim and her grandfather Earl Strong. That’s why I decided to frame all the Strong books by featuring them in subplots set in the past that inevitably turn out to be connected to what and who Caitlin’s pursuing in the present. In Strong Vengeance, for example, Caitlin has to solve the thirty-year-old mass murder of five college students, a case her legendary father and grandfather never solved, in order to stop those homegrown terrorists from wreaking havoc on the nation. And there must be something about her as a female action hero that’s resonating, because here’s some breaking news: Sony has just optioned the first book in the series (Strong Enough to Die) in order to build a television series around Caitlin! Hey, we’ve still got a long way to go but at least she—and I—have a shot (no pun intended!).
Stephen King once said “it’s not the tale, it’s the telling.” Well, for me it’s not the gender, it’s the person. And Caitlin Strong can stand toe-to-toe with any of her contemporaries, even though that doesn’t necessarily mean eye-to-eye.
So what do you think, readers? Can a male author effectively write a female hero? Do you think terrorism is overdone as a theme or does the "homegrown" angle here make it different enough to be of interest? And I'd like to know what you think makes a great thriller and would love to hear some of your favorites and why.
Jon Land is the bestselling author of thirty thrillers, most recently the Caitlin Strong series that includes Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, and Strong at the Break. The next entry, Strong Vengeance, will be available just in time for ThrillerFest. He’s also bringing back his longtime action hero Blaine McCracken in Pandora’s Temple for Open Road Media in November and this past year published his first ever nonfiction book, Betrayal. Betrayal is currently being developed as a television series by Fox for Denis Leery and Jon just inked a deal with Sony to bring Caitlin Strong to the small screen as well. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island and can be found on the Web at jonlandbooks.com.
DEBS: Jon will be stopping in to respond to your questions and comments, AND he's very kindly offered to give three copies of STRONG VENGEANCE to lucky readers who comment, so get your names in the hat!