Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Passing the (Literary) Baton

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: It’s a touchy decision, isn’t it? When a beloved author dies, should their stories and style go with them?

Nicholas Meyer and Anthony Horowitz and others have done Arthur Conan Doyle proud, and Sophie Hannah is brilliant as the new Agatha Christie. Robert B Parker––reincarnated by several others ––still keeps his millions of fans, too.  Ludlum. Clancy. And in this very space, we were talking about what would happen to Sue Grafton’s books ––since her family has sold the movie rights, can a new book be far behind? (Does anyone want to write Z is for… but that’s a question for another day.)

But today, we celebrate.

A dear friend and his writing partner--two amazing and talented best-selling authors--are carrying on the tradition of another beloved author who is no longer with us on earth. And the way Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson are approaching this delicate and daunting task is incredibly respectful, and incredibly exciting.

– Estate Writing for W.E.B Griffin

by Andrews & Wilson

In track & field, the relay race is one of the most thrilling events to watch because the race is not won or lost based on the talent of a single runner. With each leg of the race, the baton is passed to a new runner whose job is to meet or exceed the pace set by his or her predecessor. As co-authors, we are no strangers to the concept of teamwork and sharing the load, but when Tom Colgan at Penguin-Random House approached us about taking over the Presidential Agent series for the W.E.B. Griffin estate, he definitely brought new meaning to the expression “passing the baton.”

For those of you who aren’t familiar, W.E.B. Griffin (aka William Edmund Butterworth III) is the iconic author of 59 detective and military thriller novels, within seven series, written over the span of six decades. He passed away in February 2019 at the age of eighty-nine with over 160 publishing credits to his name including non-fiction works. One of Griffin’s most celebrated and well-known characters is Charley Castillo, the hero of the New York Times Best-Selling Presidential Agent series.

Our first reaction to Tom’s offer was an enthusiastic “hell yeah,” but that excitement quickly turned to dread as the reality of what we had agreed to began to sink in.

We started saying things to each other like: “Dude, I think we might have bitten off more than we can chew. How can we write a book that measures up to such a legendary name? How do we honor the characters and universe Griffin created without being able to talk to him about it? And…what happens if we mess it up?” Suddenly, the weight of that baton in our hands felt very, very heavy.

That’s when Tom stepped in with coaching advice that became our lodestar. “Guys, I’m not asking you to write WEB Griffin,” he said, with a knowing smile, “No one can write Griffin except Griffin himself. What I want you to do is write the best Andrews and Wilson novel possible and write it in a way that honors the characters and universe Griffin created. Do you think you can do that?”

With those sage words, Tom empowered us to run our own race, instead of stumbling down the track looking over our shoulders. In talking with other estate authors—Marc Cameron, Mark Greaney, Don Bentley, and Josh Hood—we found this to be a common theme. Writing in the shadow of the masters (e.g., Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, and W.E.B Griffin) is a daunting proposition. 

The key to success as an estate author is not to emulate the greats who came before you, but to tell your story with the same passion and enthusiasm they did. The readers will never accept a second-rate copy, nor should they be asked to. What the readers really want to experience is the next leg of the journey. The writer might have changed, but the race is still on and so long as it’s just as thrilling the readers will be satisfied.

Interestingly, we took this idea of “passing the baton” to the page as well. With ROGUE ASSET, our tasking was not to reboot the series, or reboot Charley Castillo for that matter. He’s the same Charley, he’s just in a different place in his life.

Time has passed. People in power have changed. The geopolitical landscape has evolved. When the novel opens, Charley is retired out of the spy game and living on his ranch. Then, the Secretary of State is kidnapped and the government calls him out of retirement. However, the ask isn’t exactly what he imagined it would be.

The Presidential Agent program is back, but leadership surprises Charley by tasking him with finding and training his successor. That successor turns out to be Marine Raider P.K. McCoy (grandson of another beloved Griffin character) which allowed us to pay homage to the iconic Corps Series as well. Ironically, as the story unfolded, we discovered that Charley still had plenty of gas left in the tank, which led us to an unexpected pivot. Instead of Charley fully passing that baton, in ROGUE ASSET a brand-new partnership is forged.

As stewards of the Presidential Agent series, we have gained such incredible respect for our fellow genre authors who write for the Clancy and Ludlum estates. It’s both an incredible thrill and responsibility to write larger than life legacy heroes—like Charley Castillo—known by millions of fans. Our only regret is that W.E.B. Griffin himself is not here to share our excitement about this book, but we believe in our hearts he would be proud.

HANK: Awww… And I should tell you ROGUE ASSET is published by GP Putnam & Sons and launches December 7th. And you can hear more from Brian Andrews (with Vera Kurian, Scott Shepherd and Kimberly Belle!) in The Back Room on Sunday, Dec 5. (As you know it’s free, but space is limited. Just like in the submarines where Brian served as an officer. Ask him—he has some amazing stories. Ever think about what it might like to cook on a vehicle that’s always tilted?)

Anyway. Did you ever read W.E.B. Griffin?

And don’t you love the amazing Tom Colgan’s advice—to honor the author’s characters and universe? And isn't it clever that A&W “passed the baton” in their book, too?

And one more thing: Andrews & Wilson write action-adventure and covert operations novels honoring the heroic men and women who serve in the military and intelligence communities. And check out their bios—they know whereof they speak. And we salute them!

What questions do you have about their writing—or their military experiences? 

Andrews & Wilson is the bestselling writing team of Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson, the authors behind the Tier One, Sons of Valor, Shepherds series and Rogue Asset, the ninth book in the W.E.B. Griffin Presidential Agent series.

Brian is a former submarine officer, entrepreneur, and Park Leadership Fellow with degrees from Vanderbilt and Cornell. He is also a principal contributor at, a site dedicated to helping aspiring authors.

Jeff worked as an actor, firefighter, paramedic, jet pilot, and diving instructor, as well as a vascular and trauma surgeon. During his fourteen years of service, Jeff made multiple deployments as a combat surgeon with an East Coast–based SEAL team.

To learn more about their books, sign up for their newsletter online at Follow them on Twitter: @BAndrewsJWilson and Instagram/Facebook: @AndrewsandWilson.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Celebration Complications!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Remember the famous Julia Child moment? She’s carrying a huge roast turkey on a massive tray, bringing it to her glam guests in her elaborately decorated dining room, and she drops it. Drops it! She pauses--and then laughs and says: oh, let me just take this into the kitchen and I’ll bring out the OTHER turkey!  


We all know what happened in the kitchen.

(As my mom used to say, "Parsley covers a multitude of sins.")


Then there was the time I had special guests for Thanksgiving, and everything, all my gorgeous side dishes, came out at exactly the same time, amazing, except the turkey was not done. And then, STILL was not  done. And then STILL not done.


I was baffled..why didn’t the little thing pop and HOW could it be taking this long? My guests were fine and drinking champagne and luckily there were hors d'oeuvres, but it was SUCH a mystery. 


Yeah, I had left the neck and giblets inside. Don’t EVER tell. 


The hilarious Jennifer Chow has some stories of her own. 




by Jennifer J. Chow


Romance isn’t always roses and candlelight dinners. Sometimes our relationships take a knocking. In my newest novel, Mimi Lee Cracks the Code, my main character goes on a trip to Catalina Island with her boyfriend Josh. Crime soon puts a damper on their romantic getaway. What was supposed to be a celebration---well, that’s another story.

I think well-laid plans can often go awry. Right? In my own life, I’ve had several romance-and-celebration-gone-wrong experiences and used those for inspiration in my book. For example…

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad

Even as a child, my parents (and I didn’t realize that this wasn’t a universal thing until I was much older) would make their anniversary a family celebration. We kids were expected to congratulate them and wish them the happiest of anniversaries on their special day. When I secured my first full-time job as a young professional, I figured I’d splurge and give them a fancy hotel stay (in an honest-to-goodness mansion, no less). I whipped out my credit card and made the arrangements. Little did I know that I’d only reserved their spot but hadn’t actually paid for their room—which I found out when my dad called me upon checking out. Whoops. We did eventually sort out the financial tangle, but I’m sure that it put a damper on their stay.

For Better or Worse

After I got married, my husband and I decided to go to Hawaii for our honeymoon. The “in sickness or health” part of our vows hit us early on. We’d booked an extravagant helicopter tour of the island, but… When I got there, I realized, as the lightest member of the group, I’d have to sit right next to the pilot and stare out that huge expanse of glass at the ground below. The swerving flight paired with my slight fear of heights did a number on my stomach. After we landed, my poor new hubby held my hair and rubbed my back while I <ahem> tossed my cookies.

¡Bienvenidos a España!

Post-kids, my amazing parents actually offered to babysit so my husband and I could take a romantic trip. We’d always wanted to travel to Spain, so we did. I’d put a lot of eateries to try in our itinerary, but one day, I decided to be spontaneous. We entered a gorgeous restaurant, where the waiter promised to bring us the chef’s specialties. Using my rusty high school Spanish, I asked about the menu and the pricing, but he assured me not to worry. Admittedly, the food was delicious. But the waiter kept on bringing out more and more dishes. I belatedly realized that I’d gotten the Spanish equivalent of omakase, where I had to actually ask them to stop serving in order to finish our meal. Suffice it to say, that was one lavish lunch.

Do you have stories of celebration plans gone sideways? Holiday plans interrupted?

HANK: Oh, great question! How about you, Reds and Readers?





Jennifer J. Chow is the Lefty Award-nominated author of the Sassy Cat Mysteries and the forthcoming L.A. Night Market Mysteries (Berkley/Penguin Random House). The first in the Sassy Cat series, Mimi Lee Gets A Clue, was selected as an Overdrive Recommended Read, a PopSugar Best Summer Beach Read, and one of BuzzFeed’s Top 5 Books by AAPI authors. Her upcoming Mimi Lee Cracks the Code was listed in BookRiot's Best Upcoming Cozy Mysteries for the Second Half of 2021. She is the current Vice President of Sisters in Crime and is active in Crime Writers of Color and Mystery Writers of America. Connect with her online at .





Monday, November 29, 2021


HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I was going to write about leftovers. About how powerful and clever I feel when I make something wonderful out of leftovers. Take leftover vegetables or chicken or both and make a delicious pasta. Or stir fry. Or casserole. Leftover turkey, of course is legendary, with soup and tetrazzini, and, I was thinking this year, turkey tacos. Wouldn’t that be good?

(And our turkey turned out just fine, after I realized the gorgeous new pan I bought two years ago did not fit into our oven. Ahhhhh. Luckily I had other pans. I tried to post a photo but this perverse and persnickety blog thing will not let me do it.)

ANYWAY. But then I honestly started thinking about eggs. Someone the other day was talking about deviled eggs, was it  here on Jungle Red? And I started thinking how good they were. Then I thought: wow. An egg can be hard boiled and it does one thing, the yolk and white are separate and solid. Soft boiled, it behaves completely differently; the white gelatinous, the yellow almost liquid. Scrambled eggs, stirring the two parts together,  altogether different. You can make meringue out of egg whites. And hollandaise out of egg yolks.  And if you use a wash of beaten eggs to coat chicken, it does not taste like chicken coated in scrambled eggs.   Isn’t that amazing? What do you think about eggs?

And I am also writing a blurb for someone’s book, several in fact, and I wondered – – do readers actually care about blurbs? Reds and Readers, do you buy a book based on what another author says about it? I was laughing at someone on social media who said hey, no one is going to put a bad blurb on the cover so— take that for what it is worth.  

Leftovers, eggs, blurbs. It’s a potpourri kind of day here on Jungle Red. Who wants to weigh in?

RHYS BOWEN: What I was thinking about is what ever made Americans think it was a good idea to fly home hundreds of miles essentially for one meal? It’s just not practical to spend so much money and time to eat turkey. Do I sound like Scrooge? Actually I love Thanksgiving with family but it’s not a holiday that makes sense.

Except…. And here comes the segue—leftovers. We love turkey curry and turkey soup.

And blurbs? I have become the blurb queen for historical mystery. I am happy to do it because people were generous to me but it means I never read a book I choose. I have three lined up right now. I am scrupulous about reading the whole book and always try to say something positive but I’m not going to gush over a book I thought was just okay.

HALLIE EPHRON: Eggs truly are a little miracle. They’re the main ingredient in the vanilla custard pie we have only on Thanksgiving. They’re what make popovers puff up the next morning.

And this year kudos to Amtrak who got me to NYC Tuesday on time in a *reserved seat!* train positively packed with college students. I’m so happy not to have to drive, because as crazy as plane travel would be on this weekend, the great Thanksgiving migration turns a 5-hour drive to THE CITY into an 8-hour endurance run… add another hour if you’re headed down to Brooklyn.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: And eggs help save lives! Yes, it’s true - flu vaccines are grown in chicken eggs, and scientists are exploring using them to grow human cytokine proteins, which boost our immune responses. Thanks, chickens!

Hallie, I am a big train fan, and was excited so much money was (finally) going to Amtrak. Maybe I’ll be able to travel by train to San Diego for Bouchercon 2024. It’s such a civilized way to travel, and I feel train riders are a little more chill than folks squeezing onto planes. Or, considering some of the deranged behavior on flights making the news, a LOT more chill. And with more space and fresh air being let in at every stop, it also feels safer, Covid-wise.

Which makes me think of a happy discovery I made. A neighbor had an extra ticket to a matinee at the Portland Symphony Orchestra, and I went along (Elgar’s cello and Dvořák’s 8th.) The Merrill Auditorium had ushers stationed at every door, and everyone crossing the threshold had to show proof of vaccination. These weren’t the retired folks volunteering for free symphonies; these guys looked like very well-dressed, polite bouncers. Of course, everyone was masked, and despite the fact everyone is pretty much cheek by jowl (you know those early 20th century theaters) it was delightfully worry-free.

: Speaking of food (segue from leftovers LOL), I love how many cookbooks and websites and newsletters are dedicated to helping us find just the right thing to eat for any occasion. One of my new gurus is Jennifer Segal with her website and wonderful cookbook called Once Upon a Chef. I made the most amazing pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust, caramel drizzle, and whipped cream for Thanksgiving. Though quite a project, it was universally adored!

Rhys I agree that traveling across the country for a meal seems a little silly. Since we’ve started spending 6 months in Key West, which is challenging and expensive to get to, we mostly have Thanksgiving with neighbors and friends. I miss the family, but know I will see them in a couple of weeks.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Eggs really are nature’s miracle, aren’t they? And a cook’s dream, but do you ever wonder what prehistoric person cooked the first egg? I’m sure our forebears ate them raw whenever they could scavenge them. But that first cooked egg… Did one get left too near the campfire? Or accidentally broken on a hot stone? However it happened, from that first scrambled or fried or hard-boiled, probably tiny, egg, the sky was the eggy limit.

And for a little more happy potpourri, this year’s cast of the New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker grew taller! Twelve has always been the cutoff for the children’s parts, but this year the entire cast had to be vaccinated which meant that only kids OVER twelve could participate. All the costumes have had to be remade, a huge and expensive undertaking. But for the kids who thought they would never get to dance the Nutcracker again, a little Christmas miracle, indeed.

HANK: Yes, I saw that, Debs! SO interesting! And they were worrying about The Mouse King being too tall.

And maybe it was a HUGE egg, like a pterodactyl egg. Omelettes for everyone!

Jenn is traveling, and I hope she will show us her photos soon!

And I tried to post a photo of Lucy's gorgeous cheesecake, but see persnickety blog reference above.  But you can see it HERE on Facebook! 

As I said...Leftovers, eggs, blurbs. It’s a potpourri kind of day here on Jungle Red. Who wants to weigh in?