Cluster of Lies (Coming September 2016): The hero in 2015’s Blind Thrust is back to solve the mysteries at Dakota Ranch. Why were four boys diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer at the same time? Was business owner Gus McTavish murdered? Are the two events related? Joe Higheagle is determined to uncover the truth.
SAMUEL MARQUIS is the bestselling, award-winning author of The Slush Pile Brigade, Blind Thrust, The Coalition, Bodyguard of Deception, and Cluster of Lies. He works by day as vice-president and hydrogeologist at an environmental consulting firm in Boulder, Colo., and by night as writer of historical and modern suspense novels. He holds an M.S. degree in geology, is a registered professional geologist in eleven states, and is a recognized expert in groundwater contamination and hydrologeology, having served as an expert witness in several class action cases. He also has a deep and abiding interest in military history and intelligence, specifically related to the Golden Age of Piracy, Plains Indian Wars, World War II, and the current War on Terror.
His technical scientific background and passion for military history and intelligence have served Marquis well as a suspense writer. His first two thrillers, The Slush Pile Brigade and Blind Thrust, were both #1 Denver Post bestsellers for fiction, and his first three novels received national book award recognition. The Slush Pile Brigade was an award-winning finalist in the mystery category of the Beverly Hills Book Awards. Blind Thrust was winner of the Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year Awards and Next Generation Indie Book Awards, and an award-winning finalist of the USA Best Book Awards and Beverly Hills Book Awards in the thriller/suspense category. His third novel, The Coalition, was the winner of the Beverly Hills Book Awards for a political thriller. The first book in his WWII Trilogy, Bodyguard of Deception, was an Amazon Top 15 Bestseller for Historical Thrillers.
Former Colorado Governor Roy Romer said, “Blind Thrust kept me up until 1 a.m. two nights in a row. I could not put it down. An intriguing mystery that intertwined geology, fracking, and places in Colorado that I know well. Great fun.” James Patterson compared The Coalition to The Day After Tomorrow, the classic thriller by Allan Folsom; and Donald Maas, author of Writing 21st Century Fiction and two novels, compared The Coalition to the classic political assassination thriller The Day of the Jackal. Other book reviewers have compared Book #1 of Marquis’s World War Two Trilogy, Bodyguard of Deception, to the spy novels of John le Carré, Daniel Silva, Ken Follett, and Alan Furst.
1. Tell us a little about how you prepared to write your new work. Is there a lot of mental prep involved or more research and note taking?
My Joe Higheagle Environmental Sleuth Series (Blind Thrust: A Mass Murder Mystery and Cluster of Lies, Book 2 of the series, just released) is based on my nearly thirty years as a professional hydrogeologist involved in environmental health risk assessments, groundwater flow and transport modeling investigations, and serving as a groundwater expert witness in class action litigation cases. Joe Higheagle, the hero of the series, is a Denver-based, Northern Cheyenne geologist who solves environmental crimes. Because he does what I do for a living, I did not have to perform a ton of research on either Blind Thrust or Cluster of Lies. For both books, I just had to take a typical, large-scale environmental contamination project and make it ten times more toxic and dangerous and the corporate polluters far more cunning, lethal, and corrupt than such individuals would be in the real-world. That’s writing thriller fiction: taking reality and ramping up the scare factor ten-fold.
2. How does this book compare to your previous works?
I have eclectic reading and writing tastes so I actually have three independent book series that are quite different from one another despite all being in the thriller/suspense genre. The first series is the Joe Higheagle Environmental Sleuth Series that includes Blind Thrust and Cluster of Lies, described above. The second is my Nick Lassiter International Espionage Series (The Slush Pile Brigade, and The Fourth Pularchek coming in 2017), featuring Nick Lassiter, a young American who as the series progresses transforms from a Mr. Everyman struggling-writer to a bestselling author and reluctant CIA intelligence asset. My third series of books are my standalone modern and historical suspense novels with new characters introduced in each novel. Within this group, I published the political thriller The Coalition in early 2016 and I have an ongoing World War II Trilogy featuring different settings and characters, but all dealing with espionage during WWII. The books in my WWII Trilogy include Bodyguard of Deception and Altar of Resistance (coming in January 2017). All of my books are in the suspense genre, but like Dennis Lehane, Ken Follett, and Stephen Hunter, I like to have the creative freedom to explore different time periods and not be restricted to a single series or protagonist. Plus I just love history so all of my books fit best into the Thriller/Suspense – Historical subgenre because the common thread that runs through all of my books, whether they are modern or historical, is they are rich in history.
In both Blind Thrust and Cluster of Lies, my Cheyenne geologist Joe Higheagle solves environmental crimes working with his curmudgeonly grandfather, Chief John Higheagle, a former tribal lawyer and Contrary (a Cheyenne holy man who does things in opposites). The two are like the Odd Couple except the main source of conflict between them is Old vs. Young, Traditional vs. New. And yet they both embrace Cheyenne culture and their Indian heritage plays out in everything they do in the books as they attempt to bring corporate villains to justice. The series evolves by Higheagle and his grandfather solving one major environmental crime after another, and the young, single Higheagle garnering a new love interest in each new book, a la James Bond.
The first book in the series, Blind Thrust, is specifically based on my experiences in California and Texas as a Registered Professional Geologist in assessing earthquake hazards and fault classifications on behalf of real-estate developers in environmental site assessments. The original inspiration for Cluster of Lies, Book 2 of the series, was drawn from my professional experience working on the Rosamond cancer cluster case in Southern California. In Cluster of Lies, Higheagle and his grandfather the chief solve the mystery of a childhood cancer cluster at Dakota Ranch outside Denver, Colorado, where four boys have been diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer. Think Erin Brockovich, A Civil Action, and Michael Clayton. In writing the novel, I drew heavily from my actual professional experience working on the aforementioned cancer cluster case in the Southern California desert. Visiting the town of Rosamond, reviewing the documents on file in the local library, and interviewing the residents who had experienced the cancer cluster firsthand had a profound impact on me and served as both the inspiration and framework for the novel.
3. In what ways have you seen yourself grow as an author throughout your writing career?
I went from being perhaps one of the world’s worst thriller writers to a modest-bestselling, award-winning author. But it took several years and at least three suspense novels to become respectable as a writer. This was accomplished by writing and re-writing incessantly, over and over and over again, and working with two literary agents and solid editors that offered valuable advice. Having honed my craft to a respectable level, my thrillers have been #1 Denver Post bestsellers, have received multiple national book awards (Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year, USA Best Book Awards, Beverly Hills Book Awards, and Next Generation Indie Book Awards), and have garnered glowing reviews from #1 bestseller James Patterson, Kirkus, and Foreword Reviews (5 Stars). But it took a lot of hard work to get even this modest amount of literary recognition, and I have a long way to go before winning or being selected as a finalist for the bigger national book awards.
4. If you had to pick one of your books as your favorite, which would it be? What do you think are your best works?
My favorite (and best) book is Altar of Resistance, Book 2 of my WWII Trilogy, coming in January 2017 that covers the Italian campaign and papacy of Pope Pius XII during the German Occupation of Rome and Holocaust in 1943-1944. My two best books not counting Altar of Resistance would have to be my political thriller The Coalition (which has been compared to the works of Frederick Forsyth, James Patterson, Baldacci, and Vince Flynn), and the recently released Cluster of Lies. The Coalition will be available for FREE as a Bookbub Featured Deal from September 29 through October 3, 2016.
5. Is there anything you'd like your readers to know or be thinking about as they begin to read your new book?
I think readers of both literary and commercial fiction will like Cluster of Lies because of its authenticity and because Higheagle and his irascible grandfather-fellow sleuth, Chief John Higheagle, are memorable and believable characters. For an unbiased book review of Cluster of Lies as well as Blind Thrust (Book 1 of the Higheagle series), readers should check out my Foreword Reviews for the two books (https://www.forewordreviews.com/books/contributors/samuel-marquis/). I think readers should also know that although Blind Thrust was the winner of the Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year (HM) and the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and an award-winning finalist of the USA Best Book Awards and Beverly Hills Book Awards (thriller and suspense), Cluster of Lies is an even better novel because the characters are richer and more complex.
Readers also might be interested to know what sparked my interest in Cheyenne history and made me want to have a Northern Cheyenne protagonist in my books. The answer is I was inspired by the history of my great-great relative, Thomas B. Marquis. Dr. Marquis (1869–1935) was a physician, author, photographer, and important chronicler of the 19th Century American West. He practiced medicine in Montana, was with the U. S. Medical Corps during World War I, and served as government physician on the Tongue River-Northern Cheyenne Indian reservation after the war. Because of his interest in Plains Indians, he eventually gave up his medical practice and devoted full time to learning Indian sign language, gathering historical data from the Northern Cheyenne, and writing about their culture and the Plains Indian wars. During the course of his medical career among the Northern Cheyenne, he interviewed many old warriors who had participated in the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn. The Indians trusted him, allowed him to photograph them, and told him things via sign language that they would reveal to no one else. His books include Wooden Leg: A Warrior Who Fought Custer (1931), Two Days After the Custer Battle (1935), Custer, Cavalry and Crows (1975), Keep the Last Bullet for Yourself: the True Story of Custer’s Last Stand (1976), and many other works. It is because of Thomas B. Marquis that my protagonist, Joe Higheagle, and his curmudgeonly grandfather, John Higheagle, were created and why I weave the Cheyenne, Custer, and the Little Big Horn into my books. The Northern Cheyenne loved Thomas B. Marquis like a brother and he loved them back. Like him, I greatly admire the Cheyenne Indians, the finest horse people of the Great Plains along with the Comanche.