Please welcome Mark Gimenez and an inside look at his new thriller, The Abduction!
Review and synopsis of THE ABDUCTION
While at first glance John and Elizabeth Brice and their two children, 10 year old Gracie and five year old Sam, might seem to have the idyllic life living in a posh gated community full of mansions only 40 miles from Dallas, things are not so rosy inside. Not even the fact that they're about to become billionaires when John's high-tech company goes public can change the truth of the seemingly loveless marriage between these two wounded souls whose hurtful pasts have defined them and left them indelibly scarred.
But not even their damaging pasts could have prepared them for the suffering brought on when their young daughter is kidnapped one night after a soccer game, her abduction taking place a mere glance or two away from where her father is busy on the phone putting the final touches on the big deal.
And when some of her clothing is found in the nearby woods, the FBI experts bleakly face the most likely possibility that this is just one more abduction for sex that has ended in death. An outcome that Gracie's grandfather, ex-Vietnam Green Beret Ben Brice, refuses to accept. And so begins the hunt for Gracie, a hunt that will lead to government cover-ups, long held secrets, and maybe, just maybe, a shot at redemption and a second chance for them all to live a life liberated from the shames of the past.
After the stunning success of a first novel, there's always the question if the author can do it again with the second and, fortunately, in this case, Gimenez not only surpasses his own preliminary standards of excellence, but those of the entire genre. Not only does he offer up an adventurous plot that races forward at a breakneck speed filled with a cast of multi-faceted and poignantly drawn characters, but he also puts forth some concepts and questions that provoke and compel the reader's consideration long after the last page is turned.
But perhaps most notable of all might just be this book's ability to elicit just about every emotional response possible from the reader. Whether it's laughter or tears, dread or anticipation, be prepared to feel something while reading this glorious adventure that only seems to gain momentum with every page.
Ultimately, a forceful, exhilarating, and effervescent read of faith and redemption, loyalty and love, truth and purpose, and one that unreservedly qualifies as one of the best to come along this year.
1. After the stunning success of your break-out legal thriller, Color of Law, how were you feeling when you set out to write your new novel, Abduction?
Pretty darn good. But actually, I was setting out to rewrite Abduction. I had already written the first draft, but I wasn't entirely happy with it; then my son came home from school with To Kill a Mockingbird in hand. Our discussions at the dinner table inspired Color of Law, so I set the Abduction manuscript aside and wrote Color. I had two fantastic editors on that book and learned a lot from their editing, so when I again picked up the Abduction manuscript, I was able to write the story I wanted to write.
2. While some of the major themes of your two novels - family, loyalty, justice, and redemption - remain central to both story lines, why the digression from the legal field in your second outing?
Because I don't want to write only legal thrillers. I want to write mystery/suspense/thrillers involving characters I and hopefully my readers will care about; some of those characters will be lawyers, some will not. That said, the main character of my third book is a judge in a small Texas town.
3. Tell us honestly, did you have a great deal of fun getting out of the courtroom for a bit while creating this new hair-raising adventure?
Yes. A writer gets to live someone else's life for a while, so it's great fun to live a completely different life -- and in my case, a much more interesting life. And I enjoy learning about other people's lives, whether a Green Beret sniper or a small-town judge. So I research extensively and interview many people. Everyone has a story to tell; the writer only has to listen.
4. You include some very interesting background on the Vietnam War in your latest, with a compellingly provocative look at both sides. How difficult, emotionally and otherwise, was it to research this subject for you and for those you might have spoken with who have a personal knowledge of the event?
It's a very difficult subject; and forty years later, it's still very emotional for the soldiers who fought that war. I had met several Vietnam veterans who had been profoundly affected by the war, so I began reading about Vietnam. After learning about the soldiers who had fought the war and come home to nothing, many of whom had never found their "peace with honor," I knew I wanted to write such a soldier's story. My main fear was that I wouldn't get it right, but I've had Vietnam veterans (and their wives) email me and tell me at book events that I got it exactly right.
5. Some of the questions brought to mind when reading of the Vietnam War still seem timely and relevant when applied to the United State's current involvement in the Middle East; how strongly a part did that play, if at all, when writing this book?
As I said, I wrote the first draft of Abduction before Color of Law and thus before the war in Iraq, so there was no intent to show any parallels. But there are many. Maybe war is the same wherever and whenever it's fought; it still comes down to human beings killing human beings, which cannot be an easy thing to do or live with. And "The War" on PBS showed how our view of war has changed so dramatically from World War Two to Vietnam and now to Iraq, for example, with respect to civilian casualties. We now expect too much from our soldiers.
6. One aspect that readers will especially enjoy in Abduction is your wonderfully depicted characters, including my personal favorite, Gracie. Which of your many brilliant characters provided you with the most pleasure when creating?
Probably Ben Brice. Trying to understand and write his pain and overwhelming sense of failure, but to show his inherent self discipline and honor, was a real challenge. But so was writing through the point of view of a high-tech genius or a ten-year-old girl or a tormented female lawyer. But that's the fun of writing.
7. In fact, in both of your novels, you've created some very delightfully precocious children, their antics and thoughts capable of making the reader laugh out loud; does this reflect a younger Mark Gimenez at all?
I don't think I was that precocious. But children today have so much more information available to them -- some good, a lot not so good -- that they are much more knowledgeable and worldly. And kids are smart; they get it, more than we want them to get. I've experienced that with my children. So my young characters reflect my children and their friends. In fact, my younger son was the model for Gracie; he's nine, blond, a soccer nut, and a real pistol. But over eighty percent of all children abducted by strangers are girls, so the child in the story had to be a girl.
8. And, speaking of which, what did you dream of being while growing up?
Another Joe Namath. (Lack of ability put an end to that dream.)
9. Another important aspect of your book is the idea that everything and everyone has a purpose - nothing is random; do you think that science and faith can ever come to some kind of agreement on this, or will it continue to seem that by choosing one, you have to deny the other? (Although, admittedly your characters did a pretty good job of combining the two.)
I think it's more difficult now to find common ground on faith and science because those are political issues today, for example, stem cell research. Special-interest groups stake out their win-lose positions, and politicians have to choose sides to win votes. Which isn't very promising for faith, science, or politics.
10. One question readers will no doubt be asking is when is the movie coming out; any plans for that?
My movie agent is circulating Abduction in Hollywood, but no deal yet.
11. And finally, what's next?
I've just finished my third novel, The Perk, a legal thriller/family drama about a high-profile Chicago trial lawyer who loses his wife to breast cancer and is left alone to raise their two young children. But he's been a lawyer, not a father, so their lives soon fall apart. To save his children, he abandons his big-city practice, returns to his small hometown in the Texas Hill Country, reunites with his estranged father, and ends up the local judge. He thinks it will be a simpler life. It's not.
Mark Gimenez grew up in Galveston County, Texas, graduated from Southwest Texas State University and Notre Dame Law School, and was a partner in a large Dallas law firm. After ten years, he left to practice solo and write. The Color of Law was his first novel. It was nominated for two Best First Novel awards, included on Amazon's Top 10 Mystery & Thrillers List for 2005, the only first novel on the list, and selected for Alan Cheuse's (NPR/All Things Considered) 2005 Holiday Booklist. The Abduction is his second book. He lives outside Fort Worth with his wife and two sons.