People often ask me which one of my books I like best.
I tell them my books are like my children. It's impossible to pick a favorite. And while I love each one deeply, they can be exhausting, exasperating, and extremely difficult to bring into the world (though I'll stop there—male authors should tread carefully when using childbirth metaphors).
Also like children, each book takes on its own unique personality. And one of the joys and mysteries of what I do is watching a work progress from a barely formed kernel of an idea into a completed manuscript, then—with input from beta readers and sagacious editors alike—into a fully realized novel.
So with this newsletter, while the interns are off creating their usual havoc (don't worry, they'll be back soon), I'd like to introduce you to my newest baby, The Last Act, which celebrates its birthday today.
More than any book I've written, The Last Act surprised me. It tells the story of Tommy Jump, an out-of-work actor who is approached by the FBI to play the role of a lifetime: He has to go to prison, pretend to be an inmate, and befriend another inmate, a disgraced banker who knows the location of documents that can be used to bring down a nefarious Mexican drug cartel.
When I started writing it, I thought I knew, roughly, what was going to happen. And it turned out I was wrong. About nearly everything. If you get to the end of this one and feel like you didn't see it coming, you're not alone. Neither did I.
Still, there are other parts of this novel that will feel more familiar. Starting with the characters, who I probably love a little too much (as usual).
Tommy will likely remind you of Carter Ross, the star of my first six novels. Like Carter, Tommy is from New Jersey—he grew up in Hackensack—and emerged from that experience with a well-honed sense of humor. He makes his share of mistakes, of course. But throughout this saga, he's guided by a firm sense of decency and humanity.
Tommy's fiancée, Amanda Porter, is another great character, a struggling artist who has clawed and scrapped her way from a small town in Mississippi to the brink of stardom. Like Tommy (and even like the author), she's found something she loves, and is now giving everything she has to hang onto it. Their striving will be recognizable to anyone who has ever had a dream.
Then there's Tommy's mother, a former comedienne named Barb Jump, who has some of my favorite lines of the whole book; or Mitchell Dupree, who Tommy goes to prison to befriend, who doesn't let incarceration disrupt his devotion to his family; or Herrera, the cartel foot soldier, who I ended up enjoying a little too much. (I can't help it: I love my bad guys, too.)
All of this is wrapped in a twisty package that has received a lovely reception from critics thus far. But, as always, I'm more interested in what you think, gentle reader. So when you're done, please do send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know. As many of you are aware, I read—and respond to—all of my messages.
If you're looking for a signed, personalized copy of this novel, I've once again teamed with one of my favorite indies, Fountain Bookstore. Just click on the link to the left and, when given the chance, tell them you'd like it signed by the author (and please leave detailed instructions about what you'd like—just signed, signed and dated, signed to a specific person or with a specific message, etc.... I'll pretty much write anything that doesn't overtly flaunt libel laws).
Finally, I'll be hitting the road for the next few weeks to promote the book. It will be my pleasure to renew our acquaintance; or even to make it for the first time.
Now I'll end where I probably should have begun: Thanks from the deepest place in my heart for reading. I love what I do and couldn't do it without you. Your support means everything to me.