Monday, July 16, 2012

Wordcraft -- What would you do to save your child?

Ex-CIA agent Sam Capra, protagonist of Texas writer Jeff Abbott’s new thriller, The Last Minute, thought his life couldn’t get any worse. His ex-wife Lucy, also a CIA agent, lay in a coma following a failed mass assassination attempt she engineered. The Company imprisoned and tortured Sam, believing him responsible for the attack. And while all that was going on, Lucy gave birth to the Capras’ son Daniel, now kidnapped.

But boyish-looking Abbott, a father himself, knows even more ways to torment a parent, and applies them with fiendish glee. In The Last Minute, Sam learns his infant son is in the hands of the mysterious international crime syndicate Novem Soles, which threatens to torture the child unless Sam complies with its demands.

What, Abbott asked the audience at his book signing at the Lincoln Park Barnes and Noble in Dallas last Wednesday, would his protagonist Sam Capra do to save his infant son -- the child he’s never even seen?

Would he kill to save his son? Abandon the computer genius Novem Soles assigned to help him -- a single mother also with a kidnapped child -- to die? Kill an innocent person in cold blood? Even kill the only person who can free his family from further threats by the syndicate? The stakes get higher with each turn of the page.

Best not read late at night. But if you dare, check your children’s bedrooms. Then check again.

Abbott apologized for arriving a few minutes late for his scheduled appearance, and for tearing himself away from “a bunch of people I went to high school with,” left drinking margaritas at a neighboring restaurant. Of course, they followed him, a contingent of his classmates from Duncanville High School turned out to welcome the local boy who made good with bestselling books honored with a host of writing awards, nominations, and film options.

The latest book, he said, is “a very direct sequel” from the previous Capra book, Adrenaline. So direct that he’s released an e-book short story, “Sam Capra’s Last Chance,” to fill in the few desperate days between the two novels.

What about the movies, audience members asked. (He has three books -- Adrenaline, Panic and Collision -- optioned for movies.)

Mentioning that the thriller Panic opened with a young Houston, Texas, film maker receiving a call from his mother, he said the first script he saw “opened in Siberia with a Russian warlord cavorting with his mistress under fur blankets.” Fortunately, the Siberian setting dropped out of later versions.

By this time, the Duncanville High classmates had arrived. Was there a particular teacher who inspired him to write, one asked.

“The first teacher who inspired me was my grandmother, who read to me. She taught school in a little East Texas town where not everybody had their own book. . . (In Duncanville) Mrs. Dover in math often took my math away because I was writing in class. But she always gave it back and said I should keep on doing it, because obviously the math wasn’t working.”

And what advice does he have for young writers? “Read as much as you can and read a variety of books. Write everyday, even if you just write a page.” Just hope your algebra teacher returns it.

For more about Abbott, his books and tour schedule, see


Abbott is a bestseller in several countries. For the rest of us trying to expand our markets, British blogger Deborah Walker recommends Douglas Smith’s foreign market list, at You’ve probably seen her often on Duotrope Digest’s list of writers with current acceptances. Check her blog, for ongoing information on markets.

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