Q&A with Barry Lancet, Author of The Spy Across the Table

Read this exclusive Q&A with author Barry Lancet, and then make sure you're signed in and comment for a chance to win a copy of his latest Jim Brodie thriller!

Anthony Franze, Photo Credit: Kristina Sherk

I first met Barry Lancet in 2012 through the International Thriller Writers organization’s Debut Authors Program. It was an unlikely friendship, if only because Barry lives in Tokyo and I’m in Washington, D.C. But I liked his dry sense of humor and his Larry David-esque worldview. And then I read an advanced copy of his debut novel, Japantown, and was blown away by his talent. I wasn’t surprised that it later won numerous awards and citations and that the Jim Brodie series was optioned for television by J. J. Abrams. 

Learn how you can win a signed copy of Anthony Franze's latest legal thriller, The Outsider, from Goodreads!

Now, five years and collectively seven books between us, we’ve shared many laughs and misadventures. And even though he’s a notorious welcher on bets (he owes me hundreds of beers), and despite once making me brave D.C. traffic to drive him to the airport—not to catch a plane but for research for his book—he’s one of my closest friends. So it was with great pleasure that when I read his latest Brodie book, The Spy Across the Table, I loved it. Like Barry, Jim Brodie has gotten better with each book, and this one amps up the tension and political intrigue. 

When Criminal Element asked me to interview Barry, they had no idea we were close friends. And I suspect they didn’t know that would make for an unconventional Q&A:  

Let’s start with your background. You’re an American expat living in Japan. Why do you hate living with us Americans so much that you’ve spent the past 25 years in Japan?  

I knew having you interview me was going to be a mistake. There’s no hate involved. It’s more of a case of being young and restless and curious. From the age of twelve, I felt an urge to travel. I was looking for something extra. When I was in my early twenties, I got Hemingway- and Lost Generation-fever, and it occurred to me I could maybe update the idea in a modest and anonymous way. I laid out my own journey to Paris, adding London to the plan, then took the long way around and found Japan. I returned five years later, and I’ve been here ever since. 

So how’d you support yourself in Japan? Male escort?

You know I was a book editor for a major Japanese publisher, Anthony. In the international arm. While editing other people’s books, I was writing my own. 

All right, let’s get serious. Elevator pitch us: give one sentence why readers should buy The Spy Across the Table

Jim Brodie introduces his two friends backstage at the Kennedy Theater, and their subsequent murders lead him inexplicably into the world of espionage, dragging him through Japan, China, the DMZ, and North Korea in the attempt to find the killer and prevent America’s enemies from seizing a cache of America’s darkest secrets. 

Will that do? I could add that Spy has more twists and turns than a sidewinder on steroids, but that would be a second sentence, so I won’t. 

“Sidewinder on Steroids,” that would’ve been a good title for the book. Though Spy Across the Table is great too. The title was inspired by a real encounter you had, right?

Yes, in Tokyo. Spies don’t announce their occupation, but we exchanged business cards. His listed an embassy posting as attaché, which dinged my radar. “Attaché” is one of the titles embassies habitually use to mask their clandestine operators.

I joined him at his table, at the insistence of some friends. The drinks and food began to flow. Conversation wove in and around various topics, but over the course of about ninety minutes, it suddenly dawned on me that he’d learned everything about me and I knew very little about him. And then came the subtle inquiries that seemed to signal he was hoping to recruit me because, in the course of my work, I often dealt with Japanese VIPs. By the time I pried myself loose, I was seriously thinking about changing the locks at home.

Here’s a lazy stock question: Who are some of your favorite writers?  

I love Martin Cruz Smith’s Russian detective Arkady Renko. Smith has created a great character, and I consider Gorky Park a contemporary classic. Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon has grown on me tremendously, and although I’m at least two books behind, I’d rank The Rembrandt Affair among his best, if not the best.

I’m envious of Walter Mosley’s fluidity and depth and output. I’ve long been a fan of Don Winslow, but I think he’s reaching new heights with The Cartel and The Force. Then there’s Lee Child. Each of his Reacher books is inventive and different. He takes risks.

I’m impressed with the breadth of subjects John Sandford manages to cover in his two series. His over-the-top Silken Prey had me laughing out loud with some of his lines, even as he ratcheted up the tension. That’s some feat—cranking up the drama and making the reader laugh at the same time. In a different way altogether, Nelson DeMille uses humor well, especially in his John Corey stories.

I’m hurt. 

Oh, and you’re a favorite, of course. I thought that went without saying. 

Last, tell readers where they can catch up with you in the U.S.

I always spend some time Stateside when a new book comes out. For Spy, I’ll be touring various bookshops (schedule here). And I’ll be appearing at conferences: the ThrillerFest in New York City and Bouchercon, this year in Toronto. For aspiring writers, I’ll be giving a class at CraftFest on July 12, co-teaching with a guy who, as is obvious from this interview, likes to give me grief.   

I look forward to seeing you in New York. Bring money for those beers. 

What beers? I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Spy Across the Table by Barry Lancet!

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TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your user name appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your user name appears in black above your comment, You’re In!

The Spy Across the Table Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2017/06/qaa-with-barry-lancet-author-of-the-spy-across-the-table beginning at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) June 21, 2017. Sweepstakes ends 12:59 p.m. ET June 30, 2017. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


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Barry Lancet is a Barry Award­-winning author and finalist for the Shamus Award. He has lived in Japan for more than twenty-five years. His former position as an editor at one of the nation’s largest publishers gave him access to the inner circles in traditional and business fields most outsiders are never granted, and an insider’s view that informs his writing.

He is the author of the Jim Brodie series: The Spy Across the TablePacific BurnTokyo Kill; and Japantown, which received four citations for Best First Novel and has been optioned by J.J. Abrams’s Bad Robot Productions, in association with Warner Brothers. Visit Lancet at BarryLancet.com or on Twitter @BarryLancet.

Anthony Franze is a lawyer in the Appellate & Supreme Court practice of a prominent Washington, D.C., law firm and a critically acclaimed thriller writer whose novels are set in the Supreme Court, including The Advocate's Daughter, and next month’s highly anticipated The Outsider, a book James Patterson called “as authentic and suspenseful as any John Grisham novel.”


  1. L Peters

    Thank you for the interview. Barry Lancet is a new to me and I’m really looking forward to following up and reading some of his books. LP

  2. John Smith

    “Barry Lancet” definitely sounds like an author name!

  3. Jane Schwarz

    Loved the interview. Your friendship for each other shows throughout. The premise of ‘The Spy Across the Table’ is what a good thriler is all about. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy.

  4. Thomas Walker

    sounds really interesting. sign me up

  5. Thomas Walker

    sounds really interesting. sign me up

  6. Todd Henson

    My first introduction to Barry Lancet was Pacific Burn, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Perfect mix of different cultures along with great characters and a story that keeps you reading. Thanks for the giveaway.

  7. Sally Schmidt

    How do I miss so many great sounding books? Two new authors for my TBR and some catching up to do. Thanks for the giveaway.

  8. AmeK

    My memory gets kinda fuzzy sometimes, but I don’t think I’ve read Barry Lancet before. This is a great interview, though, and I’ll be looking him up in my library!

  9. AmeK

    My memory gets kinda fuzzy sometimes, but I don’t think I’ve read Barry Lancet before. This is a great interview, though, and I’ll be looking him up in my library!

  10. Carol Kubala

    International intrique! Espionage! Love the cover. I’m in.

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  12. Vernon Luckert

    Love to read a good thriller.

  13. Terry Pearson

    I love it when people mention Gorky Park; what a book!

    Very interested in this book.

  14. pat murphy

    It’s no mystery , I am going to win !

  15. Barbara Lima

    Love spy novels!

  16. Jeffrey Tretin

    Fascinating. One of my favorite authors

  17. pearl berger

    Love this interview and I too enjoy all of Daniel Silva’s novels. Thanks.

  18. Pearl Berger

    Entertaining and great interview. Fabulous book.

  19. Clydia DeFreese

    It’s been a while since I won a book on your site. I always enjoy your choice of authors. I’ve learned about lots of new guys from you. Thanks.

  20. Jackie Wisherd

    I love reading thrillers. I know I would enjoy this book.

  21. ellie lewis

    Informative interview. This novel would be enjoyed.

  22. Barbara

    I have not read anything by this author, but I am intrigued by the synopsis of the book. I love thrillers and this one seems very timely!

  23. Karl Stenger

    I would love to read the book.

  24. Lori P

    Asian espionage has certainly been in the news of late. Definitely piques my interest!

  25. Rena

    Sounds interesting. Would love to win this book.

  26. bill norris

    i love a great spy mystery

  27. Marybeth Mank

    Spy and espionage mysteries have always intrigued me, especially when there is the tiniest grain of truth involved.

  28. Janice

    Interesting to say the least.

  29. teresa sopher

    Daniel Silva is one of my favs too.

  30. Linda A

    Would you know who’s the spy?

  31. Susan B

    Looking forward to reading this!

  32. Kim Salmi

    sounds exciting !!

  33. Kim Salmi

    sounds exciting !!

  34. Michael Carter

    Good interview.
    Yes, please enter me in this sweepstakes.
    Thanks —

  35. Darlene Slocum

    I’m always interested in a spy story.

  36. susan beamon

    Liked the interview. As long as there are no coincidences in the plot line, the book sounds readable.

  37. Esther Whatley

    Love espionage thrillers. Would love to win.

  38. Esther Whatley

    Love espionage thrillers. Would love to win.

  39. Laurent Latulippe

    I love a good spy book.

  40. Daniel Morrell

    sounds interesting

  41. Dan Carr

    I look forward to reading this.

  42. Desmond Warzel

    Count me in, please!

  43. Jamie Whitten McCauley

    I’d love to win a copy for my little free library

  44. D.B. Jackson

    Looking forward to discovering a great writer and getting caught up in another great read.

  45. Meredith Miller

    Life in Japan sounds interesting! I guess it would have to be to live there so long!

  46. Elaine Roberson

    Sounds great. Thanks for a chance to win a copy.

  47. Crystal Blackburn

    I’ve never read etiher of these authors but now I want to read both. I’d love to start by winning [b]The Spy Across the Table[/b].

  48. Susan Nygren

    Would love to read this book

  49. Susan Nygren

    Would love to read this book

  50. Anita Yancey

    I haven’t read any of this author’s books yet, but I would enjoy reading this one. Thanks for this chance to win it.

  51. Anita Yancey

    I haven’t read any of this author’s books yet, but I would enjoy reading this one. Thanks for this chance to win it.

  52. Kyle Johnicker

    Spy novels are some of the best!


    Barry’s books are “THE BEST”.

  54. vicki wurgler

    espionage-sounds good!

  55. Angie Stormer

    I have to read this!

  56. Alyson Widen

    Hey, I know that this is late to the table, but I’ll add my comment. Keeping track of multiple storylines means that the reader has to be sharp to pay attention to all the clues and misclues.

  57. Polly Barlow

    I found the interview with Barry Lancet very interesting. “The Spy Across the Table” sounds like a great great read.

  58. Patrick Murphy

    Hope I win.

  59. Theresa

    Great interview!!! I love a good spy book!
    thanks for the giveaway!

  60. Barbara Fish

    Please choose me to win this book!

  61. Barbara Bolam

    This is a book that I would enjoy reading! The interview was interesting.

  62. Barbara Bolam

    This is a book that I would enjoy reading! The interview was interesting.

Comments are closed.

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