Christopher Reich is the New York Times bestselling author of thrillers including Numbered Account, Rules of Deception, Rules of Vengeance, Rules of Betrayal, and The Devil’s Banker. The Patriot’s Club won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best Novel in 2006. Reich’s newest, The Take, marks the launch of a new series featuring Simon Riske, a spy who’s been likened to James Bond and Jack Reacher. Having traveled far and wide, the author now makes his home in Encinitas, California.
Recently, Mr. Reich entertained questions pertaining to the launch of his new series, creating a protagonist who’s at once familiar and original, drawing on fact to inform fiction, and bringing suspense alive through setting. He also teases what comes next for Simon Riske…
The Take marks the launch of a new series. What inspired this undertaking, and how do you endeavor to deliver a story that satisfies as a standalone while also enticing readers to return?
Whenever I start a new book, I'm always asking myself what book I'd like to be picking up that night before I go to sleep, or if I'm traveling, what I'd like to take on the plane. With so much gloom and doom in the media and so many current events surpassing an author's wildest imagination, I set out to create a new series that was a bit lighter in subject matter but every bit as suspenseful in tone as my previous geopolitical thrillers like Numbered Account or Rules of Deception. The result was Simon Riske, a hero for today's reader. Suave, sophisticated, smart, yet tough as nails. As for delivering a satisfying novel, the task is the same for a series or a standalone. It's all in the story.
Your protagonist, Simon Riske, has been heralded as “one part James Bond, one part Jack Reacher.” In what ways did you intend for him to pay homage to such characters (if at all), and how did you balance that with providing him a distinct identity?
The character of Simon Riske came out of my friendships with several people I've met over the years researching my books. While I don't know any professional assassin—like Jason Bourne—I have come to know several men and women whose job description could begin with “spy,” both for governments and in private industry. I've never been less than impressed by the skill sets they bring to their job or the path that led to such a unique profession. To an extent, Riske is an amalgam of all them … with lots of my imagination thrown in.
I think all authors (and readers, in general) never forget the memorable characters they've encountered in literature, be it Jack Reacher, Jason Bourne, James Bond, or hundreds of others. Riske is very much his own man with his own history, but he's also a worthy successor to the characters named before. He is one of a kind.
Simon is a freelance industrial spy who finds himself drawn into a messy job with connections to the Russians and the CIA. Can you talk a bit about the dualities that exist between perception and reality (of character) and how exploring those give the book depth? Also, in what ways does your fiction resonate with the facts of the world around us?
Riske is a man who lives his life on many levels. To all outward appearances, he is handsome, intelligent, a man's man, has an easy smile, a facility for foreign languages, and a firm handshake. He'd fit in perfectly in the stuffiest circles. But his exterior appearance belies a rough and tumble childhood and a difficult stint in prison. Early on in the book, I describe his fine clothing, his cologne, his easy manner as nothing more than “a silk sheath over a straight razor.”
Riske's career thrives because of his ability to live these two existences at once. He can go from boardroom to barroom brawl in the blink of an eye. In The Take, Riske is forced to confront his past as a criminal on the streets of Marseille, and in doing so, decides that, perhaps, he should have stayed there all along. There's nothing better than the thrill of “the take.”
Despite complex characters and circumstances, you deliver a propulsive plot that doesn’t sacrifice substance for style. What do you consider your obligation to readers beyond entertainment, if anything, and how do you find that the revision process informs pacing and presentation?
As I've stated above, I write the kind of book I like to read. That means The Take should be fast, smart, exciting, and clever. I prefer books set abroad, and as I've lived and traveled in Europe and the Far East, I incorporate those locales into my stories. It's where I feel most at home.
With so much gloom and doom in the media and so many current events surpassing an author's wildest imagination, I set out to create a new series that was a bit lighter in subject matter but every bit as suspenseful in tone as my previous geopolitical thrillers…
I'm always holding myself to the standard of my favorite thrillers. Books like Day of the Jackal, Bourne Identity, and Eye of the Needle. If you dug those books, you'll dig The Take.
Speaking of action … this story globe trots between locales such as London, Paris, and Marseille. In your opinion, how does setting enhance narrative, and what’s the key(s) to achieving an authentic sense of place?
The best part about writing books that take place overseas is getting to visit the “scene of the crime,” so to speak. I think you'll get a real sense of place when you read The Take. I hope you can feel the cobblestones beneath your feet in Paris and smell the early morning fish market in Marseille. As for pace, Shakespeare said it all. “The plot's the thing.” I like to keep it moving.
Leave us with a teaser: What comes next?
Riske's next adventure finds him in Monte Carlo where he's looking into a sophisticated cheating ring that is robbing the world's most famous casino of hundreds of millions of dollars. There's a beautiful Italian Contessa waiting for him in the bar of the Hotel de Paris and a not so beautiful Israeli businessman keeping an eye on him across the baccarat table. And that's only the first 50 pages…
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Christopher Reich is the New York Times bestselling author of Numbered Account, Rules of Deception, Rules of Vengeance, Rules of Betrayal, The Devil's Banker, and many other thrillers. His novel The Patriots Club won the International Thriller Writers award for Best Novel in 2006. He lives in Encinitas, California.
John Valeri wrote the popular Hartford Books Examiner column for Examiner.com from 2009 – 2016. He can be found online at www.johnbvaleri.com and is featured in the Halloween-themed anthology Tricks and Treats, now available from Books & Boos Press.