Simon Wood

Posts Tagged: accidents waiting to happen

I hadn’t intended to put my heroes, Scott Fleetwood and Tom Sheils, through the fictional wringer for a second time but something cropped up.

When I start a book, I don’t build it around a character or plotline. I’m premise driven. More often than not, that premise is a real world one. TERMINATED was built around the issue of workplace violence. ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN explored corruption in the life insurance industry. It was survivor guilt for THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY. And for my latest book, SAVING GRACE, it was the manipulation of the free press.

Now before you go rolling your eyes, it’s not what you think. This has nothing to do with the current fake news claims. I’ve been looking into this issue for a quite some time. The tough thing about writing a book is it takes a long time from concept to final product. Who knew an election cycle would muck things up for me?

My interest dates back ten years when there was a kidnapping of a child in Portugal. Planted stories and media manipulation marred the investigation, which hasn’t been solved even today. The more insidious side to this story was that people profited monetarily from the incident. My writer’s radar became attuned to the issue and I came across more instances of abuse from within and outside the media. I’m sure you’re aware of some instances.

The subject was too enticing to ignore. If I was going to turn to the world of media and evil shenanigans, there were two characters I could turn to—reporter Scott Fleetwood and special agent Tom Sheils of the FBI. They were protagonists of a fan favorite, PAYING THE PIPER. I’d put these guys through hell in PIPER, and it’s that notoriety that gets exploited in SAVING GRACE.

No longer a reporter, Scott Fleetwood is still recovering from the aftermath of tangling with the notorious kidnapper, the Piper, when a new foe emerges from the shadows. The Shepherd announces to the San Francisco Independent that he has snatched a young girl from a vacationing family. The Shepherd has two demands for the safe return of the girl—a cash ransom and for Scott to act as his intermediary between the family and himself. The kidnapping brings in Special Agent Tom Sheils and his team to work the case and watch over Scott. The Shepherd promises the girl’s safety as long as Scott follows the rules of his game. Forced to trail the kidnapper’s twisting lead—and haunted by a previous victim he failed to save—Scott is desperate to keep the past from making a brutal comeback.

Each of the Shepherd’s demands are played out on the world’s stage for everyone to see with Scott as the star of a perverse reality show. As the stakes get upped, Scott realizes he’s a pawn of a much larger scheme.

I won’t say how the media is being manipulated in SAVING GRACE. For that you’ll have to read the book. And when you have, come talk to me and I’ll tell you about the facts behind some of the lies. You can learn more about the book here.

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My first thriller ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN has come of age.  It was first published 18 years ago this month!  This book is very special to me because we’ve been on a quite a journey over that time.  It’s been responsible for a lot of firsts in my writing career:

  • First book I wrote.
  • First published book.
  • First mass paperback release.
  • First book to be translated.
  • First book to sell a 100,000 copies.

When I look over my writing career, this book has been the one that kept me career moving on to the stage. Although first published by a small publishing house, it picked up a lot of good trade reviews which gave me some legitimacy as a writer. That resulted in the book picking up a contract with a New York publisher. When the NY publisher folded during the credit crunch, it was the book to reboot my career I relaunched it as an ebook. The sales success of the ebook resulted in an 8-book deal with a new publisher and a new edition. And if it weren’t for that 8-book deal, I wouldn’t have the success with other books. Wherever I examine my writing career, invariably it all stems back to ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN.

This book about obscure facet of the insurance industry changed my life.  I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for it.  I will forever be in this book’s debt.

If you’d like to learn more about the book, you can learn more here.

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I’ve just finished reading the late Brian Garfield’s short story collection, SUSPENDED SENTENCES. In the introduction, he thanks Ed Gorman for helping him with the book, which I found touching, because I also owe Ed Gorman a debt of gratitude. When my first thriller, ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN, came out, it was with a small publisher with a small print run of a few thousand copies. In that situation, getting any kind of promotional and industry support was tough. I wrote to Mystery Scene magazine which Ed owned at the time. He liked what he saw and assigned the book to one of his reviewers which resulted in my first trade review. Seven years later, Ed and I ended up being stable mates at the same publisher. He wrote to our editor to say how much he loved my books and to recommend that he keep on publishing my books. The editor forwarded his email to me saying I had a fan. We asked Ed if he would turn his praise into a blurb for my upcoming book at the time, TERMINATED, which he did, saying:

“Simon Wood packs his books with suspense, surprises and superb storytelling.”
— Ed Gorman, author of The Midnight Room

Of all the blurbs I’ve received for my books, this is one of the most cherished.

Here’s the astounding detail about this—we never met. We kept in touch over the years until his death in 2016, but it would’ve been nice to have thanked him in person. This public thank you will have to suffice in its place.

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T’is the season and I have a couple of early Christmas presents in the shape of a couple of bargain books.  Here they are and I hope you jingle all the way to bookstore.

ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN: Someone is out to kill Josh Michaels. An SUV runs him off the road and into a river. As his car goes down, the SUV’s driver watches only to calmly give him the “thumbs down.” This is only the first of the attempts. With his time—and maybe his luck—running out and no one willing to believe him, Josh had better figure out who wants him dead and why…before it’s too late.

Just $1.99 at Amazon.

NO SHOW: Englishman Terry Sheffield has just arrived in San Francisco to start his new life with Sarah, the investigative journalist he married after a transatlantic love affair. But Sarah never shows up at the airport… When Terry reports his wife as missing, the police chalk it up to a new bride with cold feet. Then one murdered woman after another turns up, all with something in common: they had exposed scandals just before their deaths…and their names appear on a list that Sarah composed. As a journalist, Sarah’s exposed her share of scandals, and Terry realizes that she’s not missing—she’s on the run. To find her before the killer does, Terry must explore the dark recesses of his new homeland and rely on the help of some new friends. But as his search brings him closer to finding Sarah, Terry realizes she’s very different from the woman he thought he married.

Just $1.99 at Amazon.

TERMINATED: Gwen Farris crossed the wrong coworker when she gave Stephen Tarbell a poor evaluation. That was all it took to push Tarbell over the edge. He already believes Gwen stole the promotion that was rightfully his. He won’t let her take anything else from him. Now it’s his turn to take…and take. By the time he’s finished with her, Tarbell plans to take her job, her family—even her life.

Just $1.99 at Amazon.

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Today is a very special day. It’s fifteen years since my first thriller, ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN, was first published. It’s been with four different publishers and still going strong.

Amazon and my current publisher Thomas & Mercer have joined the celebration. ACCIDENTS is just $1.99 throughout August, so if you’ve never read the book, now is a good time!

I’ll always be grateful to this little book as it truly changed my life.

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May is a bumper month for bargain books.  Amazon has gone to town with a whole host promotional offers on my books in the US, UK and Germany!!  Brace yourself.  Here they all are!!

ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN: Someone is out to kill Josh Michaels. An SUV runs him off the road and into a river. As his car goes down, the SUV’s driver watches only to calmly give him the “thumbs down.” This is only the first of the attempts. With his time—and maybe his luck—running out and no one willing to believe him, Josh had better figure out who wants him dead and why…before it’s too late.

Just 99c at Amazon

PAYING THE PIPER: The Piper is the infamous child kidnapper. When the Piper selected crime reporter, Scott Fleetwood, to chronicle his latest kidnapping, Scott thought he had the world in his grasp, but he held nothing.  Now, eight years later, the Piper’s back, with very specific targets in mind—Scott’s children. He can have them back as long as he can pay the ransom, but it’s a ransom not measured in dollars, but in blood.

Just 99p at Amazon UK.

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY: Zoë and Holli’s Vegas road trip goes wrong when they’re abducted. Zoë escapes leaving Holli behind. A year later and still tortured with guilt, Zoë latches on to a murder that eerily resembles her abduction. Her attempts to find justice for Holli brings her to the attention of the “Tally Man.” For him, she is not a survivor but simply the one that got away.

Just 99p at Amazon UK

Was sie nicht tötet: Für die Studentinnen Zoë und Holli wird der Roadtrip nach Las Vegas zum Albtraum: Sie geraten in die Gewalt eines sadistischen Killers. Zoë kann entkommen, doch ihre Freundin muss sie zurücklassen.  Ein Jahr später wird Zoë noch immer von ihren Schuldgefühlen gepeinigt. Dann passiert ein weiteres Verbrechen, das auf schaurige Weise ihrer Entführung ähnelt. Gemeinsam mit einem Ermittler der Polizei versucht sie, die schicksalhafte Nacht in der Wüste zu rekonstruieren, in der Hoffnung, dass die Tat endlich gesühnt wird. Ihr Entführer wartet jedoch bereits auf Zoë. Für ihn ist sie keine Überlebende, sondern nur ein Opfer, das ihm vorübergehend entkommen ist.

Just Eur 2,49 at Amazon GMBH

Die Abrechnung des Kinderfängers: Über Jahre hinweg wurde der Entführer mit dem Spitznamen »der Kinderfänger« reich, indem er serienweise die Kinder der wohlhabendsten Familien San Franciscos entführte. Als der Kriminalreporter Scott Fleetwood einen Anruf von einem Mann erhält, der sich als der Kinderfänger ausgibt und ein exklusives Interview anbietet, packt Fleetwood die Gelegenheit beim Schopf. Aber der Anrufer erweist sich als Schwindler, und die überhastete Entscheidung kostet das aktuelle Opfer des echten Kinderfängers das Leben. Acht lange Jahre lebt Fleetwood mit der unerträglichen Schuld und der beständigen Verachtung der gesamten San Francisco Bay Area. Nun hört er vom echten Kinderfänger – und diesmal geht es nicht um ein Interview. Der Kidnapper hat den Sohn des Reporters. Aber er will kein Geld … er will Blut. Und er wird Fleetwood dazu benutzen, es zu bekommen.

Just Eur 2,49 at Amazon GMBH

I hope you’ll take advantage of this offer.  If you’ve never read any of my books, this might be the perfect time to start.  Enjoy!!

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People see a hill and think, “What a lovely place to build a home.”  I see a hill and think, “What a great place to bury a body.”  People see a quiet stretch of shoreline and think, “What a great place for a romantic walk.”  I see a quiet stretch of shoreline and think, “What a great place to execute a snitch.”  That’s the problem I have with traveling these days.  I love visiting new places.  I want to see the world.  If I didn’t have an explorer’s heart, I never would have discovered my Julie in Costa Rica.  Now when I travel, I don’t see locations, I see crime scenes.

I’m always on the hunt for a great locale.  I say to friends, “You live in a great neighborhood.  Where would the best place be to stash a body without anyone seeing me?”  My friends are cool with it.  They roll their eyes and entertain my fantasies.  I’ve stopped asking strangers these questions.  For some reason, it scares people.  Who knew?
I’m not a keen researcher as things go.  I like to lie in my stories, but I do like to go location hunting.  Accidents Waiting to Happen is set in Sacramento.  I’d only been there a couple of months when I got to writing it, so I needed some killing grounds.  I rode around the city and its suburbs on my bicycle in search of locations.  I didn’t have a car at the time, so I didn’t have much choice there, but having the bike meant I could stop anywhere I wanted to check out. 
I live in the Bay Area now.  San Francisco isn’t so much of a cyclist’s city, so I do a lot of scouting on foot.  For one of the stories in Working Stiffs, I wanted to kill someone on the Embarcadero.  So I started at one end and walked to the other poking about.  Sadly, I didn’t find anywhere useful but did find a site at Fort Mason.  I can’t recommend Fort Mason enough to kill someone (Fictionally speaking that is.  I don’t want anyone getting ideas and pointing fingers when it goes pear-shaped.  Alright?) 
The thing is that I don’t want to talk about the same old locations that everyone else uses in their books.  This is especially a problem with the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area.  There are plenty of us scribblers around fighting for a fresh perspective on the town, so I really need to get my hands dirty.  Just like with methods of killing, writers want to keep it fresh and new for themselves and their readers.  Well, I know I do.
So I’m always on the hunt for a good location with plenty of originality.  It’s another reason I like to write about places outside of my usual stomping grounds.  Little known places provide a wealth of killer locales.  I have a tendency to go on road trips with Julie and the dog just so that we might check out somewhere I came across in a travel magazine or on TV.  I just have to have my hands on a killer location.
Don’t be surprised if one day, you sit down next to small yet affable stranger who’ll lean in close and whisper, “Do you know any good places where I can dump a body?”  Don’t panic.  It’s probably me.  Then again, it probably isn’t.

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A little while ago, I had a nice little surprise recently while watching Top Gear. They examined what to do if you crashed your car in a body of water. My ears pricked up at the mention of this because I used that exact situation in my first novel, ACCIDENTS WAITING TO HAPPEN. In the opening chapter, the lead character is forced off the road and into a river and he has to work out his escape from a rapidly sinking car.

I was interested to see what they discovered to see if I’d guessed right. Whereas Top Gear has the budget to drop a car in pool with a camera crew, I don’t. For the book, I relied on my engineering background for what would happen. I knew there’d external and internal pressures as a car sank and you’d have to be Arnold Schwarzenegger to force open the doors. I also considered that power windows, etc. wouldn’t work either. My solution for escape was a play off what I was taught in flying school. If you ditch in the sea or something, I was told to open the door before impact, because you won’t be able to open them with the water pressing against them. In the book, my character breaks out through the windows before the car has a chance to submerge. This goes against conventional advice of sticking with the car while it sinks, let the car fill up with water and when the pressure has equalized, let yourself out. If this proved right, there was a rewrite on the books.

Well, my escape theory proved right and conventional advice didn’t work. I was very proud of myself. Yay me!!!

The practice test proved that it took a long time for the pressure to equalize and you would most likely run out of breath before then.

If you’d like to see how it all went, please watch the video clips.

Consider this blog entry a Public Service Announcement. My advice is to have something in the car to break the windows should you ever end up in the water. You want to get out as soon as possible. 🙂

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