Debut writer Erik Storey’s astonishing debut thriller Nothing Short of Dying introduces us to Clyde Barr, a mountain man and ex-mercenary not to be messed with. Storey talks to us about the books that have shaped his life.
Tell us about your latest book?
It’s about an adventurer named Clyde Barr, who’s most powerful life-long instinct has been to right wrongs, a compulsion fed by a childhood tainted by domestic violence, a young adulthood working as a Third World gun for hire, and a recent stint in a Mexican prison that he barely survived.
So when, only a week after his release, Barr receives a panicked, abruptly ended call from his older sister, Jen, pleading with him to "come get her" he's grimly determined to do just that.
Nothing short of dying will prevent him from keeping his promise, even though he has no idea where Jen is or who has taken her.
Violence erupts almost immediately as a succession of hard men block Barr's path. Helping the ex-mercenary run his gauntlet is an unlikely ally named Allie, whose moxie and uncanny ability to read people has made her a survivor. Now, the two of them are on a propulsive, action-driven race against the clock to find Jen before the unthinkable happens.
Do you discuss your own work-in-progress with anyone?
I usually don’t until I’ve finished a rough draft. Then I’ll let my wife read it, who has been my beautiful beta-reader for years.
She’ll tell me what’s wrong with it, and I’ll go to work on the next draft.
Which book made you want to write?
This is an insanely hard question because it was more of the culmination of a lifetime of reading that made me want to write. But there were two books that really made me think, “Huh, I can write something like that.” Both were non-westerns written by Louis L'Amour.
The Walking Drum and Last of the Breed were exciting adventure stories that featured a rugged hero and made me want to sit down with pen and paper to try and do something similar.
What’s currently on your bedside table?
I usually have two or three books going at a time. A non-fiction, a fiction, and sometimes an audiobook. Right now I’m only reading two.
The non-fiction is My Friend the Mercenary, by James Brabazon. I’m reading this for research, primarily for my main character’s backstory. It is a brutal and intense read, but very informative.
My fiction read is Vanished, by Joseph Finder. I’d been hearing great things about the Nick Heller series, but had put off reading it for a while. I wish I hadn’t. Nick’s character is one of the freshest and most fun, characters out there. One of the best books I’ve read in months.
Which book/s would you recommend to your closest friend?
Anything by Megan Abbott. Especially Dare Me, The Fever, and her most recent You Will Know Me.
These books are unique, dark, unsettling, and wonderfully written. Megan is doing something very different, and she’s doing it very well.
Once you read them, you won’t ever forget them.
The other book I will always recommend is Cry Father, by Benjamin Whitmer. A haunting story set in Colorado about men, fathers and sons, and violence. Another book that won’t be forgotten after it’s read.
Which book are you planning to take on your next journey?
I’m very much looking forward to The Jealous Kind, by James Lee Burke.
I’ve read most of his books, and am always overpowered by Burke’s command of the language and his ability to tell stories.
His poetic prose, dangerous characters, and masterful plots make for some of the best reading in the crime and mystery genres. Which happen to be my favourites.
If you weren’t writing you’d be…?
Probably herding goats out in the back corner of the high desert and living in a tent, or something else just as crazy.
Or, I might just be breaking my back in some menial job for the rest of my life. It’s hard to say because I can’t imagine not writing at this point.
Even if no one reads my stuff, I think I will always be scribbling something.
Nothing Short of Dying by Erik Story is published by Simon & Schuster
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