Guest Blog by Mark Yost and his New Release – The Cartel #suspense #thriller
I’m proud to host a guest writer on my blog today. Mark Yost is my brother and has written the second in his “Nick Materra” series.
Write What You Know About
By Mark Yost
For 20 years I thought I had a novel in me. I just didn’t know what it was.
I knew that I wanted to write a thriller, but the secret-agent genre had basically been mastered by John le Carre and Tom Clancy.
Having covered the Pentagon for The Wall Street Journal, I knew that I wanted the main character to have some sort of military background. Fast forward 10 years, through the transition from full-time writer to full-time firefighter/paramedic, and it dawned on me. Write what you know about, and what I knew about was being a firefighter. And, far as I knew, there hadn’t been a thriller written where the main character was a firefighter. That’s how I came up with Nick Mattera. Proving once again, that authors can find inspiration most everywhere.
I actually got the idea for “Soft Target,” the first book in the Nick Mattera Series, while sitting on Revere Beach, north of Boston. My family basically grew up on that beach, going there with my mom and my Aunt Nell, learning to build sand castles and an arcane form of bobbing to the rhythm of the waves that my mom and aunt called “dunking.”. As I sat there with my son George, who was about 12 at the time, trying to share a part of my childhood with him, I noticed that Revere Beach was right in the flight path of Logan Airport. You could practically reach out and touch the planes that lumbered by on their final approach.
I’d long wondered why we hadn’t suffered a major terrorist attack after Sept. 11. Was our intelligence that good, or were we just lucky? Why hadn’t some Islamic terrorist, fed up with fighting the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, decided to come here, to America, and open up a whole new front in the War on Terror? Why hadn’t some crazy nut pulled up along Revere Beach – or the service roads around O’Hare or JFK – stepped out of his car, opened the trunk, taken out a shoulder-fired missile, and taken out one of these sitting ducks? That’s where the plot line started for “Soft Target.”
I didn’t want my character to be some James Bond-type super hero who incredulously manages to get out of every brush with death. I wanted him to be an everyman, because that’s what most heroes are. I also knew that I wanted him to be Italian-American, because this unique strain of 20th-century American culture had been so integral to my upbringing. Again, write what you know about. Most of my friends growing up had been Italian; there was an offshoot of our family that was filled with minor Italian mobsters in the Boston suburbs. My godmother was Edna Mancini, for Christ’s sake. So, while my sister claims to have done exhaustive research on our somewhat cloudy genealogy, I’m content to live the rest of my life believing that – rightly or wrongly – there’s some Italian blood in our heritage somewhere. (How else can you explain my love of pasta, opera, Sinatra and shark-skin suits??!!)
I also wanted to make my character different (doesn’t every writer?). In early drafts of “Soft Target,” Nick Mattera was bisexual, struggling to reconcile his macho image at the firehouse with his basest desires. Early readers hated it, so I revised the character. When “Soft Target” came out in April 2012, Nick Mattera was as strong and straight as any hero ever written for the page. But I made his girlfriend, Rachel Cohen, bisexual.
By making Rachel bi, it gave me the chance to explore the conflicted character of gays in a mostly straight culture. Having lived more of my adult life in New York City than anywhere else, I have a lot of gay friends, including Sheri, the physical (but not emotional) model for Rachel. And while gay and bi may seem all the rage in our popular culture, from television to movies to books, it’s not an easy life. Here’s a bit of dialogue between Nick and his firehouse partner, Nardini, from “The Cartel,” the second book in the Nick Mattera Series that was published on Amazon on Dec. 2, 2013, that explains what I mean:
“What about you?” Nardini asked. “Aren’t you worried that you’re gonna get burned in the end on this, because she likes girls?
“Yeah, I am man,” Nick said, looking Nardini in the eye for the first time. “But I can’t walk away. That’s the thing. I understand where she’s at. I understand that even though being gay is kinda cool these days, especially for lesbians, for her it still feels like being different. I mean, think about it. At best you’re 10% of the population. And while a lot of people pretend that they are accepting of it, a lot of people aren’t. And those that say they are, I think she always wonders what they really think.”
“I didn’t think Rachel gave a fuck what anybody thinks,” Nardini said.
“That’s her front. And it’s a good one. But deep down, I think it’s always there, in the back of her mind, nagging at her.”
“Wow, and you figured this out all on your own?” Nardini said. “A dumb fireman?”
“Ha,” Nick said with a laugh. “In a lot of ways, I know her better than she knows herself.”
Making Rachel bi added a bit of edginess to the books, gave me a vehicle to write some pretty steamy sex scenes, and added the depth I was looking for to Nick Mattera, who is clearly not your average firefighter.
So after nearly 20 years of thinking about it, I finally wrote my thriller(s). They just weren’t the books I originally thought they’d be. But I wrote about what I knew, and that, I think, is what makes them work.
“The Cartel” is Wall Street Journal writer Mark Yost’s second installment in the critically acclaimed Nick Mattera Series. In the first book, “Soft Target,” former Marine EOD Tech turned Firefighter Nick Mattera and his crew from Station 37 took on a pair of Islamic extremists who opened up a whole new front in the War on Terror on the North Shore of Chicago.
In “The Cartel,” Mattera and his crew face a whole new enemy: Manny Banuelos is the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the world’s most-powerful, drug-trafficking organization. In a ripped-from-the-headlines story, Manny and his gang don’t just go away when a newly elected Libertarian U.S. President legalizes marijuana. Instead, they fight back, sabotaging government labs, blackmailing executives, and hatching a plan to control the world-wide drug trade. The only thing that stands in their way is Nick Mattera and his brave crew of firefighters, who are caught in the middle of this bloody turf war that’s erupted in the neighborhood around their firehouse.
In addition to being a writer for The Wall Street Journal for more than 20 years, Mark Yost is also a part-time firefighter/paramedic on the North Shore of Chicago. “The Cartel’s” riveting story is punctuated with an unrivaled behind-the-scenes look at the calls and characters that make life interesting inside a busy urban firehouse. Add in a steamy love triangle, a crooked pharmaceutical CEO, and an Italian mob boss, and “The Cartel” is a fast-paced thriller that you won’t be able to put down.