The Zambezi River is the 4th longest river in Africa, flowing from Zambia through eastern Angola, eastern border of Namibia, northern border of Botswana, then between the borders of Zambia and Zimbabwe to Mozambique where it leads to the Indian Ocean, but not before cresting over the legendary Victoria Falls.
After three weeks of producing a live record and filming a documentary, I found myself leaving the cities of Lusaka and Ndola for an unexpected adventure. I had no clue what was in store for me as I climbed into a 4-seat Cessna headed into the bush toward the Zambezi River. Little did I know the next three days, secluded from the rest of the world, would be a crossroads in my life.Growing up in Hong Kong, then living in LA, I’m a city boy at heart. But when we landed on a small dirt road in the middle of nowhere a sense of adventure was very much alive. My buddy asked if I wanted to share a tent, but pride got in the way as I laughed, “I’ll take my own tent, thanks.” At three o’clock in the morning, when the world was pitch black with the sounds of wildlife nearby, I held my lantern and looked over toward my friend’s tent and thought, “I’m an idiot!”The next morning we headed out into the bush with camera in hand, and a guide who was going to take us out to film footage for our documentary. An hour into the trek we came across an elephant who stood about fifty feet away. The guide suggested we get closer, and I responded that there was no need because my camera had a zoom.
As the Land Rover inched forward there was a split second when I realized we were too close. Suddenly, the elephant’s ears flared, his head lowered with tusks pointed directly at us, and a trumpeting sound echoed to the heavens. Now the Land Rover was flying backwards as the elephant gained on us. I kept filming, well, because I thought if this was it then everyone would know how it ended. The guide slammed on the brakes, stood in the driver seat and waved his hands at the elephant. One of the craziest sights I’ve ever seen. But…the elephant stopped. With a dust wall between us, we froze for the next few minutes, until the elephant backed away behind a tree. I still have footage of the encounter as proof. It serves as a reminder of my three days on the Zambezi.My elephant encounter brought an instance of clarity. After months of working around the clock to produce another project, I found that I was burned out on years of pushing hard. I realized that evening, as I watched the sunset on the Zambezi, everything I’d done over the years was going to change. And there was a sense that my journey as a storyteller was only just beginning.
You see, it was here that a spark of a story lodged itself in my soul — a story I was too afraid to write. When I returned to LA, I tried to set the story aside, and for a few years it remained dormant in my soul. But it never left. It played like a movie in my imagination as clear as the elephant attack I’d captured on film.
I’d never written a novel before, yet I found myself in front of my laptop typing away for the next year or more. I didn’t tell a soul. When I finished the manuscript, there was a sense that I’d experienced what I was called to do as a storyteller. I never would’ve guessed that it would lead me down the journey of writing mystery, suspense, and international thrillers. All from a spark of a story I discovered along the Zambezi River. That spark of a story was the inspiration for my debut novel, The Disillusioned.
“A FAST-PACED MYSTERY…YOU WON’T PUT IT DOWN UNTIL YOU’VE UNLOCKED THE SECRETS AND LIES TO FIND THE TRUTH.” JUDITH MCCREARY, CO-EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, LAW & ORDER: SVU, CRIMINAL MINDS, & CSI
Los Angeles is known as the City of Angels with its celebrities, movie stars, beautiful beaches, perfect weather, Lakers, Dodgers, Kings, and oh yes, gridlock traffic on the infamous 405 Freeway. With more cars than there are people, the city is a living breathing multi-cultural melting pot of humanity.
I remember landing at LAX airport when I was fifteen, leaving the only home I’d ever known: Hong Kong. Growing up in a city with millions of people helped me adjust when my family returned to the States. Los Angeles was the perfect place. Another big city.The original Hollywood sign actually said, “Hollywoodland” as an advertisement for a real estate development by the same name. Today, it’s an iconic image that reminds the world this is the place where stars are made. Many who live within the city are part dreamers and part fame chasers. It’s in this place where my dream to be a writer became a reality when I wrote the opening pages of my first novel, The Disillusioned. There is no better place to peal back the glamor of a city and open up a world where fame and fortune hang in the balance, and where the streets promise to make or break you.As a teenager I played basketball in Compton, South Central, Venice, Long Beach, as well as numerous other cities around Los Angeles, away from the spotlight of Hollywood. I learned to compete, to challenge myself, and to fight for what I wanted in life. Years later, I did a ride along with a Sheriff friend of mine in Compton, and spent a 14-hour shift responding to more calls than we could keep up with. I felt like I was in the movie, Training Day, with Denzel! Seeing the city that most never see opened my eyes to those who struggle to survive versus those who have more than they’ll ever need.One of my favorite places is just outside of Los Angeles along the beaches of Malibu. For those of you who have read my novels, you’ll notice how this place is an escape for the characters within the pages. Perhaps I keep returning to this place because over the years it’s been true for me. My wife and I love to drive down the coast to our favorite spot near Point Dume and sit by the ocean, walk along the sand, watch the dolphins or whales in the waves, and gaze at the sunset as it disappears on the horizon. It brings a sense of peace amidst the storms of life, and offers inspiration to pursue our dreams together.
I think of the novel I’m writing now, and realize once again how this city is crucial to the story. You see it’s more than a location, it’s a character. And I hope to write about this character for many years to come!
I stood on the shores of the Zambezi River as a spark for a story pierced my soul. After three weeks of traveling across the country, witnessing the reality of those forgotten by the world, and facing a major change in my career, I knew that one day I’d write about this place. Little did I know that it would be years before I found the courage to write my first novel, The Disillusioned. I was so afraid of failing to capture the story that I wrote the novel without telling anyone. When it was finished I reached out to a friend in the TV industry and her response encouraged me to step out in faith and publish. I share this with you because those days on the Zambezi defined my passion as a storyteller.
What I discovered throughout the writing process was that using my experiences traveling to the poorest places in the world over several decades fueled my drive to create the Guardian Novels, a series filled with mystery, suspense, and adventure. All of those remain aspects of each story, but from the first novel the stark reality of the fight against human trafficking has continued to be an underlying thread throughout. It’s one reason why I’ve defined this series as being cause-driven novels. My hope is that readers will be entertained, but will also be inspired to make a difference in the world when they flip that last page.
Writing the second novel, Waking Lazarus, was challenging to continue in the cause-driven storytelling style. To capture this story in a unique way, the novel spans nearly a century as readers are taken back to the 1920’s and then return to present day on a global adventure. It also pushes readers further into the worlds of child slavery, poverty, and the darkness of secrets. I’m humbled that the Guardian Novels, and the cause-driven storytelling style, have garnered the attention of Hollywood’s elite.
The Guardian Novels are meant to go beyond storytelling toward raising awareness for causes and issues many face around the world. While the stories draw readers in, my hope is that the messages will lead them to a deeper place that bridges the gap between fiction and reality. With that said, I’ve launched the Guardian Alliance as an extension not only of the books, but of my missional DNA. Each month we feature a new cause or nonprofit through our monthly updates on social media, email, interviews, and beyond. To see more about some of these great organizations check out the Guardian Alliance page.
I’m delighted today to feature a special interview with fellow thriller writer and New York Times Best-selling author Gregg Hurwitz to share about his novel, The Nowhere Man, and ask him a few questions about his vacation reading:
“Hurwitz knows how to put the reader deep in the mind of his hero as the pace never lets up.” ―Associated Press
“Will keep readers on the edge of their seats… Hurwitz’s engaging, sympathetic characters place this thriller above the pack.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The most exciting thriller I’ve read since The Bourne Identity. Fans of Jack Reacher, Mitch Rapp, and Jason Bourne will LOVE Evan Smoak, and the deadly, secret world of the Orphan Program. A new thriller superstar is born!” ―Robert Crais
“Orphan X blows the doors off most thrillers I’ve read and catapults the reader on a cat-and-mouse chase that feels like a missile launch. Read this book. You will thank me later.” ―David Baldacci
Spoken about only in whispers, the Nowhere Man can only be reached by the truly desperate, he can ―He will do anything to save them.
Evan Smoak is the Nowhere Man.
Taken from a group home at twelve, Evan was raised and trained as part of the Orphan Program, an off-the-books operation designed to create deniable intelligence assets―i.e. assassins. Evan was Orphan X. He broke with the Program, using everything he learned to disappear and reinvent himself as the Nowhere Man.
But his new life is interrupted when a surprise attack comes from an unlikely angle and Evan is caught unaware. Captured, drugged, and spirited off to a remote location, he finds himself heavily guarded and cut off from everything he knows. His captors think they have him trapped and helpless in a virtual cage but they don’t know who they’re dealing with―or that they’ve trapped themselves inside that cage with one of the deadliest and most resourceful men on earth.
Continuing his electrifying series featuring Evan Smoak, Gregg Hurwitz delivers a blistering, compelling new novel in the series launched with the instant international bestseller, Orphan X.
1. What do you like to read while on vacation? (Fiction? Non-fiction? Thrillers? Recommendations from a friend?)
Crime fiction of any stripe. I’m often reading ARCs for blurbs, seeing who’s new in the zoo.
2. Do you have a favorite vacation destination?
I like jungle trips a lot. The Amazon, Belize, Oaxaca. I’m not sure why since I’m not really an outdoors type unless I go full-blown feral.
3. Does a particular book you read once on vacation stand out? Why?
I read The Book Thief in Kauai one year, which sticks in memory because I was verging on tears on the beach, deeply moved and highly embarrassed.
4. Do you buy books for your vacation in advance and resist reading them before you travel, or do you pick them up at the airport?
I have two full bookshelves of unread books. Depending on how much room I have in my suitcase, I choose the number and size of needed volumes.
5. What is your dream vacation destination (if time and money were no object)?
Safari and then a trip down the Nile.
GREGG HURWITZ is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 novels, most recently, The Nowhere Man. His novels have been shortlisted for numerous literary awards, graced top ten lists, and have been published in 30 languages. He is also a New York Times bestselling comic book writer, having penned stories for Marvel (Wolverine, Punisher) and DC (Batman, Penguin). Additionally, he’s written screenplays for or sold spec scripts to many of the major studios (The Book of Henry), and written, developed, and produced television for various networks. Gregg resides in Los Angeles.
Hong Kong is a melting pot of Eastern and Western cultures, as well as a popular tourist destination known as Fragrant Harbor. I was born and raised in Kowloon, meaning Nine Dragons, and experienced the hot and humid summers, typhoons, and monsoons in a city that has grown to over 7 million people. From an early age I was engrossed in a myriad of cultures including Brits, Filipino, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, and many other nationalities. Thanks to Facebook, I’m still connected to many of my Beacon Hill grade school friends!I learned Cantonese and English at the same time, mostly playing basketball on the playgrounds near Kowloon Tong, and loved to eat dim sum, egg tarts and pineapple buns by the dozens growing up.Today, Hong Kong is under China’s rule, governed as a limited democracy. While China controls foreign and defense policies, Hong Kongers are allowed freedom of governance in both financial and social affairs. In recent years we’ve seen the younger generation of Hong Kongers demonstrate against what they perceive to be China’s overreach to this free market economy.
As I thought about where my novel, Waking Lazarus, would take readers I knew that the New York of Asia was the perfect setting. Fast-paced. Intoxicating smells. Iconic skylines and backdrops. But I wanted to go deeper than what we see on the surface of this neon lit concrete jungle, and peel back a darker underworld of the city where deals are made in the shadows. It was not only a walk down memory lane for me in a city I love, but through the characters that evolved it has become a page-turning thriller for readers around the world.As a kid we used to take the MTR, or Star Ferry over to Hong Kong Island, ride the double-deck trams, or hop on a bus over the mountain to Stanley Market, where we’d bargain for the newest pairs of Nike’s and Polos, even though some of them were total knockoffs. Anyone who has visited Hong Kong will testify that it is the place to bargain for a deal, whether it be electronics, watches, clocks, textiles, clothing or footwear. And for those who don’t need a bargain you can stay at the Peninsula Hotel and mingle with global business moguls and do some high-priced shopping!
But there is another side to the city that most do not see…and those are the places explored within the pages of Waking Lazarus. Below is a snapshot into one of the pivotal places in the novel.
Here are a few fun facts:
#1 | Dim sum, meaning “touch the heart,” originated in Hong Kong. Can I get an “Amen!”
#2 | Star Ferry began running in 1880 with the service across Victoria Harbor to Tsim Sha Tsui taking up to an hour. Today, that same ride across the harbor takes 10 minutes.
#3 | Hong Kong was ranked 4th in global billionaires, comprising of 64 residents holding at least $1 billion fortunes.
#4 | Hong Kong’s skyline boasts two of the highest buildings in the world. The tallest building, International Commerce Centre, sits in West Kowloon and is half a kilometre high. Equally as impressive is the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, whose bar and swimming pool are on the 118th floor.
#5 | A foodie heaven, Hong Kong is the place to score Michelin-starred food at rock bottom prices throughout a city that has one of the highest numbers of restaurants or cafes per capita.
Take an adventure to the Orient inside the pages of Waking Lazarus!
So, what makes for a great summer read?
I’ve found that I’m drawn to characters who are compelling and entertaining. I’m always on the hunt for characters that grab and pull me into their world. And when I find those characters, I’m hooked. I’ll read day and night while the waves crash against the rocks, or roll up on the shore. I think of characters like Harry Bosch, Jack Reacher, Harry Potter, Jason Bourne, and others who captured my attention from the first page.
Read more at D.E. Haggerty.
What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?
What I discovered throughout the writing process was that using my experiences traveling to the poorest places in the world fueled my drive to create the Guardian Novels, a series filled with mystery, suspense, and adventure. All of those were aspects of the story, but from the first novel the reality of the fight against human trafficking was an underlying thread throughout. It’s one reason why I’ve defined this series as cause-driven novels. My hope is that readers will be entertained, but will also be inspired to make a difference in the world when they flip that last page.
More of my interview at The Pulp and Mystery Shelf
In the midst of a crazy week (note: scruffy beard) launching my #1 Best Beach Read for Summer 2017 campaign for my novel, Waking Lazarus, I was surprised by a UPS delivery from FaithWords|Hachette books. I took a minute from the insanity of deadlines to stop and be grateful for the opportunity to be part of writing Street Smarts from Proverbs with my buddy, Mitch Kruse. In case you’re wondering…book releases June 27th worldwide!