Fresh Blood

Name: Jason Pinter

Title of Book: The Mark

'As a first-time writer, Pinter has written the sort of book some authors take years to refine and perfect.'

Henry Parker is excited about his first day at work with the New York Gazette. It has been his dream for years to work for the company and, he hopes, rub shoulders with his idol, Jack O’Donnell. Now he is working near the great man himself, and he can’t believe his luck. With dreams of gaining a front page headline, Henry is disappointed that his first assignments are the obituaries. Not the blaze of glory he had imagined.

Asking for better stories than writing about local, unknown dignitaries who have died, Henry is given a job by Jack O’Donnell himself. Henry has to interview an ex-convict named Luis Guzman for a feature that Jack is writing. Having set up the interview, Henry feels that something is not quite right when he meets Luis. After the interview, this same feeling is still nagging at Henry. He decides to return to Guzman’s apartment and interrupts an encounter between Guzman and some ‘heavy’ sent to sort the man out. There is a struggle and a gun goes off. Immediately, Henry runs from the building and the next day discovers something about the man that has put him in mortal danger. Henry Parker - with all his dreams - is now a wanted man. Wanted by the police and some other shady characters who are working independently. As Henry thwarts the police and the ‘man in black’, he must prove his innocence before he gets a bullet in his back!

In order to succeed as an author, some people plod away for years. Others strike it lucky and some are simply highly talented. Jason Pinter previously worked in publishing. It’s possibly nice to imagine that with the amount of manuscripts passing through his hands Pinter gathered unique inside knowledge on how to plot and, in some cases, how not to plot a thriller. Whatever the reasoning, rationale or pedigree, with his first work, The Mark, Pinter comes out with all guns blazing. It’s a brilliant debut. The first chapter introduces us to Henry and his big day at the Gazette. After that, the action simply blazes along and the reader is caught up in the ride.

As a first-time writer, Pinter has written the sort of book some authors take years to refine and perfect. I finished The Mark in a day – and literally couldn’t put the book down! The plot is neatly tied up at the end so that all the loose ends are wrapped up - albeit not too nicely - which is the way it should be. There is a very high body count and plenty of twists and turns, the chapters taking it in turns to describe Henry’s plight and the hunt of the police officers out to take him down. All the elements are there, plus that something extra special that makes this book a publishing phenomenon that's definitely not to be missed. Go on, I dare you not to finish it in one sitting!

Reviewed by: C.S.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) As it slowly evolves and increases in popularity, crime fiction seems to be organically sub-dividing into a number of widely diverse categories. Which genre (or sub-genre, even…) of crime/thriller novel would you say you write in?
That's a question I think is more accurately answered by readers than authors, since I think for most authors, or myself at least, I start with a story rather than a sub-genre. When I'm staring at the first blank page I'm not thinking "this is a thriller" or "this is a mystery" or "this is a cookbook" (though I often think "this is definitely not a cookbook"). First and foremost I have the story in mind, the characters who will be involved. I definitely write in the crime genre, but I think other people are better at slicing the pie. If I had to say, I tend to think THE MARK is a thriller with mystery elements, though the book I'm writing right now I think is more a mystery with thriller elements. And maybe like 10% cookbook.
2) What type of crime/thriller novels do you like to read? Do you prefer series or standalone?
I tend to read all over the map. Thrillers, mysteries, noir, hard-boiled. I even throw in some softer stuff just because I always want to be well-read in the genre and know what other authors are doing well. I tend to enjoy series and non-series books, and some of my favorite authors, such as Michael Connelly, Harlan Coben, Laura Lippman and Dennis Lehane work, or have worked in both series and stand-alones. Standalones tend to open up a broader canvas, I think, because the author isn't held to the rules and characters and the universe they've established, enabling them to explore new areas. But series novels obviously are wonderful because they can be like spending time with a great friend, or someone you just enjoy watching do their thing. And the best authors who write series are constantly surprising us, and hopefully readers will think I accomplish that as my series progresses.
3) What made you choose a journalist as your main protagonist?
I wanted to write a protagonist that I felt was a little different from the typical crime hero. Someone a little younger, not as world-weary, who at heart was still very much an optimist. And he needed to exist in a world that wasn't either beaten to death or already mined by authors who knew that world better than I did. I didn't want to write a second-rate political thriller, medical thriller, or police procedural because the best authors in those sub-genres could do them better. What I could bring to the table, I thought, was a character who could appeal to both traditional crime fiction fans as well as a younger generation who I felt didn't necessarily have a character they could empathize with. I wanted him to work an industry that wasn't so well covered, that I knew well having worked in media and entertainment for basically the last fifteen years. Journalism also presented an interesting dynamic, because I view Henry as torn between two worlds: the old guard and their work ethic, and the new generation which threatens to shove that aside as technology improves. Henry Parker wants to wipe away the stain left by journalists such as Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass, but of course when he ends up becoming the very thing he despises he has to deal with the ramifications emotionally as well as physically. And I thought that would make for a compelling character.
4) The novel is fast-paced and the action is pretty breakneck. Is this the kind of story you enjoy and what challenges does it offer you as an author?
I love this kind of story, and from the beginning I knew I wanted it to unfold over a very specific, brief period of time (three days). I didn't want readers to put the book down. And I wanted the book to work in such a way that you knew where every character was--from Henry on down--and what they were doing at any given moment. This created tension, because Henry might be walking into a buzz saw and you wonder just how he's going to get out of it. Learning how to pace the book was probably the most difficult part. I wanted to establish Henry in the beginning as a character so readers would have an emotional attachment to him, but when the plot is set in motion it's pedal to the metal.
5) The pre-release reviews from crime/thriller luminaries including James Patterson, Tess Gerritsen, Lee Child and Jeffery Deaver are phenomenal. How do you feel about getting this level of support as a first-time novelist?
It was really incredible and humbling. Not only that these authors who I myself have been reading for years actually read my book, but enjoyed it and were willing to put their names behind it. One thing I've learned very quickly is how generous the crime fiction community is when it comes to mentoring and nurturing new authors, and it's something that as my career progresses I look forward to paying back.
6) You have spent some of your career in publishing. Did you always aspire to write yourself, and what made you choose the crime/thriller genre for your first book?
I've been writing in one way or another for over twenty years, yet I got into editorial independent of my desire to write. I did, and do love publishing and editorial work, but I also know that you only get so many chances as an author to really make it, and I wanted to give myself the best chance to succeed. I've been a huge crime fiction fan for years, and I think I always aspired to write something in the genre, something a little different. I never wanted to be an author someone would call "the next so-and-so," but hopefully create a character and stories that would stand on their own on a pretty crowded shelf.
7) Without giving away the plot, which book - yours or by another author - included your favourite plot twist of all time?
Oh man, that's a tough one, and I'm probably going to forget half a dozen and hate myself later. Off the top of my head, there's a great twist midway through David Baldacci's first novel ABSOLUTE POWER that totally knocked my socks off. Of course it figures that they completed omitted it in the movie version.
8) What is your favorite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
Hands down, "L.A. Confidential." It's one of my favorite novels of all time, and one of my favorite films of all time. I remember when the movie was coming out, wondering just how they could take a book so dense with so many different disparate strands and weave them into a cohesive film since the canvas has to be truncated so much. And then when the movie came out, it really made me appreciate both even more, because I could sense just how difficult it must have been to craft both at such a high level. Great cast, great characters, and it keeps the spirit of the Ellroy novel intact.
9) Would you describe yourself as a crime fiction fan in general and, if so, which authors do you most admire and why?
Absolutely. I'm still a fan at heart, and like any fan I still get butterflies when I meet my favorite authors. I most enjoy authors like Dennis Lehane and Laura Lippman, and outside the crime genre Stephen King, because they can create wonderful stories that are populated by characters that feel real, and speak about issues that are prevalent not just in their books but in our society. The best crime fiction, I think, doesn't just present a crime, but presents a crime in such a way that it speaks about an aspect of our world and how we live it. To some extent I tried to do that in THE MARK, and even more so in my second novel, THE GUILTY.
10) What is your favourite crime read of all time?
Dennis Lehane's MYSTIC RIVER. Just a brilliant, searing, haunting book that transcends any notion of genre. I read it every year just to remind myself of how good it is, and just how high the bar can be set.