Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book Review, Interview and Giveaway: Strong Rain Falling by Jon Land

An exciting thriller that weaves between past and present is what readers find in Strong Rain Falling by Jon Land.

Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong and her lover, former outlaw, Cort Wesley Masters, are used to danger. But when Masters' sons, Dylan and Luke, become targets, the two soon find themselves diving into the past at the birth of the Mexican drug trade with opium being smuggled across the U.S. border and the battle Caitlin’s own grandfather and great-grandfather fought against the first generation of Mexican drug dealers.

The fate of the United States hangs in the balance as a powerful mastermind bent on revenge dedicates her vast resources to a plot aimed at the U.S.’s technological heart. Ana Callas Guajardo, the last surviving member of the family that founded the Mexican drug trade, is determined to prove to the Estados Unidos that esos Demonios are real.

Action? Check. Intrigue? Check. Thrilling? Check. Land's Strong Rain Falling is a fascinating, action-packed thriller that you won't be able to put down. The fifth, Caitlin Strong novel, it hints at enough of the previous books so readers have a bit of backstory for Caitlin, Cort Wesley, and his teenage boys, while providing a perfect one-book story for new readers to the series--like me.

Having read Land's Blaine McCracken novel, Pandora's Temple, I knew he could spin a spellbinding story. But what drew me to Strong Rain Falling was Caitlin's profession as a fifth-generation Texas Ranger, along with her relationship with a former outlaw. As a history lover, having a novel that travels seamlessly between past and present provided me with the best of both worlds. And the twists and turns along the way encouraged me to keep turning the pages. I liked that Caitlin wasn't perfect. She has a bit of a reputation for being trigger-happy. Her relationship with a certain FBI agent isn't very pleasant. But in typical Texas Ranger fashion she gets the job done.

I'm definitely interested in going back to the beginning of this series and reading the other four. I need to know Caitlin's entire story. And I can't wait until another book in this series is released.

If you're interested in a thriller with tons of action, where the past as much as the present plays a role, this book is for you. If you enjoy Texas Ranger stories and novels about drug trafficking, it will also be you. And if you like a strong heroine, in what some might consider an unusual occupation, you're going to like Strong Rain Falling. I highly recommend it.

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Forge Books
Publication Date: August 13, 2013
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN: 978-0765331502
Series: Caitlin Strong, 5 (Can be read as a Stand Alone)

I received a digital version of this book from the author's publicist. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Find the book on Goodreads at http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16059374-strong-rain-falling

Interview with Jon Land

Where did you grow up?

Barrington, Rhode Island which is a suburb of Providence.

When did you begin writing?

My answer to that one may surprise you, since I didn’t actually start writing until I was a sophomore at Brown University. First off, that was probably a positive thing since it’s so easy for fledgling writers to get discouraged when they start out in high school or even before. I’d always enjoyed the process, dating all the way back to junior high, but I never had even considered the notion of pursuing a career. For me, law school was as certain after college as college was after high school. But the writing bug bit me while at Brown, and I started writing magazine articles for periodicals like People and The Saturday Evening Post and fell in love with, confession time!, seeing my name in print. Around the same time, I fell in love with reading again, particularly thrillers, and figured why not write one, specifically for my Senior Honors Thesis in Brown’s Honors Program. Two wonderful professors, George Monteiro and the legendary Elmer Blistein, took a huge chance by sponsoring me, but I ended up finishing the book. It was god-awful for the most part, but I’d proven to myself that I could do it. The next book I wrote was the first one that ended up selling and, to this day, I credit Brown to a huge degree in providing me the academic freedom and opportunity to chase my dream.

Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?

I write normally in two shifts, first in the late morning through mid-afternoon and then again at night. I especially enjoy writing at night, the later the better, because there are less distractions in the form of phone calls and e-mails. People sometimes forget that as a writer I’m also running a business and, as such, the projects I’m planning or chasing are just as important as the one I’m currently writing. That means when somebody calls or e-mails, I have to respond sometimes immediately. There are also lots of promotional commitments, like this terrific interview you’re conducting, that take up time but are more than worth it. Business again.

What is this book about?

Ah, my favorite question! First off, I think this is the best entry in the series so far. It follows Fifth Generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong on the trail of a Mexican billionaire intending to avenge the wrongs the United States has done to her family thanks to a plot to put us back in the stone age technologically—and, yes, I said her! Ana Callas Guajardo is every bit Caitlin’s equal and her most dangerous adversary yet. Beyond that, Guajardo’s plot also involves killing the teenage sons of Caitlin’s lover, former outlaw Cort Wesley Masters, for whom she has become a surrogate mother. That makes for great emotional development and suspense, coupled with a powerful sub-plot set in the past and featuring Caitlin’s grandfather and great-grandfather that is intrinsically connected to what’s transpiring in the present.

What inspired you to write it?

Writing about the Texas Rangers intrinsically means writing lots about the drug trade that originates, and to an extent dominates, Mexico. So I finally asked myself, where did it all start? I couldn’t recall ever seeing any other writer answer that question and it turns out the Mexican drug trade actually began in the 1870s with a flood of Chinese immigrants who brought opium along for the ride. Just a few years later, farms growing the poppy flower needed to produce opium were sprouting up all over the country. And not long after that, right around the turn of the century, you have the actual birth of drug smuggling with opium being brought into the western United States through the Baja region. In fact, there was a Mexican provincial governor named Cantu (who’s actually a character in the book) who was lauded for building roads and other infrastructure projects when the real reason he built them was to facilitate his smuggling operation!

Who is your favorite character from the book?

Hey, you can’t ask a writer that! (laughs) Seriously, I love them all, but I think most writers as well as readers tend to favor characters who don’t have quite as much screen time but tend to dominate every scene they’re in. So I’d have to say the giant, former Venezuelan assassin, Colonel Guillermo Paz. I don’t think I’ve ever created a character who speaks on his own and creates his own dialogue better than Paz. He’s an indestructible killing machine originally hired to kill Caitlin way back in the first book in the series [Strong Enough to Die], but has evolved into her protector and guardian angel since. He’s always in search of the elusive answers to provide some sort of spiritual enlightenment. When regular visits to church confessionals fail to achieve this for him, Strong Rain Falling features scenes of Paz auditing college philosophy classes where the professors, how I can put this mildly?, run afoul him—a truly bad idea, trust me. And the amazing thing about Paz (SPOILER ALERT!) was that he wasn’t even supposed to survive the first book in the series. Turned out he had plans of his own.

Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone for whom it was easy and my story is more or less typical. A dozen or more rejections before a company named Zebra that published only paperbacks rolled the dice with me and won. It was a great time for books because there were so many mall stores where you could browse randomly and discover all kinds of authors crammed onto the paperback displays in the front of the store for around three bucks a book. To a large degree, this kind of opportunity and exposure has been replaced by E-books. But the problem is it remains challenging to browse the Internet for new authors the way we used to browse mall-based bookstores. That’s one of the biggest losses our industry has suffered and explains, partially anyway, why it’s become so much harder for traditional publishers to build an author the way they used to.

If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?

That’s a great question and I’m going to answer it in a way I never have before. When I started with Zebra they were a tiny imprint almost exclusively devoted to romance novels with trashy covers. I did three very successful books for them but left for Fawcett Gold Medal (an imprint of Random House) in the mid ‘80s because they weren’t offering a high enough royalty. A few years later they started publishing hardcovers and grew into a great publisher now called Kensington. Bottom line: If I’d found a way to stay with them, I might have become one of their biggest authors ever, a big fish in a small pond, and may have had a smoother road to accomplish far more of my career goals.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

Pretty much anywhere, including all the on-line sites. I used to say any bookstore but the inventory paradigm has shifted a lot at Barnes and Noble as well as plenty of Indies to the point where they stock more copies of big bestselling authors and less copies of everybody else. So Barnes and Noble may have Strong Rain Falling, but they may not. And once they sell out of the four or six copies they have on hand, they are unlikely to reorder. Then they complain that they’re not selling enough books and look at you funny when you ask them why it’s not still on the shelves. But, all that aside, it shouldn’t be hard at all to get your hands on a copy of Strong Rain Falling.

Do you have a video trailer to promote your book? If yes, where can readers find it?

I do indeed and here’s the best link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8-6lvqmp88

What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?

Tell a story. Sounds simple but developing an instinctive sense of beginning, middle and end, of knowing how to build suspense, how to pace, how to make your book impossible to put down is what it all comes down to. You have to write so that every scene, every paragraph—hell, every line—contains conflict and gives the reader a reason to keep reading. When you think of great oral storytellers, think of the way they use the cadence and rhythm of their voices to keep those gathered around the campfire leaning forward. Well, finding that voice is just as important for storytellers who use written words as their tool instead. I always go back to how the great John D. McDonald defined the essence of story: Stuff happens to people the reader cares about. All writers, first and foremost, should keep that simple mantra in mind.

What is up next for you?

Lots of work, too much work, more work than I can handle! (laughs) Seriously, I’ve never had as many opportunities as I have right now but I never stop considering more because you just never know when the BIG ONE that gets me on the New York Times bestseller list is going to come. The next book’s already done. It’s called THE TENTH CIRCLE and it’s the follow-up to PANDORA’S TEMPLE once again featuring Blaine McCracken, my original series hero I’ve fallen back in love with. Beyond that I’m actually working on three books: a sequel to my bestselling THE SEVEN SINS, a terrific project I’m doing in tandem with the great Heather Graham, and I’m just about to start STRONG DARKNESS, the next book featuring Caitlin that takes her and Cort Wesley Masters to a very dark place potentially. I’m going to take her right up to the edge, but hopefully not so close that she slips over. I also see some good finally coming out of Hollywood after my one and only film, the teen comedy DIRTY DEEDS, was released all the way back in 2005. Hey, call me the eternal optimistic. But I’m also a realist and that’s why, to paraphrase the great Jerry Garcia, I’ve embarked on so many journeys leading to the same destination that’s labeled, simply, SUCCESS!

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CMash said...

WOW! Extraordinary interview and review. I really enjoyed reading this whole post. Thank you for sharing.

Jon Land said...

Can't thank you enough for your wonderful coverage of my latest. There is no better feeling for a writer than when a reviewer "gets" what what I was trying to do and you got it, nailed it dead solid perfect. I especially enjoyed your mention of your interest in history and how that played into how you felt about the book. How I use actual history, especially in STRONG RAIN FALLING, is a crucial part of this series that normally goes unnoticed and unappreciated. Not by you, though, and I'm ever so grateful for that. Jon

Cheryl said...

Thanks for the comments. I appreciate it. Jon, stories that connect past and present are some of my favorites. The past influences so much of the future, it can't be ignored. You did an excellent job of proving that with this book.

Marjorie/cenya2 said...

No at all familiar since I live in Canada, except I guess they are similar to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

cenya2 at Hotmail dot com

Marie King said...

This would be a perfect addition to our book club's TBR list. We're currently reading “Publics: Libertas Aut Mors” by Baltazar Bolado, http://baltazarbolado.net/ and all of us have agreed that it's been hard to put down as it's another great thriller. You should give it a look. I will definitely be jotting down this title to present to the girls next month. Thanks for the review!

Missy Jacobs said...

Thanks for sharing this interview and review, sounds great! Marie, thank you also for the other great book suggestion. I checked out the book you suggested on Amazon and plan on getting it but just wanted to let you know that the correct title of the book is “Publius: Libertas Aut Mors”; just in case anyone else it looking for it and it’s not coming up for them.