Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Conversation with Thriller Writer John Lansing

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with John Lansing
with John Lansing

We are delighted to welcome thriller writer John Lansing to Omnimystery News today.

John's new Jack Bertolino novel, Blond Cargo (Gallery Books; October 2014 ebook formats), and is the second in this series to feature the retired New York police inspector.

We recently had the chance to catch up with John to talk more about his books.

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Omnimystery News: Introduce us to Jack Bertolino. What is it about him that appeals to you as a writer?

John Lansing
Photo provided courtesy of
John Lansing

John Lansing: Jack Bertolino is a retired NYPD Inspector. Exemplary record. He spent 25-years as an undercover narcotics detective who worked his way up the political ladder. He ran a group of narco rangers who were responsible for putting multi-ton quantities of cocaine on the table, millions of dollars of laundered cash, and shutting down major cartel kingpins. If it wasn't for a violent fall off a steel girder doing cleanup at ground zero post 9/11 he'd still be carrying a badge.

After three unsuccessful operations and months of painful rehab, he promised never to go under the knife again. Jack found himself standing at the crossroads. Shooting pains ran down his six-foot-three frame on a daily basis. He was damaged goods, recovering from a contentious divorce, and self-medicating his chronic back pain with a daily Vicodin, Excedrin cocktail. He decided to leave his hometown of Staten Island, and move west to find some peace.

What's that old saw? Men make plans and God laughs. Well, twenty-five years of taking down drug dealers, money launderers and killers came back to haunt him, and shook up his newfound state of calm in Marina del Rey, California.

I've always been drawn to flawed characters, in fiction, and in real life. Men and women, fighting demons, who were hell-bent on reinventing themselves.

OMN: How has Jack Bertolino changed from the first book in the series?

JL: Jack Bertolino is a constantly evolving and nuanced character. His resolve and moral compass remains intact from book to book, but he's an emotional product of his day-to-day life and will react accordingly as cases and personal life throw him curve balls.

Each book in the Bertolino series is a stand alone, in that, a case will have a beginning, middle, and an end. And the ensemble of characters may change from one book to the next depending on story line, but there is a core group of confidents and colleagues that Jack trusts who will also arc and grow from story to story. Let's not forget about his ex-wife and her boyfriend who moved into the house Jack built with his own sweat equity and lost in the divorce, or his son, Chris, who's at Stanford on a baseball scholarship.

Jack lives with some serious guilt about his son. When he was working his way up through the ranks as an undercover narcotics detective, he chose the pump, the constant action of working the mean streets of NYC at the expense of family. In doing so, he missed Chris' first steps, baseball games, birthdays, and graduations. Jack's doing his best to repair the damage.

OMN: How would you categorize the books in this series?

JL: The Devil's Necktie and Blond Cargo are Mystery/Thrillers, or Crime/Thrillers. I think there's a large audience for the genre, and more importantly, it's the kind of book I enjoy reading. My bookshelves are filled with novels by Walter Mosley, Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin, Robert Crais, John Sandford, Lee Child, T. Jefferson Parker, Susan Grafton, and James Lee Burke. That's the short list. I'm presently working my way through the Jo Nesbo series and having a blast.

OMN: How would you tweet a summary of Blond Cargo?

JL: Jack is back in Blond Cargo. Bertolino risks his life, career, and relationship with the woman he loves to pay back a debt of honor.

OMN: Describe your writing process for us.

JL: When I sit down to write, I don't start with a plot outline. I did, when I was writing for television. Then it was a necessity. You weren't green lit, given a script assignment and production number without an accepted outline. You didn't get a paycheck without an outline. If production went to hell in a hand basket you couldn't deliver a script in a week without a concise outline.

Now, things have changed for me. I start with an event, or premise, or concept, that intrigues me and I let the characters dictate the action and define the plot, not an executive producer or a star. And then, yes, the plot helps me decide on my cast of characters.

I'll use small step-outlines once I'm off and running, but I use them more as roadmaps. Nothing is set in stone until the book is copyedited. I'm basically flying by the seat of my pants. It's a daunting but exhilarating way to work.

As far as characters go, if they are created out of whole cloth, I will write a biography. If the character is based on someone I know, it's more of a shorthand process.

A perfect example is narcotics Detective Nick Aprea, Jack's only ally on the LAPD. He appears in both of my novels, and he's a major player in the third book I'm in the process off writing. His character is based on a dear friend, who passed away.

Nick was a tough guy, ex military, ex cop, great writer. He didn't suffer fools and if you were lucky enough to have him call you a friend, he'd go to the mat for you. He always had my back. I enjoy spending time with Nick on the page and I think he's a good foil for Jack Bertolino.

OMN: How true are you to the settings of your books?

JL: I live in Marina del Rey, California, and that's where my books are set. Like my protagonist, I'm a New York transplant. But I've been here for so many years I'm almost a native. Jack Bertolino's still a fish out of water.

It helps me to write what I know. What I can touch, feel. Streets I walk down, roads I drive on, and restaurants I eat in. I think the reader appreciates getting an honest feel for the geography where the action takes place. Often a location, or set piece, turns into one of the characters. I'll use real locations to help paint a picture, but I'll fictionalize a setting if it better serves the story.

OMN: What's next for you?

JL: I'm presently working on the third novel in the Jack Bertolino series and making good headway. And in November, Chris Sulavik at Tatra Press is publishing my short story, "The Test". It's a coming of age story, set on Long Island in 1963 that deals with race, violence, social politics, and young love.

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John Lansing started his career as an actor in New York City. He spent a year at the Royale Theatre playing the lead in the Broadway production of Grease. He then landed a co-starring role in George Lucas' More American Graffiti and guest-starred on numerous television shows. During his fifteen-year writing career, Lansing wrote and produced Walker Texas Ranger, co-wrote two CBS Movies of the Week, and he also co-executive produced the ABC series Scoundrels. A native of Long Island, John now resides in Los Angeles.

For more information about the author, please visit his website at and his author page on Goodreads, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Blond Cargo by John Lansing

Blond Cargo
John Lansing
A Jack Bertolino Mystery

Jack Bertolino's son, Chris, was the victim of a brutal murder attempt and Vincent Cardona, a mafia boss, provided information that helped Jack take down the perpetrator of the crime. Jack accepted the favor knowing there'd be blowback.

But now the mobster's daughter has gone missing and Cardona turned in his chit. Jack discovers that the young, blond, mafia princess has been kidnapped and imprisoned while rich, politically connected men negotiate her value as a sex slave. Print/Kindle Format(s) Print/Nook Format(s)  iTunes iBook Format  Kobo eBook Format


  1. Many thanks to Lance for sponsoring me on his terrific site. His thoughtful questions made me dig deep. All the best, John

    1. It was my pleasure speaking with you about your new book!


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