Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Please Welcome Thriller Writer Terrence McCauley

Omnimystery News: Guest Post by Terrence McCauley

We are delighted to welcome back author Terrence McCauley to Omnimystery News.

Terrence's latest thriller in his "University" series is A Murder of Crows (Polis Books; July 2016 trade paperback, audiobook and ebook formats). We asked him to tell us more about this mysterious organization, and he titles his guest post for us today, "An Introduction to The University".

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Terrence McCauley
Photo provided courtesy of
Terrence McCauley

I'm torn about writing this piece. On one hand, I think explaining the University is an important way to introduce new readers to a key aspect of my writing, a fiction entity whose influence is present in four novels I've written so far and will play a role in more novels in the future.

On the other hand, I'm worried about violating that most sacred of rules of good fiction writing — telling rather than showing. Like most old rules, it got to be old because it's a good one. But I'm afraid that if I tell too much about the University here, it'll dissuade some readers from reading my work. But then again, it might pique enough interest so that they'll go out and buy all my work to see if they can find the threads of the University's existence as far back as the 1930s. (See how a writer's mind works? Arguing against itself at the same time? I kept that internal debate in this piece not only because I wanted to explain my thought process, but to demonstrate the reason for the University's existence in the first place.)

I think I've figured out a way to introduce you to this important organization without divulging too much in advance. The University first appears in my novel Prohibition, which is set among the crime world of 1930 New York City, when the Prohibition era is coming to an end and the Great Depression is about to take hold. It's a tale about a common hood named Terry Quinn who must use his brains more than his brawn to figure out who is trying to undermine his boss's criminal empire.

The answer is The University. And although the name of the organization isn't mentioned in the book, its influence changes the course of many lives.

The second story in the University series is Slow Burn, which takes place a year after the events of Prohibition. A minor character from the first book — a corrupt NYPD detective named Charlie Doherty takes center stage in this tale, which is told in first person from his point of view. Charlie finds himself thrust in the middle of a murder/kidnapping case that ultimately involves one of the wealthiest families in the city. As the events of the book unfold, we find there is more to this wealthy family than meets the eye and by the end of the book, we see this family has motives and influence that extend far beyond the boundaries of the plot of SLOW BURN. This family is part of the group that caused so many problems for Charlie's mobster friends in PROHIBITION. This family is part of the group that will come to be known as The University.

Why is the group called the University? Do they meet in candle lit basements and conduct strange rituals open only to the privileged elite?

God no. I try to avoid cliché in all of my writing and having a clandestine group of wealthy people that goes back generations would only give in to the worst conspiratorial excesses of the genre. Without giving away too much, think of them as a group of influential, like-minded people who see a threat to social order and organize their efforts in an attempt to thwart it.

When one of their own gets elected president of the United States, they find themselves in a position of power to implement real change. And when they see that power threatened by forces overseas, they seek to learn more about those forces and attempt to stop them. The University is formed as a subdivision of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and after a distinguished contribution to national security during World War II, is formally separated from the newly formed Central Intelligence Agency by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The result is the University that we see in Sympathy for the Devil, a technologically advanced clandestine organization that is neither funded by the government nor part of any specific agency. It operates independently of national security bureaucracy and thwarts threats against national security from the shadows. Unfortunately, events in Sympathy force James Hicks and his operatives to come out of the shadows in order to stop a biological attack on the United States of America.

In A Murder of Crows, we see the implications of The University having to come out of the shadows and the price it must pay for being in the crosshairs of not only terrorist organizations but several intelligence agencies who want the information The University has uncovered. (As most of you know, a group of crows is known as a 'murder'. And the crows in this instance are the terrorist groups and the intelligence agencies gathering to hunt James Hicks and the University.)

I used the idea of The University as a plot device to help me skirt procedural question of intelligence gathering that didn't interest me. Of course I researched what I could about our nation's intelligence agencies and methods, but I didn't want to get bogged down in the well-travelled ground of how it's done and where. I wanted to tell a unique story of a group of committed individuals doing the best they could with limited resources. I strove to tell a story that involved le Carré's talent for laying out complex worlds, Ludlum's ability to write mysterious, compelling characters and Clancy's unique style of making technocracy believable to the casual reader.

Am I comparing myself to any of those great writers? Of course not! I'm only citing them as role models for the kind of story I wanted to tell. Have I succeeded in telling such a story? I hope I have. Initial feedback on my work tells me that people enjoy learning about these characters and hope to learn more, especially about The University. Some have even asked me if there will be any works that piece together those 'missing years' between Slow Burn and Sympathy. There are. In fact, I've already written one the sequel to Slow Burn which puts a sharper point on the beginning of the University and the role it play in pre-war intelligence. I hope I find a publisher that's interested in it.

In the meantime, I'm already hard at work on the next novel in The University series. It has a title, but I'm keeping it under wraps for now. Let's just say it shows the direction the University will be taking in the books and years to come, a direction I hope my readers will enjoy as much as I love writing it. As long as interest in this series continues to grow, I'll keep writing them.

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Terrence McCauley has had short stories featured in Thuglit, Spintetingler Magazine, Shotgun Honey, Big Pulp and other publications. He is a member of the New York City chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, the International Thriller Writers and the International Crime Writers Association. A proud native of The Bronx, NY, he is currently writing his next work of fiction.

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

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A Murder of Crows by Terrence McCauley

A Murder of Crows by Terrence McCauley

A Thriller

Publisher: Polis Books

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)iTunes iBook FormatKobo eBook Format

The crows are gathering … War is coming …

For years, every intelligence agency in the world has been chasing the elusive terrorist known only as The Moroccan. But when James Hicks and his clandestine group known as the University thwart a bio-terror attack against New York City and capture The Moroccan, they find themselves in the crosshairs of their own intelligence community.

The CIA, NSA, DIA and the Mossad are still hunting for for The Moroccan and will stop at nothing to get him. Hicks must find a way to keep the other agencies at bay while he tries to break The terrorist and uncover what else he is planning.

When he ultimately surrenders information that leads to the most wanted terrorist in the world, Hicks and his team find themselves in a strange new world where allies become enemies, enemies become allies and the fate of the University — perhaps even the Western world — may hang in the balance.

A Murder of Crows by Terrence McCauley


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