Get ready, because author Bill Brewer brings the heat in a big way with his explosive debut, Dawn of the Assassin.
David Diegert is a man with a lethal set of skills. After serving his country and then trying to re-invent himself in civilian life after receiving a sketchy dishonorable discharge he didn’t deserve, David struggles with finding a purpose until one is ultimately chosen for him.
Against his will, at least initially, a devastating series of events pulls David into the shocking underworld of assassins—where he quickly learns the tricks of the killing trade, and begins to thrive. Eventually, David catches the eye of an elite organization that hires the best assassins in the world, and he’s asked to join. But, of course, there’s a catch—and in this case, he’s not the only recruit the organization is interested in. They want the alpha hitman, and to find him, they’re pitting all the assassins against each other in a giant showdown of deadly force.
To win, and to stay alive, David must kill all the other assassins . . . and one wrong move could cost him everything.
Fast-paced and flush with nonstop action sequences, Brewer is at his best when describing the secret world assassins operate in. Think John Wick meets The Hunger Games, but with more drama and tougher odds. Bottom line: if you’re looking for an exciting read, this is it.
Just ahead of the release of his anticipated debut, Bill Brewer agreed to go on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I asked him about everything from how he came up with the plot idea for this one to when he knew he wanted to be a writer.
TRBS: First and foremost, what a story! How did you come up with the plot idea for this book?
Brewer: Thank you, Ryan, I’m really glad you liked the book. Over the years, I’ve been quite amazed at the concentration of wealth and power into very few hands. When one percent of the population owns almost ninety percent of the wealth, the balance of power is disrupted. For more and more people the economy keeps them from achieving personal prosperity. This is demoralizing enough that one’s morals may decline, devolve or disappear. I wanted to explore the perspective of a young man struggling to make his way in such a world with very little personal power, except the incredible power he feels when he fights or defends himself with such ferocity that he’s capable of killing. The protagonist of the series, David Diegert, experiences an arc of depravity as he’s sucked into an underworld operating outside the bounds of normal society. He serves those in power by using the power to kill to fulfill their desires. From Diegert’s impoverished financial point of view, being an assassin makes perfect sense. From his moral vantage point, it’s hideous forcing him into a tumultuous struggle with his duplicity. The reader will feel Diegert’s desperation as he fights his way out of the quandary he is thrust into by his impossible circumstances. It’s a classic thriller plot with a modern economic twist, forcing this reluctant, but deadly guy not to lose his sense of self, and become a cold-hearted killer.
TRBS: What I love about your hero, David Diegert, is that, deep down, he’s a somewhat ordinary guy who is forced into this situation, and surprises even himself with how lethal he can be when needed. Who inspired you in creating that character, and what sort of research did you have to do in general before sitting down to write this one?
Brewer: I appreciate that you recognize David’s a normal guy. He’s not out to hurt anyone and is not inherently violent. While developing this character, I was inspired by the plight of people of mixed race, who are caught between cultures. I researched the Ojibwa people of Northern Minnesota. David Diegert’s mother is Ojibwa and his father is white. It is through the customs of the Ojibwa that David’s mother introduces him to spiritual beliefs and the idea of living according to seven guiding principles. He struggles to follow these principles and readers will feel his angst as he encounters violent opposition right within his own family. David is ostracized in the white community in which he lives, and he’s shunned by the local Ojibwa because of his white ancestry. Feeling alone and unwanted, David builds a tough exterior, preferring to feel pain rather than, doubt, failure, and loneliness. He excels at wrestling, which earns him a hard-fought, but short-lived, conditional social acceptance. Readers will feel the anger and frustration welling up inside him as he realizes his situation will never change in the town in which he lives.
David is inspired by people I’ve known who persevered in spite of the odds stacked against them, within a society which rejected them and undermined their success. Such people show true grit as they overcome their circumstances by whatever means they can muster.
I also researched the military and the process of being dishonorably discharged, which puts a person in an employment position similar to an ex-convict. Readers will experience what it’s like to be at the bottom of the 99th percentile. They will feel the desperation when David realizes his choices are bad, or worse. They will also rise with him as he perseveres, and overcomes tremendous challenges. Diegert is a classic thriller character struggling with emotional turmoil as he traverses a dangerous world filled with betrayal, violence, and proverbial moral landmines.
TRBS: When did you know you wanted to be a writer, and then, now that you are, what is your writing process like? Are you an outliner? Do you just write by feel and instinct? So you have a target word count that you try to hit each day?
Brewer: Writing started in High School but took a back seat to sports for several decades. When my children were young I would tell them stories while we traveled in the minivan. About ten years ago the urge to write more complex stories, designed to entertain adults, took me on the path to thrillers. I enjoy the excitement, the action and the intrigue that fills the pages of all good thrillers.
Developing my own character, and a world in which he will live, was transforming as a writer because I felt him more than any other character I’d ever created. The character emerged as much as was created. I was writing so that readers would see through Diegert’s eyes, share his emotions and feel his experiences. Diegert is a conduit for readers to enter the unique world in which this character struggles to survive as he faces adversaries, seeks allies and perseveres to fulfill his personal mission.
I’ve been a teacher throughout my career, so I’m used to creating lesson plans, unit plans, and semester syllabi. These documents are all outlines, so I’m an outliner. I brainstorm the story, putting it all in bullet points. This allows me to dream up the plot and create character sketches. After I’ve created a storyboard of sentences, I go back and write the most exciting or most inspired scenes. When I have a bunch of gripping scenes I stitch them together with internal thought pieces, transitional conversations, and contemplation during travel time, eventually, a book emerges.
The outline is a guide that allows me to capture inspiration and ideas, but it is not set in stone. I change the story as needed as I go from outline to rough draft. The story must be allowed to tell itself. The writer is the vessel through which the words are put to the page, but the best stories flow through the brain and fingers of the writer, originating in a place the writer feels rather than thinks.
The real magic of writing is editing. I vigorously edit my stories. Editing makes the story a lean, tight, compelling page-turner, told at a breakneck pace keeping the reader on the edge of their seat, long past bedtime.
My intention is that readers will feel the adventures of David Diegert as he travels the world encountering challenges that are best experienced vicariously through the senses of an action thriller hero.
TRBS: Who are some of your favorite authors, and what was the last really great book that you read?
Brewer: I’m a big fan of Mark Greaney and Vince Flynn. I love the Gray Man, and I’ve found Court Gentry increasingly compelling through each of Mark’s books.
Mitch Rapp is also a very engaging character and I’ve enjoyed all his stories as well as the work of Kyle Mills, who capably continues the saga of Vince’s creation.
Recently I read a series of fantasy novels by Bryce O’Connor. His Wings of War series features the character Raz, a dragon who lives with, loves and kills a lot of people. I also enjoyed Bryce’s, A Mark of Kings, which is an epic journey taken by a cast of fascinating characters, one of whom discovers he has magic powers which he learns to use just in the nick of time. The books are extremely well written, I think of them as fantasy thrillers.
I was enthralled with Red Metal, the collaboration of Lt. Colonel Rip Rawlings and Mark Greaney. It’s a sweeping military thriller that pulls you into a Russian plot to secure access to the world’s biggest source of critically important rare earth minerals. The US response is complex and very risky, and the writing takes you into the tense world of military combat with modern weapons, creating a war, unlike anything that’s ever occurred. It’s a chillingly compelling read because this story could all come true.
Right now I’m reading Jack Carr’s, True Believer. I really enjoyed Terminal List, in which the character James Reece was introduced. In the second book, I’m gripped by Reece’s struggle to cope with the loss of his family, as he tries to find a new purpose in life. Jack’s background in the SEALs gives him an excellent perspective from which he tells this compelling story about the importance of having a mission in life. Jack Carr’s stories are very entertaining, so I’m excited to see his third book was recently announced, Savage Son will be released in 2020.
TRBS: Lastly, what’s next for you moving forward, and when can readers expect another book?
Brewer: There’s a lot more of David Diegert to come. The next book, Blood of the Assassin, as well as Code of the Assassin, will both be released in 2020. Face of the Assassin will be available early in 2021. I hope readers enjoy the stories, and find the world of this reluctant but deadly assassin, a thrilling place to spend time listening and reading.
Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.