HOUR OF THE ASSASSIN: 5 Questions with Matthew Quirk

Framed and on the run for his life, a former Secret Service agent discovers how far some men will go to grasp the highest office in the land in this electrifying tale from bestselling author Matthew Quirk. 

On Tuesday, Quirk’s latest, Hour of the Assassin, finally hits bookstores—and if you were a fan of his last book, The Night Agent, you’re going to love his latest. 

Another standalone, but in the same vein as The Night Agent, Quirk takes readers back to Washington D.C. with his latest thriller, where his character—Nick Averose, a decorated Secret Service agent—suddenly finds himself in a world of trouble.

Working as a “red teamer,” Nick’s job is to apply everything he’s learned throughout his career watching for bad guys and apply that to threat scenarios for people he’s charged with protecting. In simple terms, his job is to plan an assassination, so that they can stop any real would-be killers who might be going about it the same exact way. Things take a turn, though, when Nick uncovers a massive conspiracy—and is then framed for crimes he didn’t commit.

Wanted and on the run, Nick’s only hope of saving himself, his family, and the country that he loves, is to evade the authorities long enough to connect the dots and bring down the real criminals before it’s too late . . . 

Falling somewhere between the movie adaption of Stephen Hunter’s Shooter (2007), starring Wahlberg, and the 2006 film Sentinel, which starred Michael Douglas and Kiefer Sutherland, Quirk’s Hour of the Assasin feels tailor-made for the big screen and reads like a blockbuster from beginning to end. Trust me, if you’re looking for a great thriller to sink your teeth into, this is it. Quirk brings his very best here, delivering a stunning, page-turning reading experience that’s not to be missed. 

Just ahead of the book’s release, Matthew Quirk agreed to go back on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I asked him about everything from how he came up with the story idea for this one to whether or not he plans to ever write another series.

See the full Q&A below, then click here to get your copy of Hour of the Assassin, now available wherever books are sold.

 

Hour of the Assassin

 

TRBS: First and foremost, WOW. That a book, man. Loved this one, and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I read it. How did you come up with the plot details for this one, and what sort of research did you have to do?

Quirk: Thanks! I’ve been wanting to write this story for a while. The initial inspiration was when, while doing research for another book, I came across these “red team” guys who actually pose as assassins to check the security around senior government officials and sensitive facilities. They even go so far as to leave real explosives behind when they’re running a test to see if they can plant a bomb in an executive suite, although the explosive is such a weak concentration that it couldn’t actually take out the cabinet head. I’ve been talking to the red team folks for years, and even did some training with them. They’re perfect for research because they are open to talking and they do, in a legitimate way, all the wild stuff your villain would try to accomplish in the course of a thriller—assassinating a politician, breaking into the DOD, whatever. The opening scene came to me almost immediately, running one of these tests as a mock assassination, and then finding the target already dead. But as always with these books, it took a lot of work over the drafts to actually bring the reader into it in a believable and surprising way.

TRBS: How is this book different from your last book, also a standalone, The Night Agent, which was a hit with readers and critics alike? Was one harder to write than the other?

Quirk: This one skews more toward the traditional action hero books of mine like Cold Barrel Zero and Dead Man Switch, because Nick Averose is pretty badass from the jump, and he’s in the fight from page one. The Night Agent was a bit more of the everyman conspiracy thriller, modeled on my favorite ‘70s books and films. They were both hard to write. The Night Agent was tricky because I wrote the book on spec, sort of risking my career on it, and it really needed to be perfect. So my agent and I spent a ton of time woodshedding it before we went to auction. That all worked out better than I could have possibly hoped by landing with David Highfill and William Morrow.

Hour of the Assassin was tough because I initially had a much more complicated, very different plot. I received some terrific notes on that first draft, but that meant a major rewrite on a very tight deadline. I’ve never worked so hard nonstop in my life. By the time I crossed the finish line, I had given it everything I had, and then the editor said, “This is great!” What a relief!

TRBS: What is your writing process like, and how has it changed over the course of your career?

Quirk: I’m an outliner, and my favorite part of the writing process—and my favorite bit of advice—is to get away from the computer. I take a walk when I’m figuring out a scene, letting it fill in until I can picture the whole thing, and then I go back and write it down. It’s so nice to break from the screen and let the creativity run. Early on, probably because I spent so long writing with a full-time job, I tended to be a night owl—really getting going in the evening and working until two or three in the morning. I became much more disciplined over time, and over the past few years I’ve started using a daily word count target. I love it not only because it helps me be more productive, but it tells me when I’ve earned a break and can “clock out” for the day. I’m so lucky that my passion turned into my job, but with that you need to be careful to keep a balance between work and life, because like so many writers I’m happy to just disappear into the story for days or weeks. Those boundaries can be tough as a novelist—the story is always in the back of your head—but it’s important to have them.

TRBS: What advice do you have for new or aspiring authors?

Quirk: Read, read, read and really get to know your genre. Finish what you start, but then be willing to throw it out and start on the next thing. I spent seven or eight years on my first manuscript and through that found out I was best suited to writing books that were very different than what I imagined I’d be good at in the beginning. I had a dozen agents reject that manuscript, but enough gave me encouragement along the way to keep going. The next manuscript only took nine months and it was The 500, which turned out to be a miracle book for me. Everyone has major setbacks, and they often turn out to be gifts, so just keep going. Losing the job I loved at The Atlantic in ’08 led me to take an all-or-nothing novel-writing plunge, and giving up on that first manuscript led to my first book and movie deal.

TRBS: Lastly, what’s next for you––and are you ever planning to write another series, or do you think you’ll stick to standalones?

Quirk: There’s a lot of cool news that, hopefully, I’ll be able to make public soon, about TV/film and some other things. I’m working on a story I love next. It centers on a long-hidden plot, dating back to the Cold War, that revs up again, and it’s all based on a real-life inspiration. And I’ll be working the standalone beat at least for the next one, but may return to series. Series are a little bit like a marriage—all about finding the right character!


 

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.

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