Author Steve Martini is a laid back, easy going guy who laughs readily and often. His successful series centering on good guy attorney Paul Madriani is consistently on all the best sellers lists. Two of Martini’s books, “The Judge” and “The List,” were made into television mini-series.
During a telephone interview last week, however, Martini confessed to enjoying the creation of Liquida, a really bad guy, who first showed up in “Guardian of Lies.” Liquida plays a major role in Martini’s new release, “The Rule of Nine.” (William Morrow. June 1, 2010. 400 pp. $26.99), and will be one of the driving forces for the third book in the “trilogy of terror” Martini has planned.
“I hate to say this, but I have a penchant for writing dark characters,” the author said, speaking from his home in Bellingham, Wash. “This was the first opportunity I had to create someone this dark and I liked it. Oh, yes, I did.”
Most of Martini’s bad guys have been mere reflections of what other characters think about them.
“When you’re writing in the first person active voice as I was through most of the Madriani courtroom thrillers, it limits your ability to create tension and heighten the tension of the storyline,” he explained. “You could see a dark character from Paul’s eyes, but that’s not really a dark character, and the descriptions sometimes say more about the people who are talking rather than the individual they’re talking about.”
To draw a truly dark character, Martini says you “have to drop into the omniscient point of view and actually show the individual doing the things they do and the reasons for it.”
In the case of Liquida, Madriani used humor in “Guardian of Lies” to deflect some of the mercenary’s evilness.
“When I started crafting Liquida, he was dark, but he had a humorous twinge to him as well,” Martini said. “You would sometimes almost laugh at the things he was doing, like you would laugh at Wily Coyote.”
Unlike Wily Coyote’s escapades, when Liquida gets angry, people die.
“He cuts very close to the bone because of all the violence that’s erupted on the border,” the author lamented. “I couldn’t dream some of that stuff up.”
Initially Liquida was attached to the drug cartels, but he’s now branched out.
“He’s developed an international reputation,” Martini explains. “People who are involved in terrorism are willing to pay him huge amounts of money because he’s efficient, gets the job done and is able to travel within the United States, which a lot of mercenaries can’t do.”
In “Rule of Nine,” Liquida teams up with terrorists intent on blowing up a Washington, D.C. landmark, and it falls to Madriani and his pals to stop the attack.
The technology the bad guys use to implement their plans is astonishingly small – and real, according to Martini.
“Technology drives some of my more recent stories,” he explained. “I love technology. It’s fascinating – not only the weaponization of technology, but the miniaturization of them.”
According to Martini, the small “brown bat” used by the bad guys in the most recent book exists.
“We have these things. Yes, we do,” he said. “There are programs at Stanford University and other places where the Department of Defense contracts to develop all kinds of remote controlled devices. The fact is that we’re flying drones over distant areas and the people who are flying these drones are located in a hangar in the southern United States. The fact is you can overwhelm a potential adversary by having millions of these devices collect surveillance or you can weaponize them in some cases with toxins or more quickly lethal mechanisms.”
Martini, who was raised in California and practiced law there, now lives in the uppermost reaches of Washington state.
“I live in Bellingham, which is the last sizable town before you cross over to Vancouver, British Columbia,” he explained.
When he started writing, he wanted to do something with a hard edge to it.
“The first book “The Simeon Chamber” had been a straight out mystery,” he explained. “The second book, “Compelling Evidence” was two to three years in the making. I wanted to come up with a character in the first person active voice. I hadn’t intended to do it as a series, but my publisher liked the characters so much that they decided it was appropriate to craft a series around them. My full-time writing career started at that point.”
Long-time fans have followed Madriani’s life through the years, including the death of his wife from cancer and the maturation of his young daughter, Sarah, from school through college. Sarah figures heavily into the new book, with good reason.
“She mirrors my own daughter to some extent,” the author explained. “She was Sarah’s age when I crafted Sarah into the book, so she’s aged in the same way my daughter has. My daughter is working with me on the stories now, doing some research. She may be doing some writing, too.”
Joining Sarah in the books are Madriani’s partner, the irascible Harry Hines, and his intimidating private investigator, Herman Diggs, who has a very close encounter of the dangerous kind with Liquida near the end of the book.
Because he’s decided to write a third book in this “trilogy of terror,” Martini really leaves the reader dangling at the end of “The Rule of Nine.”
“It’s a technique I hadn’t done,” the author said with a laugh. “All the rest are stand-alone books.”
Madriani fans will just have to wait until the third – and final – book in the trilogy is released.
“Liquida’s on the loose and headed to get Sarah and Harry,” said Martini with a laugh. “I don’t have a title for it yet, but I’m working on it.”
Paul Madriani Series
Compelling Evidence (1992)
Prime Witness (1993)
Undue Influence (1994)
The Judge (1995)
The Attorney (1999)
The Jury (2001)
The Arraignment (2002)
Double Tap (2005)
Shadow of Power (2008)
Guardian of Lies (2009)
The Rule of Nine (2010)
The Simeon Chamber (1988)
The List (1997)
Critical Mass (1998)
For more information, see www.stevemartini.com
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