In Ben Sanders’s American Blood, a former undercover cop now in witness protection finds himself pulled into the search for a missing woman; film rights sold to Warner Bros with Bradley Cooper attached to star and produce.
As the title no doubt implies, American Blood is an American novel, but the opportunity to write it came as something of a surprise. My first three books are police procedurals set in Auckland, and follow a detective called Sean Devereaux. I was interested in developing an ongoing series, and saw him as a long-term source of fiction. It hadn’t occurred to me that I might need a different protagonist or setting, at least for the next few years.
I’ve been published at home in New Zealand since 2010, but prior to American Blood, writing was just a hobby, a nice counterpoint to work and university. I knew a U.S. readership could be the difference between writing by day and writing by night, and I thought Devereaux would help me make the transition. My third novel with him at the helm was published in New Zealand in 2013, and I traveled to New York City in the hope of gaining a deal with a U.S. publisher. My approach was a bit unorthodox – in the interests of stampede prevention, editors don’t tend to accept meetings with prospective, unknown authors. I was lucky though: I was in New York for two weeks, and my agent found me a fifteen-minute window with my now-current editor Brendan Deneen. During a slightly lightheaded quarter-hour, I pitched to him my most recent effort, Only the Dead.
The good news took its sweet time. I flew home and kept my fingers crossed for six months, and then in October 2013 Brendan emailed to ask if I was interested in writing a U.S.-set mystery series. I’d have to put Devereaux on hold, but yes, I was definitely interested.
A two-book deal followed. American Blood is the first, with a follow-up due for publication toward the end of next year. My new protagonist is a former NYPD officer named Marshall Grade, who’s been put in witness protection in New Mexico after he botches an undercover operation. I love character-driven stories, so I was always going to have a hero cut from Marshall’s kind of cloth – a man capable of dealing with thugs in a very hands-on sense of the phrase. The recurring protagonists in my first three novels were a police detective and an ex-solider, and I wanted Marshall to have similar attributes. Broadly speaking, he does, but his point of difference is that he’s self-taught: a canny and intelligent guy afforded a violent repertoire as a result of undercover work with a New York crime family.
My daily routine is to walk the dog for an hour in the morning, during which time I consider the previous day’s progress, and plan how to advance things in a logical manner. If I’m productive, I can write fifteen hundred words by five pm. Occasionally I hit a day when the ideas don’t flow, but with American Blood I was fortunate to never lose momentum. I was helped by the fact the film rights were optioned by Warner Bros. in February 2014, while the manuscript was only fifty pages long. The prospect of a blockbuster was a powerful incentive to get the story told, and I completed the first draft in four months.
American Blood is the first book I’ve been able to work on full-time, and it’s my first book to be published internationally. I’m writing the sequel at the moment, and hopefully I can bring Marshall back for more outings yet. He has a proclivity for violence, but he’s a killer with manners, and his quirks and humor and opinions make me want to spend more time with him. I hope you enjoy American Blood, and I hope you like Marshall as much as I do.
After a botched undercover operation, ex-NYPD officer Marshall Grade is living in witness protection in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Marshall’s instructions are to keep a low profile: the mob wants him dead, and a contract killer known as the Dallas Man has been hired to track him down. Racked with guilt over wrongs committed during his undercover work, and seeking atonement, Marshall investigates the disappearance of a local woman named Alyce Ra.
Members of a drug ring seem to hold clues to Ray’s whereabouts, but hunting traffickers is no quiet task. Word of Marshall’s efforts spreads, and soon the worst elements of his former life, including the Dallas Man, are … Read more.
About the Contributor
Anastasia Hadjidemetri is the former editor of The Booktopian and star of Booktopia's weekly YouTube show, Booked with Anastasia. A big reader and lover of books, Anastasia relishes the opportunity to bring you all the latest news from the world of books.