The Thriller Zone

On today’s 168th episode of The Thriller Zone, host David Temple interviews James Grady, a renowned crime writer, and author of the classic spy thriller, Six Days of the Condor.

James discusses his writing journey and the inspiration behind his latest book, The Smoke in Our Eyes, a book that’s available now. He also shares insights into the transition from writing novels to screenwriting, plus the invaluable lessons he learned from working with one of Hollywood’s most prolific television writers, Stephen J. Cannell. 

Temple and Grady reflect on the power of storytelling and the techniques that make a story thrilling. James emphasizes the importance of capturing moments of inspiration and continually learning as a writer.

They wrap up by discussing Grady's career and accolades, his contributions to charitable anthologies, his writing advice, the distraction of social media, and how to find him online.

Want to learn more about James? Visit:

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  • Luck and timing play a significant role in a writer's success, but perseverance and continuous learning are equally important.
  • The power of words and storytelling can transport readers and create memorable experiences.
  • Inspiration can come from unexpected sources, such as a tragic incident or a powerful message painted on a house.
  • Learning from experienced writers and studying different techniques can enhance one's own writing skills.
  • The thriller genre is timeless and continues to captivate readers with its elements of suspense, justice, and law. James Grady has been named one of the 50 crime writers to read before you die.
  • Grady is proud of his contributions to charitable anthologies that benefit various causes.
  • His best writing advice is to work every day and be true to your craft.
  • Grady believes that spending too much time on social media can be a distraction for authors.


00:00 Introduction and Background
04:31 From Six Days to Three
08:05 The Power of Words and Storytelling
11:30 The Inciting Incident for 'The Smoke in Our Eyes'
19:15 Writing Style and Techniques
27:16 Learning Screenwriting from Stephen J. Cannell
32:27 Impressions of Today's Content and Techniques
46:44 Accolades and Career
49:28 Giving Back
50:55 Writing Advice
52:18 The Distraction of Social Media
53:35 Finding James Grady
54:48 Closing Remarks

The Thriller Zone with David Temple is sponsored in part by Blackstone Publishing.

What is The Thriller Zone?

Join podcast host and thriller author David Temple as he gives you a front-row seat to the best thriller writers in the world. If you like thriller fiction in Books, Movies, and TV Shows, you’ll love The Thriller Zone Podcast.

David Temple:
Well, James Grady, welcome to The Thriller Zone, our big official start. Welcome to the show.

James Grady (03:28.526)
Thank you, and thank you so much for having me and to your listeners and viewers also. I mean, this is an honor for me to be with you guys.

David Temple (03:40.405)
It's our honor. And I'll tell you what, I don't remember when, it was back in the fall, I think, your folks at Pegasus and surrounding groups, publicists, et cetera, told me that I had a chance to talk to you. And I'm like, wait, James Grady, three days of the Condor? They said, yeah, I'm like, yes, please, thank you, yes.

And here's why. One of my favorite movies of all time, we're going to get down to this. We're going to talk about the smoke in our eyes. My prop is not here, but we're going to talk about it, of course. But for those folks who don't know, you may go, oh, I mean, I personally, you're a household name to me, James. But some people go, I haven't. I'm not in the know. I don't know who James is. Well, six days of the condor, he wrote out of the gate. You were a kid and.

James Grady (04:03.914)
Well, yeah.

James Grady (04:30.229)

David Temple (04:31.37)
Tell me about that. Let's just talk about that. Let's start there

James Grady (04:35.654)
Can you believe how lucky I was? I wrote it when I was 23. I sold it when I was 24. It came out when I was 25 and the movie came out that year too. And I'm just swirling in this wonderful tornado of great luck. I mean, I'd wanted to be a writer since I was 10 years old. And suddenly I thought I'd be 60.

before I got a chance. And then suddenly all my dreams are true. That was, it was an amazing time. It was an amazing time. And I think actually the fact that Condor was a character dealing with the paranoia and the unfolding scandals of that era. I was the guy at the right time with the right ideas.

and the good luck to be able to find someone to listen to me.

David Temple (05:40.333)
Well, let's just stop there a second and bask in that because I think a lot of my listeners who are aspiring writers think, Oh, if I just get that one magical thing, my day's going to be made. It's easy street. They're going to be throwing cash at me. Woohoo. I can sit back and take a year or two to write my next one. You're an anomaly. It's also called lightning in a bottle, but I applaud you. And I'm like,

Man, what a lucky guy. And you just said it, the right place, at the right time, with the right story, in the right psyche of the day. I mean, a trifecta, quadrifecta maybe.

James Grady (06:18.078)
Yeah. But the other thing is that all our aspiring writers out there have to realize you have to keep going. It is not something that you can bask and they'll come looking for you. I mean, I confronted a lot of, let's call it cynicism and fear that I would burn out.

women, drugs, whatever, that this 25-year-old kid from Montana was not going to be able to sustain more than a couple years. And so we, the publishers, better get everything from him. We can't. And I just know I'm here as long as I can. I'm looking at a long, long time. I love writing. I mean, I... Who was that author who said...

David Temple (07:12.729)

James Grady (07:16.806)
I hate writing, but I love having written. And I thought, you're in the wrong profession, because I actually love just that moment when you realize the right word. Huh! You know, it's just a great moment.

David Temple (07:32.341)

David Temple (07:37.857)
Well, James, yesterday I had to sit at the orthodontist and wait for them for about 45 minutes. So I was very lucky to have my smartphone nearby with some decent Wi-Fi and I downloaded the script to Three Days of the Condor. Now I didn't need it because I've got that movie memorized. I've seen it, my wife and I've seen it no less than I promise you 12 times. But here's the point.

I started reading it and I started hearing the voices. I could hear your writing, I hear their voices, and your writing, of course, not the screenplay, but the book, but the point is, you know, all those characters came alive for me in an instant. And the minute Robert Redford's in the phone book trying to be called in, and Higgins is on the other line, I can hear Higgins' voice, and I'm just like, the power of words and storytelling.

was rejuvenated. I think the first time I saw that movie was, help me out on this, late 70s?

James Grady (08:43.704)
Yeah, basically, I think November 75 was probably when you hit your screen.

David Temple (08:45.146)

David Temple (08:51.861)
Okay, so I'm in, yeah, I'm in high school. I'm a sophomore and that movie comes on and I'm like, whoa. And of course, who didn't love Robert Redford? All those cats that were really, you know, top of the world then, yeah.

James Grady (09:06.318)
God. Yeah. And, you know, it was what was interesting about the writing of the movie was they kept they would wake up in the morning, Sidney Pollock and the screenwriters in Redford. And the news of the day looked like. A whole different world, they had to keep fine tuning their script so they wouldn't get overrun by events as they were shooting.

which does not usually happen. And it was it was wow, they did such a remarkable job. And by the way, they were so kind to me. I can't even begin to tell you just small niceties that happened, you know, and I. It's still. Oh, no, oh, no.

David Temple (10:00.409)
Which isn't something you hear today, is it? Yeah.

James Grady (10:05.418)
I've had other things filmed in which I've been banned from the set. And this, you know, this, this and I'm a guy who's not, you know, I don't run in and yell, no, stop or anything. I mean, I it's just a different era. And I think it's partially. We're nicer, there were nicer people back then. I think it's a strange way to look at it.

David Temple (10:09.509)

David Temple (10:31.009)
Yeah, well...

James Grady (10:33.431)
You know?

David Temple (10:34.053)
The world was a nicer place back then. It's funny, I ran across something on Twitter this morning, which you shouldn't be surprised when you see anxiety and or animosity in a thread on Twitter, but I was seeing some stuff spoken to a friend, about a friend of mine and I was like, see, this is the world that we're in now and you can stir the bees nest, the hornet's nest and ruin people's lives with a.

with a tweet, which is an insane place to be. I don't want to digress on that, but my point being, it's a different world now. I've got something you have to tell me. I heard it inside scoop. I don't want to ruin it for my listeners because I love moments like this. Of course, the book that you made famous was Six Days of the Condor. The movie that I love is Three Days of the Condor. My biggest question, and I know you got the answer, how did it go from six to three?

James Grady (11:30.286)
Sidney Pollock, the director, who was at the same time a modest and a very deep-thinking man and a very savvy professional, took me aside and said, look, I realized I could not photograph Robert Redford on the run for six days because he'd look scruffy. He wouldn't be able to shave as enough. It wasn't going to happen.

So I made the screenwriters compress everything as much as possible. When we got to the end of their polished draft, we counted the number of days and we had three. And that's why we changed the title. I mean, it's just isn't that great?

David Temple (12:17.943)
is perfect.

It's absolutely perfect. It makes sense. You know, this is the kind of story that feels like it should be done in three days. It only ratchets up the attention and the tension and the terror, all the T's. So thanks for sharing that. That's, that's, that's amazing.

James Grady (12:42.207)
Yeah, it.

David Temple (12:42.577)
So on.

Go ahead. No, no, go ahead. All right.

James Grady (12:45.23)
Go ahead, I'm sorry. No. It was just an amazing configuration created by a band of artists working together. There were no prima donnas on that set. And that's saying something given today's world.

David Temple (13:13.305)
Yeah, I would call that a perfect storm. You were just, you know what this is? I don't want to say you were lucky because it makes you sound like you fell into something without any talent or having done the homework. But, because I know you have the talent. I've read your book since then. I know you've done the homework, but boy, there is a little bit of luck. Would you not agree that when you get that perfect storm that rolls in and the sun shines right on top of you and you have this kind of eternal events, it just, whew.

James Grady (13:43.27)
It is. And I keep telling people when I go out to give public speeches or interviews that I'm probably the luckiest author they're ever going to be in contact with because that sunshine came down on me and brought with it the exact moment of, you know, configuration of events that I couldn't have made up. You know?

David Temple (14:11.214)

James Grady (14:12.062)
You couldn't have made it up. I mean, it just...

David Temple (14:14.106)

Well, not so, so not only did you get six turned into three and have that movie made, but then it spawned the current, uh, max irons TV series condor. And which, uh, that's, you know, let's, so we've got this, you came out of the gate with a book, but not only this, all these years later, you came out, uh, with more condor books, last days of the condor shadow of the condor mysteries and profiles. And then of course, three dozen.

or a dozen novels, three times that many short stories. Do you think Condor has the ability to continue on at Infinitum? Because every once in a while you see this happen. I mean, I think of Lee Child and Reacher, I mean, right?

James Grady (15:02.89)
I think he does. I think that the fact that we all have at some point in our lives been put in a moment of terror or a moment of peril gives this character who unbeknownst to him is going to go to work that day and his whole world is going to explode into terror and peril.

I think that's a story that's going to happen in 20, you know, 2929. We're all still here. We're all still going to be having those moments.

David Temple (15:38.127)

David Temple (15:43.065)
Yeah. You know, I'm thinking back to when Robert Redford walks in. There's two things about Robert you gotta love, besides that handsome face, is he is the master of the double take. He does that thing about, you know, he's walking along. Yeah. And he does it.

James Grady (16:04.998)
And he does it completely naturally and completely when necessary. That's I mean, the man is only now getting the recognition of being a great actor, as well as being one of the most handsome men of the 20th century, you know. But all his other movies, you just can't... Bush Cassidy, I mean, you can't go beyond that. The Sting.

David Temple (16:11.138)

David Temple (16:24.654)

James Grady (16:33.75)
This guy, this guy. Wow.

David Temple (16:36.581)
The one movie I think leads three days of the condor, but by only a couple of viewings, James, so don't feel poorly. But my favorite movie, and it's something my wife and I do on a day when we just, you know, we have 1700 channels, 30 different services. And on those days, maybe it's cloudy, rarely here in San Diego when we go, we just want to like bed you out, pull the curtains. Nine times out of 10, we're going to pull up all the president's meds.

James Grady (17:06.57)
Ah, and you know, there's a really interesting linkage there because the novel condor was set in Washington and they were planning on filming it in Washington when Robert realized that if they did that, he lived in New York and he was going to have to move down to Washington, D.C.

for about 18 months and leave his family in New York City. And he said, look, there's one of these two novels that we have to change its location to New York. And we can't do that with all the president's men, but we might be able to do it with Condor. And they said, you know, let's do that. And in a way, moving Condor to New York made it almost more surreally scary.

David Temple (18:03.565)

James Grady (18:04.114)
because you expect that kind of thing in Washington, especially when the Nixon era was going on. But in New York, no. And so Redford's decision to basically serve his family needs as well as his artistic integrity, created this great duo of movies that he did.

David Temple (18:10.81)

David Temple (18:33.411)

James Grady (18:33.526)
And it just, you know, that's a story very few people really know.

David Temple (18:39.425)
I see James, this is one of my absolute favorite things about this show. And I said this to Terry Hayes recently, who's going to be a kicking off February. And he, uh, who has kicked off February. He has, he said to me, or I said to him rather, I said, you know, Terry, if it weren't for the fact of this podcast, chances are I'd probably never meet you.

And I say the same to you, James, likely I would never meet you. And I likely I wouldn't get to hear these inside stories, which are some of my favorite little morsels of life. So thank you for that.

James Grady (19:15.182)
Are you kidding? For me to be able to meet you and to tell this story to someone who appreciates it and gets it? That's my treat, you know?

David Temple (19:23.226)

David Temple (19:27.457)
Yeah, I was I was finishing the smoke in our eyes, which is what we're going to transition to now. And the style, albeit completely different than Six Days of the Condor, it still had your voice in it because I was because I went back to six days, started reading it, did not finish reading it. But I read several chapters and I really got a sense of

time and place and the way you set up a story and you took the languorous moments that were needed, which is one of the beautiful things about a book. And then I go to the screenplay and you still have that voice resonating in there. And I just loved it. Then I go to smoke in our, uh, the smoke in our eyes and I go, wow, you can still hear his voice, but it's an, it's, I don't want to say it's an entirely different style, but it is a, uh, a morphed style. It is slightly different.

And I just want to say out of the gate, kudos to you, dude. Great book.

James Grady (20:31.77)
Oh, thank you. Well, you know, what's interesting is, while some people would not categorize the smoke in our eyes as a thriller, it's got, I think it kind of is. I mean, it's basically, it's a story of tragedy and vengeance, a story of law versus justice, and it's all on a ticking clock. What?

You know, the thriller genre has always been kind of looked down upon by certain, you know, cultural critics. And I want to say, well, you know, there's this friend of David and I have this friend named Bill, and he's got this book about, you know, ghosts and spies and Castle and his father's legacy and a love affair.

And he came to us and he said, you know, I'm not quite sure what to call it. And we both looked at him and said, why don't you just call it Hamlet? And when you look at, when you, when you look at much of what is

classic literature, it all is driven by the same components that we, thriller readers and lovers adore. You know, East of Eden, a great, I mean, it just goes on and on and you can even, and you can see this going out into other art forms too. You know, Picasso's Guernacana, for example, or Springsteen's

David Temple (21:53.145)

James Grady (22:11.562)
born to run, you know, it just, or even better, Atlantic City. I mean, these are all examples of how we as consumers and cultural lovers like to be thrilled. Who would want to write a book that isn't thrilling or want to read a book that wasn't thrilling, you know? I don't get that.

David Temple (22:18.362)

David Temple (22:35.785)

James Grady (22:41.418)
and the smoke in our eyes was a characterization of it.

David Temple (22:46.029)
Yeah, and I want to say for the folks who pick it up or go to Amazon and do a little sneak peek, don't let the first couple of chapters fool you, because this is the point we're trying to make here. It doesn't start out of the gate like your traditional classic thriller. And correct me if you think I'm wrong, but it doesn't start that way. But if you'll give it a little time.

Someone is reaching over there on the back burner and turning it up and you'll get more than a simmer and heat in just a couple of minutes, folks.

James Grady (23:17.226)
Yeah, and it's in a way I kind of wanted to slide back a little bit into the atmospheric writers of guys like Raymond Chandler and you know there were several others in that era. And to do that, when you do that, you give the readers a way especially in this world where they're trapped in their screens to get out of that.

and then experience, oh my God, the first sentence actually said everything, you know, it's like, it's, I love being able to write a book like the smoke in our eyes and put it in the shelf next to six days of the condor, you know, they just, to me they're kin, you know.

David Temple (24:11.937)
And I do think, you know, as I, as I made that comment about not feeling traditionally thriller ask out of the gate, I will say it is reminiscent of six days of the condor, the way you started that book, but let me do this. As we talk about the smoke in our eyes, I'm going to set it up and then I'm going to have you add to it much like an elevator pitch and he kind of toyed with it for a second there, but I'm going to follow along. You're going to get it set in 1959.

the year the music died. The Smoke in Our Eyes is a cinematic clock ticking saga set in a small Montana town. Now you add to that to pull me in a step further.

James Grady (24:53.102)
This is also the saga of the great dilemma we face between justice and law, all of which gets triggered by a tragic, fatal car wreck on a dark, lonely, noir, thriller night highway in Montana. Out of that comes unbelievable vengeance. Out of that,

comes, law breaking out of it comes, the choices the characters have to make. And there are little moments of terror, like suddenly you're faced with a rattlesnake the size of a human adult male. Suddenly you realize you're being surveilled. Suddenly

you realize that your friend is getting beaten simply because he's a native American, and there's nothing you can do to stop it. Those moments, the moments when essentially madness is triggered and destroys a house you're trapped in,

I mean, those are all thriller elements that you don't see coming. And suddenly there you are, you know, racing down the streets that you've done with Lee Child and with some of our other great, you know, Jeff Deaver, others, Steve Hunter. I mean, I start going down the list. I'm going to forget a hundred of my...

David Temple (26:37.924)

David Temple (26:50.585)
And then they're going to be, yeah. Yeah.

James Grady (26:52.816)
So I'll be careful there.

David Temple (26:55.445)
Now, without going into where do you get your ideas, without doing that, I would love to know, was there an inciting incident, something that happened to or around you or to someone you know that was that little seed that dropped in the fertile ground of your imagination and started to sprout the smoke in our eyes?

James Grady (27:16.598)
never told this to anyone, so I'm going to tell it to you. I'm back in my hometown of Shelby, Montana. I want to say it was the mid-1980s, no, 1990s. And I'm just, you know, it's a small town. You drive around looking where, oh, I had a crush on the girl who lived there, oh, there was where my buddy lived. And I turn a corner and there on a ramshackle house in...

pretty giant red letters were the words, there is no justice in Shelby. And I thought, I literally, I'm glad I had my foot near the brake, but I stopped and I looked at this house and I realized that this had been painted on there by someone who was in real pain and anger and...

frustration. And I had to know what that story was. And that story triggered the smoke in our eyes. And it just, it just, it's one of those moments that you, I couldn't have, I couldn't have made that kind of moment up. And it just, it still shakes me that, that envision, I can, I can even see

David Temple (28:26.681)

James Grady (28:44.286)
looking at that I saw it out the right side of my windshield and turned the car so I could be sure to see it. It was something. And that moment, that thriller moment triggered everything else in the novel, The Smoke in Our Eyes. I just...

David Temple (29:05.369)
Hmm. You know, you've made me think of something right now, and this is why I never leave the house without a notebook. And I got, I got way too many notebooks, uh, more moleskins than I care to count. But boy, I'm with you. If I will, if, if it's not visceral or, you know, a visual auditory, uh, but it's just a random thought, I got to scratch it down. I always scratch it down in one line and I put a date beside it.

James Grady (29:18.739)
Oh, oh yeah.

David Temple (29:34.061)
because I'll want to remember where I was when I had that moment. Now, oftentimes if I've got the time at that moment, I'll sit down and go kind of a what if, and then I'll write a little paragraph. And then I'll, I might even, if I'm really on a tangent, I don't mean to take away from you, but I think we share this thing, perhaps in common. I might even come up with an idea. Oh, there's a guy named Jim Grady. Yeah, Jim, Jim's going to be the guy. And I'll just write a name and I'll write one little sentence of what I think. And then I'll save it.

And invariably, I don't know what it is, because I can't tell you what I had for lunch yesterday, or maybe even dinner last night, but I can have an idea. 15, 20 years ago, I can tell you where it was when I had it. I wrote it down, and I can sit there and turn it into a story. Do you have a similar thing that happens?

James Grady (30:20.462)
Yes, and I think that all of our readers who want to be writers like you and me, they should accept those moments. I mean, there's no other verb. I mean, you can't manufacture the moments, but you can definitely handle them in a way that lets you keep them.

and maybe someday use them. And like you say, I've had ideas and moments that I didn't use for 15 years. When I was an investigative reporter, I came across the rumors of the CIA secret insane asylum. And I spent years looking for it and eventually I realized, wait a minute, I'm a novelist.

David Temple (30:59.011)

James Grady (31:16.506)
I can make this up. And out of it came one of my better novels called Mad Dogs that's still working its way through Hollywood, you know. But it just, those moments are precious and rare. And I'm sure your wife is the same. She'll see you have a moment like that and go, should I stop the car, honey? You know, it just...

David Temple (31:22.204)

David Temple (31:45.597)
Yeah, yeah, are you peeking in my window? All right, let's do this. Let's leapfrog and in a similar Direction and talk screenwriting because you're one of the few guys that appeared on the show Who have dabbled more than a couple of minutes in screenwriting and first of all I want to say this because I have such huge respect for the late Stephen Jake Cannell and I wanted to make sure I got his name right legend in Hollywood

A feed into itself that you got to work with him. So I want to know what was that experience like, especially given that guy's prolific output in Hollywood over decades.

James Grady (32:27.222)
It was an astonishing and wonderful chance I got. I moved from Washington and left my new son and wife and daughter here, just because I got a chance to work under him. And what you learn about screenwriting coming from writing prose, is it's a whole different art form.

and you have to learn and adapt that. And I remember the first time I went into Steve with, you know, my finished draft of my script for one of the shows of his I worked on, he took it apart in a way that I have never been taken apart. And he did it with like a kind

Dagger is the only way I can describe it. And at the end, he just kind of looked at me and said, go back and do it now. And it was like, I learned so much in that incredibly painful half hour that it was like going to college all over again. And he was doing it, most of it, off the top of his head. This guy could knock out a script.

David Temple (33:36.635)

David Temple (33:46.661)

James Grady (33:49.566)
in about 10% of the time it took anybody else to do it, and it would be a good script. It was, he just, he had a knack and an understanding about the differences of film, of movies, and of prose. It was one of the most wonderful learning experiences I ever had.

David Temple (33:58.018)

David Temple (34:15.061)
Sometimes it takes that velvet hammer to knock some sense into you and to get you to see things a slightly different way

James Grady (34:23.375)
Oh yeah, oh yeah.

David Temple (34:24.641)
Yeah, man, and I know I know that you must have at that moment, you had to have had that wherewithal, that mental acuity to go. I'm in one of the most well regarded places I may ever be in my life. I have a I'm at the foot of a master. This is a master class in screenwriting. I mean, you are among a very few that got that chance. So kudos to you. Wow.

James Grady (34:52.87)
Oh, no. I mean, I can't tell you, David, how I felt both humbled, shaken, and so, I almost swore, lucky to have been able to walk out of there alive and with an education. It was, and I went back and this will not shock you.

Oh my God, the script that I rewrote was really a whole lot better. It was just, oh yeah, you know, it was just, oh yeah. It was, yeah. You know, and this was after I had been a successful writer for, you know, 15 some years, uh, and, and

David Temple (35:26.083)

David Temple (35:31.67)
Imagine that!

David Temple (35:42.821)
But yip.

James Grady (35:45.43)
You know?

David Temple (35:46.297)
But you've been writing books. So the trend, yeah. Yeah.

James Grady (35:49.962)
books and short stories. And I thought, well, you know, how bad could this script be? I couldn't tell you how bad it was, you know? It just, and it was, and as a boss, he made sure I got other learning, you know, in instances. David Levinson, who was my immediate boss, took me on sets.

and gave me actors to work with so you could learn what goes on with them. Listening to a costume designer say, this would be a really great idea to dress this person this way, except these clothes are not going to stand up under the heat of the cameras.

David Temple (36:42.647)

James Grady (36:43.082)
Wow! You know, it just, it was great.

David Temple (36:45.936)

Man, what a tutelage. Yeah, that is so amazing. Now for my audience who really loves the world of shiny trophies and you're wondering yet again, uh, who is this James Cratey? Let me, let me mention just a couple. You received Italy's Raymond Chandler medal. Uh, France's, let me see if I can say this. Grand Prix du Romain, Grand Prix du Romain Noir.

James Grady (37:19.403)
Yep. Good.

David Temple (37:20.782)
Huh? Try being over here. Japan's Baka Mitsu Literature Award and it's been a mystery writers of America Edgar Fineless. I mean, James, you don't get that kind of accolades and that kind of notoriety without really knowing what the hell you're doing.

James Grady (37:40.246)
Well, I learn and the thing is, I keep learning. Every book becomes an educational experience. And I'm gonna pick up a Steve Hunter novella later this afternoon. And he's gotta pull a surprise and I'm gonna see what he did with one paragraph and go.

I wish I'd known that 20 years ago and he would move me forward. And the same, I'll be reading a Megan Abbott or any of the other great screenwriters and excuse me, novelist and short story writers of our time who write the kind of fiction you and I and our viewers love.

David Temple (38:33.669)

James Grady (38:35.078)
Out of it comes, oh, I get the trick. I mean, if you have time, I want to, can I tell you?

David Temple (38:40.003)

Yeah, please do.

James Grady (38:45.278)
So I'm in college and I know that I'm trying really hard to be a writer and there's an author that I hope some of our listening and viewing public go back and look. Guy named Alistair McClain. And Alistair McClain wrote The Guns of Navarone and a bunch of others. He had I think five or six movies. I would read his books and they were good.

But I didn't know how he kept me turning pages. I mean, why can't I put this down and go see if Linda Levitt will go out with me tonight? You know, it's... And what I decided to do was I picked up one of his novels that was the most... Wouldn't let me go. And I read it something like 17 times in a row. I would finish it.

David Temple (39:24.262)

James Grady (39:42.462)
I would go back to page one. I would go boom, boom over the course of this summer. And you know, third time through you hate it. Fourth time through you go, I'm bored, I know, dah, dah. And then about reading 12, you learn his technique. And I learned from him that technique can be something…

you can develop and learn and use and make your own. You've got to make your own techniques. Learning his, which I don't really use, was like a great educational experience. I don't think I could pick up another Alistair Klein novel. Now, if he were still alive and he gave me a novel, I'd be able to tell you

what's going to happen on page roughly 20, not maybe completely, but I know that that's when his technique kicks in with a this kind of view. It was great education.

David Temple (40:53.163)

Well, now you're killing me, James. I can you describe to me what that technique is? There's got to be something, some way that you can explain that we that I and my listeners can grasp.

James Grady (41:09.218)
He in a way borrowed from Dashiell Hammett, who essentially started noir literature. And Hammett said, when you're going through your story and the moment needs to accelerate the story, have a girl walk in with a gun in her hand.

And immediately the reader and your story get galvanized in a way that is completely unexpected. And that's what McClain did. He would always move the action because of a character entering. And we all have that, as Steve Cannell said, while we have a three-act structure,

Sometimes, like William Shakespeare, it becomes a five-act structure, which I never completely understood from him. But, you know, everything has a beginning, middle, and end. And what a good writer does, the beginning, middle, and end doesn't just mean the plot. It means the characters, it means the scenes, it means the setup when they have to drive to the grocery store.

so the car bomb can go off next to them. You know, it's something that, a technique like that is something that once you learn it, it makes the telling of your story a lot better for the reader.

David Temple (42:52.101)
All right, I got a question for you that just popped up in my mind while you were talking about this. And it's this. Tell me a television show or a movie or streaming, it's all kind of related, that you watch and you, James Grady, six days of the condor, how you doing, says, oh, wow, nice technique, ooh.

Note to self, remember part of that trick. Or it could be as simple as, oh wow, didn't see that coming. Give me something that you see today in today's mass produced content machine that impresses you. It can be a show, it can be a technique, it can be an actor, whatever you have.

James Grady (43:41.426)
I, and I, of course, just blanked on her name. There was, there's a woman writer who had a series, I want to say Phoebe something, Phoebe Walker Bridges, who was in several other shows. She is a great writer, director, producer. I follow her. If I want to go back, one of the show, one of the things that really

triggers me every time I see it. Every time I see it is the Magnificent Seven, the original one with Hugh Brenner and Steve McQueen. When you see a show like we're right now, my wife and I are, I think we're in season six or seven of Suits. And I can say there's a lot of things about the show I don't like and that don't work, and I'm gonna watch it tonight. But it's just those

David Temple (44:15.173)

James Grady (44:38.382)
kinds of things where suddenly you realize there's a story going on beyond that which you can predict. I really, I'm such a fan of that kind of writing. And you know, it's in a way, and like you mentioned before, one of the problems we're

I've got what, 50 some channels to pick from. And I've got, you know, after I finish reading the book I'm reading, I've got maybe three hours just finding them, just working the two remotes can eat up like 40 minutes, you know. So it's great. That's one reason I still like to read reviews.

David Temple (45:12.879)

David Temple (45:25.538)

David Temple (45:38.125)
Yeah, here's one thing that Tammy, my wife and I have done. We have, you know, by the time you do Apple TV and Paramount and Showtime and Max, and then you've got Apple and Amazon Prime, and then you've got cable, and then you go invariably, invariably with all that plethora of potential collateral to enjoy, nine times out of 10, we'll go, ugh.

James Grady (45:38.158)
is they helped me... Go ahead.

David Temple (46:08.377)
Let's just run a movie, right? Or let's go back to let's go back to something we really love, like, you know, all the president's men or three days of the condor. My point is, I guess this is a good problem to have because we have plenty of content out there. But I like you. I am always pulled to story first. I'm probably organically drawn to an actor first. So like, for instance, we're watching True Detective with Jodie Foster. Well, Jodie.

James Grady (46:10.626)

David Temple (46:37.077)
Is a legend has been around forever. So I will watch anything she does. And

James Grady (46:41.326)
She doesn't do bad things.

David Temple (46:44.193)
I know it's crazy. So anyway, the point being there's plenty of content and we like to enjoy it. As we start to wrap, there's one of my, one of my favorite things said about you. And frankly, it's the, the line that got my attention a while back came from London's daily telegraph, you're probably tired of hearing this, but boy, folks, when you hear this, they named you as one of the 50 crime writers to read before you die. Now let's just sit there and bask that a moment, whether you like the

daily telegraph or not, doesn't matter. But that kind of accolade does not come out of nowhere. And I mean, at what, you're 42 years old now. I mean, to be able to have crafted this kind of career, it's such a...

James Grady (47:31.623)
Oh, yeah, 42. I'm actually, you know.

David Temple (47:36.461)
Yeah, point being, dude, what is it when you get that kind of an accolade, you got to hang that on a banner and when your wife comes in, oh, so, oh yeah, Mr. 50 books before you. Yeah. Dinner's ready. I mean,

James Grady (47:50.422)
That's, you know, I always just kind of fall into this.

James Grady (47:59.538)
space where I can't believe I'm so lucky that this happened. And then I get, I actually get nervous about calling the kids and telling them, you know, it's like, um, I don't want to brag here, but your dad just got called, you know, whatever. Oh wait, I got compared to Bob Dylan and George Orwell. Oh well, you know, um, what's going on with you? You know, how's, you know, how's...

David Temple (48:16.705)
Yeah, yeah.

David Temple (48:26.371)

James Grady (48:30.739)
It's just, you know, you can't and some of my heroes, including Robert Redford said, you can't let that go on that go to your head. What you have to do is you just keep going on with what you're doing and who you are and be so thankful. And that's

That's the best advice I got.

David Temple (48:59.573)
I try to start every single day with gratitude. If you got an attitude of gratitude, you're halfway there. All right, two more questions before we go. Number one, and I know this, I'm going to put you right dead on the spot of all the books, all the short stories, all the screenplays that you've written, all the accolades. What can you think of the one thing that you're most proud of having accomplished in this world of literary?


James Grady (49:33.286)
It's funny, while The Smoke Inn in Our Eyes is my greatest novel and what I'm very proud of, I was able to be part of two groups of authors who created anthologies that were benefits for groups. We did one for a group called Share Our Strength that I was the editor of, The Fighting Homelessness.

We did one for a land that, well, the real editor got hit with an amazing emotional trauma, so I had to take over. And that was to help landmine victims. And that I could give back, not make a dime and not push anything about me out into the world by using the talent that came to me.

out of nowhere. That's just, that's, that's to me is something I'm incredibly proud of, to be able to help other people.

David Temple (50:36.217)
Wow, that's...

That's when you know your heart's in the right place. All right, now here's the thing we close with. I ask every single solitary guest on my show, what's your best writing advice for aspiring writers?

James Grady (50:55.338)
Work every day. I don't care if you only have, you know, 40 seconds between when you got out of the shower and when you got to put on your clothes to go to your 11-hour-a-day job. Take that 40 seconds. Turn that into a feeling what you're writing. Maybe write down, you know, three words.

that Bobby is going to say to the guy she knows doesn't love her. It just, you've got to work every day. This is not a career for a slacker. You know, this is the... You got to be true to your craft and that means working it.

David Temple (51:41.197)

David Temple (51:49.465)
Superb and I'd love to add a PS not that you asked me and it isn't my is my show but it's not my Platform right now you are but boy I hear so many people talking about and I've heard this in conferences and so forth James about oh make sure you've got a good strong platform and Make sure your website is this and you're on social media And while I think those are good things, I think some authors tend to spend a wee bit too much time

there for reasons generally possibly potentially involving oh but I don't want to do the work right now but if I do this I'll be doing homework and I think it's a little bit of a distraction that needs to be booted what do you think

James Grady (52:33.358)
I completely agree. I had to give up my website because I was devoting too much time to it. I realized my job is to bring stories and characters and entertainment to readers' eyes, not tell them about me, not tell them about how things are going in the world. I want to serve my readers.

And that means I got to put my fingers on the keyboard and write about the story that I'm working on, not about James Grady.

David Temple (53:15.117)
Well, that is a perfect tee up for usually where I go folks. If you'd like to learn more, go to, but we don't have a So if people want to learn more about you or follow you, what is your best piece of advice to tell them how to find you and so forth?

James Grady (53:35.218)
You know, the only social media I'm on is Facebook. I don't have... I'm a bit of a recluse. I think the best thing to do is to just hit Wikipedia and it'll tell you where I've been and where I'm going. It's... I don't know. I have yet to figure that out. And I guess...

David Temple (53:43.395)

David Temple (53:50.449)
I'm sorry.

David Temple (53:54.949)
There you go.

James Grady (54:04.062)
I guess I should have a publicist, but luckily Pegasus is taking over that role for me.

David Temple (54:11.577)
Well, can I get this? Give me the direct link. Tell me the link that we can find you on Facebook, because at least there I can direct my traffic to you. So it's

James Grady (54:22.304)
It's just James Grady. I don't use any James Grady author. I don't use any, what do you call it, professional paid, no handles. I'm me.

David Temple (54:31.629)
Yeah, no handles. Yeah. Okay.

Yeah, and you do it so well, James.

James Grady (54:39.816)
Ha ha.

David Temple (54:42.709)
Man, this has been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for the gift of your time, bro.

James Grady (54:48.286)
And thank you and thank everybody who watches or listens to this. And remember, keep reading and keep expanding your worlds.