The Thriller Zone

On today's 182nd episode of The Thriller Zone, host David Temple interviews #1 International bestselling author John Katzenbach about his book Jack's Boys. 

They discuss the nature of storytelling in thrillers and the importance of creating complete and psychologically attuned characters. Katzenbach also shares how his experience as a criminal court reporter influenced his fiction writing. John also talks about growing up in the shadow of his father, former US Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, and how it shaped his perspective on government and history. 

The conversation touches on various topics, including the making of three of John's books that were made into the movies: THE MEAN SEASON, starring Kurt Russell and Mariel Hemingway, JUST CAUSE, starring Sean Connery, Laurence Fishburne and Ed Harris; and HART'S WAR, starring Bruce Willis and Colin Farrell.

David and John discuss other topics such as the impact of climate change in Miami, some of their favorite movies and movie stars, plus the inspiration behind the story, Jack's Boys, the importance of accuracy in thrillers, and the differences in reader reactions across different cultures.

Finally, the two men touch on the use of references to music and films in Katzenbach's writing, and their conversation ends with Katzenbach sharing his advice for writers.

Learn more at, and be sure to subscribe to, as well as follow this podcast on X, Instagram and Facebook @thethrillerzone.

Award-winning Green Beret, Steve Stratton, is the author of the Shadow Tier Series and the novella, A Warrior's Path: the Lance Bear Wolf Story. Learn more at

What is The Thriller Zone?

Podcast host and thriller author David Temple 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.

Hello and welcome to The Thriller Zone. I'm your host David Temple and on today's 182nd episode we welcome legendary, number one, internationally bestselling author John Kessenbach and his book Jack's Boys. If you like a thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat, check. Turning page after page, check. And keeps you up way into the night, check. You're gonna like Jack's Boys. Let's get into The Thriller Zone with John Kessenbach.

Well, I think we are officially warmed up. Welcome to the Thriller Zone. John Katzenbach, it is so nice to have you here. It's my pleasure. You know, absolutely. Look at this bad boy. Yes. Jax boys. When I miss a day at the gym, I just grab your book and I do a couple of overhead presses and it really works me well. David, it is it is longer than I typically write. When you sit down.

you realize you've got this story and then you get way into it and you realize, you know, you're not there yet. So you start rowing faster, right? And I'm pretty pleased with this book, frankly. You should be. It's a 608 pages of tasty goodness. Yeah. Well, thank you. Thank you. Really actually what you're talking about is the nature of story. Yes. And one of the things that sort of, yeah, that, that especially in the world, the thrillers,

you worry about is not being complete and not being sort of psychologically attuned to every character. So that when you get to the end, no one's saying, well, whatever happened to Ralph back there? You know, I really worry about these things far more than anyone should worry about them. Well, I think you make a really interesting point and I have learned this lately.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (01:57.966)
And it's a phrase that says something to the effect of trust the reader to recall a lot of that stuff. Cause I, I was kind of like, I'm like, well, I need to remind them all along. No, David, you don't need to remind them. They give them credit. They know who's wet and where. Frankly, David, most readers are smarter than I at remembering all that stuff. I think that that is a testimonial to the sophistication that.

most thriller readers have about plot, story, and character, which are the triumvirate that we're all working under. Yeah, the meat and potatoes of it. Yeah, exactly. We're going to dive into Jack's Boys, of course, but I want to do this. I want to take a little bit of a moment and talk about backstory or prologue, if you will. I mean, let's talk about you. I want to get to know you because I

I remember your name years ago. I have lost touch with you over the years. I remember, can't speak. Yeah. You're like years ago, like the movies. And then we're going to get to this in a minute. And I mentioned, I'm going to mention a couple of movies and I'm like, well, I know those movies very well. So it's so funny that I feel like I've known you for. Well, one of your movies came out at the, 85, a mean season. I want to say like 85, 86, a little earlier. 82, 82, 82.

I want to know, you were a criminal court reporter at both Miami Herald and the news. How did your work there as a reporter influence your eventual fiction writing? I always loved that particular inquiry. Okay. That, that because I went to newspapers because I wanted to be able to write fiction, but I didn't know anything. and, and so I went to newspapers to learn about the world.

As a journalist, I look every day, I considered it like going to the theater because what I would see and what I would hear would register. And in some kind of great psychological Freudian mix of things, you know, you, you hear things and pull them out later and install them into, into the books. The value in all of that is, is it's immense.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (04:24.622)
Because you see people in all forms of good, bad, and even. That became the template or the, the, the undercurrent for just about everything I've written. I so love the way you put that because you really went to school at the paper to learn the craft that you eventually turn into a real career. Well,

My wife often says that I learned everything I needed to know about psychopathology in prep school. But the fact of the matter is, it's really those days as a newspaper reporter. And starting in New Jersey and then down in Miami, I was in Miami at the world's greatest time to be a reporter. I mean, there were just everything that was crazy and

weird and wonderful happened all at once. Heck, I found a dead body once. So I mean, you know, I just - Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Stop the process. What were you doing and where did you find said body? I was working for the Herald. I had a couple of days off. So I was jogging through our neighborhood in Coral Gables, which is absolutely, now it's like, you know,

as fancy as you can get. yeah. And I'm jogging along, David, and I look into this empty lot and there is, you know, a body out there. So walked over and, and, you know, this was at the height of the drug wars and the guy wearing a leather Porsche jacket, you know, gold, you know, chains around his neck, Rolex on his, on his, wrist and single gunshot wound to the back of the head.

I reached down, felt the carotid artery and it was cold and so knocked on a neighbor's door and said, please call the police. Now here's the funny part about this story. The police showed up and I'm waiting there by the body for them. And they come up and the first patrol car comes up and two guys get out and they come over and they say, yeah, dead body. This is what.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (06:51.246)
what in the prosecutor's office in Dade County they used to call felony littering at that point. And one of the cops looks down at me and says, do you see the Rolex? Yeah. I said, yeah. And he just shakes his head like, you know, any damn fool would have reached out there, taken the Rolex, put it in their pocket, you know, and then called the police. Yeah. So I mean, but I mean, that's, I mean,

That was what Miami was like back then. You know, you name it. It happened in Florida. What does this say about you that you didn't lift the rollie? Well, it says that I'm a fundamentally honest guy and not quite as smart as I think I should be. Nice. To make this, this story somewhat serious. Okay. You know, it was understanding, you know, you're sitting there as a reporter and you realize.

how value less certain lives can be. And then for me, I had to say to myself, okay, how am I going to measure that? Remember that sensation and how is that going to go into a novel at a later point? so the great correlation between all these things. So that visceral palpable chill, so to speak.

of finding a dead body, you translated into a future story. Can you remember where that story went? Where that experience was woven into a story? Can you recall? I think that there are elements of it and the sort of callousness that I felt for this, you know, dead drug dealer and the cops that showed up and the Rolex, you know, I took that sort of, you know, this, where you sort of,

come a psychopath in that moment. and, and I've installed that in some of the, in, in the characters and Jack's boys. There are some, twisted Nellie's in there. That's for sure. We're going to drill down on that in just a second, but I do, I got a two part question, which I'm kind of famous for. How long were you at these two papers ballpark ish and were you writing fiction on the side?

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (09:16.974)
while covering the beat or were you, because I, I, I got a pretty good idea that you're working long hours, long days in a week, but did you scroll away some time where you would, you know, inject some of that, data that you were gathering while writing, or did you just kind of go, I just need to get this job done. And then later down the road, I'll, I'll start the real writing. I'm glad you asked that. actually,

You know, there's the old saw about every reporter's got a novel in their desk drawer. Yeah. Mine was all in my head. and there reached a point where, I realized, I'd been a reporter for about 11, 12, 13 years covering all sorts of stuff. And I realized that if I didn't take the time and try to write a novel at that point, that the opportunity might slide past.

So I actually took, I had to get a new apartment with my soon to be wife. We had to get a new apartment and this guy had this wonderful old Gables apartment in a building that he was intending to tear down eventually. So he said to us, he said, you guys can have the apartment. Is $140 a month enough?

It was like getting a grant, a MacArthur grant, a genius grant. I said, yes, we can pay that. And so about the next day I went into the paper and I said, I'm going to take a leave of absence. Shortly before then, I had had that sort of aha conversation with my soon to be wife, where she had asked me how had things gone that day at the newspaper.

And I said, well, you know, everything's okay. I got a good story or two, but you know, I got half dozen phone calls from the jail. You know, those guys always call up and say, I didn't do it. And I said, and they all did. And, and I said, wouldn't it be more interesting if somebody called said I did do it. And that became, I went, huh. And that became the basis for the, my very first knob.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (11:38.03)
Which is a reporter gets a call from a guy saying, let me explain why I killed that person. Wow. And what's the name of that one? That was in the heat of the summer and became filmed with as the mean season with Kurt Russell and Meryl Hemingway. Yeah. Yeah. As long as I'm rambling on, let me give you one funny story about this. The subplot in that was Vietnam. You know, this guy was in that and Vietnam.

And when it came to the film people, the producer, David Foster called me up and said, you know, Vietnam's been done. We got to lose Vietnam. And I of course said, well, you know, we lost it once in real life. We can lose it again, I guess. But anyway, time passes and we're, they're filming the, the, the big, big final scene and they're out in the Everglades and there are these SWAT teams running around and helicopters going up overhead.

And David turns to me and he goes, I get it. Helicopters, SWAT teams, jungle. It's Vietnam. I go, yeah, it's a little late now, right? But that's pretty much what I was trying to get at. Right. And, you know, so there you have, I mean, that's, you know, that, that whole thing, but it was, it was actually a wonderful moment, but, but that was my first book. Yeah. I love stories like that. And the mean season, if I remember correctly, cause I used to have friends that lived in,

that part of the country when I was in college and it's, I think it was when the storm would roll in, it would be like those really miserable thunderstorms and you think, good, it's gonna crack the heat and it's gonna cool off. But what happens is it just saturated and made it worse and it never got cooler. And so the nights were miserable. Isn't that loosely? That is absolutely the way it is. And you know, without being too political here, climate change just made it worse. What? Wait. Yeah. Yeah.

No, my, my, my son and daughter -in -law live in, in Miami and, it was, you know, the heat index was well over a hundred in May. You know, so I mean, so there you have it. Yeah. My parents -in -law live in, South beach and they're always talking about every time I go down, the mosquitoes for some reason, love me. They eat me up like mad. And then the, the, the water downtown, the water table is.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (14:03.246)
rising. So downtown loves to have a little bit of flooding from time to time. And we have this running joke of, you know, if you can't afford beachfront property, just, just wait a few months, years, because if you're just inside of town, you'll, you'll, you'll have it. They, a couple of years ago, during one of the big storms, you know, water was washing up on the Biscayne Boulevard in downtown Miami. And you know, it was a big shark there, just sitting.

You know, on the road. But you know, but that's sort of typical. I mean, Florida in general, just when you think it can't get crazier. Trust me, it does. In the writing point of view, you had to be careful, you know, because the real reality in South Florida was so bizarre, you know, that, you know, you would try to write some of those, if you tried to write those sequences into a novel, you know, all of your

the readers without, don't be ridiculous. That could never happen, you know? but it did. And some of that was called Miami vice. Yeah, exactly. My favorite Miami vice story. This is a very simple one. It was, you know, Michael Mann, you know, the first year, you know, they had a Ferrari, right? That Don Johnson, you know, would drive around it. And the first year they didn't think the show was going to be a hit.

So they got one of those kits, you know, it was a Corvette underneath and it's just a Ferrari body put on top. Very cheap. Right. The second year, Don Johnson goes, real Ferrari. Yeah. Yeah. And so that means as Hollywood, right? Yeah. I can hear those drums that start the soundtrack and I see those graphics and the pink flamingos.

Like it was yesterday and that was, my goodness, how many is that 40? it's gotta be 40 years ago. my God. Mid eighties, I think. Yeah. Michael Mann knew a few things about entertainment. Well, I, one of the film, you know, directors and producers that I truly admire. And do you know that after Miami voice, the first, well, the first show happened.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (16:23.79)
You could not go into a store in Miami and buy an unreconstructed linen suit anywhere. I mean, every drug dealer in town said, I've got to have that. Right. And, they were off every shelf. Right. The world of pastels. Yeah. And, and, and kudos to Michael Mann. Cause there's a cat who is still swinging for the fence. Every time I turn around, I mean, he too, this last year, I mean, good mess. All right.

I feel like I'm drifting, but you're so engaging. I, for folks who don't know who, what lineage from which you come, I want to ask what it was like growing up in the shadow of your father. As we, some of us know former us attorney general Nicholas Katzenbach. I mean, I was reading about him getting caught up and boy talking about a guy who had history. He, he was like on the front row of history for decades. When you're growing up in a family like that, you're sort of not really aware.

Although if you look behind me, you can see the 1964 Bob Kennedy for Senate bumper sticker that I found in my father's effects. There were so many interesting moments in that era. But the thing that you would take away from it is, and that I did as growing up was how much they were

government was there to do good and how they were all striving to improve, you know, so much of life. And that's in particular, I mean, you think of it, the my, my, my father's most famous moment was, you know, confronting George Wallace in the famous schoolhouse door. Here's the funny story about that. My, my, my dad was, you know, fit and six, two.

And Wallace was a pipsqueak in five, seven and a half. And I said to him, I said, Dad, you know, why don't you just grab him and, you know, move him out of the way like that. And and my father said, Well, what you can't see in the pictures is that there were about four or five six foot five inch Alabama state troopers right behind him. And, you know, I didn't think they'd like me grabbing their governor.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (18:45.07)
So that made some sense, I guess. The interesting thing about growing up then was there was so much passion involved in that era. Because we went from that into Vietnam, into the civil rights movement, into so much stuff. And it was a fascinating time to be young.

just to make this all about me again. It was when I came to writing hearts war, the, which was the novel based on my, my father's experiences in world war two. that was where I really sort of learned about why he did the things he did when he was in government. Does that make sense to you? It makes total sense. And I was just letting that sink in. I was thinking he did so much during his career and I thought,

When I read this, I'm like, how powerful that not only did your father leave a legacy that he did, but that you had an opportunity to form an entire novel about him in dedication to him, so to speak. And then to have that on the silver screen, just a double, triple whammy. Yes, it was. Here's a story that you'll like about this. The studio flew my father, myself and my then 18, 19 year old son.

over to Prague where they were filming the movie. They were very thoughtful about everything they did, but at one point early in our visit over there, they took my father and myself and my son into a little screening room. And there's Bruce Willis is there and Colin Farrell is there and the director is there and the producers are there. And they said, we want to show you a sequence. And so I said, great, you know, we'll see everything, right?

So they showed us a sequence in a boxcar. Suddenly there are two P -51 Mustangs come flying over and they're just strafing the hell out of this boxcar. And they get out and there's this incredibly dramatic scene where Linus Roche is a wonderful actor, helps organize the men and they form a POW by the side. All these American soldiers sitting there like that.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (21:10.382)
And, and so the plane, the two P 50 ones go zooming over and, you know, wave their wings and, and stop shooting. I mean, it's just, they've just blowing the hell out of everything, which is what Hollywood does better than anywhere. Right. and anyway, so they show us this sequence and they're all sort of sitting there and they say, what did I, what did we think of it? Sure. And I said, I said, well, I thought that was pretty darn cool.

You know, I mean, you know, I like explosions and I like airplanes and whatnot. And my father is sitting there and he says, he says in his very quiet voice, he says, well, he said, he said that was very dramatic. And he said, that's exactly what it's like to be in a box car when you suddenly get strafed by your own gods. There's silence in the room. And I turned to my father and I said,

I said, you had never said to me that that happened to you. And he said, yes, in our case, it wasn't Mustangs. It was P38s that came over. And it's the same thing. The guy got out and opened the doors and we were able to get away on like that. But. You know, you're in this boxcar and there are people, guys dying right and left right around you. What not? So this is this is your classic Hollywood moment. Yeah. The producer, the director, the stars.

They're all, you know, they're trying to be respectful of the fact that here my father had been in this moment where people died. But on the other hand, they got it right. And so there was a lot of very self -congratulatory, you know, thumbs up kind of thing and whatnot, because the old guy said they got it right. And I think that it was interesting for me because I was looking at him.

and seeing the emotion of that moment on his face in contrast to the fact that, you know, the, all the stars and the, you know, the producers and everybody were overjoyed. Yeah. You know, this was a memory for him that was very different. What a dichotomy of emotions. Yeah. They're, they're thrilled that they got it right. And he's like, yeah, I wish you could have been there. Cause who was exactly.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (23:37.678)
David, absolutely. Or actually, it would have been, you're lucky you weren't there. Yeah, yeah. And speaking of lucky you're not there, I was reading other also that your father was POW and wasn't he in the camp that they based the movie, The Great Escape on? Yes. Yes. And in fact, I asked him about that and I said,

Did he think about joining the group that was going to go out? And he said he was given the option because he was a longtime prisoner and he turned it down. And because he just, he didn't really have confidence that they would, anybody would get away. You know, he's like everybody. He acted as a lookout. And as you know, in the great escape, the movie is quite accurate. All those guys got shot. You know, the only inaccurate part of that movie.

Is of course the best part is Steve McQueen jumping the fences on the motorcycle, doing his own stunt. I knew you were going to say that. You know, what an actor. I mean, God, compelling. Who doesn't love him? Yeah, exactly. Golly. don't, don't even let your classmate Don Winslow get started about his man crush on Steve McQueen. No, Don and I, we like to have dinner every so often. And.

you know, all I have to do is sort of say Steve McQueen and he, he melts into this puddle of admiration and love. Right. Yeah. So I mean, yeah, I mean, there's, there's a couple of guys throughout history in our age group that we have that affinity for it. Probably, you know, Robert Redford, especially during the, all the president's men, Steve McQueen during a great escape or bullet for crying out loud.

God, yes. And don't even get us started about bullet because we'll start talking about the car and the chase in San Francisco and yeah. Second best car chase scene ever. and what would be the first? The French connection. yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Down through the, Gene Hackman, you know, on the horn, like that. And, you know, that was, I'm convinced if you want to ladies, if you want to really, please your man,

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (26:03.086)
Get him a weekend full of movies that involve at least a good car chase and a good gun battle. And I'm thinking of like the car chase and French connection or bullet and maybe, speaking of Michael Mann, gun battle like heat, for instance, you can't beat any of those. No, that sequence where the automatic weapons and you know, the, the on the street in LA. Yeah.

Yeah, I of course now assume that that's every day in Los Angeles is like that. But you know, from my perspective as a novelist is when you see sequences like that, you know, how brilliantly conceived they are. And it's not merely the action, but it is that the underlying psychology of the moment is spot on. Yeah. And in a way, I, you know, I think that you,

trying to bring those those almost cinematic qualities to pros on in you know in a thriller and i think that that often times if you're successful that you know you create the same excitement for people is both a reader or a viewer of the movie yeah.

Does that make some sense to you? It makes total sense. And, and, and while you were saying that I, I was a hundred percent with you, but I also was sitting there going, man, think about all those scenes that were reflective of the time and the cause. And I saw a movie not that long ago that I have now seen too many times. And if you haven't seen it and you want to see a good gun battle, plus a great story that is intricately woven, it is. Den of thieves. Yes.

Boy, they're at the end when they're, they're locked in a traffic jam and they pull out all their, psychologically sound exactly because you know, you're coming up there and you realize that, that, you know, all hell's about to break loose, but everybody around you is totally innocent. Yeah. Yeah. And, I mean, that was, yeah, that was a, that I agree. I mean, I think that movie had some other flaws.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (28:22.35)
But that was, you're right. Quite right. That's a terrific, terrific scene. Yeah. And John, I hate to break this to you, but this is no perfect movie. Well, maybe there is, but, and I, and before we take, we're going to take a short break in just a second, but I want to, since we're still on movies and there's, there's three movies that you, that you had your books turned into when you covered the mean season and a hearts war, but there was one right in between there, there again, about.

I want to say mid to late eighties, just cause with Sean Connery and Laurence Fishburne, which another fabulous movie. Everybody always mentions Connery and Fishburne, but it's Ed Harris, who plays the, the, the, you know, Blair Sullivan, the serial killer in prison, his performance slightly over the top, but unbelievably wonderful. But you know what? I don't mind over the top from Ed Harris because.

That was such a wicked cool bad guy. Yes. You know, and this was, this was not, well, I'm thinking of other really good bad guys, but that you're right. I apologize for not bringing him up in between Sean and Lawrence, but I'm like, Ed, he, he just ate up the scenery in a good way. The most famous scene where he talks about how powerful he is was virtually taken word for word from the book. Nice. And it was one of the sequences that I was always.

most proud of it it underscores true evil and a bit of crazy but also a bit of non crazy too in the world of thrillers and is it true for film and writing it is about there is a kind of obligation to accuracy and not accuracy in the way that a journalist sees it but accuracy in the way that almost that a psychologist sees it.

I keep saying that, but that's, that's the, the, you know, you have to hit the right emotional chords because that's what makes a shootout. A sense of validity so that it's real. So it's believable. so, you know, the stakes and the premise and the meaning and the heart behind it all at all. You can't just, the random shoot them up, bang bang.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (30:39.086)
I don't want to offend anyone who loves John Wick and I love me some John Wick, but you know, when you, by the time you got to number four, you're just like, Jesus, really? No one in all that time managed to headshot. You know what I mean? There's 37 guys coming at him with automatic rifles. With other friends of mine who are writers who have, you will laugh about, about automatic weapons. Yeah. And if you talk to a military guy, you know, they'll talk, you know, in auto with automatic weapons.

You can't really roll out of the way and then fire your nine millimeter pistol and shoot some guy because basically you're in pieces, right? Because that Uzi or that AR -15 has just done everything. John, I say this to my wife every single time and right in the middle of one of those scenes that you just described, I'm sitting there going,

Wait, what? And she looks over at me like, it's movies, let it go. But I'm like, look, and he rolls and he spins and he stands up with a single shot and he gets the guy and I'm like, anyway, and it's why we go to movies. All right, look, we're going to have to take a short break so that our sponsor gets to say a little something for us. But when we come back with John, we're going to be talking about, of course, Jack's boys. So don't move. We'll be right back.

And we are back with John Katzenbach and we're talking about Jack's voice. Thank you for staying with us and welcome back, John. Thank you. I hope this is the compliment that I think it is because as I was reading this and I don't, I don't generally like to compare people because that makes me feel like I'm saying to you, you remind me of blank as though that blank, that person was first and, and you're not your unique self. But as I was, so I'm going to all that tee up really ruined it, didn't it? But.

Stephen King comes to mind. I hope that's a compliment. I actually admire King a lot. I'm, I'm less fond of, of, you know, his horror books, but when he does, when he, when he writes crime and punishment, you know, he's very, very, you know, together on this, think of misery. Yeah. And I mean, the, the wonderful conceit in misery is.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (33:04.654)
there's this guy being sort of, you know, cut off and tortured by, you know, Annie Wilkes and he's writing and he realized it's pretty good, you know, and he thinks I'm going to keep at it, right? You know, this is good, right? You know, which is very much like any writer, you know, go ahead, you know, cut off my arm, but hey, this is good, right? You know, I think that it's funny for me, I get compared to, you know,

you get compared to a lot of people in your career. And if we were doing this in Spanish, and this was in Latin America, they would be talking about Gabriel Garcia Marquez and me, or Carlos Fuentes. If we were doing this in Germany, it would probably be Sebastian Ficek, who's a wonderful writer. So I mean, I...

I like to think that in the world of thrillers that I, I try to stand alone. you know, and, and in, in Jack's boys, the fact of the matter is, is when you get right down to it, what is a thriller modern American thriller, you try to find a, a nightmare that has a certain commonality. Right. And.

You weave your characters into that and in Jack's boys, very simply, you know, it's, it's you think of having teenagers and what are they doing when you're not watching. And that was the, that was the sort of impetus for that book. And, you know, this will, this will really sound sick and twisted, which is my normal state. but I was, when I came up with the, the idea of the.

you know, the group of serial killers and then these teenagers that insult them. I really literally got up, walked around the room and was sort of going, yes, yes, yes, that works, you know, because that's what teenagers do. And that's what serial killers do. Absolutely. I didn't mean that as a compliment, so please don't take it in any other way. And,

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (35:25.998)
So second of all, it is thoroughly original. So kudos to that. And, and the last point is, and I was doing some research. It seems as though, I mean, you're very popular here, but you mentioned Spanish and German for instance, and you're, you're killing it in those markets overseas. David, I wish, you know, when I was growing up, it never occurred to me that I might want to be a cult hero.

You know, in Latin America, you know, or in parts of Europe. and there are a number of other writers who have had, had, had, you know, similar, experiences, and it, I think it comes as a surprise to all of us. I think it reflects that different cultures, certainly Germany versus.

As opposed to Argentina, as opposed to Chile, as opposed to Mexico, as opposed to England, you know, they all have different ways of looking at books and stories and that come out of their own cultures. But if you happen to sort of fit into what they imagine a book should be, it, you explode in these areas and it,

I'm very grateful, frankly. I mean, it's immense fun, let me say, to go to either Latin America or Europe and contrast the way people read a thriller with the way they do here in the United States. And that was my next question is like, can you describe for me the difference between

Say rolling into a Barnes and Nobles or a poison pen, for instance, in the States and doing the same thing in South America, for instance. What, what is, how, how, how did the reactions of the audience differ? Let me, the simplest way to put it is that in Latin America, for example, it's all about character.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (37:42.286)
I think in the United States, people are drawn to plot. Does that, and the way, you know, here we seem to like the interaction, this gets highly technical. The interaction between characters and the overarching plot that they're fit into. I mean, you know, you mentioned Don Winslow. He's a great example.

of how those characters sort of blend into a plot that is rich with detail. And I think that that is, I find that in Latin America, if I go to Europe, the attitudes are a little different. They always seem to be interested in the richness of character.

They truly want to know, you know, why everybody does something. Can let me give you a good example of that. Please. And it's a wonderful, wonderful book. Smilla's sense of snow. Okay. And if you go back to, you know, how Peter Ho invented that story, it's all about who that person is.

And I, you know, I'm rambling on here. I, you know, a little not like that, but it, it's, so I can say it's very different. And one of the more interesting things is, is that, you get different questions in every country. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I bet. Mexico, the questions in Mexico are not going to be the same as Argentina. And they sure as heck aren't going to be the same as, as Germany.

my God, I would love to be a fly on the wall to hear the difference. Cause you know, we get in this little groove in our head. you know, and it's, it's just kind of systematically the same, but to step into a different culture and go, let's look at this story and this whole scene through their eyes. Yeah. It's very, and I think that, also one of the things that's extremely interesting for me as an author is to see.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (40:08.75)
You know what age groups are attracted to a story. Right. in, in, in Latin America, for example, Jack's boys, which is already out down there, number one best seller. And it, it was, I mean, I can't tell you the number of college age men and women who embrace that story. Wow.

and then, you know, but, on some of my prior books, you know, you go to a thing in Germany and everybody there is, you know, 40 to 60 years old. I mean, and, you know, there's not a, not a young person in the audience. I mean, yeah. And, and don't ask me to explain why this phenomenon exists. I have no idea. John, why does this phenomenon exist? Well, let me answer that David.

But you know, it makes sense since this deals with technology, dark web, et cetera, it makes sense that a younger crowd may be predisposed toward that. Plus, I mean, I, for instance, I'm fascinated by the dark web. So for whatever reason, and so maybe therein lies some of the equations. Some of it also may be the sensibilities or rather the the mindset of these characters.

ended up themselves. I mean, you know, well, one of the, one of the great challenges for me in writing Jack's voice was that I had to endow, you know, alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, and easy different, not just different crime patterns, but different personalities completely so that they would mesh together. And, you know, when I sort of came up with them, I thought this is great. And then I realized I had really set myself.

a profoundly difficult writing challenge, one that I truly embraced. It was great fun for me ultimately to do. Well, it was neat too, like when you're mentioning Charlie, all you got to do is mention Charlie and I know instantly kind of his mindset and his vernacular and his crime passion. And then you mentioned EZ and you instantly kick into like any

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (42:36.814)
like any particular character. So I was loved that. One of the things I was most fascinated with, and for some reason I really loved it, is the, not only the ongoing social commentary, but it's the constant film and popular song references. I just loved that for some reason. Yeah. Well, I'm glad, thank you. You know, thank you. I really make an effort to put those in and apropos of that.

I was once giving a speech, I think this was in Bogota, about 600 people in the audience, right? And at the end, you know, Q &A at the end, I said, wait a second. I said, I want a show of hands here. You know, when I put in a musical reference, who listens to that? And two thirds of the hands went up. And because, you know, what it does is, or a literary reference,

It evokes something for you, a memory. And so I, you know, I really like doing that. I'm about to redo my website and I'm going to put in a whole, I'm going to go back over my books and find and make a playlist of all of the musical references that I've put in.

Please do. I think that would be so awesome. And if you want to take it one step further in that playlist, just hook it up to Spotify so that anybody who goes to your website can sit there and listen to the entire soundtrack. And I'll tell you, I'm going to, I want to jump on something that you just said. And this is exactly why I love the references. You'd mentioned a song. It wouldn't take me out of the story. That's the beautiful thing. I wasn't distracted by that. I just simply with my other half of my brain.

reached in and remembered the emotion that I was feeling during that time in history. And it was just a great little way to add a spice to this. David, thank you so much because that is, that's so reassuring to hear because that's precisely why those things go in there. You know, you can't, you can't stop somebody from reading because that defeats the whole point of writing in the first place, but you want to evoke something.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (44:54.798)
inside them. And when you accomplish that, when you, you know, and I don't ever pretend to think that every time that it'll all work, you know, because there's gotta be some times when you go, you know, who's that, right? You know, but I mean, you know, it's, go ahead. I was going to say going back to an earlier comment that we made about trusting your audience, if,

If the, if I'm a reader and I'm not picking up that song or I don't remember that film reference, that's okay. I'll just let it slide by. Cause I'm still so engrossed in the story. It won't distract me. However, conversely, as I just said, if all of a sudden it brings up a song, I'm like, man, that was high school. I remember my buds and I would sit around and listen to that song and it gave you that emotion, but you kept going. And the same with the films. Look how we, you have, you and I've been talking for about 55 minutes and we've mentioned.

three, four or five, six, at least six or seven films. And I bet you dollars to donuts that in that conversation, you pulled something could have been French connection or bullet or whatever. And you remembered the time you remembered the feel of that era. There's going to be some kind of a, a, a visceral clue, a cue that hits you that you go, man. But you're still in the story and you're still moving along, but it's references. It's just.

David, I think you're a thousand percent right on this because what happens is I think that it triggers something inside. And if it's not a reference that you're familiar with, in other words, okay, I've never heard St. Stephen by the Grateful Dead, you know, so you just zoom right by it. And maybe I'll go back and check it. But if you hear, you know,

all along the watch tower by Jimi Hendrix, you can, and you remember that was playing, you know, in the bar the night I had to slug that guy. Yes. You know, it, it all, it, it has a, it has an impact. I mean, come on, think about it, John, the things that, that trigger memories is one of the best compliments I can pay you is the fact that I was, I can enjoy your story. I can be distracted from.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (47:18.446)
the everyday that we're all entangled in. But I can be reminded of these songs I haven't thought about for a while or a movie reference I haven't thought about. And it really does make the whole experience fuller. Well, thank you. Thank you. I mean, damn it, that's what we're trying to do. Yeah, exactly. Well, I was going to say it's like icing on the cake.

I want to ask you this one thing as we start to wrap up, because I know you've got plenty of stuff you need to be doing. When you're writing, as specifically in the case of Jack's Boys, is there a message or a meaning or a feeling you hope your readers take away? Or do you find, you know what, I'm just aiming for pure entertainment. So, you know, if you, if you take something away, great. If not, are you just being entertained for 600 pages? That's good too. I mean, it's a difficult question. the.

That's the second part. Okay. If readers don't take anything away and just enjoy the story and whatnot, that's fine. I'm okay with that. but the fact of the matter is yes. I want to make, I want to make some social commentary. I want to engage people in a, in a world that has some meaning.

And if, if they, if they dive into that and that becomes, you know, it speaks to them, I'm even happier. Yeah. so I'm, I'm basically, I'm okay with either, you know, I prefer the first, but the second is okay. It is definitely okay. Very, very emotionally, psychologically difficult question. You should ask that of every damn author that shows up on your show.

Consider it done, sir. All right, well, as we start to wrap, I have a standard close that I like to finish with because so many of my listeners come to me for this. They love hearing authors like you of your stature, and they love to hear, if I could hear one piece of writing advice from John, this is what they tune in for. If you've lasted this long in the show, I know that you're hanging out to find out this. I mean, and with your, what are we at, 15? This is...

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (49:39.246)
15 books now, right? It's some embarrassingly large number, but it's not like my friend Larry Block who's got five zillion, but yeah, right. So I mean. Larry's been at it a long time. Yeah, we could spend a half hour on Larry. I love Lawrence Block. Totally admirable. The only piece of advice that I like to, I give many pieces of advice to writers, not the least of which is.

Are you capable of sitting by yourself alone in a room for a year, you know, with the characters that you've invented? but I think the most important thing that I always say to people, is have confidence in your own story. Don't think that the way anyone else would do it is right. You're going to be happier with telling whatever story you want your way and embrace that.

And stick with it you know whether you sell zero copies are you know a zillion. You're gonna be happier telling the story your own way of course the other thing i always say is is you should always read the first chapter of don winslow's savages. Because it's perfect.

man, I wish it was within arm reach. I have every one of his books in case you didn't know that. And I am with you, boy. That that's all one of my all time favorites and that first chapter, nothing like it. Right. Nothing like it. I remember the first time I read it and people will go look at it now and think, this is ridiculous. And then I looked at it and said, no, it's not. Yeah. Yeah, David, I, there are so many writers that I admire. Here's the one dirty little secret that I'll add to this conversation.

I very rarely now read anything in my own genre. why is that? I read my friends and the guys I really admire. But we live in such a litiginous world. I just don't want something. I mean, I think there's a lot of really brilliant writing out there and I don't want somebody else's brilliance to creep into my dark soul.

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (51:57.422)
And it will land on a page of a book. Fortunately, I get to read a whole lot of books for this show and I get what you're saying and I understand that and I appreciate it. And then I think I'm going to go back to our mutual pal, Don. And then, and I heard, Don said this to me once about an author that he really likes and that author is, I rearranged my office so I don't know where I put that book. I can see the title, Rousseau.

Richard Russo. Richard Russo. Thank you. He goes, when I read Russo, I go, what am I doing? I need to just quit right now. And I want to say every time I read down Winslow, I go, I can't, I can't top this. David, my, my experience like that was when I read Jim Harrison's legends of the fall. yeah. And I thought, I can't do that. I mean, you know, and Harrison bless his heart passed away. He was a wonderfully lovely guy.

But I thought to write that whole book with a whole novella without, you know, hard, not even hardly any dialogue or, you know, I'm just, it was, it was so brilliantly done, you know, so I almost gave up. That was when I almost said, wrap it up, you know, get a job writing editorials at a newspaper. But John, let me, let me, let me, let me circle back to a piece of writing advice. You just gave me and my listeners is.

Write your own story and be happy with that and be good with that. And I, and I think about, I'm reading a book by Rick Rubin and his book about creativity, Rick Rubin, the music producer. I hope to get him on my podcast one day cause he's just fascinating. But he said, you want to take the pressure off of yourself? You know, you get all wrapped up in query and all this stuff. How about just saying, Hey, I'm going to write this book for me. I'm going to write it so that I'm happy and I'm pleased.

I'm going to treat it almost like a journal entry, which is just for me. And if, and if at the end I'm finished with it and I feel good about it and I passed off to somebody and they like it, great. But if not, I'm not going to put that pressure on myself. And boy, has that just released something in my brain. David, that's what really, I obviously subscribe to that. I just, I just would sort of suggest that, that's just a different kind of pressure. Yeah. You know,

The Thriller Zone with David Temple (54:24.014)
Well, folks, if you want to learn more, visit johnkatzinbach .com. Of course, the book is Jack's Boys and it'll come out tomorrow. John, this has been, I cannot express to you how thoroughly enjoyable and how honored I am that you took time to spend it with me. The honor is mine, David, and thoroughly, you know, I thoroughly enjoyed this. And frankly, you only pierced my heart with a couple of questions, you know.

So, I mean, you know, you made me squirm slightly, you know, I'm good at not indicating that I'm squirming. I know your secret's safe with me. Listen, just the fact that I got to, I mean, you're a legend in so many ways and just the fact that you took time to talk to me, I'm very grateful. And your book is fun. It's good. It's unnerving. It's all the things that you want in a thriller and a mystery and a suspense. So.

I hope you'll come back again sometime soon. Sit down and write another book. Yeah, I mean, easy peasy. Only take a year. Exactly. What else have I got to do with my time? Right. so good. Thank you again. All right. Thank you, folks. Next week, as we kick off. Can you believe this? We're kicking off June and we're kicking it off with none other than the real book spy. That's right. Ryan Steck, author of

Out For Blood, the latest Matthew Red thriller. Man, I am excited to talk to this cat. I've been following him for years and I cannot believe it took us this long to finally put our heads together and gather around a microphone. But Jack Carr is singing his praises as well as dozens and dozens of other people in the thriller community. So join me next week as we kick off June with Ryan Steck and Out For Blood. Until then, I want to say thank you so much for subscribing to our YouTube channel. Be sure you...

Drop us an email whenever you'd like to at thethrillerzone at gmail .com. And as always, thank you for your support. We're here for you, giving you the front row seat to the best thriller writers in the world. I'm David Temple, your host. I'll see you next time for another edition of The Thriller Zone. Your front row seat to the best thrillers. The Thriller Zone.