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John Childress

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My Fascination with Historical Thrillers

In the mid 1990’s my wife and I decided to buy a second home in France.  My wife, being French, wanted to have a second home so our children (not yet born) could spend time in France and learn the language properly.  My criterion was it had to be near the mountains and the ocean, her criteria was that it not be too near her mother, who lives in Bordeaux.  So we looked for a major airport in the south of France, landed on Toulouse, got a map and drew a circle that represented about an hour drive from the airport.

We then contacted real estate agents in the region and fully expected to have many lovely weekends in the south of France as we leisurely searched for the “right” place.

Needless to say, we found the perfect place the very first weekend.  A lovely 11th Century stone mini-Chateau on top of a hill about 10km outside the village of Limoux. My wife was excited because this region, the Languedoc, was full of history of the crusades, the Cathars, the Inquisition, and historic ruined castles and fortresses on the tops of mountains.  And the food and wine are great.

My wife tried to convince me that the history was really interesting and worth learning, but, being an arrogant and naive American at the time (less naive now, hopefully less arrogant as well) my reply was:

I’m an American.  We don’t need the past, we create the future!”

To be honest, history was my least favourite subject in school and I just couldn’t see the point of learning about the past when there was so much exciting going on in the here and now.

Anyway, we moved in and lived full-time in the house for two years before moving back to London. And boy, was I wrong about history!

The history of the Cathar Crusades between 1209 and 1324, over a hundred years, was fascinating, and I was living in one of the buildings.  Our house, in the 13th Century was a watchtower and small garrison overlooking a pass through the valley up into the Pyrenees Mountains.  The walls are 1.3 meter thick and made of big stone blocks.  It even has the original arrow slits in the walls. And the more I read about the Cathars, the Crusades and the Inquisition (which started in this region), the more I realized that history is not just a dead subject, but actually a window into the future.

So, all four of my thriller novels, Almost Perfect, Bad Company, Game Changer and Business As Usual are a combination of two stories, one current and one historical, which weave together into an integrated plot where the characters are related through time and deeds.  It is fun researching both the historical and modern aspects of my novels and working to tease out the lessons from history and apply them to here and now.

For example, in Bad Company, which is a thriller about 18th Century female pirates in the Caribbean and modern-day female pirates posing as business consultants, the camaraderie and code of the pirates is appealing to those who feel disenfranchised by those in power and by a lopsided political and social system. What’s fun is making a breakneck thriller out of this concept and connecting the two stories through time.

I hope you enjoy my writing and as always, I enjoy hearing from my readers and fans with suggestions, ideas and comments.

John Childress