Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Interview with thriller author Thomas O'Callaghan

Novelist Thomas O’Callaghan is here today and we’re chatting about his police procedural thriller, No One Will Hear Your Screams.

Thomas O'Callaghan's work has been translated for publication in Germany, Slovakia, Indonesia, the Czech Republic, China, and Italy. As an internationally acclaimed author, Mr. O'Callaghan is a member of both the Mystery Writers of America and the International Thriller Writers associations. A native of New York City and a graduate of Richmond College, Mr. O'Callaghan resides with his lovely wife, Eileen, a stone's throw from the Atlantic Ocean in beautiful Belle Harbor, New York.

His debut novel Bone Thief introduced NYPD Homicide Commander Lieutenant John W. Driscoll. The Screaming Room is the second in the John Driscoll series. The third book in the series, No One Will Hear Your Screams, is now available from WildBlue Press.

Welcome, Thomas. Please tell us about your current release.
No One Will Hear Your Screams, described by #1 New York Times bestselling author, Gregg Olsen, as a nuanced thriller that grabs you by the throat and never let's go, features Tilden, a sociopathic killer on the loose who’s tracking down and murdering prostitutes in New York City. The reader soon discovers this depraved misfit had been sexually abused as a child by his mother’s john. NYPD’s top cop, Homicide Commander Lieutenant John Driscoll, a man haunted by the events of an unstable childhood himself, must put aside any sympathy he may have for Tilden and put a stop to his murderous rampage. The Lieutenant soon discovers Tilden’s not the run-of-the-mill sociopath. After all, would a common murderer have taken the time to embalm his victims, an action the New York City chief medical examiner determines to be the cause of their death?

What inspired you to write this book?
I’m a mild mannered friendly gentleman with a vivid imagination. No One Will Hear Your Screams is the third in a series depicting murder and mayhem in NYC. Initially my inspiration to write in this particular genre began to simmer after reading novels by Thomas Harris, Jeffery Deaver, Dean Koontz, and Michael Connelly. Like them, I look to capture the interest of readers who were enthralled with a fast paced depiction of harrowing crime. Because the commission of murder is horrific enough I try not to compete with the terrific scribes where horror is fully on display. I’ll leave that to the likes of Stephen King and Clive Barker. I truly enjoy my craft. It allows me to depict both good and evil in the human soul and as the writer, a man armed with only a pen, I can do so without being held accountable for the crime. Writing also allows me to escape the hum drum of everyday life. Creating characters for the sole purpose of performing in a story that I’ve set in motion is exciting. I’m fueled by that. And, because it’s fiction, I’m motivated to weave memories of times in my life, some good, some regrettable, into the back story of my characters. We all have chapters we wish never to see published, but, with the right finesse, the theme of those blunders can and do add human authenticity to fictional entities.

Excerpt from No One Will Hear Your Screams:
Pearsol opened the mortuary cooler and pulled out the stainless steel tray supporting the victim. “Lieutenant, meet Jane Doe,” he said sliding the woman’s bloated body under Driscoll’s gaze. “Harbor Patrol fished her out of the muck. I’d say she was a feast for the gulls for a day. Maybe two.”
“What’s that smell? Paint thinner?”
“She was doused in phenol?”
Driscoll’s eyes narrowed.
“The complete autopsy will fill in the blanks, but I’d bet my pension I already know what killed her. The who, and the why, I’ll leave to you.” Pearsol handed the preliminary lab report to Driscoll. It identifies a mixture of substances inside her vascular system.
“Phenol, formaldehyde and Chloride of Zinc?” Driscoll looked perplexed. “The same Chloride of Zinc they put in dry cell batteries?” 
Pearsol nodded. “There’s three more.”
“Myrrh, aloe and cassia,” Driscoll read aloud. “That’s a strange mix.” He glanced at Pearsol, who nodded. “Says here you drained 851 milliliters from her circulatory system. What’s that? About two pints?”
“Just under.”
“A body contains five to six quarts of blood. So the rest of this mixture?”
“Still in her.”
Using his finger, Driscoll pushed back a lock of the victim’s hair. “What could you have done to warrant this?” he whispered, eyes on the corpse.
“Right now the unofficial cause of death is phenol poisoning by arterial injection. Familiar with the German word, ‘abgespritzt’, Lieutenant?”
“Abgespritzt was a method of genocide favored by the Nazis in the early 1940s. Hitler’s henchmen delivered instantaneous death by injecting 15 milliliters of phenol directly into the heart.”
“What kind of syringe injects six quarts?”
“More than likely he used a centrifugal pump. And he knew what he was doing.” Pearsol pointed to the side of the victim’s neck, where a semi- translucent latex adhesive covered a two inch stretch of rippled flesh between the carotid artery and the jugular vein. “An extreme method of murder, Lieutenant. He arterially embalmed her.”
Driscoll winced.
“There’s more.” The M.E. produced a transparent evidence bag containing a locket. It was an inch in diameter and featured Saint Vitalis of Gaza; his name etched in a half circle below his likeness. “I found it under her tongue. Someone apparently placed it there before suturing the tongue to the floor of her mouth.”
“What’s that about?” Driscoll wondered aloud.
“Good question. I’m not familiar with that saint. You?”
“She‘s the patron saint of prostitutes.”
“Well, there’s a lead. Oh, and there’s one other bit of information you’re sure to find intriguing. The myrrh, aloe, and cassia injected with the embalming fluid were once embalming solutions on their own. Sort of.”
“Sort of?”
“They were the purifying fragrances applied to the linens that wrapped the crucified Christ before he was laid in his tomb.”

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m near the completion of my fourth novel. Though it is not part of the Lieutenant John Driscoll series, it does feature a unique serial killer who, without revealing his identity or his whereabouts, convinces a New York Times bestselling author to ghost write his life story with emphasis on his string of murders. The writer sees this assignment as an opportunity to out this fiend. That’s not as easy as it sounds, but therein lies the ultimate cat and mouse saga.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The short answer is: “Late in life.” After graduating with a liberal arts degree from Richmond College I landed a job with Allstate Insurance Company as a sales agent. When the company opted to take their sales force in another direction I decided it was time to retire and find something else to do with my time. I spent much of that time reading. On the beach in summer and on the couch in winter. One day I picked up a copy of Helter Skelter, by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry. This is an often used adage, but I couldn’t put it down. The authors’ attention to detail fascinated me. After that, I was hooked on novels depicting murder, mayhem and suspense. I soon discovered such notables as Thomas Harris, John Sandford, Lawrence Block, Michael Connelly, and Ed McBain, just to name a few. Unlike, Helter Skelter, where the storyline was based on an actual murder, Harris, Sandford, Block, Connelly, McBain and company, created murder and the intrigue that surrounded it. I was enthralled all the more. Read on, I said, and so I did. After I finished reading my twelfth 87th Precinct novel, I thought: I could do that! And so, on a gloomy, rain-soaked Friday afternoon, that happened to follow Thanksgiving, I began writing Nightkills, which would later become Bone Thief, my debut novel. Looking back, I’m happy with the course my life had taken me, bringing me to what has become my life’s passion: Writing!

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I write full time. I usually write for four hours in the middle of day, every day, though my wife will argue it’s more like my morning as I tend to sleep late. My goal is to put together two or three scenes and I allow the clock to dictate when to close the laptop. There’s never a deadline, nor do I concentrate on a word count. I’ll usually wrap up around 6pm which allows time for a pleasant dinner with my wife. It’s imperative I write every day. I had the distinct pleasure of sipping a cold one with famed author, John Lescroart, at the Grand Hyatt in New York during ThrillerFest 2008. His advice about a routine was simple. He told me if I write one page of my manuscript each day, in a year’s time I’ll have a novel. He was right.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I’m a big fan of Post-it Notes. I prefer the canary yellow ones. Should an idea materialize inside my head while I’m, say, having dinner, or watching TV, I’ll reach for a readily available pad and jot it down. If that notion prompts a full blown scene inside my head, I’ll open my iPhone, dictate a first draft of the scene in an email and send it to myself. When I open the email on my laptop I simply cut and paste it into my work in progress.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my readers. You’re this writer’s audience and by communicating with me through my website you’ve inspired me to continue what can often be a solitary pastime.


Thanks for being here today!

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