Silver Justice introduces FBI Assistant Special Agent-In Charge Silver Cassidy, the head of a task force tracking a ruthless serial killer targeting financial industry bigwigs in Manhattan. Struggling to balance the hunt for an increasingly savage ritual murderer with the challenges of being a single mom, Silver finds herself thrust into a nightmare of brutality and treachery that will demand every ounce of determination she possesses to survive.
Q&A with Russell Blake
Q: Silver Justice is a departure from your usual action/adventure thrillers. Why a police procedural/serial killer epic featuring a female protagonist?
Russell: I got the idea for a strong female protag who was a kick-ass, take no prisoners Fed when I was thinking about doing a sequel to Fatal Exchange. I sort of thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to write a Silence of the Lambs kind of main character, a la Agent Starling, but make her more experienced, and have her dealing with a host of real world complications from her personal life even as she’s involved in the most important case of her career? And then the name jumped into my head, and the book sort of wrote itself. I wanted her to be really richly drawn, and complex, and struggling with issues that are catastrophic, so the pressure just keeps mounting on her until you’re wondering what more can happen without her head exploding. And I wanted her to be very smart, and capable, but also address the issues of a female swimming upstream in a male-dominated career. I like the way Silver turned out. She became very real for me as I wrote the book, and I can envision her carrying a whole series. She’s definitely got the depth to do it.
Q: The book explores the causes of the 2008 financial crisis and posits a frighteningly plausible conspiracy. Tell us a little about that.
Russell: I’ve always been uncomfortable with the official explanations for how the entire market for mortgage backed securities could literally collapse overnight, triggering a run on the stock market and a tunneling of some of the biggest names in American finance, and plunging the world into crisis. As I began researching the root causes, I quickly arrived at a number of extremely disturbing conclusions. And the more I researched, the worse it got. By the time I was done, I felt like I could write a 500 page treatise on the topic, and the art was to synthesize all of that into something that was believable, digestible, and upon which I could frame the story without browbeating the reader. I think this book is probably my most believable conspiracy yet, so much so I’m very uncomfortable saying where the truth ends and the fiction starts, assuming it starts at all. I will say that, in my opinion, the 2008 crisis is the crime of the century if not all recorded history, and the hypothesis I provide will jar and disturb any thinking person to the point that they are sitting back going, “No way.” The horrible part about it is that much of it is truth parading as fiction. Interested readers can research the meat of it, and I guarantee it will alter their world view. Not too many fiction novels can stake that claim.
Q: Silver Justice has a romantic element that’s steamier than most of your work. What drove that?
Russell: It just sort of worked its way into the story as the character developed. I wanted Silver to be tough, as in Dirty Harry tough, but not cartoonish. More of a real world fortitude borne of resolve, courage and harsh experience. But a funny thing happened as I wrote. A romantic entanglement naturally took shape, but one that wasn’t forced or contrived – again, more reality-based than something I set out to accomplish as part of the story. When it got to the natural point where clothes started coming off, the scenes wrote themselves a little hotter than my usual. That’s not to say they’re in bad taste or lewd, but rather you can put yourself in the scene and be moved. It just struck the tone I felt was natural for the situations.
Q: How do you research your books? Most seem to involve detailed conspiracies that blur the line between truth and fiction. Especially this one.
Russell: I did reams of research on Silver Justice. Much more than the book required, in truth. I just couldn’t believe what I was finding as I dug deeper. I was literally awestruck at the implications. I read a number of scholarly works that are covered in the book’s Afterwards section, including long treatises on the history of classical economics, Keynesian economic theory and the U.S. financial system and economy, the circumstances surrounding the creation of the Federal Reserve, tomes on fractional reserve banking, fascinating websites on market manipulation, you name it. I really felt like I crammed several years of post doc work into a few months of intensive reading. The true challenge of this book was to condense all that into something bitesized but meaningful, where a layman with no background could read it and find it interesting, and do so in a way that wasn’t lecturing or preaching. I’m quite sure I will get a ton of harsh criticism from those who simply don’t like the conspiracy due to its ugly implications, but them’s the breaks. What I can say is that this is easily the most research intensive book I’ve ever written, even though the final cut only has a few paragraphs here and there really going into any sort of depth. But the end result is a mind blower. I’ll be interested to see how people react. I think this will be one of those books that polarize people. You either love it or hate it.
Q: Silver Justice is harshly critical of the market and the regulators, as well as the entire political machine. Why?
Russell: It’s just a natural outcome of the research. I believe we are living through extraordinary times – a once a century redistribution of wealth without parallel, other than the Great Depression. That didn’t end well. As I educated myself on the causes of the Depression and the 29 Crash, I was struck by how corrupted all the elements of the system are, and probably have been for a century. I think most people believe that the cops are honest, and that there are protections in place to keep them safe from bad guys. They are sorely mistaken, and it costs them dearly for their misconceptions. One of the reasons the book is jarring is because it demands readers confront a reality they aren’t going to like, and offers a glimpse into the system that is, for lack of a better word, sickening. I would say that if you can walk away from this book without being outraged and shocked, I failed. Because it is a shocking, disturbing, ugly portrait that will resonate as reality. Frankly, I get so tired of reading disposable books that have some action and a few twists, but don’t really take it to the next level and make you think. They don’t aspire to anything more than to be a throw-away read. My goal with this was to create a work of compelling fiction that took it to that next level. I hope this lives up to my lofty aspirations.
Q: This is a character-driven novel that is also substantially plot driven. How do you strike a balance that works?
Russell: The characters were so interesting to me, and the dynamics in their interactions so palpable, that it was easy to paint them in three dimensions without straining. As a writer it is nearly miraculous when that happens. It made populating the book easy, but aside from a complex, twisting, surprising plotline that keeps you guessing, I think the thing I’m most proud of is how the characters’ world comes alive in the novel. These feel like completely real people, who behave in flawed, unexpected ways. When someone gets shot or cut, they bleed. Good people do bad things, and bad people do good ones. It’s unconventional, but most importantly, it is completely believable at all times. Petty jealousies and rivalries, blood feuds, anger, recrimination, guilt, passion, lust, fear, courage in the face of unbeatable odds…I think most will find the end result satisfying. It’s one of my favorite efforts to date.