J. Carson Black @


I wanted to write something new—something big. Something “high concept,” a term they use in television. Something big, bold, maybe even sexy.  My husband and I were watching cable news over dinner one night and saw Jon Mark Carr’s plane coming in for landing. He had been extradited from another country (Sweden?) and he said he had a story to tell. He claimed he killed Jonbenet Ramsey. (He lied.)

The jet Jon Mark Carr came in on belonged to the Sheriff’s office in Colorado. All the reporters stood, microphones ready, waiting for the Sheriff’s plane to touch down in the meadow runway– must-see television!

And that was how Glenn and I came up with the idea for THE SHOP. Right there as we cooked dinner and watched Jon Mark Carr’s plane come in.

We wanted something big, high-concept, and chock-full of choices for law enforcement. We wanted someone in high office to utilize the death of a celebrity to distract from some of the unsavory things he was doing.

And since our bad guys needed a distraction from all the illegal things they were doing in government, they decided to create a big one: the murders of a famous female star and the young, glamorous people on her reality show.

That was how we came up with THE SHOP.


THE SHOP probably ran me more than I ran it. So after the first couple of pages, I realized that my book–THE SHOP itself–was dictating terms. More to the point, Assassin #1 was running THE SHOP.

It’s my fault. First, I gave Assassin #1 a neat name. As a kid who went to catechism long ago, the church Saint Cyril’s stuck in my mind.  A good enough name for a guy with a walk-on part: Cyril Landry.

So, I started typing the scene. Bad guys had been sent to kill the star of the reality show to create days of coverage by the media, thus taking the heat off some U.S. government hijinks no one wanted anyone to know about. So I started writing:

Aspen, Colorado

Landry thought: The kid’s positively giddy.

Landry had been getting comfortable with the night, watching from the woods as the party wound down at the house on Castle Creek Road, people getting into their expensive cars and driving away, leaving just the core group.

Shortly after, the young man came out and made his unsteady way to the deck railing.  He had spiky hair and a scarecrow frame.  He looked down at the rushing water, then up at the stars.  Landry could see his smile even from where he was.  The kid’s skinny arms hugged his body, as if he couldn’t quite believe his good fortune.  Tipsy—more than tipsy, inebriated—but something had delighted him, thrilled him.  Something had gone very right for him today.

The young man twirled around, looking at the stars. Mesmerized by them.  He could have been the leading man in his own musical—the wonderful story of his life.  He could barely contain his joy.  He had less than an hour to live.

*   *   *

As they reached the walkway, Landry said, “Gloves and masks from now on.”

They split up.  Jackson would go in first, through the back door. Landry and Davis would go in the front.  Green would remain outside; he was surveillance only.

They waited for Jackson to report in.  “Upstairs clear.”

“How many?”

“Two.  The couple.  They were laying in bed.”

“Lying,” Landry said.

And that’s when I knew. Landry was NOT going to take this bit part of Assassin #1 lying down. This faceless killer turned out to be a star in his own right.

A hired killer who corrects people’s grammar.

Who knew?


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