by | May 22, 2020 | Gayle Lynds, The Real Book Spy, The Writer's Life | 8 comments

by The Real Book Spy

What a month!

I know we’re only five months in, but I think it’s safe to say that 2020 has been the longest year ever. Like, ever.

Though it seems so insignificant when people are fighting for their lives and enduring social distancing and self-isolation, many on the thriller scene are worried about book sales and what all this will mean for the industry moving forward. Fact is, the publishing world (like every other industry) has no doubt changed due to COVID-19. To find even just one small example of how much, look no further than my May Rogue piece—yes, this one.

In preparation for this month, I actually picked two different titles that I wanted to write about, but both ended up being delayed and are now slated to come out later in the year. So, with release dates in a state of flux (some summer 2020 books have already been moved to spring of 2021), I pitched the Rogues the idea of a throwback piece that would focus on one of my favorite books from one of my very favorite writers . . . someone I had been trying to figure out how to cover on this space, but hadn’t yet been able to do because she hadn’t put a new book out since I’d partnered with the wonderful Rogue Women Writers.

In case you haven’t caught on yet, I’m talking about the Queen of spy thrillers, the brilliant New York Times bestselling author, Gayle Lynds.

Nobody writes espionage quite like Gayle, who rocked my world with her last book, The Assassins, back when it came out in 2015. Back for more action is former military intelligence operative Judd Ryder (he first appeared in The Book of Spies; 2010), who returns home to his flat in Washington, D.C., only to find an imposter posing as him. Things take a wicked turn, though, when the double is murdered and Judd witnesses the whole thing, leaving him scrambling for answers. Who wants him dead? Who was behind the hit on the double? Who else might they be going after?

Little does Judd know that, behind the scenes, a deadly game of killing is taking place as a fraternity of assassins battle it out in the shadows. Worse, whether he likes it or not, Judd’s just inadvertently stepped onto the playing field, and as the story heats up . . . it becomes clear that only one victor will emerge at the end.

With the stakes at an all-time high, Judd teams up with his former colleague and lover Eva Blake, and together the duo set out to piece things together and takeout anyone and everyone who’s hunting them before it’s too late.

As I wrote in my review five years ago, “Forget Game of Thrones, Gayle Lynds has dialed up a relentless game of spies, and it rocks from beginning to end!”

by Gayle Lynds

I’m jazzed and honored that The Real Book Spy chose The Assassins, a book I love, as this month’s Rogue Recommendation.  It’s brought back many wonderful memories — greeting the dawn after a great all-night writing session (whew!), research that took me figuratively around the globe, brainstorming with my creative and very funny husband, John, and the magical moment when a scene finally came to life.

Gayle Lynds revealing secrets.

Here’s a secret.  No one knows this.  The Assassins didn’t begin with the idea of writing about six semiretired international assassins who have a face-off that inevitably must lead to the survival of only one of them.  And it didn’t begin with my discovery that Saddam Hussein’s $40 billion fortune was missing (and is still gone, gone, gone), although it sent my writerly instincts atwitter.

The entire book was launched by a simple imaginary scene that tantalized me, and which the great Real Book Spy has (of course) zeroed in on…. 

Meet Judd Ryder, a nice guy and former military intelligence spy, slogging home on a snowy morning on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.  It’s bitter cold.  He’s tired after an all-night flight.  He spots his row house – hooray!  A shower!  His own bed!  Then he’s gobsmacked: From a half block away, he watches his front door open, and some guy backs out, pausing to lock the door.  It looks like he’s wearing Judd’s overcoat and gloves.  When the man turns around, Judd sees it’s all true – he’s not only dressed in Judd’s clothes, he’s got Judd’s face. 

(Pause here a moment, my friends.  Take it all in.  Imagine you’re arriving home and you see someone come out of your house who looks exactly like you!)

Yes, the guy’s a lookalike.  Either he was born that way (unlikely), or he’s been deliberately, professionally made to look like Judd.  In spookspeak, he’s a double.  And since the gray underbelly of international espionage and crime was Judd’s terra firma not so very long ago, that’s got to be the answer.

It’s not that we writers lack for ideas.  Take a walk, and kaboom – we get an idea.  Drift off to sleep, and a storm of ideas wakes us up.  When our imaginations start delivering ideas, a lot are dreck, or at best just, well, okay.  So when the gods smile and hand us a sparkling gem, we snatch it and don’t let go.

I’m thinking about all of this because the reviews of The Assassins kindly praised a lot of aspects of the book — the little-known clandestine world of espionage, Saddam’s hidden billions, and the assassins themselves — such interesting sociopaths and psychopaths, so disarming they’re almost good enough to take home to mom. 

But what no one knows is that Judd Ryder launched the whole thing, just because he wanted to go home, take a shower, and sleep.  Gotta love that man.

Thank you to The Real Book Spy. Have you read The Assassins yet? Tell us what you thought in the comments below. 

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  1. Karna Bodman

    Yes, I certainly did read THE ASSASSINS some time ago when it first came out….what a terrific story. (I now have it displayed in one of our guest rooms so visitors can pick it and enjoy the book as well). Kudos to my Rogue colleague, Gayle Lynds, for "conjuring" up such a tale!

  2. Lisa Black

    I love the beginning of this book! I loved the whole thing, but especially the beginning. My favorite parts of books are the moments that make you say "WHUUUUUUT…just happened?"

  3. Gayle Lynds

    Thanks, Karna. That's so lovely of you to leave it out! I love your work, too!

  4. Gayle Lynds

    LOL, Lisa. That's so nice of you, especially coming from a writer of you great talent & stories!

  5. john

    Nice, Gayle. The Assassins was a can't-put-down thriller!

  6. Gayle Lynds

    Thanks, John! I remember that chapter on the yacht in the Tigris …. 🙂

  7. LadyTechie

    This was a great book and I also loved the follow-up. Iam hoping for more in the series.

  8. Gayle Lynds

    Thank you, LadyTechie. So glad you enjoyed them!