Condition Black is the latest thriller by writing duo Stu Jones & Gareth Worthington.
Author Interviews + Excerpt +Book & Author Info + Rafflecopter Giveaway
EVAN WEYLAND, a brilliant research scientist tasked with developing new technologies to fight cancer, sees the world differently through the lens of Autism Spectrum Disorder. His guiding light is his wife, Marie—a globally recognized war correspondent.
When she returns home from Syria deathly ill with an unknown disease, Evan believes his research may be the key to unlocking the cure. However, when his superiors refuse his request for help, Evan’s single-minded love for Marie drives him to take matters into his own hands—a decision with far greater consequences than he could possibly fathom.
BILLY VICK, a Captain in the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, is a combat veteran unable to leave the horrors of war behind. Only the love of his family and a sense of absolute justice keeps him grounded. When Billy’s unit becomes aware of a US-sanctioned airstrike on a civilian settlement in Syria and an eye-witness reporter comatose with an unknown illness, he fears the worst.
An unethical military project thought mothballed has resurfaced, and a civilian, Evan Weyland, may be about to inadvertently unleash it upon the world. It’s a mistake that could cost the lives of millions.
Pitted against each other in a game of chess-like deception and intrigue, with time running out, both men must come to terms with the magnitude of what’s at stake—and what each is willing to sacrifice to win.
Genre: Thriller / Medical Thriller
Published by: Dropship Publishing
Publication Date: 27 April 2021
Number of Pages: 334
Series: Condition Black is a stand alone thriller.
To purchase Condition Black, click on any of the following links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
The Interview with Condition Black authors Stu Jones and Gareth Worthington
Stu & Gareth: Tell us about your latest novel, Condition Black. How would each of you describe the book?
Gareth: I would say that this is an action thriller, where the Fugitive meets The Fantastic Voyage. As with all the books on which Stu and I collaborate, it’s action heavy but at the core we’re addressing very personal issues including living with PTSD and autism.
Stu: I couldn’t have said it better.
Stu & Gareth: How did the process work to write the novel together?
Gareth: Stu and I having worked together on the It Takes Death to Reach a Star series have a well-oiled process now of back and forth, and a lot of trust.
We generally take characters each and don’t question the other much when it comes to how they behave. Stu knows his characters, so his voice must prevail.
Stu: I knew from the beginning that this story was not going to happen without Gareth Worthington. The guy is brilliant. Because of his training and experience, he brings an authenticity to the technical and scientific elements that I couldn’t pull off in a thousand years.
For my part, I bring my three ring circus of an imagination and my hard earned sense of what good action feels like, and we mash them up. It shouldn’t work, but we’ve written three novels together now and we’re just getting started.
Stu: You have a long history of chasing actual bad guys in the real world. Can you share a particularly dangerous or unusual story with us, something we might think only happens in fiction?
Stu: I was with the Marshals Fugitive Task Force and we were hot on the trail of a contract killer who was associated with one of the Mexican drug cartels. This guy was wanted for his involvement in something like fifteen murders in the Baltimore area alone.
After days of surveillance on the place he was hiding out we caught a glimpse of him smoking a cigarette on the porch. When my team breached the front door of the apartment, we saw him standing in the kitchen. Me and my guys had four or five rifles trained on him. Next to him, leaned against the kitchen counter was an AK-47 with a 100 round drum magazine.
He looked at the AK.
My finger moved to the trigger of my AR-15.
We told him “Try to pick it up and see what happens.” As it turns out, tough guy wasn’t ready to meet his maker that day, and we all got to keep breathing a little longer. Had he been holding the rifle when we came in it would have been a different story and I might not be the one telling it.
Fiction can’t capture that sort of relief.
Gareth: Your educational background includes marine biology, endocrinology, and an MBA. Those are related, but diverse disciplines. What drew you to each of those degrees?
Gareth: I started out wanting to be an animal behaviorist, so studied marine biology and sharks. That went right up to my initial PhD, but my supervisor left me blowing in the wind so I took on a more lab-focused PhD with a different supervisor looking at endocrinological models in animals.
It led to a career in medicine instead of animal biology. I’d wanted to get my MBA for a long time as it helps with my current work in the pharmaceutical industry, so in 2019 I started it and in 2020 I completed.
Stu: Your law enforcement/high risk history is wonderfully balanced with owning a golden-doodle, one of my favorite breeds. Tell us about your dog, have you always been a dog lover?
Stu: I have always been a serious dog lover. But when my wife suggested getting a Goldendoodle, I laughed.
Told her there was no way I was having that breed.
Not masculine enough or something stupid like that.
Well, you can see how that worked out for me haha. His name is Gunnar and He’s my buddy.
Gareth: You have beautiful ink. Tell us about your tattoos, do they all have special meaning? Do you have a favorite?
Gareth: Ah, well Stu has ink too, he just hides it for work! I’m kinda past the point of hiding it now.
My tattoos generally reflect times in my life, but I do like sailor-style sleave done by my friend Feroze in Singapore when I lived there.
He had a retro barber shop on Arab street and in the back of the establishment was the tattooing area. He had an old-school coil machine, which meant it hurt just that little bit more.
Stu &Gareth: With both of you having experience in martial arts, weapons and tactical training, law enforcement, and science, you bring a lot of real-world information to your thrillers. How much do you have to suspend reality to keep up the pace required for a thriller? Is it a challenge to balance the reality you know and the fictional world you want to create?
Gareth: We like to bend realty just enough to make readers think: what if? We went to great lengths in Condition Black to keep as much realism as possible. We have clear roles when writing. I keep the science in relative check, while Stu keeps those action scenes true. Right Stu?
Stu: That’s right. We try to balance it on a razor’s edge. The story needs to be fantastic to be enjoyable, especially in the genres that we write. But it also needs to be a shade of the world we know, the basic truths we all understand. By grounding the science making it believable, by giving the characters relatable human obstacles to overcome, and in keeping the action true to life – that’s how you do it.
Stu & Gareth: You both have intense lives, from Gareth involved with new cancer therapies and traveling the world to practice martial arts to Stu working with SWAT and chasing fugitives as a US Marshal. Do either of you do anything slower-paced for fun? Or is it all swimming with sharks?
Gareth: Ha, well I am a firm believer that every minute counts. I’m on this Earth for a finite amount of time. So, I want fill it with experiences and leave a mark, especially for my kids.
My books in particular will be a legacy they can pass down too. I get antsy if I have been productive for a couple of hours.
Stu: I LOVE quiet things. It’s how I normalize once I’m safe at home.
Spending time talking with my wife, playing with my kids, loving on Gunny. That’s what it’s about.
I enjoy staying fit. Adventure, exploration, and travel. And you just can’t beat relaxing with a great book. Downtime is one of the best parts of life.
In that regard, it’s not always about pushing the limits for me. Sometimes it’s about practicing peacefulness and contentment.
What are you working on now?
Gareth: I’m working on several other solo projects. My first Nordic Noir (not science fiction) comes out in May, A Time for Monsters, which was chosen as one greatest books of Spring Summer 2021 by PublishersLunch Buzz Books. So, I’m working on the marketing for that with my agents Italia Gandolfo and Renee Fountain and publisher Vesuvian Books.
I also have two in the pipe, which I’m chipping away at.
Stu: Some fun things in the works presently. I’ve got two works in different stages of development, a Cyberpunk thriller and a Superhero action-adventure story, both coming soon.
Gareth and I also still have a few tricks up our sleeves. We’ve got something mind-bending in the works.
Excerpt Condition Black
Through the lens of her SLR, Marie Wayland couldn’t pry her gaze from the morbid scene as it unfolded some two hundred feet away. Another twist of the objective and the image in her ultralight mirrorless camera became crystal clear, even in the fading evening light of the Syrian sun: a man, his hands bound secure with coarse rope, sucking with erratic breaths at the cloth bag over his head. The fabric molded to the shape of his quivering lips and stuck there for an instant before being blown out again. He cried out as two masked assailants forced him to his knees. A whimper emerged from beneath his hood, followed by a muffled plea for mercy. Unwavering, the men stood in a line behind the captive, their AK-47 rifles pointed to the sky. Above them all, a black flag, inset with white Arabic script, fluttered like a pirate banner in the desert wind.
A young man carrying a beat-up camcorder scurried onto the scene and set up his tripod. He fiddled with his equipment, then gave a thumbs up. One of the soldiers stepped forward and pulled a curved blade from his belt. He called out and pointed to the camera, stabbing the air with the long knife. For a moment, he seemed to look right at Marie. Her heart faltered and the hot prickle of perspiration dampened her forehead.
Marie lowered her camera and eased further into a small depression in the side of the hill, perfect for both observation and concealment. “Don’t be tree cancer,” she whispered to herself. A strange phrase, but one that had proved invaluable during her long and storied career as a war correspondent. A Marine Corps scout sniper had offered her this golden nugget of advice during a stint in Afghanistan. Master of short-range reconnaissance, he’d spotted her crouched in a ball, peering out from behind a twisted stone pine tree. After approaching undetected, he’d whispered in her ear: Don’t be tree cancer. Marie had nearly jumped out of her skin. She later discovered the phrase referred to an observer drawing attention to themselves by standing out from the world around them.
The voice of the knife-wielding man rose in pitch. Marie shuffled for a better view and raised her camera once again.
The knifeman jerked the hood from the captive’s head.
A chill crawled down Marie’s spine.
Glen Bertrum, the American relief worker kidnapped three months ago from the outskirts of Aleppo, shifted on his knees. With a brutal shove from his captors, the terrified relief worker flopped to his side, squirming. The knifeman descended on Glen, then sawed at his relief worker’s neck with the blade. Blood sprayed against the sand. Glen screamed for what seemed an eternity, the sound morphing into a horrible sucking wheeze.
His gore-drenched knife dripping, the murderer yanked Glen’s head free and held it aloft.
The men shouted in victory, thrusting their weapons into the air.
“Shit,” Marie said, lowering the camera.
The cruelty and barbarism of humankind knew no end, and these zealots had a way of making it even uglier, spreading their jihad across the globe like a pestilence. Without raising the SLR again, she watched the terrorists conclude the recording and march away, leaving Glen’s decapitated body to rot.
Marie’s stomach knotted, and she tried to swallow away the tingle of nausea in her throat. This isn’t why you’re here, she thought. A beheaded aid worker wasn’t news, even if she had met the man before. Such things hadn’t been news for a long time. The war had escalated, far beyond Syria and the Middle East, beyond single hostages and beheadings. Terrorist cells were now a pandemic, spread across the globe, and embedded in every country. There was no central faction anymore. No IS or al-Qaeda, or Allah’s Blade. The war against the west was now an idea, a disease infesting the world. Anyone, anywhere could be an enemy—the core vision metastasizing, traveling to every corner of the Earth and there propagating.
Major cities now operated under war-time policy; curfews and rationing to prevent too many people congregating in any one place, such as a supermarket or a major sporting event. Aerial surveillance and street-level military patrols did their best to keep people safe, but a cage was a cage. In some ways, Marie felt free out in the world, even if it was in the enemy’s backyard. Yet while hate for terrorists was justified, as in all wars the enemy wasn’t the only one capable of terrible things. So too were the allied forces—the people who stood against terror and extremism—and that was why she was in Syria.
The little jaunt Marie had undertaken was unofficial. Her boss would kill her if he knew she’d conducted this op. After flying into Istanbul and crossing the border south of Daruca, she’d spent the better part of the past three days moving from checkpoint to checkpoint, working her way along Highway 7 through northeastern Syria. With dark features and perfect Arabic, Marie hid with ease among the local population.
Marie pulled a tablet from her backpack and keyed up the map she’d gotten from her contact. The coordinates were correct. A tiny civilian village in Northeastern Syria. This ramshackle settlement was little more than a speck on the map, and from what she was told by her contact, this place was of zero military significance. No base, no known weapons caches, no landing strips. The small cell of terrorists she’d just found was likely that: a small cell. Little more than a coincidence, and by no means justification for this village to be firebombed back to the stone age.
Unless they’d found something of significance.
Stu Jones. SWAT Sniper. Adventurer. Award-Winning Author of Epic Genre-Bending Fiction.
A veteran law enforcement officer, Stu has served as a beat cop, narcotics, criminal investigations, as an instructor of firearms and police defensive tactics and as a team leader of a multi-jurisdictional SWAT team. He is trained and qualified as a law enforcement SWAT sniper, as well as in hostage rescue and high-risk entry tactics. Recently, Stu served for three years with a U.S. Marshal’s Regional Fugitive Task Force – hunting the worst of the worst.
He is the author of multiple sci-fi/action/thriller novels, including the multi-award-winning It Takes Death To Reach A Star duology, written with co-author Gareth Worthington (Children of the Fifth Sun).
Known for his character-driven stories and blistering action sequences, Stu strives to create thought-provoking reading experiences that challenge the status quo. When he’s not chasing bad guys or writing epic stories, he can be found planning his next adventure to some remote or exotic place.
Stu is represented by Italia Gandolfo of Gandolfo-Helin-Fountain literary
To learn more about Stu, click on any of the following links: Goodreads, BookBub – @stujonesfiction, Instagram – @stujonesfiction & Facebook – @stujonesfiction
Gareth Worthington holds a degree in marine biology, a PhD in Endocrinology, an executive MBA, is Board Certified in Medical Affairs, and currently works for the Pharmaceutical industry educating the World’s doctors on new cancer therapies.
Gareth Worthington is an authority in ancient history, has hand-tagged sharks in California, and trained in various martial arts, including Jeet Kune Do and Muay Thai at the EVOLVE MMA gym in Singapore and 2FIGHT Switzerland.
He is an award-winning author and member of the International Thriller Writers Association, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the British Science Fiction Association.
Born in England, Gareth has lived around the world from Asia, to Europe to the USA. Wherever he goes, he endeavors to continue his philanthropic work with various charities.
Gareth is represented by Renee Fountain and Italia Gandolfo at Gandolfo Helin Fountain Literary, New York.
To learn more about Gareth, click on his name, photo, or any of the following links: Goodreads, BookBub – @GarethWorthington, Instagram – @garethworthington, Twitter – @DrGWorthington & Facebook – @garethworthingtonauthor
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Foreword INDIE Award Finalist—Best Mystery 2020