Rick Treon, award winning author of the Bartholomew Beck Series, among others, joins us to chat about his latest release.
Interview + Book & Author Info
The Price of Silence and the Bartholomew Beck Series by Rick Treon
“This twisty noir in which no one is truly innocent will keep you turning pages.” — USA Today bestselling author Greta Boris
Hungover from celebrating the latest win for his best-selling true-crime book, Bartholomew Beck is in no mood to deal with a pesky reporter. Especially one who is sleeping with his co-author Veronica, working for his enemy, and taking great pleasure in letting Beck know that his days as a free man are numbered.
That’s because U.S. Congressman Grant Schuhmacher wants to avenge the death of his son, Paul, and he holds Beck responsible. But focusing on Beck leaves Schuhmacher vulnerable to his enemies, both political and personal.
Meanwhile, a clue in a decades-old murder case falls into Beck’s lap. If he and Veronica can solve the murder, Beck might save himself — or seal his doom. But one thing is certain: Beck’s not sure he and those he loves can keep paying The Price of Silence.
To purchase The Price of Silence e-book for any platform, click the link here.
To purchase The Price of Silence paperback or any of Rick’s other books, click the link here.
Rick Treon —The Interview
Tell us about Bartholomew Beck:
Beck is a true-crime writer in his late forties who struggles with whether he’s a good person. He has been doing so for more than half of his life — the result of a series of decisions when he was a teenager living in the small (fictional) Central Texas town of Hinterbach.
Depending on your own viewpoint, he’s either a good person who made poor choices as a young man, or he’s a bad guy who’s trying to convince himself and everyone else that he’s not. Either way, I hope readers find him complex and relatable.
This is the second in the series, along with a novella prequel. Is there anything readers should know about the first book(s?):
I wrote all three to stand alone, but the nature of the character arc didn’t lend itself to making this an episodic series. That avenue was available because Beck writes true crime—every title in the series could’ve revolved around a new subject for a book—but Beck’s career was always secondary to the core of his character and internal conflicts.
All that’s to say that, while the novels can be read in any order and be enjoyed, I’ve been told that they flow together in order so well that they might’s well be a trilogy (Live with the Truth, Let the Guilty Pay, The Price of Silence). I know that’s not common in crime fiction, but I take that as a compliment.
Beck is a journalist (of sorts), and several other characters in the series are reporters—a career you share with the characters. How much “real life” do you invest in their work and how much is done for dramatic effect? Do you stay as true as you can to the job? Or take liberties for the sake of tension and plot development?
I strive to always make things as realistic as possible, which is true of all the occupations in the series (I’ve worked on oil pipelines, and I’ve done extensive research for the law enforcement and attorneys represented in the stories).
As it relates to Beck, Veronica, and the new guy, Parker Mallory, I stayed true to how reporters and longform journalists can do their jobs. But none of them are heroes in these stories, so I would say I’ve accurately represented truthtellers behaving badly in the current state of the media and publishing.
And yes, they were written that way to create tension and misdirection.
As gratifying and exciting as it can be, rarely is the real life of a good reporter compelling enough for fiction. And when it is, they still take liberties in the based on true events movies. However, the most realistic depiction of reporters on the job I’ve ever seen or read is the movie Spotlight. And I mean down to the minutia of getting a phone call during dinner and scrambling for a notebook while asking bullsh*t questions to keep a source engaged until you find a way to take notes.
The attention to detail director Tom McCarthy and the actors did in that film is impressive.
Okay, Spotlight is now on my to watch list! Thank you, Rick Treon!
Tell us about Divided States:
Divided States is a speculative action thriller that is not part of the Bartholomew Beck series (though it does take place in the same universe as my debut novel, Deep Background).
The novel follows former detective Lori Young, who is kidnapped in the aftermath of a mass shooting and learns she’s the key to stopping a devastating terrorist plot against what used to be called the United States. But she must confront her own past to ensure the future. We also see this new world through the eyes of her ex-husband, a former member of Seal Team Six who commands a group of other former Tier One military operators, and Lori’s boss, a former CIA operative posing as a small business owner.
Though it seems like I wrote this in direct response to current events, the premise and first chapter came to me whole during the 2018/2019 New Year’s Eve celebration in New Orleans. During the final round of edits in January, I did have to write a bit more of an alternate history to both acknowledge what was happening in real life, and to let people know this story wasn’t meant to be commentary on those events.
Divided States is my first attempt at an action thriller, or really any thriller that doesn’t revolve around journalists or true-crime writers. So the research for this one was done through interviewing folks who’ve been in the various law enforcement, military, and intelligence fields represented in the story.
I also did a ton of internet research and found that Reddit threads can be useful for reading how people from those backgrounds speak to each other and about events. I really got a feel for what jargon they use and how some fiction (usually movies) can get stuff completely wrong. I’ve gotten positive feedback in that regard, so hopefully I was mostly accurate.
“…you might catch a few horses with their reigns hitched to posts outside the Dairy Queen along Interstate 40 on Washington Street.” —Rick Treon
I’m a big fan of Austin and San Antonio, but I don’t know a lot about the rest of Texas. You have lived in various places around the state and covered everything from the Dallas Cowboys to high school athletics to rodeo and cutting horses as a journalist. Texas is iconic in so many ways, what’s something about Texas that might surprise people?
Because I have it top of mind right now, a Texit (Texas secession) as described in Divided States is not legal or constitutional. However, the state constitution may allow Texas to break up into up to five states, though that’s also debatable.
But it would make sense given the different climates and dialects. For instance, while attending UT in Austin and learning that 80 degrees and humid is torture compared to my beloved 100-degree dry heat, I was introduced to the word “tumped.”
Near as I can figure, it’s a mix of “toppled” and “dumped” and is usually followed by the word “over” and has something to do with a mishap made while floating on an innertube or tire along a meandering river. The word is uncommon anywhere outside of Central Texas, but I thought I had a hearing problem the first few times I heard it.
Meanwhile, after one of the Panhandle’s blizzards that dump a foot of snow on us every year, you can find a dry creek bed and slide down to the bottom on the hood of your buddy’s grandpa’s broken-down pickup.
There’s so much legend to contend with and I’ve lived here so long it can be hard to tell what folks might find interesting, but here are two funny stories from the time my family briefly moved to Central Florida before returning to my hometown of Stinnett.
I was asked by one eighth grader if tumbleweeds were real. Yes. Yes they are. And sometimes they scratch the front of your vehicle if it doesn’t have a brush guard. I was asked by another if I rode a horse to school. No, and neither did any of my classmates. However, some weekends in Amarillo, you might catch a few horses with their reigns hitched to posts outside the Dairy Queen along Interstate 40 on Washington Street.
I love everything about this answer!
What are you working on now?
My current work-in-progress is a novel that I hope will kick off a new P.I. series. The main character is Cooper McSwain, a former reporter (naturally) who is now a private investigator in Amarillo (naturally). However, in a break from my other work, it won’t lean toward noir, though some tropes from classic P.I. stories will be present. Coop is a jaded smart aleck who begrudgingly adopts a stray dog, Lady, while trying to solve two cases that he never wanted in the first place but couldn’t turn down and still sleep at night.
I’m not entirely sure what the future holds for Beck. As for the characters in Divided States, I’m getting requests for sequels, so I think it’s safe to say one of those will happen at some point. But I really like Coop and I want to see where that goes first.
“The best advice I’ve gotten so far is to always write a better book than your last one.” —Rick Treon
Words of Wisdom for Writers:
The best advice I’ve gotten so far is to always write a better book than your last one. Even the authors who debut on a bestseller list wrote three or four lesser novels (or versions of their debut) that never got published. And the rest of us are usually hoping to get there even after we’ve published three or four novels.
I only speak for myself, but the phrase “write a better book” is almost always the solution to my publishing goals.
I want to make mid six figures just writing novels. Write a better book.
I want to win an Edgar or Agatha. Write a better book.
I want to be a NYT, WSJ or USAT bestseller. Write a better book.
I want my novel to get picked by Oprah or Reese or Jenna. Write a better book.
That advice is not as harsh as it probably sounds. It just means that, in my opinion, authors should always be working on their next project, and the writing should be done with the intention of improving their craft.
Terrific advice Rick Treon! And great to have you hang out with us. Looking forward to having you back with your next novel.
Author Rick Treon
He currently serves as the President-Elect of the Texas High Plains Writers and is a member of the International Thriller Writers, Sisters in Crime, the Writers’ League of Texas and the Texas High Plains Writers.
His essays have been syndicated across Gannett Media and featured on literary websites The Thrill Begins and BestThrillers.com. He has also written for journalism nonprofit Big If True.
Prior to writing fiction, Rick worked as a reporter and editor for several newspapers in Texas. His award-winning journalism career began at the University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a bachelor of journalism and served as sports editor of The Daily Texan.
To learn more about Rick Treon, click on his name, photo, or any of the following links: Facebook.com/RickTreonAuthor, Instagram.com/ricktreon & Twitter.com/RDT4
Elena Taylor is the author of All We Buried, available now in print, e-book, and audio book format at all your favorite bookstores and on-line retailers.
For more information on All We Buried, click on the link here to visit the home page.
Silver Falchion Award Finalist, Best Investigator 2020
Foreword INDIE Award Finalist, Best Mystery 2020
Pickup truck photo by Falkenpost on Pixabay.