by JT Ellison

I can hardly believe I’m saying this…

It’s that time again. I have a new book coming out on Tuesday. SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH is the sixth book in the Taylor Jackson series, and the sequel to 14. The Pretender is back, and finally making his move on Taylor.

When I started this series, I planned to avoid any and all tropes from the thriller genres – damaged heroines, lurking serial killers, brilliant villains, skeletons in the closets, the works. And guess what? My naïveté was astounding. Over the course of six novels, I’ve come to realize that these are the many characteristics of the genre. They aren’t tropes, but instead vital, exciting vehicles for both character and series growth. Who wants a character who is too perfect? Who wants a villain who is simply a blunt instrument? Who wants the whole story laid out for them from day one, with no hope for growth, or opportunity for falling down?

Not me. Not anymore.  As I’ve grown as a writer, as a world builder, I’ve come to understand some of the fundamental truths about storytelling. The most basic of those truths is this – as long as it’s grounded in an element of reality, it’s going to work.

Is it possible for a serial killer to target a homicide cop? Of course it is. Permission granted, ma’am. Sally forth and murder at will.

Oh, if it were only that easy…

We’ve talked at length about the writer’s journey, about how sometimes you just have to get out of your own way and let the story do what it’s meant to do. I had to do just that with So Close.

Because, you see, So Close sees a different side of Taylor Jackson. She is her own anti-hero – not noble, not just, and certainly not worth looking up to. She is driven by a force out of her control, one that taps into the edge of darkness she treads along so very carefully. That force is revenge.

Revenge is a tricky thing when you’re working with a hero. Especially a hero you’ve set up to be militantly GOOD. Good people don’t plan to murder. Plain and simple.

And yet, here I am, with a book about a militantly good person who is planning the demise of another human being.

I blame James Bond.

I was struggling with the facts of the book. In order to make things go the way I wanted, I had to allow Taylor to drop her goodness, even if just for a fraction of a second, and contemplate taking another life on purpose. The minute you decide to let a character out of their proscribed box, the blackbirds descend, cawing incessantly. You can’t do that.

Caw – People will hate you for it. Caw – They’ll hate Taylor. Caw – No. Caw caw – The answer is definitively no.

Hey, blackbirds? Fuck off! My book. MINE.

And so it went, for several Sisyphean writing months, until one night, late in the evening, after all sane people had gone to bed, I was watching Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace for the umpteenth time. I’m a big fan of Bond in general, all things Ian Flemingish. I’m a Connery girl. I always thought I’d hate a blond Bond. Boy was I wrong. I think Daniel Craig is a brilliant addition to the mythos. He has that caged fury that is so necessary to an assassin. Yes, he’s suave and debonair. Yes, the ladies all want him. But this Bond recognizes that an element of his soul is black, and instead of running from it, he embraces it.

In Quantum of Solace, Bond is out for revenge. He’s going to take down the people who stole his lover from him. Irrational, yes. Ill-conceived, absolutely. People around him begin to get hurt. And yet he strives onward, never looking back. No regrets.

And we cheer him.

We laud him.

We understand.

And we wish we could do the same.


So at two in the morning, I realized that yes, by God, I could allow Taylor to follow her instincts. I could allow her out of her box, unleash her on the world, to hunt the man who has been hunting her. Even a cop can succumb to vigilantism, especially when the people around her are getting hurt.

I finished the book. It worked, and I think, worked well.

Lots of crazy things happened while I was writing  SO CLOSE. We had a title change. We had a date change. But most notable was the loss of my editor, Linda McFall. There is nothing, nothing! worse than losing your original champion. I hated to see her go. We’d formed a very symbiotic relationship, one that needed only nudges in red to get points across. So I was lost, both career wise and book wise, for several months while we decided who would take over editing me.

I was thrilled when Adam Wilson, my assistant editor of the first four books, took up Linda’s mantle. I turned the book in and we began the journey of revising together, each learning from the other, until this puppy was whipped into shape. I think Adam’s touch on this book made it what it is. He wholly embraced the concept of Taylor as vengeful angel, owned it with me. Together we found the exact right path to lead her down.

Taylor as vengeful angel. How far we’ve come in three short years.

SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH officially goes on sale Tuesday, though there are certain online retailers who have it available already. The audio book, coming March 1, is performed by Joyce Bean, and a true tour de force. I hope Joyce gets major recognition for her work on this book – she’s taken my words and created a world I never knew existed. It’s an intense experience listening to your own work . Usually I have to stop after a few chapters, cringing at word usage or phrasing, lamenting my purplish, bruised prose…. But on this? I forgot the book was mine and got caught up in the story – she’s that good. Digital copies are available for all your ereaders. And to celebrate, for a limited time, SWEET LITTLE LIES is on sale for just 99 cents. And if you send me a copy of your receipt for SO CLOSE, I’ll send you SWEET LITTLE LIES for free, and enter you in a drawing for a brand new Kindle.*

I forget sometimes how exciting it is to have a new baby out in the world. Whether it’s simply distraction, worrying about the next book, and the next, a self-defense mechanism in case of bad reviews, or a concern with overloading my fine friends and readers with BSP, I haven’t been going all out shouting this one from the rooftops. But I’m here now, asking you – please, buy the book. Read it. Let me know if you think Taylor is wrong.

I bet you don’t.

Because we all need someone to play the hero.

And a little extra incentive today – tell me you’re favorite hero or anti-hero and I’ll send one commenter a signed copy of the book.

Wine of the Week: Veuve Cliqout, to celebrate the baby’s arrival in the wild.

Talent borrows. Genius steals. Evil delegates.

It’s a hideous echo of a violent past. Across America, murders are being committed with all the twisted hallmarks of the Boston Strangler, the Zodiac Killer and Son of Sam. The media frenzy explodes and Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson knows instantly that The Pretender is back…and he’s got helpers.

As The Pretender’s disciples perpetrate their sick homages – stretching police and FBI dangerously thin – Taylor tries desperately to prepare for their inevitable showdown. And she must do it alone. To be close to her is to be in mortal danger, and she won’t risk losing anyone she loves. But the isolation, the self-doubt and the rising body count are taking their toll: she’s tripwire-tense and ready to snap.

The brilliant psychopath who both adores and despises her is drawing close. Close enough to touch….

“Ellison’s sixth novel featuring homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson is arguably her best book to date. A tense thrill ride filled with secrets, raw emotion and death, newcomers will love it as much as her longtime fans. After completing this one, you will scream for the next book.”
– Romantic Times, 4 1/2 Stars TOP PICK!

Read an Excerpt of SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH here

Listen to the soundtrack of SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH here

* Click here for more details on this special offer

25 thoughts on “SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH

  1. Zoë Sharp

    Hey JT

    Huge congratulations on the new book and the great review – can't wait to read it! It sounds like Taylor and Charlie are treading some eerily similar paths on the road to revenge.

    Favourite anti-heroes? The first one that springs to mind, for some reason, is Liam Devlin in THE EAGLE HAS LANDED – IRA hitman, spy, poet and philosopher.

    I'm sure a load more will come to me later, though…

  2. Neil Nyren

    All great heroes have flaws you could drive a truck through — that's what gives them the complexity that makes them great, that keeps us coming back for more. I've got a lot of favorites, but I think the one I'll single out now (leaving aside all the ones I publish!), is Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins. He never failed to astonish me.

  3. Chuck

    Hi JT:

    Congratulations!!! Very excited and cannot wait to read it. And who doesn't like revenge??? We all have days where we want to exact some of our own. Can't wait to see Taylor take hers. 🙂

    Other than my faves from JTE novels, I'll give you an anti-hero. A tough prospect as I'm not sure I can name a favorite, but certainly one of my is the venerable Jackal, Charles Calthrop from Frederick Forsyth's DAY OF THE JACKAL. So cool, so calculating, I died with anticipation every time Freddie would take the POV to another character.

    Again, big ups. I'm blown away by your talent and proliferation!



  4. Kaye Barley

    Anti-Hero – Scarlett O'Hara. Well, o.k., I'm southern, what can I say.

    J.T. – as one of the lucky ones who has already read SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH, let me just say Taylor rocks. She's conflicted. She's tough, but not so tough that she's a cartoon. She's real and elicits emotion from your readers.

    Those of you who have not read it yet are surely in for a treat.

    I'm not exaggerating when I say I think this one is the best so far. The best in that I think JT has found her place in the genre. SO CLOSE seems written with a new found confidence that just shines through from beginning to end.

    I read it straight through from beginning to end and am tapping my toe in anticipation of the next one already. I have a lot of authors I like, fewer that I love, and even fewer that have me tapping my toe waiting for a book that's a whole year away.

  5. MJ

    AWESOME! Just bought it for $0.99.

    I know that we are "supposed" to write novels for sales, pub etc but I LOVE stories. I'm a busy person – sometimes I can't start a novel (or finish one timely) but I so appreciate great stories – at least I can read one or two, and if I love them, then I go look for a new author's longer works. And great stories are darn hard to write, so I admire success when I see it too.

  6. Murderati fan

    Perfect. It's storming here just like it was when you were at M is for Mystery. I may purchase the audio book this time. My daughter moved three hurs away and you could keep me company, rain or shine!
    Congratulations, JT. Well deserved. Judy

  7. JT Ellison

    Zoë, I'm always struck by the strange similarities we have in our books – reached completely independently. Our minds must work alike!

    Neil, it's no secret you publish several of my favorite heroes – especially that Lucas Davenport character…. You're absolutely right, the flaws are what make them interesting. I've not read Mosley, I'll add him to the list. Thanks!

    Chuck, you're too sweet. I'm with you on the Jackal too. I'm a big, big fan of the assassin anti-hero. One of my favorite types of character.

  8. JT Ellison

    Kaye, I love Scarlett as the anti-hero! I'd never thought of her that way, but you're right. And thank you, so much, for the kind words. I know you've been out there telling folks about the book and I can't begin to tell you how much your praise means.

    MJ, such a good point. I'm selling stories, not books. I'll have to remember that next time I start a marketing campaign ; )

    Alex, isn't he? Super guy, smart editor. I'm having a lot of fun with him!

    Judy, thank you! It's trying to rain here, we could use a good one. You'll love the audio, it's wonderful. I'm honored to do duty as a company girl!

  9. Debbie

    Congrats JT, love that there is an audio version and that you as the author enjoyed it.
    Hero: Jean Valjean. AntiHero: Monsieur Paul Emanuel, and um…Prof. Severus Snape!

  10. JT Ellison

    Thanks so much, Louise!

    Debbie – ooh, Snape. Perfect example. You aren't sure of his motivations for seven long books. Rowling did a bang up job with him.

  11. Allison Davis

    Congrats, J.T. I'll do the download when I get home.

    Hawk, maybe trite, but I don't tire of him. I want to drink champagne with him sometime.
    And Neil already said Easy Rawlins.

  12. MaryQuiteContrary

    Congrats…I can't wait for March 1st! Fave hero, or anti-hero, is Dennis LeHane's Bubba Rogowski. I was listening to Moonlight Miile audio while driving and laughing so hard I had to pull over.

  13. Pari Noskin Taichert

    This is just wonderful, JT. Congratulations what sounds like another tour de force! I know the worries associated with having our characters become less than admirable. I struggled with that with my last Sasha book — but came to several of the same conclusions. The story had to be told the way it had to be told.

    Anti-heros? Wow. I'm going to have to think about that. The first thing that popped into my mind was Harold from Harold and Maude. Odd, hunh?

  14. JT Ellison

    Allison, champagne with Hawk sounds divine! A good call.

    Reine, thank you! There's a lot happening in this book, so I wanted to do just that.

    MaryQuiteContrary – haven't read that one – I'm behind on my Lehane reading. I vow to catch up….

    Pari, I remember that you had a really hard time with that, and got nasty notes form people. I admit I did qualm a bit thinking about it, but hopefully, readers will be more forgiving. Your topic was a bit more controversial, after all.

  15. Reine

    JT- Forgot to add my favorite anti-hero. So funny because I was reminded when reading Pari's post… mine has always been Maude of Harold and Maude, with first runner up being Ruth in Louise Penny's Three Pines series. Don't know why– guess I just like crusty old women with special insight and unafraid to say whatever.

    And Pari, I love your characters, as they are so different… nd that twisting of the unreal  [Or is it?] within the real… .
    J’embrasse mon chien sur la bouche!

  16. pari noskin taichert

    Love, love, love Maude!

    And thank you about my characters. I truly appreciate the comment. Of course, right now I'm in full thrust of convention and it's difficult to even think about fiction (though I'm writing daily). Right now I'm reading "Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So" by Mark Vonnegut.

  17. pari noskin taichert

    I'm sure it's a different audience too. When you write a "cozier" series, people have expectations of that subgenre. Of course, now that I'm writing all kinds of fiction, I'll be curious to see if people stick with me when I publish again.

  18. KDJames

    Congrats on the new release, JT! Looking forward to reading it and seeing what you've done with your Taylor.

    I have a hard time differentiating between anti-heroes and heroes — mostly because I think some of the "anti-" qualities are pretty darn heroic. So I often get them wrong. But two favourites who I guess could be anti-heroes are Gus and Call in Lonesome Dove. And then over at the top of the hero column, there's Reacher. There are days I really want a Reacher in my life. It would be so nice, just once, not to have to fight all my own battles.

  19. L.J. Sellers

    Congratulations on your new release. You've come far, so quickly!

    My character has a moment like that in the new book I have coming out in April. It's a delicate balance for a protagonist.

  20. JT Ellison

    Pari, I have no doubt your readers will follow. No doubt at all.

    KD, thank you. And yes, the whole idea of the anti-hero is certainly tied to the hero – we root for both regardless.Don't we all need a Reacher?

    Allison, thank you! I'm thrilled too!

    LJ, thanks. It's been a crazy few years. Congrats on your new baby!

    Hi Steve – thanks! If you speak German, I'm out over there – Poesie des Todes is the first.

Comments are closed.