On December 1, 2017, WINNER TAKES ALL — the third installment in the Dylan Hunter Justice Thrillers series — went on sale on Amazon.
The Kindle ebook edition and the print edition are available now on Amazon. I hope to have the audio edition available in the first quarter of 2018; stay tuned for updates.
It also serves as the rousing climax to what has become an opening trilogy in the Dylan Hunter saga. Filled with surprises, it fleshes out the lives of characters that many thousands of readers have come to know and love. You’ll learn surprising things about Dylan, Annie, Grant Garrett, Detective Ed Cronin, Wonk, and past “minor” characters who play big roles here: Avery Trammel, Ray Lasher, Emmalee Conn, Julia Haight, and many more. And a host of colorful new characters make their appearances.
You’ve waited for it for so long that I’m sure you’ve forgotten what the story is all about. So here’s a teaser:
A murderous conspiracy for ultimate power . . . inspired by today’s headlines!
Engaged to be married, mysterious journalist Dylan Hunter and CIA officer Annie Woods are eager to put their violent past behind them, for good.
But then an investigative reporter is found mysteriously murdered. An idealistic presidential candidate is targeted for destruction. And a horrific day of unspeakable terrorism rocks Washington, D.C.
Soon, Dylan’s investigation puts him in the cross hairs of a power-hungry billionaire and a cold-blooded assassin. A deadly conspiracy of dangerous men aims to install their puppet in the White House. And these predators are willing to do the unthinkable to bring America under their total control.
The stakes — political and personal — couldn’t be higher. Because to stop them, Dylan Hunter must make an irrevocable choice. It’s a decision that will, finally and forever, seal his fate . . . including his future with the woman he adores.
But for now, only one thing is certain:
In the tidal wave of political violence on the blood-soaked streets of Washington, D.C., the final outcome will be . . .
I bet you thought I’d never finish it — right?
I don’t blame you. There were many times over the past three-and-a-half years when I thought I’d bitten off way more than I could chew. During that period, I cringed almost daily at questions from Dylan’s multitude of fans about my many missed deadlines. I tried to explain, then gave up, because it sounded like excuse-making. Maybe it was.
And we all know how Dylan deals with excuse-makers, right?
So, for the past year, I pretty much stopped communicating publicly about the book. I didn’t want anyone — least of all my long-suffering wife — to know I’d reached the point where I met each morning with paralysis and dread, staring at a plot structure that had sprouted and spread like kudzu, harboring within its half-dozen subplots a proliferation of unruly characters who were multiplying like horny bunnies.
How did that happen? It happened because, for me, this single book had to accomplish so many different objectives.
For one, the story had to harvest seeds planted in the first two installments of the series — resolutions about Dylan’s future course, where his relationship with Annie might be headed, and the ominous threat looming over them at the end of BAD DEEDS. More fundamentally, I had to confront and answer these questions:
How can I realistically sustain the “career” of a vigilante assassin over the long term? What could plausibly motivate Dylan to continue on that course? How could he possibly keep his identity secret from the world — especially from the ever-suspicious cop Ed Cronin, hot on his heels? What would it mean for Dylan’s relationship with Annie?
Not only does WINNER TAKES ALL have its own deviously complicated tale to tell; it also had to answer all those series questions, too. So, though I never planned things this way when I began to write HUNTER, this third book had to give readers a satisfying resolution to everything implied and left open in the first two books — in effect becoming the third installment of a self-contained opening trilogy. (More about that in a moment.)
Secondly, I want my Story World to remain tied at least loosely to things going on in the Real World. But complications arose because of unanticipated Real World events. Upheaval and reorganization at the CIA, and the unexpected outcome of the 2016 presidential election, considerably affected my planned “series arc.” In the middle of writing, I had to rework the plot of WINNER TAKES ALL so that future books in the series would remain anchored to reality, rather than go off into total fantasy.
Thirdly, the writing challenge was made much greater because my stories are “theme-driven.” Rather than start out with a character or a situation and build from there, I start instead with some abstract premise or “moral of the story.” My characters tend to embody “variations on the theme,” taking opposing sides, and the story events grow organically from their basic conflicts. This approach adds a much higher level of complexity to the plotting, because I am trying not only to write compelling thrillers; I’m also trying to write “thrillers for thinkers.”
While the primary goal of my thrillers is to give readers grand entertainment, those familiar with my previous novels — and with me as a person — know that my books’ themes and settings are rooted in the serious issues of our times. These are topics I’ve written and spoken about for decades. They’re unavoidable in my fiction.
WINNER TAKES ALL draws upon many controversies you’ve been reading and hearing about in the Real World for the past decade.
The threat of terrorism. Russian meddling in our elections. “Fake news” and media bias. Sex scandals among the rich and powerful. Government harassment of private citizens. Leaks of classified material from our spy agencies. Border security. The influence of money on politics. The controversy over fracking and energy production . . .
But in this story, the glue holding all of it together is a theme: the psychology of power-lust.
Why do so many people crave power over other people? Why do they enjoy bending others to their will, through manipulation, intimidation, humiliation, or brute force? Why do they believe they can only achieve their own success and happiness if they make others fail and suffer? Why do they believe their gain requires someone else’s loss?
Though the lust for power is an epidemic in our political lives, the disease certainly isn’t confined there. We find it everywhere in our society: in our families, schools, businesses, social and cultural institutions, churches, and personal relationships.
While the main villains in WINNER TAKES ALL are enmeshed in political conspiracy and conniving, I wanted to show how the lust for power permeates all other aspects of their lives, too: their workplaces, friendships, sexual relationships, and social interactions.
For me, one of the most interesting contrasts is between Dylan and Annie’s passionately romantic relationship, rooted in mutual admiration and respect — and the crude, superficial, manipulative, and abusive sexual relationships of the various villains. As Henry Kissinger notoriously said, “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” Here, that is depicted literally. It shows the personal costs of power-lust in everyday relationships.
I also wanted to dramatize the critical role excuse-making and rationalizations play in enabling and perpetuating the evils arising from power-lust. That includes the role that philosophy, religion, and ideology can play in rationalizing some people’s abuse of others.
Squeezing all of these elements into a single, fast-moving, page-turning thriller became a mind-boggling challenge for me, at times an overwhelming one. But slowly, somehow, it finally all came together.
Dylan Hunter is all about justice. I hope in this, my third chronicle of his adventures, I have done him justice. I eagerly await your verdict.