Friday, April 29, 2022

Marc Cameron

New York Times bestselling author Marc Cameron’s Jericho Quinn Thriller Series debuted in 2011. Since then, he’s written eight Quinn novels and four Arliss Cutter novels featuring a deputy US marshal based in Alaska, including the most recent Cutter, Cold Snap. Cameron is the author of five Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan novels for the Tom Clancy estate, including the Shadow of the Dragon and Chain of Command.

A retired Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal, Cameron spent nearly thirty years in law enforcement. He holds a second-degree black belt in jujitsu and is a certified law enforcement scuba diver and man-tracking instructor. The job of a deputy US marshal is extremely varied. Cameron’s career focused primarily on dignitary protection and fugitive operations. As a member of the rural Tactical Tracking Unit for the US Marshals District of Alaska, Cameron routinely tracked lost hikers, hunters, and fugitives in the vast Alaska bush. His assignments have taken him from Alaska to Manhattan, Canada to Mexico and dozens of points in between.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

We’re going for Northern Noir. The Cutter novels are set in Alaska, most often in rural communities—what we call “the bush.” I want the books to have that icy, isolated flavor. Cold Snap takes place during the spring. In the lower forty-eight flowers are blooming and kids are flying kites in the park. But—like the old Johnny Horton song, springtime in Alaska can dip well below zero. The land, water, even the air itself conspire to crush anyone who’s not prepared. Deputy US Marshal Arliss Cutter is a skilled outdoorsman and fugitive hunter, but he’s from Florida. The intense chill of the Arctic grates on him, especially when in his mind, it should be spring. A sudden cold snap in the mountains makes for deadly conflict—man v man in a frozen environment that will happily kill both hunter and hunted. It would be impossible to write an honest story about Alaska without making weather a leading character.

What's in a name?

I had a couple of back-and-forth conversations with my publisher early on about Arliss. There was a feeling on that end that a deputy marshal should have a “tougher” sounding name. To me, he’s been Arliss from the beginning. It just took me a minute to convince the team. Cutter’s partner, Lola Teariki, is of Cook Island Maori descent. I wanted something that was recognizable as Polynesian, and to people that know, as Maori, and more particularly, as Cook Island Maori. My wife and I visit Rarotonga for a couple of months every year so I spent a lot of time poring over the phone book looking for suitable surnames. It’s Te Ah Ree Kee but I knew going in some readers would pronounce it “teriyaki” in their heads… My maternal grandmother’s name was Lola. She was one of the most adventurous people I’ve ever known—always on the move into her nineties. Lola Teariki shares much of her spirit.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

I grew up very poor in rural Texas. As a boy, I read Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows—and wrote a lot of stories about good dogs and trusty horses. In middle school I found Fleming and Forsyth. They turned me to writing Bond-esque espionage. In high school, I discovered Robert Penn Warren and Hemingway whose work nudged me toward a snooty literary phase where I tried, I think, to be too ‘writerly.’ I still have some of those manuscripts and boy, oh, boy, they will never see the light of day. All my friends knew that my teenage-self dreamed of living in the north, being a cop, and writing novels—but I think we’d all have been hella surprised to learned that it actually worked out.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I generally know the ending and the route my characters will take to get there, but the beginning takes me several tries. It’s not uncommon for me to bang out three chapters and then, when I start chapter four say to myself, “This is where the book actually begins.” Those first three weren’t wasted. I needed to write them to reach the starting line.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I worked in Alaska for most of my career with the US Marshals, much of that on the district’s man-tracking team and fugitive task force. I get asked all the time if I’m Arliss. I wish. His adventures are inspired by my career, but he’s far cooler and more capable than I ever was. He’s sort of an amalgam of all the terrific people I worked with over the years. If I’m like anyone in the books, it’s Arliss’s grandfather, Grumpy, a lawman in Florida during the period when I came on the job in Texas.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I come from a family of cowboys and farmers who spent most every evening on the porch telling stories while they shelled peas or played dominoes. Some of my earliest memories are chewing on a piece of fried chicken, listening to how some kid in the next county over died of a tick bite or how my great grandma blew her fingers off on at a piece of military ordinance the kids found around Camp Polk. They may not have known the terms “character arc” or “rising action,” but my family could tell a mean story. I value those porch-swing master classes more than any formal training I’ve ever received.
Visit Marc Cameron's website.

--Marshal Zeringue