James R. Hannibal is no stranger to secrets and adventure. This former stealth pilot from Houston, Texas, has been shot at, locked up with surface-to-air missiles, and chased down a winding German road by an armed terrorist. He is a three-time Silver Falchion Award winner for his children’s mysteries, and a Carol and Selah Award winner for The Gryphon Heist and Chasing the White Lion. James is a rare multisense synesthete, meaning all of his senses intersect. He sees and feels sounds and smells, and hears flashes of light. If he tells you the chocolate cake you offered smells blue and sticky, take it as a compliment.
In this interview, James talks about his latest thriller, Elysium Tide.
FF: Can you please provide a brief summary of your new novel, Elysium Tide?
When neurosurgeon Dr. Peter Chesterfield explodes on a colleague in the middle of a life-or-death operation, the Royal London Hospital administrator decides enough is enough. He sends workaholic Peter on a forced vacation to Maui. As he is walking the beach after midnight while coming to grips with his stress addiction, a young woman washes up at his feet. Despite all his medical knowledge and skill, she dies in his arms. Peter becomes obsessed with finding out why. He must bring her killer to justice.
Detective Lisa Kealoha has returned to Maui after a few years of putting in her dues in the LAPD. The department brings her in to run Maui’s new gang task force. The local cop who wanted the job is not happy about it and not ashamed to say so out loud. With her future in the Maui PD on the line, the last thing Lisa needs is a British know-it-all shoving his nose into her investigation. But Peter has an eye for things that are out of place. It’s what he does. He finds that which is out of place and sets it right. The reluctant pair join forces to catch a killer, diving deep into Maui’s evolving gang culture, and uncover a conspiracy with far-reaching consequences. Knowing too much is deadly, and the two must catch the killer before the killer catches them.
FF: What sparked the idea for this novel?
My family took a vacation to Maui, and a resort representative gave us a tour of the place. She wanted to show us the shops, the pools, etc., but I took an interest in a series of conference rooms where presenters were speaking to mostly empty seats. When I asked about it, our guide described resort medical conferences. These boondoggle conferences benefit the resorts with wealthy doctor clientele while serving as a write-off for hospitals and medical associations. It’s a great deal for the docs, and I thought, “What if there was one stuffy British surgeon who just plain hates the idea of a hospital-sponsored vacation—or any vacation at all?” The character of Peter Chesterfield grew from there.
FF: As a former tactical deception officer and stealth pilot, have you experienced firsthand the high-stakes action that takes place in your novels?
I’ve had bullets fly past my cockpit. I’ve been chased on the ground by a gun-toting killer. I’ve compiled tons of evidence to hunt down drug dealers and terrorists. I did bring some of that energy into the story. But I’ve never operated on a child’s brain. And I’ve never worn a badge. When I did detective-style work, I operated under a different set of rules. So, this story took a great deal more research than my spy thrillers.
FF: Can you explain how those real-life experiences have influenced the plotlines and characters that you write?
Once I dove into Peter’s character, I realized a stress junky is a stress junky whether he’s hunting terrorists, flying fighters, or digging a tumor out of a kid’s brain. I also realized at times, in some of the darker parts of Peter’s workaholism, I was writing about myself. That alone created a major shift in my relationship with my family. Did my life influence the plotlines? Sure. But the plotlines (and really the character development) influenced my life far more.
FF: When did you decide to write your first novel?
I decided to write my first novel when I was four. It took a while, but I got there thirty-some-odd years later.
FF: What do you love most about writing suspense novels?
I love building new worlds and meeting new characters. I love what they tell me about myself.
FF: What do you hope readers will gain from reading your book?
I hope a few stress junkies like me read this book. I hope they see themselves in Peter and find a way to make a change. Their lives and relationships depend on it. Don’t believe me? As I write this, I’m sitting in a wheelchair because I pounded my feet to pieces working too hard last summer. It’s temporary (I hope), but it’s a great wake-up call. I also infused Peter with a god-complex atheism that meets its match when he can’t save the murder victim. He’s not in control. Not at all. I hope the way Peter comes to grips with God’s sovereignty helps a reader—or helps a reader reach someone like him.
FF: What are you working on next?
The Realm of the Lightraiders is exploding. God is moving so fast I’m fighting to keep up. Stories, games, and Bible study adventures occupy all my working hours. But let’s be clear—I’ve throttled those working hours back because of what I learned while writing this book.
James R. Hannibal
Genres: Mystery & Suspense, Thriller
Release Date: June 7, 2022
Dr. Peter Chesterfield is one of the Royal London Hospital’s top neurosurgeons. He is also a workaholic, ordered by his boss to take a week off to attend a medical symposium at the luxurious Elysium Grand on the island of Maui. While there, Peter pulls a woman with a skull fracture from the water. Though he is able to revive her in the ambulance, she eventually dies in his arms, leaving him with only one clue to what happened to her: the word “honu.”
Increasingly obsessed with discovering the cause of his patient’s death, Peter becomes entangled in an ongoing investigation of a brazen luxury auto theft. He also becomes a source of deep irritation to detective Lisa Kealoha, who has jurisdiction over the case.
But when the two join forces, they begin to uncover a destructive plot that runs far deeper than either of them could have imagined. And if they’re not careful, they’re both going to end up dead.
Buy Elysium Tide from the FF Store HERE!
Buy Elysium Tide from Amazon HERE!