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DARK SPIRAL DOWN by Michael Houtz, International Thriller, 377 pp.
Author: Michael Houtz
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
COLE HAUFNER is a reluctant superstar in the professional mixed
martial arts world. After his latest fight, his wife and child perish in
a car crash. His grief deepens when his brother, BUTCH, a Delta Force
operator, is absent from the funeral and reported missing by two furtive
strangers who show up unannounced at the burial. Despairing, and acting
on a tip, Cole travels to his childhood home in southeast China,
looking for his brother.
Butch and his teammate, HAMMER, are the sole American survivors of a
gun battle between their unit and North Korean commandos, both sides
fighting over possession of a stolen suitcase containing a miniaturized
fusion device that could either provide unlimited clean energy or be
converted to an undetectable bomb seven times more powerful than a
nuclear explosion. Leading the North Koreans is the sociopath, Commander
PARK. Pressed into helping the Koreans is a disgraced former CIA
operative, BARRETT JENNINGS.
Cole meets with the uncle who raised him, MASTER LI, and is warned to
stop his search for Butch. Barrett discovers Cole’s identity (with the
help of a genius computer hacker, LILLY), which opens a twenty-year-old
wound when Barrett was blamed for the disappearance of Cole’s father,
along with the man’s invention. Barrett enlists the 14K organized crime
syndicate to help capture Cole. Hammer, separated from Butch during the
fight for the device, thwarts the gang’s attempt to kidnap Cole, and the
two then set off to find Butch and the device. All parties converge on
the city library where Butch, now disguised as a monk, is attempting to
communicate with the Pentagon. Barrett and Park capture Butch, while the
14K gang nabs Cole.
Danger mounts as Chinese authorities begin investigating foul play
within their borders. Cole fights his way free of the gang and reunites
with Hammer. Both men find Barrett’s apartment and discover Lilly (the
man’s stepdaughter), who divulges Barrett’s identity and plan. Cole
clashes with Hammer, who is willing to sacrifice Butch in order to
recover the fusion device. Lilly offers her help in exchange for her and
Barrett’s rescue from Park’s grip. Meanwhile, Barrett discovers the
true nature of the case the North Koreans are pursuing and, sensing he
and Lilly are to be assassinated by Park once he has the device, frees
Butch. Butch, trusting Barrett was sent to rescue him, leads the
turncoat to the site where he hid the device. Barrett, hoping to make a
quick fortune selling it, shoots Butch before escaping with the case.
Cole, along with Hammer and Lilly, arrives at the location of Butch
and finds him gravely wounded. Butch fingers Barrett for shooting him
and for stealing the case. Cole wants only to save his brother but Butch
makes him promise to kill Barrett and recover their dad’s invention.
The revelation that the device is his father’s scientific discovery
propels Cole forward to fulfill his brother’s mission. Cole is forced to
abandon Butch at a hospital. Cole pursues Barrett to a remote dock
where the ex-CIA man is planning to escape China by boat. With the
Chinese military now actively looking for Cole, Cole confronts Barrett
and Park sparking a gunfight. Barrett kills Park. As Barrett turns the
gun on Cole, Hammer kills Barrett. Cole, Hammer and Lilly escape via the
boat, and the fusion device is safely returned.
“If you’re in the market for a fast paced, action filled,
page-turning thriller, Mike Houtz delivers a must-read novel. I highly
recommend this emotional rollercoaster of a book for every die-hard
thriller reader…Get it ASAP!”
~Lima Charlie Review
“…this work proves that author Houtz is undoubtedly a rising star in the publishing world.”
~Andrea Brunais, Author
“Mike Houtz takes us on fast-pace adventure in Dark Spiral Down, a
thrilling ride along the border between China and North Korea, where
Cole Haufner is in pursuit of his Delta Force brother and a device that
has the potential to change the world forever or destroy it.”
~Dan Grant, Author
“Dark Spiral Down is a phenomenal debut novel by Mike Houtz.
This book has everything readers of the genre love: a great plot,
memorable characters, and a powerful voice. It’s a must-read!”
~Ammar Habib, Bestselling & Award-Winning Author, Editor-in-Chief of Thriller Magazine
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What initially got you interested in writing?
I’ve been a natural storyteller my entire life. I’ll read a headline or hear a news story and come up with some crazy twist taking it in a whole new direction. Just a part of my personality—or, maybe I was dropped one too many times as a baby. I’ve spent time in theater productions and toured in a band. Writing is just the medium to continue that proclivity. The writing came in spurts as far back as high school, but only after I retired from medicine did I consider it as a full-time effort.
What genres do you write in?
I’m strictly a thriller guy. I love a good mystery, biographies, police procedurals but my heart belongs to stories written by Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton, Brad Thor…the thriller masters. I’ve written short stories in post-apocalyptic, dystopian, and science fiction but never considered anything full-length. I’m just scratching the surface understanding my current genre. One thing at a time.
What drew you to writing these specific genres?
I cut my teeth on Clancy. I lost count the number of times I read Red Storm Rising and Patriot games. I’m drawn to the good guy fighting the powers to correct a wrong. That uphill, high risk, low probability story captures something primitive in my psyche.
How did you break into the field?
After I retired from a career in medicine, I focused on writing—something I dabbled in but never considered anything more than a recurring hobby. When I finished my current book’s manuscript, I entered a contest that offered feedback from industry experts. I wanted experienced eyes showing me what they thought I did right and wrong. In a weird twist of fate, I was an accidental winner of the Zebulon award. A few months later I pitched my manuscript to the CEO of Wild Rose Press, a publishing house out of New York. The process was fast and furious. What normally took months to culminate into a contract offer took only days. The communication was stellar, and I felt very comfortable putting my name on the dotted line. I’d made it to the top of a mountain. Little did I know I’d only just begun.
What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?
My primary hope is they found the story entertaining. Nothing satisfies me more than when a reader tells me they felt a character’s pain or joy. My job is to create a story compelling enough to illicit an emotion or visceral response in a reader. If I don’t accomplish that, I feel as if I’ve let them down somehow.
On a deeper level, I hope to shed light on the underlying premise of my book’s series which is shining a light upon a tragedy that occurs hundreds of times a year in this country—the unlawful removal of a child by one parent to an overseas country that doesn’t recognize U.S. child custody laws. I can only imagine the fear the child suffers and the horrendous pain the rightful caregiver endures when a child is ripped from their home and taken to a strange, far-away country. To me, that is one of the most selfish, evil things an adult can do. I get to exercise my wish upon the perpetrators with my characters.
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
No doubt the smile I see when someone relives a scene with excitement and animation. Recently, I sat on a two-hour flight next to a woman who’d read an early copy of the book, and she spent the entire flight recounting the experiences of the characters. She appeared so excited to tell me about the book, she probably forgot that I wrote it. Her exuberance was infectious, and I felt I’d done my job offering her solid entertainment. It’s very rewarding when someone enjoys something you spent years creating.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
I am way too much of a perfectionist when writing the rough draft. I find myself editing every stinking line of original material. I’ll spend all day on a chapter reading and rereading every sentence in the hope it’s perfect. That’s not what the rough draft is for! I would be doing myself a big favor if I’d just write from the heart and trust I’ll recapture that feeling during editing. I have a lot of storylines waiting in the wings, and I could get to them sooner if I quit editing while I write. Let me know if there’s a voodoo doll for that.
What advice would you give to people wanting to enter the field?
Trust me when I say there’s no right or wrong way to almost every aspect of writing. Regardless of what most books on the writing process tell you, no two people approach it the same. I have picked up a few very useful tips reading these texts but, by and large, you need to find what works for you. The only way to do that is to keep writing and capture that knowledge through repetitive efforts.
Another key tidbit is people should realize this industry, and the process of writing itself, moves at a glacial pace. If anyone thinks they’ll write a bestseller and get published in a couple of years is setting impossible timelines. I broke a few speeding records with my first book and it still took almost three years. The average I come across with some frequency is 7+ years from first sentence to a cover on Amazon. Don’t quit your job to become a rich and famous author. Plenty of folks I know work full time and publish. The words flow better if you don’t have to do it to keep the rent paid.
What type of books do you enjoy reading?
Besides those in my genre, I’m really drawn to well-written biographies. I’ve always been a big history buff and reading about the lives of well-known figures in history hooks me hard. Lately, I’ve been drawn to important historical figures from the renaissance era.
Is there anything else besides writing you think people would find interesting about you?
I drew upon my experience in martial arts for both the protagonist and some of the fight scenes. I have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and advanced training in Kempo. I’m undefeated in five years of combat competition. I got to recall how cool I used to be in my younger days, lol. Now everything just hurts.
What are the best ways to connect with you, or find out more about your work?
My website is a good start. http://www.mikehoutz.com
You can read other articles and interviews, find out where I’m heading next for future conferences and other engagements, and sign-up for my monthly newsletter to learn more about the inside secrets of the book and future releases.
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up his stethoscope and pursue his other passion as a writer of
fast-paced thrillers. A rabid fan of authors such as Clancy, Mark
Greaney, Vince Flynn, and Brad Thor, Mike loves series writing with
strong characters, fast pacing and international locations, all of which
explode into action in his debut novel, a 2017 Zebulon Award winner.
When not at the keyboard, he can be found on the firing range, traveling
for research across the globe, or trying out the latest dry-fly pattern
on a Gold Medal trout stream.He lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
His latest book is the thriller/international/action novel, Dark Spiral Down.