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Book Review of NATHAN’S RUN by John Gilstrap

[This post is the eighth in an eight-part series of Book Reviews of books by some of our 2017 Midwest Writers faculty. The MWW interns wrote the reviews as one of their assignments for the Ball State University class “Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age,” taught by MWW Director Jama Kehoe Bigger.]

“That’s why I’m gonna keep running.” A review of Nathan’s Run by John Gilstrap

Nathan’s Run
Author: John Gilstrap
Publisher: Harper Collins
Copyright 1996 by John Gilstrap
ISBN: 0060173858
Formant: Ebook
​Genre: Thriller

Nathan Bailey wants somebody that he can trust.  By the time he is twelve he has been orphaned and left in the care of an abusive uncle, who, after learning that he won’t be able to get his hands on Nathan’s inheritance, casts his nephew into the Kafka-esque world of the juvenile justice system. Within the walls of the Juvenile Detention Center’s ‘Crisis Unit’  Nathan kills a guard in self-defense, and, seeing no better option, runs.  He gets his bearings while hiding out in a house belonging to a family that is away from home.

The severe reality of his situation dawns on Nathan  when he hears grown-ups passing judgement on him, first on cable news, and then on a Nationally syndicated radio show hosted by a woman befittingly known as “The Bitch.” The youngster becomes the most famous fugitive in the country when he calls in to the radio program and iterates his side of the story.  Knowing that he can’t stay put forever, Nathan steals a car and keeps running.  The Nation is divided, half believe that Nathan is a cold-blooded killer, and half believe he is a victim of circumstance. The pressure is on for both Nathan (who is running towards the Canadian Border for his life) and for the police force trying to capture him (with their reputation on the line.)

The perspective of “Nathan’s Run” alternates between the young fugitive and the detective in charge of finding him, Warren Michaels, whose own tragic past makes the case difficult and personal.  Michaels is torn between his belief in Nathan’s innocence and his duty to apprehend him.

“Nathan’s Run” was the first of many bestsellers by Author John Gilstrap, whose most recent publication is “Final Target (A Jonathan Grave Thriller)” which is the ninth book in the Jonathan Grave series.  Through a swift high-stakes plot, sparse fiery prose, and emotionally compelling characterization, Gilstrap has created a page-turner with a critical eye on the harsh, politicized treatment of criminals, especially young ones. Readers will find themselves emotionally invested: feeling the triumph of Nathan’s successes and cringing with defeat at each of his blunders,  hoping for a happy ending that seems more and more unlikely and far away.

By Charlie Cain

MWW17 welcomes back thriller author John Gilstrap

Midwest Writers is delighted that John Gilstrap is returning to teach at MWW17!

John is the New York Times bestselling author of the Jonathan Grave thriller series. Two of the first three in the series were nominated for ITW’s prestigious Thriller Award, and for Private Eye Writers of America’s Shamus Award. His novels include Friendly Fire, Nick of Time, Against All Enemies, End Game, Soft Targets, High Treason, Damage Control, Threat Warning, Hostage Zero, No Mercy, Nathan’s Run, At All Costs, Even Steven, Scott Free and Six Minutes to Freedom.  Four of his books have been purchased or optioned for the Big Screen.  In addition, John has written four screenplays for Hollywood, adapting the works of Nelson DeMille, Norman McLean and Thomas Harris.  He will co-produce the film adaptation of his book, Six Minutes to Freedom, which should begin filming in 2017.

During  MWW17, John will teach a Part I Intensive Session “Adrenaline Rush: Writing a Thriller,” a day-long seminar on the construction of intelligent commercial fiction. What makes for a strong plot? How do you take cardboard characters and give them life on the page? Through lively lectures and writing exercises, students get a peek at the skeleton that gives structure to the stories that keep us reading long into the night.

We caught up with John recently and asked him about what he’s teaching for MWW17.

Tell us “Three Things You Should Know” related to your intensive, “Adrenaline Rush: Writing a Thriller”:

You’ll look at writing a different way at the end of the class than you did at the beginning

 

You should come prepared to do some writing exercises.

 

You should let me know if there’s one particular topic that you’d be disappointed if we didn’t explore.

 

Do you have a tip for writers who are feeling stuck on a manuscript? How do you get yourself unstuck?

Don’t walk away from it until you’ve written your way out of the corner.

 

Try switching over to pen and paper. That’s what I do and it always gets me unstuck.

 

And what are your answers for some just-for-fun questions?

Mac or PC? PC

Early-bird or night-owl? Night owl

Scrivener or a different writing software or plain old Word? Plain old Word

Coffee or tea? Coffee!! (I hate tea. It always reminds me of the times I was sick as a kid.)

What are your Part II sessions?

  • Worst Advice Ever: Write What You Know – The real trick is to write what interests you.  This session presents strategies for getting in touch with experts who can help you, and where to find answers to your most perplexing questions.  Hint: Knowing a little bit is fine. The rest is about faking it.  We’ll talk about that, too.
  • Bangs and Booms 101: What Writers Need to Know About Firearms and Explosives
  • Buttonhole Topic – Presentation Skills for Authors

Register for mww17 today!

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Praise for John Gilstrap and the Jonathan Grave Series:

“Gilstrap is one of the finest thriller writers on the planet.”  – Tess Gerritsen
“Gilstrap is a master of action and drama.”  – Gayle Lynds
“Rocket-paced suspense.”  – Jeffery Deaver
“A great hero, a really exciting series.”  – Joseph Finder
Read more about John and his writing in this article in Publisher’s Weekly. 

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Check out John on social media!

Facebook: johngilstrapauthor

Twitter: @JohnGilstrap

Website

Interview with MWW fave John Gilstrap

John Gilstrap is the New York Times bestselling author of nine thrillers, the latest of which is Damage Control. His previous books include Threat Warning, Hostage Zero, No Mercy, Six Minutes to Freedom, Scott Free, Even Steven, At All Costs, and Nathan’s Run; four have been Literary Guild selections. His novels have been translated into more than 20 languages.

For MWW13, John will present “Writing Commercial Fiction,” as well as sessions on writing a series and suspense writing. MWW committee member Cathy Shouse interviewed John about his MWW appearances and his writing career.

Q.  How many times have you been on the MWW faculty? Any special memories you’d like to share? Mine would be MWW 2010 when you and Marcus Sakey did a rowdy, memorable “secrets to getting published” session. Finally, how has being on MWW faculty impacted your career?

MWW is one of my favorite conferences.  How many have I been to?  At least three, I think, but there might have been a fourth a long time ago.  (That would actually make it the first, wouldn’t it?  Ah, well . . .)

I agree that that session with Marcus was a highlight. Not just because he’s a great guy and a brilliant writer, but because the entire session was ad-libbed.  The writer he was originally paired with that day suffered a family emergency and had to back out at the last minute.  I was asked to pinch-hit, and was more than happy to step in.  The timing was such, though, that Marcus and I had no time to compare notes or choreograph anything.  Since we’re both comfortable in front of an audience, we decided to wing it, and it ended up going really, really well.

Truthfully, I enjoy every aspect of the conference, from teaching the sessions to critiquing manuscripts.

Q. As a New York Times Bestselling author, you must have had many high points in your career. What’s been your favorite award/recognition/memory?

Probably my most significant pinch-me moment came when my family and I were invited to Dino DeLaurentiis’s 80th birthday party on the Isle of Capri in Italy. There we were on Dino’s boat on a beautiful day, swimming off the side in the Mediterranean. That was pretty special. Most special of all, of course–and I think this is probably true of most novelists–is that first phone call telling me that my agent had sold my first book.  It felt every bit like the new beginning that it turned out to be.

Q. Catch us up with the latest– what you’re working on now, releases, etc.

HIGH TREASON, the fifth book in my Jonathan Grave series will come out next summer, and right now, I am working on two projects within the same series.  One is the sixth book, as yet untitled, and barely even plotted, but first there’ll be an e-book novella that will chronicle how Jonathan Grave and Irene Rivers–the director of the FBI in the series–first met.

Q. What are some advantages for pre-published and published authors to attend conferences? How did conferences influence your writing, if you attended any before publication?

I didn’t even know there were such things as writers’ conferences when I was penning the book that became NATHAN’S RUN.  Having been in the biz now for over 15 years, I think that conferences can be extremely valuable to writers of all stripes and at all stages in their careers.  The trick to learning from sessions and panels is to listen with an open yet skeptical mind.  This is a creative business, which by definition means that there are no rules for storytelling.  What works for me may have no value to another writer, because we all sift our stories through the filters of our own imaginations.  It’s important to take from any session that which resonates, and to feel free to reject that which does not resonate.

From the business side of writing (as opposed to the artistic side), the best value comes from time around the bar.  Like any other industry, this is a business of networking and contacts.  All else being equal, the chances of success increase dramatically with each new contact you make.

Q. One year, you shared with our attendees the downside of getting a large advance. How do insider tips and knowledge of how publishing works help a writer?

Quoting from that cinematic masterpiece, ANIMAL HOUSE, “Knowledge is Good.”  Many new writers make the mistake of believing that their aspirations begin and end with the creation of a work.  The reality is that our little corner of the entertainment business is exactly that–a business.  It makes no more sense to enter into a book contract without knowing about the publishing industry than it would to open a restaurant without researching the food service industry.  Authors walk into traps every day–willingly, it seems–with their eyes closed.  Standard book contracts are predatory and awful.  It takes a good agent or a lawyer to cut through the crap to give the author a chance of success.

I advise writers to assume that their novel is their million-dollar retirement plan, and to perform all the due diligence research for a book sale that they would do to invest in any other business.

Q. Is there something about a writing career that you wish you had known sooner?

I was surprised how isolating it is.  Not only is a book produced in solitude, there are precious few people in any one community to talk to about it.  In fact, more than a few people are put off by the fact of one’s being a professional writer.  At one level, I think that everyone believes they could write a book if only they could carve out the time to do so. It’s not until they give it a shot that they realize how damn difficult it can be. Eight years ago, I became so frustrated by the isolation that I went back to a high-pressure day job. To date, I am the only artist I know who walked away from full-time writing to go back to the daily grind. Curiously, I’m more prolific as a part-time author than I ever was a full-time author. Go figure.

Q. Is there anything you would like to add?

Just that I’m looking forward to another July in Muncie!

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John’s quote from MWW 2010…”Over the years, I’ve participated in more conferences than I can count, but time after time, Midwest Writers Workshop ranks among the best of the best. The students are anxious to learn, the faculty comes to teach, and the result is electrifying. Anytime you want me back, just say the word, and I’m there.”

DID YOU KNOW??

John’s first Jonathan Grave novel, No Mercy, mentions Muncie, Indiana??

Jonathan Grave has an extraordinary job. He covertly rescues people. Moreover, he operates under his own system of justice. He does not go out of his way to abuse or kill people, but when he deems it necessary he does so without qualms. He does not so much operate in defiance of the police but rather, since his objectives are different, outside it. If it is necessary for some people to die in order that those objectives be fulfilled so be it.

For his services Jonathan is well paid. He has some military experience which is useful in developing rescue plans and he has connections which allow him to literally fly beneath the radar. He has handpicked his assistants, most notably, Venice (pronounced Ven EE chay) Alexander whose computer skills know no limit.

In this endeavor, Jonathan has been hired to find and rescue Thomas Hughes, the college age son of Stephenson Hughes. Thomas was abducted from his girlfriend’s home in Muncie, Indiana.

 

A bit of bragging

“As we say in Sisters in Crime, you write alone, but you’re not alone. Nowhere is this more gloriously apparent than the super-charged powerhouse of writing skill—the Midwest Writers Workshop.  From tentative newbie to experienced oldbie (!) –we all learned something useful, we all shared something special, we all made new friends, we were all inspired and—absolutely–we are all looking forward to the next time. A true triumph—and a must-do for anyone who’s intrigued by the world of writing.” – Hank Phillippi Ryan, Mary Higgins Clark, Agatha, Anthony and Macavity award winning author, President of National Sister s in Crime

“I left the Midwest Writers Workshop as a stronger writer…and I was on the faculty. I can only imagine what it does to attendees.” – Lou Harry

The Midwest Writers Workshop remains at the top of my list of favorite conference experiences. The focused curriculum, helpful staff, and welcoming participants all make this one of the best organized writing events I’ve yet seen. – Brooks Sherman, FinePrint Literary Management

“Over the years, I’ve participated in more conferences than I can count, but time after time, Midwest Writers Workshop ranks among the best of the best. The students are anxious to learn, the faculty comes to teach, and the result is electrifying. Anytime you want me back, just say the word, and I’m there.” – John Gilstrap, author of Jonathan Grave thriller series

“The 30 pitches I heard at MWW were better than the 170 I heard recently at a west coast writers’ conference.” — Kathleen Ortiz, literary agent, New Leaf Literary & Media

“As I tell everyone who will listen, MWW is the best writers’ conference there is!” — D.E. Johnson, author of The Detroit Electric Scheme (and MWW Fellow)

“What an amazing batch of writers you have there — the participants’ talent is remarkable. I’ve rarely encountered that many truly talented non-published authors, and never all in one place at one time before. You’ve created a fabulous garden to grow writers. Thank you for allowing me to be part of it this year! And… personally… I had a blast! Everyone was so welcoming and warm.” – Julie Hyzy, author of White House mystery series

“Just wanted to let you know I am proud to say I was a part of the 39th MWW! You and your committee have truly fostered a family-like atmosphere for both the faculty and the attendees, and it was great to feel like a member of the group. I have already started to receive material and I am looking forward to seeing if I can make a match!” — JL Stermer, Literary Agent, N.S. Bienstock, Inc.

“I wanted to let you know how great the conference was. You did a fantastic job creating a friendly atmosphere for everyone involved. Thanks so much for inviting me and I hope you’ll remember me for next year!” — Sarah LaPolla, Bradford Literary Agency

“Each year I come home saying this was the best MWW yet, and I said it again this year. A big thank you to you and your committee for a wonderfully organized and presented workshop. You always seem to anticipate what we writers need to know, and you provide excellent professionals to share that needed expertise. This year’s social media consultants were a perfect addition for those of us who require an informed “nudge” into the world of twitter, blogs, etc. My tech savvy son will be shocked when he receives a tweet from me–that will give me splendid satisfaction :)  I appreciate all of the hard work, knowing a workshop the caliber of MWW doesn’t just happen.  Ah, I am among friends and fellow writers here. — Sally Nalbor, MWW alumni