Thursday, June 9, 2016


Recently, upstart publisher Brash Books has been setting readers’ enthusiasm on fire by making many long out of print mystery series available again in both e-books and beautiful trade paperbacks. In some cases, Brash Books has commissioned new books in these series, either from the original author or by continuing the series under the guidance of a new author. Because of Brash Books, these excellent series are returning from ill-deserved obscurity and being given new life as they are discovered by a new generation of passionate mystery fans.
To mentioning a few of these gems fires my own enthusiasm as I remember discovering them the first time around—The Owl by Bob Forward, The Bragg private eye series from Jack Lynch, the action filled Preacher novels from Ted Thackery, and the Delilah West mysteries from Maxine O'Callaghan. It’s terrific to see them available again, and I have now reread quite a few and found them to be as enjoyable as I remembered.
The series I am most delighted to see making a strong comeback features W.L. Ripley’s character, Wyatt Storme. In the early ‘90s, Ripley introduced ex-NFL star, atavistic cowboy, and freelance troubleshooter Wyatt Storme in Dreamsicle. At first glance, Storme and his tougher than tough sidekick Chick Easton appeared to be another take on Spenser and Hawk. However, once I started reading, it became clear Ripley had the chops to break away from the Spenser clones in the same way Robert Crais did with his acclaimed series featuring Elvis Cole and his slightly psychotic sidekick, Joe Pike.
When the second and third Storme adventures (Storme Front / Electric Country Roulette) were even stronger than Storme’s debut (Dreamsicle), I believed Ripley had created a series that would be around for a long time. However, the machinations of the publishing industry’s impatient treatment of mid-list writers conspired to cut the series off before it had a chance to reach a wider audience and the acclaim it deserved.
Ripley went on to write another outstanding three book series—featuring the enigmatic ex-secret service agent Cole Springer (Springer’s Gambit / Pressing The Bet / Springer’s Fortune), who could easily be a brother or at least a first cousin to Wyatt Storme. While different in their own right, the Springer books displayed the same engaging writing style, the same biting dry wit, and the same crunching action from an intelligent hero you would definitely want beside you in a fight.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Springer novels, but I also wanted more Storme…And now, thanks to Brash Books, Storme is back—in retitled (Hail Storme / Storm Front / Eye Of The Storme), repackaged (beautiful covers with matching theme in e-book and paperback), versions of his original adventures, but also in a brand new novel, Storme Warning.
As excited as I am to have Wyatt Storme back in my reading line-up, I can assure you the author W.L. Ripley is even more excited. I tracked Ripley—AKA: The Blue Collar Elmore Leonard and The Heir to John D. McDonald—to his home in western Missouri. Caught in the act of writing a new chapter, he has been dragged into the virtual interrogation room where the bright lights give him nowhere to hide...Hopefully, he’ll talk without the application of the rubber hoses...
What can you tell us about the genesis and history of Wyatt Storme and your early writing career?
RIPLEY: I’d been brain-storming Wyatt Storme for a few years before putting him on paper. Probably wrote several thousand words about him in different scenarios, even different names, before I decided who he would be. The first Storme novel, Hail Storme, was an easy write (It’s not always that way). It came in one long fine flash and pretty much wrote itself. 
When did Cole Springer come into being and how did you strive to make him different to Wyatt Storme?
RIPLEY: The Storme novels are written in first person point-of-view. Everything happens through Storme’s eyes. The Springer novels are third person omniscient where I can walk through the minds of all the characters, even the bad guys. Storme is very much the stalwart neo-classic Western hero. He doesn’t drink or use profanity. Springer is a free swinging, piano playing honest con-man with a wicked sense of humor who enjoys the game he’s playing with his enemies. Springer would rather out-smart than out-punch his adversaries.
Think of Storme as a witty Clint Eastwood/Gary Cooper character, whereas Cole Springer would be more of a James Garner/Paul Newman type with a wink, a smile and quip. Storme comes at his adversaries straight up while Springer likes to approach his antagonists sideways, allowing them to trip themselves up with their greed. I wanted a different type of hero in a different setting and, having visited Aspen Colorado on a few occasions, I was fascinated by the locale and the demographics of the place. I also wanted to place the enigmatic ex-Secret Service agent in a culture clash with some nasty mobsters. It is hard to beat Aspen, Colorado, as a culture shock venue for street thugs. Makes it a lot of fun to thrust those thugs into the rarified air of celebrities and the beautiful people.
How did your association with Brash Books come about and what excites you most about having your Wyatt Storme books readily available again in print and also in e-book format?
RIPLEY: Lee Goldberg and Joel Goldman (Brash Books publishers) were searching for mystery writers for their new imprint. Lee came across my name in a foreword acknowledgment in an Ace Atkins’ book and contacted Atkins. Ace told them how to get hold of me. Lee and Joel hooked me into a conference call, laid out the Brash Books vision, and I was hooked.
Seeing your name in print with fresh eye-catching covers never gets old. Goldberg and Goldman (both successful novelists in their own right) are very unique in the publishing industry. Both men truly love mysteries and their writers. They are two of the hardest working men I’ve ever encountered. That’s saying a lot as I was once a college basketball coach, a profession filled with 24-7 workaholics. The G-Men love what they’re doing and it is infectious. I don’t know anyone who has more fun all the time than Lee Goldberg, and few people possess a more organized and focused mind than Joel Goldman. They are the Wyatt Storme and Chick Easton of the industry.
How much input did you have in the repackaging of your first three Wyatt Storme novels with new titles and new covers?
RIPLEY: Brash has been great about getting input on cover art and blurbs. Lee Goldberg wanted a trademark Storme look for each book cover, which has turned out to be a great idea. I’m not much on cover art, but my son, Jared, has a great critical eye and Brash has paid attention to his input. Jared, an art teacher, is the one who came up with the Eye of the Storme bullet-hole trademark.
Brash is so good at promo and jacket blurbs I don’t have to worry about those things very much anymore. Previously, with other publishers, I had to do most of it. From the Brash Books Eye Of The Storme page comes this line: Storme rolls into Branson like a hurricane with his buddy Chick Easton, an unhinged ex-CIA operative, to settle the score with his own brand of Justice. I didn't write that, but I wish I had.
Brash is very mindful of the Wyatt Storme Brand and work with me to insure the best product is put forth to the public. 

Before signing on with Brash Books did you consider republishing the Wyatt Storme books yourself, and if so, what made you decide Brash Books was the right fit for you?
RIPLEY: Good question. Yes, I was considering self-publishing Storme as I had been watching the mushrooming e-book industry and the early Storme novels had been published before the boom.
Brash shared with me a long-term vision of what they wanted to do and where they were going and I was intrigued. They are on the cutting edge of this revolution and I’m very happy to have gotten in on the ground floor. My books are moving at the best pace they’ve ever enjoyed. Brash’s promo has even generated new books sales for my non-Brash titles. Springer’s Fortune (2013) has experienced a surge in sales and it is directly tied to what Brash has done to expose tens of thousands of new readers to the Wyatt Storme series.
I’m excited there is also a new Wyatt Storme adventure waiting to be published. Is this a book you wrote shortly after the third Wyatt Storme book was originally published, or was this written specifically for Brash Books?
RIPLEY: The newest Storme, Storme Warning, was a new Storme written for Brash. I had a first draft written when they contacted me initially. Again, Ace Atkins had read it and told Joel Goldman about it.
Are there more Wyatt Storme book planned?
RIPLEY: Yes, working on one now and have another in development. Working title is Thunder Storme.
How do you keep the character of Wyatt Storme consistent as he makes his return appearances—have you changed as a writer; has Wyatt Storme changed as a character?
RIPLEY: Storme is larger-than-life throwback character who has gone through a marked change of course—from NFL superstar playboy to Thoreau inspired societal drop-out. He is very much his own man living by his own code. His sidekick, the enigmatic and unpredictable Chick Easton is, in Storme’s own words, the Swiss Army Knife of friends. Both men are haunted by their past exploits, but are learning to deal with them in the present.
The trick with a series character is to keep the hero familiar to long-time readers and at the same time appeal to new readers. Storme and Easton change in incremental ways each book, hopefully in ways pleasing to my readers. I try to peel back enticing little layers of the characters with each new novel.
As a writer, I have changed due the influence of other writers, agents and editors. I have had two agents who have had a great impact on my writing style and growth as a writer. I have to give Donald Maass of Donald Maass Literary agency much credit for helping me to see different avenues in my work. Al Zuckerman, Ken Follett’s agent, was my agent for a short period of time. We didn’t get along well, it happens, but I learned much from him that has progressed my work. There is so much to learn from people in the industry if a writer is open to criticism. 
Lee Goldberg has had an impact on my vision for Storme and Easton and Jake Morgan. Goldman also. The fact Goldman lives within 45 minutes of my home gives me access to his input on a personal basis.
As a writer I’m in competition with my previous works. I really don’t feel a competition with other writers. I hope all writers succeed as I have a great appreciation for the amount of work that goes into a novel. This is an offshoot of my coaching career. I was never jealous of other coaches as they were the only people in a crowded fieldhouse who were going through the same thing I was. I concentrated on the floor situation, my players and my team. The same with my novels. I’m too focused on my work and my characters to worry about what other authors are doing.
What can you tells us about the fourth Wyatt Storme book, Storme Warning?
RIPLEY: Storme is placed in a situation outside his comfort zone—dealing with Hollywood celebrities and the attendant media—and it is all due the urgings of Chick Easton. Storme and Easton are protecting a prima donna actor who nearly everyone involved in the film’s production has motive to kill. As Chick says, “Hell, I want to kill him and I just met him.”
Storme doesn’t want anything to do with the film crew, but his bond with Easton, who is excited about the prospect, pulls Storme into the mix. Hovering around the edge of things is a nasty mob button-man who has a personal and murderous grudge against Storme.
What is the one thing about Wyatt Storme you would want new readers to know?
RIPLEY: Wyatt Storme is a neo-classic Western hero set in the Modern American West. He is a real dead ringer for something like you’ve never seen (apologies to J. Robbie Robertson of The Band). Storme is reclusive and private, whereas Chick Easton is an exclamation point with legs who often goads Storme back into the vortex of the modern culture Storme disdains. The literary hero Storme most approximates would be John D. McDonald’s Travis McGee, another modern knight errant and societal drop-out.
Does the future have Cole Springer getting the same great Brash Books treatment as Wyatt Storme?
RIPLEY: We’ve talked about it and I do have two new Springers developed, so Springer will be back at some point. Right now the focus is on Wyatt Storme and continuing to build his readership which is going well.
Your Brash Book author’s page mentions a potential new series you are creating…What can you tell us about it?
RIPLEY: I have a new character, Jake Morgan, a modern twenty-something Texas Ranger who returns to his Midwestern hometown, and learns you can’t go home again. At least Morgan can’t as he finds his hometown under assault from powerful forces not hesitant to kill to consolidate their power. Morgan quickly clashes with the most powerful family in the area, which includes his high school sweetheart. She has become a dominant and imposing figure, and tensions rise as Jake begins an unauthorized—and unwanted—probe into the accidental death of an old friend. 
I appreciate Rip taking time from his writing schedule to discuss his experiences with Brash Books and Wyatt Storme. If you haven’t met Wyatt Storme, now is your chance...If you are already acquainted with Storme, it’s time to experience his early adventures again to get ready for all the action coming up from his new adventures…
HAIL STORME: The first Wyatt Storme novel. Storme is hunting in Missouri when he stumbles upon a hidden field of marijuana…and becomes embroiled in a deadly conspiracy of corruption, drug-trafficking and organized crime. CLICK HERE
STORME FRONT: To help a desperate friend, ex-footballer Wyatt Storme and his hard-charging buddy Chick Easton ride shotgun on an illegal gun shipment...and things go very wrong. The second novel in the action-packed series. CLICK HERE
EYE OF THE STORME: Wyatt Storme investigates the rape of a young co-ed in Branson, Missouri in this action-packed, third adventure in the series. CLICK HERE
STORME WARNING: The fourth novel featuring Wyatt Storme, the ex-football player turned troubleshooter that critics are hailing as the long-awaited heir to Travis McGee and Spenser. This time, Storme is hired to protect a bad-boy movie star getting well-deserved death threats. CLICK HERE

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