When master spy Judd Ryder returns in The Assassins (St. Martin’s Press; June 30, 2015) the latest thriller from best-selling author Gayle Lynds, he’s not only doing battle with the Carnivore, an infamous Cold War killer. He’s fighting for his life, his reputation and his destiny—all the while conducting a delicate balancing act deciding whether and when to unleash his own deadly abilities.
“Judd is a reluctant hero,” Lynds said in an exclusive interview with BookTrib. “He doesn’t like ‘the life’ in espionage because he’s really good at it, and that frightens him. He has a power inside him, as many of us do, but his is a darker power. So he’s always on that razor’s edge of when to apply violence and when not to, and how far he should go with it. He’s caught in this balancing act of trying to figure out who he is. That makes him, to me, a very interesting character.”
It’s the allure of characters like Ryder—and espionage in general—that started Lynds on the path to her career. “I had a very early experience of reading great spy-thriller writers, and exchanging them with my girlfriend and my father, and eventually my son when he was old enough,” she said. “We were trading books by Robert Ludlum, Frederick Forsyth, Helen MacInnes—all the great, fine spy novelists. There was always a fertile Petri dish of books we recycled back and forth. I grew up on them; I cut my teeth on them. Of course, I wanted to write them.”
After a stint in investigative journalism (a “magical part of my life,” she said), Lynds turned to writing about espionage, a subject that captivated her. The general public, she said, doesn’t realize how much government policy “so often comes from the work of various intelligence agencies. In many ways, it’s the fourth leg of government. The three-legged stool is actually a four-legged stool. It’s a critical component in the decisions that are made up top.”
The other reason she loves the genre? “Secrets,” she said. “Secrets are critical, and there is tremendous power in secrets. I’m fascinated by secrets and how they impact not just governments and not just the power players in corporations and in banks, but how they impact those of us who are living in a more normal and ordinary strata of life. It trickles down to us; it impacts us. So, one of the jobs of my kind of book is to be a window on that world and bring in some of the history, some of the background, some of the stuff that’s going on right now, in an entertaining way, so that the reader is learning as they are having a great adventure.”
She’s also drawn to a certain kind of spy. “I tend to write about the ones who come to the work because of their patriotism and their commitment,” Lynds said. “They have certain skills. They can fight. They can think. But they also have weaknesses, as we all do. That for me is a great deal of fun, to put whole people into extreme situations and watch them figure out what to do, and how to get themselves out.
“Judd has that inside himself,” she said of the main character of The Assassins. “He’s a patriot, and he’s very strong in his opinions of what’s right and what’s wrong. But where does the law end and justice begin?”
Lynds is currently working on her next novel, an untitled thriller much of which will take place in Moscow. “I’m thinking of bringing Judd back, because this seems like his kind of story,” she said. “I may not. I write a lot of stand-alones, because I really like telling a complete story.
“But,” she said when asked about the future of one of today’s most compelling secret agents, “Judd’s story isn’t finished.”