“Some people in my trade act like animals, tearing through houses like a tornado, giving us all a bad name. Snapping shelves, breaking vases, smashing picture frames and tossing stuff around for no rhyme or reason. It’s incredibly rude. Taking property that doesn’t belong to you is one thing, but do you think anyone wants to come home to find their house looking like a goddamn war zone? If you’re a professional, you act like one.”

In Ryan Wick’s debut novel Safecracker (Thomas Dunne Books), Michael Maven is a professional, and he has no reason to believe he will have any trouble on his latest job. He’s spent a week planning it; he knows the layout, knows where the rare coin is kept and knows its owner will be out that night. And then it all goes to hell.

As Maven watches from hiding, the man comes back early with a stunning woman, who casually kills the man, cuts off his thumb for the safe’s biometric scanner and steals the coin for herself. Maven figures he can use his martial arts skills to subdue her, and that works for about half a second, before she uses her better martial arts skills to clean his clock.

How could this night possibly get any worse? he wonders. And then he finds out. It isn’t when he gets his throat cut — though, yes, that’s pretty bad. It’s when the events of that night bring him into the orbit of a sadistic drug lord who coerces him into an impossibly dangerous job against impossibly long odds, in partnership with the woman who almost killed him and is just itching to try again.

Filled with unexpected characters, gritty dialogue and propulsive suspense, I guarantee you that this is one book you’re not going to want to put down.

WICK DISCUSSES HIS IDEA BEHIND SAFECRACKER

Safecracker is a story that I’ve been toying with for close to a decade and the character of Michael Maven has been living in my head for even longer. “Growing up, I was generally always fascinated by anti-heroes. Whether through books, TV or films, the complicated men and women who edge against the law were always more interesting to me than the polished white knights who stood tall in the face of adversity. Life is a very complicated thing and nothing is ever exclusively black and white, so while somebody might be a hero one day, they could very easily turn out to be a villain the next. It just depends on one’s point of view.    “With Safecracker, I wanted to explore that type of character. A career thief, but a thief with a code of honor … so around the beginning of 2016 I set out to write it. Originally, I thought it would make a great TV pilot, but soon realized that limiting myself (and the narrative) to what could actually be budgeted and put on screen was a total disservice to the real story I wanted to tell.”

Wick thought of the TV pilot because he himself is an award-winning director, editor, and cinematographer for films, TV, music videos, commercials and documentaries. However, he found he could readily adapt his skills to the printed page.

“While a book is very different from any type of visual medium (since you’re painting a picture with only words), when you distill everything down to the bare essence, it’s all just about telling the best story possible with whatever medium you’re presented with. I take the same approach to a book as I do with a documentary or a film. How do I keep the audience engaged and make them care about what I’m telling them? How do I make them feel something for the characters in this story?”

ON WRITING A BOOK

“I think the biggest difference for me with writing a book is that it’s only about telling the best story possible. There are no outside influences compounding anything I want to do. No budgetary restrictions, no executive influence, no investors. It’s why I find writing fiction so freeing and cathartic. No one is telling me what I can and can’t do except the narrative itself and the characters I’m creating.

“I’m definitely what people would call a “pantser,” because I never outline on paper. There is a rough blueprint in my head when I start out writing a new book, usually a beginning and an ending (that may or may not stick) then I labor tirelessly to fill in how to get from point A to point Z. A lot of my process involves walking around Manhattan listening to music and people-watching. In some ways it’s a sort of active meditation, where I work through bits of my story over and over again until I figure out the most dynamic and engaging way to move forward. Whenever I have writer’s block or there is some part of the story that just isn’t working, I can’t move on until I solve it.

“This admittedly, is probably not the best way to go about writing a book (and certainly not the most expeditious) since sometimes it stalls my process for days or even weeks — where I’m just thinking about how to overcome a stupid plot point that isn’t working — but eventually I figure out a solution, and the pieces click into place. That’s when I sit back down and bang out a large chunk of the story until another roadblock inevitably presents itself.”

ON CONDUCTING RESEARCH

“I tend to research as I write. Whenever I come up to a point in the story where I’m not sure about something or I need specific information about a plot point, I’ll pause and take a deep dive into whatever it is I’m trying to learn about. Sometimes this takes a few hours, other times it takes a few days, but I’m always adamant about writing things as accurately as possible.

“When it comes to burglary techniques, security systems and safes, this is a constant, ongoing process. It never ends. There are always new locks being made, new security features being invented and updates to stuff in which I need to stay relevant. Aside from a multitude of online resources such as YouTube videos, blogs and Reddit threads, real world locksmiths  have been a huge help for insight as well, when I’m not sure about something.

“The most surprising thing I learned, hands down, is how easy it is to pick certain locks. Before writing about a career thief, I had absolutely no idea just how insecure a lot of doors are. With just a few hours of practice, I was picking pin tumbler and master locks a lot faster than I would have ever thought possible.”

WICK WAS PREPARED FOR THIS MOMENT

“I’ve always been fascinated by stories. Whether it was reading the incredible amounts of books my family had growing up or constantly renting movies from the rental store down the street from my house, storytelling has been a huge part of my life since I was very little. My dad had bookshelves and boxes in the basement stacked with Stephen King, Robert Ludlum, Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton, Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy and many, many others, so I read a lot of books above my age range growing up. I remember reading Jurassic Park at the beach when I was, like, twelve and absolutely loving it. As I grew older, I discovered more and more crime fiction authors  and began reading a ton of Lawrence Block, Elmore Leonard, Max Allan Collins, Don Winslow and Lee Child.

“Aside from books, I think that watching a wide range of movies and TV has helped shape me as well. Stanley Kubrick is far and above my favorite director of all time. I have seen every one of his movies countless times, even Fear and Desire, which doesn’t screen very often anymore, and I may or may not have every book ever written about him. But I’m also just a massive fan of action and horror movies in general, regardless of whatever countries they were made in.

“As for the martial arts, I originally started training in the one Bruce Lee founded, Jeet Kune Do, back in 2007 and did that for a couple years before shifting to Kali (Filipino martial arts). Both complement each other quite nicely and are primarily geared for practical defense in the street. With Kali, or Eskrima, as it’s also called, you cover a lot of weapons-based defense tactics first, then move on to unarmed combat. Sticks, knives and swords play a large role and the philosophy is that generally anything you can pick up in a bar or street fight, becomes a weapon, because you are utilizing the same movements.

“We also cover a large amount of empty hand techniques such as kickboxing, judo, aikido and grappling, and you learn how to counter other systems. The general idea is that if anyone attacks you, no matter how or with what, you end the fight as quickly as possible. It’s an extremely well- rounded system for any real-world conflicts that you hope never arise. I’ve been lucky enough to train over the years with some of the best instructors in the country and I still teach it whenever I have free time (which unfortunately is not as often as I’d like).”

ON FINDING A PUBLISHER

“Mine, while certainly not ‘easy’ by any stretch of the imagination, was, I guess, luckier than some. It took me about two years to write Safecracker, including some revisions based on objective notes from good friends, and then I began pitching it to agents.

“The best decision I ever made was going to PitchFest during ThrillerFest in New York, where new authors have the opportunity to sit down with agents face to face and pitch them their book. It’s like speed-dating — you rotate around a room full of tables and are granted three minutes to get an agent or editor interested enough so that they want to actually read what you’ve written. When I left, after two and a half hours, with a very dry mouth and my brain turned to mush, I had received ten requests from agents willing to read either part of, or all, of my manuscript. The whole next week, I re-read my book about a hundred times and corrected every single, minor error I could find, then began emailing out whatever had been requested. While waiting for any and all responses, I continued cold-querying other agents who represented authors working in the same vein as mine.

“All in all, it took me almost six months before I actually signed with my agent, Eric Myers (who is incredible by the way). The funny thing is, after waiting all that time and having several email conversations with other agents, he had been the very first literary agent I ever spoke to during PitchFest.

“A few months later, I was offered a deal with Thomas Dunne Books at St. Martin’s Press and I jumped at the chance to sign with them. Tom has been in this industry a very long time and has published a number of my favorite books over the years, so I was absolutely elated to be offered a chance to work with him and his team.

WHAT’S NEXT?

“Right now, I’m hard at work on the follow-up to Safecracker, which will hit stores in 2021 — as well as two TV pilots and a couple of short stories.”

We’ll keep an eye out for all of them!

Buy this book!

About Ryan Wick

Ryan Wick is an author, award-winning director, screenwriter and Filipino martial arts instructor. A member of both the Mystery Writers of America and the International Thriller Writers, when he isn’t hunkered down inside his apartment in New York writing, Ryan enjoys traveling the world and scuba diving beneath it. Currently, he is hard at work on the next novel in the Michael Maven series and has no plans on stopping anytime soon.