Mark Sullivan is the award-winning New York Times bestselling author of nine novels of mystery and suspense, including Rogue, The Purification Ceremony and The Second Woman. He also writes the “Private” series with James Patterson, including the #1 bestsellers “Private Berlin” and “Private Games.” His latest solo book, OUTLAW, comes out this week and is the second in the Robin Monarch series. “Private Los Angeles” debuts in early February.
Growing up, I loved to read action adventure, intrigue, and espionage books. Ian Fleming’s James Bond, Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne, and John D. McDonald’s Travis McGee were the heroes I followed religiously.
But as I got older I realized that in many ways my old heroes lacked soul.
About fifteen years ago, I started thinking seriously about writing an espionage novel, and I started to play with the idea of a bad-ass hero with a soft side, a conscience, and most importantly a soul. In my mind, he quickly became a thief, a master thief, so he had mad skills, but where was the compassion?
That question led to others: Where did he come from? What were his motives? What were the dimensions of his soul?
I couldn’t answer any of those questions easily, and so for eight years I put the idea aside. Then my son, Connor, got the opportunity to spend a summer ski racing in Patagonia, Argentina. He was fifteen, and flew to Buenos Aires alone. The brother of his coach picked Connor up at the international airport and drove him to the domestic terminal on the other side of the city.
The route took him on a highway that passed through some of the worst slums in the world where he saw children picking through mountains of garbage to survive. He wrote me a moving letter about the experience, and it struck me right away that my thief could have come from those slums and those garbage pits.