Digital Journal interview: Latina teen escapes Shining Path in thriller novel Lethal Dispatch by Max Tomlinson

Digital Journal Interview with Max Tomlinson about his novel Lethal Dispatch

Max Tomlinson author of Lethal Dispatch and Sendero

Max Tomlinson author of Lethal Dispatch and Sendero

Max Tomlinson, author of “Sendero” (awarded by Kirkus Reviews as the Best of 2012) is back with a new action thriller novel “Lethal Dispatch”.

Although listed in the Young Adult category, “Lethal Dispatch” will entertain adult readers who enjoy international mystery thrillers. The story not only entertains, it gives readers a peek into the political and social turmoil in Latin American countries particularly in Peru and Argentina. Through the eyes of his young female teen protagonist who has seen her share of pain and death, Tomlinson’s writing adeptly guides the reader through the story weaving in teen angst while subtly revealing socio-cultural and political aspects of the region. He does this like a seasoned pro, spinning his tale in the style of an action suspense thriller.
Untitled“Tomlinson’s princely, epic debut spans decades in a Peruvian family’s separation and reunion amid political unrest and terrorist atrocities.Elaborate and robust; a prime example of history and histrionics juggled with equal precision.” – Kirkus Reviews
UntitledDigital Journal had the opportunity to interview Max Tomlinson about his latest work.
DJ: Your book “Lethal Dispatch” is rich with cultural references. Tell us what inspired you to write about a young girl and her ties with the Shining Path?
Tomlinson: I’ve been drawn to the issues in Latin America for some time and wanted to dramatize the hardships people face there and show that they could happen anywhere—in fact do happen everywhere. They could easily happen here. Peru is a fascinating country whose history reaches back to the Incas and well before. In the 1980s and 90s its people were caught up in a dirty war that was almost inexplicable in its horror. Thirty thousand people just like Inez in my book disappeared—meaning they were imprisoned, tortured, murdered—often for the simple fact that they were in the wrong place. The rural population—mostly indigenous Indians—often felt no alternative but to side with the Shining Path, terrorists who made the Khmer Rouge look like cub scouts. What made normal people do that? Here are people—just like us—simply trying to live their lives. What made young people—in many cases teenagers and children—feel so compelled that they were willing to take oaths to die in order to fight a brutal, corrupt government?
I think I might have answered my own question …. In “Lethal Dispatch” one of the subplots is a young girl taken from a couple executed by the military and then adopted by a childless military couple. This happened in Argentina in the 1970s. There are over 500 documented cases of stolen children. That chilled me. Argentina is a wonderful country and much like the United States—yet its government did something like that.
“There are two main rebel groups operating in Peru, both leftist: The “Sendero Luminoso” (Shining Path) and the “Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru” (Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement). Both groups arose in response to Peru’s entrenched system of race and class based discrimination, which has deeply impoverished most of the country’s population, especially citizens of indigenous descent. Therefore most members and supporters of the “Shining Path” and the “Tupac Amaru Movement” belong(ed) to the poor and forgotten class of the population. “Sendero Luminoso” and the “Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru” both seek(ed) to overthrow the existing Peruvian government and impose their own communist regimes.” – LimaEasy
DJ: Many people who watch mainstream media are unaware of the social issues in other parts of the world. Your thoughts?
Tomlinson: We live in a media cocoon where Miley Cyrus (who would be beautiful if she’d simply keep her tongue in her mouth) is more shocking than a typhoon that wipes out a population in an instant. Don’t get me wrong: I love popular culture—music, books and movies. To me, they are the good things. But we in the West don’t realize how lucky we are. We are so fortunate to be living where we are and leading the kinds of lives we do. We are the lucky ones. For many people life is very cheap.
DJ: Is there an underlying message in your books or are the stories just pure entertainment?
Tomlinson: My first obligation is to tell a good story and that’s what I always look for as a reader. Story first. No preaching! I love dark thrillers with a hint of redemption. Damaged people who do one good thing. But to me a good story has to have bite. To me that bite is often a reflection of what could be. People read dystopian books (raises his hand as if to say ‘me too!’). I loved Hunger Games. But you don’t have to go far to see there is a real dystopia right outside your door. That’s my angle.
DJ: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Tomlinson: I have traveled a lot and love to travel. When I was a child, my family moved to Europe and we moved all over the place and lived everywhere—Greece, Italy, the UK, Eastern Europe—you name it. I think I was inoculated with a travel bug early. As an adult I worked for a couple of airlines and traveled as often as I could for quite a few years. Friday night, hop a plane to Buenos Aires or whatever flight was open and come back to work Monday morning with sand in your shoes. I’ve always felt comfortable with other cultures and love to jump in. But now that I’m at a certain—ahem—age and a little more settled, I live in San Francisco with my wife (who is the ultimate beta reader) and a dog who teaches me (or tries to teach me) to live in the moment. But I tend to sit in a dark room more and more and bang out stories about people who never existed doing things that never happened. Is that normal?
DJ: Please give us a short synopsis of your book “Lethal Dispatch”.
Tomlinson: When the soldiers shot her father, a 16-year-old girl took an oath—and the name the rebels gave her. ‘Inez’ avenged her father. Then she was ready to move on. She had no more need for Inez. But it wasn’t that simple. They said she couldn’t just walk away. She had one last mission: deliver a package to the City of Fury—Buenos Aires. What could possibly go wrong? Murder. Kidnapping. Betrayal. Everything…
DJ: How can readers contact you?
Tomlinson: Email or Twitter. I love to hear from readers by the way. Connecting with people who have taken the time to read my work is one of the great rewards for what I do. If they would like to send large amounts of cash as well, as a small token of their appreciation, I can forward a PO Box number.
“The plot for SENDERO first came to me one night in the jungles of Peru. Sitting in the dark with a group of intrepid travelers, waiting for tapirs and other night creatures to show up, I was immersed in the sights and sounds of that fantastic country, and all I had seen and read. The tapirs never appeared that night but Nina, Miguel and the other characters of SENDERO began to come out of the dark and take shape.” – author, Max Tomlinson

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