Breakneck by Marc Cameron comes alive with a train ride deep into the Alaskan wilderness. US Marshal Arliss Cutter along with the Alaskan setting plus the Russian mob make for a good thriller recipe. There is plenty of action, suspense, and mystery.
The main plot line has Deputy US Marshal Arliss Cutter and his partner, Lola Teariki assigned to a security detail at a judicial conference in Fairbanks. They are appointed to the protective detail of US Supreme Court Justice Charlotte Morehouse and her teenage daughter Ramona. After the conference ends, they decide to take a scenic train ride to explore the Alaskan wilderness on the famous Glacier Discovery Train. Unfortunately, no one suspects the Russian mobster, Maxim Volkov, who wants the Justice dead in retribution for the role she played in the death of his wife. The Russians are brutal, unrepentant, and have no qualms about killing anyone who gets in their way. The train’s confined space makes the Justice an easy target. To save the Justice, Arliss has them both jump overboard. This is where another antagonist, the setting, comes into play.
The other sub-plots involve the growing romance between Lola and Anchorage Policeman Joe Bill Bracket, the pursuit for truth about Arliss’s brother Ethan’s death, and the need for Arliss and his sister-in-law Mim to address their feelings for each other.
This story takes off, putting readers on a wild ride with the characters who are fighting for their survival. The action is authentic, the characters well written, and the plot intense.
Elise Cooper: The idea for the story?
Mark Cameron: All these books are boiling around in my mind from my career. I wanted to write about the different jobs of US Marshals including a protection “gig” for my main character Arliss.
EC: How would you describe US Supreme Court Justice Charlotte Morehouse?
MC: For many years my primary focus in the Marshal service was protecting Supreme Court Justices and District Judges. It is something I am familiar with including the setting of Alaska. Justice Morehouse lives in an insulated world and has a position of power. She rises above people waiting on her and doing all the research. She is a good listener and a good person. I did not write her as a damsel in distress, but Arliss did help her survive Alaska. She has a teenage daughter, Ramona who Lola, Cutter’s partner, protects, interacts with, and can show a playful side.
EC: Was Morehouse based on anyone?
MC: None of the characters are based on any one person. But she was inspired by those I met. I was on Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s detail a few times. I met her when she had come to Alaska to fish. I always respected her demeanor, a wise human being. I interacted with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg since I was the Chief when she came to Alaska. I wanted to write about how the US Marshals protected them. We protect everybody equally and stay out of the politics.
EC: You mention in the book another types of law enforcement, VPSO?
MC: It stands for Village Public Safety Officer. They have a motto, “First Responders in the last frontier.” They are funded by the state and the tribes. It is a quasi-law enforcement type. They help the state troopers. They are generally unarmed but do carry teasers, pepper spray, and a baton. Many times, they are in places where there are no troopers stationed and do have power to arrest. They do everything from combating criminals, fires, and do search/rescue. I wrote about this profession with the character George Polty.
EC: How did the setting of Alaska play into the plot?
MC: The Alaska setting is an antagonist because it is so brutal. The Alaskan wilderness is uncaring and scary. The wind, the snow, and the river. Whether a billionaire or pauper the river can drown someone. People must learn to go on the wilderness’s terms. If someone fights it head on, they will lose. There is no fair. If someone is not smart the setting can kill them.
EC: There was also the Alaskan train. Did you do any research?
MC: My wife and I rode it just last year. I flew over it, took some boats, and then four wheelers to make sure I was familiar with the area. It is wild, off the grid. The train goes through once a day during the season, but the rest of the time it is locked in snow and ice. When the snowpack melts there are chunks of ice, scouring the riverbank. The river rises and turns turbulent.
EC: What is the role of Captain Tom Walker, a former Army Ranger sniper?
MC: He represents those people who is a loner, odd duck. He hides out, sick of civilian civilized life. Arliss Cutter is envious of his simple life.
EC: Why the Russian mob angle?
MC: I said in the beginning of the book, Russia is just like Alaska except they have tigers. It is the same setting. The wilderness is the same. Russia is just across the water from some of the Alaskan islands.
EC: Where are you going with the relationship between Mim and Arliss?
MC: She married his brother, Ethan, who died a few years ago. She is a little scared of her own feelings. The next book will show where they will be headed. Some readers will think that there is an attraction between Mim and her brother-in-law, Arliss. Hopefully I laid the groundwork that he is not a stalker, but their feelings have been a long slow burn. But I think most people will think that if they get together it will be organic and natural. He is damaged, having lost his last wife to cancer; she is widowed; and they do have a past when they were sixteen and dated.
EC: Can you explain the meaning of Grandfather Grumpy’s credo, “never go anywhere for the first time”?
MC: It means talk to people who have been there already, don’t go anywhere blind. Read up about it. Get all the information you can. All these sayings I have learned along the way. I started in law enforcement in the eighties. I worked with cowboys, Viet Nam vets, my own grandparents. I used their rules and put them in Grumpy’s words when they fit the narrative.
EC: Next book?
MC: The overall arc about Ethan’s death will continue. It is titled Bad River. There will be a murder investigation in the far Alaskan north, around Utqiagvik. It will be out a year from now.THANK YOU!!