L.A. traffic can be murder, especially for Jace Damon, the determined bike courier in Tami Hoag's 10th thriller, Kill the Messenger. When a sleazy lawyer dispatches Jace to deliver a parcel, the address turns out to be a vacant lot. A mysterious car creeps toward him with obvious menace, and soon the teen messenger is on the run. When the lawyer is later found murdered, the mismatched male-female homicide team of Parker and Ruiz join the hunt. With the killer, the cops and the sinister sedan on his tail, Jace must risk all to save himself and his younger brother Tyler, who lives with him in a Chinatown hovel.
BookPage speed-dialed Hoag at her L.A. home for details on her latest thriller.
BookPage: What brought you to Los Angeles, literally and fictionally?
Tami Hoag: I moved out here three years ago because I was in love. The relationship didn't work out, but I love it here. There's an energy and enthusiasm. Everybody comes here with a big dream, and while a lot of them don't happen, there's always a chance that it will.
Did L.A. traffic inspire the plot for Kill the Messenger?
Actually, the kernel of it came eight years ago when I happened to catch a TV news program about bike messengers in Los Angeles. They talked about how bike messengers run between lawyers and the court, and right away I was thinking, here's a connection between the whole law enforcement community that no one has ever thought about. What can they be pulled into? How can these people get into trouble? That's always foremost in my mind.
You wrote about sisters in Dark Horse. What attracted you to return to siblings in Kill the Messenger?
Probably the fact that I'm the youngest in my family, by a lot the next youngest is 10 years older than me. So I didn't really have that sense of having a big brother or big sister to help guide me as a friend. That relationship interests me. Jace and Tyler are sort of two sides to the same character; they have a lot in common but they also complement each other in different ways.
One thing that sets your thrillers apart is that you tend to reward the good guys in equal measure to the punishment you dish out to the bad guys. Did you always have such a strong sense of karma about your work?
I'm big on that. That is part of what really attracted me to writing thrillers. The arc of development of the good guy is as important to me as the bad guy. They go on this journey and it's going to change them somehow. They aren't going to be the same people as they were before.
Did you don a helmet and try your hand as a bike messenger?
I didn't get that brave, no; my bike riding days are long past! They ended when I hit my dog with a bike and flipped over and ended up skidding down the road. It was, OK: I'm not meant to ride a bike.
But you've ridden horses competitively all your life! (Laughs) I know! That's what everybody says: "You won't get on a motorcycle but you will get on a horse that will throw you into space?!" Well, yeah. Somehow that's different.
The team of Parker and Ruiz is a classic odd couple. How did you cook them up?
Parker is sort of the L.A. Sam Kovac (Kovac and Nikki Liska are featured in the Minnesota-set Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust). When I started the book, I had Kovac so in my mind and it wasn't working for me. Then this metrosexual guy came forth. He's like Kovac's L.A. cousin: into fashion, drives a Jag. That was fun to write. Ruiz is one of those characters who just sort of walked in fully formed, and her whole purpose was to just put him into a tailspin. She kept him so off-balance, which I thought was fun instead of having the guy so cool and under control.
Could this become a new series?
I am definitely going to go back to those characters because I so enjoyed writing them. I loved them all the way to the end of the book, which is very unusual. Usually by that time, the characters have so taken over and they're going in all these directions and it's like, I'm sick of you people! Solve your problems! Wrap it up! And with these characters, I didn't feel that at all.