Suspense Thrillers and the M-16 Agenda

The M-16 Agenda, By James P. Wilcox

The M-16 Agenda, By James P. Wilcox

Suspense novelist James P. Wilcox joins us today to discuss thrillers, characters, villains, and his novel, The M-16 Agenda.


Silverberry: What are the elements of a great suspense thriller?


Wilcox: For me, the great suspense thriller has to have great characters. The characters have to be believable and we have to have more than one reason to “root” for them. The reader needs to know more about the characters than this is the “good guy” and this is the “bad guy.” The reader has to connect with the characters, get to know them, see both their strengths and weaknesses, as well as their motivations. All of this has to mesh together in a believable way that the reader can connect with. After that, I think the characters have to be put into plausible situations that have plausible solutions. Despite the fact that these stories are fiction, I think that they have to be plausible or the reader just won’t buy into them.


Silverberry: What gave you the idea for The M-16 Agenda and what is the novel about?


Wilcox: As a high school Social Studies teacher, I am always talking about politics with my government classes. Over the years, I have developed a fairly clear-cut political philosophy and some pretty strong political opinions. I was looking for a way to express some of these opinions and The M-16 Agenda is the end result. It is ironic really, I set out to write a book about politics and I ended up with a story that is more about one man’s struggle to overcome his personal demons and live up to his own high standards. Although there is a political framework to The M-16 Agenda, it is more a story of personal struggle, sacrifice, and family, than it is about politics.


Silverberry: What does you hero, Jack Granger, yearn for?


Wilcox: Jack yearns to make up for his own perceived failures while serving his country in Iraq. The only way he thinks he can make up for getting his men killed in an ambush is to end the war in Iraq, and the only way he can do this is by running for political office. Jack yearns to heal his own broken heart by working for what he sees as justice.


Silverberry: Imagine a time warp whisks Jack back in time and drops him in the middle of a Roman coliseum, where he has to do battle. Give us a paragraph that illuminates his character.


Wilcox: “Squinting into the dust that surrounds him, Jack looks for cover until he can get his bearings. Finding none, he moves to his left, putting distance between himself and his enemy, while taking stock of the weapons arranged around the coliseum. Outnumbered three to one, with only a short sword and a small round shield, Jack breaks into a sprint, trying to outflank his adversaries before stopping short and charging the closest man, a hulking giant poised with a barbed lance. As Jack draws closer, his adversary thrusts the lance forward. An instant before making contact with barbed death, Jack dives to the ground and pulls himself into a forward roll, coming to rest beneath the lance. With one quick slash of his blade, the giant topples, the tendons of both knees cut. Before he hit the ground, Jack is one his feet facing the two other men before him.


“We don’t have to fight,” Jack begins.


Silverberry: Nice! That last line is a clincher to characterize him. If it doesn’t spoil anything, tells us about the novel’s antagonist.


Wilcox: Carlton Kincaid is a self-made man, who managed to escape the racial tensions of 1960s-era Detroit through his use of words.  Kincaid becomes an award-winning journalist before moving reluctantly moving into the world of politics.  Once there, Kincaid will stop at nothing to reach his ultimate goal: the presidency.


Silverberry: You’re a history teacher. In what ways did your knowledge of history inform the story?


Wilcox: History and politics are sprinkled throughout the novel, but I think the biggest impact that my knowledge of history played in shaping the novel is that I was able to model Jack on some of my favorite politicians throughout history. Although Jack represents one political party, he is shaped by both great Democrats and great Republicans, especially Teddy Roosevelt.


Silverberry: Give us a glimpse into your approach to crafting a novel.


Wilcox: I consider myself an opportunistic writer. As a father of three, husband, Scout leader, and teacher, I just don’t have a lot of free time to write. I try to use what time I have effectively and try to scratch out a line or two whenever I find myself with any downtime, whether that is waiting in the car for a sports practice to end or during half-time of a game. I am also a “fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants” author.  Although I know I probably should, I don’t write character sketches before starting a novel and I don’t write an outline. I simply start with an idea, have a basic idea of how I want the book to start and how I think I want it to end and then I start writing. What comes from there is as big a surprise to me, as it is to the reader.


Silverberry: That’s what keep me writing: starting one place and discovering the book is about something deeper than you imagined. You have some other publishing credits. Tell us about them!


Wilcox: My newest book is titled Miracle Child and it chronicles my son’s five-month journey in the neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s Mercy Hospital, after being born at 24 weeks and 2 days. Miracle Child recounts the pain and struggle that my family and I went through during those five months. It also highlights the love, hope, and faith that sustained us.


My debut novel is titled Sex, Lies, and the Classroom and is the story of Nathaniel O’Connell, who thought he knew what it takes to survive at Southwest High School, a low-income, ethnically diverse, inner-city school. After seven years of teaching, he thought he had discovered how to get through to these children of poverty. That was before he met Tyreshia, Krysteal, and Ebony, who know how to inflict pain, both physical and emotional. After a confrontation on the first day of school, O’Connell finds himself fighting for his reputation, his job, his family, his very survival. With his wife, Alexandria, O’Connell must battle the school system, the justice system, racism, and his own weakness, as he seeks redemption. Faced with investigations by the school’s administration, the Department of Family Services, and the District Attorney’s Office, he must find the strength and the courage to reach out to these same students to save his very soul.


I have also published a collection of poetry titled Musings of a Particular Bear: A Poetry Collection.


Silverberry: What’s ahead for you?


Wilcox: I am currently working on three new novels, which I hope to have out within the next six to nine months. The first is tentatively titled Sacrificing Tyreshia and is a sequel to Sex, Lies, and the Classroom. The second is tentatively titled Wrestling Louis Braille and tells the story of one boys struggle to overcome his visual impairment. The third novel is tentatively titled A Fall From Grace and is another suspense thriller.


Silverberry: Thanks for joining us today, James! Readers, you can find out more about James and his books, and purchase The M-16 Agenda from the links below. And you can win a copy of The M-16 Agenda on my Suspense and Thriller Contest on the Contest page of my website. There are four chances to win!


Visit James P. Wilcox’s website.


Purchase the M-16 Agenda on Amazon.


M-16 Agenda Synopsis: A man is not apt to forget the instant he becomes a killer, that one fateful instant when he takes another’s life. It would not matter that Jack Granger has killed, all soldiers train to kill, except that he is the Democratic nominee in the presidential election of 2020. Having secured the nomination as Governor of Missouri and on the strength of his M-16 Agenda, his political platform developed in the killing sands of Iraq, Jack is days away from the White House when the situation in Iraq and in Washington D.C. changes everything. Now it is a race against time, and his own past, as he makes a last ditch effort to save his bid for the presidency, and possibly the world. From the war torn battlegrounds of Iraq to the halls of power in Washington D.C., M-16 Agenda follows one man’s rise to the heights of political power, as he struggles to live up to the promises he made to his fellow soldiers, his family, and himself.


James P. Wilcox’s Bio: James P. Wilcox is the author of Miracle Child, two novels – Sex, Lies, and the Classroom and The M-16 Agendaand Musings of a Particular Bear: A Poetry Collection. James, a former newspaper photographer and writer, is currently a high school teacher in the Kansas City area, where he lives with his wife and three children.

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