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Line of Fire (2012)

New York Times bestselling author Stephen White returns with a gripping thriller about the one devastating secret that could cost Alan Gregory everything—the first of the dramatic two-part conclusion to his acclaimed bestselling series.

Alan Gregory is finally beginning to feel settled, hopeful that a long period of upheaval in his private life is behind him. He refocuses his energy on his clinical psychology practice, where a beguiling new patient is challenging his values. The interlude of calm doesn't last, of course: Alan's dear friend Diane is showing signs of a long-simmering emotional collapse, and Alan's greatest fear—the exposure of his most dangerous secret—has become something he can't ignore.

A new witness has surfaced, causing authorities to reopen their investigation into the suicide death of a woman named J. Winter Brown. When Alan and his equally culpable friend Sam Purdy inadvertently disclose details of their involvement in her death to a desperate drug dealer, any confidence they felt about riding out the new investigation evaporates. The trail that leads back to Alan and Sam, once cold, has turned white-hot.

With his vulnerability mounting daily, Alan begins to fear that his mesmerizing new patient may be the catalyst that can cause everything he treasures—his marriage, family, friendship, and future—to implode. As the authorities close in, the story hurtles toward a conclusion that will set the stage for the most unexpected of outcomes: the final act of the Alan Gregory saga.

Line of Fire
is available now in the USA and Canada.

A Note From Stephen White On 9/27/2011

Two big announcements today.

The first is easy. The new book, Line of Fire, is done. It will be published in 2012. Here is a working version of the cover art.
 
More details about the book, and the release, will follow soon.

The second announcement is much, much more difficult. Line of Fire is, literally, the beginning of the end, the penultimate book in the Alan Gregory series. The book that follows Line of Fire—once written, it will be number twenty—will bring the series to a planned conclusion.

Writing those words—presenting the news to all of you that the series is ending—makes it very real for me.

Almost a year ago I began to get an inkling that something I was taking for granted—my ability to control the way the series would eventually conclude—was in jeopardy. The concern was that forces beyond my influence—market forces, publishing trends, economic realities—would determine, perhaps soon, that a book I had just written or just published (this one? the next one?) was the de facto last book of the series. The option to write and publish any more, to wrap things up, might not be available to me.

I had a choice to make. I could continue to write the next book in the series while ignoring the risks I perceived. (Last fall, I was halfway done with that "next book.") Or I could face the reality that the series was already vulnerable to an arbitrary conclusion, and plan an ending on my terms. After much thought, and with the support of my longtime publisher Dutton, I made a decision to write a two-book conclusion to the saga of Alan Gregory and friends.

The first of those two books, the one that sets up the finale, is Line of Fire.

Although the end will arrive a little sooner than I might have hoped, the decision eliminates the risk that the series will become suspended in fictional time by circumstance or, worse, disinterest.

Line of Fire begins the process of conclusion. I am well aware that most writers of long series never get the chance to plan and create an end. I am grateful for the opportunity.

I imagine that at least a few of you will have comments and questions about my decision, and about the coming termination of the series. Go for it; I invite them. Please post them on
Facebook or the Message Board or direct them to Jane Davis, my web site manager.

In the next days and weeks, Jane and I will attempt to collate and collapse your reactions into a manageable list and I will do my best to be responsive to your thoughts and queries. As with each new book, we will also begin to prepare other material—plot synopsis, Q&A, flap copy, and the like—to provide a more detailed introduction for you to a most dramatic addition to the series, Line of Fire.
 
There are two books yet to read. I have one series book yet to write.
The ride is not over. But, for the first time, I can see the end from where I stand.

Thanks to all of you for giving me the opportunity to make a living writing these stories. Not a day goes by that I'm not grateful for the privilege.


A Note From Stephen White On 10/5/2011

I am humbled. Part one.

I feel pretty humble about my life most days, but your collective response to my announcement about the pending end to the series has humbled me further. Hundreds of you have offered a mix of sadness, encouragement, gratitude, congratulations, wonder, apprehension, and bafflement regarding the news. There has been some annoyance, too, and an occasional whiff of anger. It's all good; your passion about my decision, positive and negative, warms me. Since replying personally to the individual comments and questions is beyond my capacity, I will try to find a cogent way to respond to the threads and themes that tie your thoughts and queries together. As with all things having to do with communication between me and the readers who enjoy my books, Jane Davis has been invaluable (for the record, Jane is invaluable) with the process of organizing, identifying, and categorizing the comments posted on Facebook, your questions on the website Message Board at authorstephenwhite.com, and your personal emails directed to us at
janed@authorstephenwhite.com

We have read them all. Two or three times.

Your kind words, your generous words, about what the series means to you? Wow. I mean, wow. More on my reaction when I get to the end of this meandering, fragmented response.

Some of you thought I was vague about my reasoning for bringing the series to a conclusion. The truth is that I was. Intentionally so. Why? Mostly because I have no appetite for sour grapes. (Real sour grapes I like. Metaphorical sour grapes, not so much.) What else can I say? The truth is that the business of bookselling has changed, is changing, and will change more in the near term. The consequences of the changes—don't underestimate them, the changes are revolutionary—have altered the fundamental economics of getting my books, all books, into the marketplace, and have changed forever the streams of revenues that flow into publishers' coffers. That, in turn, has made the prediction of the viability (and of the value) of long-term publishing contracts much more difficult for all involved. For me, the increase in ambiguity about my publishing future (yes, it is intimately linked to publishing revenue) translated into a potential loss of creative control about the series conclusion. My response was to choose to terminate the series before circumstances that I might fail to anticipate ended it for me. I have no doubt other writers would respond differently to the same set of circumstances. Some of you certainly would have had me respond differently. I accept that. It wasn't an easy decision for me. I went back and forth a few times before I jumped off the fence.

Still too vague? I am sorry. Any continued reticence is probably due to the fact that I am so grateful for having the opportunity to write this series that I don't wish to shed even a single tear over the fact that outside forces may have compressed the ultimate length of the Alan Gregory saga by a book or two. If publishing realities contributed to a premature end to the Boulder tales, the responsibility is ultimately mine for not adapting sooner, or more nimbly, to those realities. No doubt other writers are faring better as they navigate though the same waters that confounded me. But for me? Twenty books is a good length. I'm grateful for it. If one of you had looked me in the eyes twenty years ago and promised me a twenty-book writing career, I would have had you hospitalized against your will. Seriously, I had that authority.

Scary, yes?

More than a few of you questioned why I even need or want a traditional publisher going forward, given the industry-wide tilt toward ebooks and the growing trend toward authors self-publishing through various digital platforms. All the arguments that you presented to support the adoption of a digital self-publishing strategy were valid points. I can't counter any of them. But the arguments failed to account for a particular, and maybe even peculiar, reality of my readership. This one: fewer than thirty percent of you read The Last Lie in ebook form. Since that number is increasing with each new release, I made a good-faith guess-timate that by the time the mythical last book in the series is published, a good half of you may well choose to read it, the twentieth and last series book, in some digital display format. But—and this is crucial to me—that means that half of you wouldn't. Couldn't. Would never. Like, ever. I couldn't swallow that. I considered the self-publishing alternative to continue the series, but I ended up making a personal decision to extend the series only if all, or almost all, of my long time readers could have easy access to the books in their preferred form, whether hardcover, paperback, audio, or ebook. Library or not. (For those of you whose preferred format is BitTorrent, well that's a whole different conversation. One for another day.)

I'm not quite done with this reply.
Many, many of you want to know what I'll be up to next. Please stay tuned for part two.


A Note From Stephen White On 10/12/2011

I am humbled. Part two.

Your most frequent questions are about what might be next? This focus on my future is awkward for me. For context? I tend to feel self-conscious when people ask if I have plans for the weekend.

Fortunately, your questions sort into a modest number of categories.

Many of you wonder if I plan to retire as a writer after I conclude the current series? Here's an easy answer: I have no plans to stop writing. Writers write. For now, I plan is to continue to do just that.

What do I plan to write next? Another series? A thriller? A screenplay? The honest answer is that I do not know. That I have not thought about it. That I will likely not think about it until the last book in the series is near completion. (My brain gets crowded with these things. One story at a time suits me best.)

The least likely option is that I will set out to write another series. But I said the same thing nineteen books ago, too, and we all know how that turned out.

If I choose to write another thriller — not a long shot, but not a certainty — revisiting some favorite unexplored characters from the series as a stand-alone is intriguing to me. Dee and Poe from The Siege show up in my head at odd times. As does Jimmy Lee from Kill Me. Others, too — Merritt. Thea. I have ideas for historical thrillers. I could also choose to write a contemporary thriller that doesn't reference the earlier series in any way.

***

I would like to thank you.

It may be trite to say, but I don't get to do this without you. So thank you for appreciating my efforts. For being entertained and distracted by my stories. For being intrigued and enlightened by an occasional insight. For giving me the gift of this opportunity.

Thank you, deeply, for your recent kind words, your generous appraisal of what my work has meant in your lives, and for your good wishes for the future.

I look forward to offering more. I have no doubt that I will get double or triple back in return.

—Stephen White

 

Line of Fire by Stephen White

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