RUNNING OF THE BULLS by Christopher Smith, July 2011, Christopher Smith, Kindle $2.99, 294 pages.
Christopher Smith stood in front of a gate in Pamplona, Spain. Behind it were a dozen bulls, ready to charge. It was 1993, he had just earned his master’s degree at the University of Maine, and he was ecstatic. In a few seconds, they would blow a horn, the gates would open, and Smith would sprint down the street to the safety of Plaza de Toros, along with the rest of the crowd.
Even at moments like these, or maybe especially at moments like these, Smith thinks as a writer.
“Wouldn’t it be cool if one of the people here was a Wall Street bull? A bull running from the bulls?” said Smith to his friend Antonio — who replied: “Pay attention.”
The experience spurred the idea for Smith’s latest thriller “Running of the Bulls.” Published in July, the e-book has already risen to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list.
In Spain, when the bulls were released, Smith rushed forward only to find the crowd ahead wasn’t in as much of a hurry. With a bull on his tail, Smith lasted about 40 seconds before he was forced to dive into the crowd to escape being skewered by a pair of horns.
But in Smith’s recent novel, he’s making his characters run — and some of them aren’t so lucky to escape danger — or death.
“That’s the most creative part. You don’t want a dull death. I just sit in my office and ask, how is this person going to die?” said Smith, who lives in Hermon. “That’s the best part of my job — killing people.”
One thing is for certain, Smith’s previous success with thriller “Fifth Avenue” was no fluke. In just two weeks, the sequel “Running of the Bulls” climbed the charts to reach the top 100 of Amazon’s growing store of approximately 2 million books.
“Fifth Avenue,” Smith’s first published novel, was released as an e-book just 10 months ago. Since then, he also has released three books in his “Bullied” young adult series, and has sold millions of e-books.
The most gratifying part of it all is realizing that he has a strong readership base, said Smith.
With 30,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter, Smith attributes some of his swift success to the hype he builds on these social media sites before his books’ release.
“I really interact with readers,” said Smith. “There’s rarely a day I’m not on there just chatting with people.”
Controversy over a particularly racy scene in “Fifth Avenue” resulted in hate mail and attacking reviews online (amidst the many five-star reviews), but Smith is determined to stay true to his story and his characters, and in that, he continues to reveal a dark side of New York society in “Running of the Bulls.”
“If I start to censor myself, the writing fails,” said Smith.
Though Wall Street thriller “Running of the Bulls” is the sequel to “Fifth Avenue,” only two characters carry over from one novel to the next. The assassins are back, and this time, their assignment is 12 murders in just 48 hours.
American stock trader and criminal Ivan Boesky is the basis for Smith’s new villain, Maxmilian Wolfhagen, a man recently released from prison after bringing about the collapse of the stock market. And the protagonist, private investigator Marty Spellman, “isn’t your typical gumshoe,” said Smith. In fact, he’s a movie critic on the side (something Smith doesn’t have a problem writing about), and loving father dealing with a sassy ex-wife and a new love interest.
Set in the nation’s largest city, “Running of the Bulls” has a large audience that can point out any inaccuracies. Smith took to the streets of New York this past winter to make sure every detail in his novel was correct, every event plausible. He traced the footsteps of the book’s assassins, creeping down a dark street in a ritzy neighborhood and ducking behind cars, just to see if the characters in his story could pull off a particularly dangerous stunt.
“It’s your responsibility, as a writer, to go there,” said Smith. “The cabbies were indispensable.”
A visit to the Chief Medical Examiner Office in New York was critical for his writing of a particularly gruesome scene. Smith’s experience watching an autopsy gave him a new understanding of death and informed him in how to write accurately about the experiences of the character Marty Spellman.
“You can’t fake that,” said Smith. “You have to smell it, see it, or it will just die on the page.”
It’s no question that reviewing 40,000 movies in the past 15 years has made this novel a tighter and faster read, the type of story that readers can envision, from the characters’ faces to the nonstop action. It’s a true thriller, a straight shot through to the end, greatly inspired by the works of John Sandford, Lee Child and the early works of Sidney Sheldon.
“What is critical to me is that somebody puts down the book and says, ‘I’m so glad I read that book,’” said Smith. “That’s what you owe the reader. They’re paying money for that book.”
By the end of the book, it’s clear that the two groups of characters from “Fifth Avenue” and “Running of the Bulls” — at least, those who have managed to survive — will collide in the third book, “Park Avenue,” scheduled to be published in 2012.
“There’s a lot of pressure on that book because the first two did so well,” said Smith, who revealed that it’s going to be a big book that goes into depth with a lot of the characters that have recently been shrouded in mystery — one being the readers’ favorite assassin, Vincent Spocatti.
As a break from the series, Smith plans to tackle a series of novellas entitled “A Rush to Violence,” “A Rush to Murder,” and “A Rush to Vengeance.” For “Bullied” series fans, he plans to also release the fourth book in the series, “War.”
“I have a restless mind,” said Smith, who also plans to purchase an apartment in Paris before the year is out. “And I do know I’m not ready to tackle ‘Park Avenue’ yet because it’s got to be the best.”
As a novelist, he said, he has some lost time to make up for.