Author of the Month

Alan Jacobson [july 2011]
Chosen by columnist/reviewer Elise Cooper

Alan Jacobson is the July author of the month. He has the ability to mix reality with fiction. Not only do his books have twists and turns, but the reader is allowed to solve the mystery as they would solve a puzzle. Jacobson is insightful in that he explains to the reader what a true psychopath would think and feel. His latest book Inmate 1577 once again brings to life the FBI profiler, Karen Vail.


Elise: Can you discuss the main character Karen Vail?

Alan Jacobson: I initially knew who the character would be and she was very easy to write. As I was sitting in an FBI agent’s office in walks this woman whom I knew was Karen Vail. I was staring at this red headed woman, Agent Mary Ellen O’Toole, who looked like, and spoke like the character I was creating. My goal was to make her human and realistic. I wanted to make Karen Vail the first female FBI profiler who faced a lot of the same experiences that agent O’Toole faced. I am working closely with agent O’Toole for my next book.


Elise: The first Karen Vail book, The 7th Victim, delves into who she is and where she came from while the second book, Crush, is more plot oriented. Did you consult experts for Inmate 1577, your latest book?

Alan: With Crush I needed to work with former FBI profiler, agent Mary Ellen O’Toole on how the killer would react to the fact she was female and how she would approach the killer. In this book I worked exclusively with O’Toole. Her expertise is psychopathy so this is right in her wheelhouse. She helped me by reading chapters at a time and the first draft manuscript. We had some great discussions where she helped me to qualify the real reason behind what a killer does.


Elise: You had some great analogies and quotes in the book. How did you come up with them?

Alan: When I was writing my first novel 18 years ago I really had to think and work at them. Now, they just come to me which is the best way since it’s natural and not forced. It’s going with the flow and not over thinking the writing process. When you are able to do that and its going smoothly it’s like music.


Elise: There were some political statements, like comparing the budget crisis in California to being “fiscally challenged” and Leavenworth prison’s dome which was a replica of the US Capitol. Care to comment?

Alan: By and large I tried to keep political commentary out of my novels. However, some of the things the California legislature spends their time and efforts on are very silly. When I practiced chiropractics in Sacramento and was asked to be a lobbyist I witnessed things that are real eye openers, the political games being played.

The architect designed Leavenworth to actually model the nation’s Capitol dome. The irony is that one of the most maximum security prisons that houses the worst criminals was made to look like the place where our Senators and Congressmen do their business. It was a tongue and cheek jab at some of our Congressional figures mired in scandal.


Elise: How did you draw a realistic picture of Leavenworth and Alcatraz in the 1950’s and 1960’s?

Alan: I found a correctional officer who was a historian at Leavenworth. He knew what the place is like and was able to provide the knowledge, the information, and the photos. He was very helpful in painting the picture of what it was like, down to the minute details. After he corrected the manuscript, it took me two weeks to bring in line the accuracy of the prison.

Regarding Alcatraz, I made several trips there, spending 6 to 8 hours at a time. I know that Island extremely well. I found some video footage of it in the 70’s which was very helpful for putting it together in my mind and being able to write about it. A former correctional officer helped me by touring with me on the Island, insightfully showing me some of the buildings.


Elise: Any glimpse into your next book?

Alan: Hard Target will be released at the end of the year. It is not a Karen Vail book although she is in a few chapters. It is a political thriller, a counter-terrorism novel. The plot involves the President-elect being assassinated on election night. The main characters are a covert operative, Hector DeSantos, who was in an earlier book, Velocity, and FBI agent, Dan “Uzi” Uziel.

Elise: Alan, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, and your fans, here at I am looking forward to reading Hard Target.



Read Elise's Review of Inmate 1577


2011's Honorary List

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