By David Krogh
Minotaur Books is about to release a new fiction novel called The Gatekeeper. The book is an adventure story set on the central California coast revolving around a British ex-soldier and sometimes mercenary. It includes a working (but soon to be decommissioned) nuclear power plant, a nearby small town taken over by militiamen, rogue US military units and a controlling secret organization with Russian dealings. All in all, it is a lively tale with nonstop action, suspense, humor and even romance.
The author is a local journalist in Portland and this is his first book. He is using the pseudonym “James Byrne” to distinguish his book authorship from his ongoing journalism job. He spoke with The Southeast Examiner about his background and several aspects of his book.
“My wife and I live in downtown Portland. My wife is Portland, born and raised, and I’ve lived around here since college,” said Byrne. Having worked in journalism and politics for over 20 years, he has also traveled extensively abroad. Bryne mentioned that no characters in the book were based on real people. However, besides his own considerable imagination, he did have several influences for the plot and action.
“I love the classic adventure novels and movies of the 19th and 20th century. Stuff like Beau Geste, The Count of Monte Christo and Casa Blanca. And I learned huge lessons about pacing, character, dialogue, suspense and reveals, and the choreography of a fight from Modesty Blaise (a British comic strip about a feminine James Bond type character by Peter O’Donnell in the 1960’s).”
When asked about his use of the term “gatekeeper” and what it meant, Byrnes clarified, “The book The Gatekeeper refers to Dez, the main character. Dez’s specialty is this: he can open any door, keep it open for as long as he likes, and control who does – and doesn’t – go through it. He’s a breach expert (a gatekeeper). These jobs do exist in special forces units.”
“My journalism makes me a much faster novelist than most,” Byrnes added. Consequently he stated he was able to write the first draft of “a 350-page novel in about three months.” In fact, even though this first book is only about to be released, he already has a sequel prepared. “Happy to say it’s written and in the hands of my editor at Minotaur Books. And I’m 200 or so pages into book three.” Byrne credits his journalism experience and the research it involves, along with his own sense of humor and imagination, for his success in writing The Gatekeeper.
Regarding the primary character, “I really wanted to create an action/adventure hero who’s good in a fight, and smart, and loyal, and all that, of course. But who’s also a bit of a goofball. I gotta say, I love writing Dez. He’s a lot of fun!”
Byrnes spoke highly of Portland and its future. “My wife and I love it. It’s weird and funky, and friendly, and a small town cleverly disguised as a big city. Is Portland a little beat-up after the pandemic and the protests, the wildfires and the heat dome, and the homelessness woes? Sure. No question. Did we ever consider packing up and leaving? Not for one second. Portland’s coming back. And we’ll be here for the ride.”
Pre-orders of The Gatekeeper are available at jamesbyrnethriller.com. The book will be released for sale as of June 7 at local booksellers like Powell’s and Barnes and Noble, as well as at bit.ly/ByrneTheGatekeeper.