The Last Witness by Jerry Amernic
Paperback - 334 Pages
The year is 2039, and Jack Fisher is the last living survivor of the Holocaust. Set in a world that is abysmally complacent about events of the last century, Jack is a 100-year-old man whose worst memories took place before he was 5. His story hearkens back to the Jewish ghetto of his birth and to Auschwitz where, as a little boy, he had to fend for himself to survive after losing his family. Jack becomes the central figure in a missing-person investigation when his granddaughter suddenly disappears. While assisting police, he finds himself in danger and must reach into the darkest corners of his memory to come out alive.
What is a thriller?
by Jerry Amernic
I came across thriller writing by accident. No kidding. I was writing quick-paced novels with a lot of history attached to them in the form of flashbacks. So I figured my genre had to be historical fiction. Well, it was and it wasn’t.
The Last Witness is about the last living survivor of the Holocaust in the near future, at a time when knowledge of past history is on the decline. (In fact, it’s on the decline already, but that’s one for another day). In the novel the reader sees my character as a little boy living in a Jewish ghetto in Poland during the early stages of World War II, and later as he struggles to survive at Auschwitz.
These flashbacks run parallel to the modern-day story (actually the near-future story since it takes place in 2039) with that little boy as a 100-year-old man who is having a lot of trouble convincing people about his story.
A literary agent at a writer’s conference I attended two summers ago made me realize what I was writing when I didn’t even realize it myself.
“You are writing a futuristic thriller,” she said, and she was right.
I remain forever indebted to that agent for letting me see the light. Up to that point I thought my stuff was historical fiction, but that wasn’t really the case. Historical fiction normally involves a story taking place at a particular time. It may be about Catherine the Great, Julius Caesar, or the trials and tribulations of an ordinary family during a great battle from another era. But that doesn’t make a book a thriller.
A thriller has to be a page-turner, and this is exactly what I’ll be teaching at a writer’s conference this summer. I have the pleasure of being part of the teaching faculty at the annual conference for the Cape Cod Writers Center at Hyannis, Massachusetts in August. With the theme of ‘inspired storytelling by the sea’, this is sure to be a beautiful venue for writers. I’ll be doing three things at the conference:
· Teaching a three-part course on thriller writing called Thrillers - On the Edge of Your Seat.
· Teaching a one-part course called Research Skills for Writers.
· Mentoring those who want one-on-one sessions regarding work they submit.
The thriller-writing course will include things like how to keep your readers in suspense as the plot develops, the key elements of great thrillers, techniques used by master storytellers, and sections on plot, story line, creating tension, and pacing.
An editor once explained to me that it’s all about giving the story legs, which is a great way to put it. The story has to keep moving all the time so the reader stays tuned. In fact, the best thriller writers are so good at this that the reader never wants to leave the book.
The very first person to review The Last Witness on Amazon said that she read the entire book in one sitting through the night. She said she couldn’t put it down, and that parts of the story moved her so much that she was crying right there in her bed.
Any writer who hears something like that from a reader has a sense of mission accomplished. The trick, of course, is to be able to do that with lots of readers.