Jon Land e-interviewed by Hilary Williamson (April, 2008)
Jon Land, who lives in Providence, Rhode Island, is the acclaimed author of many bestselling action-adventure thrillers, including The Last Prophecy, Blood Diamonds, The Walls of Jericho, The Pillars of Solomon, A Walk in the Darkness, Keepers of the Gate, and The Blue Widows. The first in his new Tyrant series, The Seven Sins: The Tyrant Ascending (available in June, 2008) is a rollercoaster thrill ride of greed and guilt, tyranny and terrorism, revenge and redemption. Lurking in the background is the mystery of an ancient gold medallion whose inscription urges its owner 'To Dream To Dare To Win'.
Q: Why 7 sins - as opposed to 10 or 99? Was it mainly for the alliteration?
A: The Seven Sins was chosen as a title for its dual role in the book. On the one hand, it's the name of the hero Michael Tiranno's casino. On the other, it's symbolic of the sins he himself committed to reach the heights that he has. And that really is the point of the book. Calling both the casino and the book The Seven Sins also evokes the powerful image of the Seven Deadly Sins themselves - pride, lust, sloth, greed, wrath, envy, and gluttony. We're all guilty of sinning - the question is what do we, like Michael Tiranno, do to atone for them.
Q: What does Fabrizio Boccardi think of the thriller that his life story in some way inspired?
A: Fabrizio sees Michael as kind of his alter ego. Like Tiranno, he's an exceptionally successful, ambitious businessman but, to my knowledge anyway, he's never sunk a freighter at sea or imploded the casino of a man who screwed him. I believe he's a better human being than Michael but they're both Machiavellian geniuses. To answer your question more specifically, Fabrizio's pleased we didn't weaken or compromise the character based upon him by making Michael Tiranno nicer and more pure. He's not a hero in the traditional sense, but that puts him in pretty good company. Consider Hercules, Achilles, King Arthur, Odysseus - they were all defined as much by their flaws as the deeds that made them heroes.
Q: Did you spend much time - and expense - researching Las Vegas and its casinos?
A: Absolutely. And I've got a long history of using real-life locales as the settings for books: DisneyWorld, the Alamo, Colonial Williamsburg, Masada, the favellas of Rio de Janeiro are just a few of the examples of places I've researched and visited, and then utilized. In the case of Vegas, it only took a few days to get the choreography down because I had Fabrizio to instruct me on the outlying settings, like Michael Tiranno's estate on Lake Las Vegas and the villainous Max Price's mansion in Summerlin. In this case I also needed to figure out where on the Vegas Strip the fictional Seven Sins Casino and Resort would actually be located.
Q: Is there any historical basis for a gold medallion like the one featured in The Seven Sins?
A: Not specifically, no. But there's plenty of historical basis for the existence of mystical artifacts or talismen that may have some sort of supernatural power. I mean explorers and adventurers are still searching for the Ark of the Covenant and look at all the attention attracted by objects like the Shroud of Turin. People are fascinated by the possibility that there's something "more" out there. The trick in The Seven Sins is to make that credible and believable within the context of the book.
Q: Have you been to Sicily and, if so, did you smell oranges there as Michael did on his family's farm?
A: (laughs) I'm laughing because my mentor at Brown University, the great Elmer Blistein, was always able to tell me the settings I visited and the settings I didn't visit in my early novels. He said you can cheat the sights, even the sounds, but you can't cheat the smells. So while I can't necessarily visit every place where a book as big as The Seven Sins is set, I make sure to research everything from the colors of the sunset to what the air smells like. Bottom line: I've never been to Sicily, but those who read the book will think I have - maybe even Professor Blistein. Above everything else, after all, writers are great liars. Hey, at the end of everything, we're storytellers first and foremost.
Q: I rather liked the notion of Don Luciano's ledger book of sins - do you know anyone who keeps such a book?
A: No, but sometimes I think I should - maybe it would make me behave better! Seriously, though, Don Luciano's ledger book goes to the notion of atoning for one's sins - redemption. Here you have this ultra-powerful mob godfather keeping track of all the terrible things he's done because he believes he needs to do a good deed for each one of the bad. It's all about balance, finding a balance in life, which is really what Michael Tiranno's quest is all about. He witnessed the murder of his family as a young boy and ever since his life has been about a search of safety and security. He thinks he's found it with the incredible casino he's built and that's what really sets him off when terrorists attack Vegas. Because they're not just threatening the dream he's built; they're also threatening the safety he's finally got.
Q: Raven Khan is a heroine who would fit well in a James Bond story - are you a 007 fan?
A: What a great question! I say that because the early James Bond movies with Sean Connery - I watched them dozens and dozens of times as a boy - probably had the most profound impact on my development as a writer of anything. The structure, characters, villains, sidekicks, world-threatening plots - you can find them in The Seven Sins and all my books in typical bigger-than-life fashion. I think readers respond to Raven Khan because, like many of the Bond heroines, she's strong, independent and definitely has a dark side. And, like Michael Tiranno, she's powerful, and many say that power is sexier than anything!
Q: Speaking of 007, sharks are a big draw in Tiranno's resort as in Bond movies - is that a personal interest or simply for the shock value?
A: Well, part of the shark Assassino's presence in the book is to demonstrate the fact Michael Tiranno is the kind of man who likes to do what no one has ever done before. So he builds the largest enclosed marine environment ever so he can be the first to ever have a great white shark in captivity. Equally important is the symbolic connection. Michael's like a shark in that he has to keep moving, growing, and consuming to live. Stop and, like a shark, he effectively dies. That goes back to the earlier point I made about his search for safety. I think what he ultimately realizes in this book is that he's never really going to find it, that the constant pursuit of more is not just a means to an end, but an end in itself.
Q: Is The Seven Sins: The Tyrant Ascending the beginning of a series and if so, can you tell us where - and when - you plan to take it next?
A: Yes, and actually it's The Tyrant series. Michael Tiranno will never be a hero in the traditional sense because, let's face it, he's motivated by greed and power above everything else. But, as in The Seven Sins, that motivation will lead him to do things that ultimately are good for a lot of people. By saving his own casino from destruction and himself from bankruptcy, for example, he also saves the lives of millions of innocent people. The next book - The Eighth Sin: The Tyrant Returns - will confront Michael with a financial and business crisis that pits him against a shadowy cabal out to destroy the U.S. economy. So, once again, while Michael might end up saving the day, what he's really out to do is save himself. They don't call him "The Tyrant" for nothing!Find out more about Jon Lands, his various thriller series and screenplay at his website.
Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.