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Huffington Post: Koryta’s Talent is No Fluke

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Koryta’s RISE THE DARK Proves His Talent Is No Fluke

BY Jackie K. Cooper, August 20, 2016

Last year I stumbled across the novel LAST WORDS by Michael Koryta. I really enjoyed the story and enjoyed the author’s talent. However I thought possibly this one novel was a fluke. I have been lured in by good stories in the past and when I selected to read the author’s next novel it was a major disappointment. Thus I approached Koryta’s new novel RISE THE DARK with feelings of trepidation. This book was a sequel to the other Koryta novel I had read and I am also wary of sequels. So with RISE THE DARK I was concerned with both his talent and the story.

Now I am happy to report RISE THE DARK is not a letdown. If anything it is even better than LAST WORDS. Once again we are drawn into the world of Private Investigator Markus Novak as he attempts to find out details about his wife Lauren’s murder. Lauren was killed in Cassadaga, Florida and the last words she left on a notepad in her car were “Rise the dark.”

Garland Webb was convicted of her murder but now through some legal technicality he has been released from prison. Markus is determined to find him and to force him to tell why Lauren was killed. In addition to gaining information he also plans to get revenge.

His search for Webb takes him to Red Lodge, Montana, a place he knows well since he grew up there. Ominous thoughts swell around him as he finds himself in familiar surroundings and filled with unwanted memories.

Michael Koryta is very creative in his creation of characters, but he is even more successful in his establishment of place. I have never visited the state of Montana but having read this book I have a keen sense of what the countryside there looks like, and a feel for the inhabitants who reside there.

RISE THE DARK has a very convoluted plot but in Koryta’s hands it is very easy to understand. There are conspiracies against the entire country as well as feuds between a few people. People are kidnapped, assaulted and murdered and these acts of violence occur swiftly. You can never lower your guard once you enter the world Koryta has created for it is a place of violence and one where no character is safe from harm.

Having read this second book of Koryta’s I can now safely place him on my list of “must read” authors. He has proven the talent displayed in LAST WORDS is not a fluke and that he is a writer of consistent greatness. I will be eagerly awaiting his next novel.

The New York Times Finds Eerie Thrills in Rise the Dark

The Latest and Best in Crime Fiction

By MARILYN STASIO, August 19, 2016

NYTWelcome to Michael Koryta’s latest nightmare. In RISE THE DARK, Eli Pate, a self-anointed messiah capable of calling up a homegrown army of “more than 200 heavily armed and deeply paranoid white men,” is preparing to shut down the electrical grid supplying energy to half the country. (“Good night, Seattle. Good night, Portland.”) Very few,  very brave linemen have the nerve and technical skills to pull off this feat. One of them is Jay Baldwin from Red Lodge, Mont., and to ensure his participation Eli’s confederates are holding Jay’s wife hostage. “When darkness fell, chaos would reign,” and Eli intends to be “the man who controlled the chaos.”

Meanwhile, across the country in Cassadaga, a little Florida town populated mostly by “registered mediums,” Koryta’s private detective, Mark Novak, is searching for the psychic his wife consulted before she was murdered. In one of those wonderfully eerie scenes that always manage to creep into Koryta’s novels, Mark has a brief exchange with a little blond boy who’s standing on a ladder to pick oranges from a tree. (“He was incredibly pale for Florida, with bright blue eyes.”) He’s the littlest psychic in town, it seems, but he puts a fright into the detective. Us too.

Koryta isn’t entirely successful in his attempt to merge these two plots into a cohesive whole, but each one has its distinct thrills. On the domestic terrorism front, it’s the horror of watching Eli convince his various extremist “brothers” that bringing down the electrical grid is a political act committed in their name. Meanwhile, Mark’s hunt for his wife’s killer picks up steam when he heads for Wyoming and enlists the aid of his slow-talking, straight-shooting Uncle Larry. But Mark will never be out of the psychic woods, certainly not after his own mother — a bogus medium who, in her younger days, used to dye her hair and skin, posing as Snow Creek Maiden of the Nez Percé to bilk tourists — shocks him with a reading that should propel him right into his next adventure.

Michael Talks with the Indy Star

Michael talks with the IndyStar and shares how his father’s job at Indiana University influenced parts of the plot in Rise the Dark.

Electric thrills guide Michael Koryta’s ‘Rise the Dark’

By David Lindquist,  August 16, 2016

In new novel “Rise the Dark,” Indiana author Michael Koryta pits his protagonist, private investigator Markus Novak, against a fringe group that wants to control power — electric power.

With bad guys planning to attack the power grid and turn out the lights for half of the United States, “Rise the Dark” has roots in Koryta’s childhood.

The Bloomington resident didn’t grow up thinking a sinister enemy wanted to cut the conveniences of television and air conditioning. His father, however, was responsible for keeping electricity flowing at Indiana University.

Jim Koryta retired in 2012 after working 36 years as senior electrical engineer on campus.

“My sister and I grew up with electricity and power outages being very central to our lives,” Michael Koryta said. “When the phone rang at 2 a.m., you had an idea that it was going to be a power outage.”

Koryta’s 12th novel is his second to feature Novak as the main character. Following 2015’s “Last Words” and its exploration of caves in Southern Indiana, “Rise the Dark” has action set on high-transmission lines in Montana and Wyoming.

Although Jim Koryta wasn’t part of a “high-line crew,” Michael said his father always expressed admiration for those workers.

“It added the real understanding of the human element that goes into fixing these things,” Koryta said. “You’re dealing with physically demanding work, and it’s extremely dangerous.”

Fear factory: Eli Pate, the criminal mastermind of “Rise the Dark,” wants to experiment with mob mentality and the viral nature of fear. He is not aligned with ISIS, right-wing militias or militant environmentalists, but his “Wardenclyffe” crew isn’t opposed to any of these groups. “This guy does not have a political point to make in the least,” Koryta said. “He’s just a sociopath who sees the potential of activating other groups by understanding the fears that set them off.”

Personal research: Koryta looked back to his days as a reporter for The Bloomington Herald-Times when crafting “Rise the Dark’s” Eli Pate character. In 1999, Indiana University student Benjamin Nathaniel Smith killed Won-Joon Yoon, a Korean graduate student at the school, as part of a three-day killing spree in Illinois and Indiana. Smith followed the teachings of white supremacist leader Matthew F. Hale. Koryta interviewed Hale before and after he was convicted in 2005 of soliciting an FBI informant to kill a federal judge. “He was kind of ahead of his time in the way he used the internet as a recruiting tool,” Koryta said of Hale. “Now it has grown to the point where the people who are being radicalized for any cause are generally not going to have a face-to-face recruiter.”

The threat: Regarding the possibility of an attack in which the U.S. electrical grid is taken down, Koryta said it’s not a far-fetched idea. The nation relies on a nearly 200,000-mile network of high-transmission lines, and the author mentioned hospitals and nursing homes as at-risk entities. “The potential of that kind of attack is really very sobering,” Koryta said. “It could be catastrophic in warm-weather months or in warm-weather areas if the grid stayed down for any length of time.”

What’s next: Koryta has spent most of his summer in Maine, where he is working on a third novel of Markus Novak adventures. He also revised a script for a possible film adaptation of his 2014 novel “Those Who Wish Me Dead” for 20th Century Fox. And awaiting a green light is a TV mini-series adaptation of Koryta’s 2012 novel “The Prophet.” Channing Tatum, star of two “Magic Mike” films and “Foxcatcher,” is attached to portray one of “The Prophet’s” lead characters. “It depends on whether and when Channing Tatum says it’s his priority,” Koryta said of the timetable.

AP: Rise the Dark is “Filled with Suspense”

In the Associated Press’ review of Rise the Dark, they say “Koryta has a gift for terrific suspense that immerses the reader while also delivering prose that almost reads like poetry.”

Here’s the full review by the AP from the Star Tribune :

‘Rise the Dark’ by Michael Koryta is filled with suspense

Mark Novak, seen previously in Michael Koryta’s “Last Words,” is still seeking answers regarding the murder of his wife in “Rise the Dark.”

Garland Webb, the man responsible for killing Lauren Novak, walks away a free man on a technicality. Mark knows Garland is responsible, but can he prove it? The words “Rise the Dark” were written in Lauren’s notebook prior to her death, and the cryptic message has been elusive.

In a small town in Montana, Sabrina Baldwin watches her husband, Jay, head out to repair a downed power line. She showers, and when she steps out, she’s shocked to see a man waiting for her. Garland shoots her with a tranquilizer dart and his bold plan begins.

Mark visits the site of his wife’s murder and learns that he’s a pawn in a game where his survival is doubtful. Garland knows every move Mark is going to make, and the truth behind Lauren’s cryptic message will ruin the lives of many people. Jay learns of his wife’s kidnapping and realizes he will have to betray everything he holds dear in order to win her freedom.

Koryta has a gift for terrific suspense that immerses the reader while also delivering prose that almost reads like poetry. Some of the answers that Mark finds are a bit hard to believe, but that’s a minor bump in the road that should definitely be traveled.


Michael’s Rise the Dark Playlist

Rise the Dark
Rise the Dark

Music is a huge part of my writing process, and certain songs and artists seep into the individual books and characters. This is never more important than in the middle of a book, or during the first rewrites, when fresh energy is critical. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know a few of the artists who consistently inspire me – Matthew Ryan, Josh Ritter, and Joe Pug, to name a few – and I’ve been able to see countless others – Brian Fallon, The National, and so many more– perform live (although Lord Huron still eludes me, and as far as I’m concerned they wrote most of Those Who Wish Me Dead).


I’d never heard or read anything about The Ballroom Thieves until one bogged-down day when I gave up on writing a coherent sentence and went music hunting on iTunes. Their song “Archers” hooked me, and much of their album became a part of my “soundtrack” for the book, and whenever I lacked creative energy, that music kept providing it.


This summer I got to see The Ballroom Thieves at a wonderful venue in Maine, and they played exactly one cover song – a Joe Pug number – while working with a sound tech who used to work for Josh Ritter. Joe Pug and Josh Ritter both graciously provided lyrics for my novel The Ridge. The whole night created a fun and intriguing sense of shared creative circle.

Here’s the bulk of the playlist for Rise the Dark:

  1. Archers, by The Ballroom Thieves
  2. Lantern, by The Ballroom Thieves
  3. Hard Time, by Seinabo Sey
  4. Pistols at Dawn, by Seinabo Sey
  5. Edge of the River, by Jenn Cristy
  6. Windfallen, by Joe Pug
  7. Work Song, by Hozier
  8. The Blacker the Berry, by Kendrick Lamar
  9. Write Them Down, by The Wooden Sky
  10. Top Shelf Drug, by Ryan Bingham
  11. Gun Fightin Man, by Ryan Bingham
  12. God’s Not Here Tonight, by Matthew Ryan
  13. Heaven’s Hill, by Matthew Ryan
  14. Speed Trap Town, by Jason Isbell
  15. How to Forget, by Jason Isbell
  16. Homecoming, by Josh Ritter
  17. Seeing Me `Round, by Josh Ritter
  18. Phantom, by Shirt
  19. Frozen Pines, by Lord Huron
  20. Cursed, by Lord Huron
  21. Dead Man’s Hand, by Lord Huron
  22. Anchors, by The Ballroom Thieves
  23. Cold Wind, by The John Butler Trio
  24. Beggar in the Morning, by the Barr Brothers
  25. The World Ender, by Lord Huron

Michael’s Q&A with the Portland Press Herald

Wondering how Michael spent his summer? He sits down with the Portland Press Herald and talks about his influences, his summer in Maine, and his research for the book following Rise the Dark. Read the full Q&A below or check it out here

Best-selling author Michael Koryta dives into Maine

He talks about his influences, including Stephen King, while living near Camden and researching his next book.

As visitors flock to Maine for summer vacation, Michael Koryta is here to work. The 33-year-old Indiana native has rented a place near Camden, where he’s researching his next book. The critically acclaimed bestselling author of 11 thrillers and suspense novels, Koryta (rhymes with “margarita”) wants to experience Maine in a way that eludes most tourists. He plans to interview fishing guides, historians and other local experts for a plot line that takes place on the Maine coast. It’s part of the immersion-style research for which he’s become known.

“I found a way to be a perpetual child and come up with uses for hiking, caving, camping, fishing – and claiming that they’re research,” said the one-time journalist and private investigator. “It’s worked out really well for me.”

Koryta’s latest thriller, “Rise the Dark,” hits bookstores Tuesday. The author spoke recently from the midcoast about his literary idols, the craft of writing, his playlist and his cat, Marlowe. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Your books are very good at scaring readers and keeping them on edge. What scares you?

A: Oh, so many things. That’s a fun thing about the books: I get to take all of my own fears and transport them to other people. I love that Gothic sense that the past is always affecting the present. I’m fascinated with the idea of the day you make a left turn that redirects things, when you could just as easily have made a right turn.

Q: What is the difference between the category of suspense versus thrillers, or is that just a marketing term?

A: To me, that’s more of a marketing term. There are lots of sub-genres. I think of suspense as sort of the big house, and there are different rooms in the house. There’s the ghost story room, the detective novel room, the chase-thriller room and the family drama room. I’ve done all of them. To me, they all seem to follow within the same general working territory.

I grew up reading mysteries. My dad was a huge film noir guy. I like not knowing what’s going to happen. I love the emotion of suspense.

Q: Critics have praised your work for its inventiveness and writing style.

A: From a very early age, I was brought up on Strunk and White (“The Elements of Style”) and William Zinsser, and the idea that every word counts. You could have a great story, but if you are not paying attention to the craft and language, you’re going to under-deliver on it. I had a chance to work with some really great writing teachers. Putting together a nice sentence – that’s the thing that hopefully elevates the story. I’m a fan of writers who care about craft as much as they care about story.

Q: Safe to assume that you’re a Stephen King fan?

A: Yes, absolutely. In fact, his book, “On Writing,” came out when I was 18, and that was a defining point for me. I had always wanted to be a writer, but that was the book that really made it feel possible.

Q: It seems that King has been penalized, in a sense, for being so prolific. What is that stigma, and have you encountered it?

A: Yes, it’s definitely around, and I’ve encountered it. It’s always amused me because, in many professions, if you do consistent work, you’re praised for work ethic and effort. But if you’re in the arts, the idea of putting out consistent work is viewed almost with skepticism. “Oh, it can’t be that good.” Or: “He can’t care that much.” There’s nothing that you, as a writer, can do about that.

I write because I love it. It’s not as if being prolific is really a choice so much as I have a lot of stories that I want to tell, and time is finite. I’d rather not waste it.

Q: Given your level of productivity, writing roughly a book a year, you must have near-military discipline.

A: I think that’s the thing that comes with wanting to be better. I spend a lot of time trying to measure up to the writers I consider really great in terms of language and getting things across with clarity, originality and economy. There’s a level of insecurity, where I’m never pleased with a book when it’s first published; I need a couple of years of remove to really enjoy it. But I’m always over-the-moon excited about what I’m working on.

Q: Who are the writers you’re competing with mentally, who set the gold standard for you?

A: Daniel Woodrell of “Winter’s Bone,” Dennis Lehane, Stephen King. There’s a fearlessness to Pat Conroy. He did not shy away from melodrama or big moments of emotion. I don’t distinguish in the least between writers in the genre and writers outside. The most dangerous thing a writer can do is read only in his or her genre. Rule No. 1 is read widely.

Q: Tell me about your writing routine.

A: When I’m working on a new book, I try to do a minimum of 1,500 words a day. I never outline a book. I feel like the first draft is where I’m sort of interviewing the characters and getting a rough sense of the story. In the rewriting, I have the chance to actually tell that story well; the rewriting is where I discover the book. It’s a messy process, but I honestly think I have more joy in that process than if I had an outline where I was just writing to get from A to B to C.

Q: In your Maine office, what are the essential ingredients?

A: I have to have music. I have a playlist that feeds the story. So I try to build soundtracks around the characters’ different moods – that’s a critical ingredient. I always want a nice view, but then, when the writing is going well, I realize that I never really look up, anyhow. Also, I drink an enormous amount of iced tea – that’s my go-to fuel during the day.

But the key ingredient is a stray cat that I took in the year that my first book was published. He has lived in my office in Indiana, Florida, Maine. His name is Marlowe, as in Detective Philip Marlowe. He’ll jump up on the desk and howl in my ear. He lets me know that I’m not working hard enough.

Q: How does Maine factor in to your next book?

A: I have characters in the next book who are lifelong Mainers. To write about a place, you really need to spend some time in the place and talk to people who are experts at what they do. I’ve been coming up here for seven or eight years. But I’ve only been here for a few weeks at a time, so I really only have a tourist’s sense of the state.

Again, all of this is sort of an excuse for me to have fun. What I loved most about being a journalist was talking to people, hearing stories that might be overlooked otherwise. That’s really where I draw a lot of inspiration. I always go back to that reporter’s instinct.

Q: No doubt, you’ve learned the difference between real Mainers and people “from away.”

A: I have to continually point to my wife: “No, no, she’s a fifth-generation Mainer!” Now that we’ve leased this place for the year, I’m really hoping to be here all summer. There’s something about Maine that seems to feed readers and writers. And I’m actually eager to spend as much of the winter as possible up here.

Q: Have you been warned about winter in Maine?

A: That’s why I think I need to spend time here!

Joan Silverman writes op-eds, essays and book reviews. Her work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Tribune and Dallas Morning News.