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Local author brings Stillwater character back for fourth book



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Mark Terry (click for larger version)
May 25, 2011 - Derek Stillwater is back and about to take on one of his biggest challenges yet in Oxford resident Mark Terry's newest novel, The Valley of Shadows.

Stillwater's latest adventure comes after a combined raid by the United States and Pakistan on an Al-Qaeda cell in Pakistan reveals two laptops containing information about potential terrorist plots in five cities across the United States on Election Day.

Stillwater then heads to Los Angeles as part of a joint task force between the FBI and Homeland Security, where he discovers one attack could be part of a diversion away from an attack much larger than he could have imagined.

The Valley of Shadows is the fourth installment of the Derek Stillwater series.

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Many fans were introduced to Stillwater, a former Green Beret who works as troubleshooter for the Department of Homeland Security, in his first three books - The Devil's Pitchfork, The Serpent's Kiss and The Fallen.

After battling fictional terrorist organizations and a man bent on creating mass chaos, Terry admits he wasn't sure if he wanted Stillwater to square off against members of Al-Qaeda.

After careful consideration and much thought, Terry went ahead and pitted Stillwater against Al-Qaeda.

"Al-Qaeda is our 21st century bogeyman and I was a little hesitant, but I thought if you were writing a series about an expert on terrorism, you may want to decide to write a book about Al-Qaeda," Terry said. "So I did a fair amount of research and decided I was going to write a book about Al-Qaeda and attacks on the US."

Terry finds it ironic that his book mirrors the United States raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan, minus the killing of bin Laden, and what information was gathered from that raid.

"It is either somewhat ironic or I was on the ball with that," Terry said.

One theme prevalent throughout the book is the mistrust of the Pakistan government, which mirrors the United States suspicion that some Pakistan officials knew where bin Laden was hiding.

"The first line of the book a new FBI agent asks who of the Pakistani's can we trust," Terry said. "Who in the national and military police and who in the government do we trust when it comes to Al-Qaeda."

Terry joked he got lucky by not using bin Laden in the book.

"A writer friend of mine wrote a blog recently about that scream you hear is a couple hundred thriller writers discarding their 50,000 word manuscript because they were hunting bin Laden," Terry said. "I guess I got off on that one."

According to Terry, The Valley of Shadows still contains the same components that made his previous Stillwater novels successful - a ticking clock.

"A Derek Stillwater has a certain kind of ticking clock and there is some sort of attack and there is going to be more attacks he is trying to stop," Terry said.

This time Terry gives Stillwater a little bit more time and room to work with to try and save the day.

"I wanted something on a little larger scale," he said. "I worked on such tight frames in the earlier books; it was 28 hours in the first book and in the second book it was 12 hours with something going off every four hours."

"After writing The Fallen, where it all takes place in one building or a complex of buildings, I wanted to have Stillwater running around a city," he added.

Even though Terry doesn't introduce a whole lot of new information about Stillwater in the upcoming book, he does reintroduce Stillwater to some of the characters from his past.

The Valley of Shadows will be available in hardcover on June 7 for $25.95 as well as in electronic book form.

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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