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Friday, March 25, 2011

The End of Marking Time: Book Review and Interview with CJ West

Last year, I read a book called The End of Marking Time by CJ West. This book is very well written and impossible to put down once started. It’s difficult to say much about this book without spoiling the plot, so be warned: The interview with CJ West that follows may contain some spoilers, but I have tried to keep them to a minimum. If you’re worried about this sort of thing, skip the description that follows. Better yet, read the book first and then read my interview with CJ. The End of Marking Time is a fantastic thought-provoking story. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com (see my Book Rating Scale).

Story description, from Amazon.com: “Gifted housebreaker, Michael O'Connor, awakens inside an ultramodern criminal justice system where prison walls are replaced by surveillance equipment and a host of actors hired to determine if he is worthy of freedom. While he was sleeping, the Supreme Court declared long term incarceration to be cruel and unusual punishment and ordered two million felons released. The result was utter chaos and the backlash from law-abiding citizens and police departments reshaped the United States. Felons now enter reeducation programs where they live freely among the population. At least that's what they think...”

Please enjoy my interview with CJ West, and consider picking up The End of Marking Time. It’s just $0.99 at the Amazon Kindle store. Information about CJ’s other thrillers can be found following this interview. 

Interview with CJ West 

Cookie’s Mom: CJ, thank-you for speaking with me today. Would you please tell us a little about yourself? You and I share a past in the computing industry. How did you come to be a writer of thrillers? 

CJ West: Accidentally. I picked up writing as a hobby. I’d always enjoyed creative pursuits and found that writing thrillers appealed to me for the creativity and the complexity of weaving plot lines together. When Sin & Vengeance was optioned for film, I began to look at writing more professionally and not just as an addiction.

Cookie’s Mom: You also host a radio show called The Thriller-30 on Blog Talk Radio, and I understand you have a bit of an acting career. Can you tell us about the radio show and your involvement in live murder mystery events?

CJ West: I was a terribly shy kid. When I started appearing on radio and television I was extremely nervous. I started the Blog Talk Radio show as a way for me to become comfortable on air. It has made a tremendous difference.

The live murder mysteries were something of a lark that really worked out. I was asked by a friend to appear in one.  In that first show the writers were adamant that they did not want to act. So we had a narrator and clues hidden all around. We discovered by accident that the guests LOVE our acting. So now the shows include acting (and over-acting!) and I have an absolute ball doing them.

Cookie’s Mom: I very much enjoyed your novel, The End of Marking Time (TEOMT), and also participated in a book club discussion with a number of your readers. You’ve done an excellent job of promoting TEOMT. Can you tell me why you want to share this particular book with so many? What was your purpose in writing this story?

CJ West: I write about issues that are important to me. The End of Marking Time was a concept that has gripped me for years and I was glad to finally tackle it in 2009. The central question was: can we overcome a disadvantaged start in life? What I learned in my research is that there is a tremendous amount we learn from our parents and it is a monumental task to get on track if we veer off early.

Cookie’s Mom: TEOMT had the effect of generating tremendous debate. Almost uniformly, people who have read your book have enjoyed it and rated it highly, yet have been disappointed with certain aspects of the storyline and in particular how it ended. Did you have any idea that this would be the response? Why did you choose the ending that you did? Was it meant to spark controversy? Did you hope to make a particular statement about justice?

CJ West: The ending fit the story perfectly for me. I think we all want to have justice applied in two tiers. One tier for people that we know and another tier for people that we don’t know. Readers were taken in by Michael maybe not realizing that the whole story was told by a convict. Had it been told by the DA or one of the many victims, I think readers would have reacted differently.

Cookie’s Mom: Most people sympathized with the protagonist. What was your intention in making him a character that we would want to see saved?

CJ West: When I wrote the book, I wasn’t sure people would want to see him saved and in fact, some don’t. Some people lose touch with the book because they think he is worthless. My goal was to highlight the help he needed and to get people thinking about people like Michael in our communities.

Cookie’s Mom: What are your beliefs about the justice system? Do you think we give up on repeat offenders too soon? Is it the government’s responsibility to correct behavior, or does that responsibility lie elsewhere? What, in your opinion, can and should the rest of us to do help?

CJ West: In my research I found two major problems with the justice system. First, we wait too long to intervene. Troubled kids and adults have to be caught doing horrific things to be penalized in my state at least. Second, if we attacked the problem when it first showed itself (when offenders are young), we would reshape lives, prevent crimes, and save tax dollars now spent on prisons. If we reprioritized where we spent our money, we may actually spend less and have safer communities.

In my mind the responsibility lies with parents. The problem is that parents fail. Anyone can have sex and make a baby. Raising a child is a huge responsibility and when this responsibility is neglected the results can be catastrophic.

Cookie’s Mom: I have wondered if you might write a sequel to TEOMT. Last summer you hosted an online sequel that allowed people to meet the characters of the story and participate in a murder mystery. That’s a very creative idea. Was it successful?

CJ West: The online murder mystery was too successful. Readers became much too attached to the characters and the process. It was frenzied and caused a bit too much stress in the players. I don’t know if I’ll write a sequel to The End of Marking Time, but I did enjoy the murder mystery and I am grateful for the reaction to the book.

Cookie’s Mom: Finally, many readers like to know what their favorite authors are reading. CJ, would you please share with us some of your favourite books? Are there certain authors that have inspired your work?

CJ West: I read a wide variety of authors. I have been inspired by Sommerset Maugham, Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, and Timothy Hallinan.

Cookie’s Mom: CJ, thanks for being my guest!

CJ West: It is an absolute delight to respond to questions as well thought out as yours.

CJ West is the author of five thrillers. The End of Marking Time and Taking Stock are standalone novels. Sin And Vengeance, Gretchen Greene and A Demon Awaits are books in the Randy Black series.

Visit the official CJ West web site to learn more about the author and his books. 


CJ West said...

Thanks for the time you put into developing this interview. I hope your readers enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed your questions.

I'd be delighted to return anytime.


Cookie’s Mom said...

You're welcome CJ! I enjoyed your answers! Thanks for writing such a powerful story.

Eesti said...

The End of Marking Time is a thriller, but a different kind of thriller. Although it might be set in the future, it could also be an alternate reality. Nothing in the technology or setting seemed beyond the reach of what is possible today, or at least what might be shortly. The only significant thing that had changed was our approach to "rehabilitating" criminals.

Cookie’s Mom said...

Thanks for your comment, Eesti. No, you're right, this story isn't beyond the scope of reality. Though I shudder to think of living in this world!

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