INTERVIEW and REVIEW
by David Van Zummeren
Author David Van Zummeren joins me today for an interview about his debut thriller, Betrayed, which can be yours for only $0.99. You can also read my review.
Another blink, another stab of pain. Cameron Matthews struggles to handle the betrayal that has led to one death after another. Desperate to find answers, Cameron spins a web of deception in hopes of capturing The Ghost and the traitor before anyone else is betrayed.
Cameron chases The Ghost around the world, including the Cayman Islands and Japan in hopes of saving innocent lives and the career of Japan’s Prime Minister. The Ghost and the traitor inside Cameron’s team have been one step ahead of him, and it has cost many people their lives.
Throwing all caution to the wayside, Cameron mounts a last ditch effort to stop The Ghost and the traitor. What will the cost be to succeed?
Tokyo – Friday, June 15 – 9:05 p.m. local time
Hibiya Park was Tokyo’s first “Western-style” park, situated next to the southern moat of the Imperial Palace. The park boasted two large flower gardens, one with tulips and a large fountain and another with roses. It was designed as an oasis for the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. Cameron Matthews was in the middle of the park, but was oblivious to its many beautiful features. He was still holding the recently purchased cell phone to his ear, the other party having hung up one minute ago. He slowly lowered the phone, and the shock quickly transformed into an explosion of hate and anger. As he glanced around the park, his training took over, and he quickly scrutinized everyone near him. The crowded park had already started to clear out with the setting sun. There was a group of college-aged men playing Frisbee in a clearing. After deciding that he was not being watched, he headed for the southwest exit almost at a run. He dropped the cell phone into the garbage can next to the exit.
He rubbed his chest, searching for his necklace. It was a simple silver cross that had been his father’s. The comfort of the familiar cross couldn’t stop the abyss of blackness in his stomach from expanding. The Japanese officer on the phone had confirmed that Cameron’s worst nightmare had come true. Momose Sumi had just been murdered. Cameron and Momose were supposed to have met over an hour ago at the Ginza Tokyu Hotel. After she was more than twenty minutes late, he had walked to their secondary meeting spot in Hibiya Park.
The authorities would never solve her murder, he was sure of it. He knew who killed Momose, and even more importantly, who had ordered her death. Somehow over the last six months he had made a mistake. It might have been a small error, but it had cost Momose her life.
Cameron struggled with his emotions as he made his way to the Hibiya subway station. He had to get as far away from the park as he could. There was no way of knowing how much information her murderer had gotten out of her before he finished the job. All of their meeting locations were no longer safe.
As he descended the stairs to the subway, he realized how different he was from an hour and a half ago when he ascended the same flight of stairs. His stride had been full of confidence, as it should have been. Up until 9:05 this evening, Cameron had never failed. In his sixteen years of service with the CIA, he had never had a field asset compromised. He had earned his codename “The Machine” for his skill and precision.
Those previous sixteen years of success had vanished with one short phone call. Now there was only one image burned into his mind: Momose’s smiling face as he had seen it six months ago, when they had met. She was the personal secretary to Eiichi and Katsuzi Imazu, brothers and founders of Imazu Pharmaceutical Inc., one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in Asia.
Six months ago, Cameron had attended a conference on cold remedies. The Imazu brothers were boasting that they had found a cure for the common cold, a claim that three dead American scientists deserved. Cameron’s assignment was to return the formula to the rightful owners and make sure that the Imazu brothers were put behind bars.
Momose was a demure and inconspicuous woman. She was the perfect contact to get inside of IPI, and it was apparent to Cameron that she was attracted to him, which made his job even easier. He didn’t waste any time, and asked her out for a date on the first day of the conference.
They went to the Kabukiza Theater, which is Tokyo’s most famous Kabuki theater. After the theater, they went dancing. They both had a great time getting to know each other. She wasn’t sure if it was the alcohol, or that she felt comfortable enough with him, but she told Cameron of the sexual harassment that was a constant from the Imazu brothers. The night ended innocently at the subway station. She walked away in a daze, partly from the alcohol and partly because of Cameron.
Cameron’s perfect track record was in part from his ability to focus entirely on his objectives and not allow anything to distract him. But he was a Christian and a gentleman, and the news of the Imazu brothers’ sexual harassment only fueled his desire to nail them to the wall. As always, he was able to suppress his feelings and realize that the first step to his objective had been achieved—he had his toe in the door of IPI.
The second night was taken up with a boring dinner and keynote speakers. Cameron and Momose were limited to flirtatious glances and presumptuous smiles. On the third night, they went out again. The imminent departure of Cameron back to the States forced an awkward, more urgent tone to the mood. The conversation was forced, and the tension could be felt by both members. They only had one night left together.
They rode the subway back to her apartment, just two blocks north of the Tsukiji Fish Market. The tension was unbearable for Momose. Her walk from the subway station to her apartment normally was a passing thought for her. Tonight, as they held hands, it seemed to last forever; she didn’t want it to end.
She invited him up for a nightcap, and he accepted. Cameron no sooner got his foot in the door than she turned around and grabbed him in her arms. She stared into his eyes for a brief moment before rising to her tiptoes and pulling him down for a kiss. Cameron could feel her trembling; the kiss was awkward, she had not kissed many men previously. Momose’s face lit up; the tension of the evening had been lifted. But for Cameron, it was merely another step to his objective.
Cameron knew that the line had been crossed. The emotional stakes for Momose had been raised tenfold. He had debated the previous night whether to let the kiss he knew would come happen. But without Momose’s emotional response, Cameron wouldn’t have been able to use her. Just the notion of “using” her sent a surge of disgust through his body. He rubbed his cross. He might be called “The Machine,” but he knew that Momose had feelings, and that they were going to be hurt. He prayed that she would understand his actions. His next step was the truth.
Momose twirled away from Cameron and half skipped, half walked into her kitchen and grabbed two wine glasses and a mildly expensive bottle of wine that she had bought the previous night. She walked back into the room and something was different. Cameron’s festive smile was replaced with a forced smile.
She cautiously walked over to the couch, the lighthearted glide gone, and sat down next to him. He could see the hesitancy in her eyes and began to tell her the truth. It wasn’t what she wanted to hear that night. She almost threw Cameron out when she heard the words.
Cameron knew that Momose was a compassionate woman, and he explained his actions. He described to her in detail the killing of three American scientists. He told her of the families that would be without fathers and husbands. He explained that the Imazu brothers had innocent men murdered just for a cold formula. Cameron apologized, and begged that she would forgive him and help him. He repeatedly tried to assure her that he never wanted her to get hurt.
It didn’t take long before the tears stopped running down Momose’s cheeks. She could see the sincerity in Cameron’s apologies. The images of the fatherless children compelled her to help. She didn’t want to imagine a child's life without their father. By the time he left her apartment, she had agreed to help him get into IPI. He had gone over how they would communicate in the future.
The last thing that Cameron insisted upon was a small keychain. It looked like a regular car alarm keychain. When Momose pressed the button on it, instead of arming a car security system, it would page Cameron. The small device was powerful enough to beep not only a help message, but also coordinates from a GPS satellite. She agreed to take the small keychain. He insisted that if ever she was suspected of working with him, and she felt in danger, that she press the button and wait for him to arrive. He knew that Momose was the key to achieving his objective, but he didn’t want harm to reach her.
That was six months ago. Cameron entered the almost empty subway car and grabbed a handhold. He couldn’t sit down; the rage running through him wouldn’t allow it. “Why didn’t she use the beeper!” resounded in his head. His knuckles were white from the pressure of gripping the handle. He stared at his feet and knew that the death of Momose was the cause of the growing pain in his stomach. It was a whirlwind of remorse for her death and for failing to complete his mission.
He forced himself to sit down and take deep breaths. “Lord give me the strength,” he prayed. He gently rubbed his cross and began to calm down, and became the rational “Machine” once again. Momose’s smile was ingrained in his mind, but he knew that there wasn’t anything he would be able to do to bring her back. He put his emotions in a small box in the back of his mind. He would properly mourn Momose later, after retribution was given to the Imazu brothers.
The train stopped, and he slowly lifted his head. The stop was for the embassy, and all of his training told him to get off. He and his team would devise another plan to get the cold formula back from the Imazu brothers. His grip on his cross tightened almost enough for the cross to break the skin. He fought the rage, the pain, the urge to race into the IPI headquarters and put bullets into both of the brothers.
The doors closed, and in a flash he didn’t lose his battle, but obtained clarity. He knew the odds were going to be against him, but he didn’t have a choice. It was one of the many decisions that others would call hasty or irrational—he knew his only chance at completing his objectives was to surprise the brothers. He’d had them both under a microscope for the last six months. He knew their next move before they did. The brothers were crooks and murderers, but they were not ignorant.
There would be a chance to get the formula back, but not for a long period of time. The brothers knew the gold mine they were sitting on, and would rather wait a year or two than try and cash in early and get caught up in Momose’s murder. The tears of the seven fatherless children of the scientists and now the tears of Momose’s loved ones wouldn’t allow him to wait that long. Tonight was the night for vengeance.
Praise for the Book
"I am still recovering from the ending of this book. Betrayed truly kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Full of intense scenes and surprising twists and turns, this book would make an amazing movie, which is what was constantly running through my mind as I was reading. The unpredictable plot kept me guessing right up to the end. I never knew who to trust and who to suspect." ~ Cheryl Schopen for Readers' Favorite
"This book is full of action and intrigue. As soon as you think you have a clue as to who the culprit is, a plot twist will come and make you reconsider." ~ Online Book Club
"An engaging, action packed, fast moving story. Good one for your next cross country flight, TDY or week at the beach. William Shakespeare or Arthur Conan Doyle it is not. But eminently readable it is. It does not appear to be good for one's health to be closely involved with or even near our hero, however. Betrayal is toxic. [...] This is a good yarn - worth your time and money. David Van Zummeren has done a nice job." ~ Richard A. Stratton
By Lynda Dickson
CIA agent Cameron Matthews ("The Machine") is a deeply religious man. He is set on avenging the murder of his informant at the hands of his nemesis, "The Ghost", an elusive man who goes by many different identities and is a master of disguise. He always manages to stay one step ahead of Cameron, leading Cameron to conclude that there is a mole in the CIA. The Ghost leads him on a chase to the Cayman Islands and Tokyo, where Cameron recruits his latest informant, Ami Surabaya, and where he tries to stop a plot to overthrow the Japanese government.
Betrayed is a compulsive and clever read with many characters and a complex plot full of twists and turns. There are political conspiracies, assassination attempts, double agents, a bit of romance, and lots of betrayals. There are a few minor editing errors, but not enough to detract from the story. Unfortunately, I found Cameron's religious convictions a bit hard to believe, and I figured out the identities of the mole and The Ghost pretty early on. I kept waiting for a twist that never came - perhaps the author is reserving this for the next book.
Overall, this is a good, solid read with plenty of action, adventure, and romance.
Interview With the Author
Hi David, thanks for joining me today to discuss your new book, Betrayed.
For what age group do you recommend your book?
I would recommend my book to adults.
What sparked the idea for this book?
I had the original idea for Betrayed way back in 1997. Whether I’m at work or grocery shopping, my mind is constantly working on ideas for stories. I remember, going back to my childhood, having a active imagination.
Which comes first? The character's story or the idea for the novel?
For Betrayed and other books that I’m currently working on, the idea for the novel comes first. In that idea is included some broad strokes of characters. I do not do a lot of outlining in my writing and the characters tend to grow on their own as I move through the plot.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
Editing. My first few drafts tend to be in the ‘rough’ category. Going back and editing takes a lot of time and isn’t as exciting as creating the story and characters.
How do you hope this book affects its readers?
In my stories I try to touch my readers emotionally. I want them to become attached to my characters. Then I try and make the good characters good and the bad characters bad. But, they need to be human and make mistakes. I am a Christian and I hope that some of the decisions that I have the characters make show that. This isn’t a piece of Christian fiction, though. There are not conversations that center around Christian values or Bible passages.
How long did it take you to write this book?
That is a difficult question to answer. The original text took about a year to finish, that was back in 1997. Over the years I’ve spent time here and there working on it. Then in 2012 I became serious again about writing. It took about four months to do an almost complete rewrite of it.
What is your writing routine?
I prefer to write while I’m out in public. Usually a coffee shop or book store. There is something about being around people as I write and create characters in my stories. Also, I can focus on writing and not the distractions of home. So, I don’t get to do that very often. So what really happens is that at night I get a coffee and put some music on and start writing.
How did you get your book published?
I tried for six months to obtain the services of a literary agent and/or publisher. It would be easy to get discouraged after fifty or so rejections, but knowing that it's usually just a numbers game and nothing personal I decided to go down the self-published route with Amazon. Although, I’m still keeping my eye out for an agent and publisher. I prefer to write and not be the person primarily responsible for all of the business aspects of publishing.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Simply do not give up. Remember that any rejection that you get is not personal. Agents and publishers get hundreds of requests, even if your cover page and letter to them is captivating, it’s still a hit and miss proposition.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
My children and family take up my time. Seven children and soon to be three grandchildren. Also, owning a house that needs a lot of work takes up a lot of my time as well.
What does your family think of your writing?
They are supportive. My kids have a similar imagination as I do, so there is a lot of storytelling that goes on.
Did you like reading when you were a child?
I would constantly be reading. Almost exclusively science fiction. I loved Isaac Asimov.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
It was in 1997 when I was struggling to figure out what do with my life. I’ve always been a creative person, and one day it just kind of hit me, that I should write.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
I would say the lack of a father in my life has influenced me. My father was around, just not very involved when he was. The good male characters in my books are strong and fatherly in their relationships.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
Isaac Asimov for sure.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I am still building my fan base. I have had some feedback from them and they are currently waiting for the sequel.
What can we look forward to from you in the future?
The sequel should be out early spring. I have another book written and awaiting attention from me for editing and revisions. I hope to have that released in time for the summer of 2015.
Thank you for taking the time to stop by today, David. I can't wait to read the sequel.
From the Author
My first memory of storytelling was listening to my grandfather. He is a deacon and he could make preaching about the bible interesting, even for me as a child.
I first thought of telling stories myself while spending time in a car with my mother and sister in middle school. Each month we would drive about forty-five minutes to buy groceries. On the trips we would take turns making up stories. I’m sure my mother did this to stop us from fighting and thus saving her sanity.
Growing up I read primarily science fiction. My favorite author is still Isaac Asimov. I learned how powerful writing a series of books could be by reading the Foundation and Robot series. From science fiction I moved into the thriller and espionage genres.
It has been a long road for me to get my first book published. The beginnings to Betrayed began back in 1997. I had a vision of writing a book that would eventually be made into a movie. I figured that would be the only way I would be cast in a movie. Now a days, I enjoy writing stories and not worry about being a super movie star.
I currently live in western Illinois with my wife. We have a total of seven children and one granddaughter. Our children range in age from six to twenty two years. With three girls and four boys, on any given day we get to experience typical drama from all age groups and sexes. It is a joyous journey (most of the time).