is a story about two very wounded souls played out on some of the most dangerous real estate on earth--the U.S./Mexico border.
The seed of the story was planted several years ago when I researched and wrote an opinion column on the femicides in Ciudad Juárez, where more than 400 women and teenage girls have been murdered, their sexually mutilated bodies found dumped on the outskirts of town or in the desert. Most of the murders remain unsolved, and more than 1,000 women and girls are still missing.
Try to imagine an American city--your own city, perhaps--having 400 unsolved sexual homicides and 1,000 missing women. It defies comprehension.
In the years since I covered that issue, the region has become even more dangerous as cartels fight with one another for control over the trade in drugs, guns and human beings. As is often the case in parts of the world where the truth interferes with people's ability to get away with crime and corruption, journalists have become targets. At this moment in time, Mexico is the most dangerous place on earth to be a journalist outside an active war zone.
I'm not sure exactly what prompted me to bring Natalie into this environment. My travel experiences in Mexico have been wonderful, involving long, lazy days on the beach drinking rum, riding horses, snorkeling and dining beside the ocean. Perhaps the story of las muertas de Juárez
--the murdered women of Juárez--had a bigger impact on me than I realized. Regardless, this is where Natalie's story brought me.
As strange as it felt to write an I-Team story set far beyond Denver, the research for this book was fascinating. I focused heavily on the details of illicit border crossings and found that planning aspects of this novel was much like playing a desert version of that old computer game Oregon Trail
. What would Zach have to bring with him if he and Natalie were to survive? What route would he take? What environmental and human hazards would they encounter?
I also focused on the work and experiences of U.S. Marshals. I interviewed a former U.S. Marshal for Colorado, Tina Lewis Rowe, and Larry Homenick, a retired deputy U.S. Marshal who once worked "the line," i.e., the border, crossing back and forth between his office at EPIC in El Paso, Texas, and Cd. Juárez. Not only did their stories fascinate me, but watching the two of them interact was highly entertaining as they joked and traded friendly insults. I've tried to honor Rowe with a walk-on part in the story. She shouldn't be hard to spot.
The result of all this research is my most action-packed love story to date. Zach and Natalie are strangers, both about to die at the hands of ruthless men who think nothing of human life. But the violence of this world only gives us a chance to see how truly courageous, strong and determined both Natalie and Zach are. As concern for one another blossoms into attraction and love, the two find the strength to triumph, not only over the bad guys, but also over their own personal tragedies.
As I wrote the book, largely planned in 2009, the wire headlines that came across my desk at the paper began to echo aspects of my plot--public shootings, macabre murders, the slaying of journalists and border agents. At times it was positively eerie. About an hour after I started writing these notes, news broke about a U.S. Border Patrol agent who was shot and killed by bajadores
, the bandits who lurk on both sides of the border and which play a role in this story.
It has been a goal of mine for some time to write an I-Team story in which the past heroes all play a pivotal role in the action, in which the stakes are so
high that all of the I-Team heroes have to come together to keep the heroine alive. I was finally able to write that kind of story in this book. Fans of Julian, Marc, and Gabe will find their favorite heroes on center stage, together with Zach and Natalie. Reece, admittedly, is relegated to a minor role. (Sorry, Team Reece! Trust me. You'll like it anyway.) Breaking Point
is my tenth novel. Finishing it felt like a milestone to me, even though I know authors who've written more than a hundred novels. Thanks for sharing yet another journey with me. I hope you enjoy the story.