Paul McHugh is certainly on the move these days.
The Redwood City author is on the road to talk about his latest book, “The Blind Pool,” released last month on ElkHeart Books.
After a reading at the Palo Alto Books, Inc. on Friday, McHugh headed up to Mendocino for a reading and is planning to go to Washington, D.C., to connect with segments of the press corps there. McHugh is also planning to go to Florida and even internationally to talk about the book, which makes sense since its setting is international and also in Florida, in the very Keys that were just hit hard by Hurricane Irma.
The book itself is cinematic in its intensity and its ability to sway back and forth between four protagonists constantly in peril and connected in a multitude of ways. Though movielike, it is imbued with a sense of reality, in that its violence has consequences and even its heroes are not immune to post-traumatic stress disorder. While it isn’t surprising that McHugh said a couple of studios have expressed interest, the work is primarily literary — with realistic action that moves quickly but shaded by a sense of realism only a writing craftsman can portray.
It deals primarily with Russian oligarchs and connections deep into the U.S. government and even private prison system, out of which an organized crime ring operates. While the book is not political, there are shades of “ripped from the headlines” in that much of our nation’s attention is on possible Russian interference into our political system.
McHugh said he finished a draft of the book in 2015 and also wrote what could be considered now as a prequel. Though his themes were speculative back then, reality took over.
“As though a chrome ball on the roulette wheel bounced straight into the slot that I happened to bet on,” he said.
I’d like to call it a taut thriller by former anchorman Dan Rather beat me to the punch in his description, “A taut thriller by a terrific storyteller. The political headlines of today make it timely as hell,” Rather said.
While thrillers typically don’t land on my nightstand, the book keeps the reader going back and forth between scenes and characters diving further into the underbelly of the international crime organization. While there is humor in the book, it is completely natural and compelling and serves to break up the rising and falling tension and, quite frankly, horrible circumstances and the protagonists’ struggle to survive and “beat the bad guys.”
The book comes on the heels of “Deadlines,” also a thriller yet set in San Mateo County that incorporated McHugh’s multiple decades of work as an outdoor writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. This book, however, draws not from his journalism career, but rather his journalistic instinct in getting to the bottom of a story and revealing it in a meaningful and verifiable way. There are no zombies in this thriller, it delves into realistic societal issues by exploring kleptocratic oligarchies and their impact. Those who become immersed in that impact try to stop it from within regardless of the short-term risk and long-term effects. While thrillers are known to be simple, this story is complex — as complex as the characters and situations described adeptly in this book.
While McHugh calls Redwood City home, he is certainly on the move to talk about his work and share his insights with others. And we can only hope that he keeps moving on his literary journey.
Jon Mays is the editor in chief of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jon on Twitter @jonmays.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.