Monday, April 30, 2018

When Worlds Collide: Jonathan Stride, Meet Cab Bolton: Guest Post by Brian Freeman

When Worlds Collide: Jonathan Stride, Meet Cab Bolton

Fans of my Florida detective Cab Bolton have been asking for some time when they would meet Cab again in one of my books. So when I wrote those words in my new thriller ALTER EGO – “Jonathan Stride, meet Cab Bolton” – I got a shiver of excitement down my back. Yes, ALTER EGO is not only the tenth novel to feature Duluth police lieutenant Jonathan Stride, it’s also the third novel to feature Cab Bolton.

Readers love the idea of fictional characters crossing over from one world into another. Agatha Christie reported that readers were always urging her to write a book where Hercule Poirot met Jane Marple. I noticed that as soon as Cab made his first appearance, readers at library events and book clubs began asking if Cab and Stride would ever come together.

But writers don’t necessarily share the enthusiasm that readers have for crossovers. (Christie said Poirot and Marple would have hated each other if they’d met.) Before starting ALTER EGO, I thought long and hard about the creative challenges of two of my series detectives meeting in one book.

The Series That Almost Wasn’t 

From 2005 to 2010, I wrote five novels featuring Jonathan Stride, starting with my Macavity-winning debut novel IMMORAL and continuing to THE BURYING PLACE, which was a finalist for Best Hardcover Novel in the ITW Thriller Awards. I felt like I’d put Stride through such hell over the course of five books that he needed a vacation.

So I wrote what I intended to be a stand-alone – one of my most popular books, a novel called THE BONE HOUSE. It was set both in Florida and in the remote Wisconsin region known as Door County. The heroes of the book were a married couple named Mark and Hillary Bradley, but the novel also introduced a supporting character – a quirky Florida detective named Cab Bolton. Cab was six-foot-six, with spiky blond hair and a wealthy Hollywood pedigree thanks to his actress mother. His ironic sense of humor made him a lot of fun to write.

I never intended this book to launch a Cab Bolton series, but I began getting notes from readers almost immediately after THE BONE HOUSE to ask when I’d be doing another Cab novel. And I admit, I liked the idea of writing another story featuring this distinctive hero. It took me a few years, but eventually, I released SEASON OF FEAR, set entirely in Florida, with Cab as the star.

Now I had two series, with Jonathan Stride and Cab Bolton.

The Pros and Cons of Crossovers

For writers, the advantage of multiple series is that it gives us the opportunity to go in new creative directions. Stride and Cab are so different as heroes that I can tell stories with one that I could never tell with the other. Cab is a more glamorous figure than Stride, and he travels in wealthier circles. His emotional baggage is very different. And he has a much more casual outlook on life than the intense, determined Lieutenant Stride.

Cab also gives me the opportunity to explore new settings. Most of my books have been set in the bitter winters of the Midwest, but Cab took me to the heat and storms of central Florida. And giving readers a “you are there” feel in my settings is a vital part of my thrillers.

However, the differences between the two series also argue against bringing the two characters together. If they are such different men, living in different worlds, you run the risk of having a crossover feel artificial. So when readers asked me about Stride meeting Cab, I usually responded – probably not. But I also knew that if there was one character who might somehow bring the two series together, it was Stride’s partner, my sexy, snarky Chinese detective, Maggie Bei. Maggie, I said, would get along just fine with Cab.

And that’s exactly what happened.


The plot for ALTER EGO actually started in my mind as a novel for Cab. It features a Hollywood actor with a dark side, and given Cab’s Hollywood connections, it seemed like a natural book for him.

But as I thought about the next steps for Stride, I realized that I could do a lot with the idea of a Hollywood actor playing Stride in the movies (ahem, film agents). I turned this actor into Stride’s “alter ego,” and that’s how the dark plotline began to take shape.

However, Cab still lingered in my mind. If there were one book where the two heroes might meet, this was it. And I thought about Maggie acting as a creative bridge to bring Cab into Stride’s world.

So when a murder investigation takes Maggie to Florida, she finds herself talking to the detective who handled a case with ties to the crime in Duluth – in this case, a tall, glamorous man named Cab Bolton. Soon enough, Maggie and Cab are romantically involved – and they’re heading back to Minnesota for a rendezvous with Stride.

Never Say Never 

Stride and Cab have met now, and the dynamics of ALTER EGO advance the characters in both series in profound ways. After saying for years that I thought Stride and Cab would never get together, I’m glad they did. Their differences as men are actually what make ALTER EGO work.

Of course, now I have a third series for readers, too: my San Francisco-based series featuring Homicide Inspector Frost Easton that includes THE NIGHT BIRD and THE VOICE INSIDE (with the third book, THE CROOKED STREET, arriving next January). I know the questions I’m going to get.

Will Frost ever meet Stride?

Will Cab ever meet Frost?

Or will the three of them ever find themselves together in one book?

My first thought is to say – probably not. Then again, I’ve said that before, and look what happened in ALTER EGO. So I’ve learned to never say never.

Brian Freeman released two new thrillers in 2018, THE VOICE INSIDE (featuring Frost Easton) and ALTER EGO (featuring both Jonathan Stride and Cab Bolton). His stand-alone novel SPILLED BLOOD won the award for Best Hardcover Novel in the ITW Thriller Awards. Find out more about him and his books at

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