"An absorbing kidnapping tale inspired by true life and steeped in bleakness" — Kirkus Reviews
FINALIST, 14th National Indie Excellence Awards
“Think Kathy Reichs and her Tempe Brennan, Jonathan Kellerman and his Alex Delaware, or Dervla McTiernan’s Cormac Reilly... A story to keep your interest until the finale" — Otago Daily Times
What would you do for success? Would you lie? Would you cheat? Would you kill?
Award-winning journalist Will McCormick has it all. Money, a beautiful family, and a house in the picture-perfect resort of Queenstown.
Will also has a dark secret. The story that made him famous years ago didn’t quite happen the way he told it, and now someone from his past seems determined to make him pay.
When his five-year-old daughter Lizzy vanishes, Will’s world comes crashing down. Her disappearance sends Will trawling through his past for clues about who has taken his little girl. It’s a journey of self-discovery that ultimately leaves him questioning his own sanity.
Will is a compulsive liar, a serial cheat, and a fabulist. Actions have consequences. The innocent suffer. He can’t escape his past. He can, however, choose what he will do next, and maybe—just maybe—find redemption.
But will anyone believe him if he finally tells the truth?
This novel will haunt you long after you’ve turned the final page.
Plot: No White Lies is a furiously paced and exciting spy thriller. Genre fans may be able to guess the ending before it arrives, but the novel has such an intriguing premise that readers won’t mind.
Prose/Style: Eaton’s prose is excellent, effective, and clear. His writing is strong, direct, and protagonist William McCormick’s voice is deeply believable as a journalist with something to hide.
Originality: No White Lies includes all of the elements of a classic spy thriller. The novel is elevated by excellent writing and by grounding the mystery in real world events.
Character Development: The novel primarily revolves around protagonist William McCormick, both in the present and in his past. McCormick is instantly believable – both as a journalist living in fear that his lies will be exposed and as a father whose daughter has been abducted. The secondary characters are well constructed, but none are as memorable as McCormick.
Date Submitted: August 18, 2020
In this thriller, the shady past of a New Zealand journalist-turned-aspiring-novelist provokes his young daughter's abduction.
Someone is watching writer Will McCormick on his property, where he lives with his wife, Maddy, and their two daughters. He subsequently receives two messages, both likely scrawled in blood: "LIAR" on a scrap of paper tied to a fence post and "AN EYE FOR AN EYE" on a mirror in his house. He knows these are threats stemming from his past. Years ago, in 2000, Will was a war correspondent in Cambodia. That's where he met Bill Bradley, who ultimately convinced Will to become a CIA asset, with Bill as his handler. This proved beneficial to Will's journalism career, but it was his Pulitzer Prize-winning story that changed everything. Events in his article didn't happen quite the way he reported them, which may have amped up two countries' serious conflict. In 2016 Queenstown, those two threats that Will discovers become all too real when someone kidnaps his oldest child, 5-year-old Lizzy. The abductors seem to be out for revenge, wanting Will to confess his apparent lies. As he's hesitant to relay his dreadful history to the local authorities, Will goes out on his own to rescue Lizzy and stumbles on a few shocking--and unwelcome--truths. Eaton heavily ties his fictional story to real-world events, most notably 9/11. He manages this shrewdly and respectfully: Will is essentially an outsider, feeling sympathy for the victims of the 9/11 tragedy and witnessing firsthand America's aggressive response. The book is understandably grim, as Will's relentless guilt largely propels his first-person narrative. He also has his faults, including that he's been unfaithful to Maddy. The story is swift and taut even as it details vibrant surroundings, such as Paris' charcoal-colored, red- and gold-streaked sky. By the final act, Will has a revelation or two that some readers will predict, but the coda is one that reverberates.
An absorbing kidnapping tale inspired by true life and steeped in bleakness.
Fiction beats truth for reporter turned author
By Philip Matthews
Newsrooms are full of writers who think they could do better, aim higher, become real authors with books to their name.
Former Christchurch journalist Dan Eaton is one of the few who pulled it off.
Eaton, who worked for The Press before quitting journalism for a Government job in Wellington, dabbled in creative writing when he worked on long-form features. There was the liberation of no longer having to stick to the facts.
"But it turns out writing is hard, solitary work. Far fewer journalists finish novels than start them," he said. "And there are far, far more unfinished novels sitting in bottom drawers than published works."
His first novel took 10 years. Navigating the world of publishing took two more until, "demoralised and figuring I had nothing to lose," he self-published. That may have been the best decision he ever made.
He sold 22,000 copies of his first novel, The Secret Gospel, in a year. It still sells. The vast majority of sales are ebooks, which can still be sold while physical bookstores are closed by Covid-19.
"Without marketing, or a single mention in traditional media, it remained an Amazon bestseller, at one point hitting number 2 in historical fiction and number 6 in conspiracy thrillers, ahead of big names like Lee Child, Stephen King and John Grisham," he said.
"My return on investment as the publisher has been over 2000 per cent. I've even had to hire an accountant."
The hero of The Secret Gospel is a Kiwi journalist named Alex Fisher. The hero of his second book, No White Lies - a terrorism thriller set largely in Queenstown - is a Kiwi journalist named Will McCormick. These are good thriller names, but then, so is Dan Eaton. Yet neither are directly versions of the author, especially the morally ambiguous McCormick.
No White Lies was written before but published after the real-life terrorism in Christchurch. When he started writing it in 2016, he wondered if his plot was too far-fetched, but when "Americans elected a reality TV star to lead the free world and Britain chose to leave Europe, I was not short on reminders of the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction".
The terror attacks "added to my sense that the themes I'd explored in this story, around truth, lies, terrorism and racism, are real and important".
And they might reach an even broader audience one day. Eaton has just been talking to an executive producer in the US, who wants to pitch it to Netflix.
MEDIA / AUTHOR INTERVIEW
RADIO NEW ZEALAND
22 Dec 2019
Dan Eaton: journalist, thriller writer, intelligence bigwig
From RNZ Mediawatch, 9:20 am on 22 December 2019
By Jeremy Rose - email@example.com & @MediawatchNZ
Dan Eaton is the author of No White Lies - a thriller involving a kidnapping, spies and dodgy journalism. He's also a former national affairs editor of The Press and the recently appointed director of National Security Policy at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
No White Lies' protagonist Will Anaru McCormick is a journalist whose daughter is kidnapped from their home on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. McCormick's journalism may have won him a Pulitzer prize but his decision to work with the CIA has seen him make some highly unethical decisions - decisions that come back to haunt him.
It's a cliched question but is there any overlap between the lives of author Dan Eaton and his latest creation Will McCormick?
"What I want people to realise is that this was written as a piece of pure fiction; pulp fiction and ultimately I'm trying to sell books," Eaton told Mediawatch.
"It's an atmospheric, psychological thriller. I would describe it as a cross between Jane Campion's Top of the Lake and a John Le Carre spy novel but with a New Zealand twist."
But, yes, there is some overlap. "I worked as a journalist in Cambodia, tick, I was bureau chief for Agence France Presse there; he's been struggling to cover a story because no-one at the US embassy will talk to him, tick been there. The rest is fiction."
READ THE FULL INTERVIEW OR LISTEN TO THE PODCAST: