We don’t know how, but apparently Owen Laukkanen got tired of being a traveling poker reporter. ''I got sick of the casino lifestyle,'' he says, ''so I quit my job.'' (A truly unthinkable career move, in our opinion, since being a traveling poker reporter has got to be the best job in the world.) His gamble paid off. Laukkanen’s just released one of the most talked-about debut novels of the year. The book, The Professionals, is the story of four college grads who, disappointed with their job opportunities, decide to form a kidnapping crew.
Laukkanen, who is in town for a reading and signing session, remembers how the idea came to him. ''I wish I had a better story, but the truth is I was watching television one night and there was a show about gangs of professional kidnappers in the developing world,'' he tells us. ''I started wondering how a kidnapping gang would operate in the United States, if it was possible. From that came the idea of these kidnappers who fly under the radar because they keep moving and have very low ransom demands. With that basic idea, I started writing, and the characters just introduced themselves and the story unfolded.''
The novel immediately started generating buzz (bestselling novelists Lee Child, John Lescroart and Steve Berry all lined up to enthusiastically praise The Professionals prior to its release). The plot is set at a breathtaking pace. When one of the kidnappings goes horribly wrong, things quickly and disastrously spin out of control.
Laukkanen says he feels like he’s spinning a little bit, too. ''It’s been 16 months since I got the contract for the book, and I’m still pinching myself. I still feel like I won the lottery.'' 6:30 p.m. Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet. For information, call 713‑524‑8597 or visit www.murderbooks.com. Free.
Mon., April 2, 6:30 p.m., 2012