International Action Thriller, Dark Spiral Down—The Real Message Behind the Book ~ Guest Post by Michael Houtz

Every novel written begins life with an inspired idea—an author experience, expertise in a given field, or any number of other bits and pieces that speaks to the writer. Dark Spiral Down chronicles the life of a former Shaolin monk, living in the U.S. with his beautiful wife and toddler son, who earns his living as one of the greatest fighters in professional mixed martial arts history. The motivation behind the book has little to do with the actual manuscript. Nothing on the pages hints at the true purpose of why I wrote this story. Let me tell you how it came about.

A few years ago, I retired early from a career in medicine. No surprise, my first writing effort started with a medical thriller. I felt, and still do, the story has a strong premise and has the potential to do well. Somewhere around that same time, I read an appalling account of a child whisked away from his father to South America by his ex-wife. The courts in that part of the world were manipulated by the new boyfriend, an attorney, and the father struggled mightily against unsympathetic ears. From all accounts on subsequent research, I discovered the dad was a good guy with no history of violence, and he’d been a loving father to his son. His journey for the return of his son spanned years. Imagine dropping off your child with a spouse for visitation and never seeing them again. The account really hit home.

I continued with my medical thriller but kept going back to the event and grew increasingly angry when all his attempts to just visit with his son were thwarted. How could someone be so cruel? I imagined someone traveling there, in the middle of the night, and whisking the boy away from this horrendous adult and reuniting him with his father. Not long after that initial thought, I formed a character in my head capable of a rescue. That’s when I knew I had to write another book. Now.

With all that backstory of my motivation to write my newest novel, you’d expect the storyline mirroring my description. Well, that’s not how this book turned out. Yes, the protagonist, Cole Haufner, is a man with the necessary skill in performing a rescue, but he doesn’t pursue an innocent child’s return. He rescues two young adult women, his Delta Force brother, and recovers a device capable of incalculable destruction. Hey! Where’s the kid? Here’s where my pragmatic brain kicked in.

I’ve seen Best Selling authors write a book later in a series that explains the roots of their primary character. I consciously decided that the first would show where they came from and not wait until #5. Cole’s story-arc beginning has nothing to do with saving children. Only later does he discover his true talent and begin his life’s purpose. I wanted to follow his life in a linear fashion—just as we all live our lives in real life. I also have a secondary motivation.

Dark Spiral Down is my first published, full-length novel. So? Well, I reasoned my freshman effort would possibly look just like what you’d expect from someone’s first attempt—rough around the edges. I’m hedging my bet that Cole’s real purpose in life should be met with more writing experience and thus an improved reader experience. I didn’t anticipate the excellent reviews I’m receiving by significant members of the thriller marketplace—very welcome but unexpected. Did my decision negatively impact what I hoped to accomplish? Not at all. I’m more fired up that ever for Cole to begin his journey of bringing these children home—my true motivation for breathing life into this character. Just so happens I did learn a lot on the mechanics of writing novels this first go-‘round, and I’m confident future books in the series will benefit from my newfound knowledge.

I hope readers will join me in supporting the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Like my imaginary friend, Cole Haufner, I too discovered my new purpose in life.

Bring them home!

About the Author

After a career in medicine, Mike Houtz succumbed to the call to hang up his stethoscope and pursue his other passion as a writer of fast-paced thrillers. A rabid fan of authors such as Clancy, Mark Greaney, Vince Flynn, and Brad Thor, Mike loves series writing with strong characters, fast pacing and international locations, all of which explode into action in his debut novel, a 2017 Zebulon Award winner. When not at the keyboard, he can be found on the firing range, traveling for research across the globe, or trying out the latest dry-fly pattern on a Gold Medal trout stream.

He lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

His latest book is the thriller/international/action novel, Dark Spiral Down.




About the Book:


Author: Michael Houtz

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

Pages: 377

Genre: Thriller/International/Action


COLE HAUFNER is a reluctant superstar in the professional mixed martial arts world. After his latest fight, his wife and child perish in a car crash. His grief deepens when his brother, BUTCH, a Delta Force operator, is absent from the funeral and reported missing by two furtive strangers who show up unannounced at the burial. Despairing, and acting on a tip, Cole travels to his childhood home in southeast China, looking for his brother.

Butch and his teammate, HAMMER, are the sole American survivors of a gun battle between their unit and North Korean commandos, both sides fighting over possession of a stolen suitcase containing a miniaturized fusion device that could either provide unlimited clean energy or be converted to an undetectable bomb seven times more powerful than a nuclear explosion. Leading the North Koreans is the sociopath, Commander PARK. Pressed into helping the Koreans is a disgraced former CIA operative, BARRETT JENNINGS.

Cole meets with the uncle who raised him, MASTER LI, and is warned to stop his search for Butch. Barrett discovers Cole’s identity (with the help of a genius computer hacker, LILLY), which opens a twenty-year-old wound when Barrett was blamed for the disappearance of Cole’s father, along with the man’s invention. Barrett enlists the 14K organized crime syndicate to help capture Cole. Hammer, separated from Butch during the fight for the device, thwarts the gang’s attempt to kidnap Cole, and the two then set off to find Butch and the device. All parties converge on the city library where Butch, now disguised as a monk, is attempting to communicate with the Pentagon. Barrett and Park capture Butch, while the 14K gang nabs Cole.

Danger mounts as Chinese authorities begin investigating foul play within their borders. Cole fights his way free of the gang and reunites with Hammer. Both men find Barrett’s apartment and discover Lilly (the man’s stepdaughter), who divulges Barrett’s identity and plan. Cole clashes with Hammer, who is willing to sacrifice Butch in order to recover the fusion device. Lilly offers her help in exchange for her and Barrett’s rescue from Park’s grip. Meanwhile, Barrett discovers the true nature of the case the North Koreans are pursuing and, sensing he and Lilly are to be assassinated by Park once he has the device, frees Butch. Butch, trusting Barrett was sent to rescue him, leads the turncoat to the site where he hid the device. Barrett, hoping to make a quick fortune selling it, shoots Butch before escaping with the case.

Cole, along with Hammer and Lilly, arrives at the location of Butch and finds him gravely wounded. Butch fingers Barrett for shooting him and for stealing the case. Cole wants only to save his brother but Butch makes him promise to kill Barrett and recover their dad’s invention. The revelation that the device is his father’s scientific discovery propels Cole forward to fulfill his brother’s mission. Cole is forced to abandon Butch at a hospital. Cole pursues Barrett to a remote dock where the ex-CIA man is planning to escape China by boat. With the Chinese military now actively looking for Cole, Cole confronts Barrett and Park sparking a gunfight. Barrett kills Park. As Barrett turns the gun on Cole, Hammer kills Barrett. Cole, Hammer and Lilly escape via the boat, and the fusion device is safely returned.

Praise for Michael Houtz Books

“If you’re in the market for a fast paced, action filled, page-turning thriller, Mike Houtz delivers a must-read novel. I highly recommend this emotional rollercoaster of a book for every die-hard thriller reader…Get it ASAP!”

~Lima Charlie Review

“…this work proves that author Houtz is undoubtedly a rising star in the publishing world.” ~Andrea Brunais, Author

“Mike Houtz takes us on fast-pace adventure in Dark Spiral Down, a thrilling ride along the border between China and North Korea, where Cole Haufner is in pursuit of his Delta Force brother and a device that has the potential to change the world forever or destroy it.”

~Dan Grant, Author

“Dark Spiral Down is a phenomenal debut novel by Mike Houtz. This book has everything readers of the genre love: a great plot, memorable characters, and a powerful voice. It’s a must-read!” ~Ammar Habib, Bestselling & Award-Winning Author, Editor-in-Chief of Thriller Magazine



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