EDMOND, Okla. – Chickasaw author Meg Gardiner mesmerized an overflow crowd of book aficionados here as sales of her 13th novel soared nationally and CBS is fashioning it into a television series.
“UNSUB,” published by Penguin Group, hit store shelves in June.
Mrs. Gardiner’s work is fiction loosely based on the infamous, never identified Zodiac Killer of California in the 1960s. “UNSUB” introduces you to a fictional police detective opening the “cold case” file in order to bring the killer to justice.
Reviews all are sounding a lot like this one: “With a killer from your nightmares and a heroine who must risk everything to stop him, UNSUB grabs you by the heart and refuses to let go. A relentless, compelling thriller.” — Lisa Scottoline, New York Times bestselling author of “One Perfect Lie.”
Mrs. Gardiner is on a whirlwind, coast-to-coast book signing and promotion tour. It brought her to Best of Books just a stone’s throw from her Oklahoma City birthplace of 61 years ago, although she calls Austin, Texas, home these days.
“UNSUB” is finding enormous popularity. One of the chief reasons may be praise of Mrs. Gardiner’s work by Stephen King, world renowned author of horror and suspense thrillers.
In a blog, Mr. King enjoyed Mrs. Gardiner’s first book while on a flight overseas. The novel “China Lake” thrilled Mr. King, who has written such classics as “Pet Sematary,” “The Shining,” “The Green Mile,” “It” and dozens of others.
About Mrs. Gardiner, Mr. King wrote: “‘China Lake’ had me from page 1, on which a vicious religious cult called the Remnant pickets a funeral. Seven hours and 470 pages later, I landed in England, convinced I had found the next suspense superstar. This book had everything. It came complete with an ultra-tough SoCal heroine and a climax which involves defusing a ticking time bomb and a stampeding brush fire.”
“Stephen King has supported my work and praised my writing,” Mrs. Gardiner said. “He wrote a column in Entertainment Weekly urging readers to pick up my books. He also wrote my favorite novel of all time, and to be recognized by someone of his stature is incredibly validating. His support has been invaluable.”
Remarkably, “China Lake” was written in England when Mrs. Gardiner and her husband were transferred there for his job. With three children in school and a husband away at work, she began to write the novel she always dreamed she would write.
Mrs. Gardiner is an attorney and college professor. Back in the early days of her marriage, she did not wish to go through the hassles of getting permission from the United Kingdom to practice law or teach. She decided to launch a career as an author.
Thirteen books later, she has absolutely no regrets. Indeed, her thoughts already have turned to the next novel while she promotes “UNSUB.”
TV Comes Calling
So chilling and emotionally riveting is “UNSUB,” CBS has purchased the rights to the book to develop it into a television series. Little can be said about it now, but Mrs. Gardiner is hopeful a TV series will debut in the future based upon words she put to paper.
“‘UNSUB’ grabs people’s attention and their psychological curiosity,” Mrs. Gardiner said. “I worked very hard on this book and it probably is a bigger book than I’ve taken on before; with a young cop working on a cold case file based on a legendary case.
“It’s a rollercoaster ride. It’s supposed to be a psychological thrill ride. I want it to be enjoyable.”
“China Lake” is the first of a series of books involving the same heroine. A series is planned for “UNSUB” as well.
“I am delighted to be doing this,” Mrs. Gardiner said of writing, then touring and promoting books. “A book tour means being on the run from before sunup to long after sundown. Today Houston, tomorrow Phoenix, Thursday San Francisco. But getting to talk to people who read my books? What could be better? It’s a privilege to get to do this job. And though I’m away from home, the best thing about a tour is seeing great friends who come to my events — and getting to spend a day with my daughter, who played chauffeur in the Bay Area. I am incredibly lucky.”
Mrs. Gardiner’s great-great-grandparents were original enrollees. They owned a farm in McClain County and eventually settled in Purcell.
Her immediate family lived in Oklahoma until she was in grade school. Her father was working on a master’s degree at the University of Oklahoma and pursued additional educational opportunities in Oregon before the family settled in California when Mrs. Gardiner was a youngster.
“We were the first to abandon Oklahoma,” she said with a laugh as several of her relatives sneaked in for a quick hug and greetings at the Best of Books lecture and signing. “I recall all of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents waving goodbye as we headed west.”
Her Chickasaw heritage is important to her and she is a voting citizen.
“Just by virtue of the distance, I was never able to be as active in the tribe as I would like to have been,” she said. “My daughter lives in California and regularly attends tribal events. I have a photo of her with Governor Anoatubby at one of the functions,” Mrs. Gardiner said, adding “both have big smiles.”