Thriller Writer Tj O'Connor

The Pappa Files: From the Paranormal to the Paranoid

Apr 23, 2024

Tj O'Connor

Pappa Date: April 20, 2024. Somewhere in Winchester, Virginia.

I am Pappa. There are many pappas. But I am unique. Trust me. I am an anti-terrorism consultant by profession. An author of numerous novels by devotion. A Harley Davidson pilot, man about dogs (and now cats), and an adventurer. I am a father to five and Pappa to eight and counting.

I’ve been asked many times—almost every time I’m doing a talk or a book club—how I started in writing. For me, it’s been a journey that began in the fifth grade and hasn’t stopped churning in my brain since.

I’ve written about those days many times and won’t rehash them now. Instead, let’s chat about how this anti-terrorism crime-fighting consultant (I’m talking about me if you haven’t got that yet) goes from the paranormal to the paranoid in my novels.

Many of my blogs have explained that Oliver Tucker and Dying to Know was borne from a 22-year nightmare that plagued me after my OSI years. Soon after Dying to Know, Dying for the Past, and Dying to Tell, I penned New Sins for Old Scores. To this day, while I don’t see myself as a paranormal cozy author (but after several novels, I guess I am), I love these stories as much as my thrillers. Often, more.

Here’s why.

First, all my paranormal murder mysteries have a historical subplot that is historically accurate. I use the paranormal—a dead detective in all cases—to connect the historical to the modern day. It’s a bridge between the chapters that are in the past with the main storyline in the present. But it’s more than a gimmick. It’s a pathway between stories and the lives of the characters.

In the Oliver Tucker Dead Detective Casefiles (formerly the Gumshoe Ghost—yucky moniker) there was a Civil War battlefield subplot, a World War II mobster who helped the US OSS uncover enemy spy rings, and German Operation Salaam a true Nazi secret mission to infiltrate the Allies in Egypt. In New Sins for Old Scores, World War II OSS operative Trick McCall—or the spirit of him—helps modern detective Richard Jax uncover a modern version of Operation Paperclip right out of the World War II playbook. It’s the dead detectives in these stories—Oliver Tucker and Trick McCall—who connect the historical, real-life mysteries with the modern murder cases. It’s not only fun and intriguing, but it’s at least partially true.

A note here. I love when readers challenge me during my talks with “Oh, that isn’t the way it would be.” Or, “You’re really Tuck and Trick, right?” First, unless the person challenging me were dead and back, they wouldn’t know how it would be. At least I’m being honest about the “fiction” part of my novels. And second, no, I’m not Tuck or Trick. I’m not dead. Thank you for playing. . . next contestant.

Anyway, I love those paranormal mysteries and I’ve penned a fourth installment of Oliver Tucker’s Dead Detective Casefiles with plans for at least three more thereafter. Remind me to tell you why later.

That’s the paranormal side of this blog—now for the paranoid. . .

As my prior blogs disclosed how Tuck and the gang came to be, those who know me also know how my other characters were born. The Consultant’s Jonathan Hunter, Ana Karras of The Hemingway Deception, and soon-to-be Lowe Trapp of The Whisper Legacy all landed in print without surprise. These characters all come from my years in investigations, threat assessment, security consulting, and mostly, my anti-terrorism work. No, no, they are not real people (that would be a faux pas of the “neither living or dead” disclaimer on the books. Nope. These characters are sort of Frankenstein amalgams of the many good guys and bad guys I’ve known in my forty-three-year professional life. The stories come from my world and bring as much realism as I can without giving a playbook to the real bad guys, and mix in plenty of action, subterfuge, and paranoia to make the plots fast-paced and intriguing. At least, that’s what fans and critics say. Me, too, but I don’t want to blush.

Now, full disclosure. Although Hunter and Trapp bear a striking resemblance to me, they are not me. Just the handsome, swashbuckling, and charismatic parts. Stop laughing. It’s true. Some fans and my dogs said so!

Oh, and in every novel, there is one character who is truly 110 proof from my life. In Tucker’s mysteries, it’s Doc Gilley, based entirely on my mentor, Wally F—last of the WWII OSS operatives and retired CIA Deputy Director. He passed a few years ago. He’s also Trick McCall in New Sins for Old Scores. As for Hemingway and my upcoming novels, stand by for future blogs disclosing the secrets behind the story.

The future of these characters is set and I’m working diligently to return a few of them to print.

Here’s something about my characters in both the paranormal and paranoid stories that’s important to me. They are real people. I love action heroes like James Bond, Jason Bourne, and Jack Reacher—the three J’s. Love them. But my heroes are the other guys—imperfect. They are flawed, they are not perfect killing machines or the perfect operatives. They have backstories filled with goofs and gaffs and silly incidents. They are, as I’ve experienced in my life, real people. I love them for it.

So, that’s the first installment of Paranormal to Paranoia. Just a fast layout of who’s who and why. Soon, I’ll be giving more insight into upcoming series and standalones, and some background on all that.

For now, check out my books and characters. I think you’ll be happy with what you read.

Pappa’s Log—Epilog:

Oh, yeah! I promised a tidbit above… I can’t say much, but it suffices to say Oliver “Tuck” Tucker is still dead and his last case was solved a few years ago, but he isn’t gone—He’ll be back soon with new Dead Detective Casefiles. And there’s also the first in what I hope to be The Pappa Files with Lowe Trapp in The Whisper Legacy… coming soon, too. Stand by and check back for that breaking news!

Until then, Yasoo, adieu, adios, and all that—see ya soon!


I first fell in love with writing while in grade school and over the years continued to dabble with characters and stories whenever life allowed. Lately, I've focused my energy on pursuing this dream—interrupted only by life as a security consultant and the demands of two Labrador retrievers.

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