William Petrocelli

William Petrocelli's novel

The Circle of Thirteen

How far do the ripples of violence go?  The Circle of Thirteen begins with a mindless act of family violence in 2008 and spans seven decades, finally culminating in the desperate effort by Julia Moro, the U.N. Security Director, to stop a major act of terror.  In this rich, textured thriller, Bill Petrocelli weaves the story around themes of poverty, political corruption, environmental disaster, and the backlash against the rising role of women.

In 2082, as a catastrophic explosion threatens to destroy the new United Nations building in New York, Julia Moro finds herself on the trail of the shadowy leader of Patria, a terrorist organization linked to bombing attempts and vicious attacks on women. One of those groups of women – the Women for Peace — was headed by thirteen bold women who risked their lives to achieve world peace and justice.

Weaving back and forth in time, this gripping narrative illuminates the unbreakable bond between strong women, providing an emotionally grounded window into the future’s unforgettable history. This is a thrilling ride that will mesmerize until the end.

William Petrocelli is co-owner, with his wife Elaine, of the Book Passage bookstores in Northern California. His books include Low Profile: How to Avoid the Privacy Invaders and Sexual Harassment on the Job: What it is and How to Stop it. He’s a former Deputy Attorney General, a former poverty lawyer in Oakland, and a long-time advocate for women's rights. This is his first novel.

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"A remarkable tale . . . fascinating and provocative"

John Lescroart, author of The Ophelia Cut and The Thirteenth Juror

"A unique and thoughtful thriller"

Martin Cruz Smith, NYT bestselling author of Gorky Park and December 6

"The Circle of Thirteen is a true celebration of the power of women in the face of great odds."

Lisa See, #1 NYT bestselling author of Dreams of Joy and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

"A fantastic, futuristic view of the reality that we may already have created."

Katherine Neville, international bestselling author of The Eight

"A wonderful, uplifting thriller full of strong and unforgettable women, a book that will keep you turning the page."

Abraham Verghese, NYT bestselling author of Cutting for Stone


Thoughts about Writing The Circle of Thirteen


Tweaking the Archetype

The author Don Winslow tells new novelists, “Write the book you’re afraid to write.” That’s good advice — I hope.

I decided to write a story about the emerging role of women but set it a few decades into the future in order to put certain trends in sharper focus. The main story-line is set in New York City in May, 2082, and it is told through the voice of Julia Moro, the Security Director of the revitalized United Nations. She faces a terrorist plot that could have world-wide repercussions.

The backlash against the emerging women’s movement is a major theme, but it shares the stage with the climate crisis, the persistence of war, the gap between the rich and poor, and the corruption of political and economic power. The Circle of Thirteen refers to a group of thirteen women leaders who are instrumental in bringing about social change during the period of the book. Their life, their death, and their almost mythic status form the backdrop of the story.

There’s a recurring theme in literature about a “band of brothers” —the Knights of the Roundtable, the Seven Samurai, the Three Musketeers—who devote themselves to a higher cause. Maybe this story fits that genre. If so, it’s an archetype with a twist. This band of brothers is a band of sisters.

Bill Petrocelli


More about Bill Petrocelli and The Circle of Thirteen

  • "Telling the Story Backwards" What do you do when you discover you need to tell the ending first? This excerpt from the cirme magazine In Reference to Murder answers that question
  • "The Curse of the Cross Genre"
    Publishers like books that fall into neat categories. Suspense Magazine looks at what happens when a book crosses ove between genres
  • "Characters Who Invite Themselves into the Story" When you go back an look at your story-outline after the novel is finished, you may find that there are some unexpected, major characters who have found their way into the finished story. Here's the explanation at Elizabethawhite.com.
  • "Fact-Checking the Future"
    What does San Francisco look like in 2056, and how does New York appear in 2082? Writers of future-fiction don’t have to do much historical research, but they do something just as difficult: they have to create a historical context on the blank slate of a reader’s mind. The challenge is to merge your vision of the future with the visions of thousands of readers without jarring them to the point of distraction. That's the question in this issue of SFSignal.com.
  • "Tell us something about The Circle of Thirteen that isn’t mentioned in the publisher synopsis."
    This interview with the Omnimystery News It raises wide-ranging questions about the process of writing the book-- everything from writing habits to sources of information


And finally there is this Labor of Love

  • "Recipe for Confusion" The editors of Crimespree Magazine wanted me to talk about recipes — recipes?  They had another alternative — I think it was pets. I had even less to say about that. But then it dawned on me:  it wouldn’t be bad for my image as a writer of thrillers to have a bit of an edge — something in character. How about a recipe for a drink? Hmmmmm