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“Blue Ridge” by Peter Malone Elliott: A Debut Novel with a Hunt Country Backdrop

“Blue Ridge” by Peter Malone Elliott: A Debut Novel with a Hunt Country Backdrop

Written by Diane Helentjaris

Peter Malone Elliott’s debut novel, “Blue Ridge,” is a rocketing, no-holds-barred suspense thriller with a dab of Southern noir. Protagonist Cillian Clarke has washed up early. All set to begin training as a member of the U.S. Olympic equestrian team, he destroys his knee — and future — riding in the Gold Cup. Olympic dreams dashed, he’s left to eke out a living as a horse trainer.

As the story opens, Cillian is on his way to murder his identical twin brother, Christopher. A highflyer in the world of politics, Christopher is poised to enter the gubernatorial race for the Old Dominion. Things weren’t always rocky between the two young men, but then a woman entered the scene, and well… 

In the run-up to writing “Blue Ridge,” Elliott jump-started his career writing screenplays. In 2022, his work for WIRED SHUT was nominated for a Leo Award for Best Screenwriting, Motion Picture. He won the Grand Prize of the Pipeline Screenwriting Competition in 2018. Screenwriting, with its emphasis on brevity and concision, has helped Elliott hone his rapid-fire style to a needle-sharp point.

Elliott signs books at a March 19 meet and greet event at Middleburg Books.

“For me, writing is first and foremost,” Elliott says. His mother, L.M. Elliott, is also a writer. She has published multiple award-winning books for children and young adults. Growing up with an author as a mom gave Elliott a “backdoor” look at the world of publishing and book writing. Chafing at the tedium of pitching his book to multiple agents, he changed course. He approached traditional presses as an unagented writer and within two weeks received multiple offers for “Blue Ridge.” He recommends other writers with a book to pitch “to try to break in, [and] don’t be afraid to go against the grain… There are so many avenues to get out there. Amazing indie presses do great work or there’s hybrid publishing, too.”

Thirty-year-old Elliott was raised in Northern Virginia. In 2021, after living in Los Angeles for eight years, he returned to Virginia. In those pandemic days, he often took long walks in the Blue Ridge Mountains, soaking up the countryside, and planning his next move. Sky Meadows Park became a favorite site for rambles.

He “always wanted to write a book. … Going back to my roots for my debut novel felt right. Northern Virginia is such an interesting hodgepodge with horse people, policy-driven people… [It’s] an interesting cross-section.” He decided it was time to settle down and write his book. The Blue Ridge Mountains — an “awe-inspiring, beautiful, kind of spooky, something seeping in the underbelly” place — would be the setting.

Though not one himself, Elliott is fascinated by the inescapable tendency for twins to be only seen as a pair rather than as individuals. That concept rolled into his developing story, as did his sister’s love of horses. She’s an equestrian who grew up earning national awards for riding. As a result of her interests, Elliott rubbed shoulders with the horse world on a regular basis with frequent jaunts out to horse country. The characters in “Blue Ridge” and the things they do, however, are complete fiction. Elliott chuckles, “People who write thriller and horror are often the most well-adjusted people.”

Elliott shares a smile with the crowd at his book signing event.

In “Blue Ridge,” the atmospheric setting feeds a fast-paced, jaw-dropping plotline, full of “I didn’t see that coming” moments. This is a book with surprises around every corner. The author taps into what he calls the “spooky aspects of the Blue Ridge” to keep readers looking over their shoulder. As Cillian Clarke says in the book,

“I always say the majestic, rolling landscape of the Blue Ridge is nature’s equivalent to the music of Patsy Cline — an inexplicably perfect cocktail of sumptuous beauty, haunting melancholy, and dark-edged mystery.”

Then there’s the fun part of the setting for Hunt Country readers. Few things tickle as much as a novel mentioning the Ashby Inn or “cow puddle” cookies from The Upper Crust Bakery in Middleburg.

Also of note is a protagonist from an up-and-coming generation. Cillian Clarke is new, with a fresh voice. “Blue Ridge” opens a new vista for lovers of crime, political thrillers, murder mysteries, and noir.

As for the author’s intent, first and foremost, “I would love it if [readers are] … entertained. Engaged. Riveted. Secondly, I would love it if people could take in the larger themes of ‘Blue Ridge’ in terms of redemption and sibling rivalries.”

Home today for Peter Malone Elliott is Brooklyn, but he keeps his heart in the Commonwealth. Up north, he nurtures his Southern roots with visits to local barbecue joints. In addition to his writing, he offers editing services for manuscripts and screenplays as founder and owner of Fortiter et Recte Literary. Elliott recently completed his second novel, a suspense thriller set in Yosemite, and is currently working on his third book. ML

Learn more about Elliott’s work at, and for more information on Fortiter et Recte, visit

Published in the April 2024 issue of Middleburg Life.

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