Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Jack Reacher is back


He's back.  Jack Reacher.  That 6'5 monster of a man created out of the mind of Lee Child, is back with a new novel entitled, Make Me.  I confess; I've been waiting impatiently for this book to land in a bookstore.  Reacher, the character, is a powerful addiction that is hard to let go.  Once you meet him, you can't forget him.  So that causes you to go out and read all the other Jack Reacher novels.  With this newest one, that'll be 20 novels, thank you very much.

An ex-army officer, a top notch investigator in a special unit he led in the Army's military police, Reacher is that kind of guy whom you think the word 'primeval' fits perfectly for a descriptor.  The guy is a monster physically.  And very, very good at figuring out how to contain the violence a violent world likes to spring onto the unsuspecting.

Most of the novels have Reacher out of the Army and just thumbing his way across America . . . and getting into trouble . . . without any kind of anchoring device to tie him down with responsibilities.  

Interesting.  And definitely different as far as story plotting goes.  Never being tied down to one spot means that anything for a situation can happen.  And usually does.

(The two covers you see are the same novel.  One is the European cover.  The other is the American cover.  I'm thinking the one on the right is the American one.  Technically, the novel is not supposed to come out in the US until around the 18th of September.  But obviously you get a copy of it now.)

Lee Child, the creator of Reacher, is an interesting character study himself.  An Englishman who, for some reason, creates an American army officer for a character, writes in the same way many writers, including myself, do.  He just starts writing.  No outlining.  No plot in mind.  Just sits down and goes. Everything about the plot is worked out as he goes along.

My kind of writer.

I bring all this up because the news is out that the second Jack Reacher movie is going to start filming soon,  Called Never Go Back, the move roughly follows one of the earlier novels.  Reacher goes back to his old haunts in Washington D.C. and his old army command to sort out problems which, naturally, involve him,

If you are a Reacher find I can hear you starting to go ballistic right about now.  The reason for this
psychotic meltdown is obvious.  Guess who plays the screen version of Jack Reacher.  That's right; it's Tom Cruise.  That Tom Cruise.  The one that stands, if he is wearing thick soled shoes, maybe around 5'5.  A good foot shorter than the Jack Reacher found in the books.  A good 70 to 80 pounds lighter in weight. Considerably less intimidating if held up to the original.

Yet . . . .

If you have an agile mind, if you can separate the Jack Reacher found in the novels from the cinematic Jack Reacher . . . you'll make a damn interesting discovery.  The cinematic Jack Reacher is just pretty damn good.

It's not so much size (although, for many it is, admittedly) as it is about attitude.  The attitude Cruise brings to the cinematic Reacher is, as some friends of mine in England say, spot on.  Both versions have this no-nonsense, just below the surface violence ready to pop up into full view at a moment's notice.

Smarts and violence.  I think these are the reasons why Jack Reacher is so popular.  I know it is for me.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Aiden Thorn talking about Brit crime in general, and Urban Decay in particular

Aiden Thorn
There's a young up-and-coming writer  in Britain by the name of Aiden Thorn. We've become acquaintances and admirers of each other's writing, if not outright friends altogether.  Anyway, he asked if he could share some thoughts in my blob and rummage over the idea of Brit crime writing in general, as well as a few words about his latest collection of crime stories out called Urban Decay.

Absolutely, buddy.  I was curious to hear his thoughts about the influences of American hard boiled/noir writing and it affected a Brit and his writing.  So sit back and enjoy.

And oh . . . buy his stuff.  It's just pretty damn good.

Brit Grit Allies – the influence of American writing on a new wave of British Crime writers…

Somehow I’ve managed to carve out a reputation as a writer from the wonder underground movement that’s been termed ‘Brit Grit.’ I often see myself referred to in reviews or on blogs as, ‘Brit Grit writer, Aidan Thorn.’ It’s a label I’m extremely proud of, and why wouldn’t I be? By association it puts me in the same bracket as some of my favourite writers working in the indie scene today. The likes of Paul D Brazill, Gareth Spark, Darren Sant and many more, top talent that only get a miniscule slice of the recognition they deserve.

What I find interesting is that I’ve found myself batched in with this great company, when in fact most, if not all, of my early literary influences were American. And, do you know what, I haven’t checked but I reckon that’s probably the case for a lot of the writers that people associate with the ‘Brit Grit’ scene (can we call it a scene, are there enough of us for it to be a scene – fuck it, I’m calling it a scene).  It’s pretty clear when you read the likes of Chris Leek (a great British based writer) that he’s influences are heavily American, I think the same can often be said of Gareth Spark – two great writers, who write tales that make characters not just of the players but their settings too. With others the influence might not be quite so apparent, Sant’s voice is routed in northern England, but at the same time, just look at his PI Potter book, Moonchild’s Sin (seriously, do it’s a good read!) to find a man clearly inspired by the hardboiled characters from across the pond – it’s just told with Sant’s uniquely British voice. Where an American PI would be taking meetings in diners and sports bars, Sant has his leading character operating out of an office above a Fish ‘n’ Chip shop. 

I reckon that US influence is always there in the background and I guess it always will be with so much of what we consume as entertainment hailing from there.

Anyone that’s seen anything I’ve said about writing before will know I’m a huge George Pelecanos fan, for me that man can do no wrong. When I started to write I tried, unsuccessfully, to copy his voice. Thankfully, I found my own in the end, but he’ll always have an influence on what I write. So will the likes of Chandler, Leonard, Lehane, Block etc… What I like about these guys is they tell extraordinary stories, big stories, about people that live little lives. People on the edge of society, the shoe salesman, the bar owner, the cafĂ© cook. And I think that’s largely what those who write in the Brit Grit scene (I’m going with it now, it’s definitely a scene!) tend to do too. Read Nick Quantrill’s Bang Bang You’re Dead or Paul Brazill’s Guns of Brixton, great stories about pretty un-extraordinary people told with heart and realism that make the reader engage fully in what’s happening. And, don’t get me wrong I don’t think American writer’s invented that type of writing but I do think they’re bloody good at it and certainly opened my eyes to something I find a lot more interesting to read, and to write, than police procedurals and serial killer thrillers - crime stories with the human spirit at their core.

For me what makes this type of story work, whether it’s from a British writer, or our US cousins, is that the writer seems to be drawing on their own experiences to make it tick. I’m not suggesting they’re all hardened criminals or PI’s with drinking problems and inner monologs playing in their heads. No, they write the details that make the story come alive from their own experiences and interests. Regardless of UK writer, or US passion for certain things always comes across. Music often plays a key role, the mere mention of a song can create an ambience in the readers head, and it can tell you, British voice or American. Straight away. A beer label, a bar top, a piece of clothing and car brand all help to create an atmosphere too, the beauty of a noir book is you always feel like the writer has experienced these subtle scene builders for themselves. Sports also often provide a fantastic backdrop to build an atmosphere around a story. I recently read Tom Pitts’ Knuckleball, I have no idea about baseball but that didn’t matter, the detail around the sport just served to make the story more believable, more real. A British writer of this genre will often use football (or soccer as you call it) in the background, it simply serves to set the scene, put you the reader into the environment in which the story unfolds.

When I wrote my first collection, CriminalThoughts, I knew I wanted to write with a
distinctly British voice, I’m pretty sure I achieved that, but I also wanted stories that would resonate with the sort of audience that I was for a book, the fan of a Lawrence Block Matt Scudder book, for example. For my second collection, Urban Decay, I wanted to put together a collection of stories that I’d be proud to put in front of my favourite writers, Pelecanos, Lehane, Spark, Sant etc… the fact that Darren Sant approached me about publishing it under his (and Craig Douglas’) Grit Fiction venture went someway to proving I’d achieved that. The fact that Gareth Spark wrote me a fantastic foreward added to that… The fact that I’ve already picked up a couple of nice reviews from across the pond I hope also shows I’m going the right direction with those idols of mine that made me want to write in the first place. So, thank-you America for great gritty fiction, this particular Brit Gritter is and always will be a massive fan.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Getting away with Murder

Yep.  That's the whole bases for my Turner Hahn/Frank Morales stories.  People trying to get away with murder.  

Turner Hahn
As you already know, I like a good mystery wrapped up in a series of What Ifs, stuffed inside Complex Puzzles, and gift wrapped with a bunch of ribbons called Red Herrings.  The more complex the puzzle, the merrier it is.  I like to read about smart people, diabolical people, the crazies of the world, who think they can plan plan the perfect murder and get away with it.

Equally, I've always looked for the character(s) who could match the bad guys, brain cell for brain cell, in cracking the case and hauling in the bad guy in the process.  That's why I've always been fond of Sherlock Holmes (both the books and the movies).  That's why all the books in my library (as pitiful as it is) are character-driven books/series that fit this give parameter of mine.

That's why I invented Turner Hahn and Frank Morales.  Not only are they smart and talented, but their unique characters each to their own personalities.  Separately they are each damn good a being a homicide detective.  Combined in a team and they are, for me . . . and I hope to a growing fan base . . . pleasing to follow along with in their investigations.

So I have a new collection of short stories out featuring these two.  Some old stories from the past, mixed in with a few new stories no one have seen yet.  The new offering is called MURDER IS OUR BUSINESS.  Eight short stories that display their unique talents and their proclivity at being good friends.
Yes.  Not only do I like a good whodunit.  But I like a good whodunit that have characters in it who have a sense of humor . . . as dry or as morbid as can be.  I've always believed in the old art of Shakespearean story telling that you mix in a little blood letting with a little black humor on an almost  3-to-1 ratio.  Three horrors balanced by one guffaw.

Real life is like that.  Horror (or the Mundane) mixed with Humor.  This 3-to-1 formula is what makes us Human.  We endure the mundane and horror around us . . . we concoct our own brand of humor to help us cope.

Frank Morales
So . . . if you haven't discovered Turner Hahn and Frank Morales, here's your chance.  Eight stories, along with some artwork included, is the perfect 'Primer' for you to get to know these two. (Which you can click on over on the right hand column, upper most selection.)

If you find you like the short stories, well . . . by all means! . . . try some of their novels.   You'll find those in the right hand column as well.  

I do hope you like a trip down twisting mazes and dark streets.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I need your help. Really.

Vote for it Here
I need your help.  No . . . . really . . . I do.   Here's the deal;  Amazon has a new program out called Kindle Scout.  An author submits a new ebook to be considered by Amazon to be included in the new program.  If selected, the author and Kindle Scout sign a five-year renewable contract . . . and get this  . . . said author actually gets PAID for his work!  Real, no-shit-it's-actual-money-MONEY!! 

WOW! What a concept!  It's . . . it's . . . Fantastic.  It's STOOPENDUS!!  It's . . . .

Well, you get the picture.

The reader gets the ebook for free.  A free read and all you have to do is vote for it.  And did I say it was a Turner Hahn/Frank Morales detective novel you'll be reading?  No?  Well, it is.  A complex two-case homicide romp through the back alleys of Hell trying to figure out who the hell did it.

I hope I'm selected.  Turner and Frank are old buddies of mine who need to find an audience.  A big audience.  I think they're two unique characters rarely seen in this genre.  But then, I've said this before.  Often.  So why go over it again.

But vote.  Give them the opportunity to find that audience I mentioned.  Make them come alive in the minds of those out there who love this genre and wants to see it flourish.

To vote for it, click on the Vote for it Here tab.  And thanks, buddy.  I can't tell you how much your help is appreciated.

Monday, July 20, 2015

New artwork and a question over design

The clean, Spartan look
Just received the final artwork for the ebook cover of a new collection of Turner Hahn/Frank Morales short stories.  The collection will be coming out soon.  I'm finishing up on a couple of stories as we speak.  But I love the artwork.  The mental image of what I had in mind translated perfectly by the artist who interpreted them.  Give credit where credit is due; Javier Carmona, of Madrid, Spain, is one very talented artist.  Both of them are, actually.  For years the three of us, Javier and Jesus Carmona and myself have worked to bring word pictures to life in the visual realm.  And we've been really successful.  Or, at least, I think so.

Love the artwork.  But a question did come to mind.  About the title and all the attending verbiage which goes into a book cover.  Essentially, the question is this.  Do we go for a simple clean, Spartan look . . . or do we use a splash of color or two and try to add a little more pizzazz to the whole presentation?

My gut feeling tells me color in the title and in the name of the author is absolutely essential.  Presentation of the title . . . its placement and typeset are essential in making a good cover.

The same can be said about placing, typeset, and color of the typeset for the author's name.  The human eye is a quirky creature.  It roams across a cover in a kind of random . . . yet predictable . . . way.  A potential buyer of the book looks at the artwork, looks at the title, and then at the author's name.   But in what order?  And which of these three views are the most important?  Yes, there have been tons of research probably done on this very issue, and to be frank, I must confess I've been a bit neglectful in finding said research and reviewing the findings.

So I'm going on my gut feelings . . . on what I look for when I go shopping for something to read.  And what I look for is something that is both visually, and viscerally, eye-grabbing the moment I lay my eyes on it.  For me, the eye feeds the soul of my imagination.  Let me feast upon something that inflames my imagination . . . and the chances are it's a sure-fire sale.  I'm buying it and rushing home to dive into it as fast as I can.

The pizzazz look.
But add color;  make the presentation both more palatable and more appealing, and the desire to both buy it and read it increases dramatically.  I can't tell the number of times I've purchased a book for its artwork and presentation, only to get home and dive deep into the book and realize the writing is horrific.  Absolute trash.  Yet, because of the artwork and presentation, I would give the author within a far longer opportunity to convince me his writing would eventually come and around and impress me as well.  Eventually. Hopefully.  But usually . . . sadly . . . no.

So.  What to do?  Go Spartan in design?  Or go with a little more pizzazz?

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

While waiting for artwork . .

Yes, my friends, I have way . . . way . . . way too many writing projects going on at the same.  So many that they are driving me nuts.  Or, perhaps more accurately, more 'nuttier.'  But while waiting for some ebook artwork to get done on a couple of projects, I thought I would share this.

For a long time now I've been thinking about redoing a fantasy novel of mine I published back in '06. It was Roland of the High Crags, Evil Arises.  For those of you who have read it (all two of you), you know all about the story.  For those of you who haven't read it the short synopsis goes like this.

A primitive world has two sentient species.  One human. One dragon.  Both equal in technology and capabilities.  They have been at war with each other for a thousand years.  Genocide is a very real possibility.  But one day a dying dragon baron asks a human warrior-monk-wizard to whisk his only surviving family member away from danger.  Not only save her, but raise her as well.  Raise her and train her in the Bretan way of controlling the vast magical powers she already possesses.  

The problem is the little dragon princess is a weapon.  A weapon designed to destroy the entire human population.  Yet, even though he knows this, the human agrees to the task.

I've added a number of pages to this story.  And I've changed the ending, PLUS added a different introduction.  I want to revive the story and bring out the new version of Book One AND add in Book Two (which was never in print) at the same time.

But for now, thought I would share with you the new intro to Book One.  Tell me what you think.

In my Own Hand I write the History of the Great Struggle

            The moonlight streaming through the narrow slit for a window is strong today.  Its eerie silvery light filled with mysteries yet to be discovered and the ghostly whispers of voices yet to be heard.  And peace.  A breath of quiet, still, peace I have not felt for quite some time. I have been in this cell for oh, so long. Years.  Decades.  Perhaps centuries . . .I cannot say.
            But it's time, brother.
            Time for me to leave the confining space of this narrow dungeon cell.  Time to elude my captors and again take up the sword and shield. The fight will continue.  What was . . .  will be again.  The promise of futures lost perhaps ready to be born again.  There is no escaping the cycle.  Years of solitude, of captivity, have only made me stronger. Aye, brother . . . my body is old and frail.  White is the color of my hair now.  The wrinkles of age on my face too numerous to count. My bones creak and groan every time I stir from my bed. But the soul, brother . . . the soul within this ancient casket of flesh and bone remains strong! And as long as my soul lives . . .
            How long have I been in this dungeon cell I cannot say.  I gave up counting the days and years long ago. Suffice to say it has been at least one life time.  Perhaps two.  This narrow slit deep in the bowels of some ancient fortress long forgotten, its walls made of stone streaked with a rare metal which limits my wizardry powers, has counted with me many summers and winters passing.  Patiently I have waited for this day.  I endured. I survived.  I fought back the pain of my captor's torments. I fought the long hours of unbelievable silence which pushed me close to the edge of the abyss called insanity.  For years I heard not the sound of a human voice. I endured in this cell of infinite solitude.
            I gather strength standing in the light of a full moon.  Now, in my old age, it is the white light
of a full moon that soothes the troubled waters of my soul and quietly infuses me with a sublime, almost sensual, feeling of strength hard to describe.  Years ago, while still a young man, I would never have admitted such a truth.  My training, my religious order, would have frown upon these words and would have forced me to recant.  But not now, faithful servant.  Not after all these years of abandonment and solitude.
            Know you, pilgrim, I am, or at least at one time long, long ago, a Bretan monk. A Bretan warrior-monk.  I wear still the yellow robes of that ancient order with deep humiliation and love.  Even though . . . even though in the eyes of my kind, both brothers and sisters of the order, I am an Apostate. A feared and loathed disbeliever who has taken up the sword against his faith.  Against the teachings of the Bretan.
            They will tell you, my Bretan brothers and sisters, that it was I who brought this Great Evil among us.  It was I who, when given the chance to destroy this Great Evil long before she became what she is today, I failed in my faith and allowed her live. To not only live, Pilgrim, but to thrive!  To grow in her strength and powers of the Netherworld through the training and technique of a Bretan wizard.
            For she is indeed a formidable power, brother.  Her command of the Netherworld magic is beyond comparison.  She lives in both worlds.  Both here in the Middle Kingdom where all our souls still wrapped in these caskets of flesh and blood reside in, and in the World of the Dead as well.  The Netherworld. Lives in both at the same time. Aware of both; interacts in both dimensions, all at the same time. No mortal wizard or witch before her has ever accomplished such a feat.
            How many have I died because of Her?  How many empires have fallen?  How many loving families ripped asunder?  Millions.  Hundreds of millions. And she still reins over the many.  Because of her a great imbalance permeates throughout the Great Cycle which both the Neatherworld and the Middle Kingdom revolve around. An imbalance that must be corrected. Has to be corrected if this Universe as we know it is to remain intact and operate like the great mechanism it is.
            But she is, Pilgrim, not the She whom I raised. She is a different soul.  A She from some far distant Past who, when the opportunity was offered to her, stole the one whom I raised from childhood and imprisoned her as well.
            Aye brother . . . aye.  It is something beyond knowing, beyond belief, that which I scribble hurriedly on this parchment  A She from a different Past, you say?  How could this be?  What Dark Magic is being laid bare here? How could someone from the Past, someone long since dead, return to the Now and replace the living?  But it is so, Pilgrim.  It is so. And it falls upon my shoulders to rectify this Great Schism and bring back the Laws of Order and Tranquility from the Rules of Chaos and Darkness.
            It begins tonight, my brother.  Tonight . . .when the full moon hurls its first bright beams of pure light through the bars of this narrow dungeon cell. When the shaft of  soft silvery white light touches the stone floor I will step into its sweet embrace I will . . . I will . . .
            But before this happens.  Before the struggle begins anew, I will hurriedly scribble a few lines of what took place before.  I will write a short History of the Struggle with the forces of Chaos and those entities whom reside in the Netherworld.
            I am Bretan, brother.  Once known as an honorable warrior-monk and wizard.  I am Roland.  Known as Roland of the High Crags.

            And this is my story.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Being a writer and waiting for Lady Luck

So okay; the Smitty novella, A Killing Kiss (click on the cover in the right hand column to order) has been out for a little while now. Number Thirteen Press, the new English publisher who is offering it, is doing a marvelous job of coming out with really great crime-fest creations.  They are trying to come out with a novella on the 13th of every month.  One hell of a chore if you ask me.  But, for the most part, they've been cranking'em out on time.  

I feel honored, by the way, on being the sixth one of their new batch of offerings.  But I have to be careful here.  I've been writing for 55 years.  I could overload this new establishment with my 'stuff' in a blinking of the eye . . . so you know . . . slow down!

Now the real chore begins.  How in hell do you get the word out that Smitty is here in a damn good story, one which everyone who has read it has offered a 5-star review, and not go stark raving mad doing it.  How do you pump up its recognition factor on a limited budget?  (I'm the guy with the limited budget . . . as if you didn't know already)

It's true.  The number of writers who make a full time living off nothing but writing their own material can probably be counted on ten fingers.  Well . . . maybe add another couple of hands worth of fingers to it . . . but you get the picture.  The vast majority of writers have to keep their day jobs in order to remain solvent.

Add to the fact that, at last estimate, there were about a BAZILLION writers out there who think they are just as good as any of the Top Sellers in their subjective genres, and you add to the picture of abject poverty  It's kind interesting, really, to think about it;  there is a boat load of TALENT in this world.  There really is.  But LUCK?  A writer has to be more LUCKY than talented in order to succeed in his chosen profession.

But LUCK my friends, is a finicky bitch.  You never know who she is going to smile upon with approval and tap on their shoulder her ephemeral gifts.

So, as a writer, you've got to become creative in your recognition efforts.  Every writer I know is networking on the social sites to get the word out.  Networking everywhere.  Hoping that somewhere . . . somehow . . . things will click  and their LUCK will change for the better.

And/or they're at one bookstore or another physically huckstering their wares.  I've done that.  Don't mind doing it.  But where I live, fella, the bookstores I need to sell my wares are 90 or 120 miles away . . . one way . . . to get there. (yeah, when I tell you I live out out in the boondocks in a state that's just pretty well empty of people, I mean it)  So that costs money to get there and back.

So what the hell.  I think I'll just write for another 55 years and wait for LUCK to eventually meander down the trail and stumble across my dead carcass.  It's gotta happen sooner or later.