The Momentum Blog
Posted December 4, 2015 by Michelle Cameron
To celebrate the upcoming release of Steve P. Vincent’s latest Jack Emery novel, Nations Divided, we’re having a blog tour – kicking off today! See where we’ll be next here!
Fireplay: Jack Emery 0.5
A chance lightning strike. A reporter in the right place. A scandal that will rock America.
Journalist Jack Emery has seen it all. Embedded for the New York Standard with the 8th Marine Regiment in the heart of Afghanistan, he has covered everything from firefights to the opening of new schools. But nothing has prepared Jack for the story that is about to explode right in front of him.
When a convoy Jack is riding in is attacked by a lone zealot, Jack asks a question that puts him on the path of a sensational story. But he’ll soon learn that his struggles to find the hook are nothing compared to the dangers of getting it out.
The Foundation: Jack Emery 1
He who holds the pen holds the power.
“Great fun. A two-fisted thriller, escaped from five minutes into the future.”
—John Birmingham, author of the Axis of Time and Disappearance trilogies.
When a corrupt think tank, The Foundation for a New America, enlists a Taiwanese terrorist to bomb a World Trade Organization conference, the US and China are put on the path to war.
Star journalist Jack Emery is pulled into a story far more dangerous than he could have imagined. Because the Foundation’s deputy director, the ruthless Michelle Dominique, recognizes that whoever controls the message controls the world. And she will take control, no matter the price.
Enter Jack’s boss, Ernest McDowell, owner and chairman of the largest media empire on the planet. In the midst of political upheaval, EMCorp is about to become the final play in the Foundation’s plan. When Dominique traps the EMCorp owner in her web, Jack’s the only one left to expose the conspiracy before it’s too late.
As the world powers smash each other against the anvil of Taiwan, Jack will risk everything to battle the Foundation and prevent them from taking control amid the devastation of a global war.
State of Emergency: Jack Emery 2
What is the true cost of security?
Amid a wave of unprecedented terrorist attacks on American soil, a panicked and inexperienced president declares a state of emergency and hands over control of the country to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The quiet and unassuming Administrator Hall soon becomes the most powerful man in America. Determined to stop the attacks, Hall enforces his order across the US, using a newly empowered State Guard to deal with anyone who gets in his way.
As totalitarianism descends across the country, battle-weary reporter Jack Emery is faced with a terrifying new reality when friends, colleagues, and sources are imprisoned before his eyes. Among weekly terrorist attacks, FEMA atrocities, and the clamp tightening on every element of society, Jack becomes one of the few struggling to stop the madness.
This time though, he’s on the wrong side of the law and fighting the very government he’s trying to save.
Nations Divided: Jack Emery 3
Peace has been decades in the making, but chaos is just the press of a button away.
Jack Emery is happier than he has been in a long time. Nobody has shot at him or tried to blow him up for years, and he’s learned to love the job he thought he’d hate: Special Advisor to the President of the United States.
But nothing can prepare Jack for the work to come. As America continues to heal from self-inflicted wounds, an ambitious President McGhinnist draws closer to achieving the impossible: peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
As the countdown to peace reaches zero, a desperate group of hardline Israelis invoke the Samson Option, a secret protocol that will eradicate the peace agreement and pave the way for the destruction of America and the Middle East.
Jack has learned the hard way that when a crisis knocks, you don’t always get the chance to ignore it.
This political thriller is perfect for readers of Vince Flynn, Steve Berry and Tom Clancy.action, political thriller, Spotlight, thriller
Leave a comment
Posted November 27, 2015 by Michelle Cameron
That’s right! We’re so excited about Jack Emery’s latest foray that we’re bloggin’ about it all over the place! Check out the stops below – we have plenty of exciting stuff for you along the way; guest posts, excerpts, interviews and more!
4th December: Momentum
5th December: For the Love of Books and Alcohol
6th December: Amanda Pillar’s blog
7th December: Reading Kills
8th December: Bound4escape
9th December: Readers Entertainment
10th December: RELEASE DAY! Momentum
11th December: Storeybook Reviews
12th December: Readers Entertainment
13th December: Chris Allen’s blog
14th December: The Thrill Begins
15th December: Cheeseburger Gothic
16th December: Shelf Pleasure
17th December: Jungle Red Writers
Tagged: action, blog tour, thriller
Leave a comment
Posted March 17, 2015 by Momentum
Charles Purcell joins us on the blog today to talk about the hero’s journey:
According to the well-known theory of The Hero’s Journey, there are several steps each hero takes during any quest. They include the call to adventure; facing guardians; battling challenges and temptations; diving into a personal or very real hell or abyss; being transformed by the experience; and returning as a newer, more powerful hero.
The first of those steps is perhaps the most important: the call to adventure. As in, why has the hero or heroine embarked on their epic quest? What gets them out of bed to don their armour, sheath their sword, power up their laser or get their metaphorical Millennium Falcon out of the Mos Eisley hangar in the first place?
It is this question of motivation that most intrigued me while watching Keanu Reeve’s last effort, John Wick. Described as one of the best action films of 2014, it’s a welcome return to form for Reeves, a pacy shoot-’em-up that reminds me of the excitement and vigour of the first Taken movie. The shooting scenes are particularly interesting as Wick takes down Russian Mafiosko close up, almost using his pistol as a third hand or extra fist.
Yet what stuck out in my mind was Wick’s motivation for bring the pain: the Russian mafia killed his dog. Or rather, they killed the dog that was the last gift from his late wife. But still … it’s all about the dog, whose collar Wick keeps on his bedstand as a reminder to keep his rage fresh. Several Russians can’t believe that Wick would go postal over a pooch. After all, who goes all Rambo over a dog?
But it’s a welcome twist from the usual tired themes of revenge movies. The “they killed/kidnapped his wife and family … and now it’s personal” gambit has been played out in everything from Taken to Commando. It might have seemed fresh in 1986’s The Princess Bride – “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die” – but now it’s old, familiar terrain.
So … we all know how the hero’s journey will go. What keeps us engaged and interested are the twists and tweaks on the content of the journey and the motivation of the hero. It’s the twists on the how and why that keep us coming back.
Maybe that’s why I’m the only person I know who enjoyed National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1. Emilio Estevez stars as a parody of Mel Gibson’s character from the Lethal Weapon movies, a psychotic, burnt-out cop who grieves for the loss of his pet dog Claire. His motivation is rage at the world for taking Claire away from him – and then more rage when he realises that she is still alive.
Again … it’s all about the dog.
Incidentally, pooches seem a popular theme for alt-revenge: the theft of a gang boss’s beloved Shih Tzu is also the inciting incited for Martin McDonagh’s clever comedy Seven Psychopaths.
The eponymous hero from my own novel The Spartan is also motivated by unusual beliefs and desires: namely, the belief system of the ancient warriors of Sparta. How one maintains those beliefs while serving as a special forces soldier in modern America – a hedonistic, “Athenian” paradise far removed from the harsh world of 500BC – is the crux of his personal battle. (No dogs are featured, though. Just lots of mobsters, rogue special forces soldiers and elite Chicom assassins.)
I’d like to see a lot more movies in the John Wick vein. I’d like to see a revenge fantasy based on a burnt-out Italian hitman taking revenge on the Russian mob for a bad customer rating on eBay. I’d pay good money to see gunmen battle it out over a stolen parking space. I’d book early online to see a psychopathic version ofSideways where snobs go at each other hammer and tongs because someone brought merlot to dinner. I’d definitely tape a movie called Revenge For Flipper … and at least watch the first 10 minutes of The Artisanal Bread Massacre.
Missing cats, neglected goldfish, overgrown hedges, crude personal graffiti on toilet walls, disses on Facebook, poor service in stores and social exclusion in high school now writ large in the adult mind are all real-world fodder for alt-revenge … providing said revenge is exacted on tough, demanding, armed foes and not, say, innocent teen fry cooks.
Perhaps a gun-toting gluten-intolerant could take their intolerance out on the gluten-loving world at large in some bizarre remake of Falling Down (“at first he was gluten intolerant … now he can’t tolerate anything”). Perhaps a $10,000 Apple Watch could be the McGuffin in the suitcase in Pulp Fiction II, the item avaricious gangsters fight and die over. Maybe pimped-out grocery carts could be transformed into Mad Max-style battle vehicles as the apocalypse comes to the frozen food section of your local grocery store (“Everyone is checking out on aisle nine in Store Wars: Episode III”).
I await Hollywood’s best efforts.
My ebook military thriller, The Spartan, is now available.
Leave a comment
Posted September 8, 2014 by Momentum
Stranded in the desert, the last of mankind is kept safe by a large border fence… Until the fence falls.
Squid is a young orphan living under the oppressive rule of his uncle in the outskirts of the Territory. Lynn is a headstrong girl with an influential father who has spent her entire life within the walled city of Alice.
When the border fence is breached, the Territory is invaded by the largest horde of undead ghouls seen in two hundred years. Squid is soon conscripted into the Diggers—the armed forces of the Territory. And after Lynn finds herself at odds with the Territory’s powerful church, she too escapes to join the Diggers.
Together Squid and Lynn form an unlikely friendship as they march to battle against the ghouls. Their journey will take them further than they ever imagined, leading them closer to discovering secrets about themselves, their world, and a conspiracy that may spell the end of the Territory as they know it.
A Town Called Dust goes on sale 13th November 2014, and is available for preorder now.Tagged: A Town called dust, action, dystopia, Justin Woolley, zombies
Leave a comment
Posted September 5, 2014 by Momentum
Do you like DAD JOKES? At Momentum, we love dad jokes. Jokes that make you roll your eyes and say ‘Daaaaaaaaad’ and then you get on your skateboard and go and hang out with Samantha.
Because we love DAD JOKES so much, we’re offering a bundle of books to anyone who gives us an excellent dad joke in the comments. Look at all the amazing books you could win:
So just leave your favourite dad joke and your email, and you too could win!
This competition is closed as of Monday 8th September, congrats to the winners!action, bad jokes, competition, dad, dad jokes, fathers day, jokes, thriller
Posted August 11, 2014 by Momentum
It’s only a few days until The Phoenix Variant (The Fifth Column, #3) by Nathan M. Farrugia is released!
Here’s a sneak preview to get you excited. And if you haven’t started his thrilling series The Fifth Column, #1, The Chimera Vector, is currently free for a limited time only!
The moment Denton sat down, he identified the most dangerous man in the room.
‘We’ve reviewed your request for the transfer of Victor,’ the Colonel said.
Denton had noticed poor Victor, the German mineralogist, on his way in. He was a prisoner at the camp, but they seemed to treat him well in exchange for his specialized work.
‘That’s why I’m here,’ Denton said. ‘Victor will be very useful for our team.’
When Denton arrived at the Norwegian boarding school turned Nazi prison camp, he’d been asked to hand over his Polish Viz pistol for the duration of his visit. It put him on edge, and he enjoyed it.
Denton smoothed the lapels of his SS coat. He had to give it to the Nazis, they sure knew how to make a uniform. Turning slightly in the metal chair, he checked the edge of his vision and observed the posture of the guards standing by the door. His threat assessment was complete.
‘I’ve noticed an irregularity in your records, which complicates things,’ the Colonel said, taking a seat at his desk in front of an ornate marble fireplace. The Colonel’s head was shaped like a watermelon. He had a receding hairline and a smirk that irritated Denton.
‘Irregularity?’ Denton asked.
‘You’re an American spy.’
Denton kept his breathing slow. ‘I can see how that might complicate things.’
Standing by the Colonel’s shoulder: Greyleg, the chief prison guard. His eyes gleamed at Denton. Watching.
The true influencer in any group was not always the person with the highest rank.
The Colonel cleared his throat and leaned forward. His stomach pressed his uniform taut.
‘Here is what will happen, Lieutenant Denton, Office of Strategic Services,’ the Colonel said, pushing his chest forward in small increments. ‘I’m short on test subjects for our experiments. You’re going to fill that. A strictly short term arrangement.’
There was that smirk again. Denton ignored it.
Greyleg was circling. He knew why.
‘If it’s all the same with you, I prefer the spy thing,’ Denton said, grasping his armrest. ‘Plus, your uniforms are fantastic. It’s a shame this Hugo Boss fellow doesn’t make suits.’
The Colonel touched the oak leaf on his collar. ‘One of many shames.’
While Denton might’ve looked like his focus was on the Colonel, his attention was riveted to Greyleg.
One look at the man and Denton recognized someone unburdened by humanity’s weaker emotions. He was free to operate at his full potential. And that involved shooting Denton, shooting the guards, and shooting the Colonel. Greyleg would blame it on Denton and receive his promotion.
Denton knew this because that’s what he would do.
Greyleg approached Denton’s nine o’clock, where the guards couldn’t see him draw. The Colonel was busy showing Denton how deep his voice could go, and hadn’t noticed Greyleg’s movements.
Denton stood. Greyleg went for his Luger P08 pistol. Chair in hand, Denton slung it into Greyleg’s midsection. The chair’s leg knocked air from his lungs and dropped him to his knees.
Denton closed on the Colonel.
The smirk was gone, but there was a glint of oxide steel. A Luger, identical to Greyleg’s. The Colonel drew his Luger. He should have drawn the pistol close to his chest, punching out and firing. But like many soldiers Denton had killed this year, the Colonel tried to swing the pistol from his hip. The barrel struck the edge of the desk, slowing his draw.
Denton reached the desk and slid under it. The Colonel brought the pistol across his body, hunting for a target. Denton emerged beside the Colonel, deflected the arm as the trigger squeezed.
The round discharged, clipped Greyleg in the arm. Much to Denton’s amusement.
Greyleg’s firing hand fell limp, his pistol skittering towards the slowly reacting guards. Denton twisted the Luger from the Colonel’s bulging fingers and used the Colonel’s body as a shield against the guards.
The guards advanced, trying to move wide enough for a shot around the Colonel. Denton applied trigger pressure to the base of the Colonel’s skull and they hesitated. The round would not only punch through the Colonel’s brain but, if he was lucky, strike one of the guards.
From the edge of his vision, he saw Greyleg recover.
Denton took aim over the Colonel’s shoulder and killed one guard. The second guard aimed, unsteady finger moving over the trigger. Denton dropped to the floor. Shots punched above him, through the marble fireplace. Denton lay under the desk, watching from an upside-down perspective as the guard’s legs moved closer. He fired a round through each leg, waited for the guard to drop, then continued firing as he collapsed. Through his chest, through his neck, through his nose.
At the same time, the Colonel slumped beside Denton, catching the poorly aimed rounds from the guard.
Greyleg’s boot crushed Denton’s pistol-wielding hand, pinning it to the floor. Denton was about to move in closer but he saw the knife early, just as Greyleg kicked the pistol across the floor. Denton pulled back, flipped the desk onto him. It glanced off Greyleg’s head, but didn’t slow the man down.
Denton appreciated the challenge. Engaging with Greyleg made the adrenalin burn sweeter. He brought his hands up, ready. Let’s see how Greyleg does without a firearm, he thought.
Greyleg leaped over the table in one stride, but then tripped on the Colonel’s body. Denton sidestepped as the man stumbled into the fractured marble shelf. A sharp edge tore Greyleg’s neck as he fell. He shuddered, hands clutched over scarlet.
Greyleg collapsed on top of the Colonel and bled out.
Denton lowered his hands.
‘That was disappointing.’
The Phoenix Variant is released on the 14th of August, where all good ebooks are sold. Or you can preorder now!action, excerpt, Nathan M Farrugia, sample, tech-thriller, The Chimera Vector, The fifth column, The Phoenix Variant, thriller
Leave a comment
Posted August 1, 2014 by Momentum
Sophia: former black operative, current enemy of the state.
Moments before a catastrophic hurricane hits New York City, a terrorist attack vaporizes a museum and a large chunk of the Upper West Side. Almost caught in the explosion, Sophia gives chase to a suspicious figure running from the blast zone.
Amid the chaos, Sophia recovers a rare meteorite from a black operative and is quickly ensnared in a hunt between clashing factions of a labyrinthine covert government known as the Fifth Column.
The meteorite contains traces of the ancient Phoenix virus. The effects of the virus are unknown to Sophia, but she soon discovers it is more powerful than she dared imagine – and that the Fifth Column will stop at nothing to get it.
Unarmed and outnumbered, Sophia and her allies hurtle towards a confrontation that will determine not only their fate but that of all humanity.
The PHOENIX VARIANT goes on sale August 14th where all good ebooks are sold. You can also preorder!Tagged: action, cover reveal, Nathan M Farrugia, The fifth column, The Phoenix Variant, thriller
Leave a comment
Posted December 4, 2013 by Mark
I was earning an honest day’s pay as a special agent in the Office of Special Investigations, doing my best to apprehend Senior Airman Angus Whelt, officially AWOL from Lackland Air Force Base roughly three hundred miles to the east. Whelt wasn’t inclined to make it easy for me and my current partner, Hector Gomez – not the Hector Gomez who plays shortstop for the Colorado Rockies but the carsick Texas Ranger Hector Gomez who was throwing up onto the floorboards in the passenger seat beside me, making the cabin reek of regurgitated spicy ground beef, corn chips and refried beans as we bashed along a dirt trail close to the US–Mexico border.
Whelt wasn’t making it easy for us because if we caught up with him he’d soon thereafter be doing a big slice of federal time. He was on the run because OSI had closed in on his narcotics operation. “Doctor” Whelt and his partner, Airman First Class William Sponson, also AWOL, were, according to various sources, the dealers of choice at Lackland until someone tipped them off about OSI closing in on their asses. So they fled. The Air Force grinds its heel on drug dealers and neither man was too keen about becoming something sticky on the bottom of the Air Force’s boot. We knew where Whelt was – playing hard to get on a dirt bike at our eleven o’clock. Sponson’s whereabouts were presently a mystery.
Ahead, an overhang in the bend jutted out suspiciously – a root ball maybe. I yanked the wheel hard over to clear it. Our rental – a Jeep Patriot from Thrifty – hit it anyway. Or maybe the damn root ball hit us. The impact jarred like an uppercut and pitched the vehicle on its side, up on two wheels. We teetered there like a stunt car, on the verge of rolling over while I wrestled with the wheel. Gomez was thrown sideways against the window. He left behind a smear of something on it: either bile or banana smoothie, I was too busy to make a positive ID either way. Fortunately, nudging the opposite berm jolted us back down onto the relative security of all four wheels.
“Je … sus!” Gomez said, bouncing around beside me, one hand braced hard against the ceiling.
Whelt was on what looked like a Honda motocross bike. He’d chosen to make his escape on it with good reason: the asshole rode like a Crusty Demon. His record said that he’d been some amateur national motocross champion before joining the service. Any moment I fully expected him to loop his bike in midair and flip us the middle finger.
He suddenly speared off the trail and took to the virgin bush, the bike’s rear wheel spewing a rooster tail of rock and sand as he rode a divergent course from ours, away from the trail. Shit, I’d known he was gonna do that eventually. I glanced across at my partner, the Ranger, fighting the heaves. He was a mess. And, yeah, re window smear: banana smoothie.
If we were going to catch Whelt, we had to follow the guy into the rough. Gomez looked over at me, read the play instantly and shook his head, his eyeballs large. Like we had a choice.
I turned into the low dirt wall that bordered the trail we were on. The jeep’s front wheels hit it with a sickening graunch and the hood reared up as the front wheels clawed at the sky. The rear wheels punched into the berm next and the vehicle reacted, bucking viciously fore and aft. When everything settled a little I stood on the gas pedal and steered for the crest, the tires scrabbling for traction while the front air dam smashed into rocks and low bushes.
My hope was that Whelt would make a mistake and put his bike down so that we could catch him, cuff him and take him in, but that hope was fast disappearing over the hill in front of us, standing up on the footpegs, the bike leaping and bounding over the terrain as it was designed to do. Behind Whelt meanwhile, the Patriot, designed for Walmart parking lots, didn’t at all appreciate the treatment we were giving it.
“Hey!” Gomez said, pointing.
He was indicating the US–Mexico barrier fence in a depression below us, an eighteen-foot-high, rust-colored steel mesh barricade that looked about as solid as a parked freight train, one that snaked across the land as far as I could see.
“What’s he … up to?” Gomez wondered aloud.
“The Great … Escape.”
The pounding, crazy ride was making talking difficult.
“What’s . . . that?”
“The Great … Escape … with Steve McQueen. Movie.”
“McQueen’s running from the N … Nazis. Steals a bike, makes a break for Switzerland …” I swerved to avoid a boulder and ran the jeep nose first into a ditch. A thick wave of dirt spewed up and over the hood and windshield. “Only the border’s … fenced – like we got here,” I continued.
“Lemme guess, he jumps the fence,” said Gomez. Whelt had stretched his lead, almost gone. “You think that’s what this guy’s gonna do?”
I doubted tunneling was on his mind.
Ahead, another hill. Whelt was already beyond the crest, only his dust visible.
Gomez shouted: “It’s a movie, so … he makes it, right?”
“No, he gets … hung up on the fence.”
I wasn’t ready to give up. And anyway, it was this or paperwork. I steered toward the crest, foot to the floorboards. We came over the rise, the jeep’s motor racing, tires spitting gravel, the dust thick inside the cabin.
“Whoa!” Gomez yelled, bracing for impact as we shot over the crest.
My left boot beat him to it, standing on the brake pedal. The jeep slid sideways one way and then the other as we ploughed down the hill, coming to rest while a rolling ball of our own dust overtook us. Below, in the crook between the hill we were on and the one beyond it, was a crowd of people and vehicles. A crowd of illegals – Mexicans. Significant numbers of Border Patrol Agents were marshaling them together. There were well over fifty people and a dozen off roaders down there, out in the middle of nowhere. The attraction that brought everyone to this particular point appeared to be a break in the fence, a five-by-ten-foot section of the steel mesh simply cut out by an oxyacetylene torch. On the other side of the fence, the Mexican side, were chewed-up tracks of numerous vehicles that, presumably, had brought the illegals to this point. A departing dust ball on the southern horizon confirmed it.
Several of the BPAs were looking up at us, presumably wondering who we were and what the hell we were doing. One of them was starting to move in our direction, hand on the butt of the pistol on his hip, coming to investigate. I scanned the area for Whelt and found him on the crest of the hill opposite. He’d stopped and was looking back at us. Okay, so the guy wasn’t upside down in midair but he was still flipping us the bird. No way were we gonna negotiate our way through this parking lot and catch him.
Gomez wiped his mouth clean with a wad of Kleenex. “Shit.”
“You were saying about real life?” I asked him.
My cell was buzzing in my pants pocket. Taking it out and looking at the screen, I saw I had half a dozen messages from a familiar Maryland number: Andrews AFB, home of the people keeping me in the style to which I ought to have left far behind by now at age 34 – the OSI. Gomez wandered down to talk with the BP Agent coming up the hill, his ID and badge held above his head, while I checked in. My supervisor and buddy, Lieutenant Colonel Arlen Wayne, picked up after a ring and a half.
“Vin …” Arlen said, the signal sketchy. “Where are y …”
“Where am I?”
“I can’t hear you,” I said. “I’ll call you back later.”
“… NO …”
There was a bar and a half of signal strength registering on the display. I walked around, trying to find another bar or two. “That better?”
“Yeah. Where … you?”
“On the border with Gomez letting Doctor Whelt slip through our fingers.”
I noticed a major dent in the Patriot. The panel just below the front fender had been stove in. I bent down to have a closer look and saw a pool of hot engine oil spreading on the gravel between the front tires, ants running from the steaming black tsunami. I hoped I’d checked the insurance box on the rental agreement and, if not, that Thrifty were a bunch of understanding folks.
“For … bout him,” Arlen said.
“Did you just say forget him?”
“They . . . his buddy, Spon …”
“They found Sponson?”
The rest was even more garbled though I gathered he wanted to know how far away from El Paso we were. “Thirty miles, give or take,” I told him.
Arlen sounded like he was in a dentist chair, a drawer full of cutlery in his mouth. But I caught the key message: Get to Horizon Airport at El Paso and monitor the El Paso Sheriff’s Office radio in the meantime. “We’ll hurry. Call you when we get there,” I confirmed.
Just before the line went dead I heard him say, “Vin … slaughter. Jesus, some real bad shit.”
Our other runaway, Whelt’s pal Airman First Class William Sponson, had turned up in less than ideal circumstances. Arlen didn’t often swear. It had to be some extra fucked-up ass-burger to move him into four-letter-word territory. Unlike me. A wisp of steam escaped through the jeep’s grille. Fuck, shit and urination. This pile of spot-welded horse flop was going nowhere in a hurry. “Do you remember checking the insurance box on the rental agreement?” I asked Gomez as he walked back up the hill toward me.
Tagged: action, David Rollins, excerpt, Standoff, thriller, Vin Cooper
Posted November 13, 2013 by Craig Hildebrand-Burke
For several years during and after I finished at university, I wrote scripts. Mostly for screen, though a few for stage performance. I would hazard a guess to say that all were awful, but a handful I really liked, and there were a few moments in some of the lines that I really loved.
Regardless, I stopped writing scripts. It is a strange existence, writing a story where you are merely a tiny cog in an enormous machine, that keeps turning long after you do. Furthermore, the script is often merely the beginning of it all, and rarely – if ever – the end result.
But writing a script for performance – whether stage or screen – comes with its own set of insurmountable stresses. You can make a great film out of a great script (Chinatown, Lawrence of Arabia, Seven). You can also make a terrible one (hello Prometheus and Mystic River). Occasionally a good script can inch its way into being a really great film (most Michael Mann films), due to the inherent storytelling capabilities of the director. Rarely can you make a good film, let alone a great one, out of a bad script. Bad scripts beget bad films. For the single greatest exponent of this rule, see the entire tradition of Australian cinema.
Moving along, the pressure on writing a script brings a host of beneficial tools with it, tools that have translated well as I’ve moved back to writing fiction again. For while it’s a relief to only write for myself, to see the finished product my own way and not have to wait for someone’s interpretation of it, the few decent things I learned writing scripts have helped enormously.
Writing an ending
If there’s one thing a script can’t do, it’s remain unfinished. It demands an ending, it demands resolution. We’re so used to watching endings unfold on screen, we forget that sometimes books get away with only half-endings.
Knowing your ending when writing a script is paramount, and making the ending function as a visual resolution is something worth devoting a lot of energy to. Witness this glorious moment in Adaptation:
It’s tempting to not plan the ending for a story. I find myself avoiding thinking about it, as if knowing what it is myself is going to ruin the experience of writing it. I know. It’s not clever thinking. Being able to objectively see the ending for what it is, and what it structurally brings to a story, has been one of those happily learned accidents from screenwriting.
The show, don’t tell thing
It’s tempting to write scripts as if you’re telling a story. Take a look at the following godawful screenwriting from Unforgiven:
As the men disappear into the house Sally leads the Albino toward the barn. Her sharp eyes don’t miss the stock of the shotgun where it protrudes slightly from the bedroll. Her eyes seem to see even into the future… and all they see is trouble.
Ugh. It really is terrible. Fortunately those moments are rare in the script, in what is largely a damn good one, and a great film. But what it is doing is forcing the writer’s telling of the story down the viewer’s throat. Good screenwriting is absolute adherence to letting the image tell the story. Show it, effectively. Have the viewer experience the story as if they are completely unaware of being guided through it by a conscious hand. Great instruction for good writing.
Pacing and structure
This all comes down to good planning. And also relates strongly to one of Kurt Vonnegut’s writing rules:
‘Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel time was wasted.’
This is crucial in scripts, in that you only write was is absolutely necessary for the story to be evident. There is no wasting of words, of description, of unnecessary details that trivialise but don’t enthral a viewer. It comes down to understanding the effect you are having on a viewer, and then anticipating it. Messing with it. For example, every Hitchcock film ever made.
These days, I try to write with a mental flowchart that documents how the reader is feeling during the story. If at all I feel I’m straying into the territory of meeting expectations, I try to turn in a different direction. But do it in a way that lets them feel like they knew what was going to happen, until they suddenly don’t.
The best screenwriting, my tutor taught me, should be able to work without dialogue. Film did originate in a silent era, and many foundations of the medium were developed that way. Writing never had to worry about silent characters.
One trick I was taught is to read through your story as if it’s been muted, so that you can’t hear the characters talk. Does the story still work? Is it still comprehensible?
What then becomes clear is a lot of dialogue is meaningless. Or unnecessary. And again with the paring back and trimming of the details until all that is needed is only what’s on the page. Dialogue then becomes a punctuation to a scene, a representation of what people say, rather than a reflection.
Exceptions abound to this, obviously, but what happens there is that the dialogue becomes the action in the scene, replacing physical interaction with verbal. This is most obvious in Quentin Tarantino’s films, particularly in the scene below in Django Unchained (sorry about the subtitles).
I love that the demise of these two characters is down to their verbal formalities – the dialogue between them – rather than any strength of physical attributes. The words become the weapons.
These are just some of the things writing in a different format have helped me with. Writing across different formats and mediums can allow one to seeing where a story works, where its strengths and weaknesses are, and how to best impart that to the chosen audience.
Tagged: action, adaptation, dialogue, films, movies, screenwriting, scriptwriting, writing
Leave a comment
Posted June 4, 2013 by Chris Allen
Chris Allen is an action-adventure author who has himself experienced huge amounts of action and adventure in his previous life as a paratrooper with the Australian Army (among other things) – so he is well-placed to tell us who he thinks the best thriller writers of all time are. Here are his picks.
This collection of works by my favourite thriller writers is the equivalent of my literary lifeblood. I continue to enjoy them equally as much today as at my first read, and it’s heartening to reflect on the fact that they’ve kept me entertained and out of trouble since growing up as a teenager in Perth in the 1970’s, and even while I was deployed in the various jungles and deserts of my past, wondering what the normal people were doing for a day job. I’ve grown up on many of these books, and continue to be inspired by these top thriller writers, all of them leaders in the action & espionage arena. Henceforth, and also inspired by a recent post on my favourite action movies that has been a hit, I humbly offer my list of top thriller authors alongside some of what I think is their best work!
1. IAN FLEMING – CASINO ROYALE
The first James Bond novel and iconic turning point in popular culture, penned by Ian Fleming, my literary hero. This wasn’t the first Bond I ever read – I first found The Man with the Golden Gun in the school library – but it gives great insight into the author himself, what he was feeling at the time and his plans for his protagonist. It’s full of all the classic heroics we expect of Bond but there is a fair amount of fear and uncertainty as well. I’ve read everything he’s written over a dozen times each.
2. ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE – THE COMPLETE SHERLOCK HOLMES SERIES
Having enjoyed these stories as a boy, I rediscovered them in my forties and only truly realised then, with the benefit of some considerable years and life experience under my belt, just how good they were. So much of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is embedded within the character of Dr John Watson, trusted biographer and loyal friend of the great detective, that the perspective of his adventures alongside Sherlock Holmes becomes a very personal one for the reader. The language and style of writing is particular to a time while being also uniquely timeless. I devour these stories regularly.
3. CLIVE CUSSLER – SAHARA
I’ve enjoyed Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt books for over 20 years, discovering them on the recommendation of a friend in the early 1990’s. These are all rip-roaring adventures and they just got better and better as Cussler became more familiar and comfortable with his protagonist. Sahara is classic Dirk Pitt and epitomizes, in my view, the style of narrative Cussler aspired to when he first created the character. Clive Cussler continues to produce great work, including one of his most recent stories, The Chase, which has become a new favourite for me. And, for the record, I prefer it when he writes alone!
4. ALISTAIR MACLEAN – WHERE EAGLES DARE
Alistair MacLean wrote some now legendary action thrillers in his time, this one among the most famous, featuring one of my favourite characters, Major Smith.
I actually first discovered Alistair MacLean as a result of watching the film of the novel, starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. So intrigued was I by the complexity of the story that I had to find the book and was pleased to discover that the writing and the subterfuge from the novel had been expertly replicated by the filmmakers.
MacLean is a master in the action genre in that the characters are relentless but flawed, the stakes are always high and the storytelling is supreme.
5. TOM CLANCY – WITHOUT REMORSE
Tom Clancy came to prominence during the 90’s with a now-huge backlist of thrillers. A favourite of mine being Without Remorse, which focuses on one of Clancy’s best characters, John Clarke.
While the popular view is that Jack Ryan is Clancy’s best character, I can’t help but feel that’s a result of the films starring Alec Baldwin in one and Harrison Ford in two others. But the Clarke character seems to me a much more real and accessible hero who does not enjoy the prestige or accolade of the Ryan character. I really like that about Clancy’s ability to write such different heroes.
6. JOHN LE CARRE – THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD
Fantastic book, this one, and I thought that Richard Burton did a great job as Leamus in the movie of the same name.
Le Carre had a way of conveying much more of the rawness and darkness of Cold War Europe and the complexity of personal human relationships that became intertwined in the professional intelligence environment on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
7. JON CLEARY – THE HIGH COMMISSIONER
One Aussie writer I’ve always enjoyed is Jon Cleary, though he’s unfortunately no longer with us. He had a unique Australian take within an international setting in some of his work. He was equally adept at focusing on Australian domestic issues and his characters were very real and believable.
I loved this book particularly the earthy Australian detective Scobie Malone. Mr Cleary is a legend amongst crime authors.
8. MATTHEW REILLY – ICE STATION
Matthew Reilly is another incredibly talented Australian author who has legions of fans in the sci-fi / action genre. This book made Reilly internationally and features his most enduring character, Scarecrow.
I was thrilled to chat to Matthew at a recent movie screening in Canberra for a mutual friend. Not only can he write ripping yarns but he’s a genuinely great person who had lots of insights to exchange about the Australian publishing industry.
9. PATRICIA CORNWALL – RED MIST
Patricia Cornwall is such a strong contemporary force to be reckoned with, who has – I think – perfectly captured the relationship between her own history and that of the protagonist she’s created, Kay Scarpetta. Her characters are real and believable, not neccessarily superhuman, and I like that!
A strong point about Cornwall’s writing is how she manages to incorporate complex family relationship issues within the darkness of her subject matter.
10. JACK HIGGINS – SOLO
Another great English writer, Higgins wrote many stories which I enjoyed throughout my military years. His book,Solo, features a parachute regiment Colonel named Asa Morgan, which is not that dissimilar to the name I chose for my own protagonist. Must be something in that!
I still have literally dozens of Jack Higgins novels which I would carry in my pack at various times over the years. They were perfect material when you only had time for short, sharp bursts of reading as they were intense and fast-paced. This one was all about revenge, family loyalties and ultimately being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Who are your top writers and their most treasured novels of yours? Leave me a comment.
Posted July 25, 2012 by Mark
I’ve been thinking about action heroes lately, inspired by the August release of This Green Hell by Greig Beck, the third book to feature kick-ass hero Alex Hunter. Here’s my list of ten noteworthy action stars. Feel free to add yours in the comments!
Alex Hunter “Arcadian” (Beneath the Dark Ice, Dark Rising, This Green Hell by Greig Beck)
Alex is a super soldier who is constantly thrown into formidable adventures. Physically and mentally strong, his favourite hobby is saving the world.
Shane Scofield “Scarecrow” (Ice Station, Area 7, Scarecrow, Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves by Matthew Reilly)
Many of the characters on this list kick enough ass that they are given movies. Scarecrow hasn’t been put in a movie because he kicks too much ass in an extremely expensive way.
Caitlin Monroe (Without Warning, After America, Angels of Vengeance by John Birmingham)
A heartless killer with a heart of gold, Caitlin kills a lot of people, especially the ones who have wronged her.
Jason Bourne (The Bourne Series by Robert Ludlum)
The Jason Bourne in literature is a much darker character than the one portrayed by Matt Damon in the movies. He’d definitely kill a dog if it got in his way.
Hit-Girl (Kick-Ass by Mark Millar)
If you like your action stars wise-cracking, then Hit-Girl is for you. Also, if you find the idea of children swearing hilarious, she’s perfect.
Dirk Pitt (Deep Six, Sahara, Atlantis Found, and many others by Clive Cussler)
Good looking adventurer who is witty and lives in a refurbished aircraft hangar. As you do.
Molly Millions (Neuromancer, Johnny Mnemonic, Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson)
Surgically-enhanced ‘Razor Girl’ who has mirrored lenses attached to her face. Would snap Trinity from The Matrix like a twig.
James Bond (007 Series by Ian Fleming)
Ah, Mister Bond. Welcome to my action heroes list. Allow me to explain how I’m going to use it destroy the world. Then I’m going to leave you suspended over a shark tank guarded by one of my henchman. I’m sure you won’t escape.
Jack Reacher (Killing Floor, Die Trying, Tripwire, and many others by Lee Child)
About to be portrayed by Tom Cruise even though Jack Reacher could eat Tom Cruise for breakfast.
Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins)
I’ve only read the first one, so no spoilers please. Katniss’ survival instinct and intense loyalty to her family and friends pushes her to become an action hero with brains and heart.
You can pre-order This Green Hell by Greig Beck here.
Tagged: action, Greig Beck, hero, list, This Green Hell