Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ask Not

I first wondered if Max Allan Collins, in his Nate Heller books, would ever take on the JFK assassination after reading a short story of his called "Scrap," sometime back in the '90s, I think, where there appeared a character named Jake Rubenstein who, Heller says, later started going by "Jack" and changed his last name to Ruby.

Well, we finally have that book with Ask Not, which is actually the third in his "JFK Trilogy" starting with Bye, Bye, Baby and Target Lancer. I knew we were in for a whopper with the revelations in Target Lancer, and Ask Not delivers a cracking follow-up that I can't really talk about less I spoil things. Just read it. You don't need to have read the others.

What I like about the Heller books is that Collins, I think, gets the truth behind some of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century correct despite the fictional license he admits taking. Most of the solutions are simple, devoid of the tinfoil hat crowd's preferred boogeymen, and that gives the stories a credibility the other theories lack.

Collins' take on the JFK killing gives a nice twist on the usual suspects and makes one realize that the answers have always been in front of us but too much clutter hid the killers in plain sight. Wonderful book. If the Heller series ends here, it's been a heck of a run, but in the back of the book Collins suggests there may be a few more adventures ahead. Please, Max, don't make us wait nine years for the next one!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Gerard de Villiers Comes to America

I first discovered Gerard de Villiers' Malko Linge series in the '90s when I found a Pinnacle paperback of West of Jerusalem at the library that had been printed in the late '70s. Here we have a French author writing about an Austrian freelancer for the CIA. It was a quick read, little of it remains in my memory, and I never found another one. Flash forward many years later, and Vintage Crime is bringing out new translations of de Villiers' work, starting with The Madmen of Benghazi and Chaos in Kabul. As of this writing, three more will follow. With over 200 titles in the Malko series, there are certainly many more they can translate should the market
demand.

De Villiers' appearance in the U.S. back in the '70s reprinted around a dozen Malko books, which you can find used at a variety of high prices.

I hope there is a demand for more, because The Madmen of Benghazi, if the translation is true, shows de Villiers as a crisp writer, who plots tight and keeps the pace moving without a lot of description to slow you down. The scenes feel a little hollow because of that. It would be nice to know what kind of room two characters are talking in. You'll read that Malko enters an office to pow-wow with a CIA honcho, but that's about it. The rest of the scene is all dialogue. It works. The pages keep moving. De Villiers loved to throw in a lot of graphic sex that would certainly bring his books an XXX rating were they subject to the same scrutiny as films, but, after all, he is French. . . .

De Villiers is said to have had so many close contacts in the intelligence community that his books are full of inside information. I suppose that's true. Unless somebody points out those details, though, they fit so seamlessly into the narrative that it might as well be hyperbole. His book don't read any better than any American or British author; if it wasn't for the fact that he wrote 200 Malko episodes, had an amazingly long career with quite a legend behind him, the books would be just OK also-rans. Malko was never going to take over for James Bond, no matter how much de Villiers hoped his character would.

But you should still give de Villiers a chance. The Malko books are quite fun, and I'm about to dig into Chaos in Kabul and eagerly await Revenge of the Kremlin, coming later this year. I'm also going to start looking for the Pinnacle reprints and add those to the collection.

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 Year in Review

So how was your 2014? Mine was excellent. I not only met my future wife but also managed to not get hit by a falling piano.

I'm very pleased with my writing accomplishments, too. 2014 has been my most profitable year since 2010--$300 whole dollars in royalties! Yes, we're slugging it out in the rear, but I do better with each book. This year I did the Wolf series under the name Dean Breckenridge, which have run their course and we shan't be seeing Mr. Wolf again, but maybe Dean will come back with something or other.I started a new spy series, and sales of the Steve Dane series have improved.

We had our challenges, and still do. My ebooks never seem to be "good enough" and I'm always finding issues despite hiring professional help but I think we're on the way to finally nailing down the outstanding problems.

What's most encouraging for me is that I finally figured out a formula for producing a 60-to-80,000 word manuscript, which, finally, after too many years, frankly, gets me away from struggling just to reach 50,000 words.

And while some are already looking at me as if I've kicked a baby, in 2015 I'm going to write a new book with plans to sell it traditionally. That's right, I'm gong to try the hybrid method while still self-publishing and try to leverage one to promote the other. If it doesn't work, no harm done--I can run the new book myself. But this experiment in indie publishing has made me a better writer than when I started out, and I want to try the old way. I may regret it, I may not, but it has to be done.

I know, I know, I've broken the indie code or some such crap. Self-publishers really have a cult mentality, I have no time for that, and I've never been much of a joiner, so maybe that's my motivation. We can dig up Freud and see what he thinks; meanwhile, I have work to do.

Happy new year!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

THE EXECUTIONER is Back!


I have made my love for Don Pendleton's Executioner series well known over the years. Without Pendleton, Fleming, and Ludlum, there probably wouldn't be a Brian Drake (well, um....there would be, but I wouldn't be a writer, hahaha; I'd be making serious money as a used car salesman).

With the news breaking last week that the current publishers of the Executioner series, Gold Eagle, will cancel the series on December of 2015 and close its doors as part of the Harlequin sale to NewsCorp, we can report that on Dec. 16th of this year, you will be able to get your Bolan fix from the original creator himself. All 38 Pendleton books are back in electronic format thanks to Don's widow Linda and Open Road Media; we also can share that efforts are moving forward on a Bolan movie, which is very exciting as well.

I asked Linda if she would sit for an interview and she was gracious enough to answer some questions:

Brian Drake: Other action series from the '70s and '80s (and westerns, too) have been re-released as
ebooks over the last few years. What took the Executioner so long to follow?

Linda Pendleton: Brian, thank you for the opportunity to do this Blog interview. I am always happy to talk or write about my late husband, Don Pendleton and his books.  For several years, especially over the last four years, I had given a lot of thought to bringing the original Executioner Series out as ebooks.  I first planned to do them myself, knowing it would be a lot of work and time.  I even designed a cover along with my cover designer, Judy Bullard, who has done my book covers for more than a decade.  Then along came Open Road Media who wanted to publish the complete series all at once. They had been interested in doing the ebooks for some time.  Therefore, it was easy for me to say yes to their offer, and the family agreed.  

BD: The covers are terrific and really bring attention to the books. Who designed them?

LP: I'm glad you like the covers, Brian.  We have had a good response to the design.  Open Road Media decided they did not want to use my cover design and the editor had me discuss with Open Road cover designer, Mauricio Diaz, what I hoped for in regards to a Brand Identity.  I also supplied Mauricio with city locations for each novel, which he used for the backgrounds.  I'm delighted with his cover design and I believe they are branded well and are exactly what I was looking for.

BD: Will the new collection include The Executioner's War Book?

LP: The Executioner's War Book is part of our licensing agreement with Open Road Media but I don't believe they are planning to publish it at this point. 

BD; Back in the '80s, Don wrote a terrific introduction to an anniversary reprint of War Against the Mafia. Is that included with the first book?

LP: No, this is Don's original edition with the theme quotations that were missing in some later War Against the Mafia editions.

BD: Will we see paperback versions? Perhaps an omnibus of the first three books?

LP: I would love to have print books at some point.  We hope a publisher will come along with a good deal for print books. Time will tell.

BD: With social media and the internet (such as the Mack Bolan page on Facebook and the MackBolan.Com website), are you seeing a stronger level on interest in Bolan than before, or does it match the days when you depended on snail mail for reader feedback?

LP: I think social media has given fans and the authors a nice opportunity to express and share their interest in the series.  I've had the donpendleton.com website online for nearly 15 years now, and recently added a new website,   executionerseries.com, that presently has additional information on the movie deal and the ebooks.  Over the years with Don's website, I've received lots of fan emails and guestbook postings, but not the amount of snail mail that Don received in the early 1970s and into the early 1980s.  The interest has always been there, and now we're 45 years and 3 or 4 generations into it.  I don't believe the Gold Eagle books have had the international exposure that the original books have had. The originals have been published worldwide in more than 30 foreign languages.

BD: Don once said, and I'm paraphrasing here, that the main theme of the Bolan books was that something important is happening on earth, and we need to participate in our own way. The values associated with Bolan, the moral attitudes, the need for courage under pressure, and the general pro-living message, are needed now more than ever, but how do such values find a place in a society that is increasingly nihilistic and seemingly adverse to such things?

LP: Don Pendleton considered his Executioner books to be a study in the metaphysics of violence (the reasons for it) and the books have a subtle metaphysical theme to them.  I've often said that I believe the popularity of Mack Bolan has to do with the essence of a true hero that Don created in Bolan.  That essence appeals to both men and women, young and old.     

Don said this:  "The violence in the Executioner books is merely stage-dressing for dramatizing the commitment and dedication Bolan has to his ideals and the lengths to which he will go to honor them. We can learn this message of love and commitment and carry it into our own lives without the violence and bloodshed, and of course it is this wish that fuels the writing. I do not want my readers to pick up a gun and follow Bolan's example; I want them to be stirred by his commitment and to find ways to meet the same challenges without resort to violent means."

In his nonfiction book for writers, The Metaphysics of the Novel, Don wrote:  "I do believe that I live in a universe of uncommon magic. Everything I have ever written is framed about that central assumption. Life, to me, is a beautiful adventure and a meaningful experience. I am not sure as to exactly what is going on here but that mystery only adds beauty to the game, and it is the mystery of life that fuels my novels. Every book becomes a search, a quest."

Social media, and the news media, may be one reason we at times feel overwhelmed by what seems to be happening in our society, with the increase of violence and disrespect for life, and the seemingly loss of values.  That sadly becomes a focus, rather than the goodness of people and the positive acts of kindness and heroism that occur every day.  Values are still present.  

BD: I'm a little skeptical about Bradley Cooper playing Bolan in the film project that has been announced, but I've been wrong about casting choices before. What can you tell us about the film option and how it came about after so many years?

LP: This film franchise option by screenwriter/producer, Shane Salerno was a GO from the first day he contacted us!  Of course, it took some time to handle the legal details, but it was right from the beginning.  Other offers in the past have not been that way, for one reason or another.  First off, Shane Salerno was himself an Executioner fan as a kid, and it has been his dream for years to bring Bolan to film. He's been a successful Hollywood screenwriter for years and has done excellent work.  We had the deal for a while and right after Salerno announced it publicly in August 2014, Bradley Cooper and director, Todd Phillips, jumped on it with Warner Bros. We're pleased to have a top quality actor lined up to play Bolan. Cooper and Phillips will be producing along with Salerno's production company, The Story Factory.  As readers, we've probably all had our own vision of Mack Bolan in our minds, and even helped by the great cover art of artist Gil Cohen, but a good actor can make us forget our "mind" image.  By the way, Gil Cohen's cover art has always been my favorite, and obviously very popular with fans.  

BD:  We hear from the current crop of Bolan writers that Gold Eagle is closing down as of December, 2015, thanks to the Harlequin sale to NewsCorp, and 2015 will be the last year for Bolan under the Harlequin/Gold Eagle banner. It seems big business has done to Bolan what the mafia and countless terrorists never could. Some have talked about how the series might continue, but now that the originals are available, do we really need a continuing and modern interpretation of Mack?

LP: Apparently, Harlequin is closing the Gold Eagle imprint but we have not been notified of that.  Big business is big business and I have to say I'm not surprised that Harper Collins found it best to shut down Gold Eagle and do their own publishing program the way they choose.  That normally happens when businesses are sold.  Of course, it would be nice if Harper Collins decides to publish more of the Executioner series, especially with the upcoming film.  I would like to see the original series in print and new Bolan books every few months.  There is no reason that Bolan could not continue, as other series of past days have.  The Executioner is a classic, and Mack Bolan still has a place in action/adventure literature.  After all, Don Pendleton is the "father of the action/adventure genre," and his Mack Bolan character should continue as a part of that genre.

BD: Is there anything else you would like to add?

LP: More than once Don said about the Executioner novels, "My biggest job throughout writing the series was to keep faith with Bolan–that what he's doing is right.  I wanted an enemy beyond redemption–an enemy that all civilized procedures had failed to put down.  The Mafia was ready-made.  They embodied all the evils of mankind."  

I hope the Bolan fans and new readers enjoy the original 37 ebooks of The Executioner Series and Mack Bolan's war against the mafia.  We're excited to have the ebooks available this month.  Mack Bolan not only lives large, but also lives on!

Thank you, Brian.  

Linda Pendleton,

www.lindapendleton.com

@waragainstmafia

@mackbolanfilm

BD: Thank you, Linda. It's very exciting to see this happen, both the original books and the film, and I hope a new generation of Bolan fans will find as much inspiration and entertainment in the series as I have.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Titles Done Be Importante

With all due respect to Tom Clancy and all that he accomplished, I can't help but feel underwhelmed by the titles he chose for his last novels, and the title of the new one, continued by another author, which you can now pre-order and use as a doorstop when you're done because the goddamn thing is almost 700 pages, is so....odd....you have to wonder who came up with it.

What happened to the poetry and the thematic elements of his old titles? THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER and THE CARDINAL OF THE KREMLIN, and even pithy titles like WITHOUT REMORSE and the never-equaled RED STORM RISING that were intriguing and eye-catching, have been replaced with LOCKED ON and DEAD OR ALIVE and THREAT VECTOR that leave you thinking,
WTF does that mean???

None of those titles inspire any interest. They frankly sound like they were selected by monkeys taking a break from writing Shakespeare. They are titles that would fit an Executioner novel, and, frankly, be more of a fit there, albeit just as bad. There's no Clancy magic in them.

Maybe it doesn't matter anymore because Clancy is dead, apparently assassinated by Obama's Secret Police because he knew too much (I read that on the Internet!), and the publisher knows Clancy's name will sell more copies than the title will. The downside is they just slap a few apparently unrelated words on the cover and head off to the pub.

The newest is the worst. FULL FORCE AND EFFECT. What they did here, you see, was take four words out of the middle of a sentence. The manuscript sat without a title for months and then the editor read a line that said, "Ryan and his team planned to hit the enemy with full force and effect, from which none would escape." The editor spit out his coffee, not even realizing the line made no sense....would the enemy not escape or would Ryan and his team not escape or would both the enemy and Ryan's team be killed? Who cares! He shouted, "That's it! My degree from American University has paid for itself again!" and had the cover made up.

Big 5 publishing at it's finest, folks.

I hope the content between the covers is better. Of course, it's written by Mark Greaney, and he can't be any worse than Clancy was. But at almost 700 pages....I have my doubts. I'll read every word, though.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

BITE HARDER + An Interview with Anonymous-9

If you're looking for a crackin' good read, look for further than BITE HARDER by Anonymous-9. It's the sequel to her widely-acclaimed HARD BITE, which you also should have read, and in this case the sequel is quite good. It picks up right where the original left off, and we reunite with old friends and old enemies in a very exciting fashion, and we even get a tease for what HARD BITE 3 will be about, should A-9 ever get around to writing it.

The stories follow a paraplegic vigilante, who does the hunting, and his helper monkey, Sid, who does the killing. Imagine a psychotic Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin combo. Of course, Sid doesn't talk, but, like Archie, has a way with the ladies.

I asked A-9 a few questions about the new book and here they are:

1) HARD BITE ended with a certain sense of finality. Did you have a sequel in mind from the beginning?

A-9: Not at all. I only decided to do a sequel when Allan Guthrie from Blasted Heath sent me an email and said, "We're really interested in doing a series." So I sat down and figured out how to spool out the yarn.

2) You have at least two dream sequences in BITE HARDER. Do you attach significance to dreams? If so, what do you think dreams can tell us? Or was that just a convenient plot device?

A-9: I see that as two separate issues. Personally, I think dreams are our subconscious talking to us and trying to send a signal. When I write a dream sequence for a book it's always a plot device to telegraph information in a different and surreal way.

3) You've been busy with other projects, too. Can you tell us a little about CRASHING THROUGH MIRRORS and JUST SO YOU KNOW I'M NOT DEAD?

A-9: CRASHING THROUGH MIRRORS is my latest and it's a noir novelette set in music-industry L.A. True to my nature, it's action-packed, can be read in about an hour, and delves into a sensitive and verboten subject. I'm gratified that readers really like the characters and are calling for a novel. No matter what I write people say they want it to be longer. Which is a lot better than closing it up because it's boring, I guess.

JUST SO YOU KNOW I'M NOT DEAD is a collection of three short stories that I issued as an e-book to tell readers that I was still alive and kicking. It's a writing "sampler" and I frequently give it away for free. But even at full price (which Amazon makes me charge) it's only 99 cents.

4) What's next from Anonymous-9?

A-9: DREAMING DEEP is one of the stories in the JUST SO YOU KNOW I'M NOT DEAD collection. It was originally published in a HORRORFACTORY anthology and is a tribute to H.P. Lovecraft who is widely accepted as one of the grandfathers of modern American horror. I pitched DREAMING DEEP as a novelette to Andrew Byers of Uncanny Books, who was looking for just the right project. Uncanny runs along the fantasy, sci-fi, horror lines. The fact that the story already had a track record and great reviews was a factor in the sale. The project was contracted and I had an advance check nine days after my pitch.

5) If there was one question you'd like to be asked in an interview, what would it be, and what's your answer?

A-9: Here's a first class ticket to Las Vegas. Can we finish this interview over cigarettes and a Polynesian Piledriver at Frankie's Tiki Room?

BD: Hahaha, thanks, but I'm a cigar guy. Cigarettes will kill you. I'll bring some Montecristos for you to try.

You can buy CRASHING THROUGH MIRRORS here.

You can buy BITE HARDER here.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Back in the USSR

I'm developing the plot for The Rogue Gentleman #3 and focusing on the return of the USSR, which, as I compile sources, seems to be what Putin is pushing for, and he's made no secret of saying so. He's made pacts already with three former Soviet satellites as well as the Chinese, all of which consolidates territory and resources under one umbrella.

My story deals with Putin stealing high-tech weapons to move forward even further, but what started as speculation has turned into a definite possibility. It's a little scary. We've thought for so long that the Cold War was over; the commies were gone; let's everybody party and try a little socialism here in the U.S., and now we may end up back in the bad old days all over again.

October 2017 is the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution. I'm wondering if that's when Pooty-Poot will make some kind of grand gesture restoring the old system, and, based on where the U.S. is right now, I'm wondering how impotent we will be to stand in the way.

Either way, it's going to be a crackin' book.