Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The World Needs a Saint

Back in 2013, a bunch of folks tried to revive The Saint for television, but the pilot didn't sell. Roger Moore appears in a cameo at the end, but he's not who you think. Whether or not Sir Roger's recent death sparked them to action or not is something I'll let the crew answer, but the pilot has now been released as a 90-minute TV movie (streamed on-line), and it's good stuff.

I watched on YouTube for $4.99. iTunes has it, and I believe other places like Vudu, so look around. Maybe Amazon will get it.

We have Adam Rayner as Simon Templar in a very disciplined performance that totally brings the character to life. The only thing missing is Rayner writing song lyrics and smoking too many cigarettes and using silly phrases likes like "as the nun said to the cow" and other wonderful lines that Leslie Charteris put into Templar's mouth (we do get one "bob's your uncle" which is almost the same thing). Rayner and Ian Ogilvy (as the heavy) are the best part, especially Ogilvy, who scene-chews his way through the show and is a delight to watch because he once filled Rayner's shoes.

The plot concerns the search for a missing two-billion dollar charity fund earmarked for Nigeria, a kidnapped girl, and lots and lots of computer hacking. And here is where we get to the first problem with The Saint 2017. Computer hacking has become one of the biggest tropes in action shows, film or television, to the point where it's eye-rolling ridiculous. Every obstacle can be solved by a couple of keystrokes from somebody in a van, who is usually a nerd saying nerd things and making nerd jokes, or a sexy girl saying nerd things (as in this case) but without the jokes--Eliza Dushku's Patricia Holm is oh-so-serious, darling. I understand that in the age of the microchip and algorithm we don't have much of a choice but to rely on computers for many things, but it's such a poor narrative device that it's now an example of lazy writing.

But back to the show. It's a solid fast-paced caper that reminded me of Leverage, except with less people. Leverage, of course, owes a lot to The Saint. And that's probably one of the reasons the show never sold.

For all of its wit and charm and clever dialogue and great locations and a solid attempt at a low-budget Bond-like show, The Saint 2017 doesn't offer much that's new or hasn't been seen 100 times already. There are a few other problems, too. Some of the cast speaks as if they've just learned English, and their acting is a bit wooden as a result. Eliza Dushku tries to come off as a sexy sophisticated vamp, but instead engages in unintentional parody of same. She looks the part, it's nice to see Patricia Holm finally portrayed properly (basically what she should have been from the beginning, but I'm not entirely sure Charteris really knew quite what to do with her), but Dushku is still the cheerleader from Bring It On and while she's aged nicely, her acting skills have not.

But The Saint 2017 finally gets the Saint right. There are a ton of literary references that I loved, including a mention of Inspector Teal and a prominent role for John Henry Fernack, although Mr. Fernack has now become an FBI agent, which is fine. Simon has a bumbling helper, like Hoppy Uniatz in the books, but for some reason they named him Doyle. No matter. It's the thought that counts, and a lot of thought was put into this show and it's a shame they didn't have better luck with selling the program. It is, however, now here for us to enjoy, and enjoy it you will.

I understand there is currently another attempt to get The Saint back on television or cinema, and that's terrific news. We eagerly await more.

The world really needs a Saint.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Rebecca Forster Announces Foreign Relations

I'm happy to present my friend Rebecca Forster and her new book in the Detective Finn O'Brien series, Foreign Relations. Give it a click and you won't regret it.

This is a great new series from the author who brought you the Josie Bates "Witness" thrillers, and it's probably better for her to talk about the book than me. So here's Rebecca:

Brian Drake: After so many books under your belt, what have you learned about yourself as a writer?

Rebecca Forster: I've learned that I have a lot more patience and determination than I ever gave myself credit for. It only took 35 books but I've finally figured out that writing a book is like being a jeweler - cracking the stone is just the first part, creating the facets, polishing the whole darn thing - it all takes extreme focus if you're going to give readers an exciting experience.


BD: Tell us about Finn O'Brien. What has reader reaction to the first Finn book been like?

RF: Detective Finn O'Brien is a man with a foot in two different worlds. He is a naturalized citizen who came to the U.S. from Ireland in his teens so he still holds tight the moral tenants of faith and family. But his introduction to America was brutal - his little brother was abducted and killed - so he has a finely honed sense of responsibility to those who are marginalized and without power or wealth. I mixed him up with a partner named Cori Anderson who is a practical Texas gal. I think they are a fabulous duo. Together they are going to explore all the boroughs, the nooks and crannies of Los Angeles. Severed Relations juxtaposes a rich enclave against the gritty underbelly of Hollywood. Severed Relations looks at a section of the city called Little Ethiopia. Readers are calling Finn a more sensitive Jack Reacher. Not a bad thing, I would say.

BD: Are you able to find a balance between writing and marketing?  If so, how? If not, how are you trying to do that?

RF: Even if I think I am balanced between the business and creative aspects of this business it will never feel that way. I have accepted that the world of digital marketing moves way to fast to keep up with everything, so I have chosen four basic ways to keep up with readers - Twitter, Facebook, advertising and occassional newsletters (I don't ever spam). I think writers need to be a little kinder to ourselves in terms of marketing and I hope that our readers will help out with the most effective marketing off all - word of mouth and reviews.

BD: What is something, other than reading great books, that fuels your imagination for your own stories?

RF: That's an easy one - travel. I have been some very unusual places - China in 1983, Hungary in 1985, Albania in 2011. Everywhere I travel I make sure to engage the people, learn the language and a bit about the culture. Many of the places I've been appear in my books; many of the people I've met become characters; much of the legal history of these place fuel my plots.
Buy it now!

BD: After being in the business for so long, do you find your level of enthusiasm has increased, or remained the same, from when you started? Did you ever consider an easier line of work, such as brain surgery?

RF: I checked into brain surgery but decided to pass. Same with sitting on the Supreme Court. Your question is really good, though, because it's something I've been thinking about the last few years and what I find is just when I think I'm ready to wind down I get an idea that just has to be explored. Then it's off to the races again. I don't think writers retire, but I do think we become more selective in our projects. Mine are getting more intricate.

BD: You've also written the very popular Witness series featuring attorney Josie Bates. Any chance you'll bring her back someday?

RF: Oh, she'll be back. I am really honored that I get reader letters about her all the time. This year I did write a Spotlight Novella called Hannah's Diary as a gift for my newsletter subscribers. It literally shines a spotlight on Hannah Sheraton (Josie's ward and the subject of Hostile Witness). It's about what happens to her between Hostile Witness and Silent Witness. I'm hoping to do a few more of these to keep the witness series fresh. I just haven't figured out what's going to happen in book eight. When I do, Josie will be back with a vengance.

BD: What else would you like to add?

RF: Thanks for the opportunity to talk about my two favorite people - Finn O'Brien and Josie Bates. I hope everyone will love the Finn O'Brien thrillers. They are definitely gritty. My favorite reviews so far of Severed Relations was "The bad guys were so bad" and 'Watch out, Hollywood will be calling'.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Stiletto Strikes Again!

Stiletto #2: The Fairmont Maneuver is now available for $2.99 so grab it!


An SOS brings C.I.A. agent Scott Stiletto to San Francisco. Ali Lewis was once a capable agent herself, before she left the covert world and took over her mother’s clothing company. When her father is murdered by a former business partner who wants the business, Stiletto is the one man Ali can trust to learn the truth behind the killing.

Legally, Stiletto’s hands are tied. There is only so much he can do to stir the pot of police corruption he soon discovers, led by a young inspector who has no interest in solving the crime. When evidence points to a growing international conspiracy orchestrated by Iran involving the smuggling of nuclear bomb parts, kidnapped scientists, and a decades-old mafia / Silicon Valley alliance the government has been powerless to stop, Stiletto has no choice but to break the rules and show this domestic enemy what .45-caliber justice looks like.

Get ready for a non-stop thrill ride … you’ve never read action like this before!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Thoughts On Roger Moore

I was a young lad in 1980-something when we got cable at the house, which included HBO. While I was excited at the prospect of seeing Star Wars and Star Trek II on the TV (they ran as a double-feature one night), my father had other interests, and I caught him watching a movie where a bunch of guys in black were jumping off a boat and attacking a warehouse full of other guys who used machine guns to beat them back. Of course these Johnnies in black were better at fighting than the machine gun Johnnies and pretty soon one in particular was chasing a guy in a car, shooting him through the windshield, and then kicking the car, with the baddie still alive inside, over the side of a cliff. What is this engaging wonderfulness? I thought, or whatever the equivalent would have been at that age. For Your Eyes Only, starring Roger Moore as some dude named James Bond.

Watching that movie with Dad started a tradition where we go to every new Bond movie as it comes out, though with the garbage being put out now with Thug Bond Daniel Craig in the role, we've decided it would be better to carry on re-watching the oldies on the 60-inch flat-screen my father recently installed. The follow-up was Octopussy, you may remember, and Dad had to go watch it first to make sure it was OK for me to see. I know some of you hate it, but I love the damn thing, clown disguise, Tarzan yell, and all.

Those movies are what started me on my obsession of all things spy-fi and the eventual writing of same. Once I discovered Bond was based on books and started collecting those, the course was set.

I've had such a love-hate relationship with Moore-era Bond, though. On one hand, the Moore Bonds are probably the most watchable Bond films ever produced, perfect for rainy days or lazy Saturdays, and you're surely going to be entertained. But when I was in my Serious Spy Fiction phase, thanks mostly to Donald Hamilton and his Matt Helm books (the American Bond), Moore Bonds became far too silly for me to take seriously.

Lately I've gone the opposite way, especially since the Craig era began, with all of its rubbish and nonsense and Super Serious stories; suddenly Moore doing a Tarzan yell or skiing away from Soviet troops to the tune of "California Girls" isn't so bad, and in fact preferable, to Super Serious Brooding Thug Bond Who Never Smiles Because He's Super Serious.

Sir Roger starred in more Bonds than any of the other chaps but he also played in some of the worst Bonds made. The Man with the Golden Gun--like the book, a mess of missed opportunities and plot holes you can drive a truck through. Moonraker--where do I start with this tragedy? If you ever suffer from insomnia, put on Moonraker and you'll be out in five minutes. A View to a Kill--great moments, probably the best Bond soundtrack ever, but it's too long and too slow and Moore was too old. However, even those bad Bonds are watchable because Moore could do what very few actors are capable of: make a bad script entertaining. Of the three, A View to a Kill is probably the best, even with Grandpa Roger fighting atop the Golden Gate Bridge. Try watching Sean Connery in his Bad Bond, Diamonds Are Forever, which is actually unwatchable even if you're drunk, and compare it to any of Moore's turkeys. There is simply no comparison. Moore's skill elevated those movies to a status Connery couldn't achieve.

It's hard to rank Moore's best, but For Your Eyes Only is for sure at the top, because it's almost the perfect spy movie. I'd put The Spy Who Loved Me up there too. Both titles compete for #1 and you can't go wrong either way. Octopussy had its rough spots, but I love the climactic exchange between Bond and Q, flying to the rescue of Octopussy in a hot air balloon:

Bond: Are you sure you can fly this thing, Q?
Q: Sure, it runs on hot air.
Bond: Oh, then you can.

I laugh every time. Moore's delivery of the punchline is perfect. Octopussy and Live and Let Die, which hasn't aged well but is still good (the boat chase in particular, and the bumpkin sheriff--love that guy), can compete for the bottom slots.

I've written so much about Bond--books and films--that I never considered that I'd eventually be writing about the passing of one of the actors. These are guys you grow up with, and it's awful to see them go, but they leave behind a body of work where they will always be with us again, even if for only two hours, and remind us of why we loved watching them over and over and stayed loyal even when the presentation wasn't as good as we'd have liked.

Sean may have been first, but Roger was the best.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Kindle Unlimited is Why I Signed a Trad Deal

I’ve had a few questions regarding why I signed with a traditional publisher a couple of months ago.  The biggest was why not stay indie? Believe me, I had a lot of folks telling me not to sign this deal, most of them professional writers for more years than I’ve been alive, all of whom had lousy experiences on the midlist.  But (a) my self-published work hasn’t set the world on fire (though it did get me the deal) and (b) Kindle Unlimited is proving to be more of a nemesis than friend.

I get a lot of KU reads with my new Stiletto series. Thousands of pages a month. It’s doing great, and that’s cool. I don’t mind. It’s neat to see almost real-time page-read data. But we’re only getting, what, half-a-cent per page read?  Sometimes less?  If subscription ebook services are the future, and the payouts less than what Dashiell Hammett made per word back in the Depression, how are we supposed to make a decent living?

It seems to me that Amazon is making the return on the indie writer’s investment less and less over time.  I can’t be the only one who has noticed a lot of top-selling indies are now struggling with rankings falling into the dungeon, with authors privately saying they’re really having a hard time.  It’s too many to be isolated.  There’s talk of Amazon tweaking the algorithms to focus on trad and their own imprints, and that makes sense--more money there for them, perhaps.  All I know is that it’s tough to make a living as an indie right now, or to get a reasonable return on our investment of time and effort (assuming, of course, we have written something worth reading, and not simply contributed to the tsunami of crap).

If this is the way it’s going to be, one must look for other options.  Unless I’m totally wrong, and please jump in if you think otherwise, half-a-cent per page read sucks.  You have to write a lot of pages to get anything out of that machine.  Compared to that, the trad deal I signed, while far from the “Amazon 70%”, is a great deal, and a far better option.  You can talk about 70% all you want, but who else is getting that besides the top 1% of indies?

I suppose I could go wide, but something is better than nothing, and half-a-center per page is better than no sales at all, but Amazon is ripping me off. So I found a different option.  Self-publishing is great.  I’m certainly not going to stop making use of the resources available.  The reason I’ve gone “hybrid” is because I want a chance to make as much from my writing as possible.  That isn’t an easy task when Amazon keeps changing the seating chart.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

My Blaze! Book from Rough Edges Press

I haven't mentioned this before because I wanted to make sure the book was actually accepted and printed, etc., but James Reasoner was kind enough to let me write an episode of the Blaze! Adult Western series that his Rough Edges publishing company releases on a more than regular basis.

J.D. and Kate Blaze are married gunfighters who roam the west getting into all kinds of trouble--usually for a fee. The series and characters were so similar to those in my Steve Dane series that I decided to ask for an audition. James and series creator Stephen Mertz helped work the kinks out of my original outline (I submitted something that would have gone 300 pages; they said I needed less than half of that). I proceeded with the project and now we have Blaze! #16: Copper Mountain Kill, which you can order on Amazon


From the publisher:

"The Copper Kings of Montana are at war—and Kate and J.D. Blaze are caught in the middle! Hired to get to the bottom of the sabotage and murder plaguing the mines, the Old West's only team of husband-and-wife gunfighters tackle crooked lawmen and a band of vicious outlaws known as the Lion Gang, only to find themselves trapped on a runaway train loaded with dynamite, a bomb on wheels that threatens to blow the Blazes sky-high!

Acclaimed thriller author Brian Drake (THE TERMINATION PROTOCOL) joins the Blaze! team with a novel packed with excitement and mile-a-minute action. COPPER MOUNTAIN KILL is Western adventure at its finest."

I set the novel in Butte, Montana, where my family is from, because there's western novel gold in that Big Sky Country, and I wanted to explore the possibilities of exploiting the location. I spent a lot of time there growing up, so the research was easy. The Copper Kings were in fierce competition for the copper in Butte's mountains and hills, and there was action aplenty (ask Dashiell Hammett) in the old days. It was the perfect setting for a powder-burning western.

Someday I'll write an essay on the long-term effects of that mining. Let's just say they raped the land and the mine is now an EPA Superfund site yet the government is either unable or unwilling to clean it up and instead just manages the damage. I'm torn being being angry about the environmental damage and grateful that the mine provided a livelihood for three generations of my family.

But anyway ....

If you're into westerns, you'll like the Blaze! series. J.D. and Kate were great characters to work with, and I hope I get a chance to send them on another adventure.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Join my Street Team!

Hi, everybody. I've just signed up with Instafreebie to help build my street team and I hope you'll join me. You get a free download of Stiletto #1: The Termination Protocol in exchange for signing up. If you don't want to sign up yourself, maybe you know a voracious thriller reader who might, so please feel free to share this link far and wide.

https://www.instafreebie.com/free/AMPL2

A lot has been happening on the book front, both with my self-published work and the traditional contract I just signed, so I'll have more updates soon.

Thank you in advance!