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'.