Tuesday, October 30, 2018


I am proud to announce the release of SKILLS TO KILL, aka The Rogue Gentleman, aka Steve Dane #1. What started as a self-publishing project got noticed by a small press in New York called Liberty Island, and we made a deal, and now those old books are new-and-improved and retitled. I hope you'll take the time to give it a look. Our pal and fellow writer James Reasoner reviewed the book on his Rough Edges blog and was quite enthusiastic.

Thanks, James!

SKILLS TO KILL is the first of five (Another Way to Kill is already up for pre-order, and Live to Kill will follow shortly--so three books out in November, two more to follow next year), and hopefully more. If you've read them before, and liked them, you'll like them even more now. We've cleaned up the text, added a few things here and there, and overall made them much better than the previous incarnations.

The story:

Steve Dane should never have set foot in Italy. After witnessing a young woman’s kidnapping, the former agent turned rogue mercenary is hired to get her back by the girl's father and soon finds himself drawn in to the decades-old vendetta behind the crime. 

Racing against time as her life hangs in the balance, Steve battles the mafia who want him dead and the police and international agents who want him out of the way. With the help of his lover, former Russian spy Nina Talikova, he rushes down a path that leads into an ever-more complex world of deception ruled by a powerful and mysterious woman known as The Duchess. 

Life, it seems, is getting cheaper by the minute. And The Duchess has put a price on the ultimate weapon that will make it all but worthless. Only Steve and Nina have the power to stop a clock that is ticking away the life of the missing girl—and the world.

SKILLS TO KILL is available on Amazon. Ebook now; paperback to follow.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Jerry Ahern on Mack Bolan's Weapons

I've never made a secret about being a Jerry Ahern fanboy. I loved his books when I was a teenager.

Back in 2015, I became Facebook pals with author Stephen Mertz, who, I need not say, is a legend in men's adventure writing himself, having turned out titles for the Bolan series, as well as many others. In 1980, probably not long after Gold Eagle/Harlequin acquired the Mack Bolan series from Don Pendleton, the editors at GE asked Jerry Ahern for his opinions on which weapons Bolan, Phoenix Force, and several others, might use in the books. Ahern replied with two pages of well thought-out reasoning for this weapon or that, and a copy of the letter was forward to Mr. Mertz, who sent it along to me thinking I might like to add it to my Ahern collection. It was actually quite fascinated to read, and I've been meaning to post it on this blog ever since. I've included pictures of the actual letter, but transcribed it for the blog for easy-reading.

I'm not sure what to add, but I think it's safe to say Ahern's remarks were what made Gold Eagle replace the Pendleton-era Bolan weapons with the updated Beretta 93R and Desert Eagle the Executioner has used throughout the Gold eagle era. While Ahern suggested a different .44 Magnum (S&W, as you'll see), we know he approved of the Desert Eagle since he included it in THE DEFENDER series. I wish he'd have recommended the 93R over the 92, but for whatever reason the 93R wasn't on his radar at the time.

Here is Jerry's commentary:

September 2, 1980

Dear Andy:

The weapons suggested by your man from The Stony Man Farm team for Bolan to use do not make a heck of a lot of sense, as we discussed by phone. The guy’s plot ideas sound terrific, and no offense to the fella, but although he may have a Federal Firearms License and be some sort of gun dealer, he apparently does not know the technical side of things terribly well.

First of all—the reason the Auto Mag has always been a ridiculous choice for Mack Bolan is that commercial ammunition is usually available only from one manufacturer—Norma—and is terribly hard to find. It may not be available at all anymore. The Auto Mag, aside from a reputation for power in the game fields and on metallic silhouette ranges, has also earned a reputation for poor reliability over the years. The guns tend easily toward jamming. Aside from the fact that they are huge, unreliable and generate such heavy recoil that shot-to-shot recovery time is greatly protracted, the gun almost invariably requires that both hands be free to hold it, certainly for repeated shots.

No real adventurer or agent would be caught dead with one—simply because he might be caught dead if he used one. A fine gun for handgun hunting, perhaps, but not for any type of defensive or police use. It may have a lot of pizazz but anyone with an ounce of firearms sophistication realizes it is a stupid choice for Bolan or anyone like him.

The Wildey Magnum which your writer suggests does not truly exist at this point in time, although prototype models do exist and the gun is still—as I gather—intended for production. The ammo has been generally available for some time, simply because Winchester, a major manufacturer, decided to offer it. But currently, anyone who wishes to shoot the ammo must do so in a single-shot T/C Contender pistol. Even if the first production guns were to appear tomorrow, there would still be problems. The recoil would be on the high side, though supposedly not as bad as the Auto Mag. The ammunition would not be available everywhere, though more available than fodder for the Auto Mag. But, most importantly, the gun has never been proven. What may prove acceptable in eventually game field and silhouette shooting use will likely not prove acceptable for combat. And, the gun may never actually exist—it has yet to be offered for the first time commercially.

If Mack Bolan must use a huge, non-combat type gun with a flashy appearance—which would be poor logic in the real world, of course—then the best bet to replace the Auto Mag would be the new Smith & Wesson Model 629. Simply a stainless steel version of the Dirty Harry Model 29 .44 Magnum, the gun actually does exist, has manageable recoil for a strong man, enjoys wide ammunition availability and is thoroughly reliable. I have recently tested one for GUN WEEK, THE AMERICAN HANDGUNNER, and SAGA. Aside from the fact that it is already one of the most sought after guns in the world, it is a good one.

Now, no really weapons-wise person would use a .44 Magnum for combat, but the 629 is perhaps the best compromise with pizazz and common sense with a super-powerful load. Many vice cops, narcs and others do use the .44 Magnum, so at least its use by Bolan would be within the vicinity of good sense.

The Beretta Model 1951 Brigadier 9mm Bolan carries, though somewhat odd a choice, is a rational one. Yet, if you wish to update Bolan’s weapons a bit, he could switch to the newer Beretta Model 92S. This gun uses a fifteen-round double column magazine, has double action first round capability and features a fine decocking lever safety. Aside from a bit of additional girth at the grips over the older model (to accommodate the wider magazine with increased capacity) the guns are identical in appearance and Bolan’s holsters would work with the new gun just as well as with the old one.

That .460 Weatherby Magnum Bolan uses for sniping people is the ultimate absurdity. A good, solid .308 or .30-06 would be far better, capable of being silenced when necessary, etc. The .460 caliber is fine for Rhino, overkill for people. Each time Bolan uses the gun, any gun-wise reader realizes the writer just picked the most powerful caliber he’d read about and really knows nothing about how the gun is really used. I would suggest a Steyr-Mannlicher SSG with synthetic stock and Kahles sniper scope, or just a much-worked-over Remington 700 BDL, either gun in .308. With either of these, he might even get into using a Leatherwood ART scope mount—the kind used extensively in Viet Nam by snipers—something we are given to understand Mack Bolan is intimately familiar with.

The Phoenix Force people should all be armed with handguns of the same caliber for ammo interchange when necessary. Most professional soldier types reportedly use a 9mm Parabellum (Luger) since ammo can be found all over the world and this is the handgun caliber of most European armies. Many 9mm pistols will also with the Soviet pistol cartridge which is similar to the 9mm. Recommendation for a specific gun would be the Browning P-35 High Power. If all the Phoenix Force guys carried these, scenes of pitched battles could include swapping magazines when one man runs out of ammo, etc. That was always very effectively done in the old “Man From Uncle Series” and professional people working together always try for ammo compatibility.

Grimaldi, for a nice twist, might use a gun that is a carryover from his Mafia flying days, as well as any clandestine flight experience for the government. This could be any one of a number of silenced .22 pistols, most likely and old High Standard HD Military or a Colt Woodsman, although if you can check that Sturm-Ruger wouldn’t sue, the current (Viet Nam era) Special Forces/CIA assassination pistol is, by all reports, a Ruger MkI .22 automatic with integral silencer—these still being made about sixty miles from my house, as a matter of fact.

If Dagger is quite Continental and sophisticated, he’d probably go for a .380 ACP pistol like the Walther PPK/S or Beretta Model 84 when concealment is critical and a 9mm Parabellum when serious trouble is expected—probably a Browning High Power here too, but perhaps something with a little more in the exotic looks department, like a Walther P-38K (the old UNCLE gun), or the new Heckler & Koch PSP, a 9mm small enough to be carried for concealment as well, as would be the P-38K.

I’m not trying to sound presumptuous, but I am a weapons “expert” and you did ask. Personally, I carry a Detonics .45 automatic most of the time, in the warmer months when concealment is more difficult sometimes dropping down to a little snubby .38 Special Smith & Wesson. Sometimes, too, I use a six-inch Colt Python .357 Magnum. If I were in a situation of constant danger, like the fellas under discussion, I stick with the .45 or .357. If you want further information or amplification, let me know and I’ll help as best as possible.

Hear from you soon, I hope.

Jerry Ahern

Steve Dane Incoming....


Ebook and paperback.

Friday, September 21, 2018

More Wolf on Tuesday!

Many thanks to all of you who have downloaded The Kill Fever, or Wolf #1. I'm re-releasing the short stories, as I've said before, leading up to the big Wolf novel, Justified Sins.

Anyway, the next two short stories are dropping on Tuesday, the 25th, The Dark, and The Fixer.

However, a slight error is releasing The Fixer before The Red Ruby Kill. Since I couldn't change the pre-order dates, this is the way it is. But with the short stories, you can read them in any order.

If you haven't ordered yet, you can buy the stories here.

Thanks for looking!


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Guess Who Is Making a Comeback?

Remember Wolf?

Probably not, it's been a long time.

Once, when we were all young and beautiful, I wrote a set of short stories under a different name, featuring a hard-boiled vigilante/private eye named Wolf. The stories did well for me, but the pen name was a mistake. They'd have done a whole lot better for me if they were out under my own name.

Like before, the first story is The Kill Fever. It will be followed by The Dark, The Red Ruby Kill, and The Fixer. After that, Justified Sins, the first Wolf novel. After that, the second Wolf novel, and more short stories. I've big plans for Mr. Wolf.

Since I have a book from a real publisher coming out soon (The Skills to Kill, re: Steve Dane #1, which used to be The Rogue Gentleman), I'm putting out as much as I can on Kindle as a way of advertising.

The Wolf stories are the same as before, however, the upcoming novel, Justified Sins, has, again, finally (finally!) been restored to its original version, ie: before I took some bad advice and cut the entire subplot.

Thanks for looking. If you're read them before, tell your friends!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Espionage in Africa with Aiden L. Bailey

Aiden L. Bailey is an up-and-comer to watch, although he's been around, in one form or fashion, for a number of years in short story anthologies. His latest efforts concern the adventures of military contractor Simon Ashcroft, and his adventures on the Africa continent. The first book, The Benevolent Deception, is very good indeed.

You can find his books on Amazon (where else?) by clicking here.

I caught up with Aiden at a South Africa wildlife preserve and we chatted about writing while taking pictures of the wild animals who happened to pass by.

Brian Drake: You write thrillers featuring the adventures of Simon Ashcroft in Africa. It's not an area that shows up a lot in fiction. Do you have personal experience there that you used to model Simon Ashcroft?

Aiden Bailey: I backpacked through Africa when I was in my twenties and had a fantastic time there. It was the first continent I traveled to as an adult. I found myself in some reckless situations and soon saw the world from a completely different perspective. I gained a better understanding how the world works, and when it doesn’t work, why it fails. The good and the bad, it was all there in Africa and up in my face so I couldn’t avoid it.

Many of my story ideas seem to work best in an African setting. I’m obviously drawn to the location. The continent of Africa has many vibrant cultures, with wild landscapes and incredible people that are juxtaposed against militants, corrupt governments, extremes of poverty and a variety of amazing megafauna.

Simon Ashcroft features in three of my espionage thriller novels and novellas, and yes, all of them are predominately set in Africa. The Benevolent Deception is set in Kenya and Nigeria, The Assyrian Contraband in the Comoros Islands and Blood Ivory in Tanzania. Some of the locations Simon visits were places I visited and some of his experiences are my own. Many other descriptions are drawn from friends who’ve also been to Africa, based on stories they told me.

BD: When did you start writing? Who has been your biggest influence and why?

AB: I’ve been writing for most of my adult life. I’ve had over fifty short stories published in magazines and anthologies, many of which have won awards or appeared in ‘Year’s Best’ collections. I’ve been an editor with a fiction magazine and edited several anthologies. My day job is marketing communications copy-writing and technical writing for a variety of big industries including construction, defense, oil and gas, information technology and mining. It’s rare that I’m not writing something.

About three years ago I decided that what I really wanted to write was espionage thriller fiction. In my early days I was a big fan of authors like Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum, Len Deighton, Martin Cruz Smith, Desmond Bagley, Wilbur Smith, Gerald Seymour and others. I wanted to write the same kind of books.

About three years ago I started writing under the pen name Aiden L Bailey, putting out my first thriller novel The Benevolent Deception. It’s an espionage technothriller about cyberterrorists who assassinate the U.S. President, then fool the world that the President is still alive by impersonating him online through a variety of hacked digital news sources. This prompts all kinds of dangerous alterations to the world’s political, security and economic climate. The hero of the story, Simon Ashcroft who is a former spy turned military contractor, finds himself framed for many of the cyberthreats now facing the world. He goes on the run in Africa with a woman who might just know what is really happening, trying to stay one step ahead of the various shadowy forces trying to kill them.

BD: What is it about the thriller genre that attracted you?

AB: As a kid I was a big fan of the James Bond and Indiana Jones films. I liked the relentless action, the sense of constant danger and thrilling chase sequences. But there was also something really appealing about hero characters who travels the world and ends up in some rather exotic locations.

In my early days I wrote in many genres. After a while I noticed that all my stories had the same structure: action thriller fiction. I read far more action thriller fiction than anything else. I decided this was what I really needed to write and to focus on that.

I’ve discovered that I’ve never had this much fun writing as I do in creating espionage thriller novels. I can’t see that I will ever write anything else now.

BD: Do you outline or make up the story as you go? Why?

AB: In the early days I used to prepare detailed notes and outlines, but not anymore. These days I outline stories only in my head finding that is enough giving me the fluidity for stories to evolve as I tell them. But a structure is important, an overall plot is required because I need to know what is going on in every scene. Much of what is going on is not always at first obvious or apparent, only being revealed later. Mystery is important.

BD: The African continent is a great source of adventure, but also a land of tragedy. What is the overall theme of Ashcroft's adventures that take place there, and are you trying to teach readers anything about that area of the world?

AB: In The Benevolent Deception Ashcroft is confronted with the environmental degradation of the Niger Delta caused by oil companies operating in Nigeria, and terrorism in Kenya. Blood Ivory is about the mass slaughter of elephants in Tanzania and their near extinction in the wild because of the ivory trade into Asia. The Assyrian Contraband is set on an African Island in the Indian Ocean and features Islamic State terrorists smuggling archaeological artifact to fund their insurgency. You can read The Assyrian Contraband for free by joining my mailing list here.

I try to make my story locations as real as possible. Readers have commented that my stories bring these setting alive, particularly when I write about Africa. I guess I want to share what I find amazing about the African setting in my books. It is truly an amazing part of the world.

BD: You've mentioned on Facebook that you're planning a new series, and put up a poll to see which character name readers preferred. Which name won the poll, and what can we expect to see from this new character?

AB: My next series will be more traditional espionage thriller fiction in the same vein as Mark Greaney, Rob Sinclair, Mark Dawson, Tom Woods and Andrew Warren. It will feature an American CIA field operative who is incarcerated in a black prison for reasons he doesn’t at first understand. Eventually he escapes, only to discover he has been framed as a terrorist by a large, nefarious organization that is planning a rather nasty takeover of a major world commodity.

I have the first three books in this open-ended series plotted out. The first book is predominately set in Central Asia and Central Africa.

I haven’t settled on a name for the character yet, but the two popular options are either Travis North or Scott Pierce. One might end up as his real name and the other an alias. Not sure yet but I do like both names. Further feedback from readers is most welcomed.

BD: You've worked on some books with Andrew Warren, who has appeared on this blog twice. What was it like working with somebody else's characters, and do you plan to continue?

AB: Andrew Warren was looking for an author to help him write early stories in his Thomas Caine CIA assassin series. After Andrew read The Benevolent Deception and particularly The Assyrian Contraband, he approached me to co-write an early adventure in Caine’s career. He figured we write in a very similar style and tell the same kinds of stories. We’d been corresponding for some time already and it didn’t take me long to say yes.

The outcome was Sandfire, an espionage action thriller set predominately in Yemen. Thomas Caine teams up with a feisty  Australian UN aid worker and a Bedouin mother seeking her kidnapped children. Together they enter the world’s largest sand desert, The Empty Quarter, searching for a missing CIA plane hiding a secret that if exposed, could start a war in the Middle East.

The success of the first book led us to writing the next one, Depth Charge, currently in the works. Caine travels from China to South America to secure the defection of a Chinese military software programmer working on the People Liberation Army’s submarine program. While Sandfire was predominately set in the desert, the action in Depth Charge will occur predominately at sea, both above and below the water. Andrew and I should have this one out later in 2018.

Working with Andrew has been great fun, and as long as our collaborations remain well received, we could have a few more books in the works after Depth Charge.

BD: Thanks, Aiden. Great chatting with you. For more of Aiden's work, his website is www.aidenlbailey.com.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Reuniting with PHOENIX FORCE in Harvest Hell!

I haven't done a book review in a long time, so why not get back to reviews with a book that really entertained me.

PHOENIX FORCE #13: HARVEST HELL is a book I found at a thrift store, and it had William Fieldhouse's name on the copyright page as the credited writer, despite "Gar Wilson" on the cover. Terrific! Sold! Fieldhouse was my favorite Phoenix Force writer. He wrote most of the series, a gargantuan feat considering the rest of his output at the same time; and Harvest Hell proves why Gold Eagle gave him most of the Phoenix assignments. The man simply wrote a team action story better than anybody.

Katz and the gang are in Greece this time, raiding an island where a dude is housing a bunch of terrorists in a conspiracy with Moscow to distribute a deadly virus that starves people to death. It's beautifully pulpy and outrageous--all in a good way. You want realism? Drama? Fuhgeddaboutit! You want a battle for the fate of the free world where five men will stop at nothing to defeat the dastardly villain even though sometimes the cheese gets a little thick but you don't care because this is the best Gouda ever? This is your book!

Of course the action scenes are terrific, so there's no reason to delve into one Fieldhouse's stand-out elements. What really zings in this later volume is that it reads like an introduction to the cast. Each member of the Force is introduced and highlighted with an action scene, background details, stuff somebody like me, coming back to the books after so many years, really needs in order to become reacquainted with these old friends. By the time the team got into their mission, they felt like real folks in real danger. It's the way a pulp story ought to be written. When you believe the characters, it doesn't matter how crazy the rest of the story becomes. You're fully invested, and nothing can break their hold on you.

As you might expect, I went back to that thrift store and raided their remaining Phoenix Force titles, most of them by Fieldhouse, but one of them, Down Under Thunder, written by Paul Glen Neuman, who wrote a great deal of PF titles himself, which I also had to buy, because it was the very first Phoenix title I read when I was 14 years old and sitting in Ms. McCoy's history class wishing it was my name on the cover.

It's going to be a lot of fun hanging out with Katz and the gang again.

Fieldhouse is an author I've love to interview, if any of you know how I might reach him, because I want to dig into how he worked and managed so many titles over a 20 year period. Just looking at what little of his bibliography is available on-line, it's hard to imagine he didn't pass out from exhaustion. It's all I can do to write four books a year; he, apparently, doubled and tripled that output without blinking an eye.

But if nothing else, he provided many hours and delightful reading in my youth, and he will do so again ... now that I'm significantly older, but still act like I'm 14.