Friday, September 29, 2017

Matt Hilton's Latest Thriller--WORST FEAR

My buddy Matt Hilton has a new book out. Worst Fear continues the adventures of private detective Tess Grey and Nicolas ‘Po’ Villere, and I invited him to tell us about it. Matt has previously written the twelve novels in the Joe Hunter series, and they are top-notch action entertainment that deserve a wider audience, but more on that in a minute. Here's Matt about the new book:

Brian Drake: Tell us about your latest thriller.
Matt Hilton: Worst Fear is the fourth in a series of crime thrillers featuring Tess Grey and Nicolas ‘Po’ Villere set in Maine in the USA. Tess is an ex-sheriff’s deputy who was injured in the line of service and now works as a private investigator, whereas Po is an ex-con, who spent time in Angola, one of the toughest prisons in the US. Chelsea Grace is discovered dead at the foot of a cliff, and the police write off her death as a suicide, but Tess thinks otherwise. Chelsea was terrified of heights, so jumping to her death was the last way she’d have chosen to die. As Tess starts looking into her death she discovers that others from a small group of her college friends are also being hurt or killed, and Tess herself could be on the list. It’s down to Tess and Po – ably assisted by their larger than life friend, Pinky Leclerc - to stop the killers before it is too late.
BD: How are Tess and Po different from Joe Hunter?
MH: Joe Hunter is ex-Special Forces, a tough guy with a heart, who isn’t afraid to use his impressive skill set to deal with the bad guys. He’s seen as a vigilante by the police, and quite possibly a terrifying force of nature by those he fights against. On the other hand Tess has none of Hunter’s skills, and is an ex-sheriff’s deputy, so tries to do things by the book. Po is possibly nearer to Hunter’s character, though he’s a guy who learned his skills while surviving in prison, so has a different approach to dealing with problems. Hunter’s adventures are slam-bang actioners, whereas the Tess and Po books are more mystery and suspense – with hefty dollops of action.
BD: Why the departure from Hunter?
MH: Like most authors do, I wanted to spread my wings and do something different. I also love writing in the horror genre, but my publishers weren’t interested. I was pigeonholed as the “Joe Hunter guy”. So I had to propose a new series similar but different to Hunter without straying too far afield. I have always been fascinated with Louisiana as a location, and also Maine, so decided to write a mystery set across both States. That book became Blood Tracks, the first in the Tess and Po series. I don’t see it as a departure as such from Hunter, as I’m pretty certain that the characters all exist in the same fictional world, and one day I’d love to write a cross-over novel with them all in it.
BD: Was using a female protagonist your decision or your publisher's?
MH: It was mine. The Hunter books are by virtue of their subject matter sometimes seen as “men’s books”. They can be macho and aggressive, and in the past some critics thought some of my female characters were only there as dressing. I decided to write a female lead for a few reasons, the first being to see if I could do it, the second because it might attract more readers, and third to shut up my critics! Seriously though, I felt that Tess was a worthy character, and I’ve enjoyed writing her story as much as I have any of my male characters. One thing I was certain of was that I didn’t want to write a female Joe Hunter in tights/panty hose, but a rounded, strong and determined woman in her own right. I brought in Po, and his pal Pinky, to do the kind of stuff that Tess, being a PI and also ex-cop, couldn’t/wouldn’t do, to also satisfy the readers looking for similar action they were used to from my books.
BD: What are you working on next?
MH: Anyone who has followed my books to date might be surprised. I’m known for being a Brit writing American thrillers, but the book I’m currently working on is a police procedural set in the UK, with a rather large genre twist. It could also be a psychological thriller, or a supernatural novel, depending on the perceptions of individual readers. I genuinely hope that it finds a publisher and that readers enjoy the book. After that I’ll be getting down to writing the thirteenth book in the Joe Hunter series. And Tess and Po will be back.

BD: Thanks, Matt!

So back to what I was saying about Matt deserving a wider audience. He doesn't have wide distribution in the United States, although some of the Hunter books have been published here via Down & Out Books. If you're in the U.S., the best way to get Matt's books is the UK's Book Depository. Free shipping, no tax, quick service. I use them often.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Chris Ryan's STRIKE BACK

A couple of Brit authors have been on my radar recently--Chris Ryan and Duncan Falconer--and I'm finally getting around to reading one of them. In this case, Ryan and his book Strike Back. I'm familiar with the title from the Cinemax/Sky1 TV series, so I thought it would be best to start there. (As an aside, I haven't watched the TV version, so I have no expectations.)

And, wow, what a book. I'm only 45 pages in, having just read the prologue after receiving the novel from Book Depository in the UK (only took a week to get to me in the U.S.). Great prices and free shipping on that site, so make it one of your stops when you're looking for something new to read.

Anyway it's a whopper. Great bloody action (emphasis on bloody) and he really draws you into the story. In the opening battle in a building in Beirut, you feel like you're there with the SAS guys as they go blasting terrorists to free a hostage.

I don't often mention books until after I've finished them, but I'm so impressed with this title I had to stop and post. I'm really looking forward to this one and how it plays out. Ryan is a terrific writer, no fluff, very tight and to the point. And he knows of what he writes, having been an SAS man himself.

Check it out.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

42 Years Ago Today....

....I was born in Minnesota, reportedly in the same hospital as F. Scott Fitzgerald, but nobody has ever bothered to check, let alone me because who has time, and, besides, it's better just to assume. What makes this year significant is that, unlike every other birthday where I evaluate where I am in life and bemoan my lack of progress in certain things in general and everything in particular, I'm actually finally on the road to something.

1) Engaged to a great gal who's like Nina Talikova in the Steve Dane books. Wedding is this time next year.

2) Five-book deal with Liberty Island Media, the aforementioned Dane books, with the first release due early next year.

3) I have another manuscript under consideration with a major publisher and we'll know the fate of that deal very soon; if it goes south, we have another buyer lined up.

So, yeah, it's a happy birthday.

Whatever you're working toward, don't quit. It might take 25 years but you'll get there. For that #3, I've been sending that particular publisher material since I was 16 years old.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Stiletto #3 Now Available.

I have fallen way behind in my posting so here's to catching up . . .

The next Scott Stiletto book, The Glinkov Extraction, is available on Amazon.

This book is a bit different from the other two in that it's a bit darker, there's more intrigue, and I tried to mimic Eric Ambler's "slow burn" in the plot department, meaning the match lights on page one and the fuse burns all the way to the end before it's "fire in the hole" time. I may get some complaints about that lack of shoot-em-up action (really, there's less in this one) but the ending sets the stage for the next phase of Stiletto's adventures, and I quite like the "ripped from the (future) headlines" feel of the story. Yes, I'm playing Nostradamus with this one, but we'll see if I'm right. If not, this book won't age well.

The blurb:

Stiletto Goes Rogue!

An authorized mission to rescue a friend may be the last adventure of Stiletto’s career … or his life.

A coup stirring in Russia to overthrow President Putin faces the wrath of Moscow police and government agents who swoop in to round up or assassinate the suspects. Survivors run for their lives, including Vladimir Glinkov, Stiletto’s friend and ally from several dangerous missions. Glinkov desperately calls for help, but the U.S. government will not get involved. Despite his pleas to aid a friend in need, Stiletto is ordered to stand down.

Scott cannot do nothing while a friend suffers. He’ll get Glinkov and his family out of Russia before they’re executed or die trying. The C.I.A. responds with a bounty on Stiletto’s head, forcing him to deal not only with his own people but every two-bit thug trying to claim the reward as he sneaks into Moscow to search for his friend. 

Other players who both help and hinder Stiletto’s cause raise the stakes as the scope of the conspiracy takes shape, and Stiletto is caught in events he’s not prepared for when he faces Russian police in a violent bloodbath from which there may be no escape.

As for Stiletto #4 (as yet untitled), it's done, needs editing, etc., but the first three, while performing better than any of the other books I've released, really aren't doing much business. I've decided the first three need to earn at least $100 to pay for Stiletto #4's cover before I commit to releasing that book. I don't know if I just need more advertising (which costs $$$) or if the first book isn't grabbing people enough for them to continue. I wrote it like a men's adventure book of the '70s, and maybe it shows a little too much. A more contemporary crime series is in the works, but I may shop that to traditional publishers before I self-pub. It's looking more and more, thanks to my deal with Liberty Island for the Rogue Gentleman books, like I should pursue that avenue.

Anyway, if you're one of those following along, I hope you enjoy book three. It's .99 now and for a week after release, so jump. And thank you.

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.

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!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Special Announcement

This morning I finalized a five-book deal with Liberty Island, a small press in New York, to bring out my Steve Dane thriller series in print, ebook, and audio editions. This officially makes me a "hybrid author", or one who has a traditional publisher, but also self-publishes. I will continue to self-pub other material (mainly my Stiletto series) while giving them exclusive rights to publish the three Dane books already out (after some revisions, and my editions will be removed from Amazon by the end of today) and the two that are written but haven't been electronically published, with an option on more should we wish to continue the effort. This is the result of months of back-and-forth, and it feels good to finally be done and moving forward.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Get Carter: The Original Brit Grit

Oh, man, Get Carter is a book I really, really wanted to like, but I really, really had a hard time with it.

I wondered why. Here we have one of the seminal works of 1970s crime fiction (originally entitled Jack's Return Home) that takes place in an industrial town in Britain. We have great local color, terrific descriptions of the hard life of the town, gritty descriptions of the criminal element that hides just beneath the surface, and a terrific anti-hero who returns to his hometown to right a wrong and doesn’t care if he has to blow away his old buddies to do it.
From Soho Press

What was the problem? It took until the middle of the book for me to figure it out.

Too many imitations.

In the years since Get Carter, a gazillion writers took what Ted Lewis did and populated book shelves with so many copies that they ruined the original in the process. It took a long time for me to read Get Carter because it was out of print, but I knew all about it. I’d seen the movie, of course--loved it. I’d read all the praise about it--is there a bad review? Thanks to Soho Press and its recent reprint (they did all three Jack Carter books), with a fine introduction by Mike Hodges, who directed Michael Caine in the movie (the remake? fuhgeddaboutit!), I finally snagged a copy. Didn’t think twice. I was going to finally read this classic piece of crime fiction that had eluded me for so long, yet found it disappointing.

Once I realized what had happened, I took action. I went back to page one. I put out of my mind all of the copycats (even Spillane used the same plot and same general story devices in The Deep, though that book pre-dates Lewis) and started over.

And … wow. Anybody who writes or wants to write should memorize the opening chapter, which establishes such a sense of urban decay you wonder if Jack is taking a train into Hell.
Go home, Stallone, you're drunk!

All I can say is that Get Carter deserves its reputation, and going into too much of the book’s plot shouldn’t be what we focus on. What should be highlighted is the writing style of Lewis and the intensity of the place he creates. This isn’t swanky, swinging London he’s writing about. This is a town with industrial smokestacks scraping the sky. The pubs are dirty. The people in them are dirty. The streets are dirty. The gangsters fight dirty. There’s no trick shots or fancy gunfights. When guys get hit, they hurt. They spit blood. They got knocked down, and before they can get up, somebody grabs them by the hair and smashes their face into the muddy asphalt. You feel it, man. You feel every hit. You can taste the grit.
Michael Caine IS Jack Carter

Get Carter isn’t so much a book about a man returning to the home he left behind to avenge his brother’s murder, even though it is. It’s more about a man coming to terms with his past, his mistakes, and how he has to live with those mistakes. Jack Carter is really avenging himself, his brother is just a cipher, a catalyst for Jack’s existence. He’s a tough man who once thought he had all the answers and soon discovers he doesn’t know the answers after all; in fact, he’s changed so much, become so soft, relying on his former reputation, the bad guys get the edge. And that gives us one of the biggest sucker-punch endings in crime fiction. It’ll make your eyes bleed, because you want Jack to win, and then you realize Jack is you. We all grow and change and sometimes we go back where we came from thinking we know everything and then life smacks us across the face with the fact that we don’t know anything at all. We just fooled ourselves into thinking we did.

That’s what the other guys missed. The imitators could do the action, sure, but they couldn’t get the feeling. They couldn’t put you in that place. That’s the wonder of the late Ted Lewis, who left us way too soon, and why Get Carter is so revered and deserves to be discovered by a new generation of crime readers. The best crime fiction teaches us about our world and a little about ourselves; Get Carter does that, and belongs among the best.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Stiletto #1: The Termination Protocol

It's launch day for Stiletto #1: The Termination Protocol, and I do hope you take a moment to check it out.

Some of you longtime readers may remember a couple of years ago when I did TPP as a stand-alone Stiletto story. Well, I decided to make some changes and use it as the start of a series when (a) I needed a break from The Rogue Gentleman but wasn't sure what to write and (b) a friend said he really like Stiletto and would like to see more. So a little updating here and there and we have a new version of an old book.

It's confusing, I know.

If you bought the old book and don't want to buy it again, email me using the form on the left side of the page. You'll have to answer some questions about the old version, though, before I send you the new one, but I'm happy to send it along as a thank-you for your past support.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Andrew Warren Returns with RED PHOENIX

It's my pleasure to bring back Andrew Warren, who has been doing a bang-up job of bringing the action and thrills with his Thomas Caine books, the latest of which, RED PHOENIX, is out today. I invited him back for a follow-up after our last chat.

Brian Drake: Tell us about the new Thomas Caine adventure.

Andrew Warren: Thanks for having me back Brian!  In Red Phoenix, we learn a little bit more about Thomas Caine’s enigmatic past, and the mission that got his partner killed.  Flash forward a few years, and Tom is still on the hunt for the corrupt CIA Director who betrayed him.  When he finally catches up to his prey, he discovers that his partner’s son, now a young man named Sean, is being held in China on espionage charges. 

Caine must make a choice:  Does he pursue the man who betrayed him, and finally take his revenge?  Or will he abandon his hunt, and travel to Beijing to save Sean from a deadly web of conspiracies and killers?  He is forced to confront the anger and rage that drives him, and begins to questions himself, and his motives.  He has the opportunity to kill the man who ruined his life, but at what cost? 

Along the way, Caine must also deal with a double agent in the Chinese Ministry of State Security, who has their own reasons for wanting Sean dead, as well as a triad gangster with some deep-seated rage and anger issues of his own!

It’s a stand-alone spy thriller, and it definitely tells its own complete story.  But if you’ve read Devil’s Due and Tokyo Black, there are plenty of callbacks, character developments, and Easter eggs that will bring a smile to your face.

BD: After three books under your belt, what have you learned about yourself as a writer?

AW: Honestly, I still have a hard time thinking of myself as an author.  The first two books have done well, but sometimes I have a hard time trusting my instincts and abilities.  There was one scene in the new book, I won’t say which one… I don’t know why, but for some reason, I was convinced that there was no way I could pull it off, and do the scene justice.  I was terrified to write this scene!  I kept putting it off, and putting it off, and it ended up being the very last thing I wrote in the first draft.  And now, it’s actually one of my favorite scenes in the book!  So I think I’m still learning to trust myself, and just dive in and give things a shot – if they don’t work out, I know I can always change it later.

BD: What has reader reaction been like?

AW: Man, I have to say, I love my readers.  They are awesome.  Their reaction has been so positive and supportive; it’s surpassed my wildest dreams.  After Tokyo Black launched, one reader emailed me and said that she was a world traveler, but had never been to Japan.  After she finished my book, she began planning a trip to Tokyo.  That meant so much to me. As I mentioned in my last interview, after I visited Japan, I felt a special connection to the place.  It was so important to me to convey that excitement and fascination I felt to my readers.  When I got that email, I knew that at least for that one person, I had succeeded.

I was also contacted by fifteen-year old girl in India who loved Devil’s Due!  She said she admired Naiyana, the female lead, because she was strong, brave, and she did not abandon Caine in his time of need.  Of course I was incredibly proud and touched, but I was also a bit concerned.  I certainly did not intend for that character to be a role model for teenage girls!  But I remember being that age, and getting pleasantly lost in books that I loved.  The idea that I could have that kind of affect on someone so different from me, so far away… it’s incredible, isn’t it?

I’ve had a few advance reviews come in for Red Phoenix recently, and for the most part, they’ve been incredibly positive as well.  I am very grateful, and lucky, to have such a good connection with my readers.  Hearing from them always makes my day!

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

AW: Marketing seems to be an area that many authors struggle with, and I am certainly no exception.  I’ve run some Facebook ads, and I run a promo from time to time, but I could definitely focus on this more. 

A lot of my readers have found me through groups on Goodreads, and I am making an effort to be more involved there, and not just to promote my own books.  Some of my most rewarding experiences in self-publishing have come from talking with other authors like yourself, sharing tips and ideas, and helping each other out.  A rising tide lifts all ships, as they say! 

But overall, I do believe that the single most important thing I can do is to write more books for readers to enjoy.  So while I do plan to increase my marketing efforts, I still want to focus most of my energy into creating more exciting stories.

BD: Have you started pricing Ferraris?  If so, are you going hybrid or traditional?

AW: I’d rather price the black GTR from Tokyo Black!  But seriously, I’m a long way from that.  I look at being a self-published author as running a small business.  The first year was just seeing if things could be profitable, and they were.  Now, it’s time to see if I can scale, and grow.  Write more books, explore some more genres… but for now I’m not even pricing Toyota Corollas!

I have nothing against working with a major publisher, but I see no reason not to go hybrid, and keep self-publishing things on my own as well.  Why give up ownership of something I created if I don’t have to?  Even if someone swooped in and handed me a mountain of cash for the rights to one character or series, why not create something new on my own? 

Self-publishing is an incredible opportunity for authors.  The technology we have at our disposal is mind blowing when you compare it to the traditional publishing business.  We can press a button and reach hundreds of thousands of readers instantly.  Why would we ever give that up?

BD: Will we get more Caine adventures in the future, or are you looking to try another character or even another genre next?

AW: The short answer is “Yes!”  It’s funny – the whole time I was writing Red Phoenix, I kept telling myself, “I can’t wait to finish this book so I can try something different, something like sci-fi or fantasy.”  But then, as soon as I finished, I began getting more ideas for new Caine books. 

Either way, Thomas Caine will return… it says so right at the end of the book!  But I would also like to try my hand at some other genres as well.  I’ve had some ideas bubbling for a sci-fi space opera series.  But as long as Caine keeps whispering in my ear, I’m happy to keep having adventures with him across the world.

Thanks again for having me on your site Brian!  I really appreciate it, and I hope your readers enjoy hearing about the Thomas Caine series.

Red Phoenix launches on Amazon Feb 7th.  You can also check out Devil’s Due, and Tokyo Black, out now!  If you want to know more about my books and what I’m working on, you can visit my website at  You can also drop me a line on Facebook: @andrewarrenbooks, or Twitter: @aawarren71.

And if anyone has any questions about Thomas Caine, self-publishing, or writing in general, please don’t hesitate to contact me… I’ll do my best to answer!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Free Scott Stiletto Preview

We're about a month away from the official launch of my new Stiletto series and I wanted to give you a sneak-peak.

Basically what I'd like to do is build a "street team" of readers who can leave some Amazon reviews on launch day or a few days after, or, worse case, tell this emperor that he has no clothes before he makes a fool of himself. I'm thinking the second week of March would be a good time to release the book unless you tell me it would be better to delete the damn thing.

I've set up a download page at Book Funnel for free downloads of Stiletto #1: The Termination Protocol. If you'd like to read it, please email me at briandrake88 at yahoo dot com and I'll provide you with a link.

Those of you who read an earlier version of this book in 2014 will for sure want the free download because I don't want you to buy it twice. There have been extensive revisions to make this the start of a series, so it's not entirely the same book.

Here's the description:

The Termination Protocol

A deadly nerve agent . . . one man standing between peace and Armageddon . . .
CIA agent Scott Stiletto is one of the best. When a derivative of sarin gas thought destroyed shows up on the open market, Scott races to keep the chemical weapon out of enemy hands. The Agency's only lead is a terrorist named Liam Miller, and Stiletto plans a simple snatch-and-grab that quickly lands Miller in U.S. custody. The rendition soon turns into disaster.
Another terrorist group snatches Miller in a blinding fast raid that leaves four agents dead and Stiletto wounded. Worse, the new players—calling themselves the New World Revolutionary Front—are the ones planning to buy the sarin. They use Miller to plant a false trail for the CIA to follow while their deadly plan comes to fruition.
The NWRF doesn't count on Miller having a few tricks up his sleeve, or Stiletto's relentless determination to complete his mission. And once Miller gets away and the two team-up to fight their common enemy, the NWRF faces the wrath of two men who are deadlier together than they are separately.