Sunday, June 24, 2018

Hero Cops Make Comeback: The Blazer Novels of G.C. Harmon

I bumped into my next guest on Facebook as we prowl the backstreets of men's adventure fiction. G.C. Harmon's Steve Blazer series is one to watch. It's time we had hero cops in fiction again, if nothing else to balance out the negative press law enforcement seems to attract nowadays, albeit some of it deserved, but we all know there are more good cops than bad, and their experiences are ripe for adventure fiction.

G.C. has two books out so far, Red, White and Blue, and Loaded. The Blazer adventures take place in San Francisco, which, after the Dirty Harry movies, I'm convinced is the best setting for any police story. New York, Chicago, LA? Fuhgeddaboutit.

After crashing a thieves' den, arresting several suspects, and recovering untold lots of stolen merchandise, G.C. and I sat down to talk about how to write about it.

Brian Drake: When did you start writing?

G.C. Harmon: I have been writing since about 1982, when I was 10 years old. Steve Blazer was one of the first characters I ever created. Even back then, I had an affinity for action heroes.

BD: Tell us about Steve Blazer. What makes him tick?

GCH: Steve Blazer is an honest and dedicated cop with a background in military special ops. In fact, this is where he met his mentor, Captain John Stanson. Because of his military background he is someone who is willing to do what it takes to get a job done. This has led much of the department to believe that, with an arrest record like his, and as many shootings as he's had, he's GOT to be doing something shady.

Steve is a deep believer in the war on drugs. Through much of his life, he's seen the damage that drugs do to people--not just the users, but everyone around them--and he has vowed to fight this any way he can.

In Red, White and Blue, Stanson is instrumental in seeing Blazer is given command of a special unit resurrected from the department's history. The unit has a shady past, and Stanson knows that the department is going to look at Blazer and his team with a lot of distrust. They both want to keep the unit above board and earn the department's trust. This is immediately put to the test when one of his men crosses lines and puts their future in jeopardy.

As a character, Blazer is also extremely cynical. He sees the worst of the worst, so he expects the worst in humanity. But it goes a little deeper. He sees where society is heading as a whole, and he sees himself as doing his part to try to save it, all the while knowing that the society probably can't be saved. But that battle must be fought. Steve puts his life on the line so good honest people can live good lives without fear. He feels like he has sacrificed his own chances at a normal life for others to have their chance.

BD: What inspired you to make Blazer a cop in San Francisco?

GCH: I've conceived many different versions of this character as we grew up together, but during the 1990s is when I settled on him being a cop. The more I wrote and developed the character, the more I wanted to try the cop thing myself. I graduated from the California Peace Officers Standards and Training Academy several years ago. I unfortunately never got the chance to work as a cop, but I've worked with police departments in my various jobs and I'm currently pursuing a degree in Criminal Justice. I've poured much of my training and many of my work experiences into my writing. As for San Francisco, I fell in love with the city as a kid, when I first went there with my dad. The view of the skyscrapers as we crossed the Bay Bridge was just awe-inspiring. It wasn't until much later that I saw the crazy politics of that city, but I actually like to incorporate that in my writing, at least to some extent.

BD: Do the Blazer books give us a glimpse into the real world of cops, are we getting a pulp extravaganza, or a little of both?

GCH: A lot of both. I love action, and I grew up on some of the popular pulp books of the '80s. I still read the Executioner series, the Destroyer, The Penetrator, Dennison's War, Nick Carter, some great and action-packed stories. I love crafting a long and complex action scene, and I've created some good ones in Red, White and Blue. At the same time, I strive for realism. I've taken many trips into the city (I live just a couple hours away) to do location research, and I have definitely put some of my own experiences into my stories. I try to avoid the cliches, the literary traps that are pure Hollywood. I want my stories to be exciting and inspiring, but also believable. My stories are definitely for action fans, but they will also appeal to anyone with a sense of justice.

BD: Any plans for non-Blazer books?

GCH: Absolutely. I will concentrate on Blazer for the time being, the second book is being adjusted and will be re-released soon. I am also currently working on the third book, a prequel. I've got story ideas to keep Blazer going for quite a while. At the same time, I do have a few other main characters in mind that I'd like to try out. I have a spy character that I want to explore. I have ideas for a futuristic sci-fi-series. But for now, the first Blazer novel, Red, White and Blue, is available! Books 2 and 3 will be available soon. Enjoy! And make your life an adventure!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Stiletto #4 Now Available

After a long delay I have finally released The Petrova Betrayal, aka Stiletto #4.

My fiance and I have been planning our wedding, so it's been hectic. Two more months and I kiss my bachelor days good-bye, and having been a bachelor for so long, I'm quite looking forward to the change.

For the two of you who have been waiting for Stiletto #4 (hahaha) you can buy it now.

Stiletto Unleashed!

Scott Stiletto is out of the CIA, but not out of action. Working as a freelancer, Stiletto is hired by Kim Jordan, CEO of Jordan Defense, a firm involved in creating a new radar system to detect stealth aircraft. It’s a development that may re-shape U.S. defenses, and somebody is trying to steal the plans. Stiletto dives in to stop the theft and keep the data from falling into the wrong hands, while attraction burns between him and Kim Jordan, causing Stiletto to take a much greater interest in the mission. An interest that may prove fatal. 

Soon competing enemies reveal themselves, old enemies become allies, adversaries thought dead reappear, and Stiletto’s quest to secure the radar plans takes him around the world in an action-packed thrill ride where nothing is as it seems.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Mike Baron: From Comics to Hard-Boiled Crime

Author Mike Baron has written a set of terrific private detective novels that offer a new twist on the hard-boiled dick. Biker is the first in the "Bad Road Rising" series, and features P.I. and biker Josh Pratt, and his first adventure is a whopper.

Mike is no stranger to writing.  He is the creator of Nexus (with artist Steve Rude) and Badger two of the longest lasting independent superhero comics. Nexus is about a cosmic avenger 500 years in the future. Badger, about a multiple personality one of whom is a costumed crime fighter. First/Devils Due is publishing all new Badger stories. Baron has won two Eisners and an Inkpot award and written The Punisher, Flash, Deadman and Star Wars among many other titles.

I found Mike at our favorite biker bar (he drank whiskey; I had a glass of milk--in a dirty glass) and asked him a few questions.

BD: You've had a big career in comics before writing a novel. When did you start writing, and what inspired you?

MB: I started writing for my high school newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. I don't know, one day I just felt like writing! 

I have been inspired to write since I picked up John D. MacDonald's The Deep Blue Goodbye in a cigar store in Mitchell, SD, for thirty-five cents. Uncle Scrooge comics hit me like a neutron bomb. Why were these comics so much better than other comics? I began to analyze.

BD: Why did it take so long to write a novel? Or was it something you wanted to do for quite some time?

MB: I had it in the back of my mind to be a novelist since The Deep Blue Goodbye. Looked like an easy job! I wouldn't have to work! I tried writing novels right out of college. I wrote more than a million words of garbage before I quit. But after awhile I would start again. I fell off the earth for about ten years, during which I moved from Wisconsin to Colorado. I had some difficult times and it changed me. I'd been making notes on novels for years. I started again and this time, I got it! It took me thirty years to learn how to write a novel, but I'm a slow learner.

BD: Can you explain the difference between comic writing and prose?

MB: Comics are such a forgiving art form, anyone can do one and it will appear legitimate. You will read rebarbative writing accompanied by childish art and it will never occur to you to toss it aside and proclaim, “rubbish!”

A novel, on the other hand, must grab you with its narrative voice. Most readers can sense amateurish writing within the first paragraph. Then it becomes a struggle to read. The goal of the story teller is to grab the reader by the throat and drag him into the narrative so he forgets he is experiencing craft, and it becomes his reality. Even the best written comic will toss you out if the art doesn’t work. And even the most beautifully illustrated comic will leave you with an empty feeling if the story doesn’t hold up. I make notes on a novel months, sometimes years in advance. When I have enough of a framework, I write a detailed outline. The outline must be entertaining and exciting. Every word you write is an advertisement for your writing. I make notes on characters, plot devices, unusual inventions. Anything and everything that might pertain to the story.

BD: Where did the idea for "Bad Road Rising" come from?

MB: I've been a motorcyclist all my life, and I wanted to create a character like Travis McGee. That is, a flawed but noble man who lives outside the system and makes a living helping people. Fringe dwellers, unwed mothers, people who need it, deserve it, but can't get it. I made Josh a biker and gave him an horrific background which partially explains the way he is. I was riding into town one day and I saw a roadside memorial for a cyclist who'd been killed in a crash. That's where I got the name. I wrote Biker three or four times before I was satisfied. By the time I'd finished, Josh had taken on a life of his own.

BD: How did the history of the PI genre influence you, and what genre conventions did you want to subvert to make the story uniquely yours?

MB: Every writer reads. Every writer craves an exciting new book. By the time I got around to Josh, I'd read everything John D. MacDonald, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Randy Wayne White had written. I have three rules. One: entertain. Two: show don't tell. Three: be original. I don't know how you can not be original if you're writing honestly. We're all individuals with a unique history. I bring my world view to the page. As a journalist, I spent a lot of time talking to people. Musicians, bikers, retailers. Then I hear a unique phrase, I remember it. Sometimes I write it down. Fresh, realistic dialogue is my stock in trade. I don't worry about subversion. I worry about grabbing the reader by the throat and dragging him into the narrative so that he forgets all else. I don't choose the stories, the stories choose me. My stories are heterodox and I am bracing for a backlash. Go to Amazon and read the story description for Sons of Bitches or Sons of Privilege.

BD: Biker, while certainly not being religious fiction, does feature elements of faith, especially with Josh. What made you go in that direction?

MB: Josh’s conversion from hoodlum to Christian seemed natural. A person has to believe in something larger than himself to be happy. It also appeals to my sense of the heterodox. I write against the grain of popular culture.

BD:  How many books in the series are planned?

MB: Thousands! Working on the seventh novel now.

BD: Any plans for other novels not involving Josh Pratt?

MB: I just wrote a Destroyer novel for Devin Murphy. I've also written Banshees, Domain, and Skorpio, three horror novels of which I'm proud. Publishers Weekly gave Banshees a starred review. I also have an historical novel in the back of my head that I'll get to one of these days, but I'm already thinking about the next Josh Pratt.