Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Killer

Back when Thriller Guy was writing movie scripts he read an interesting piece of advice on how to craft a good action/adventure film. Scripts are short (each page equals one minute of screen time, hence around 100 to 120 pages) and they are traditionally divided up into three acts. To understand this soon-to-be-revealed piece of advice, you should know the screenwriting definition of the word “whammie.” A whammie is anything exciting, usually an explosion, car chase, gunfight, anything that gets the viewer's blood pumping. Here's the advice on how to structure your script:

Act One: Whammies.

Act Two: More Whammies.

Act Three: All Whammies.

With his recently published The Killers, Tom Hinshelwood has written a thriller that is all whammies.

The primary elements are not all that unusual – a CIA traitor, hired killer, beautiful agency operative, Russian spies, and an espionage coup of invaluable proportion, betrayals and double crosses – but what he does with them is a steely, joy to read: a thriller that kicks ass from beginning to end without any sag in the middle, no fussy romantic entanglements, no cliched backstory that attempts to explain the psychological origins behind the ongoing mayhem. This book slams into gear from the first pages and roars along till it smashes into the end. Terrific.

Victor is a hired killer who is coldly efficient. He's doing a hit on a Latvian national, killing the man and retrieving a small flash drive. When Victor heads back to his hotel he has to fight his way through a gang that suddenly attacks him. From then on legions of other hit men try to take his life, eventually culminating in an assassins duel between Victor and another hired killer, Reed, who may or may not be his equal.

There's a scene soon after Reed is introduced where he is attacked, randomly, by a gang of street punks. Thriller Guy loves these scenes which are often found in thrillers. The street gang shows up, hones in on the professional, and you just know what is going to happen. Here, the leader of the punks demands that Reed hand over his wallet, phone and watch:

     Reed's expression remained blank. “Why?”
     “Say what?”
     In that moment when confusion combined with anxiety, Reed grabbed the outstretched arm before him, wrapping his left hand around the wrist and pulling the kid forward sharply, directing the gun away to the side. He took hold of the kid's triceps with his free hand and twisted the wrist in his grip, locking the arm. He wrenched it downward, hard – against the joint – snapping the arm at the elbow and into an inverted V.
     The gun clattered on the asphalt and the awful wail momentarily stunned the others. Reed released the wrist and the kid collapsed. Among the screams he managed to find his voice.
     Reed sprang forward toward the other drawn gun, knocked the weapon aside as it was raised to fire, using his forward impetus to multiply the force of the elbow he sent into the kid's face. His head snapped backward, blood splashing from his mouth and the kid went down heavy, out cold, jaw broken.
     The other youth armed with a gun backed off, palms showing, eyes wide, head shaking. Reed ignored him, heard the click of a switchblade opening, turned, sidestepped as his attacker lunged and overextended himself into empty air, stumbling, completely off balance, arms flailing.
     The next one came from behind, his feet scraping on the ground. Reed whipped round, threw the edge of his hand into the guy's throat. He fell down convulsing.
     Two more attacked at the same time, one wielding a hunting knife with a four-inch blade, the other a crowbar. The crowbar came at him first, from the left, swinging for his head. Reed caught it and the attacker's hand together, redirected it downward, using the kid's momentum against him to twist the bar from his fingers and into Reed's own.
     He smashed an elbow into the youth's side, knocking him backward, as the youth gasped, ribs cracked. Reed followed through with the crowbar, backhanding it into the side of his attacker's skull. Blood splashed on faces in the crowd.
     The hunting knife passed within inches of Reed's face, a wild swing, clumsy. Reed dodged backward, waiting for the next attack, used his forearm as a shield to turn the blade aside and the crowbar to sweep his attacker's feet out from under him and drove it down into the kid's face, exploding his nose across his cheeks.
     The small youth with the switchblade recovered and yelled as he attacked again, a frenzied stab. Reed dodged, invited another attack, and brought the crowbar down hard on the youth's exposed arm, shattering bones. He screamed and dropped the knife, wrist and hand hanging limply from mid-forearm. Reed reversed his grip on the crowbar, swung it upward, cracking the youth under the jaw, the force lifting him off his feet and dropping him back to the ground in a silent heap.
     It was all over in less than seven seconds.

This is pretty much just a throwaway scene, tossed in for the sheer, exuberant love of havoc. Hinshelwood cranks this stuff out by the ream, making it look easy when TG can assure all you writers, published and unpublished, out there, it isn't. It's damn hard to do a few times, much less over and over the course of the entire book. And without repeating himself, without, dare I say it, becoming gratuitous. Whenever an ass kicking comes, it is always well deserved and functions to move the plot forward. The point of the above scene: don't screw around with Reed. If you do he will kill you.

TG will contact Hinshelwood and see if he'll donate a signed book to the first one of TG's readers who requests a copy. Maybe TG will do a small interview and find out where the man learned to write and to kick butt. So let TG know if you want a copy. And remember, all you Thriller Writers:


In the end, it's all about the whammies.


  1. That sounds like a hell of a book Allen. Thanks for bringing it to attention.

  2. Funnily enough, despite studying script writing, I never came across the term 'whammie' but they are certainly close to my heart.

  3. Gee, I am the third to post a comment but the first two did not make the obvious request: I would love to have a copy of The Killer. If that makes me the first reader to request it, then, well, yay.
    /s/ Randy the lawyer aka Anonymous

  4. Well, Randy, one of the first two commenters was the author and he probably has enough copies of the book. Send me your address and I'll pass it along to Tom Hinshelwood and he'll send you a signed copy of his excellent book. Email me at my alter ego:

  5. Good stuff. Reviews when you actually learn something (about the craft) are wonderful. Thanks, TG, and thanks to Tom Hinshelwood for the book, I loved it on my Kindle; signed copy? :>) And a big thanks to Tom for the link to you!

  6. Gee, TG wonders when we'll be able to get a signed copy on a Kindle. O Brave New World.

  7. I just finished reading The Killer. It was great. I could not put it down. I usually like a little romance and the chase of the guy/girl going after the girl/guy stuff but this book did not need it. It was definitely action from page one to the last. The way Mr. Hinshelwood describes the action, I swear, I could feel the blood splatter on my face and my body ached from the punches, knives, or guns that inflicted whoever was on the receiving end. I cannot believe this is Mr. Hinshelwood's first book. I cannot wait for the next one! Thanks for a great read.

  8. I just got done reading the book 20 minuets ago and i fucking loved it. Plus to make this better I went on toms page and I got introduced to u TG.

    I know im late but if a second signed copy was available would be AWESOME!!!

    If not atleast i discovered this website. Thanks TG for making this SITE AND THANK YOU TOM FOR WRITING SUCH AN AWESOME BOOK.

    p.s. finally felt like i was "in between jobs rather then laid off" -economy joke :P

  9. Hey, Tony, I don't have any more signed copies of Tom's book (he's working on a new one) but if you send me your address I'll send you a copy of a book of another Brit writer that I think is terrific, Ray Banks. You deserve it for your over-the-top enthusiasm. Send me your address to TG's alter-ego, Allen Appel.