Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Thriller Guy is getting sick of books about drones. They’re cool, sure, but over the last month TG has read four of them and he’s is very afraid that there are scores more out there, hovering overhead out of sight, just waiting to plunk down on his desk and demand to be reviewed. But we’ll get to the drones in a moment; first TG would like to introduce a couple of new features here at Thriller Central.

(First of all, TG would like to condemn and excoriate those writers who now delete the word "of" when used, as above, in the phrase "a couple of whatever." They now write this as "a couple whatever." Where did this come from? And TG is horrified to see that there is some acceptance of this in writerly circles. Shame, shame. You will have to pry that "of" from TG's cold dead hands.)

TG often reads some great lines in the books he reviews, and because he knows you readers and writers alike appreciate clever writing, TG is going to pass along these examples from time to time. First up is from The Dead Sea Deception, which is a Da Vinci Code type of thriller by Adam Blake. Blake is a pseudonym of Mike Carey, a British comic book writer. Deception has strange warrior villains who bleed from their eyeballs and take a drug that turns them into deadly, incredibly efficient killers, plus there are codes and religious mysteries and a lesbian woman detective who is as tough as any of the guys. Her name is Kennedy and here she and her mysterious partner, Tillman, are gearing up to go after the eye bleeders…

Excellent writer’s lines #1. "Tillman had transferred a whole lot of light and heavy ordnance into a kit bag he carried on his back. In his hands, in place of the Unica, he carried a FA-MAS Clairon assault rifle in the French Army configuration, complete with bayonet and grenade launcher. The thing terrified Kennedy: it looked like the Swiss army knife of sudden death."

See how Blake works in the all-important gun info (the Unica reference is to a particular unusual type of handgun) then tosses in the kicker Swiss Army knife line, which is perfect because it’s an image that clicks into the reader’s visual brain. Deception is a good book, due out in June and the sequel is scheduled for July.

TG also comes across lots of good Thriller info in the course of reading all these books. Most Thriller writers understand the need for research and throwing in fun facts is always a smart idea. You don’t want to use everything you learn, that just slows things down and makes the writer look like a smarty pants, but the judicious use of cool facts is the hallmark of a great thriller.

Cool fact #1. From a book by Richard Clark, whose novel Drone will be discussed below, we learn that when you see gun camera footage from attacking fighter aircraft, (go to the Internet and look for YouTube videos) after an air to ground missile is released and hits the target, a big explosion cloud goes up and after a few seconds you almost always see a little guy run out of the cloud and scamper away. These guys are called, by the attackers, “squirters.” A perfect name and another great image.

Cool fact #2. From The Red Room, by Ridley Pearson. “Face recognition software has improved exponentially in the past few years, to the point at which X-ray imaging in an airport’s full-body scanner can utilize an individual’s skull features to overcome attempts at disguise like glasses and wigs.” Who knew?

Pearson has written more than 48 novels (after awhile you lose count) and has some very Thriller Guy pronouncements on the art and labor of writing. From his website:

How many rejection slips did you get before your first novel was published?
I wrote 6-7 hours a day for 8 1/2 years before my first fiction was under contract. I think of it as my graduate school days—although I was “there” long enough to be a brain surgeon.

Do you get ideas for new books all the time and you keep them written down, or does one come to mind just when you need one?
I keep a notebook with me at all times. (Check out TG’s entry on the Field Notes brand of excellent notebooks. And look for a new upcoming entry on an excellent new tougher notebook in the line.)

What inspires you to write? Where do you get your ideas?
I love telling stories. I’ve been a storyteller much of my life, and I think the novels allow me to express that. My ideas come from experience, newspapers, listening to others, observation. It’s all around us. Everything has a story if you take the time to listen and look for it.

Have you found certain methods or tricks for writing novels?
I don’t have tricks. It comes down to hours and hours of work. I rewrite every novel no fewer than four times, sometimes as many as nine times. You can’t believe how many hours that consumes. It’s ENDLESS. You have to be patient to be a published writer, and you have to practice humility, because the editor (or teacher) is nearly always right. (Hey, is this not what TG has been drilling into your heads for the last, what, 4 years?)

Do you have any writing advice for beginner writers?
If you read, read, read and study the way various authors make characters come to life on the page you will see that working both with the five senses and internal thoughts can really help. My advice is to read the character descriptions in the books you love and to especially pay attention to how they speak and what they say as that is what shapes people’s impressions of us and therefore readers’ impressions of characters. (Again, this is straight from TG’s playbook.)
Most importantly, pick an amount of time each day, 30 mins, 1 hour, and sit down and DO IT. (TG: Ditto, ditto, ditto)

Wait a minute, TG, what about the Drones?

That’s just going to have to wait. Where does the time go? Keep coming back for new entries from the Thriller Guy. And for a good read, check out any of the books by Allen Appel listed at the site to the right of this entry.


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