Friday, September 5, 2014

Mistakes Have Been Made. Or Have They?

Last week Thriller Guy put up a blog about an error that one of his readers found in Mark Greaney’s, Tom Clancy Support and Defend. It turns out that Thriller Guy was wrong, or sort of wrong, or a little wrong, or something. Several comments came in, as well as some email, which TG will lay out for you so you can decide for yourselves.

First of all, in the course of TG’s long career he has learned if he makes a mistake in a novel, to please, God, not have it be a mistake that has anything to do with guns. Many thriller readers are gun enthusiasts, and those folks don’t take it lightly when an author makes a gun mistake. To recap, the “mistake” pointed out in Support and Defend was when two Iranian Quds force operatives shoot two blameless SSG surveillance officers then calmly clean up their mess including rolling out a roofer’s device called a NailHag magnetic nail sweeper that picks up the spent brass. Then one of TG’s readers pointed out that brass is not magnetic, so it wouldn’t work. The mail started rolling in, including a note from the author of the book, Mark Greaney. TG would like to reiterate, before he goes any further, that this whole discussion is a side issue, mostly a chance for TG to rave, cranky old reviewer that he is, about the shoddy state of publishing today, and YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!

Ahem. Greaney’s book is actually quite good, and in fact TG gave it an excellent review and is looking forward to reading more from him, writing as both a Clancy author and his own novels, known as the Grey Man series.

Back to the NailHawg issue. After putting the last entry up, TG received a note from a Constant Reader and TG pal who pointed out “I caught this one, too, but believe it or not, the magnet will work even on brass. Really? The word brass is used these days as an encompassing word to mean any shell. A bit of nomenclature: the bullet is what comes out of the shell. The shell and bullet make up a cartridge. Anyway, in the old days all shells were made of real brass. Now, mostly, they are steel alloy with a yellow color and look like brass or contain brass and steel which means that they can be picked up by magnets. For many of your high-powered weapons, the shell is all steel. For many of your lower powered shells, like for a .22 or 9mm it's all brass and the magnet will not work. For proof, come to my house and I will put my magnet to an AK-47 shell and you can watch it click to the magnet like a hooker walking on a tile floor.” Another email from the same reader offered this Wikipedia page that goes into the matter in more detail

The author of Support and Defend, Mark Greaney, came in next: “Hi Thriller Guy - This is Mark. I have a gross of Russian Wolfe Barnual steel case 9mm ammo in my garage. Russia supplies Iran with ammo via Rosoboronexport, so I expect an Iranian government employee might have easy access to it.

 Any steel case ammo will be picked up by a magnet - I can send you a few spent rounds to test. 

I do have copy editors and they did ask me about this - but I told them to stet it. I probably could have specified in the book that they were using steel case ammo - and honestly should have done so - but I don't see it as an error that the nail-hawg picked up brass made out of an unspecified metal. (brass is a catch all term for spent casings)

 Thanks for letting me air this.”

Thriller Guy is pleased by the response for several reasons, one: Greaney could have been pissed off at TG for dragging him up on charges of Making a Gun Mistake and gotten upset, whereas instead he chimed right in with a reasonable and temperate explanation, and two, that he points out that there actually are still good copy editors who had flagged the material in the manuscript editing stages. Perhaps traditional publishing is not as far gone as TG thought.

Other readers sent in messages about the problem of flying brass, including this one by Joel Lovett: “Of course, even better, is what my bad guy uses in Mississippi Running - a brass catcher. No need to hang around and hope you grab all the brass...”
Mississippi Running is the name of a thriller Joel is working on, and the picture shows a simple little black mesh bag that fits on the side of a weapon and catches the brass as it is ejected. TG has to wonder, though, would this accessory take away from the general bad-assedness look of a sniper’s rifle or a silenced handgun? One needs to remember that the reason to collect the spent casings is to prevent crime scene investigators from identifying the type of weapon used, not that the evildoers or even good guys are picking up their brass because it’s just good housekeeping, bad for the environment or that a passing duck may ingest a couple and get sick.

OK, has TG beat this particular horse if not to death at least into submission? The answer is obviously yes. Unless someone else out there wants to be heard. Comment away.

1 comment:

  1. This from writer pal John McKeon...
    I am known to be (I think it is fair to say) something of a romantic and prone to interpret most things mainly as metaphor. In that sense, I always thought that "collecting the brass" was a quasi-poetic way of dealing with the miscellaneous detritus of violent assault. I never thought it literally meant the shell casings were made of brass.

    Similarly, we often hear someone described as having "brass b**lls." I have even heard this said of TG, though not to his face. We do not believe this literally means what it says.

    You are right, though. The author can maker any kind of mistake he wants, but NOT A GUN MISTAKE, dear God, because they're out there, and they know the difference, and they're lying in wait for you.