Tuesday, September 2, 2014

To Err is Human?

Thriller Guy is surprised at his usually perspicacious readers. Last week’s entry had a serious mistake, and only Thriller Guy reader Bill Parke caught it, or at least he was the only one kind enough to send TG a note. Here’s his email, beginning with a quote from TG’s blog entry:

"And one last low-tech tool solving a high-tech problem. When you shoot someone, it’s always smart to clean up your brass before making your getaway: (from the book)  "Behind them, Isfahan climbed out of the sedan with a long device in his hands that looked something like a metal Broom. It was a NailHawg magnetic nail sweeper, used by roofers for collecting loose roofing nails in grass. Quickly and calmly he rolled the device back and forth in the alley where his two colleagues had been standing, and he picked up eleven spent shell casings from their weapons.”"

Bill Parke: This is a good way to see if your readers are paying attention, but you probably it planned that way. If not: Maybe the Nail-Hawg is magico-nuclear (or is it nucleo-magic?), but my spent brass is brass, non-ferrous. When shooting, I always go out in the yard with a 5 gallon bucket because I gotta pick 'em all up by hand. The ones I miss become launch vehicles when I mow the grass.”

When TG read the bit in Mark Greaney’s novel, Tom Clancy: Support and Defend, he realized it would fit nicely into his series of ongoing entries offering up cool techno stuff and ideas for his fellow thriller writers to admire and take advantage of. At the time, TG heard the sound of a faint bell ringing in his subconscious, an alarm that he sometimes gets when something he reads doesn’t “ring true,” but feeling lazy at the time, he decided to just let it go through without checking on it. (Small voice in back of brain: brass is made up of zinc and copper, are either of those magnetic? I don’t think so, but maybe they put some iron in there somewhere in the shell casings.) In any case, the electromagnetic NailHawg is bullshit, but here’s a nifty little device that actually does the job, though it's not nearly cool enough to put into a cutting edge thriller.

All of this begs the question: How did this slip through editing and make it onto the finished pages of the book? Thriller Guy, well, his alter ego Allen Appel, has published many books. (Go to this site to purchase all of his novels on Kindle. You’ll be glad you did.) This was back in the day when the copy editing was done by a band of doughty (when’s the last time you saw that word?) women -- please spare TG the sexist accusations, they were all women as far as TG knows -- who questioned everything. Nothing escaped their intelligent, eagle eyes. TG would sit and cringe as he read their polite but scathing edits, as they eviscerated every page and coolly pointed out his ridiculous mistakes. Every writer TG knows felt the same way; experienced the same shame. And then legacy publishing decided one of the smart moves they could make to raise their profit margins was to fire all the copy editors. This dumbass idea came right after they cut all their author advances by two-thirds. So now books hit the stands with howlers studded into the text like raisins in an oatmeal cookie. Sigh. TG understands he’s geezing here, but does anyone actually give a shit anymore? Evidently not.

One also wonders if Tom Clancy had been overseeing this novel if he would have spotted this mistake. As noted in the earlier blog, TG liked this book. Greaney is undoubtedly a better writer than old Tom ever was. TG has written before (or has he?) that one of the greatest assets that Clancy possessed was that the military loved him and would go to great lengths to accommodate his requests for info. They loved to fill him in on cool stuff that was semi-secret, and allowed him to play with many of their toys: Hey, Tom, wanna drive a tank? Fire a missile? No problemo. Maybe Greaney enjoys this same advantage, along with all the other guys who are now penning the individual volumes in the Clancy empire as Putnam and the other fat cat publishers lay back and roll around in all the dough the guy still brings in.

TG has a suggestion for these fat cats. How about spending a few bucks on some real, old-fashioned editing. Before the Clancy reputation for accuracy migrates down in the dirt with all those pesky shell casings.


  1. 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 employess 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-

    Mark Greaney

  2. Of course, even better, is what my bad guy uses in Mississippi Running - a brass catcher. http://squibloads.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/cn-205-002_02_lg1.jpg

    No need to hang around and hope you grab all the brass...