Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Archive for the month “January, 2012”

Things they don’t tell you about air travel

Whenever I’m on a plane it is about the only time I’m sorry that I live remotely to the most isolated capital city in the world. People complain about the long haul flights to various destinations, well I had to catch a long haul just to get to the long haul connection. It gives you a lot of time to think about the realities of air travel.

1) If things get really bad, the pilots have ejector seats.
They may be called ‘captains’, but they have no intention of going down with the ship.

2) Unless you are Ralph Fiennes or Tiger Woods you aren’t nailing a flight attendant.
Lets face it, flight attendants have standards.

3) First class is a myth. They wouldn’t be seen on the same plane as ordinary people.
Rich people are afraid they might catch poor.

4) If you see gremlins on the wing, you have been lucky and received the non-watered down alcohol.
Keep drinking, you might see Elvis and Hendrix.

5) Yes, the seats are deliberately designed for people smaller than you.
Airplane designers were assured that no-one over 180cm and 70 kilos would ever go anywhere.

6) The bookings system takes into account claustrophobia in the seating assignments.
They immediately assign the claustrophobics to seats between the largest people on the flight.

7) People with a fear of flying are catered for.
Their in flight movies are ‘Airplane’ and ‘Alive’, plus they are spared from all the turbulence warnings. Comes as a real surprise.

    Science writing explained

    Language is very important for scientists, as they are often authors as well. Their medium is the communication of data and knowledge to further understanding. The problem with science is that a lot of scientists prefer to make their statements as vague and non-committal as possible. In keeping with my previous explanations of music reviews and book reviews I have found a few science terms explained. This list has helped me, I hope it helps you.

    Book Review: The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

    The Black EchoThe Black Echo by Michael Connelly
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    It took a while to work through my to-read list and make it to my signed copy of The Black Echo. I met Michael at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, had the customary quick chat and walked away with a couple of his books signed – made it worthwhile bringing that book from home. This gives you an idea that I have roughly a 8-9 month to-be-read list that isn’t really becoming any shorter.

    For those crime genre fans who haven’t heard of Michael Connelly or his Harry Bosch series, I’d suggest that the rock you are living under is a little cramped and this book should encourage you out into the fresh air. When Michael writes a crime novel it is an intensely good read from a master in the genre. Don’t believe me? They asked him to come on the TV show Castle because of his writing cred. If I have one criticism of the Bosch series it is that not every book is as compelling as this one. I was not a fan of City of Bones, despite it being an adequate crime novel.

    Of course, I can’t post a Michael Connelly review without my favourite moment from his appearance on TV. Enjoy.

    View all my reviews

    E-Readers Are Cool

    That’s right, E-readers were the gift of gifts this holidays. Now the Pew Institute have crunched the numbers to look at who was buying them and how this has changed over time. Report here.

    The researchers performed phone interviews with 2,986 people and asked them, “Are you cool enough to own the greatest gadget since Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone?” With an error rate of 2.2%, the results were as follows:

    • E-readers and tablets were owned by 10% of people in December 2011.
      • This was 19% in January 2012.
    • The proportion of people owning at least one of these two increased from 18% to 29%.
    • Tablet owners are likely to be under 50 years old and have graduated college.
      • They are also likely to make enough money to buy lots of apps and books.
    • E-readers are more popular with women and the 30-49 age group.
      • E-readers are still pretty popular with anyone under 65.
    • College graduates and rich folks also love E-readers.
    • You should own an E-reader.

    I have my E-reader, the new Kindle. I still love my pile of dead tree books, but I also love my Kindle.

    My Kindle and a DTB

    Men don’t cry

    Real men hide their feelings. Why?
    Because it’s none of your fuckin’ business!
    Men do not cry. Men do not pout. Men jack you in the fuckin’ jaw and say…
    Thanks for comin’ out.

    Being a man is largely frowned upon in our society these days. Yet, in the movies, books, even some TV shows, real men are revered. Clint Eastwood made a career out of being a man. Lee Child created Jack Reacher, a man for men and women. Even Hollywood is catching on now and having their boyish stars grow some stubble to look more like men, although Ryan Reynolds can pull off the boyish look as long as he wants.

    Things you won’t hear a real man say:
    Yes I would like to watch a romantic comedy.
    Twilight is a terrific film series based on some fantastic novels.
    I have no idea what this sport is about.
    I will stop and ask for directions.
    So we went back to her place and hugged.

    The Elements of Style


    The Elements of Style from Jake Heller on Vimeo.

    Found this video recently, it pays homage to Strunk and White in the form of a rap. For any writing fan out there: enjoy.

    Book Review: The Hunter by Richard Stark

    I know, another book review and none of my usual wit and original material. Bear with me, I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately to make up for the fact I’m back at work. Christmas holidays are always too short.

    The Hunter: A Parker NovelThe Hunter: A Parker Novel by Richard Stark
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    I like gritty, unless we are talking sandwiches. The crime noir genre really is all about gritty and Parker is the quintessential character embodying this.

    Once again I’m late to the bandwagon. Clearly Australia doesn’t have enough German and Japanese influences to have clear bandwagon schedules. Or maybe it is just me, but I prefer to blame others for my failings, like many great men before me. There was a point here about being late…. Oh yes, Richard Stark – aka Donald Westlake – and his Parker character are not new entities, thus my reading of my first Parker novel is probably well overdue.

    The reason I came to this series was two-fold. The first was I had recently watched the director’s cut of Mel Gibson’s Payback. The director’s cut was much more faithful to the source material than the original version, despite being made more friendly to a wider audience. The second reason was that I have also been reading a lot of Ed Brubaker’s graphic novels, such as Criminal. At the back of each edition of Criminal there are essays on crime movies and books that started and were highlights of the genre. The Parker series caught my attention for this reason.

    Needless to say, I can’t argue with history, this is a good book. Actually I could argue with history, as it is generally perspective based rather than objectively measured, but that is just the science nerd in me, rearing its ugly head. In my perspective though, the Parker series is well worth getting into.

    View all my reviews

    Book Review: The Kult by Shaun Jeffrey

    The KultThe Kult by Shaun Jeffrey
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    After I read Shaun’s book Dead Man’s Eye I did two things: bought his other books and made a cup of tea. What can I say, I like tea.

    Shaun is what you expect from an indie author; he writes books that entertain him first, pouring a lot of energy and enthusiasm into his stories. I enjoyed The Kult, not just because of that, but because Shaun has also turned out a fine thriller.

    Actually, calling this book a horror is probably underplaying the thriller aspects of the novel. The last half of the book had me rapt. I recommending reading Shaun’s books for fans of thrillers, horror or for those who feel like something fast paced with tension.

    View all my reviews

    Book Review: The Dead Man: Kill Them All by Harry Shannon

    Kill Them All(The Dead Man # 6)Kill Them All by Harry Shannon
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Harry is the latest author to contribute to The Dead Man series of novellas. It must be daunting to receive the call.

    Lee Goldberg: Hi Harry. Do you want to write an edition of The Dead Man?
    Harry Shannon: Why sure Lee, I love that series.
    Lee: Okay, just don’t fuck it up!

    Fortunately Harry has come through with the writing goods to keep the series’ reputation intact. Matt and his axe are back, once again visiting a small town, ready to kick some evil arse (I’m Australian, we spell it arse, not ass). This time, though, some professional bad guys are after his blood, literally.

    Harry’s other books are worth checking out as well. He writes horror (the Night Series) and thrillers (Mick Callahan series), showing the creepy thrills in this Dead Man book weren’t an accident. Lee and Will continue to deliver the goods with this series.

    View all my reviews

    Reading is good for the brain

    I may have mentioned it before, but I am a science nerd. Now that that is out in the open I’d also like to remind you that I’m also a thriller writer with muscles, so sand kickers; you will need to think twice about that.

    What I love about science is the way it goes about trying to understand the universe. In fact science even came up with a few studies on how reading is fantastic for you. Psychologists from Washington University used brain scans to see what happens inside our heads when we read stories. They found that ‘‘readers mentally simulate each new situation encountered in a narrative”. The brain weaves these situations together with experiences from its own life to create a mental synthesis. Reading a book leaves us with new neural pathways. Read more here. Nicole Speer, also from Washington University, utilized brain-imaging to look at what happens inside the brains of participants while they read. She discovered that as people read, they are constructing a virtual reality inside their heads every time they read. Read more here.

    A reader’s brain in action.
    I think this is fantastic evidence to wave at people, “See, you should read the book instead of only watching the movie.” Rather than readers having this inkling that their brains are running like a well oiled machine, we have actual evidence of this. Without evidence, claims are not worth the air they consume, just ask anyone who has tried to get conspiracy theorists to provide evidence for their claims.
    Need more proof? Well how about this article. So not only is reading good, but exploring and interacting with what you are reading is even better. Surfing the net, getting lost in a fictional world…. wait that is the same point twice. Anyway, it leads to even more brain activity.
    Surfing the net brain in action.

    Now before you all go in search of internet porn to enlarge your brain, I just wanted to air a gripe I have with science reporting in the media: IT SUCKS. Yes, that’s right. Reporters are probably the least reliable avenue for the dissemination of science to a wider audience. Scientists themselves often rank just as poorly of course, with their annoying habit of wanting to tell you about the 10 years they have just spent looking down a microscope so that you appreciate how much work went into the facts they are about to impart.

    So as part of growing your brain with reading and internet browsing, please spend some time searching for and reading the original scientific papers that are reported. If it wasn’t peer reviewed, then it could have been made up, like that rubbish about us only using 10% of our brain.

    Book Review: Along Came a Spider by James Patterson

    Along Came a SpiderAlong Came a Spider by James Patterson
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    This was my first Alex Cross novel and it was largely enjoyable. While it was entertaining enough I wasn’t really engrossed with the story or the characters. Although I did have Morgan Freeman’s voice running in my head as I read his character, so big plus there.

    I do tend to poke fun at James Patterson since he has become a label for thrillers, rather than a writer of thrillers. I was hoping that his first Alex Cross novel – his signature work – would appease my thoughts on his later work. His early work is superior, but still left me wanting.

    I should also note that James was up against it due to another reason. The Kindle edition I read was a very poorly done scan and transcribe. It made for a, at times, frustrating read. I wish the publishing houses would put more effort into these conversions as I have read several now and only a couple have been any good (Chris Ryan’s novels were very well transferred).

    View all my reviews

    Top 5 people you didn’t know you were allowed to kill

    1) Kyle Sandilands.

    There is a small caveat in Australian law that allows for “the permanent removal of fuckwits from the Australian population, through any means deemed necessary, to enable the genepool of our island nation to not be tainted for future generations.”

    For my non-Aussie friends, Kyle Sandilands is like Rush Linbugh or Glenn Beck, except without the political bent.

    2) Politicians.

    Okay, don’t get too excited here. There are certain times, places and manners in which it is perfectly legal to kill politicians. The first point is that they have to be shot. The second point is that it has to be done in broad daylight, between the hours of 10am and 3pm. My American friends will know where politicians are allowed to be shot, having experienced it themselves – whilst riding in, or alighting from, a car, or attending the theater.

    It is not just a coincidence that the president of the United States rides in a heavily armoured vehicle everywhere. It is also well known that politicians have their own staff car provided for them. They know the rules and are trying to make sure they are protected in that car. The third, and final, point is that you have to be shot too.

    Sorry, I don’t make the rules.

    3) Stupid people.

    This one is a bit tenuous. It isn’t completely legal to kill stupid people, but it is generally deemed not your fault if a stupid person dies as a result of your actions. Stupid people are regarded as being ‘temporary people’ and are a self correcting societal entity. Thus it is only a matter of time before they die and it wasn’t really your fault if they did.

    4) Religious people.

    This group are not like any of the others on the list. Religious people want to be killed so that they can get to heaven faster. The most devout – TV evangelists, people who solicit money for their faith, door knockers – are deliberately trying to annoy the rest of us into killing them. This serves a two-fold purpose in their minds eye. First it sends them to their heaven early, secondly it sends us to hell; keeping ‘the unworthy’ away from them for eternity.

    5) Anyone wearing a backwards hat or pants that expose their underwear.

    Self explanatory really. These people are just moving, 3D, shooting targets. Remember, you lose points if you miss the target or hit anything other than these targets.

    Steve Berry on writing

    It’s my birthday today – no “you’re old” jokes, unless you want to be bombarded with “yo momma” jokes. I’ve had a great start to the day, having received a box of chocolates and a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue label Scotch from my wife. I even managed to get a little writing done over breakfast.

    A few weeks ago I posted a video from James Rollins on writing. This follows on from a post many months back that featured a video by James with Steve Berry talking about writing. So it only feels fair to present a video by Steve Berry talking about writing. Enjoy! 

    TV Shows From Around the World

    I was viewing the new series of Sherlock, written by the fantastic Steven Moffat (Coupling, Dr Who, Jekyl), when a thought occurred to me; would the deli be open to sell me an ice cream at this hour? Sadly it wasn’t, which gave me plenty of time to think about how various countries differ in the way they do TV shows and movies.

    I present my musings and gross generalities about TV shows around the world.

    UK - Talkies.

    The best Dr Who – Tom Baker a close second.

    When I think of UK TV in general I think very little action but a lot of dialogue. Not much happens in any one episode of UK TV, but all the characters have a lot to say. The best shows – often written by the aforementioned Steven Moffat et al. – are also witty and intelligent.

    A great example of this is Dr Who, the David Tennant version. The Doctor is stuck in a life or death situation – lets say its Darleks about to shoot him – and yet he talks his way out of it. Any other country would have him ducking for cover. Another example is the crime drama Luther. This is more an exploration of the main character and his strained relationships and his commitment to solving crimes.

    Example: Sherlock, Luther.
    Outlier: The Bill (cookie cutter).

    USA - Explosions and cookie cutter formats.

    Cookie-Cutter was a term invented for this franchise. 

    The Americans are terrific at doing formulaic shows. Their crime shows follow the same patterns each episode, the dramas have a list of top topics – also used for identifying when they have jumped the shark – and all their comedies gradually morph into dramas. They also do gun fights and explosions. More bullets are fired in one episode of US TV than in the entire year of all TV shows from the UK and Australia (NB: made up statistic that is possibly true but I’d have no idea).

    As a result they can attract audiences in large numbers to watch things go bang. The longer the show runs the less ideas are used in any one episode as the formulae takes over. In fairness, compared to UK TV, series in the US produce a lot more episodes, so writers would have a harder time coming up with fresh material.

    Example: CSI whatever.
    Outlier: Justified, The Wire.

    Australia - Soapies.

    Neighbours, the long running steaming pile of dog droppings.

    Aussies can’t produce a TV show that isn’t a soapie. We have tried many times, failing miserably to make the show not morph into a soapie. Sometimes we start off with a great premise and even a few episodes that show promise, but it doesn’t take long before we have just another soapie.

    I don’t watch Aussie TV any more.

    Example: We don’t do anything other than soapies.
    Outlier: The little watched Good Guys, Bad Guys.

    Western Europe - Gritty and noir.

    Unit One making you squirm.

    Americans have recently started (re)making European shows with more explosions. They have realised that there are so many well written shows there that they just had to copy them. Since Americans can’t handle accents and subtitles they need to redo the lot. Of course the Americans are then surprised when there is something lacking in their version.

    I don’t know why, but gritty seems like a default position in every drama produced in Europe (Inspector Rex doesn’t count). As a result shows can become very dark, but at the same time are generally more substantive.

    Example: The Elephant, The Killing, Unit One.
    Outlier: All the same soaps and reality TV that they produce like every other country/region.

    Canada - USA shows

    We’re in Canada Scully; it’s a conspiracy!

    If it is a US TV show, it is likely to be made in Vancouver. My theory for this phenomenon is that American actors and stuntmen on TV shows generally aren’t making enough money to afford decent health care. As a result they like to locate themselves in a country that has proper health care available. Just a theory.

    One of the ways to spot an Canadian TV show versus an American TV show is how much shooting and explosions occur during any one episode. At one end you have American shows, at the other end you have Canadian shows, and right in the middle are the Canadian produced American shows.

    Example: Stargate, Supernatural.
    Outlier: Any show that looks kinda American but hasn’t got people shooting someone every 2 minutes.

    Eastern Europe, South America & Asia
    I’d like to know more as Australians don’t have many of them on our screens.

    NB: I’ve tried to be as intentionally insulting to the various countries with my observations as possible. There is a lot of great TV out there, Australia makes virtually none of it, so I’m bitter, resentful and ultimately jealous.

    Book Review: Sunset Express by Robert Crais

    Sunset Express (Elvis Cole, #6)Sunset Express by Robert Crais
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    This is my first Robert Crais novel, after having to return a previous attempt to the library – stupid overdue fees! For Sunset Express I was well prepared, I bought a copy so that I would definitely have the chance to read an Elvis Cole and Joe Pike mystery. A very worthy investment.

    While I’m indifferent about some of the characters in the novel, Elvis is a great narrator and has just the right amount of wit and humour. Robert has certainly crafted an interesting series of investigative twists, while at the same time retaining a level of reality. I really did enjoy this book and will be picking up the rest of the series soon.

    On a side note, Robert’s style of writing is similar to the style I am pursuing in my writing. A serious novel with wit and humour, while also avoiding some of the neatly tied up ending cliches. From what I’ve read in Sunset Express, I’d be very pleased to have my WIP first novel, Overturned Stones, be comparable to Robert’s work.

    View all my reviews

    Tyson Adams’ 2011 Book Awards: The Awesomes

    I’ve read a few books this year (+140) and have decided that I needed to talk about my favourites of 2011.  I also thought it fair to award my favourite reads of the year an Awesome.

    As you will have noticed, my reviews of books are more about my impressions of the book and talking about how much I liked the book, rather than a recap of the plot, etc. My reasoning behind this is simple, I want to say “read this book” to people rather than fall into my bad habit of spoiling the ending.

    My list is based upon what I have read this year, so obviously some great books (Snuff) have missed out due to lack of reading hours in the year. Also my read list does include some books that were published prior to 2011. There were some categories that were sadly under-represented and some that had some very intense competition.

    Also, the fact that I finished a book shows that it was worth reading. I have my reading rules that stop me wasting valuable reading time on books I’m not enjoying. This means that any books on my read list are entertaining (well, unless I was particularly disgusted with the crappiness of the book in question).

    Awesome of 2011

    10 hours of non-stop reading fun, 12 if you count meal and toilet breaks. I could not put this book down, it had me enthralled with Reilly’s fast paced thrills and explosions. This books defines The Awesomes.
    Also, I would like to extend my condolences to Matthew and his friends and family on the loss of his wife Natalie.

    Awesome Literary Fiction
    There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.
    Awesome Mystery & Thriller
    This is one of two heavily over-represented categories in this year’s Awesomes. 
    Awesome Crime

    Blood Work – Michael Connelly
    13 Hours – Deon Meyer (technically I started it in 2011, but only finished it this year)



    Awesome Fantasy
    There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.
    Awesome Paranormal Fantasy
    There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.
    Awesome Science Fiction

    Peace Army – Steven L Hawk



    Awesome Horror

    Dead Man Series – Lee Goldberg, Will Rabkin, et al.



    Awesome Romance
    There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.
    Awesome Humor
    Right What You No – Tyson Adams’ blog
    I’m allowed to be self-congratulatory. Plus I didn’t read any funny books this year.
    Awesome Nonfiction
    This is an oxymoron, so it is invalidated as a category. Having said that I did read several nonfiction books this year, mostly on climate change. I should make mention of On Writing by Steven King, which really had me agreeing with Steven’s insights.
    Awesome Graphic Novels & Comics

    The Boys – Garth Ennis

    This is the second over-represented category on my list. 


    Awesome Indie

    Awesome Poetry
    Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

    Book Review: Thirteen Hours – Deon Meyer

    Thirteen HoursThirteen Hours by Deon Meyer
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    This would be the first book I’ve read by a South African author. Well, aside from Bryce Courtenay. And of course Wilbur Smith. Can’t forget that Tolkien was born in South Africa. Anyway, aside from those authors Deon Meyer is one of the first South African authors I have read. I did read Rhodes’ biography as well…

    Before I become too Monty Python (Ni!) I should say that Deon has served up a particularly good crime thriller. He wastes no time or space in this book, his writing mimics the tension of the characters and the confusion of the investigation running against the clock. But he also digs into the South African music industry and some political issues whilst setting up some interesting secondary characters, who will no doubt shine in later novels.

    I picked up this novel because it was sitting next to a Matt Hilton Joe Hunter novel. The cover and blurb looked interesting and I took the cover recommendation – by Michael Connelly – at its word. So it was via random browsing that I came across this fantastic novel. For crime fans, Deon Meyer is definitely worth checking out.

    View all my reviews

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