Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Archive for the tag “Jack Reacher”

Let’s bash the ‘airport’ novel

Sir Ken Robinson - Do schools kill creativity?

Do you like backhanded compliments?
Do you like to make basic mistakes and misrepresentations of the entertainment industry?
Well, you’ll love this article by Nick Cohen.

The genius of bad books
By Nick Cohen

From James Bond to Jack Reacher, we’re suckers for an uncomplicated hero. But there is an art to the action novel, writes Nick Cohen

Anyone who believes the human race is rational should try introducing themselves to strangers as an author. You do not need to do it too many times before someone says, “I need to make money. I’m thinking of writing a bestseller.”

I may be early into my author career with only a handful of published short stories under my belt, but that does allow me to brag complain mention that I’m an author. Clearly Nick finds himself in the company of very different people to myself. Sure, the average person has a lot of misconceptions about being an author, just as I’m sure I have misconceptions about what it means to be a politician – they kiss babies to find the tastiest ones for dinner, right?

They do not understand that they have more chance of winning the lottery. Countless millions have written novels no publisher will touch. Of the thousands of hopeful thrillers, rom-coms and sex-and-glamour blockbusters published each year, only a few will sell 50,000 or more. Fifty thousand is only the capacity of fair-sized football stadium, but it is a more than respectable sale for a book. At the top of the pyramid are the genuine blockbusters: the few books that fly off the stands. And if those odds aren’t daunting enough to the person in front of you, clutching a glass and expecting fame and money, you need to tell them best-selling authors must have talent too.

Replace author with literally any other career path. Of the millions of scientists hopeful of winning a Nobel Prize only a few will ever win one. Of the millions of junior footballers only a few will ever be paid to play before a packed crowd in a football stadium. And of course, no Nobel Prize winner, nor any footballer would ever be accused of having talent. I hope no-one paid money for this article to be written.

To the educated, the idea that the airport thrillers I find myself picking up despite my better instincts are written by talented authors is absurd. It is their clumsy writing and formulaic plots that make everyone believe they can knock one out. They are not GK Chesterton’s “good-bad books” – the Sherlock Holmes or Jeeves and Wooster stories, which are read and loved after works that are more serious are forgotten. No one reads Alistair MacLean, Harold Robbins or Jackie Collins today. The fate of the airport novel is to be everywhere and then nowhere. Their authors flare and then vanish. I know it, so why do I, like so many others, still put aside worthwhile books for trash? No book sells in millions by chance. Their authors have something that readers cannot find elsewhere, or at the very least struggle to find elsewhere.

I really do take issue with the term airport thrillers and its sister term airport novels. There is an inherent invective in these terms as they are almost always used as a pejorative. The implication is that no-one would read these novels if they weren’t going to be bored out of their minds, stuck at 9,150 metres in a metal tube for endless hours. Whilst the descriptor is widely used and conjures to mind the sort of titles you see in airport bookstores, it is another version of the worthiness argument. Another defence of Fort Literature from the invading Lesser Works.

To start with the assertion that these are Lesser Works and then further asserting the evidence is in the “clumsy writing and formulaic plots” is fallacious. At a glance you could mistake this for an evidenced argument, but we’re just told this is the case. What Nick is actually complaining about here is the popularity of novels that are primarily written to be entertaining. It’s like saying that all TV dramas are rubbish because they aren’t super serious documentaries about WW2. But those two genres are trying to achieve two very different things, so of course they will have differing approaches.

“You can be 50 pages into a Jack Reacher novel before you realise you have already read it”

Sorry, is this pull-out quote meant to be an insult or compliment? Is this meant to suggest Lee Child’s writing is similar between books, or that you’re so wrapped up in the opening pages you don’t realise you’ve already read it?

Every time I finish a Jack Reacher novel, I wonder why I have wasted my time. The Reacher stories are like pornography. They grip you while you read them then leave you with a feeling of futility and shame at the end. Lee Child is so determined to churn out a book a year he recycles his plots: a particular favourite is the villain who organises an apparently crazed serial killing so the police never guess that he was only in cold-blooded pursuit of one of the dead. So similar are his stories that you can be 50 pages into a Reacher novel before you realise you have already read it.

I hate to break it to Nick (not that he is likely to read this) but there are only a handful of plots. Six story arcs. Even if you don’t look at the story arc and just at the plot premise you still don’t get many. Lee Child has written twenty-two Jack Reacher novels (to-date) so of course they are going to feel the same – I’ve even said as much in my review of Make Me. What Nick is actually complaining about here is that Lee Child unashamedly writes commercial fiction with the intention of entertaining rather than having more literary pretensions. I mean, how dare he!

Yet Child has sold more than 100 million copies because he has a talent beyond the ability to construct a convincing plot and describe action – skills which on their own are far harder to learn than those who breezily think they can write a blockbuster imagine. His hero can beat anyone in a fistfight. He loves guns and knows how to use them. He is strong, largely silent, entirely self-sufficient, clever, honourable and always on the side of justice. He never suffers a moment of doubt about the righteousness of killing wrong-doers, and he never needs counselling for post-traumatic stress disorder when he has dispatched them. Such men have been heroes from Homer through the knights of Arthurian legend to the cowboys of Hollywood’s golden age. They are almost entirely absent from today’s fiction, because our age regards men of violence with understandable wariness. Although the modern world is preferable in every respect to societies that mythologise warriors, there remains a yearning for the old heroes, and not just among male readers. Jack Reacher is a modern Hercules or knight errant. Child has found that readers respond to stories of violence without guilt in a world without complexity as enthusiastically as their ancestors did.

headscratch

Highlighted a WTF? moment. Off the top of my head I can think of a dozen bestselling thriller authors with at least one vigilante hero series. To suggest the vigilante hero – which Nick rightly pointed out dates back to the Ancient Greek myths – is somehow absent from modern fiction suggests Nick is ignorant of the topic he is writing on.

This point is illustrative of a very basic flaw with this attack on “airport thrillers”. He hasn’t even stooped to familiarising himself with the topic. As such, his article is the opinion of the uninformed. Kinda like saying Terry Pratchett was a hack when you haven’t read any of his books – but nobody would ever do something that stupid in a major news publication…

A decade ago, Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo novels sold almost as well as Child’s novels do now. They have equally far-fetched plots. The most telling and unconvincing is the willingness of beautiful women to sleep with the shabby middle-aged journalist hero, who, strangely enough, sounds rather like Larsson. Granted, they are more thoughtful than the Reacher novels, but I would be astonished if they survived.

It is greatly insulting to compare Larsson to Child. The latter is a writer with very few peers. The former proved that anyone could have a bestseller if Oprah recommended it. And this isn’t just an assertion on my part, Lee Child isn’t just one of the bigger bestselling authors. Child manages to retain more of his readers with each instalment of his Reacher series than his peers. Where a John Grisham or Stephen King are getting 40% of their audience to read their next instalment, Patricia Cornwall manages 50%, and Lee Child has the strongest brand with 70%. Or put another way, Lee Child’s readers really like his books, and Nick is bashing the wrong thriller author.

“Lisbeth Salander may be a cartoon character, but she foreshadowed today’s explosion of feminist activism”

This is a sentence only a white guy on the internet could write. I guess he’s never heard of the suffrage movement, or the electoral and social reform movements, and the reproductive rights movement. Referring to the fourth wave of feminism in this way is kinda cute. At this point I’m starting to wonder if Nick actually researches any topics he deems to write about.

Yet, once again, beneath all the murders and conspiracies, Larsson had a kind of truth to tell, and news to bring. He understood how computers could be hacked to devastating effect long before Edward Snowden. Moreover, his heroine, Lisbeth Salander, who doesn’t “hate men, just men who hate women”, may be a cartoon character, but she foreshadowed today’s explosion of feminist activism.
The king of the airport bookstands at present is Terry Hayes’s I Am Pilgrim. It is the best thriller I have read in years, in part because it deals with Islamist terrorism. Most film, television and literary thrillers avoid the subject for reasons that are honourable in their way. Writers do not want to stir anti-Muslim prejudice, or are appalled by the west’s wars after 9/11. They are also constrained, although they rarely admit it, by their ignorance of religious fanaticism. Hence, Jason Bourne fights his employers in the CIA and James Bond fights shadowy conspiracies of powerful westerners. The combined effect of these good motives is strange, however. Real spies worry about radical Islam more than any other threat. Fictional spies barely think about it. Hayes succeeds, not because he is a better writer than his contemporaries are, but because he addresses fears that his rivals, both highbrow and lowbrow, cannot bring themselves to face, and spends the time needed to research and create a plausible Islamist villain.

This is again a great example of Nick’s ignorance of the thriller genre. I’ve reviewed one thriller in the past year that used Islamic terrorists as the villains, and I haven’t even been focussed on thrillers. My reading has jumped over just about every genre. Nic can’t really be trying.

Also, not sure if he is aware, but the FBI is concerned about white supremacists (and other domestic terrorists) more than ISIS et al. The former chief of MI6 (actually called SIS, but let’s go with the name people know from the movies) called Trump the biggest threat, a view supported by the US intelligence community. I suppose you might say radical Islam ranks Top 5, if you just pretend religion drives terrorism like Nick does here, rather than it being more complicated than that… If it isn’t obvious, Islam is one of Nick’s trigger issues. He can’t help but throw a few stones at it every chance he gets. Pity he doesn’t seem to be informed on this topic either.

“The first person an author must sell a book to is himself or herself”

Yeah, it’s a zero sum game. And I’m sure this sentence seemed really profound before it become a pull-out quote.

He believes in his story, in other words, as all successful authors must. You can hide in an article or a web posting of 1,000-words or so. Those who think they can write a bestseller do not understand that there is no hiding place in a novel of 100,000 words or more. The first person an author must sell a book to is himself or herself. If they don’t believe in their story, no one else will. If they are following formula, their insincerity will out.

What Nick is trying to articulate here is that it is harder to write a novel than an article or other short piece. There is more to a novel, it has to be more substantial, and it has to engage the audience for much longer. He isn’t wrong here, just dancing around the point like Mick Jagger on LSD.

I accept that I risk sounding naively romantic about a publishing business without a shred of romance in it. So let me stress that I am not arguing that an author’s sincerity guarantees that a book will be good or even publishable.

Nor am I saying authors must sincerely believe their story is a realistic or even quarter-way realistic portrait of the world. The thrillers that sell in their millions are by any sensible standard ridiculous. The forces of law and order are either corrupt or asleep on the job. Western societies endure extraordinary levels of violence, and are threatened with worse, even though by historical standards they are more peaceful now than they have ever been.

So only very serious works are worthy? Because the attempted point appears to be that the premise of thrillers are unrealistic, which is somehow bad. I sure hope Nick doesn’t stray into the speculative fiction, romance, or political biography sections of the bookstore. Talk about unrealistic stuff!

You can claim that every device their authors use is false. Every device, that is, except one. They must believe in their books so that, if only for a moment, their readers can too. To put it another way, if you want to show a lone agent taking out a crime gang or saving America from a biological attack, you had better be able to convince yourself that he can.

Yeah, that’s not how it works, Nick. It’s called a plot contrivance and audience buy-in. You don’t have to convince people, they just have to accept it as plausible in the fictional work they are reading. This is Fiction 101 stuff. He must have slept through that class.

At some level, all popular writers share a similar delusion. Barbara Cartland believed that princes would come for virtuous girls who waited, and Ian Fleming thought that men could be James Bond. The best airport thriller writers are no less lost in make-believe.

Again, this isn’t about any delusion. This is about the craft of telling any fictional story, especially stories that are fantastical. Or put another way, the first authors to write about space travel were delusional by Nick’s estimation. But many of those authors were particularly prescient and even inspired rocket scientists to make space travel possible. Those authors never deluded themselves that space travel was possible at that time, but they were still able to convincingly tell a story that inspired it to become possible. And the moon still counts as space travel. Even though that isn’t anywhere near as cool as the ideas we have in fiction.

Rational people may want the advances, but cannot begin to imitate the immersion in fantasy. For that, perhaps, they should be grateful.

Nick Cohen
Nick Cohen is a journalist, author and political commentator. He is a columnist for the Observer, a blogger for the Spectator and TV critic for Standpoint magazine. His books include You Can’t Read This Book, What’s Left? and Pretty Straight Guys
@NickCohen4

Honestly, I could write a piece every week discussing one of these articles. They are written because people will read them. We love to pretend to be intellectual as we deride someone’s favourite movies, books, TV shows, art, etc. But where real critique and discourse would offer insight, and thus informed judgement, these articles never elevate themselves above unsupported assertions. They are merely attacks against the invading Lesser Works to keep Fort Literature safe.

The main problem with Nick’s brain droppings is that he is mistaking his subjective view for being objective. There is a level of snobbery to his derision of Lee Child (and other “airport novels”), something I’ve taken issue with previously. But it also displays the pseudo-intellectual nature of his arguments and his ignorance of the genre he is criticising.

We’re not just talking about Nick’s displays of ignorance about “airport thrillers” or the other highlighted inaccuracies. He is also blithely unaware of what makes art and how the aesthetics of art are appreciated. It could be argued, and has been, that art being enjoyed is subjective and multifaceted. But there is also an objective measure of art, part of the culturally shared aesthetic and the understanding of the art form. For example, we can recognise when a book has spelling and grammatical errors, we can spot confusing sentences and may have trouble interpreting what the author is trying to say. So there is an objective measure of art. But how do you compare a literary novel to a Jack Reacher thriller? You have to make subjective divisions and distinctions that is more about individual enjoyment or appreciation than it is about objective aesthetics.

In short: just because you like something doesn’t make it better than what someone else likes.

Further to that, Nick fails to set forth a proper argument with clear divisions and distinctions (probably due to ignorance on his part) with which to argue his central premise. “The genius of bad books…. there is an art to the action novel” remains largely unsupported because his points could apply to any novel in any genre. At no stage does he define what the art is to the action novel, and thus what sets it apart from whatever thing he thinks is superior art.

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Book review: The Devil’s Country by Harry Hunsicker

The Devil's CountryThe Devil’s Country by Harry Hunsicker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Has there ever been a religious cult started for something other than allowing the leaders to have sex with the congregation?

Arlo Baines is wandering the state of Texas in an effort to forget the murder of his family. The former Texas Ranger sees a couple of guys up to no good, and starts making trouble in the neighbourhood. He gets in one little fight and has the local sheriff and a religious cult wanting to see him leave (for Bel Air).

It was refreshing to dive into a different take on the itinerant vigilante genre. Obviously there are similarities between any of the novels in this genre, the most prominent being Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series (of which I’m a fan). But Harry Hunsicker has brought a more haunted and reluctant hero to the page, one who feels a little more vulnerable, but no less unstoppable.

This is a fast-moving novel which hits all the right beats. While it doesn’t stray from the itinerant vigilante genre path, nor offer up any surprising twists, The Devil’s Country was an enjoyable read. Recommended for any fans of Lee Child, Matt Hilton, Zoe Sharp, et al.

NB: I received an advance review copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

View all my reviews

Book review: Make Me by Lee Child

Make Me (Jack Reacher, #20)Make Me by Lee Child
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Does Reacher leave enough people alive to have criminals warning one another on the Deep Web about not messing with him?

Jack Reacher decided to catch a train to a small town for a change and by walking around as per usual he managed to piss off the local criminals. This will end well for the criminals.

Lee Child is a master of not wasting words. If there is exposition then it is important to the plot. Make Me is no exception. The twist for this thriller is revealed in little details throughout the story. It comes through as no less shocking.

While I have grown a little tired of the formula for the Reacher novels, they still remain entertaining reads.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Personal by Lee Child

Personal (Jack Reacher, #19)Personal by Lee Child
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jack Reacher fought a little person in 61 Hours, so definitely time he fought a giant in Personal. Oh, and some other stuff happens… like beating up a giant!

Lee Child’s continued adventures of Sherlock Homeless – Jack Reacher – have reached (boom tish) their nineteenth installment. Reacher is manipulated into searching for a former army sniper he had put away 16 years ago, a sniper who has taken a shot at the French President and is threatening to shoot some other world leaders at the G8 summit. This is the first Reacher novel that isn’t set in the US, seeing him travel to Paris and London, for his manhunt. Of course, it is never as simple as a manhunt, especially when the sniper bears a 16 year old grudge.

What I love about picking up a Lee Child novel is starting the novel and finding I’m already 50 pages into the action before I realise it. Lee effortlessly steers you through the story and keeps you entertained. He makes you appreciate just how good an author he is compared to his contemporaries. It was also refreshing to have Reacher leave behind his small town problem solving in favour of an international, high stakes, manhunt. Not that this stops Reacher beating up people and solving problems: wouldn’t be a Reacher novel without that.

Hard to find fault with the latest Reacher adventure. The only criticism would be that it feels like a “standard” Reacher adventure, despite the break in location tradition. My own observation is that since 61 Hours Lee’s writing has become taut and that he skilfully plays with the reader, making him my favourite author.

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Lying about books you’ve (not) read

book-pic

As with most things Hank and John Green are involved with, I have become a fan of Mentalfloss. Their recent article on embarrassing things we all do was interesting, but had one point in it that made me think “what the hell is wrong with you people”.

By “you people” I obviously mean it in the pejorative dissociative sense, in that I’m not having a shot at you, or Mentalfloss, just the ubiquitous and ethereal “them” and “you”. Unless of course what I’m about to write does hit home, in which case, stop it now!

One of the items listed as an embarrassing thing that everyone does, was people claiming to have read books and watched movies they haven’t in order to appear more intelligent. I have previously discussed the list of books people claim to have read and I’m not ashamed to say I’ve haven’t read certain “classics”. I do have to admit to having claimed to have read a book I haven’t, To Kill a Mockingbird (still on my TBR pile), but that is also why I’m coming out against the practice.

And that is the point I wish to make here, there is no shame in not having read a classic book or watched a classic film. Maybe you don’t like extraordinarily long and self-indulgent wedding scenes in a movie (Deer Hunter). Maybe you don’t like novels with more than 450 main characters (War and Peace has over 500). There isn’t any shame in that. And how many “classics” have gone unread because they were in the wrong language, poorly translated, never got published, or just lucked out (John Green made mention of this recently).

Essentially we are worried about our subjective taste disagreeing with someone else’s subjective taste. The stupidity here is that we are being judged for something we haven’t done, rather than a strong opinion one way or the other on the actual topic. If we came out and said “Well, I hated 1984, it was rubbish” or conversely “Well, I loved 1984, and anyone who says it’s rubbish is a poo-poo head” we’d get into deep arguments about the relative merits of the novel. That is perfectly acceptable. But if we say “I haven’t read that one (yet)” or “Never seen it” then the response is something along the lines of calling us crazy, implying we have lived too sheltered a life, and/or that we have missed out on something great.

They could be right, of course. We may have missed out on the single most impressive book or movie ever. Our lives may be dramatically improved by reading or watching the work in question.

Or not.

The reality is that it really doesn’t matter. Some people will never have enjoyed a Jack Reacher adventure, or clung to the edge of their seat reading a Matthew Reilly novel, because they have been busy reading all the “great literary works”. Who is to say that their choice of entertainment was superior? Some people prefer to watch sports: are they any less entertained?

I think we have to stop pretending that our subjective opinions are something to be ashamed of. Like what you like, don’t be ashamed to say so either. I’m always amazed at the number of closeted Buffy fans there are, which only shows how damaging this mindset of “worthiness” is.

From Cracked.com

From Cracked.com

Mini-me Jack Reacher sequel announced

According to a reliable source – well, a book blog for a bookstore I like – there is a sequel in the works for Jack Reacher.

That’s right, Tom Cruise will be reprising his role as Jack Reacher. It is unclear whether he’ll wear stilts in this adaptation of Never Go Back, the most recent Reacher adventure. For a reminder of the first Reacher film:

It seems odd to me for Cruise et al. to leap so far forward in the series, the previous movie being based upon the Lee Child novel One Shot. I’d have said there are some fantastic novels in between that would make fantastic movies, even with a half-sized Reacher.

The first movie was kinda average. The story was faithfully adapted, with the changes making sense, Cruise brought his star power, but I don’t have any kind words for his co-stars, who were generally flat and lifeless. So the “sequel” really needs to be better cast….. Maybe fill the cast with good child actors to get the star’s proportions right.

Either way, I’ll watch it.

Random comments

I appreciate all of my friends/readers here, especially those who take the time to comment. My site statistics tell me that I average roughly 2 comments per post, which is a 4% conversation rate. My own posting on other’s blogs wouldn’t be that high, so I’m fine with that figure, I’m just happy people enjoy my posts.

The point of this post is to highlight my own experiences with some of the more interesting comments this blog receives. The site statistics tell me that I average roughly 640 spam comments per month. PER MONTH! Obviously some of those spam comments may be legitimate comments, if you have fallen prey of my spam filter please email me, but most are rubbish promoting some shoe-viagra-porn-dating-retail site or other. The ones that quote Bible and Quran verses are interesting, but this recent response to my review of Lee Child’s latest novel blew me away.

Lee Child
Dear Sir,
I just finished reading your latest novel, A Wanted Man. Congratulations. Yet another excellent work.
I thought you might find it interesting regarding why I like your stories. These are the reasons:
• I never find a word I do not know the meaning of, and is not part of ordinary speech.
• The story takes place in normal time sequence. No flashbacks.
• A single central character carries the action from the first to the last page.
• I find not one sentence, which is not designed to help tell the story. You never stray.
• I find no forced metaphors that I have to puzzle over to discover their meaning.
• I find no literary actions-verbs that may sound pretty or poetic but make no literal sense.
• None of the characters are wooden.
• All your stories are unique.
• I find no explicit sex included because you can’t think of what should happen next.
• The number of characters is limited.
Keep up the good work.
Jim Cunnungham

Now I am very much a fan of Lee Child’s writing, I have most of his novels on my shelves. I am also working on becoming a published author of crime thrillers, but I don’t think I could be mistaken with Lee Child. For one, I’m not as tall as Lee, he is quite a bit older and he’s English. So addressing this comment to Lee on my blog seems rather random.

After congratulating not-me on a great novel, Jim proceeds to list the things he likes about not-me’s writing. Jim likes not having to use a dictionary, or reading internet addresses or review author names. Jim also doesn’t like flashbacks and appreciates having a single character to follow, clearly much less complicated than having to think whilst reading. I agree with Jim that Lee doesn’t delve into the literary realms with his prose, keeping the story and writing tight. It makes for a much more interesting read; there is nothing worse than wasting your valuable reading time with random stuff that has nothing to do with what you actually want to read. Jim also appreciates the building materials used in creating characters, something I don’t normally consider, but I do like to read things that are unique and stand out. However, I wonder what Jim has against sex scenes, maybe he has been scarred by Fifty Shades of Hype and is just thankful that Reacher doesn’t whip out the ball gag and leather chaps. I’m also guessing that Jim is not a fan of the epic fantasy novels, what with their ensemble of characters, sweeping dynasties of timelines, and elegant prose to describe the entire new world the story takes place in.

All in all, I can’t figure out why this post was flagged as spam.

Book Review: A Wanted Man by Lee Child

A Wanted Man (Jack Reacher, #17)A Wanted Man by Lee Child
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book arrived on my doorstep from the lovely people at Booktopia, just in time for me to read over the weekend. Unfortunately last weekend also coincided with the arrival of my son, damn stork was early, so my reading was interrupted. Normally a Reacher adventure can’t be put down, but my new bub showed that sometimes you have to.

Reviewing Lee’s new novel is hard, my interrupted reading, sleep deprivation and cuddle time has clouded my impression of the book. Reacher still kicked arse, the story was decent and Lee’s characteristic tight plotting was on display.

I’m only giving this 4 stars for now, with the intention of re-reading it sometime after I’ve had a decent nights sleep.

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Book Review: One Shot by Lee Child

One Shot (Jack Reacher, #9)One Shot by Lee Child
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is something really great about Lee Child’s novels. There is also something about Jack Reacher that we all just know Tom Cruise is not going to be able to deliver on screen.

The last book I read took me 10 days to read. That is a long time for a thriller. This one took me 2 days to read. Clearly Lee serves up a more engaging and involving story, a novel that I will actually make excuses to stay up and read, rather than check my email and go to bed.

It will be interesting to see how Tom Cruise and Hollywood adapt this story for the big screen. This isn’t the sort of plot that would be easy to adapt unless you left half of it out. Not that I would accuse Hollywood of butchering just about every book to movie project they have every done. Never.

Read this one before Cruise brings his step-ladder and this novel to the big screen in December.

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Jack Reacher One Shot Movie

Jack Reacher – 1:2 scale

As any Lee Child and Jack Reacher fan knows by now, Tom Cruise is bringing the book One Shot to the big screen. What some may not be aware of is that Hollywood has had a few financial issues of late. They’ve had to scale back productions and advertising. Paramount Pictures didn’t want to cut back on advertising or budget for the Reacher film, so they halved the size of the main character – Jack Reacher 6’5″ 220-250lbs, Tom Cruise 5’7″ 147lbs.

The good news is that Reacher has been bumped up the release schedule and will be coming out in cinemas in December. This should be great for Lee Child fans, especially as A Wanted Man, the new Reacher novel, will have been released a month prior.

Lets hope that they film Cruise from some very low angles, because I want to see Reacher kick some ass!

Intelligent life

You may all think that I’m primarily a crime thriller kinda guy, a lot of the book reviews I post here are for crime, crime thrillers and thrillers. My current work in progress is also a crime thriller. So I clearly fit into a very neat little box created out of stacks of James Patterson releases for the month. But I like a lot of genres, I think most readers do, in fact I’d go as far as to say that all readers read more than one genre unless they are still battling with Where’s Waldo.

Needless to say, despite my current work – and several others in the pipeline – being crime thrillers, I have several outlines for stories in other genres. One of my first big ideas – quite literally, as I have a 50 page synopsis and several instalments plotted – was for a sci-fi story. Think Jack Reacher crossed with Jet Li (Did you know Jet Li is a real life hero?) inspired by Heinlein. Anyway, the main character, Caleb, is the last of his kind and is trying to save humans from themselves, whether that be leading a civil war, or deposing dictators at the various human colonies. Of course there have to be aliens in space.

The problem I’ve always had with aliens in books and movies is that they are too much like us. On Star Trek they could even pass for us, as long as they wore a headband.
But it isn’t just that they look so much like us, why would aliens even think of us as awesome? Would humans be actually interesting to aliens? If aliens are watching our broadcasts you could just about guarantee that they don’t consider any of the life on this planet intelligent.

Alien: So you consider your race intelligent?
Human: Why yes.
Alien: Explain Glenn Beck.
Human: Okay, some of us aren’t as…
Alien: And you dig up stored gases to change your atmosphere so that it wrecks your climate.
Human: But we needed fuel for power. We’ve got solutions to that now.
Alien: One word: Politicians.
Human: Please don’t wipe out our planet!

So in my alien research for my novel/s I finally found inspiration. Who better to inspire me than Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Richard Dawkins?*

See the rest of the discussion between Dawkins and DeGrasse here.

*Yes Carl Sagan would be inspirational too, but he isn’t in the video.

Book to movie

If there is any one thing that Hollywood does well, it is taking terrific books and turning them into terrible movies. When was the last time someone said “Well the movie was better than the book”?

I’ve opined on this issue before: Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher; why movie studios bother with buying a book when they make a movie that doesn’t resemble the book in any way.

And here it is happening again:

Any movie starring Katherine Heigl is always doomed. She ranked in my article on actresses you don’t want in you book adaptation. Clearly Janet Evanovich signed the movie rights before she read my article. So you have to ask what is happening in Hollywood, aside from the hookers and blow?

Clearly the first thing that is happening is the movie rights. Author agents are clearly trying to make some money for their authors so that the author can give up the day job and write more. Sorry, that should read, they want a commission. The movie studio hands over some spare change they have lying around and grab the book. Then they ask a script writer to give them a script, usually in the same amount of time it would take the script writer to actually read the book. So the script writer hands over a script they already have lying around, after changing a few of the character names to match. The studio then launders finds some money from “business associates” to start casting and shooting. The casting agent looks at the budget and sorts through the least desperate actors in the appropriate pay scale, to find the person who least embodies the main characters.

By the time the movie hits cinemas there have only been two people in the entire process who realise the movie is based upon a book, one of whom may have read it. This, of course, doesn’t really matter because the ten people who have read the book that go to see the movie are sitting in a packed cinema with people who don’t read and are generally confused by plots that can’t be explained in a one-to-two sentence monologue from a minor character.

Clearly Hollywood knows what it is doing, I mean, they cast Tom Cruise as Lestat. And authors love getting money from Hollywood, they can actually afford to pay the rent that month. So maybe it is time writers started writing for Hollywood. Oh wait, they already do that….

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.

Book Review: The Affair by Lee Child

The Affair (Jack Reacher, #16)The Affair by Lee Child
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was a little perturbed when I found out this year’s Reacher novel would be a prequel to the series. Since Killing Floor, Lee Child has evolved Reacher into a one man wrecking ball for truth, justice and hot women. Reacher has essentially become Superman without the need for external underwear and the ability to actually have a broken nose. This doesn’t exactly mesh with the Reacher before his adventures in Killing Floor.

This aside, Lee has served up another fantastic Reacher tale. The mystery unfolds, the intertwining clues and events are right there for you to pick up on and only implicitly used later – something I like about Lee’s writing. Reacher makes good use of the local train and his characteristic walking everywhere is in no short supply. In short, this is another fine Reacher novel.

Despite having pre-ordered this book it didn’t arrive until quite a while after its release date, something that has annoyed me for several books now (Matt Hilton’s Dead Men’s Harvest arrived late, Matthew Reilly’s Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves still hasn’t arrived). It was worth the wait though, as 50 pages in I was reminded why I had pre-ordered The Affair in the first place. I’d hazard a guess and say that next year’s releases by my favourite authors are more likely to be received on their release date, straight onto my Kindle, just as soon as Amazon starts selling the new Kindle Touch outside of the US (bastards!).

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