I got an early peek at the latest book in a great mystery series, the Sano Ichiro books by Laura Joh Rowland. Set in the Tokugawa shogunate, Sano is a samurai tasked as the shogun’s investigator of crimes and intrigue. And in this 17th entry, his arch-enemy has deluded the shogun into putting him in power, and Sano’s family learns what it is like to face the unquestionable and oft-abused power of the warrior caste.
Writers like to say reviews don’t affect us—especially the bad ones—but of course it is not true. Ms. Keller had a lot of nice things to say:
“He has a certain style, a punchy language that puts the reader right into the action, successfully amping up my adrenalin and leaving me on the edge of my seat. This also has the effect of driving the story forward at break-neck speed, making it hard to put the book down until the very end. And to be honest, folks, I wanted more when it was over. Call me an adrenaline junkie if you will, but the rush his writing supplies is addictive.”
I couldn’t ask for a higher honor, to have a reader say that. It’s humbling. You’d think praise like that would lead to arrogance, and writers do need to be wary not to fall into that trap. Humility is the kind of pride that steadies you from falling. And I’ll express that by considering it my duty to live up to that kind of review. To fulfill those expectations, no matter how much work it takes. I will not rush things out the door. I will not dilute the intensity of the stories I want to write. And I will write for the reader first, earning their attention with every word, every line, every paragraph, every page.
Sometimes, as my wife just remarked, it makes me breathe heavily with fierce concentration. But that’s the only way I know how to do it.
For the run-up until the publication of BLADE OF DISHONOR on Sept. 10th, I’m revisiting the books and films that inspired it: ninja, samurai, MMA fighters, WW2 epics, and yakuza flicks.
No, not that movie with all the yelling! The TV series starring Lee Van Cleef as a ninja master roaming the world in a van with goofy drifter Max Keller, dodging Sho Kosugi and fighting injustice!
I loved this show as a kid, and I’m still miffed they never had a crossover with the A-Team or Knight Rider. Ninja master John Peter McAllister (Lee Van Cleef) leaves the ninja life in Japan to seek a daughter he never knew he had. His former student Okasa (played by Sho Kosugi), a ninja master in his own right, decides this is dishonorable and cannot suffer his mentor to live.
The show was rather ridiculous, playing on pop mythology of the ninja powers, but it was good fun. I recall Max and Peter hanging from their ankles as prisoners in a dojo, and Van Cleef smashes a lightbulb with his foot and cuts the ropes using the glass held between his toes. It was better than Ninja III: The Domination, where evil ninja spirits possess a woman, but The Master’s charms were the non-stop action and the simple fact of NINJAS ON TELEVISION in the early ’80s.
Do you remember THE MASTER? The episodes were repackaged as TV movies, but sadly neither these nor the shows are available on NetFlix. Youtube clips are all that remain:
Meet ‘Rage Cage’ Reeves. MMA fighter. Marine. Back home from Afghanistan, looking for his Grandpa Butch, who he finds mixed up in a centuries-old battle between ninja and samurai over a stolen Japanese sword.
If your home has become overrun with ninjas (sic) or shinobi and yakuza, the Warriors of Hachiman will send Rage Cage Reeves to help, at reasonable rates.
He will be available starting September 10th, so set your appointments early.
If you review books for a blog, publication or website please contact me for an Advanced Reading Copy for review.
I got tagged by Ed Kurtz, author of Bleed, Control and others, to join in The Next Big Thing blog tour. Normally I don’t jump in for these things but he’s a good guy and it’s an easy way to talk about works in progress, and let readers know about other writers they might enjoy.
1) What is the working title of your next book?
Blade of Dishonor, a novella for Beat to a Pulp. (I’ve mentioned Bury the Hatchet a lot on the blog, and it is still in progress, but this will be done first.)
2) Where did the idea come from?
David Cranmer asked if I’d be interested in writing about an MMA fighter tussling with ninjas over a stolen sword. How could I say no to that? David published my mixed martial arts fighter tale “A Glutton for Punishment,” and I grew up on ’80s ninja movies and the Shogun Assassin “baby cart” samurai films. It is set in the present day, but the action begins in World War 2. I enjoy writing this so much that there may be a prequel written in the era of feudal Japan.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
Adventure. Pulp is not a genre and “men’s adventure” paperback originals aren’t either, really. Adventure covers it, with a little War thrown in.
4) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Mixed martial arts fighter Reeves comes home from Iraq to help his wheelchair-bound grandfather run his Army-Navy store, and becomes embroiled in a centuries-old battle between ninja and samurai over a priceless and powerful Japanese sword.
5) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters?
Reeves, the MMA fighter, would be played by Joel Edgerton. He was in Warrior, he played a fighter and made it look real. Plus he’s got those sad eyes that women like, and looks like someone went over him with coarse grit sandpaper. My kind of hero.
His grandfather Butch, the wheelchair-bound war vet would be played by Ed Asner. He’s big, old, and angry as hell. Better known for comedy, but the man is a firestorm. The villain is a Japanese businessman, who could be played by Tadanobu Asano, best known for his role in Thor.
And his brutal henchman Mikio would be a good role for Hiroyuki Sanada, who is in “Revenge” and the new Wolverine film. He has the scruffy, beat down look. Tara, the gal with the suped-up muscle car, could be Gina Carano, but Tara is an art major, not a fighter. She’d break a fired chunk of pottery over your head, not try the flying armbar. She’s more of a Christina Hendricks, tough on the inside.
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It is a work for hire for Beat to a Pulp press.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Action-oriented thrillers like the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child and the Pike novels by Robert Crais, but grittier. War novels like The Short-Timers, James Brady’s The Marines of Autumn. I won’t say there’s nothing like it out there, but I haven’t read anything close. Maybe my readers can enlighten me.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
My great-uncles all fought in World War 2, in Europe and the Pacific. The book is dedicated to them. They never talked in detail about the War, but their feelings were made clear. And I’ve been fascinated with Japanese culture since I was a kid. I loved Clavell’s Shogun, the Lone Wolf and Cub manga–I read all 28 volumes–Musashi, the yakuza gangster movies of Suzuki, Takashi Miike, Takeshi Kitano, and of course, the samurai films of Kurosawa and Hiroshi Inagaki, any movie with Toshiro Mifune in it.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
The story follows Reeves in Part 1, then his grandfather Butch Sloane, in Part 2. Butch was a commando in the Devil’s Brigade. It is meticulously researched, and while we are in the trenches for all of the story, if you look up the battles date by date, what weapons, who fought in it, and how they won, it will satisfy all but the most unforgiving. It’s fiction, after all. I took license here and there, but I put the characters into real situations. The Devil’s Brigade existed, they fought the battles in the book, and if I change history, it is to insert the lost history of a grand plan that failed. The Devils were the inspiration for Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, only they were even badder.
And if you enjoy mixed martial arts, I trained in them for seven years. I write them realistically. I know a pro and amateur fighters and trainers, and I write them with respect. But also show just how brutal this training translates into combat outside of the ring.
This story is as tight and intense as anything I’ve written, fast-moving and thrilling while giving you plenty to think about. With enough action for three movies, much less one.
I’m tagging five writer friends you may know about already. If you don’t, I recommend you get acquainted with them, they are fantastic. I will admit, they have all talked to me about their projects or mentioned them on social media, so I dub them not only to spark your interest, but because of my own. They haven’t let me down yet, and I want to know what irons they got in the fire.
Josh Stallings is a film editor by day, and the author of the Moses McGuire crime thrillers by night. And I mean long into the night. We shared a hotel once, and when our sleep apnea machines were not dueling into the night like two Darth Vaders arguing over a dinner check, he was tip tapping away into the small hours. And the work shows. The McGuire books, Beautiful Naked, and Dead and Out There Bad, are two excellent tales about a bad-ass Marine who survived Beirut but never really came home. He’s a strip club bouncer, muscle for hire, and when he’s not trading slugs and elbow strikes with the bad guys, he’s at war with the demons within himself. The poetry of James Crumley’s sad, elegiac prose and the rip roaring action of Robert Crais.
Lynn Beighley delivers pills of sharp and subtle humor hidden in the steak of her fiction… like she’s sneaking medicine to one of her two Bernese Mountain dogs. She cut her teeth as a tech writer, but her short stories have appeared in journals and all over the web. She brilliantly depicts our fractured modern lives, interweaving social media personae with cold splashes of reality.
Steve Weddle is the editor for Needle: A Magazine of Noir and the creator of hitman Oscar Martello. Steve often combines hardboiled grit with absurd and fatalistic humor, but is also capable of fascinating introspection, as in the story he wrote for the Protectors anthology.
Jen Conley is an editor for Shotgun Honey, and no one captures the attitude and dialogue of New Jersey like she does. Her stories have appeared in ThugLit, Protectors, Beat to a Pulp, Out of the Gutter and elsewhere. Her characters are so full of life they claw their way off the page.
Chad Eagleton is a two-time Watery Grave International finalist and Spinetingler award nominee. His socially conscious crime fiction packs a wallop. Chad has also been researching novelist Shane Stevens, who wrote the first serial killer novel and was the basis for Alex Machine in Stephen King’s The Dark Half, and also happens to be one of the most underappreciated writers of his time.
I’m eager to hear what their fierce imaginations are up to… aren’t you?
And if you want a taste of how I write Edo Period Japan, with samurai and yakuza… read “Shogun Honey,” which I wrote for Sabrina Ogden when she was at Shotgun Honey.