Monday, June 28, 2010

Why anyone can enjoy A Pius Man.

From Comic books readers and Scifi fans, to James Patterson and back. Why anyone can enjoy A Pius Man.

[Author's note: this was originally going to be a note on Marketing. It didn't turn out that way.]

What do you call a book chock full of hundred year old conspiracies, dangerous priests, psychotic mercenaries, operatives trained to kill practically from birth, international political intrigue, a terrorist plot, and a wide ranging collection of protagonists the likes of which the world hasn't seen since the team that took out Dracula?

You call it A Pius Man.

Fans of this page who remember that a contest is on will remember that there's something in it for you when you get people to join the Facebook page for A Pius Man: when the Facebook page hits 100 fans, I post and origin sotry for one of the characters. When it hits 150, I post a podcast of the prologue. When the Facebook page reaches critical mass, I post a chapter from the middle of the book, and the person who has brought in the most fans will have their name put into the novel.

Sound like fun?

Next question: who should read A Pius Man?  Or, who should you invite? 

On the face of it, it seems like yet another in a long line of bad Da Vinci Code ripoffs that have come out in legion since Dan Brown's super-hyped novel hit the scene an interminable amount of time ago. However, while my book has conspiracies and religion, that's more or less where the similarities end. There will be no puzzles, the French will not be a threat, and no one will spend dozens of pages finding their way out of an art museum.

That said, there are some people who just don't read thrillers. Understandable, it's a term so generic you can toss a net over a whole host of authors... some of whom probably should have a net thrown over them anyway, just to be safe. However, when a field is as vast as the comic-bookish feel of Clive Cussler's NUMA novels... to the theoretical science of James Rollins..... to a Barry Eisler novel, half of which takes place in the head of his protagonist, assassin John Rain..... It's almost as diverse a group as public Catholic figures—as Oscar Wilde used to say: Here Comes Everybody. Can't call it a historical thriller, because then it will be mistaken for a period peace like the Sharpe's novels of Bernard Cornwell—I wouldn't mind having his audience, but they might feel gypped to find it set in the 21st century.

So, who the hell should read this book?

Let's see....

Comic book fans: My first agent drew parallels between the team of protagonists and the Justice League.  One character has already been compared to Deadpool—of the comic, not the film. Throw in adversaries who seem preternaturally strong, fast, and trained... well, it's not like fighting the Hordes of Hydra, but my villain isn't exactly the Red Skull. Some are as serious as a police procedural, and some might as well have wanted to be Doc Savage when they grew up. One of them even works with “Middle Earth's Most Wanted Elven Assassin,” and no, I'm not kidding.

Science Fiction fans—who will hopefully forgive me for calling it “SciFi” above: Key pieces of this story involve NLW technology. Or, in standard English, non-lethal weaponry. Microwave cannons that emit plasma beams, tazer beam weapons, gases, explosives; if it's been mentioned, or appeared in a semi-realistic video game, it's probably in there. Throw in the laser-keyboards and the microwave microphones, you can outfit a small Sharper Image store.  And ALL of the technology is real.  I got it from Time magazine.

Spy fans: International intrigue? Got it. Shadowy figures? Check. Conspiracy theories? At least five of them, and three are right. We also have: the obligatory evil Cardinal; a pale, silver haired priest with commando training (not to be confused with an albino, of course); the Jesuits, the Opus Dei, and the Knights Templar all show up, just so I can play with some of the old cliches

Readers of history: Yes, A Pius Man actually has historical facts. Literally, they happened. This is a book where the history presented in its pages can be footnoted. I know this because the original draft had footnotes. It was suggested that I take them out... however, I still have a bibliography in the back.

People who like intelligent destruction: There's an assassination on page two, an explosion on page three, a wrecked car by page seven, and a mercenary with a resume that reads like scripts of the A-Team tv show. We'll ignore the shootout on the Spanish Steps in the armored SUV. Death, property damage, and utter ruination are always good for an audience. It worked for four Die Hard films.

Political folk: As much as I loathe to admit it, there's politics in this novel. It goes to motivation for the various and sundry parties. Besides: how do you negotiate being a Catholic—universal—Church? Unlike being a superpower, like the United States, you can't pick and choose who you associate with just because they're valuable to you. If that were the case, I wouldn't have a friend whose uncle is a missionary in China. And what happens when you put an African Pope who's to the right of Attila the Hun into the middle of this particular hurricane?

At the end of the day, the only people who should probably NOT read A Pius Man are those who expect a novel by way of Mitchner, or Clavell. Half of the book is filled with thoughtful, drawn out characters who are trying to think their way through the problem at hand. The other half of the book is filled with various and sundry creative ways to lay waste to large parts of Rome—from shooting up the Spanish Steps to trashing Leonardo Da Vinci airport.

And this is just the first book. Book two is the fallout, and countermoves by those bad guys who survive book one. Book three is where I recreate the Battle of Thermopylae.... if the 300 had possessed remote-detonated landmines.

Anyway, if you or any of your friends might enjoy anything listed above, you might want to join the fan page, or invite them to tag along. Or both.

Monday, June 21, 2010

“I want a hero not a weapons shop with pecks....”

1. Violence: what is it good for....

Answer, a lot more than sex is.

Last week was about sex, so violence had to be next.

I have heard multiple answers to the question: “Why put fight scenes into a novel?

David Drake, author of dozens of sci-fi novels, and Vietnam Veteran, has said that he puts fights scenes in to honor those that served, who had been there, done that.

That is a great, good, and noble answer.

I can't say I'm any of the above.

My answer is: “A is trying to stop B. B will not be stopped with words. Time to incapacitate B. Chaos ensues.”

I will not say that violence is always required. If you watch cable television, the series Burn Notice is practically built around a limited use of violence—tricks, blackmail, lying cheating and stealing, yes, but rarely violence. It is like Mission Impossible, or MacGyver for the dark side. Like with sex, violence can be a cheat, a substitute for a plot. This is more obvious in the novels where the violence is more about brutality than anything else. When you consider that the average fight may top out at around five seconds, a long, drawn out, Steven Seagal-type battle royale is more of a dance routine than anything else.

In A Pius Man, violence is used like in Lord of the Rings. Tolkien's novels were part of a war story. In the current day and age, much of warfare has been / can be done with Special Forces troops. A war waged with SpecOps is still a war.

And, the bible aside, there are few audiences that will allow a book to get away with something as simple as “The two of them struggled, rolled towards the edge of the roof, and the enemy fell off.” Right there is a failing grade in any creative writing class.

Jackie Chan pointed out that there is a difference between violence and action—it's hard to think of his action films as overly violent when you consider that he came out of a ballet company. When one observes the original A-Team, one of the running jokes among tv watchers is that there were thousands of bullets fired, but no one was shot. Like with Burn Notice or MacGyver, guns are tools, not solutions.

In the case of my books, I try not to have fight scenes—more like action sequences. Have two people stand there and pound on each other is boring at best, gratuitous at worst.

In A Pius Man, every fight scene serves a function. It leaves a clue, tells the audience something about the enemy, their motives, and their identity. Why would X group attack Y person? The level of force and determination can indicate the enemy's strength of numbers, the weapons they have access to, what intelligence they have access to, etc.

I tend to overthink things in my day to day life, so fight scenes occasionally get the same treatment.

I also try to have action sequences and fight scenes serve character... granted, in some of the oddest ways imaginable. For example, one thing they all have in common is that the only fair fight is the one they win. Letting the bad guys draw first is for suckers and dead men.


Matthew Kovach: Appears briefly in A Pius Man, but is a primary character in the second novel, he's interesting in terms of fighting style. His thumbnails are grown a little long (“the better for gouging, my dear”) and his main weapon—his pens. He knows twelve ways to kill someone with a ballpoint, and several more ways to disarm and incapacitate them. When things get really nasty, he has his fountain pens. He also spends most of his time running, so he can hide and get into a good position to attack from. He's basically an academic with an odd past; as he says, violence finds him.

Sean AP Ryan: being a former stuntman, his fighting style is a little... psychotic. “Why are you using moves out of the Matrix?” Answer “Because I can do it without the wirework.” And he carries a tactical baton around with him at all times—because there are occasions when he needs to take someone alive. I only recently started taking a self defense system called Krav Maga, which is more about practical defense than anything else. Krav Maga even disdains the title “martial art,” if only because there is no art here. We practice eye gouges, train for anti-weapon tactics, guns, knives, long guns, uzis.... and any other weapon added to the itinerary. There is supposed to be a defense against a machete, but I haven't seen it yet. In the case of Sean Ryan, he has an “expert” level in Krav Maga—which means he can face multiple attackers with multiple weapons. However, he uses moves that most Krav practitioners look at and say “No. Flipping. Way.” When he is outmanned and outgunned, Sean tends to become even deadlier. There's a reason he lists his resume by property damage.

Giovanni Figlia: as a former soccer player, Giovanni prefers a good solid kick to the groin, or headbutt to the face. As well as the occasional suicide dive into someone's stomach. “SCORE!” Also, being a former cop, he believes in the power of handguns and body armor.

Maureen McGrail: elegant and deadly. For reasons undisclosed, she started taking martial arts from a relatively young age, well before she got into double digits. MMA for the dark side, she has used bits Krav Maga, some have said Kung Fu, as well as penjakt silat (an Indonesian fighting style where punch defenses equal lethal force). She doesn't carry weapons, she is the weapon. The only people she needs to kill are the ones who just won't stay down any other way. And in A Pius Man, a stake to the heart may be required.

Hashim Abasi: He is, at heart, a street cop. A street cop from Egypt, but a street cop nonetheless. While he has some experience with a sword, that's not exactly practical for carrying around in the street. He prefers using his bulk for a standard kick-punch-elbow combination, and knows most ways to disarm someone. Think of it as an abbreviated Krav Maga.

Wilhelmina Goldberg: as a 4'11” technical geek, she generally has no need for fighting skills that go beyond a punch to the groin. Though there have been instances involving a bladed weapon and ankles....

Fr. Francis X. Williams, SJ.... A Jesuit priest with fighting skills. That should look strange enough.

Scott “Mossad” Murphy—a brilliant spy, but his philosophy is that if he needs a gun, his job had failed. Also, the last time someone gave him a handgun, he nearly blew his foot off. In a fight, he prefers to use his innate ability to blend into a crowd the shadows, and anything else available. On an intellectual level, he knows how to fight. On a practical level, it's a good day when he doesn't kill himself during practice drills. When possible, he prefers improvised weapons that he can launch from a distance—the further the better. If he must go up close and personal, he prefers a heavy object he can deliver to the back of someone's head.

Manana “Mani” Shushurin—An operative from German Intelligence, she's better at fighting than the average spy. She also caries a gun, with scores on the target range that make snipers want her for her rifle.

As I said above, I tend to overthink everything, and at points, so do my characters. I have yet to have one novel that did not have a scene of analysis immediately following an action sequence. The protagonists examine the weapons used (local? Foreign? Military? Civilian? Homemade?), the tactics (professional or amateur? How many operatives?), and, if there are any survivors, the people themselves (accented? Languages spoken? Do they respond to interrogation?). You can see why a two page fight scene can be broken down into a three page discussion about the implications.

So, not only is A Pius Man a mystery with too many suspects... it's a novel where even the fight scenes are a clue.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sex Scenes, Novels, and A Pius Man

[PG-13/ R. And, for the record, this is a completely amoral blog post—preaching morals gives me a headache and upsets my ulcer.]

1. Sex. What is it good for?

Were this a song parody, the next line would be “absolutely nothing.” But, given that I've had bad experiences with song parodies, I will forgo that.

But, seriously, sex... why bother?  In the context of literature, almost any novel with a sex scene in it has been, in my opinion, a horrid waste of time, energy, and irritates, at least, this reader.

A Pius Man has no sex scenes. Why? Because I find them boring.

I am not certain how much of this is my own personal opinion and how much of it is a critique of how sex scenes tend to be inflicted on the reader.

One of my major problems is the OSS, or the Obligatory Sex Scene.

In the Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child novel Mount Dragon, our protagonists, after having found shelter and water in the middle of the desert, after nearly dying from thirst, while on the run from a nutcase with a gun.... are so happy they start having sex...

Huh? What the Hell?

The OSS I just mentioned is quick. If it's longer than half a page, I'd be surprised. But it was just dropped into the middle of the book, and was so jarring it broke the pace. It had been a nice, solid thriller, our heroes on the run from a psychotic killer with a rifle, and then.... they're stopping to have sex? Really?

Looking at it objectively, what is the point of an OSS?

“Physical intimacy shows the the relationship involved has gone to another level and has thus impacted the characters.”  Perfectly true, but does that necessitate a five page sex scene? Or even a page? If one wanted to tell the reader that, yes, two people slept together, I can do that right now: “X and Y fell into bed, kissing passionately as they stripped each other's clothes. They then turned off the lights and hoped they wouldn't wake the neighbors.”

Done. Two lines and a bit of smart ass can carry something a long way.

“Things can happen during the scene that are relevant to the rest of the novel.” True, but rarely does it necessitate going into intimate details. In fact, I would suggest that anything interesting that happened could be covered in the next chapter. “On reflection, s/he noticed something odd while lying on his/her back. S/he didn't really notice it at the time, but now that it's quiet.....”


Exceptions can be made to this rule, obviously. If the couple rolls off of the bed as someone walks into the room, be it with room service or with a gun, then that is a useful detail.

There are moments when character can be served, strangely enough. I've seen sex scenes done well. I don't mean the sex scene in the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter, where he dwells on a nice neat serial killer, his girlfriend comes in, starts kissing and disrobing him, and the next line is, literally, “How did that happen?” I mean a sex scene, rating R to NC-17.

John Ringo's “Paladin of Shadows” series (Ghost, Kildar, etc), has sex scenes and nudity. However, the point of the hero, nicknamed Ghost, is that he is not a “nice guy;” he hangs out in strip clubs, and some of his contacts are strippers... it's rather amusing reading a scene where a stripper is informing him of pertinent information during the course of her duties.

The sex scenes themselves are surprisingly thought out. The first novel, Ghost, is a series of vignettes. The second vignette is described as "two-thirds bondage porn and deep sea fishing, and who knows which is worse" (I'm paraphrasing there). Before the sex scenes take up whole chapters, the character Ghost has a discussion with the two young ladies he's dealing with... and their parents. The conversation that follows is one part dissertation on bondage subcultures, and five parts comedy routine.

After that, you can skip read, unless you really want to learn more about leather goods than you ever really wanted to.

So, here we have someone who makes sex funny without it being gaudy. In fact, the amount of thought put into his later sex scenes shows a lot of character, intelligence, and humor.

Even then, are they necessary? Surprisingly enough, some are, and two are crucial to the stories they show up in. Almost all of them impact the characters in some way. And almost all of these scenes can be entertaining for reasons that are anything but sexual.

Why Ghost does what he does (and I don't mean sexual maneuvers or positions) tells the reader more about the character than a hundred pages of sex scenes from any given novelist....

Laurell K. Hamilton, I'm looking at you.

Laurell K. Hamilton created a novel series about Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter. It was a nice, solid series, set in St. Louis, with a well-constructed, detailed world, where vampires were public figures, werewolves are treated like HIV cases in the 80s, crosses work against vampires, and demons aren't the actor in a suit you see on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

For nine novels, the series went well. There was sexuality here and there (a major character was a French vampire, after all), but it never really got in the way of the story. By book seven and eight, the main character was sleeping with both a vampire and a werewolf, but the OSS's were few and far between, and they were easily skipped by turning a page. Quite painless, overall.

After book #9, Obsidian Butterfly, I was warned off several novels because they opened with a hundred pages of vampire rituals of who gets to have sex with who. I went back for book #15, because it featured the return of Hamilton's best, scariest character: a mild mannered, white-bread fellow named Edward, a mercenary who started hunting vampires because humans were too easy.

However, I had to skip a hundred and fifty pages of the novel. It was one, long and drawn out OSS. Not a menage a trois, but a bisexual sextet among Vampires and were-creatures. Much of the rest of the book had pages of Anita Blake defending her sex life. “The lady dost protest too much.”

When the author herself was asked about the overabundance of sex during a Barnes and Noble interview, Hamilton's best defense was that “I only get complaints from men. I had two reviewers tell me that they're disturbed that a woman is writing this sort of stuff. ”


Dear Madam. Hamilton: I get disturbed with John Ringo writing about a man and two coeds on a boat with bondage gear. For the love of all that's Holy, what makes you think that a bi-sexual sextet with were-furries would go over any better, no matter who or what you were?  So, you're going to defend yourself against criticism with some kind of strange faux-feminism based off of two reviewers?  How about "I want more plot than sex scene," are you going to blame that on me being male? Really? Really?

Again, I'll go back to John Ringo, only a different series -- the Council Wars.  One short story is seriously NC-17, and reading through it, I would be hard-pressed to see how it could be written otherwise. With Hamilton's novels, I could skip over a hundred pages and not miss a single plot point. That's screwed up.

Make it sextets with were-furries, they're even worse.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Review: The Blue Nowhere


Devious Deaver strikes again

A book review of The Blue Nowhere: A Novel

Those who have ever read a novel set in the world of Jeffery Deaver know two things. First, he picks out an area of interest, learns everything about it, and then writes a thriller that moves faster than sports cars drag racing on the speed limitless Autobahns. With A Maiden’s Grave, he explored the worlds of the deaf and of Hostage Negotiation, and has continued to win awards, acclaim, and movie rights for his novels centered on criminalist Lincoln Rhyme.

The second element: trust no one, especially the author, because even when you know he’s going to betray you, the problem is always how.

In his latest novel, The Blue Nowhere, Deaver enters the world of the Internet. In Silicon Valley, a sadistic serial killer code-named Phate uses computers to stalk and kill his victims. His weapons are a long, curved blade, a computer virus called Trapdoor, and a sidekick named Shawn. As with any decent serial killer, each kill is a challenge, and each subsequent murder must be more challenging than the last.

The California State Police Computer Crimes Division (CCD) frees world-class hacker Wyatt Gillett from prison. Gillett can make a computer board from miscellaneous pieces of junk and then make it work. His task seems simple: discover how Phate finds his victims, and how he gets into each of their computers. However, Phate is a genius to match Gillett’s own, and when the serial killer murders one of the CCD, Gillette is left to work with Detective Frank Bishop, a man who has more forensics savvy than computer intelligence. Not only does Gillett have to deal with Phate, he also has to tangle with a past that wants nothing to do with him, people from the Department of Defense who want to question him about problems of national security, and Shawn, Phate’s mysterious partner.

And, as I mentioned, you should never trust anyone… except your book reviewer.

Even with no interest in the Internet, the sheer speed of The Blue Nowhere is enough to make an average reader lose track of time and simply fall into the book. Deaver designs his characters and his world in such a way that they are as real as any in literature. The life story of each person is utilized masterfully, as Deaver both paints the background of their lives and twists it violently enough to wrench the book from your fingers. If this novel does not stimulate you, make you forget everything around you, and make you care for the people involved, it will at least educate you in what you never knew about the Internet, and were too scared to find out. It may even make you never want to use a computer again.

I would call Deaver a master of his craft, but that would make this sound like an introduction for an award ceremony. But The Blue Nowhere is a masterpiece of a thriller, with vivid detail, description, and plot fast enough to make a sonic jet look like the traffic flow on the LA freeway.

Buy it now, here: The Blue Nowhere: A Novel

Monday, June 7, 2010

FAQ #2: Casting Call

Another FAQ: Casting Call.

Ever since I started posting photos of characters for A Pius Man, one question has been who would play what role in the movies.

I'd have to start with how many people could be cut from the film first.

A Pius Man is a novel that is over 400 pages long. There are nine characters of varying importance, and while that composes an interesting fellowship, I doubt any film will accommodate all of them. So, any film would also have less character, as well as fewer characters, not to mention no ambiguity. Figuring out who's the lead may work in a leisurely novel, but movies have to move.

Maureen McGrail—physically, if you popped green contact lenses into the eyes of Jennifer Connelly, and gave her acting lessons and martial arts training, she would be good to go for the role. However, since I have yet to see her act, someone else would probably be needed; someone with a similar coloring. Preferably, someone who can fake an Irish brogue and kick some ass. Similar coloring would imply Megan Fox... but I have yet to see her act, either.

Wilhelmina Goldberg: the short, Jewish Secret Service technical geek..... There aren't many 5' actresses, and many of those who are don't seem to be geared to play computer nerd. Short and dark... unfortunately, no one leaps immediately to mind. However, given angles of the face, and the fact that her natural hair color seems to be anything but blonde, Sarah Michelle Gellar may work, if she can speak geek with a straight face. Given the way Hollywood casts people, I would be afraid that they'd cast one of the witches of Charmed—who are also short and dark (Rose McGowan is the tallest at 5'4”).

Giovanni Figlia—middle aged former Italian soccer player, with a build to match.

I wonder, does Billy Zane have a career anymore after Titanic?

Hashim Abasi—An Egyptian policeman who is also part of a think tank, with degrees in international politics. Physically, I always imagined him as Ben Kingsley after a weightlifting regiment. With reading glasses.

Sean AP Ryan—a hard role to fill. Take someone with “black Irish” coloring (black hair, pale skin, bright blue eyes), make him 5'6”, and at least looks like he can do his own stunts. He is mad, bad, and dangerous to know, a pleasant, friendly fellow, until you piss him off and he cripples you for life..... My problem there is, based purely on that physical description, I feel like someone would try to cast Tobey McGuire or Elijah Wood in the role—both are images that seriously make me want to acid wash my brain. Can I have a stunt man who can act?

Frank Williams—I can't imagine an actor who's in his thirties with silver hair and violet eyes, but makeup can do wonders. This requires an actor with a range that allows him to be soft spoken and quiet, and can probably beat someone to death with his bare hands.... I wonder Ewan MacGregor if enjoys playing shady priests...

Joshua Kutjok—the Pope. Tall, African, a very physical Pope. I would go for Michael Clarke Duncan, but I don't know how many different voices he has in his repertoire. Forest Whitaker is also a big fellow (6'2”), and seems to have gone through a workout regiment recently, and he played Idi Amin at one point,so he's done the accent.... there are possibilities here....

Scott Murphy—Once upon a time, this would have been played by Alec Guiness, who could practically play any role he wanted, with only a smidge of makeup and new clothes, and sometimes not even that. Currently the only one I've seen who has managed the same trick has been David Suchet—he's played terrorists, policemen, biblical characters, Terry Pratchett Characters, and Belgian Detectives. However, he left his twenties far behind him... also his thirties. Good acting can only go so far in making someone look younger. However, for a slightly younger actor.... Given the various acting jobs I've seen him do, I think Alan Tudyk should probably be on call for that one: I've seen him play nerds, neurotics, normal guys, absolute sociopaths, and Joss Whedon characters. He's a solid six feet tall, but I've only seen him look big maybe once—and with Lord of the Rings, we've certain seen the games that camera perspectives can play [no, Elijah Wood really isn't a midget.... really].

Manana Shushurin—even though I had based this character on a real person (on the left), I don't think I could coax her into playing the part, since she has a life. Based on physical build and coloring, some have suggested Olivia Munn—both the build and coloring match, and even the facial structure works, at the right angles, but I have no idea if she could act her way out of a paper bag.

Any thoughts on any or all of these, please comment below.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Review: Always a Spy.....


Since this is the summer, and beach reading is in fashion, I figure it's time to have a slightly more leisurely look at some of the books that are not written by King, Patterson, or Cornwell. These are books that have not had millions of dollars in advertizing dropped on them, but are suburb nonetheless.

Let's start....

Once A Spy, by Keith Thomson, opens with Drummond Clarke, a retiree lost in the fog of Alzheimer's. He spends his time making a pot of chicken and stars soup, and promptly, for reasons he can't really remember, pours it into the plant next to the windowsill. The plant is made of plastic.

Across the street, men wonder what happened to the listening device they planted in Drummond's home.

Charlie Clarke, degenerate gambler, prefers not to see his father. But, like clockwork, the day after Christmas, he gets his annual phone call. His father is seen wandering the neighborhood. Charlie hopes that this is the last time he'll have to deal with his always-distant father. He has plans to seal Drummond away in a nursing home, and use what little cash the retired appliance salesman has to pay off Charlie's own debt to some unsavory Russian loan sharks. Charlie has particularly high hopes when Drummond insists that he used to work for the CIA. Obviously, the old man has lost his marbles.

Until, that is, Drummond saves Charlie as his house is blown up, and hotwires several cars as father and son are shot at in a running chase through Brooklyn.

And now, Drummond and Charlie have the unusual experience of father-son bonding while under fire. With each new experience, Drummond has lucid moments that keep them alive, and one step ahead of their adversaries.

Now if only Drummond can remember why people are trying to kill him....

“Once a Spy” is a very well put together thriller that doesn't slow down until you finish the novel. While the fight / chase scenes are intelligent and creative, the real fun of the novel comes in between battles, in the quiet moments while Drummond Clarke is still lucid and remembers everything from his former life as a spy. This is when Charlie learns about his past, from moments as simple as why his father missed his high school graduation (Drummond was off the coast of Saudi Arabia in a wetsuit), to why he wasn't allowed to go into the local candy store (couldn't have a young Charlie ruining a covert dead drop, now could they?). The father and son moments are lightly handled, and not hitting the reader over the head with hammer labeled SUBTLETY. Instead of bonding over a camping trip, or fishing, it's over the body of a newly knocked out assassin.

The action / spy sequences are also well done. No one, adversary or protagonist, is stupid in this book. While Drummond is useful in a firefight, the adrenaline can only last so long, and so can the lucidity. It is up to Charlie in these moments, and he's being graded on a sharp learning curve.

It's certainly worth the ride.

Buy it here, now: Once A Spy