Monday, October 31, 2016

Codename: UnSub, Chapter 3, Strange Relations

I'm not spoiling all that much. This is only about page 40. Kevin Anderson is trying to find this killer via the training, and ends up with access to communications with the other end of the planet.

This is the other end of the planet.

* * * *

Islamic Republic of France, January 30, 2094

When several large men are busy being beaten to death, they usually don't note that their attacker is 5'5”.

Afrim charged the woman linebacker-style. She sidestepped and cracked him in the back of the neck with the pommel of her tactical baton, cracking vertebra. Before he even hit the floor, his face hit her knee.

She turned to the rest of them, and glared. “Listen to me well, and listen to me good – all I want is your current merchandise, and I won't kill every—last—one of you. That's not unreasonable, is it?”

Kreshnik charged, only with a fire axe raised over his shoulder, with Fitore coming in with a crowbar. She burst in with her baton and flicked the baton at Kreshnik's knees, then dove, rolled, and cut Fitore's legs out from under him. She came to her feet and turned around to face them. Fitore got up, but Kreshnik was busy screaming from a shattered kneecap.

“Look,” she said simply, “I'm tired, cranky, and seriously under-f***ed. I haven't been on a successful date in months, and the last man who touched me is in freaking Siberia.”

Fitore grabbed Kreshnik's fire axe and dual-wielded it with the crowbar, and charged. She burst forward and rammed her left shoulder into the inside of the forearm with the crowbar, and it went flying. The baton came up and slammed against the other wrist, shattering it. Her knee came up into his balls. He fell over and she pivoted out of the way.

“I mean, it's not like I'm unattractive, am I?” she asked as she kicked Fitore in the ribs. “Men hit on me all the time.” Kick. “But you'd think at least one of them—” kick “—would be a nice guy, don't you think?” Kick. “The law of averages dictates it.”

The door burst in, and she whirled, smacking the first one through the door across the face with a resounding crack, opening up his face from the temple to the jaw. She kicked him in the stomach just to get him out of the way, then spun ramming the point of the baton into the next one. Jeton fell over as his breath escaped him. She raised the baton. “I don't think—” crack “—I'm being—” crack “—un—” crack “—f***ing—” crack “—reasonable about this. Do you?”

She flipped open the tactical visor of her helmet, and looked around with her crystal blue eyes, which stood out in contrast with her pale skin. She growled, flipped down her HUD visor and moved to the open door. She ducked her head back before the seven men could start shooting. She took a few steps back as the door and the wall exploded in a barrage of bullets.

Since Albanians tend to shoot on full automatic…She drew both of her guns and waited a moment for the magazines to empty, then wheeled around what was left of the door frame, both guns raised. She didn't stop as she came around, sighting from right to left. The HUD in her visor was lined up with her guns, and the icon flashed when she should shoot. Each gun fired only four times. They were not perfect head shots, or one-shot, one-kill; two bullets went into the eyes of one of them, and three bullets were throat shots. This was one part a matter of technology, and another part was the result of thousands of practiced head shots over the previous months—so many that she had had to have carpal tunnel fixed in both wrists, twice.

Her guns were raised as she closed with them, and delivered a coup de grace on the three who were shot in the throat.

She looked around once, looking at the crates. She wondered briefly what they needed so many crates for, until the door to the next room over was kicked in. She went into a dive behind the crates on her left as the bullets came in from the right, and hoped the crates were packed with something solid.

She considered her next move as her earpiece beeped. “Cortez to Mandy,” came the whip-sharp voice of Major Antonio Rohaz. “Are you busy?”

“This is Mandy,” she said in her soprano voice, “can I help you?”

“I have someone who wants to talk with you.”

Amanda Esmerelda Rohaz rolled her eyes. “Dad, I'm in the middle of something. Couldn't you take a message?”

“The last time you left me a message,” said a different voice, “you shot me in the chest. Twice. The second time.”

Mandy's world stopped, despite the crates being blasted to pieces around her. She didn't even notice flying splinters pass her face, or the clash of lead bullets meeting gold bars behind her.


“Bad time?” he asked wryly.

“N-no.” Mandy blinked twice and cleared her throat. “No, I'm fine. It's fine. A fine time.” She ejected both magazines, and fired off two blind shots over her shoulders—it was faster than working the action to clear the chamber. “You're with my da—darned CEO. Are you killing off his men again?”

“You could just say that he's your father, you know,” Kevin told her. “When you held my acquaintance Kyle at gunpoint last year, he knew who you were. You should have seen the look on my face when he asked me why the daughter of the mercenary CEO had held him at gunpoint. I think Kyle even smiled. Which, let me tell you, isn't a pretty sight.”

Mandy reloaded her guns with fresh magazines, a different load of bullets. “I know. I've been there, done that. I may still have the scars.” She worked the action to load each chamber with the new cartridges. “You know I was in San Francisco?”

“Yeah. And Father Jack told me about your assistance in getting them into the city.”

Mandy blinked. The last time I trust a priest to not mention operational details. “That was nice of him.”

“Next time you want a priest to keep something quiet, start with ‘bless me father for I have sinned.’”

Mandy growled. “But we didn’t. Trust me, it would have been far more interesting if we had.” She checked the HUD on her visor, and pinpointed the exact position for the shooters on her motion tracker. She aimed over her shoulder, heard the locked-on tone in her other ear, and fired. The chlorine-isotope high explosive round exploded in a 6-foot diameter ball of white-hot fire, completely disintegrating one gunman, burned a second one right down the center, and took the arm and the gun of a third.

”I’m sure you could find something,” Kevin said in that sardonic tone of his. It gave her a warm feeling all over. She could even see the half-smile that came with it.

“Me? A sinner?” Mandy said playfully. “I’m too busy to commit any interesting sins,” she said as she locked on and fired another bullet.

“Good to hear you’re keeping yourself occupied. Just don’t work yourself too hard.”

“Heh. Of course not.” Mandy popped up and fired three more rounds, and dropped down before she could be blinded by the balls of fire. “I make certain to take off every once in a while.”

“Sounds nice. You were right, I should have been in the private sector,” Kevin said. “So, you’re on vacation at the moment? Taking one of those well-deserved breaks?”

“Oh, I’m not doing much.” Mandy thought for a moment. The last burst she fired was the last one she heard. She looked for a moment on her motion sensors, and saw nothing. She turned her head, and looked in infrared. No one moved. Unfortunately, everything was kinda glowing. She scanned on multiple other wavelengths, but there was nothing. “It’s been rather quiet lately.”

“Really? Major Rohaz has been telling me about all sorts of missions you’ve been on lately. It sounded so exciting, and enough for a book for every week of your life. I couldn’t even imagine where you could find the time.”

Damn it, dad, can’t you ever keep your mouth shut? Mandy thought. She stood and looked around. Everyone was dead. “Oh, you know me. I’m in and I’m out in a few hours. Then it’s beers and dancing all around.”

“Uh huh,” Kevin replied, obviously doubting. “Well, if you ever want to have a long weekend sometime, I’m sure I can get you some good drinks here. And I can make sure they’re chemically inoffensive. If they’re not, I’ll kill the bartender myself.”

Mandy laughed. “I’m sure.” She took a few more steps, and listened for approaching footsteps. It seemed like she had killed everybody in the building with a gun. “You don’t want to ask why I didn’t…say hello? I was right there.”

Kevin didn’t say anything for a moment. “Nah. It was a good call.”

Mandy let out a breath she didn’t realize she was holding, and started to stride forward. “Thank you. And thank you for not saying anything in front of my father.”

“Not a problem. I fully understand.”

“As far as coming by … If you think it wouldn’t be a problem?”

“Nah. Not at all. I’ll be happy to clear my calendar sometime when I’m not tracking some kind of serial killer wannabe.”

Mandy blinked, thought of asking, but thought better of it. She swapped out her ammunition loads again and moved through the next door.

She had found the makeshift pens.

“Listen, could I call you back?” Mandy said. “Something just came up.”

“Understood. See you around.”

There was a distinct click, and the other side signed off. She took off her helmet, letting her raven black hair fall to her shoulder blades. She thought that might be a little bit more reassuring to all of the women in cages.

“Does anyone here speak English?” Mandy called out. “I’d really rather not mangle my French any more than I have to.”

Mandy heard a noise to her left. She swung her gun arm up at a door. It creaked open, and a bald man wandered out, looking down at his fly. The ear buds he wore blared so loud, Mandy could hear it from where she stood, twenty feet away from him. When he finally got it zipped, he looked up, and down the barrel of her gun.

Mandy smiled, and tapped her ear. He got the hint, and slowly took out his ear buds.

Parlez vous forty-five caliber?” she asked.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

1000 Posts Later: The Best Posts Of the Blog

And now we're here. And now we're at post #1000.

Who knew?

Now what?

Well, as per tradition, I note all of the top ten blogs of all time.

1. Who would Captain America vote for? An election special.

Four years later, this is still on the list. Originally from the 2012 election, I this one was probably carried more by Alex Ross art than anything else. But it's still going strong as the #1 blog of all time.

This was fun. I was just going over the top and insane.

But here, Captain America punching Hitler in the face.

Can we have one of Captain America punching Osama in the face? Really. Pretty please?

Yeah, I know, I should probably do this again for 2016, but no. Have you seen the cesspit of this election? No one would vote for either one of these people. I think even Captain America would punch both of them in the face. Repeatedly. The 2016 election would make Tony Stark run for President as a 3rd party candidate, and win.

From April of last year, and it jumped to the #2 spot immediately. This is so successful, I made this into a novel. Yes, it's a book now. Please, feel free to to buy it.

If you have no idea what SPBB is ... click here. It is a really, really, really long flipping story. It was a one-shot that spiraled so far out of control, I really didn't see the end of it.

But people are still coming to the blog just to read them.  Well, here you go, enjoy. 

Yup, it's still in the #3 spot, and shows no signs of leaving. Ever, really.

This was right after the dawn of DC's New 52 Universes in 2011, when the comics had gone into a sideways spiral of strange. 

Catwoman screwing Batman on a roof? Check. 

Starfire becoming an amnesiac slut? Check .... except that they're not even that clear, and backtracked, rewrote, and I'm not even sure that DC Comics know what the hell they were doing then. 

I think this the popularity of this had something to do with sex being in the title. You don't even want to see what the search terms look like.

From 2010, I ripped apart with every stupid decision that Marvel comics had made for the previous 5 years.  Sadly, some of those decisions are still going strong. But it's hard to figure out which ones. 

Except for One More Day. F**k that, and them, and Joe Quesada.

I think I have to do this again. Because, well, Captain America as Hydra. Gah.

Seriously, Marvel, stop it.

I'm told that OMD might be reversed. I'm not holding my breath, though.

5. Review: Tom Stranger, Interdimensional Insurance Agent.

Yay, we have a new one. Yes, a new entry. who knew? But yes, this was the review of Larry Correia's really strange audio book, narrated by the awesome Adam Baldwin.

This was almost bizarre and hilarious, and the entire review exploded onto the top ten list in a matter of days, and it took a little while longer for it to make it to the number 5 spot.

But yes, I do recommend it. It's hilarious.

Also, Wendell the Manatee.

6. Sad Puppies Bite Back (Part 2)

This one is still on the list. Again, as new as last year, but still, it's here. And, obviously, you do need to buy the book to read the whole thing now, sorry.

Historically, though, this is where things started going really odd. And I probably should have seen it coming that things were going to really go sideways ... "sideways" as in "The Puppies have taken over my blog."  I think part one got suggestions of nominating this for a "Best related" award from the Hugos. 

I would have enjoyed watching the Puppy Kickers go insane. But we can't have everything. 

From April of 2015, this was after Entertainment Weekly's libelous article about Sad Puppies, written and published without talking to anyone within Sad Puppies. At all. Yes, really.

Believe it or not, in retrospect, this was not what got me really into the Sad Puppies bandwagon. That was when someone decided to go after Brad Torgersen's wife. Then, then I had a meltdown, and decided someone needed a stern talking to.

From this June, 2016. This is months old. Heck, in the course of a week, this shot up.

This is what happens with the use of hashtags.

I'm still blown away that, well, this was a political post. I don't do politics here. I tend to avoid them. I'm surprised anyone bothered.

And all I did was round up arguments I've seen others make online. 

Funny thing? The douchebags whining in the comments are pretty much invalidated by the existence of the truck attack last week in Nice, France.

Shocking, huh?

9. Puppies Come to WorldCon (SPBB III)

Still here from last year. This was going to be The End. Period. Dot. Final. The last straw. The Puppies were going to come to the Hugos, and it would have to end there. Why? Because there would be nothing left for me to write until the Hugos came out. It was a perfect out, right? Right?

Yes. And that worked soooo well.

This was a simple announcement about the Dragon Award nominees from this year. That was it. This also made it on the top ten list in a matter of weeks, if not days.

Looking over this list, I've come to the conclusion ... that I should probably make this blog all about sex, Sad Puppies, politics, book reviews, and comic books.  But then, I reach that conclusion every few hundred posts or so.  We'll see about doing that sometime next time around.

Sadly, I'm all out of Puppy material. Tomorrow, more Codename: UnSub.


Friday, October 28, 2016

The Catholic Geek: Superversive Press and The Product  AT 7 PM EST.

Marina Fontaine and Jason Rennie team up for a discussion on Superversive Press and its first release: The Product. 

Marina Fontaine is a Russian by birth, an American by choice, and an unrepentant book addict. Because of her background, she loves to discover and support pro-freedom literature. She runs Small Government Book Fan Club on Goodreads, Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance group on Facebook, and a personal commentary/review blog, Marina's Musings. Her works include Chasing Freedom (a Dragon Awards finalist) and The Product, a dystopian novella published by Superversive Press. Marina lives in New Jersey with her very supportive husband, three children and four guinea pigs, working as an accountant by day and a writer by night. Her other interests include hard rock music, action movies and travel.

Speaking of dystopias, here, there's a new one out there, called Codename: UnSub

Codename: UnSub, OUT TODAY

Codename: UnSub is out today. Yippie.

For those of you who haven't been on the site this week, Codename UnSub is about.... 200 pages.

Actually, it's about a serial killer running around a dystopian nightmare version of San Francisco. Well, even more so than it already is. This killer is professionally trained, deadly as Hell, and if he isn't stopped in time, might accidentally bring about the end of the world.

But hey. no pressure.

To be honest, I can't tell you too much about the development of this particular psycho. I can't tell you if his profile came first, or the character came first, and I built him up around the profile I generated. 

I just ended up with one of the better villainous bastards I've ever created. Wholly evil, no shred of remorse, and no conscience whatsoever. In short, someone who makes the Joker look like a choir boy.

I have, from long ago and far away, my blog casting Codename: Winterborn if it were a film.

While I will make certain to post at least one more scene from Codename: UnSub before next week is out, I already posted on a few years ago. When you're done reading that, you can purchase the book and read the rest of it. I wrote an entire blog post explaining why I had set chapter one before the end of Winterborn, and chapter two set in in between the last two chapters of the novel.

There was the announcement from last week where I mentioned what the novel was about.

I mentioned my interest in serial killers a few days ago.  I find them interesting, though let's face it, I'm not the only one who does. After all, Criminal Minds has been on for over a decade now. But I have my limits. It usually involves sexually based deviancy. I don't do rape, or children. Period. Thank you. My deviancy quota will only take so much.

And, of course, I had Mandy. The next excerpt I have in mind to post will star Mandy. Perhaps even her first appearance in the novel.

There you have it, everything on UnSub to date. With luck, you'll go out and just buy the novel already. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Codename: UnSub, and Mandy

For those people who read Codename: Winterborn have probably noted that for, aside from a brief mention yesterday, I haven't said word one about everyone's favorite part of Winterborn .... Mandy.

Mandy is ... special. She was completely and utterly unplanned. She was supposed to be a cameo in Winterborn, a simple antagonist. While Kevin hunted Senators, she hunted Kevin.

But say it with me now: and then it spiraled.

The sad thing is that Codename: UnSub was written before Mandy took over the universe.

Even the back end of Winterborn was written before Mandy. Originally, she disappeared after Kevin hopped on a plane to the middle of nowhere, Left Coast. Kevin Anderson was going to disappear into the ether, and never come out. And Mandy was just going to have to live with it.

But no, Mandy was just not going to go away. Hell, Mandy wasn't even going to stay a background character in someone else's novel.

Then again, you might remember another Mandy the mercenary from 24, she had been in three days of 24, but she left an impression. However, for those of you who remember the show, it was due to the writing, not the acting of Mia Kirshner. Her delivery was wooden and the actress seems even more shallow than usual.

To be honest, I liked playing with my Mandy. She was as mercenary as they come. She's ruthless, relentless, efficient, And she'd rather not waste words. There was one point where I wrote her speaking in as many contractions as possible. It was a nice, distinctive way of speaking. It was a way to highlight her character and emphasize it by the way she speaks.

However, doing that caused beta readers to have conniption fits.

So, Mandy bullied her way into the very end of Codename: Winterborn.

Readers then suggested she at least make an appearance during Codename: UnSub.

Guess what? Mandy now has an entire subplot to UnSub.

Because Mandy does that.

Mandy's experience with Kevin has actually changed her. Don't worry, she has no problem making a profit, and she's still fairly ruthless. Anyone who gets in her way will just plain die. Unless she needs to talk with them, then they'll hurt, and then they'll die.

However, she's become a little more selective in her clientele. Can't imagine why, huh? She's accepting jobs that bring out both the good deeds and the good investments.

And let's just say that the Islamic Republic of France is still in the picture. And they're really not going to leave the picture until the final book.

Yes, a "final" book. I've got it outlined to book 8. And each book leads into the next. This one may not look like it builds up into anything interesting, but like with Anderson arriving in San Francisco in the first place, the butterfly effect is going to unleash a full force hurricane.

Because I can't do anything small.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Going Solo

Once before, I've discussed the joy of having characters go something completely and totally alone. After all, it's what Jack Bauer and Harry Potter have in common: no one listens to them, so they have to do it themselves. In their respective cases, "no one" is a bureaucracy and know it all grown ups who are so busy "protecting" the poor innocent children while ignoring that they're the ones in the crossfire.


Somehow, I've avoiding using what I've coined as The Cassandra Effect, and replaced it with good, old fashioned paranoia.

Let's face it, in The Pius Trilogy, there's a lot of "We don't know how far the bad guys have reach, or who's on their payroll" (okay, with a touch of Sean AP Ryan saying "Screw it, I'm the ultimate badass, I don't need no stinking authorities"). There's even a bit of that in Honor at Stake (though much of that is tempered with "vampires? No one will believe us." )

In Codename: Winterborn, the majority of why Kevin Anderson rides out into battle all by himself is because .... okay, to start with, he's a little insane at the moment. He's had everyone he's close with blown up, the people at the top of his command structure are responsible, and trusting anyone in between seems like a Really Bad Idea. And he's cynical enough that he's relatively certain that leaking a covert operation, getting operatives killed, would only be worth a slap on the wrist for Senators.

I can't imagine where he would get that idea. Can you? I mean, it's not like Senators can get away with mishandling classified material and getting away with it, or commit out and out felonies and get off with just a slap on the wrist.

.... Yes. Obviously, I'm being sarcastic.

But in Kevin's case, after a while, even the bad guys in Codename Winterborn were explaining ways for Kevin to just stop killing people, and just turn over the remaining victims on his hit list, and perhaps even the media would call for their blood.  While this suggestion was never directly made to Kevin, had it been, it would have been scoffed at. Then again, I've had people dismiss the Senators in Winterborn as cardboard cutouts with no redeeming qualities. It only so happens that I've smashed together the vices of real life politicians, most of whom have actually gotten away with it. Had I only but known about Leland Yee at the time...

And what about now? What could Kevin possibly do for help in San Francisco? Who would even consider coming to his aid. This entire city looks like Thomas Hobbes on acid with a cocaine chaser. Man is a wolf to man, it's always a full moon, and there are no silver bullets. Kevin has some acquaintances: he's befriended an assassin .... the assassin has some contacts. The priests might be useful ... if they weren't under siege just by virtue of living in this town that most people forgot.

Sometimes, it helps to have the grand finale be one-on-one when everyone else in town wants nothing to do with it. "Aww, there's a serial killer in town. Is there any chance he's going to kill me? No? Then screw it, have fun, leave me alone."

Okay, so I rely heavily on paranoia and solipsistic douche bags.

Granted, this time, Kevin isn't totally alone. After all, the assassin, Kyle Elsen, will gladly step in if someone is trying to kill Anderson right in front of him.

Kevin runs into a woman in San Francisco named Nevaeh Kraft, a Eurasian woman with midnight blue eyes, and she runs a shop called Artful Krafts. You could even say she's ... magic.

And if you don't know that there's an in-joke there.... well, I suggest reading Honor at Stake. Heh.

As for Mandy, she's a subject for another time. Tomorrow, to be precise.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Timing of Codename: UnSub

As I mentioned the other day, Codename: UnSub ate the original book one of The Last Survivors.

Part of that devouring included the missionary priests who came to San Francisco, trained in hostage negotiation and the conversion of the newly disarmed. While we had considered parts of it -- mostly with how to get these people into San Francisco -- we never really talk about where we put them. How do they relate to the rest of the city? How do they make their mark? How do they deal with the Children of Thanatos?

Also, in Codename: Winterborn I made a mention of "the Burners." They set people on fire. That was it. It's the general shallow thinking of every other thug in San Francisco ... and most thugs in real life. It's taken from the concept of Bum Burning. However, most of these burners do not generally gather and operate in gangs. While they were in a throwaway scene in Codename: Winterborn, they are an entire subplot in UnSub as well as a major plot point.

While Codename: Winterborn ended with the beginning of 2094, literally at 12:01 on January 1, that's because I just wanted to end on a high note. Sure, I could have stretched it out with an additional three chapters, but... no, why? The arc in Winterborn's second half was to show exactly how Kevin's actions are the butterfly effect on acid. I established that when the priests showed up en mass. The priests and their side effects are another story.

So, since the chapters I had down were all about the priests and their introduction to San Francisco society, I would use them to introduce the readers to the society. It's a cheap maneuver, basically the Alice in Wonderland effect (or the X-Men film effect, pick one), but it works.

So Codename: UnSub backs up a bit. The prologue takes place right before Kevin meets the priests at the docks. It shows Kevin having a long conversation at arrow point with some burners, setting them up a little better. Chapter 1 takes place just after the priest pickup that is shown in Winterborn. And then we have a heartwarming Christmas chapter....

And then we have a dead body show up down the block from Kevin Anderson's place that's been beaten to death. Because San Francisco.

Why, yes, I have been to San Francisco, and I've had it swarmed by vampires in one series, and a distopian nightmare in another. Why do you ask?

But all in all, the main action in UnSub takes place a few months after the arrival of the priests. They'll be more of an established force within the city by the time the main action kicks into gear.

And then, the stage is set, and we're ready to nuke the entire city straight to hell. BWAHAHAAHAHAH.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Serial killers and Codename: Unsub

I've always been a fan of serial killers.

Okay, mostly, I've been fascinated about them from an early age because they are at both complex and shallow at the same time. They can be a source of infinite evil, especially the ones who grew up in perfectly normal households, and then became Jeffrey Dahmer, or Ted Bundy-ish. A lot of them are broken, but a large block of them are just evil sons of bitches who need to be put down like the rabid dogs they are.

Because no, to understand all is not necessarily to forgive all. Sometimes it just makes it easier to find and kill the little bastards.

Nowadays, the only way to catch a serial killer is to get lucky. Any similarities between real serial killers and Criminal Minds is ... usually in the footnotes of the early episodes, where they told you what serial killer they were stealing from that week.

There's a lot of police work, there's a lot of forensics, and you have to have teams of cops continually drilling down on the manhunt until someone gets lucky. Or good. Usually both. Because the problems of catching serial killers is usually a matter trying together a connection between victims killed (most likely) by a total stranger. In a world where most people are killed in the middle of the night, in their own bedroom, by their nearest and dearest, murder by stranger is a great way to get away with it. Strangers on a Train works for a reason.

When I was designing Codename: UnSub, it was simple: how do you catch a serial killer, trained to be a professional assassin, in a city where half the population is psychotic, and there are no cops?

And then, to up the ante, I made certain that one of the victims has the power to end the world,

But, hey, no pressure.

One of the reasons I wanted to have this be a murder mystery is that mysteries have always been a snapshot of culture, and cultural assumptions. When Sherlock Holmes assumes that a man is a bachelor by a frayed button on a sleeve, it's a bit of a snapshot of 19th century Victorian London.

For Codename: UnSub, I decided that this nightmare San Francisco needed more personality, and more depth. I was going to spell out some of the sects and factions. Because in order to find one killer in a city of killers, Kevin Anderson is going to have to dig through plenty of insanity.

Obviously, I'm not going to get anywhere near as deranged as real life serial killers. There will be none of the Ted Bundy "strangled while being raped" victims. There will be no Dahmer cannibalism or pederasty. There will definitely be no Ed Gein "ashtrays made from human skin." There will be no "stab a victim in the gut and then have penile penetration of the wound."

We're just not going to go there.

There are sadistic murderers, there are sexual sadists. There are hunters who like the stalking of victims and do little about the kill. There are some who really like to take their time.

Though don't worry, if you want something gruesome, I can manage that. I've got a killer who basically likes to beat people to death. And fight them until they fall down. Then drag them to their feet and simply continue breaking things. And then, when they can't stand anymore, continue to break every last bone in the victim's body.

So, hopefully, serial killer fans will not be disappointed in just how much of a sick son of a bitch we have in this one. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Catholic Geek: Attack of the Space Vampires 10/23 by We Built That Network | Books Podcasts

The Catholic Geek: Attack of the Space Vampires 10/23 by We Built That Network | Books Podcasts:

Tom Tinney will join us to discuss his latest novel, Blood of Invidia, complete with space vampires, and a touching father-son story you won't soon forget.

Tom Tinney is a published author of numerous Science Fiction, Flash Fiction, FantaSci and Biker stories. Yes…a Biker-nerd. His time in the service (USAF), and riding with a rougher crowd, has left enough skeletons in his closet to crush a small car. His political slant, biker attitude/lifestyle and previous experience editing a motorcycle magazine, along with homegrown writing skills, have led him to produce and contribute numerous stories and articles into various media outlets

Please keep in mind that Codename: UnSub, sequel to Codename: Winterborn will be out this Friday. Enjoy.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Movie Night: Motherhunt

Another Nero Wolfe Mystery, also from the A&E original series with Timothy Hutton. You might recognize James Tolkan (Top Gun), Bill Smitrovich (Independence Day), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) and even Penelope Ann Miller (The Relic, ugh).

Enjoy everyone.

Coming Soon: Codename: UnSub

Very few people probably know or remember Codename: Winterborn. It was a revenge novel set in a distopian future. It starred a Kevin Anderson, who was as badass as I could make him, mostly for what came later.

The construction of Codename: Winterborn was as backwards as a novel could be. I had come in on the middle of the construction of someone else's world. Allan Yoskowitz, whose name you'll also note on the cover, was busy creating the San Francisco of 2095 when I ran into him. He wanted a war that created a nuclear wasteland around San Francisco, creating a pocket nightmare on the left coast. He had a series of short stories that he dubbed "The Last Survivors."

Enter me.

As Allan fed me this concept, over time, I had multiple questions: if there's a civilization out there, how much was nuked? How much of the world, and how much of the United States was left? Was there cross pollination between the two? If there was a lot, how much would cash still be effective? What was general currency?

After a while, I had one last question, a simple concept: governments are still around, therefore satellites are still around. After a while, perhaps a year at most, somebody was going to notice that there was a great big patch on the coast where there's obviously people.  In fact, if there are the standard Evil Big Corporations, someone in government circles will eventually point out that, gee whiz, people are coming to and fro from somewhere that doesn't exist.

In short, governments will obviously be aware of San Francisco, desolate distopian wasteland or not ... but enough about current events.

From there, it was an easy leap to the concept of The Inconvenient. Political prisoners that needed to be disappeared, or dangerous entities that had to be thrown away for the public good. Have a nutcase SAS operative who insists that Northern Ireland needs to be blown up? The British have a convenient rest home for him in California.

Have an American who used to be a spy and became a pain in the ass? Send him on a fact finding mission and leave him to rot.

I ran the concept past Allan. He wanted to call them "Exiles." I rolled my eyes, but it fit with the rest of the simpleminded thugs wandering San Francisco. It could have been worse: there could still be an Occupy moment. In fact, there might still be. When I suggested a spy being dropped in San Francisco, Allan wanted to call him "Mister Anderson," because someone saw the Matrix.

My reply was to call him Kevin, because I'm a smartass, and I followed Kevin J. Anderson.

I put together one short story called Letters from a Dead Man, which was Kevin Anderson looking into a terraforming company, and discovered a plot that would threaten everything that Kevin had left.

I was then offered the job of co-author.

Since I was now going to play in someone else's universe, then things got serious. I brought one of my souvenir maps of San Francisco, we laid out who would be where, and we went to work. We made maps. We made histories. We did background. We slapped together flashbacks.

And then, I started working on the project I called 2093, and it would be a prequel novel for Kevin Anderson's history. It was one part Vince Flynn's Term Limits, only science fiction, and if you had actual consequences., And by consequences, I mean that we have emotional loss, and no, not everything is resolved for the character.

For everyone who has ever visited the blog before, it then followed in the words of every other writing project I've ever been involved with, so say it with me: "And Then, It Spiraled."

For those who read Codename: Winterborn, you might have noticed that it felt like two books. This is because I was an idiot who really thought that books had to be 100,000 words or more. Also, I didn't like the idea of Winterborn being a To Be Continued, especially not for a book 1. You'll notice I tried to avoid a To Be Continued for both A Pius Man and Honor at Stake.

But as "2093" continued into the realm of San Francisco, Kevin Anderson's story apparently didn't feel finished to readers. And no one at the time suggested splitting the book.

What ended up happening was that the "prequel" ended up eating what had been book 1, and "2093" had become Codename: Winterborn. When I say it ate book one, every event of book 1 ended Codename: Winterborn, from an assassin nearly being killed to Catholic missionaries riding to the rescue.

And now, after four years, and eight books later, I'm pleased to announce the release of the sequel to Codename: Winterborn, Codename: UnSub, coming out  October 28.

Codename: UnSub is a simple premise.
Back in the "real world," Kevin Anderson had worn many hats: SEAL, spy, avenger, and Winterborn. Since being exiled into San Francisco of 2094, Kevin has tried to settle in as best he can. He acts as the threat that keeps Chinatown safe. He's got a friend in the local assassin. The private military contractor had agreed to stay away from him. The drugs dealers stay out of his way on fear of death. And the area death cult think that he's the second coming of Kali.

So who would be dumb enough to leave a body practically on Kevin's doorstep?

The murder of a local businessman puts Kevin's position in jeopardy. It makes him look week and ineffectual. All Kevin has to do is find the killer, and teach him the error of his ways, preferably in a permanent fashion. But the killer has left his mark, and it's of a professional killer. The suspects are few and far between, but they're all dangerous. 

When the next bodies start to hit the ground, it becomes clear that Kevin is dealing with something new to this San Francisco: a serial killer. 

And now, without modern forensics, databases, police forces, and relying purely on his wits, Kevin must delve into the underbelly of this nightmare city, in search of a man deadlier than any he has ever encountered before.

The one thing neither Kevin or the serial killer knows is that they're on a collision course that will either save the world or destroy it.
So, dramatic enough yet?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Game Called on Account of update

I am really tired.

Everyone is tired of politics, obviously. I want to get rid of all politicians. Round them up and throw them in a dark pit for a while until they lean some manners.

Me? I'm tired of a lot of things. I'm tired of endless promotions. I'm tired of playing three card monte with books.

I've got a five book project under discussion with one publisher.

I've got a four book project, being reviewed with a second publisher.

I've got a random book that's being reviewed by one publisher, possibly to be reviewed by another.

And I have a 13 book space opera that I need to hit with a hammer hard enough that Baen books will read it, approve it, and hopefully give me tons of money.

And did I mention that I've recorded Sad Puppies Bite Back for an audio book, and that it's currently being edited with someone with OCD tendencies and who likes the sound of my voice more than I do? (Okay, that's everybody, so not difficult).

Oh, yes, and for the five people who have read and want a sequel to Codename: Winterborn, you're going to get it. It should be out at the end of the month. Yes. Really.

Those last two? Those should both be out by the end of the month.

I've been busy.

Oh, yeah, and my joints are apparently still pissed at me for DragonCon. My back hurts like a bastard if I move the wrong way. And now my hips hurt like a bastard when I sleep the wrong way ... or the right way ... or trying to sleep in any position at all. So I'm tired that way.

So, pardon me if tonight isn't a full update. Good night.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Review: Conviction

Despite the lackluster writing and execution of Agent Carter, I have always liked Hayley Atwell, even when her character of Peggy Carter was written like a superior misandrist loon.

So when I saw the first ad for Conviction, my first thought was "Oh good, she's gotten work."

Sadly, my second thought was "Oh dear God, not the Innocence project. Haven't they already screwed up this concept in four different TV shows? Haven't they sucked every single time?"

But, just to see what Atwell was up to, I was willing to at least give it a shot.

Atwell is playing Hayes Morrison, a former first daughter, law school professor, and general basket case and screw up. Imagine if Chelsea Clinton was perfectly aware that her parents were vile, soul-sucking leaches, and grew up with sex and drug scandals of her own.

When Hayes is caught with drugs on her person, she's blackmailed into working the Conviction Integrity Unit for NYC. Her job? To judge whether or not convictions should be upheld or vacated. And no, it's not the innocence project: in fact, in three episodes, they've had 5 convicts investigated, and two of them stayed in prison. (For the record, I should note that CIUs really do exist.)

Hayes is given four people for her team: a forensics expert, a cop, a lawyer who's a reject from the innocence project, and a lawyer from the DA's office.

And why Hayes? Because when she's not imploding like Bara Dur at the end of Return of the King, she's actually quite brilliant. Also, her mother, the former First Lady, is running for Senate again, and the District Attorney would really like the Senator's support. And yes, that's one of the reasons this premise works -- no one here is filled with (self)righteous fervor about the poor innocents languishing in jail. They don't know who's innocent or guilty when they start, and in some cases, Hayes is the only one who wants to audit some of the specific cases.

The lack of pretension is one of the reasons the show works.. The second is that this show doesn't fall into patterns. She picks the first convict because she cynically declares "He's a handsome minority poster boy. The press will eat it up." The second case she selects because it is a case prosecuted by the current DA.

But the primary reason this works is Hayley Atwell, and how Hayes Morrison is written. She is brilliant, and she is also self destructive. But she holds her own against her mother and the DA, and against all of her team, none of whom seem to like her. They've taken all of the self righteous preening of every innocence project variant and replaced it with a cynical reverse murder mystery.

Let's give this a 4 out of five stars. It's better than Bull. But not a must see show.

Monday, October 17, 2016

CLFA Book Bomb, October 2016

The Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance is doing their monthly book bomb. These are JUST the books I know of in particular, or the authors in particular.  These are not all of them. The total list is right here.


New Releases

Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland (The Books of Unexpected Enlightenment Book 3) by L. Jagi Lamplighter
Third Book of Unexpected Enlightenment: It’s Halloween at the Roanoke Academy for the Sorcerous Arts, and Rachel Griffin is stirring up the dead! (See “$1.99 or Less” category below to get Book 1 – currently FREE.)

Dragonblood: A Collection of Short Stories by Sarah A. Hoyt
From the trenches of WWI where the Red Baron just can’t help turning into a dragon, to the desert sands of a future world where humans have become something else, from a coffee shop between worlds where magicians gather, to a place where your worst nightmare can love you, let Dragon Blood take you on a series of fantastic adventures.

Discovery by Karina Fabian
Humanity’s first contact with beings from beyond the solar system is bound to unlock the mystery of life in the universe, but the crew have their own secrets; hidden fears, desires, horrible sins – and a mission to kill.
Sad Puppies Bite Back by Declan Finn
Based on a true story, then completely twisted.

Days of Future Past – Part 1: Past Tense by John Van Stry
Paul’s instructor just got drafted by some mystical goddess to help save a world. As for Paul? Well, he’s really not supposed to be there, and if he thought he was having a bad day before all of this, it just got worse, a lot worse. He’s now on a one way trip, forced to help a man who despises him while at the mercy of the world’s biggest trickster.

Van Ripplewink: You Can’t Go Home Again by Paul Clayton
48 years dead, seventeen year old Van Ripplewink wakes in a dark, muddy field…

$1.99 or Less (October 17 & 18)*

The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin (Books of Unexpected Enlightenment Book 1) by L. Jagi Lamplighter FREE!
Curiosity may kill a cat, but nothing stops Rachel Griffin! “Fringe meets Narnia at Hogwarts”

Superversive Roundtable

So, this happened on Friday. Yes, I'm part of it. Yes, now the fun starts.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

On The Catholic Geek Radio Show: Rachel Griffin and L Jagi Lamplighter 10/16

The Catholic Geek: Rachel Griffin and L Jagi Lamplighter 10/16 by We Built That Network | Books Podcasts: AT 7PM EST

L Jagi Lamplighter returns to discuss her Rachel Griffin series (The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin; The Raven, The Elf, And Rachel; and Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland).

L. Jagi Lamplighter is the author of The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin, as well as the Prospero's Daughter Trilogy (Prospero Lost, Prospero In Hell, and Prospero Regained).She has also written a number of short stories, articles on anime, and is an author/assistant editor in the BaddAss Faeries series. She is a graduate of the St. John's College in Annapolis, MD. When not writing, she switches to her secret identity as a stay-home mom in Centreville, VA, where she lives in fairytale happiness with her husband, author John C. Wright, and their four darling children, Orville, Ping-Ping, Roland Wilbur, and Justinian Oberon.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Movie Night: The Doorbell Rang (Nero Wolfe)

I am a fan of Rex Stout's original novels, the A&E show they had broadcast a few years ago, and of Timothy Hutton.

Guess what I tripped over on YouTube lately.

Movie night is BACK.

But if you don't have time for a movie, here, have a new review of Codename: Winterborn.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Superhero Fight Club 2.0

Watch the shiny special effects and the dancing. It makes about as much sense as the first one, but it's cute.

It makes even less sense when you consider that they're still keeping the Supergirl universe separate from the Arrowverse, but if you're interested in making sense, don't go into comic books.

2016: Fall Season Review: Bull

This is going to be a quick review, because I'm not entirely certain what to make of this yet.
Dr. Jason Bull (played by NCIS' Michael Weatherly) is a jury consultant. He breaks down how juries think, profiling each juror and how they react to things, and even creates a mirror jury, people with similar life experiences to the actual jury. He also comes with his own fashion consultant (a gay former football running back who you can't TELL is gay, unless he mentions it, so no cliche. Whew), a former prosecutor who runs the mock juries (and occasionally defends clients), as well as the obligatory hacker and a few other people.

It's thankfully apolitical, for the most part. The solution to the pilot episode was "This kid being prosecuted for killing this girl is really gay, so he probably didn't do it." The second episode centered around a plane crash, where the jury was being affected by gender bias, but it didn't make me pissed off enough to punch the screen. The third episode was a matter of a rape victim being accused of killing the rapist, but the jury pool is being tainted by a podcaster who edits her news story to support the narrative.

The pilot was a cliche, the second episode took a psychological concept and ran with it in a way that didn't make me want to hurt someone, and the third episode was a straight-up defense in a murder case. I'm surprisingly happy with the way the show is going. It's definitely trending upward, and they're DROPPING the politics as they go along.

I will give props to Michael Weatherly for playing someone who isn't Tony DiNozzo. We don't really have a backstory on Dr. Bull, but there are interesting hints here and there. Not to mention that they've decided that, like Sherlock Holmes, Bull needs to work to keep himself together.

I must point out for special note the actor Freddy Rodriguez (of The Night Shift) for playing the lawyer Benny. Thus far, he's got the most backstory, character and emotional range. He will probably steal this show, if he wanted to.

All in all, if you're a fan of The Runaway Jury, you might want to try this. Let's give it 3, maybe 3.5 stars. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Fall TV Review: MacGyver

If you're bored on a Friday night before you watch Hawaii 5-0, you could do worse...

Yeah. That's it. That's all I have to say.

I'd love to say that this is, in part, CBS studio mandate, because the original commercial for the show was almost completely scrubbed from YouTube. You can even tell in the writing of the pilot that it was put together in a hurry. How? You mean aside from the lousy acting that sounds like a dress rehearsal, and a slap-dash script that had all the originality of an episode of Glee?

In the original commercial, you might remember that Angus MacGyver rescues himself from what looks like a terrorist camp. There is explosions, and makeshift weapons, and tripwires made from a hose, a press conference with him in front of a great big American flag and military officers? Also an operation that looks like it's from later in the episode as he's infiltrating a high tech white-wall and glass lobby? Remember that commercial? That commercial looked like fun.

It looked like this.

That has nothing to do with the pilot, which really was scrapped and redone. And you could tell from the way the pilot unfolded.

The first ten minutes of the episode feature our titular protagonist working for ... a government alphabet agency cobbled together from leftover letters of the alphabet that haven't yet been used, DGX. Yes, I know it was the random agency mentioned in the early years of the original MacGyver, but did they have to try spelling it out?

Of course, OCP consists of a whole four members: MacGyver, a computer he's banging, a holdover from CSI who has some leftover charisma, and Patricia Thornton, their boss. Yes, if you were expecting Dana Elcar as Thornton, sorry, you're not getting him. Mainly because I think he's dead.

And, yes, MacGyver doesn't have a girlfriend here, he has a bang buddy, and they have all the emotional connection of actors in Twilight.

The pilot opens with our protagonist grabbing a random MacGuffin device from the mansion in the opening of True Lies. Mac returns to their Scooby Van (tricked out by CTU), to find his f***friend at gunpoint. So, he hands over the MacGuffin, like a total moron, gets shot for his trouble, and the computer techie woman is also shot, and her body is never found.

What's that? Disappeared bodies are always eyebrow raising in this instance? Almost like she's bound to turn up? That's right, and if she's not dead, what does that mean, gentle reader?  If you said, "She must be a bad guy," then you'd be right.

Agency XYZ is dissolved (because they have more leaks than a pasta strainer) and they reform as the Phoenix Foundation think tank....because they had to get in that somewhere.

Oh good God I hated that pilot.

Now, SOP is to try three episodes to see if things get better. And ... they have. The show is now "just okay." It's sad that this MacGyver (played by Lucas Till, a reject from the latest round of X-Men films) doesn't have that salt-of-the-Earth, mildly snarky narration, but a smug, self-satisfied explanation of things that make me think, "I miss Michael Weston and Burn Notice. He did MacGyver much better. Was Matt Nix busy?"

I mean, heck, you remember how MacGyver worked with a team every episode, right? Oh, wait, no, he didn't, that's why he had to explain everything in narration, because he had no one else to explain it to. At most, he had a really annoying friend come out of the woodwork to cause trouble, or a side kick he'd pick up over the course of an episode.

Speaking of MacGyver's troublemaking friends, you remember Jack Dalton from the original, right? Played by Bruce MacGill (most recently of Rizzoli and Isles)? He was a bit of a con man, shyster, mildly insane? A short, stocky fellow, who usually meant well, but would almost unavoidably get MacGyver into trouble one way or another? Yeah, that guy.

So, of course, this being CBS, they decided to dig up one of the usual suspects from CSI, George Eads, a smart mouth CIA shooter...No, they couldn't get Michael Weatherly, he's starring on his own show, now. Nor could they get Bruce Campbell, he's got his own show.

And Jeffrey Donovan not only did this show already, he's busy working on a TV show and two other movies this year.

Can you tell that this show makes me miss Burn Notice?  Every time the narration on this series starts, I expect it to start every paragraph with When you're a spy....

It also doesn't help that I can't track what MacGyver is supposed to be making, or how he's supposed to be making them. Which I somewhat remember being one of the interesting draws of the original show.

You want the big let down? It's not how they've jettisoned Richard Dean Anderson's show from continuity. It's not how this MacGyver is a womanizing schmuck who had to fish off the company pier. It's not even that Jack Dalton has been rewritten, or that they need a goth chick Chloe O'Brian knockoff from prison, or an annoying roommate for MacGyver instead of a house's that they only used the first ten notes of the opening theme song.

This is the new version.

To help you recover, this is the old version.


Until further notice, I'll keep watching this show. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Iron Fist (Trailer) Has Arrived

Yes, the new trailer for the latest Marvel NetFlix show has arrived, and it's for Marvel's Iron Fist.

If you don't recall him from my Hollywood is Racist article, Iron Fist is the superhero identity of Danny Rand.  Danny is one part Batman, one part Daredevil, and all badass.

Now, like Bruce Wayne, he is a billionaire orphaned at an early age. His parents had been friendly with a secret Shangri La realm. During a family trip there, Rand's parents were killed, leaving young Danny to live among mystical monks and magical martial artists. He is trained in mystical martial arts, and eventually returns home to the US...

Only now, Danny Rand wields the power of The Iron Fist, the ability to focus his chi so that he can make any part of his body as solid as iron.

And of course, Rand even having this ability paints a target on his back for the mystical magical tour of killer ninjas, et al.

Thus, expect the Hand to make an appearance.

In the comics, Danny Rand would team up with Luke Cage as "Heroes for Hire," a super powered PMC before there were PMCs. It was a merging of Hong Kong action films and Blaxploitation movies; usually paired as double features.

So if you thought the stunt work and fight choreography of Daredevil was impressive, I suspect that this will blow that away.

If you pay close attention to the trailer, you can see Daredevil's Madam Gao. Perhaps we'll get some back story on her, too.

As mentioned, I expect the Hand to arrive ... if only because I can't really tell you any other of Iron Fist's rogues gallery Just saying "Martial artist bad guys in the Marvel universe," leads me to think either Silver Samurai, or The Hand.

Of course, this leads us to The Defenders, which is supposed to take place after Iron Fist in the Marvel NetFlix arc. That should be interesting.

And, if you're really interested in Martial Arts, while you're waiting for Iron Fist, you might want to check out my Sad Puppy and Dragon Award Nominated Novel Honor at Stake by clicking this link.

And ... enjoy.

Monday, October 10, 2016

New Season Review: Lethal Weapon

Every time I looked at the new shows this year, my first thought was "Oh good God in Heaven, why are they rebooting that?"

Rebooting Rush Hour as a tv show?

The Exorcist as a tv show.

Training Day? MacGyver? 24? CBS threatening to bring back Star Trek.

And Lethal Weapon? I don't know if you've seen Lethal Weapon lately, but it lacks ... depth. Substance. Yes, it created a lot of the tropes for buddy cop movies, but looking back, it creaks. I don't mean that some of the insane stunts they pull are outlandish, but the plots feel contrived. It feels dated, and not in the "Let's watch Commando because it's an insane 80s action film" sort of way. I still watch Commando. 

This is more like, "Wow, this fight scene is poorly choreographed, and this decision making process is poorly thought out."

So, I consider the idea of a TV show around this and go, "What were they thinking?"

They were thinking that they could do better.

And they have.

Our first episode opens with Martin Riggs, ex-SEAL, and Texas cop. He's already a little crazy. He gets a call from his pregnant wife, who's about to head for the hospital to give birth to their first child. He stops the car, pulls out a sniper rifle, shoots the car he's pursuing, and drives straight for the hospital, leaving the backup to clear up the mess.

And then we see his wife's car get t-boned by a truck.

So, yeah, the first three minutes were more gut wrenching than the entire Lethal Weapon franchise. Those three minutes still leave a mark weeks later -- on the characters, certainly, but also the audience. When Riggs is watching a commercial in episode 3, featuring a happy couple, the viewers get a heart-twisting sensation .... right before Riggs shoots the TV. There are lines of dialogue that are perfectly reasonable and natural that just stab you in the heart. (Murtaugh to Riggs: "Wow, you would make a lousy parent."  Me to screen: "Oh good God, no one told him his wife was pregnant. Ow.")

Surprisingly enough, the introduction of Riggs to Murtaugh in the pilot is even more true to the flavor of the series than the original films. (Bank robbery in progress. Riggs goes in, delivering a pizza. Riggs suggests that the bank robbers shoot a hostage, and suggests himself. He proceeds to kill all the bank robbers, including one with an explosive vest and a dead man's switch. He walks out of the bank, shakes Murtaugh's hand. Bank explodes). Heck, episode two listed the property damage of episode one (by dollar amount) on a white board...and made sure to update it. This was the same episode where they were referred to as Starsky and Hutch, Cagney and Lacy, and a few other nicknames.

These guys have the flavor of not only what the original Lethal Weapon was, but improved all the areas that the films lacked.

Before we continue, I should issue an apology. I honestly did not know that one of the Wayans brothers could act. I honestly didn't. I think he makes a better Murtaugh than Danny Glover ever did.  Of course, in the series, Murtaugh has recently had a minor heart attack, and needs to avoid stress .... enter Martin Riggs. There are plenty of nice little gags with Murtaugh's heart rate monitor.

And then there's Clayne Crawford as Riggs. I didn't know who he was at first, until I looked up his acting credits. I've actually liked this guy since his appearance as Quinn on Leverage. He's a surprisingly good actor. I don't know how much of it is his performance, and how much of it is the writing, but his Riggs is 1) More insane than Mel Gibson's ever was, and 2) more tragic. It's all fun and games, car wrecks and gun fights .... until Riggs volunteers to get killed to save Murtaugh from a sniper.

Major credit should also go to Keesha Sharp as Mrs. Trish Murtaugh. She is charming, and savvy, and fairly glows on the screen. Sharp and Wayans have a solid, Nick and Nora Charles relationship, where, "Gee. Yes. Married couples still flirt with each other."  They're adorable together.

Also, Trish's interactions with Riggs are always interesting, varying from just making sure he's fed, to serious discussions of "Bring my husband back alive." In fact, I think Trish's scenes with Riggs are some of the better dramatic interactions on the show, on par with the few scenes Riggs has with the department psychologist (played by Jordana Brewster). Though I would be really interested in seeing an episode with Trish and the department shrink locked in the same room together. That would be interesting.

And, surprisingly enough, even all of the minor characters have great moments. Riggs' shrink, their Captain, Murtaugh's kids, and even the coroner all have personality and solid character moments. Even one of the guest stars, Ted Levine (Monk, Silence of the Lambs) had a great star turn as Murtaugh's training officer. Even Tony Plana, who plays the DA, leaves a lot of impact on the screen, even though he's only had five minutes over the course of three episodes.

The writing for this show is impressive. They've got a great sense of the culture that makes LA LA, and they have a lot of fun laughing at it. It's like the better episodes of CSI: NY, where they could both grasp the key concepts behind facets of local culture, and make fun of it at the same time (EG: The Westminster Dog Show).

The writers also do a great job of setting up threats, and having touching and insane moments at the same time.  For example, they make it clear that a victim had been tortured by a cattle prod. When Murtaugh (who recently had a heart attack) notes that the voltage is worse than a defibrillator, the ME concurs, and notes "You have a pace maker, right? Do not get zapped by one of these." So, of course, Murtaugh has to face down against the cattle prod wielding killer, without his gun. Riggs comes to the rescue, jumping on top of the perp, and takes the cattle prod to the body. This is a great partner moment, right? It also qualifies as totally insane: as Riggs is getting shocked, he's laughing.

I told you this Riggs was more insane than in the films.

I'm three episodes in, and I want to buy the entire series. Give this show five out of five stars. If you're going to see a new series this season, watch this one.

Speaking of insanity, there's always my novel Sad Puppies Bite Back.  It's heavy on the insane.