As the 21st Century has matured, the divide in the United States has gotten more and more pronounced. While in many ways it is tribal (simply look at what either major political faction will scream bloody murder about when they are the opposition, and then look the other way when it is done while their people are in office), there is a fundamental fracture in the fabric of American society. And that fissure is deepening. More and more voices call for the utter destruction of anyone who disagrees with them, no matter how petty or nonsensical the disagreement is. A side with more and more power is demanding that things that are more and more demonstrably false and counter-factual be held up as right, true, and good, and threaten the livelihoods, or the lives, of anyone who refuses. The fracture appears to be largely along political lines. But it has become much deeper than that, a cultural divide between people who assume the worst of each other, in some cases simply because of the color of skin. And the politicians and tech giants who make their millions use that divide more and more, stoking the fires of the mob for
I first read Cauldron in high school, and at the time, I remember that it didn’t make as much of an impact on me that Red Storm Rising, Red Phoenix, or even Vortex did. A new war in Central Europe seemed somewhat more far-fetched at the time than chaos in Africa or East Asia. (I was in high school; I didn’t know nearly as much as I might have thought that I did.) But in prep for Maelstrom Rising, I picked Cauldron back up. And I’ve got to say, Larry Bond was a lot more prescient than he seemed, back in ’93. While the general scenario in Cauldron is the French and Germans enforcing their economic hegemony over Eastern and Central Europe by force of arms, effectively forming the European Union at gunpoint (referred to as the European Confederation, or EurCon in the novel), the fault lines that lead to the scenario are even now playing out, only slightly differently.
Well, after a 4057-word day, the first draft of Lex Talionis is done. Finally. This thing is a beast. It is the longest book I’ve written to date, topping the final draft of Hunting in the Shadows by over 13,000 words, weighing in at 161,860 words. And that’s before editing, where a draft usually gains a couple thousand words. But there were a lot of threads to tie up in this one. It’s brutal, it’s bleak, but I think it’s a fitting end to the series. There are parts that were quite uncomfortable to write, and probably will be a bit uncomfortable to read. It is a cautionary tale in many ways, as the tagline, “War and Politics Have Consequences” should probably tell you. I’m going to take a couple of days to let the gray matter rebound, and then it’s into editing. I’ve got thirty days to get this monster ready to go.
This post is a bit of an apology, truth be told. I reviewed this book a few years ago, on the now-defunct “Hot Extract.” Overall, I found the book to be a decent shooter thriller, and something of a wish-fulfillment fantasy for a lot of shooters who have been in the sandbox and the rock-pile, chasing ghosts and being yanked back by the choke-chain by higher whenever it seemed like they might get somewhere to the shooters and go too far to higher.
So, I’ve been keeping this a little quiet until we got the ball rolling, but Kill Yuan went into production as an audiobook last week. I’ve listened to the first fifteen minutes, and it’s badass. Note, this is not the same narrator who did Task Force Desperate. Cody Parcell, who’s done audiobooks for M. Todd Gallowglass, is taking the reins on this one, and so far, he’s nailing it. Hopefully it should be up on Audible and iTunes in a couple of months. And for the fellow nautically inclined, he will be pronouncing “gunwale” properly. You’re welcome.
This post, while following on from the last one, will be addressing a bit more of a broad problem across genres. It’s gotten a lot more talk in the science fiction and fantasy genres (particularly fantasy) than it has in the thriller genre, but it still applies. The fantasy version of this has been most recently highlighted by the work of George R.R. Martin, though there are plenty of authors working along a similar vein, which has been coined “grimdark,” a term that became at first something of a joke, based on the tag-line for the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop sci-fantasy wargame: “In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.” Taken to its extreme, it can become so ludicrous that it shades into “grimderp.”
A friend of mine just ran up against the fact that the research questions he was asking for an Unconventional Warfare story may or may not have run up against the brick wall labeled “Classified.” As in, “You’re not supposed to know the answers to those questions, let alone put them in a book. Stop asking.” This got me thinking about a few things I’ve run up against as an author over the last few years.
Some reflections on this subject have started, in part because of how long it’s taken me to get into Lex Talionis, in part because of a few of the reactions I’ve gotten to the announcement that the fifth book in the Praetorians series will also be the final one. After all, my primary audience seems to be focused on the Praetorians, so why not keep telling stories about Jeff and Co.? There are a few reasons. For one, when I started the Jed Horn series with A Silver Cross and a Winchester, I found that I just needed a break, a different outlet for my mind. That need hasn’t gone away, which is why I’ve been alternating between series and genres for the last couple of years. I’ve also made the statement that I’ve put Jeff and his boys through some pretty harrowing stuff over the last four books. I was starting to touch on how it was wearing on Jeff as a man (not a Mack Bolan superman) in The Devil You Don’t Know. That’s coming out in spades in Lex Talionis. Most real-world shooters only have so many years of running and gunning before they either go contract
The sound of pistol shots could only mean that things had just gone very, very bad. Of course, being the East Side, we heard sporadic gunfire all the time. If I had been inclined to wishful thinking, I might have been able to put it down to just another couple of gangbangers removing themselves from the gene pool. But the timing, the direction, and the fact that the explosion we’d been waiting to hear hadn’t gone off yet, disinclined me to such hopes. Bryan was probably dead, and our first diversion was a bust. Strangely enough, I didn’t feel the surge of rage and frustration that I probably should have. I was in the zone, game face on, and I just did what came naturally anymore when things inevitably fell apart. I attacked.