The Detachment by Barry Eisler

Good to see John Rain back again in Barry Eisler’s new offering which he has apparently self-published. It will be interesting to see whether knocking back the $500K advance is worth it. Having recently bought my kindle I enjoyed the read, and particularly enjoyed being able to download it instantly.

In this story, Rain comes out of self-imposed retirement to team up with characters Treven and Larison from previous stories, companions with questionable motives, and old mate, sniper Dox, who keeps Rain grounded. Without undertaking due diligence into his client, Rain finds himself on the wrong side of the fence working for a former Colonel Horton who has plans that I won’t reveal here.

I enjoyed how the characters from Eisler’s different novels have been teamed together, and the book is typically full of technical detail and page-turning suspense. The characters are more than two-dimensional James Bonds. I also enjoyed the element of questioning the potential US response to further national security threats.

Forcing the alpha males Rain, Dox, Treven and Larison together was a good move, and the attention to detail and character motivations are consistent with Eisler’s previous works. Highly recommended.

WILL E-BOOKS BE THE DEATH OR SAVIOUR OF EPIC NOVELS?

The other night, I looked at the shelf above my bed and realized three books had been there a while – Dead or Alive (Tom Clancy 240,000 words), Antony and Cleopatra (Colleen McCullough, 150,000 words) and Fall of Giants (Ken Follett 210,000 words). All great books, and I love epics. But I have read many other books since buying them. It seems that every time I look at these books I get the feeling that I don’t have time to read them. I’m being put off by their thickness.

I was further intrigued when I noticed Wilbur Smith’s latest effort Those in Peril comes in at a mere 100,000 words — a normal length of a thriller, but short for a writer of epics. Is this a conscious decision on his part to write a shorter book?

On the other hand, now I have a Kindle and am buying lots of e-books, I don’t consciously think of how long a book is when I start to read it. With e-books the reader is less likely to judge price based on length, or make judgments about the thickness of a book. The cover and price and recommendations will become more important.

Novellas (20,000 – 60,000 words) are doing boom business as e-books, certainly in the romance/erotica categories anyway. In fact, Christopher Jackson argues that the e-book era is perfect for novellas. (http://www.fuelyourwriting.com/time-to-write-a-novella-why-not/)

A couple of weeks ago I heard Aussie author Nick Earls interviewed by John Birmingham, talking about the possibility of writing more novellas. Is this Nick’s personal preference? Or is it a trend?

Are we too busy to read epic novels? And will the e-book era change our perceptions about the relevance of book length in things like price and appeal?

I did a quick check of NY Times fiction best sellers and at the moment we have the following word counts:

 

Words

NY Times Top 20 Hard Cover

NY Times Top 20 Trade Paperback

Up to 80K

0

2

80 to 110K

12

12

111 – 150K

7

3

Over 150K

1

3

 

We need a bigger survey, but based on NY Times popularity, epics are few and far between (and are mostly either fantasy or from established authors). Debut authors who have written long stories might consider self-publishing as e-books where established publishers wouldn’t want to risk?

I wonder whether this will have an impact on publishers? What will the future of epic books be in an era of e-books and busy people? I have a sneaking suspicion that novellas will become more popular, and novels will decline in length, maybe to 60-80,000 words.

The execution of Troy Davis: another failure of our jury system.

The execution of Troy Davis is yet another example of the failure of our jury system.

The jury system is a game. Win or lose, the lawyers have their fun. Judges have their nice lifestyle and permanent jobs. But the community is worse off. Wrongly convicted innocents and failed victims are the result. In too many instances, innocent people have been executed and the guilty freed to kill or rape again.

The case has not received much attention in Australia, where discussion of capital punishment is seen as almost irrelevant and reserved for interschool debates. There are several facts about the case that bear upon our legal system. Australia has a similar system of justice as the United States — a jury that decides guilt and a judge that sentences based on precedent and legislative guidelines. Many other countries do not use juries, or use modified juries of expert lay people who preside with qualified judges. In Australia, like the US, prosecution and defence present criminal cases to juries, and rarely does a judge question a witness, even if the lawyers are inadequately presenting their case. This is why our system favours the wealthy, who can afford better lawyers. You can get info from Mike G Law, to help you with a case and get a lawyer for a decent price. Troy Davis was convicted of shooting in cold blood an off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia. It wasn’t a case of a white jury convicting a black man. There were seven black and five white jurors. Their unanimous verdict was based on witness statements, several of which have been since recanted. There was no DNA tying Davis or anyone else to the crime. He admitted being present when the crime happened, but denied pulling the trigger.

In Georgia a jury decides on whether a defendant receives the death penalty. Davis didn’t want to be executed. He asked the jury to give him “a second chance”. Whatever you might make of that comment, the jury apparently decided that it confirmed his guilt, and that the cold-blooded nature of the crime deserved death.

Troy Davis had, for the past 22 years, persisted that he was innocent of the crime. Eventually a Federal Judge was ordered to review the evidence, including the recanted witness statements. The Judge confirmed the original verdict, cast doubt on the recanted statements, and called defence efforts to overturn the conviction as “largely smoke and mirrors”. In other words, there was not sufficient to suggest someone else did it. The defence declined to put the other main suspect, Coles, on the witness stand. Clearly, Coles wouldn’t have admitted to the killing, and in fact he fingered Davis for the crime in the first place. Unfortunate, then, that there was no DNA evidence.

Those who sought to stop Davis’s execution ask: “why would Davis insist he was innocent, even as they were administering the lethal injection, unless he was truly innocent?” A good question, but I suspect there are many reasons why in his case he wouldn’t want to die hated by all the people who supported him along the way, as would have happened if he confessed.

Still, regardless of this, I blame the jury system for the problem.

We all know that in the US there have been many cases documented where white juries have convicted black defendants on racial grounds.

As well as false convictions, juries often find a defendant innocent, even though they are guilty as hell. Recall the case of Casey Anthony, who was guilty to everyone except the jury members, who apparently watched too much CSI and decided you needed to have perfect DNA evidence to convict.

Then there was the OJ case. Plenty of DNA evidence there. Go figure.

In Australia there was the case of Queensland’s Premier Joh Bjelke Petersen, who was acquitted of perjury, largely it is alleged, because an ambitious member of his political party was on the jury.

There have also been numerous cases around the world of convictions being overturned by new DNA evidence, (and also of suspects being charged with cold cases based on new DNA procedures).

In Queensland, it took an inquest to bring out the evidence needed to charge a person of interest with Daniel Morecombe’s abduction and murder.

In many of these cases, I believe that if we had a system of inquisitional magistrates or judges (similar to France or Italy) who could actively subpoena witnesses and question them, and for serious crimes we had a panel of three or five qualified judges, we would get better outcomes from criminal trials than from juries. This is because juries are lay people, often with limited education. Juries are constructed artificially (many people excuse themselves, and others are booted off by the lawyers). Many jurors don’t understand the technical evidence such as scientific procedures for DNA, gunshot wounds and so on, and many jurors report basing their assessments on their perception of the defendant in the courtroom. Little wonder that defence lawyers get defendants to cover up their tattoos and wear a suit. Judges would see through this. Juries get sucked in.

We should leave the experts to decide guilt or innocence. If we want juries to do anything, let them decide the sentence. After all, half the time the judges don’t sentence as harshly as community standards expect. The recent UK riots is a rare exception to this rule.

Regardless of whether Troy Davis was innocent or guilty, the system failed him, and if it hadn’t failed him it would have failed the victim. We need to get rid of the juries.

Book Review: Steal the Show

by Ian Walkley

Willis Gidney needs money because he’s found a girl.

No, no, not that kind of girl. This is an abandoned baby girl.

So he hands the girl to the cops, right? Wrong, because Gidney started life the same way—abandoned. But unmarried private eyes aren’t usually thought of as ideal parents. So now Gidney needs a lawyer, and that means money.

This is the premise of Steal the Show, the second novel by Emmy award-winning motion picture director and cameraman (and now writer) Thomas Kaufman.

This sequel reprises wisecracking PI Willis Gidney, the wonderfully textured protagonist that Thomas introduced us to in Drink the Tea, which won the 2010 PWA Award for Best First Private Eye Novel. Publisher’s Weekly called Drink the Tea “a taut, compelling tale of violence and corruption” in a starred review. Gidney’s first outing had him dealing with Washington DC’s jazz scene, cut-throat big business, and the destructiveness of reckless ambition. Author John Lutz says: “Drink the Tea is a top drawer P.I. novel that will keep the reader hooked cover to cover. Author Thomas Kaufman knows his stuff. Let’s see more of his D.C. detective Willis Gidney.”

And now we can. In the sequel, Gidney again becomes involved with the business end of town through piracy in the movie distribution business, while dealing with the more human dramas associated with the child welfare system in Washington. Steal the Showhas Gidney once again with his heart in the right place and his head on the block. Forced by economic necessity to commit a felony (hey, what’s a little felony between friends?), Gidney is blackmailed into helping his client further, and incurring the wrath of Vietnamese and Salvadoran crime gangs.

Thomas’s second novel, like the first, has been extensively researched, but the facts are not intrusive, just woven into the plot in the manner of a writer knowing his stuff. Thomas says it’s important that writers talk about issues that concern them, but they should never ignore the entertainment side of the business. “The writers I like convey their personal outlook through character and plot. In this way, point of view is woven into the story and reflected through the eyes of characters.  And entertainment?  That means holding someone’s attention.  If we fail at that, we may as well forget the whole thing.”

Perhaps that attitude comes from Thomas’s lifetime in the movie business. Regardless, there’s no denying that Thomas’s two novels are great entertainment. Author Steve Hamilton describes his style as “fast and funny, with a huge heart.”

Even if you’ve not read Drink the Tea, you are thrust inside Gidney’s character from page one. Thomas has made sure that reading the two books out of order doesn’t spoil the experience, because he’s given Gidney’s back-story a different treatment in Steal the Show.

I asked Thomas about the pressure of writing the second book after winning an award with the first. “I’m definitely more excited about the second book, because I can see that folks liked Gidney and want to read more about him. But in some ways I felt more pressure, because I wanted to do more, and felt this was a chance to let Gidney strut his stuff.”

Writing is quite a different experience for Thomas than being a cinematographer. “Life on the film set is very intense, and I work closely with the director and other crew folks. So the time alone writing is wonderful for me.”

Still, working in the movie business brings out some useful qualities for Thomas in his writing. “Years behind the camera have given me a visual sense, and I try to use that when I write a scene. In the second draft I’ll try to make the scenes more visual. Ideally, reading the book should be like watching it play out on a screen. So I try to pay attention to body language, facial cues, and the ‘blocking,’ the way people move in context to one another.”

One of Gidney’s most endearing qualities is his sense of humor. It helps the reader to not only get inside his character but also to empathize, something which is so important with any protagonist, but even more important with a series character.  “Humor is part of Gidney’s coping mechanism, it helped Gidney survive the childhood from hell, so maybe he’s earned that cynical outlook. It’s hard for me to imagine Gidney without it.”

While Thomas admires other writers who use detailed outlines, his writing is more a journey. “It’s like a road trip. I know which direction I’m driving, where I’m going, but I don’t know which roads I’ll take, not yet. I find that out as I travel. Occasionally I make wrong turns, but I can always retrace my steps if I have to.”

On the process of editing, Thomas is equally candid. “I wind up creating an incredibly rough first draft, then lots of polishing.  One thing I learned from Michael Seidman’s book FICTION, is not to look at the screen when you’re writing the first draft. This is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever read.  I mean, when I first came across this advice I thought it was some kind of mistake, a typo. But I kept thinking about it, and now it’s the only way I write a first draft. By blocking the screen from my own eyes, I can write and let the words flow. I can always go back and fix things later.”

Thomas enjoys reading Lawrence Block, George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, Michael Connolly, and Elmore Leonard.   He’s quick to add newer writers like Reed Farrell Coleman, Steve Hamilton, SJ Rozan, Dennis Tafoya, Christa Faust, Michael Wiley, JT Ellison, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and Meg Abbott, to name a few.  “But, for me, it all goes back to Raymond Chandler.  He’s like the Louis Armstrong of detective fiction.  Just like every jazz trumpet player today owes a huge debt to Louis Armstrong, Chandler’s influenced all modern detective writers.”

To learn more about Thomas Kaufman, please visit his website.

This book review from The Big Thrill e-magazine.

Where were you on 9/11

Sometimes events in life are so intensely dramatic they stick in our memories like the knowledge that death is inevitable. Kennedy’s assassination, the 1967 Six Day War, the day my mother died, the births of my children. And the day the WTC towers were hit.

I was at the Hyatt Coolum resort attending the annual strategy conference for my company. We’d had a very successful day team building and planning our goals for the next year, like good conferences should. We were relaxing, playing pool and drinking beer and coffee. Not rowdy, but convivial.

I’d just finished a game with three of the guys and grabbed the TV remote to channel flick. Stopped on CNN which was showing the North Tower on fire. The time was about 10:55pm. In New York it was 8:55am. A presenter was commenting about the World Trade Centre being on fire, but there wasn’t much information at that stage. It seemed from what the presenters said that it was an accident. A few minutes later the second plane hit.

At that point, it seemed to me like the world had become a different place. It was a feeling of impending doom, without any real understanding about what fate would deliver.

I can’t begin to imagine what the people directly involved and people in the US would have felt on that day. Like many others I can only salute the heroism of those on 9/11 and those who continue to try and bring this awful chapter of humanity to an end.

Writers Festivals: Thrillerfest

Brisbane is hosting its annual Writers Festival this week. These types of events are great for both emerging writers and established authors. The International Thriller Writers hold its annual conference ThrillerFest in New York each year in July. This was my second year and it was great to be reacquainted with some friends from last year as well as breathing the same air as the likes of Ken Follett, Robert Crais, Gayle Lynds, David Morrell, Karin Slaughter and many other successful thriller authors.
Writers tend not to have the egos of actors, and their bodyguards are unarmed publicists, so even the most hallowed writer is open for a chat, or at least for a kind word of encouragement to fellow writers, even those as yet unpublished. Hearing how other writers approach writing, particularly how they started in the business, is much-needed inspiration to persist in this tough industry.
ThrillerFest has three components: CraftFest, AgentFest and ThrillerFest itself. At CraftFest, authors present on a variety of topics around the craft of writing thrillers. AgentFest is like a two hour speed-dating session between agents and unpublished writers. This year 200 writers had three minutes to pitch to sixty two agents. ThrillerFest is two days of topic panel discussions and spotlight guest speakers, with social events each evening.
Here are some of the gems I collected from CraftFest:

Dr. DP Lyle (Forensics in fiction):

  • Don’t forget that in small towns police don’t have the same resources as in the big city (particularly in the US). This gives more opportunity for gaps in the forensics, and also for evidence to be tampered with.
  • Also, did you know that semen can live for a week in dead people?

Steve Berry (Psychic Distance):

  • To create emotional connection with the reader, it is essential in third person POV that the writer doesn’t make the mistake of zooming in and out. Remain close to the narrator – keep the psychic distance close by the use of “he” or “she” after first use in a chapter/scene of the narrator’s name, rather than constantly using the name. Only use the name again where there may be confusion in dialogue as to who is speaking.

William Bernhardt (Plotting):

  • There are only five types of plots – “Education Plot” (growth), “Disillusionment”, “Testing”, “Redemption” and “Corruption” (where the hero goes bad).
  • There needs to be an event, a change and conflict in every scene, otherwise it is superfluous.

Andrew Gross (Emotion):

  • When plotting a novel, start with key relationships between characters and build the plot around them.
  • Ensure that in the first ten pages the reader is able to empathize with the main character.

Michael Palmer (Crafting the thriller):

  • In developing a story choose a topic and develop a series of questions around it to flesh out the concept. Then ask yourself – “Whose story is this?” (For each scene, to decide POV, ask “whose scene is this?”) That is, who has the most at stake?
  • At the end of the day the thing everyone is chasing is unimportant (Google “MacGuffin” if you don’t know what that is). It is only the actions and reactions of characters that are important to the reader.

John Gilstrap (Point of View):

  • There are basically three types of stories: “Chase me”, “Fix it” or “Stop it”.
  • Setting is a character in itself (eg Hogwarts in Harry Potter).
  • When you are writing in third person consider the scene a movie and think about where you would place the camera – what would you see/describe?
  • Never stop the action to reveal character backstory, always make it part of the story as it unfolds.

Ken Follett (How thrillers work):

  • Research and description are useful devices to distract the reader from thinking about the clues you are leaving. They also help to involve the reader and intensify character feelings.
  • When writing in the POV character, include thinking about what might be likely to happen, what other characters might be doing or about to do, what others are thinking, and what others are thinking about that POV character. Give the POV character curiosity.
  • Surround the hero with family and friends who love him/her. Give the hero lots of vulnerabilities. Obstacles should address vulnerabilities as well as where the hero has skills.

Erica Spindler/JT Ellison (Relationships without killing pace):

  • Use relationships as plot devices, and as obstacles to achieving character goals.
  • Remember that the hero and the villain have a relationship even if they haven’t met. What is the nature of that relationship? How do they think about each other?
  • Relationships can contribute to or detract from the character arc.
  • Don’t forget the relationship of a character with themselves – do they delude themselves? Do they make up excuses to justify their behaviour?
  • Use sex to show character – the way they have sex is a reflection of their personality.
  • Give the victim a personality and motivations and relationships.
  • Point out when characters act out of character.

Gayle Lynds (Suspense):

  • Plot is the suspense that binds the scenes in your story.
  • Hero= Jeopardy; Villain= Menace.

MJ Rose and Doug Clegg (Buzz your book):

  • Use something controversial done by a character as a marketing prompt for your book.

One other useful tip was to (when writing the manuscript) use a heading at the start of each chapter (or scene) stating whose POV it is. Then, as part of the editing process, search on the POV and follow the linear progress of that character all the way through the book.
These are only a fraction of the take-outs from Thrillerfest. I’d encourage any emerging writer to attend a writers’ festival if you haven’t been. It’s inspiring how much camaraderie and skills can accrue from such an investment.
Also, there are audio MP3s available from many writers festivals. Check out: http://www.vwtapes.com/internationalthrillerwriters.aspx

Laura Joh Rowland’s – The Ronan’s Mistress (The Big Thrill e-mag)

Browse: Home /  / The Ronin’s Mistress by Laura Joh Rowland

The Ronin’s Mistress by Laura Joh Rowland

by Ian Walkley

To write a historical novel in a foreign setting is challenging. To write a fifteen story mystery series about a detective in feudal Japan is an achievement only one American author can claim. Her name is Laura Joh Rowland.

The Ronin’s Mistress, Laura’s latest in the Sano Ichiro series (release date Sept 2011, St Martin’s Minotaur), sees Sano become embroiled in the biggest, most scandalous true-life story of the period—the revenge of the 47 ronin.

On a snowy winter night in 1703, the 47 ronin murder the man they blame for the wrongful death of their master. It’s Sano’s job to get to the bottom of things and help the government decide what to do with the 47 ronin. And in case that sounds straight forward, it isn’t. To this day there are still unanswered questions about the events that led up to the master’s death and the reasons why the 47 ronin waited almost two years for revenge. Meanwhile, Sano must also save his political career after the demotion he suffered during his previous adventure (The Cloud Pavilion).

David Liss, Edgar Award-winning author of A Conspiracy of Paper commends The Ronin’s Mistress as: “The most accomplished novel yet in Laura Joh Rowland’s remarkable series, brilliantly weaving together historical fact, meticulous research, and page-turning story-telling.” Laura’s thirteenth book in the series, The Fire Kimono, was described by the Wall Street Journal as “One of the five best historical mystery novels.”

What brings you back for another Sano adventure?

I’m interested in Sano’s ongoing political struggles, especially his rivalry with Yanagisawa, his archenemy. I’m planning some dramatic developments. Also, I want to see Sano’s children grow up and what they’ll do.

Tell us about the character of Sano?

Sano originated from a bare-bones historical fact: In 17th century Japan, crimes were solved by samurai police detectives called yoriki. That’s what Sano was in my first novel (Shinju). His character and career have developed over the course of the series and he’s now Chamberlain, the shogun’s second-in-command. I didn’t plan any of it while I was writing the first novel. At that time I didn’t know if I would ever be able to sell that book, let alone 14 others about Sano.

Is Sano ageing in real time like Michael Connolly’s Harry Bosch?

Sano is definitely ageing. He has two kids and a lot of battle scars to show for it.  However, the series progresses a bit slower than the real-time years it covers. The first book was published in 1994, seventeen years ago. Only 14 years have passed for Sano and company.

Is it Japan or the historical setting that is the main appeal for readers, do you think?

I think the Japanese setting is a big draw. I hear from many readers who have a special interest in Japan (they’ve lived there, or they have Japanese ancestry, or they practice martial arts). But they must like history, too, or they would stick to contemporary fiction instead of reading my books.

I think readers sometimes get fed up with the complications of modern life. When you read historical fiction, you can forget about technical stuff such as computers, cell phones, e-mail, and forensic science. It can be an escape to a simpler time. But I also think that historical fiction is a reminder that life in the past was often much harder than it is today. No clean water, air conditioning, antibiotics, or civil rights. Read books like mine, and you’ll come away with a new sense of appreciation for living in the present.

Do you try to weave modern themes into the Sano stories?

I think Sano’s stories have classic issues and themes. Honor versus duty, loyalty, and politics. Women’s place in society. The personal cost of doing what one believes is right. These issues and themes are timeless.

Tell us about your research…

I have been to Japan, but I’m not much of a traveler. My stories are primarily based on literature research and imagination. I know the basic 17th-18th c. Japanese life pretty well, but I try to explore different aspects of it in each book. The Ronin’s Mistress required some research into the true story on which it’s based. And the next book in the series deals with the great earthquake of 1703. I’ve been studying up on that earthquake. There are many parallels with the recent earthquake in Japan. Both were among the worst natural disasters in history.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I’m a long time fan of P. D. James and Martin Cruz Smith. Their books have such a rich sense of place and character. I aim for that in my own books. Newer favorites are Carol Goodman and David Liss. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction. It’s a refreshing break from writing novels. I like Diane Ackerman for her poetic reflections on nature, science, psychology, and culture.

For writers, I recommend Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas.  I reread it after I finish a first draft. It helps me pump up the conflict, drama, and suspense in my stories and bring out themes that will boost their emotional impact.

What’s one thing you’ve learned about writing in the past year?

It finally sank in that I have one of the long-running series in the mystery genre. It seems like only yesterday that I was an aspiring author trying to get my first book published. I have to make a special effort to avoid repeating plot lines, characters, situations, and phrases.

On promotional activities…

It’s a challenge to write a terrific book while doing signings, conferences, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. I’m still trying to find a good balance. I enjoy meeting my readers. I also like spending time with booksellers. They’re some of the nicest people. When I can convince somebody who’s never heard of me to read my book, that’s really fun.

*****

Laura’s work has been published in 13 foreign countries and nominated for the Anthony Award, the Hammett Prize, and the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award. She is also the author of Bedlam: The Further Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte, the second book in a historical suspense series that stars the famous Victorian author.

To learn more about Laura, please visit her website.

Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards & David Hicks

Should David Hicks have been shortlisted for his novel Guantanamo: My Journey? This question raises a number of issues about free speech and the criteria used to assess literary merit. It also raises the question of political leadership or lack of it, when matters of potentially conflicting values arise in our society.

It’s beyond question that the right to free speech is important in a democracy. Does that mean that it is okay to incite murder or racist behaviour or terrorism? Surely, there are some limits? In March of this year the US Supreme Court ruled eight to one that people picketing military funerals with hateful signs had the right to do this because the right to free speech was so important.

In this case, the book was about past experience, and is not inciting criminal behaviour, so our support of free speech should cover the right of the book to be published, even if Mr. Hicks is a convicted terrorist who operated with the Taliban, the repressive regime that burned books and murdered teachers and girls trying to attend school. The Taliban, of course, does not support free speech.

The second issue is whether Mr. Hicks be allowed to profit by it (for example by winning an award prize)? I understand that prosecutors are addressing this question under the law that prevents convicted criminals profiting from writing books about their criminal activities.

Next we come to the issue of literary merit. I understand the publisher has dismissed suggestions that a ghost writer wrote the book. But what about content? Reviews of the book have referred to the fact that Mr. Hicks has included only sparse details of his experience in Afghanistan, and has not included some of the evidence tying him to the activities he has apparently now said was the result of a coerced confession. Perhaps the book might have more merit as a non-fiction literary work if he had given a full and frank account of these activities, instead of trying to fudge or brush over them.

Should a book like this, and an author with his track record, be entitled to be nominated for a literary prize? Australians are a forgiving bunch. Most of us would tend to allow that a person is entitled to a second chance if they plead mea culpa and express genuine remorse. Has Mr. Hicks done this, or has he tried to pretend it never happened? If the latter is the case, then surely whoever is responsible would be showing poor judgment to consider such a book for a non-fiction award. After all, there is no shortage of worthy entries.

We should not forget those who have been giving their lives and risking their lives trying to make the world safer from those who want to kill and maim innocent people for some warped values system. And the Taliban values are about as warped as one can get.

It is ironic that someone who actively supported a regime that killed teachers and burned books and refused to educate girls would write a self-serving book trying to justify a position few of us would consider justifiable.

It is even more laughable that a politician could see such a book as worthy of literary shortlisting based upon benchmarks of “democracy”.

Welcome!

Hi, and welcome to my website. Here you’ll find an extract from No Remorse, and over time I’ll add more information and short stories about some of the characters in the book, the places, and other stuff I researched for the book. Also, there’ll be information about other writers, and resources that I’ve found helpful as a writer. In a few months, there’ll be an extract from my next book, Bait.

Hope you enjoy No Remorse. Available now.

 

 

Hanging out in Hawaii

For a holiday full of action-packed thrills and spills, whisk the teenagers away to Hawaii’s stunning Kauai island — they’ll love you for it

Finding a destination where you can enjoy a family holiday with teenagers can be difficult. But Hawaii has plenty of sightseeing, eating, shopping and adventure to keep teenage kids off their iPhones (most of the time).

To many, Hawaii is Waikiki Beach, Pearl Harbor and shopping malls. Eight out of 10 visitors don’t even venture beyond Honolulu. But our teenagers agree that their recent visits to Kauai and the Big Island (also named Hawaii) were the highlights of their holiday.

Kauai is the least visited of Hawaii’s main islands, receiving less than 5% of tourists. Yet many of us would recognise Kauai because it’s been a location for so many Hollywood movies. Kauai boasts the Jurassic Park waterfall, the mountains of the King Kong remake, the jungle in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the planet Pandora from Avatar and even the battlefields of Vietnam in Tropic Thunder.

The best introduction to this spectacular area is a helicopter ride from Lihue. We take a one-hour flight withBlue Hawaiian Helicopters, a long-established company that has won numerous awards, and offers larger Eco-Star helicopters which afford excellent views, and pilots who are qualified tour guides.

Our teens pepper our pilot with questions through their radio headsets as we soar over extinct volcanoes, the sheer cliffs of the Na Pali Coast, towering waterfalls and Waimea Canyon (“Waimea means red water”, explains our pilot), where Captain Cook first landed.

We drive to the end of the road where huge waves are thundering onto Kee Beach, near Julia Roberts and Pierce Brosnan’s holiday homes. Free-range chickens strut about and we see trees that even teenagers want to climb as we walk the Na Pali track.

Back in Hanalei Bay for dinner, we search for Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Ben Stiller and Demi Moore who are regulars here. Hanalei Beach was the location for the movie South Pacific and the local speciality is ahi (tuna) with teriyaki sauce.

Kauai’s north shore boasts top hotels and spectacular golf courses, such as the Robert Trent Jr.-designed Prince, along the cliff tops above the ocean. Snorkel, kayak or surf here (if you’re experienced).

After a few days, we move south to an amazing condo at Poipu Shores, right on the water.

Fourteen-year-old Laura wakes us up one morning for breakfast on the balcony, and we watch a lone swimmer among a pod of about 50 spinner dolphins. We do the same ourselves on the Big Island a few days later, and it’s truly special.

We then head out for some zip-lining with Outfitters of Kauai at Kipu Ranch, a Hollywood moviemakers’ location. To get there, we’re taken on a leisurely kayak up Hule’ia River to where they have several heavy wire cables strung across a valley. Strapped into a harness, we’re clamped onto the wire one at a time to jump off a platform, then we soar above the forest canopy over to the other side. After single and tandem rides, then lunch, we tramp through the rainforest to the river, where Laura swings on the “cool as…” rope that Harrison Ford used in Indiana Jones.

We join another Outfitters excursion the next day for a pleasant, breezy 18km downhill bicycle ride down Waimea Canyon. That night, we have dinner while enjoying the ambience of The Grove Café from a wide verandah overlooking the former sugar plantation.

Back at Kipu Ranch the next day, we take off with Kipu Ranch Adventures. Driving ATVs (all-terrain vehicles), we negotiate a bush trail up steep slopes at the base of the mountain range, through flooded creeks and along the river. Sixteen-year-old Jordan says driving the quad bike is “awesome fun!”, while I take one of the creeks too enthusiastically, causing a wall of muddy red water to gush over us. One thing’s for sure — our teenagers will always remember their week’s adventure on Kauai, one of our best family holidays ever.

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Take Me There

The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau has an excellent website (www.gohawaii.com) with useful information, contact details, and videos for activities and transport arrangments. We booked everything online, including our US visas and activities.

BLUE HAWAIIAN HELICOPTERS
Suite 114, 3501 Rice St, Lihue, Kauai, tel: +1 (808) 245 5800

POIPU SHORES
1775 Pe’e Rd, Poipu, Kauai, tel: +1 (808) 742 7700

OUTFITTERS OF KAUAI
2827A Poipu Rd, Poipu Beach, Kauai, tel: +1 (808) 742 9667

THE GROVE CAFÉ
9400 Kaumualii Hwy, Waimea, Kauai, tel: +1 (808) 338 1625

KIPU RANCH ADVENTURES
Kipu Ranch, Kaumualii Hwy, Kauai, tel: +1 (808) 246 9288