Warrior in the Shadows: Lance's Thoughs
I first picked up a Marcus Wynne book on the recommendation of David Morrell. Marcus Wynne is a former student of David's and I think David figured I would both like his work and that my club could help get Marcus some more exposure. I read both "No Other Option" and "Warrior in the Shadows" and liked them both, I was however, reluctant to select either for Book Marks. My reluctance was based on my concern that they were "guy" books; more based in action weapons and violence. The first novel had a rape theme to it and this one, as you should all know by this point, a cannibalism angle. I changed my mind after speaking with one of my Book Mark regulars, who was both a woman and quite interested in the books. I figured I might be selling some of you short so I decided to go forward, it was certainly a change of pace and even if some of you didn't like it you should find it interesting. After contacting Mr. Wynne I was confident I made the right decision, not only was he willing to participate, but he was genuinely excited about it and was generous enough offer a couple signed copies of "No Other Option" as contest prizes.
I'm going to talk about Mr. Wynne's work in general before going specifically into Warrior. I find Mr. Wynne's take on action and violence very unique. It feels real to me. Most good action movies or novels have what I would call Hollywood violence and action in them. The action is done much like in wrestling, where it is done to make things more entertaining or sensational, and while being entertaining this does not end up being very realistic. REAL fights don't last all that long and are seldom overly dramatic. I find many of the action scenes in "Warrior" as well as "No Other Option" and "Brothers in Arms", end suddenly and almost catch you off guard. While some people may find this less dramatic I find it refreshingly real. I also like the technical aspect Mr. Wynne brings to the table, and the almost mathematical and calculated approach his characters have to action. His characters are hard experienced men and look at violence differently than you or I, and knowing that Mr. Wynne has a similar back ground to his characters gives us, the reader, a taste of how these men think and approach situations.
On to "Warrior in the Shadows". As most of you know I am a Mark for a good first sentence, I want a book to grab me right away. This book took merely 1/2 a sentence. "The man who would soon be eaten...", You've got my attention! Who is this guy and who or what is about to eat him? The whole first chapter was intriguing for me, because once Simmons got around to being eaten, I was really wanting to know more about Alfie, is he the good guy or the bad guy. We didn't really know at this point. Simmons was obviously a bad guy, and Alfie, while having already killed a man, was in limbo so to speak for me, seeing that it was a pedophile that he had killed. Alfie may just be a vigilante at this point, and while he didn't seem to be as likable as Batman, he may still be alright.
I also liked the suspense Wynne manages to create and the end of several chapters. The first chapter is a good example as we don't get to know for sure if or how Alfie goes about eating Simmons. The chapter ends with, "Good thing you ate well tonight, Maddy, me boy," the dark man said. "My turn now." The first sentence told us this was going to happen, and now that we are about to get all the details, we jump to the next chapter and meet Charlie Payne. This is a very good hook in my opinion. Wynne does it again several times one of my favourites is the end of chapter 2.21 when Alfie confronts Bobby Lee and Oberstar in Bobby's house. The chapter ends with, "Bobby went for his gun the same instant Alfie raised his." You just have to keep reading after that. We again jump to Charlie and I found myself reading faster and faster wanting to get Charlie to Bobby Lee's house to find out what happened.
This is also why I prefer third person narratives. You can't do suspense like this with first person. We know something big is going down in one part of the story and we are now waiting to see if Charley can get there in time to do anything about it. A first person narrative would have lost this as well as a lot of the interesting little coincidences in the book, like when Alfie sees Kativa in the pub, or Bobby seeing Alfie speeding on his bike. With a narrow first person narrative it's near impossible to get little things like this in. I also liked the completely unrelated way the man hunt for Alfie broke. He almost got busted in a hotel on a completely unrelated matter. When the police knocked on the hotel door I was thinking, how the hell did this happen? Then I realised this is real life (or is supposed to emulate it at least) shit happens, it all doesn't have to tie in. The one complaint I can see some of you having is that the book was slow in the middle. I didn't feel this way but I've become a fairly fast reader so the middle portion of the book went by fairly fast. Things get exciting early in the book, then there is a lot of character establishment and police investigation going on, and until the break at the hotel, business doesn't really pick up. I think this was important ground work and helped set the stage for part 3 in the book which was really interesting to me. Once we got to Australia we were into full blow action thriller.
The whole Laura region, Australian Dreamtime magic was very cool. I love reading about weird stuff and the fact that this is all based in truth is very interesting. The Learning Channel just aired a show on Body Piercing and Body Modification and part of that show dealt with Dreamtime Warriors in Australia and their scarification. It mentioned the body painting and the magic the Dreamtime Warriors believe in, and how protective they are of their secrets. It was also important to me that Wynne didn't go over the top with the magic angle. Being someone who doesn't believe in magic, it would have killed the story if he had out right magical events take place. Wynne balanced things out perfectly with events believers would consider almost absolute proof, yet non-believers could still sceptically write off as coincidence. I could probably say more about the book, but I'll save that for when I comment on what you guys had to say. On the whole good interesting, suspenseful read for the first 2 parts of the book and onto a good action climax in part three.
Warrior in the Shadows: Marcus Wynne's Thoughs
The first order of business is to thank Lance, and all of you, for the gift of your time and energy in reading and responding to Warrior! Writers operate in a social vacuum, and this kind of interaction is heartening, energizing, and greatly appreciated. Your responses were excellent (even the ones that didn't like it!). There are professional book critics and reviewers who don't read as closely as you all did. Novels aren't ever actually finished; they're given up on. A novelist does the best he can, and then he turns it over to a small cadre of trusted readers, and inures himself to the wide range of responses (just like yours!). He makes some changes, then his agent suggests changes, and then the editor gets it and changes some things, and then the copy editor and so on and so forth until it finally it ends up on the stands, and a perceptive reader takes it up and finds a flawed story point or overlooked detail that looks so blazingly obvious you just don't know how it slipped by.
Sometimes there are errors. Sometimes there is misinterpretation. Sometimes it all becomes clear on a second reading. That's the beauty of the novel: it requires effort and collaboration on the part of the reader. No matter what the writer thinks he's doing, his effort must be filtered through the individual experiences, tastes, and education of the reader. And that makes every reading experience a unique one, and a completely valid one. As it should be. So let's talk about some of your points. Duality. I am happy that you got that. The struggle between the dark and the light in people is a theme that occurs repeatedly in my work (as you'll see when you read the other books). I'm obsessed by human duality, especially in those who must deal with the dark and the light in their professional lives: soldiers, special operators, police, criminals, terrorists, murderers, assassins; The roots of that obsession go back to my teens in the late sixties and early seventies in the California Bay Area.
During those years, a serial killer murdered my priest in the church confessional; my friends found a murder victim beside a mountain trail; my girlfriend found the dismembered body parts of a woman strewn through her yard. I saw brutal drug rip offs as the outlaw biker gangs asserted their control over the gentle hippy dope growers and designer drug manufacturers. I met a man who raped women and tape recorded the rapes and played them for his amusement at parties. I stood in the dark woods one night, under a full moon, and watched a witch coven comprised of wealthy professionals conduct their dark Sabbath. Having witnessed those things at an early age, I knew evil as a tangible, dark presence in the world. What I discovered that was so fascinating about truly evil people was that they weren't, at least at first glance, overtly evil. They were interesting, funny, charming, intelligent, until their malevolence shone through. I wanted to protect people from what I had seen.
What I was afraid of. I started in martial arts when I was seven, and taught martial arts as a teen. I eventually worked as a bouncer, served in the military, worked as a high level bodyguard, served in federal law enforcement, worked undercover in fifty countries, trained hundreds of military and police units, and all that time I protected people. Along the way I met many dangerous men. Dangerous men who were good, and dangerous men who were evil. I met Jeffrey Dahmer during his trial in Milwaukee (one of you mentioned him in your critique). I had dinner and drinks with a charming and funny and educated man who was a government assassin for an African country with over 400 personal kills. I came to know and count among my friends highly decorated military and law enforcement heroes. Here's what I've learned from a lifetime spent around dangerous humans: In every villain there's a hero. In every hero there's a villain. We all have a measure of dark and light in us. It's the quality of decisions we make every day that determine whether we walk the dark path or the light path.
Villains don't think of themselves as villains, and even the most reprehensible has, to someone, somewhere, some redeeming quality. Heroes aren't the Supermen we want them to be, they're human, frail as any of us, driven by something that at a crucial moment brings them forward in a way that most of us just fantasize about. So where do Charlie and Alfie come from? They are, as you pointed out, two sides of the same coin. Charlie is not the cookie cutter conventional genre hero. He's flawed, imperfect, all too human in his failings. He's no Superman, and he'd laugh if you suggested that he was. But he's a hero. He succeeds despite his failings. And in that, he's closer to the real heroes of the world. He's not perfect. He makes mistakes; he has weaknesses and occasionally bad judgment. But ultimately he chooses the light.
And Alfie? He's not the conventional genre villain. He's funny, charming, immensely likeable, and a true military hero. But the sum total of his life decisions take him irrevocably down the dark path. I think of Charlie and Alfie as the light and the dark in all of us. I catch a fair amount of flack from editors, publishers, reviewers, and readers for not sticking to the tried and true and expected formula for thrillers: a superman like hero with no flaws, a dastardly villain with no redeeming qualities, a carefully charted plot leading to the inevitable (and expected) conclusion. But my job is to entertain you, and that doesn't necessarily mean serving up the same old thing.
My personal mission is to push the boundaries of the thriller genre while working (for the most part) within the expected parameters. I want to do something new within the old format. It makes it a more interesting ride for me, and, based on the responses I get, a more interesting ride for you. I'd probably sell more books if I hewed to the straight and narrow and proven path. But I'll tell you a secret about writers: we're driven to write what we write, and while commercial and editorial considerations are a factor, the bottom line is we write what we HAVE to write. And besides, I like to take risks. As, obviously, you do. On the fights and violence in the book: One of the ways I like to introduce reality into my fiction is to keep a high standard of technical accuracy in my fights. In professional, operational violence, we want it to be over as quickly and efficiently as possible so we can move onto whatever it is we need to accomplish.
A professional fights with maximum violence directed against greatest weakness, and then moves on. Real world fights, where weapons are a given, don't last long. A military battle might go on and on, but in the world of up close and in your face combat, it's all settled fast. One of my jobs as a writer is to lead you on an exploration of new worlds. In Warrior you visit the weird world of special operations, drop into law enforcement investigation, dip into the art world, and take a long, strange journey through the Dreamtime of the Australian aboriginal. Which leads me to the issue of magic and sorcery, and how this book came to be, The theme of magic and the Dreamtime is all about duality, too. In the Dreamtime, the real world and the Dreamtime world are barely separated by a thin veil -- a veil that can be breached through magic, or by accident -- and many of the strange coincidences in our lives come about because of that interaction. That idea appeals to me. It feels right, and my life experience is punctuated by strange coincidences and synchronicity. It was a coincidence that I was sent on magazine assignment to Australia, and coincidence led me to the Jowalbinna Bush Camp in the Laura River region.
I spent three days deep in the outback, hiking, exploring caves and marveling at the wealth of aboriginal artwork there; I met Percy Tresize, an artist and author and true world class eccentric, who was responsible for bringing the rock art of the Laura region to the world's attention. He is one of the very few white men ever to be initiated into an aboriginal clan, and his stories and books were great sources for my research. At night, I sat with my guides around a campfire, and listened to stories about bush magic, strange disappearances, and ancient history. But what I remember most was the sense, late at night, huddled around those lonely flames, miles and miles away from the nearest settlement, that those dark hills hid an ancient, and watchful -- presence.
It was a profound experience. And on the long plane ride back to the States, I stared out the window and wondered, "What if," That's how Warrior In The Shadows was born. I wanted to push the boundaries of the genre by writing a realistic action thriller with elements of the supernatural. So that's my take on things! I want to thank you all for your reading, and I hope that those of you who choose to read my other books will enjoy them! If you like, please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org (as some of you already have) and I'll add you to my e-mail newsletter list. Also, if you're so moved, you might consider posting your comments to Amazon.com!
Take care and thanks again!