Monthly Archives: June 2013

Quick Trip Down Neil Gaiman’s Lane

UnknownTHE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE by Neil Gaiman is a gem.

This small novel is another terrific creation from the guy who brought us THE SANDMAN comic book, as well as the novels AMERICAN GODS and THE GRAVEYARD BOOK.

In this new one, Gaiman tells the story from the perspective of a 7-year-old boy – living much the life that Gaiman lived when he was 7 and living in rural England. It takes a keen eye to see the world as a kid would, even after turning 50.

It’s a story about magic, true. But the surprising thing is how true the magic seems.

Well worth reading.

Vince Flynn, Novelist, 1966-2013

Saddened by the news that thriller writer Vince Flynn has died of prostate cancer. He was 47.

Author Vince Flynn (Courtesy photo)Flynn – whom I never met – died Wednesday in St. Paul, Minn.

He’s best known for his CIA thrillers starring protagonist Mitch Rapp. Flynn wrote more than a dozen best sellers. Three reached No. 2 on the USA Today list: KILL SHOT and THE LAST MAN (both 2012) and AMERICAN ASSASSIN (2010).

His books are published by Atria. His next novel, THE SURVIVOR, is scheduled to be released in October.

My thoughts go out to his family and friends.

Surfing for Surrealism

So. This is surreal.

A lot of the accolades you get when you have a book published are predictable. The joy of fan mail. The thrill of book signings and conventions.

So Katy King and I are lounging around last night, when Katy discovers this:Kindle

Yes. It’s an e-version of my novel CRASHERS, but written in Italian.

Now, Ie seen the print-version of CRASHERS in Italian. But this is the first time we’ve ever stumbled on an e-version. It apparently just came out this year from a publisher I’ve ever heard of before. And there it is: Big as life.

Of course I downloaded it.

It’s very, very mind-bending to read entire paragraphs of your story translated into the Italian – except for the character names and the obscenities. Of which there are, ahem, a few.

Per paragraph, apparently.

And while I’m trolling through the Internet trying to find this international e-version of my novel, I stumble on this: A British T-shirt company called Zazzle (I think auto-correct just had a hernia) that apparently has made a CRASHERS T-shirt.

designall.dllIn England. Where, to my knowledge, no one has ever read my novel.

Of course I bought it.

I was surprised to see that they had it in stock. In my size. Really, in all sizes. Apparently, there hasn’t been a mad run on CRASHERS T-shirts in England.

Can’t imagine why not.

Tradecraft Meets Twitter?

I might have discovered the Number Stations of the 21st Century.

You know about Number Stations: Those weird, random and unexplained short-wave radio broadcasts of un-credited music followed by unidentified voices chanting off numbers. I’ve read reports that they date back to World War II. Many people assume Number Stations are a perfectly obscure way to send intelligence around the world without risking agents and couriers being caught making contact.

Now, I think, Twitter could be used the same way.

I titled my new book ICE COLD KILL and I use a service to troll Twitter every day looking for that title. Turns out, I didn’t do a great job of it, and the service looks for the three words (Ice, Cold, and Kill) randomly.

So almost every single day, I get from two to a dozen Tweets with those words. Here’s the take from one day this week:

• Would literally kill for a jug of ice cold fanta.

• I could kill for an ice cold fosters right now!

• Would kill for an ice cold kopperberg or a cocktail right now

• would kill for a glass of ice cold Iron Brew!

• Would kill for a ice cold bulmurs now

• I’d kill for an ice cold mixed fruit kopparberg right about now

• I’d kill for some ice cold fresh watermelon right now

• could kill for an ice cold cocktail

That’s from one day.

OK, so maybe a dozen people do use the same clichéd line (“…would kill for … ice cold …”) each and every day. I’ll buy that. But wouldn’t that be the perfect way to hide intelligence communications in plain sight?

Say you had an asset on the ground in, oh, Cairo. And let’s say you needed your asset to ignore, follow, beat, or kill someone. You establish a dozen Twitter accounts and toss out a meaningless cliché like, “Wouldn’t turn down a refreshing (fill in the blank) today!”

For “blank,” substitute:

Ingore = Ice Cream

Follow = Fruit Punch

Beat = Brew

Kill = Kegger

And, voila: A Number Station for the digital age.

Keep Calm and Le Carré On

John Le Carré’s A DELICATE TRUTH is a terrific thriller. Well worth reading.

9781101618028_p0_v3_s260x420But what struck me is how “of the moment” it is. Especially since, as a test, I read 1963’s THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD and then immediately launched into A DELICATE TRUTH.

Same writer. Same topics (espionage, what the German’s call realpolitik). Separated by exactly 50 years.

Both are terrific. And both very much feel like creations of their era. The cigarettes and the cars and the dialog of 1963 seem pretty perfect to my ear. And the SIM cards and drone strikes and dialog of 2013 seem pretty perfect.

That’s remarkable.

A writer can be ahead of his time, and likely not appreciated. Or a writer can be stuck in time – this is heresy, I know, but I have trouble reading Herman Wouk today. That stuff seems dated, whereas THE SPY WHO… seems fresh.

UnknownFigure out how to bottle that, mate, and you’re set for life.

John Le Carré has.

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