I was recently tagged in the Next BIG Thing internet meme by Carol Borden from the legendary Cultural Gutter website. Carol has two cracking monster stories in the Weird Noir anthology, which I have been reading over the holiday period.
I have quite a few writing projects on the go at the moment – some of which I cannot talk about (loose lips sink ships). But the next project to be published will be my second contribution to the Fight Card series – so I’ll share that one with you. Below are my answers.
1. What is the title of your book?
Rumble in the Jungle
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
I wanted to write a follow-up to my Fight Card novelette, King of the Outback, but I thought I had gone as far as I could with the characters in that story. That is to say, I couldn’t write a direct sequel.
Also, other writers in the Fight Card series – such as Eric Beetner and Heath Lowrance – wrote fantastic books showcasing boxing, intermingled with the seedy American underworld. I knew I couldn’t walk down that path, or if I did, all I would be doing, was writing a limp pastiche of what had gone before.
So to move forward, I knew I had to look for other ideas and settings. The first flash of inspiration came on the train to work. I happened to be listening to an audio book of Ian Fleming’s Moonraker, and a passage described how James Bond looked to casual observers. Actually, here’s the passage.
And what could the casual observer think of him, ‘Commander James Bond, CMG, RNVSR’, also ‘something at the Ministry of Defence’, the rather saturnine young man in his middle thirties sitting opposite the Admiral? Something a bit cold and dangerous in that face. Looks pretty fit. May have been attached to Templer in Malaya. Or Nairobi. Mau Mau work. Tough looking customer. Doesn’t look the sort of chap one usually sees in Blades.
Mau Mau work. The idea of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya struck a cord with me. It suited the time frame perfectly, as the Fight Card books are all set in the 1950s. And on the surface, the Mau Mau seemed like a ready made villain. I thought it would be great to drop a boxer, smack dab into the middle of that conflict. It seemed perfect.
However, the conflict was far too complex and multi-faceted to provide an entertaining framework to build a story around. At least, without spending many thousands of words on lengthy explanations of the conflict – certainly not suitable for a 25,000 word novelette. Also, history has changed the perception of the Mau Mau conflict greatly. What was once considered a violent rebellion, is now considered a turning point to Kenyan democratic freedom. So unlike in Fleming’s time, the Mau Mau are now the good guys.
If you want to know more about how distorted and complex the Mau Mau rebellion was – check out this article, PSYOP of the Mau-Mau Uprising by SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)
Instead, I created the fictitious country of Sezanda, and the villains are not so much the Sezanda Socialist Army (standing in for the Mau Mau), but a group of neo-Nazis who are behind a similar style of rebellion.
I was sad to see the Mau Mau go, but if I continued with the style of story I wanted to write, I would have appeared as a blinkered, ignorant, racist – which was certainly not my intention. I simply wanted a conflict as background, to drop my protagonists into. But that’s the thing with any conflict I guess, there is always two sides.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
It is an unashamedly old fashioned pulp, with a capital P – U – L – P.
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I think Josh Hartnett would make a good hero, playing Brendan O’Toole – the reluctant hero of the piece. Maybe for the villain, the brutal neo-Nazi, Kommandant Krieger, Mads Mikkelsen. Brendan Gleason would be perfect for Danny Reilly, the barman with the heart of gold.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A hard punching, outrageously paced, adventure, in which the reluctant hero has to fight not just for his life, but for his very soul!
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
It will be self-published, but with the backing and support of the Fight Card team.
7. How long did it take to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About six months for this one. Admittedly, I also worked on other projects concurrently, so it didn’t have my sole undivided attention.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
As I mentioned at the top, I was very keen to write a boxing story that was very different in style to what has been previously published in the Fight Card series – so while I am happy to compare it with the other boxing tales, it has a different style. If there is a Pulp versus Noir barometer, this story falls completely on the pulp side. I believe this one owes more to the outrageous Men’s Adventure Magazines of the 1960s – especially those with a picture of a Nazi holding a riding crop on the cover – than a hardboiled noir piece.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I had such a blast writing my first book for the Fight Card series that as soon as I finished King of the Outback, I knew I wanted to write another one. Furthermore, Paul Bishop and Mel Odom, the creators of the series, are such great mentors for a new writer, such as myself. I guess every writing project is a learning process, but when you’ve got writers of that caliber in your corner, you know that you’ll be a better writer at the end of the project, than you were at the start. Their knowledge and experience was (and is) invaluable. I know that sounds twee and backslapping, but I am sure anyone who has worked with Paul and Mel will back up my words.
10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Rumble in the Jungle contains more action than two full length novels, and hits harder than a Mack Truck. It’s also a story about redemption. I am looking forward to unleashing it upon the world next year.
Now, I am supposed to tag five writers to continue the Next BIG Thing, but as Christmas is upon us (and tagging somebody to post on Boxing Day is a bit cruel), I will simply link to five other Next BIG Thing posts, written by friends or writers I admire.
1. Terrence McCauley, who talks about Prohibition and Against the Ropes.
2. Andrew Nette, who talks about Ghost Money.
3. Matt Hilton, who talks about Rules of Honour.
4. Andrez Bergen, who talks about Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa.
5. Eric Beetner, who talks about The Year I Died Seven Times.
Enjoy the festive season everyone, and I’ll be back sometime in 2013. Stay safe.