Fight Card: A New Publishing Paradigm

Fight Card, co-creator, Paul Bishop was recently interviewed on the Book Life Now site, discussing the unique structure of the series.

In part, he says:

Then came a surprise – the stories were not only resonating with readers, but also with writers. Young writing lions such as Heath Lowrance, David Foster, Kevin Michaels, Terrence McCauley, and Robert Evans, as well as established pros like Wayne Dundee, Mike Faricy, and Robert Randisi expressed the desire to write entries in the series Fight Card series.

Part of the appeal was the new publishing paradigm Mel and I had established … Fight Card was not a publishing company, but something different – an author’s cooperative.

To read the full interview at Book Life Now, click here site

Fight Card: A New Publishing Paradigm

Smoker

Author: Mel Odom

Smoker is a short story, only about forty-five pages, but it represents one of the great things about eBooks. In days of yore, its length it would have always made it cost prohibitive to print. Unless it popped up in an anthology, or in a magazine, this story would have gone unread, which would be criminal. But now, it can be zapped straight to your computer or Kindle and read immediately. I use the word ‘immediately’ because this is a great little story… and you should read it right now. It is perfect antidote to watching re-runs on TV over the silly season. You’ll devour it in one sitting.

As a boxing story, of course it’s tough as nails, but, and this is probably a boy thing, the story as it climaxes is extremely moving. I’m too tough to tell you that I had tear welling in my eye, so I wont! And I won’t outline too much of the plot, as it is only a short story, and I don’t want to ruin the surprises the fable has in store. But quickly, the story concerns a Merchant Marine named Terry Farrell, who, while in Singapore, receives word that his father is dead and he should return home.

Farrell does, and finds out that his father was killed in an illegal boxing match – known as ‘Smokers’ because they take place in dingy back rooms which fill up with cigarette and cigar smoke from the patrons that pay to watch the fights. Of course, Farrell goes looking for answers.

The thing is, this is not just another boxing story. There’s a bit more going on here. For wont of a lazy comparison, Smoker is like a cross between author, Mel Odom’s The Cutman fused with (trying to be a tad cryptic so as not to spoil it) blues legend Robert Johnson.

If you’re reading The Fight Card series, then add this to your ‘To Be Read’ pile too. You’ll be glad you did. Currently it is only 99c from Amazon.

Smoker

Fight Card: The Cutman

Author: Mel Odom
Published: November 2011

Time for another entry in the hard punching Fight Card series – this time courtesy of Mel Odom writing as Jack Tunney. Mel may not be a household name, but if you are like me and troll through book shops, you have no doubt come across some of his work – but possibly without realising it. Maybe you have read some of his entries in Tom Clancy’s Net Force series. Or you might have stumbled across the novelisations of the films Vertical Limit, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and xXx. Then there are the tie-in books for the popular TV-Series NCIS, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel. If fantasy is your thing, Mel has you covered too, with the Lost Soul series, the award winning Rover series and Forgotten Realms. Recently, Mel has worked with Bill Crider and James Reasoner on the western series Rancho Diablo. As you can see, he has written in practically every genre.

A handful of titles from Mel Odom's career

He has been quoted as saying:

I make no bones about the fact that my roots are in the pulps. I loved Doc Savage and the Shadow and the Spider when I was growing up. Tracked down every one I could find. I’ve told people all my life that I was simply born in the wrong time. I want to write EVERYTHING. Back then you could. Writers went from a science fiction pulp story in the morning to a Western range romance in the afternoon, and then finished off the evening with a story they hoped to sell to Weird Tales.

If that wasn’t enough, there is another facet to Mel Odom’s varied career as a writer. To some writers it may have been hidden away as a grubby little secret, but not for Mel. He is proud to be one of the authors who has contributed to the Mack Bolan, Executioner and Stony Man series.

He really is the man, that no genre could tame. I first stumbled upon Mel’s work earlier this year, when I read one the best Mack Bolan stories I have read so far (of course, I still have many others to read. You can read my review of Kill Point by clicking here).

Some of Mel's 30+ titles, in the Executioner, Stony Man series

I think you’ll agree, there is no other man better qualified to revive the old pulp boxing stories than Mel, who along with Paul Bishop, initiated the Fight Card series.

Although The Cutman is the second book in the Fight Card series, you do not need to read them in order as each story is self contained. This one is set in pre-revolution Cuba, and Havana is like a new Las Vegas with lavish casinos, salsa flavoured night clubs and bars… and of course the organised crime that goes with it. As the story begins, the cargo ship Big Bertha has just made port, and two punks come around claiming that they don’t have permission to dock where they have. It’s all bunk of course, and part of an extortion rort. These punks work for a small time kingpin called Falcone.

But their scare tactics don’t work on the crew, particularly one Mick Flynn. For those of you who have read Felony Fists (or my review) may recognise that Flynn was also the surname of the lead character in that story. You see Patrick Flynn (from Fists) and Mick Flynn are brothers and were both brought up in the same orphanage, St. Vincents Asylum for Boys in Chicago – under the tutelage of Father Tim, who taught the boys to box.

So from the get go, Flynn and the whole shipboard crew, including peglegged Capt’n Sliddell, are on the wrong side of this two-bit gangster, Falcone. And it just so happens, Falcone has a little sideline which is illegal boxing matches – and his fighter, Marcell Simbari – known as the Hammer, is a wrecking machine who has destroyed all comers! Can you guess where this is all going? Of course, the conflict is going to escalate, culminating in a big fight between Mick Flynn and Simbari.

As I said when I reviewed Felony Fists, I guess boxing stories are in some ways predictable, nearly always culminating the big fight, in which the hero wins. But in stories such as these, the starting points, and the end points are not really important. It is the journey along the way, and The Cutman is a great little trip. Mel Odom’s telling of the tale is smooth and atmospheric. As I read, I could almost feel the oppressive Cuban heat, and smell the booze, sweat and smoke in the waterfront dives. And the story builds to a beautiful (and brutal) climax – the aforementioned fight between Flynn and Simbari, which has enough twists and turns in it, to keep most readers, if not on the edge of their seat, then at least on their toes, and dodging from side to side.

Later this month, the third book in the series, Split Decision is scheduled to be released, and if it packs the same punch as the first two books in the Fight Card series, then I am going to be one happy reader over the holiday season.

The Cutman can be downloaded from Amazon.

And if boxing stories are your thing, Mel has another available for kindle called Smoker: A Boxing Fable – I may have to download this one myself!

You can find out more about Mel at his website.

As mentioned above, Mel Odom has written novels in every genre, but spy fans can check out his contributions to the Executioner, Stony Man and Tom Clancy’s Net Force series.

In May:

May sees the launch of King of the Outback, the sixth book in the popular Fightcard series – and my literary debut (writing as Jack Tunney).

Set in Outback Australia, in Birdsville, one of the most remote towns on the planet, two rival boxing tents set up shop in competition with each other. In the sweltering heat, tensions simmer, tempers flare, and a tent burns.

For an up-to-date direct connection with the Fightcard series check out the home page, or for you youngsters, you can follow the Facebook Fan Page.

Fight Card: The Cutman

Mack Bolan: Killpoint

Author: Mel Odom
Publisher: Gold Eagle
Published: 1995
Based on characters created by Don Pendleton

In the real world, eleven years had passed since the events told about in Stephen Mertz’s A Day of Mourning and Dead Man Running occurred – they were first published in 1984. And although I still haven’t read A Day of Mourning (which I’ll rectify soon – as I write I have a copy winging its way to me from Western Australia), I know that Mack Bolan’s Soviet protagonist in that story was Greb Strakhov. Strakhov was killed by Bolan, but all those eleven years later, in post-Soviet Russia, Strakhov’s influence can still be felt, when one of his underlings, Kharald Shevchenko re-activates a network of sleeper agents around the world.

But as you’d expect, many of these agents who have been in place for over a decade, and after the fall of Communism, have set up new lives with families. They have no desire to sacrifice themselves for a cause that no longer exists. However, this failure to comply is met with swift retribution.

One sleeper agent, Petyr Voroshilov, fearing for his life, and the life of his son, contacts Stony Man HQ, and asks to be brought in – offering a wealth of information in the bargain. A pick up is arranged, and Mack Bolan – the Executioner – is the man assigned to bring him in. And as Shevchenko’s men attempt to stop Voroshilov’s defection, Bolan and fellow Stony Man operative Leo Turrin are engaged in an action-packed running battle. The first one-hundred pages of this book are a breathless thrill ride that doesn’t let up. It is so good in fact, it almost over shadows the other action set-pieces in the book. Don’t get me wrong, the other passages are very good too, particularly a helicopter raid on a freighter carrying nuclear material, and the climactic battle above and below the East China Sea, but they aren’t given the full reign that the opening has.

The villain of the piece, Kharald Shevchenko, after four years of capitalism, wishes for Russia to return to the old days of communism, and to that end he teams up with renegade Red Chinese General Hua to achieve his goal. From the get-go, Bolan and Stony Man (characters from Able Team and Phoenix Force make cameo appearances in this story) are on the back foot, trying to work out what the hell is going on around the globe. Only as tiny scraps of intel come in, do the pieces slowly begin to fit together.

On of the great things about this book is its high-tech approach to intelligence gathering, and its application throughout the mission. I have talked about this before, in relation to films, how spy stories used to be structured with a mission briefing at the beginning, and then the agent is sent off to save the world in an autonomous fashion. But the world has changed. Communication has changed. As a clumsy example, throw one mobile phone into the beginning of Dr. No and you have a whole new story! Routine radio transmissions at a set time? What nonsense is that? Killpoint embraces modern technology and author Mel Odom beautifully balances the operations out in the field and the back at Stony Man base, with wheelchair bound, Aaron Kurtzman (the tech wizard), actively involved in the field operations, almost as if he was standing right beside Bolan.

On numerous occasions, when I have looked at Mack Bolan or Nick Carter books, I have said ‘they are what they are’, which is simple, fast-paced, formulaic and with a body count. And they generally deliver on that level, but not much else. In fact, if you took one of the stories, and used the ‘find/change’ function to change Mack Bolan’s named to Bill Smith; even with the new name, the stories would still read pretty much as Mack Bolan adventures. I hope that makes sense. What I am trying to imply is that the template used for these stories is very identifiable and doesn’t vary too much. However, with Killpoint, the ‘find/change’ test would produce something different. With different character names, Killpoint would be a damn fine stand-alone spy story. However, the fact that Odom has managed to keep the story well grounded in Bolan/The Executioner lore means he has achieved an incredible balancing act. The story works in both worlds, as spy fiction and as a Mack Bolan novel.

I think I have expressed how much I enjoyed this novel, and a part of that pleasure comes from the fact that I didn’t expect a lot. Obviously I enjoy the Bolan adventures, but I am well aware of their limitations. But on this occasion, my pre-conceived expectations were knocked out of the ball park. Killpoint is a fine story.

Mack Bolan: Killpoint