This is a Chin Wag special. It’s a first, ten authors, a question each. Matt Hilton has put together a great anthology of fast paced gritty crime stories based on the action films of the seventies. Look no further, here are some of the names that fill the pages of ACTION: Pulse Pounding Tales, out now. Paul Brazill is in it, I am, as are K.A. Laity and Keith Gingell among many others. This is a book that will leave you reaching for more, and you’ll have to wait until the next one’s out.
Matt Hilton, tell us about the new anthology.
It’s called Action: Pulse Pounding Tales Vol 1, and – if you excuse the overused cliche – it does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a meaty volume of 37 action-packed short stories, around 140 thousands words, from both established, climbing and new thriller authors. The collection came about due to my love of the old pulp fiction books, the ‘men’s action books’ of the 1970’s and also my love of high adventure. I’d been planning on putting together a collection of my own short stories, and sat down and wrote the two stories of mine that are included in APPT specifically to kick off the collection, but then I got to wondering if there were other like-minded writers out there who shared a similar passion to mine. To be honest, I thought that perhaps a book full of my own take on the action genre would grow a little samey-samey, and believed that individual voices and styles would make for a much better and entertaining book. So basically, I put out the feelers with a call for submissions via my Facebook page and blog, and was stunned by the number of stories that came rolling in. There was I expecting submissions from the newest of new writers, so imagine my surprise when not only some huge names on the current web scene came onboard, but also bestselling/established authors like Stephen Leather (Dan ‘Spider’ Shepherd), Zoe Sharp (Charlie Fox), Adrian Magson (Harry Tate) and Steven Savile (Doctor Who, Stargate, Slaine etc) heard the call and were keen to get involved. I had a difficult task in reading the submissions and deciding on those that would be included in the collection: the standard was so damn good, even from the occasional first-timer that took a stab at inclusion. It was hard to turn away some of the submissions, but I wanted only the best of the bunch to kick off APPT, and had to choose only those that met the brief I’d set for inclusion i.e. the stories had to be big and bold and larger than life, somewhat akin to a summer blockbuster movie, and pay homage to heroes the likes of Mack Bolan, Remo Williams, Nick carter, Conan the Cimmerian and such. As it was, the individual authors had great fun with that brief, and there are no two stories the same in the book. There is everything in the action genre from super agents, veterans, cops, villains, swordsmen and slayers, bootleggers and treasure hunters. Some of the stories are gritty, some tongue in cheek, some quite scary, but each and every story in the collection has that prerequisite stamp that they must get the adrenalin going, the pulse pounding, and the action fast and furious. I might be biased, being an action thriller author by trade (Joe Hunter), but I think that the standard of the writing stands up to any other similar collection anywhere. I’m so thrilled by the collection that I’m already planning volume 2.
Graham Smith, what draws you to the action films of the seventies?
The thing I love about the action films of the seventies was the whole sense of innovation in the styling of the cinematography. It may seem dated now but who can forget jumping back and pressing themselves in their seat when the head rolled into view in Jaws?
By today’s standards the mechanical shark or the light sabres used in Star Wars are prehistoric relics. Yet as a child I had a toy shark and coveted a friend’s light sabre. Surely this is also the decade that created movie tie-ins. With five “Bond” films also released there was lots of high octane action to satisfy a bloodthirsty little boy.
The big action heroes of the seventies were not the angst filled drunks and losers who wasted valuable fighting time with pain filled monologues. They came, they kicked ass and then they bedded the nearest woman through sheer force of personality and the seduction techniques of a rampant silverback. No amount of evil henchmen was too many for these guys, they just karate chopped or shot their way through the masses until the inevitable standoff with the leader of the baddies. The typical seventies minion could be disposed of with a single punch in all films unless it was the climactic last fight.
By the time the eighties rolled around, I was old enough to watch some of the seventies classics like Dirty Harry, Enter the Dragon or Rollerball. Later in life I would also enjoy such classics as Alien, Deliverance and Raging Bull alongside the high drama disaster movies.
To this day I will never forget being terrified for the people who were trapped below decks in The Poseidon Adventure. It was released the year I was born and I first watched it from behind the couch aged around six or seven. To my eternal shame it is still the film which scared me more than any other.
With all this action and the seminal Life of Brian from the Monty Python team, the seventies is definitely the decade which re-invigorated film making and spawned the blockbusters we enjoy today.
Gavin Bell, tell us about your story.
It’s actually a little difficult to talk about the idea for Expiry Date, because you only really find out what the story is about at the end. Well, that’s not entirely true; the story itself is very straightforward: it’s a violent all-action man-on-the-run thriller. It opens with the hero, Nathaniel Cage, realising that every hired gun in the city is out for his blood (literally, as it happens), but you have to wait until the end to find out why. To keep you occupied in the meantime, there’s gunfights, death-defying escapes, fast cars and a feisty femme. Basically, everything a growing boy or girl needs.
I’d had the basic idea for the story a couple of years ago, but I’d never got around to writing it until now. When Matt announced his new anthology of hard boiled action tales, I knew it was a great excuse to write this story and this character. Cage is your archetypal hard man in a hard world, and he was a lot of fun to write. He’s quite a bit different from my usual protagonists. The narrator of my first book, Halfway to Hell, is your standard flawed noir anti-hero: he gets in way over his head and has to survive on a combination of street smarts and luck. The hero of the book I’m finishing just now is a little more polished and capable, more like a Bond: the kind of guy who takes his enemies down by out-thinking and out-strategising them. Cage is different: if he encounters a problem, he’ll basically kill his way through it until it’s resolved.
Interestingly, although I’m a fan of contemporary action thrillers (Lee Child, Robert Crais, Simon Kernick, Mr Hilton of course), I found myself channelling some of the more rough and ready comic book heroes in this story. Stuff like Frank Miller’s Sin City and Garth Ennis’s take on The Punisher. I guess that makes sense, because Matt’s pitch for this book called for big, brash, exciting, over-the-top heroes: superheroes, in other words.
I’m enormously grateful to Matt for the opportunity to write this one and for including it in the collection. I had a lot of fun exploring Nathaniel Cage and his brutal world, and I hope to be returning there soon. In the meantime, it’s fantastic to be in the company of so many other talented writers, and hopefully to be a part of the great action revival.
Steven Redwood, I hear you have some news on your short Man Or Mouse.
Yeah, MAN OR MOUSE has been optioned by a BAFTA nominated producer to make into a movie. The movie title is THE JUDGE OF PETTICOAT LANE. I’m working with the producer now to get the script ready. It’s all very exciting.
I wrote the story with a particular British actor in mind to play the lead Jim ‘The Judge’ Galloway. I can’t name the actor but we’re hoping he takes the role.
The story is dark, raw and gritty. The producer has likened my work to Martin McDonagh who wrote In Bruges which is a massive compliment. The story is about a man who goes on the rampage to find his young son’s killer, but, in taking his revenge on a gang of pedophiles, kills an undercover agent. Then, 5 years later the past comes back to haunt him as the agent’s son comes for his own revenge. But he falls in love with the gangster’s daughter so faces a dilemma: can he kill the man who killed his own father, the loving dad doted on by the girl he loves?
I’ve been working hard on the script and getting some great feedback. My script consultant said it has the potential to be a meaningful modern day fable, like Gran Torino or Death Wish.
It’s in the British Gangster genre. Hard hitting but funny too. Big Jim’s right hand men Trippy and Dogface are a comic double act. They lighten the atmosphere, even if they are also violent maniacs.
Have to finish the script soon, so I’d better get on! If you want a taster, read MAN OR MOUSE in Pulse Pounding Tales Vol. 1.
Col Bury, If you had to sell the anthology to a reader how would you do it?
Muriel leaned over the garden fence as she stoked her tortoiseshell cat, Tiddles. “Morning, Col. So, what’s this anthology people are talking about?”
“It’s an eBook of short action stories collected by thriller author, Matt Hilton.”
She caressed Tiddles. “Matt who?”
Col shook his head, as his elderly neighbour’s teenage grandson joined them.
“Nan, he writes the Joe Hunter thriller series. It’s shit hot!”
“Is there any swearing in it?” she asked, tossing a look of disdain at her grandson.
Shit! Col thought, considering his own story in the collection… Gallance. “In context, sure. ‘Oh crumbs, damn and blast’, just wouldn’t cut it in this book, since there’s so much conflict.”
“Hmm… sounds okay, I suppose. Not had much action… since Albert… “ She stared into space.
Col stifled a mischievous smile and raised his eyebrows.
“But I’m still not sure. No animals get hurt, do they?”
“No, Muriel. Just humans. Bad ones.”
Col’s brow creased. “Remember those action heroes from the 70’s? The Saint, The Avengers, The Equalizer…” Muriel dipped her head and stroked Tiddles again, reminding Col of Dr No. Changing tack, he asked, “Er, do you like James Bond?”
“Oh, yes. Albert had a look of Sean Connery, you know… before he… left us.”
“Well, Matt got a bunch of writers old and new, like Stephen Leather, Zoe Sharp, Richard Godwin and Paul Brazill, to create heroic action figures who bring the bad guys to justice in gripping, fast-paced, action-packed stories interspersed with dark humour.”
“Stephen Godwin… hmm… interesting… and I’ve heard of Joe Sharp… but I don’t like those Brazilians much… plus, money’s a bit tight at the moment. Anyway, gotta go and feed Tiddles.”
Col bounced looks with Tim. Hey-ho. “But it’s only a couple of quid… works out at about seven pence a story!”
“See you later, Col.”
It’s probably not for you, Muriel. “Bye.”
“Well, I’m gonna bloody get it anyway. Sounds bloody brill!”
“Cheers, Tim.” As they headed back to their bungalow, Col overheard Muriel saying to her grandson: “I don’t want the neighbours gossiping, but when you download it, I think I’ll have a read of that. Could do with a bit of juicy fookin kick-ass action!”
BUY IT! 😉
Iain Purdie, if you had to elevator pitch ACTION, how would you do it?
The first thing I would do is look up the phrase “elevator pitch” in the grand repository of all knowledge that is Wikipedia, just to make sure I knew what it meant.
OK, so 30 seconds to impress upon the casual listener how mindbogglingly good this collection of short stories actually is. Well, I certainly can’t detail each of the 37 stories. That’s too many. I couldn’t even list all 36 authors included though I could focus on the best-sellers such as Matt Hilton and Stephen Leather. You know, just to get the point across that there is no lack of quality within the digital pages.
I could mention that it’s less than the price of a pint of beer or a cinema ticket, yet contains enough action to make Michael Bay go weak at the knees. More punches, kicks and bullets than James Bond has seen in an entire career. With a limit of 5000 words on each story, they’re ideal for a single sitting and each story carries enough wallop to thrust your head into the wall behind you. Quite possibly bursting it like a ripe watermelon before discarding your beaten corpse and moving onto the next guy.
It’s not all spies and contemporary heroes, either. There are cowboys in there, ninja and knights in armour. All of them battling against the odds in tales that will have you flicking the pages at breakneck speed.
Every author starts somewhere and with the established writers contributing to this book, it’s a great chance for newer talent to get their names out there. Given the paltry fee charged, you’re risking nothing to help new creators get their names known. Who knows? Your purchase might encourage them to write more.
And the world’s not short of bad guys who need the crap kicked out of them.
James Hopwood, what appeal do you think the seventies movies hold for an audience today?
Fashion, definitely the threads, man! Just kidding. It’s funny you should ask me about the seventies, rather than the eighties, because when most people think of men-of-action, they think of Stallone as Rambo, Chuck Norris in Invasion USA, or Schwarzenegger in Commando. But the seventies is the place to start. Action men started there. By the eighties, it had all become a violent cartoon. Back in the seventies, it had grit. Look at Dirty Harry, Death Wish and Rocky. They’re great examples, because they all had sequels that ran into the eighties. But I think it can be argued, the original Dirty Harry, Death Wish and Rocky were damn good films with flawed characters, but each of them, in their way, stood up for what they believed in.
However, by the eighties, Dirty Harry was being chased by a remote control toy car. Paul Kersey (Bronson’s character in Death Wish), rather than collecting his old age pension, became an action man blowing away punks. And Rocky defeated the Soviet Union. Put simply, they had become cartoons. Shadows of their former selves – but, suited to the times – the ‘greed is good’ eighties.
Skip ahead to now. The global economy is a mess. Unemployment is on the rise. As far as I can see, manufacturing is almost dead – in this country at least. Businesses are going belly-up, and it’s becoming harder for the average Joe or Jocelyn to earn a living and make ends meet. And with the ongoing conflict in the middle east, in some ways mirroring Vietnam, the environment is not that dissimilar from that of the early seventies.
So when you ask, what is the appeal of seventies films for modern audiences, I would suggest that those films gave us hope that one man or woman could change the status quo. We still need characters who stand up for what they believe in. Normal people, without super powers – not comic book heroes. It’s a message we need more than ever now, and we are not getting it from modern film.
Anyway, that’s enough yammerin’ from me. I off to Poughkeepsie to pick my feet. These days, there’s no one to stop me!
Absolutely Kate, do you think Pulse Pounding Tales is a particularly male terrain, or does it have something for a female readership?
Good God Godwin ~ Femmes aren’t puff-pastry pushovers. We live, we ache, we scream, we dream. We handle our own amongst what murky melees and free-for-all fracases come at us. Well hell, sure ~ our Maybelline, Revlon and Chanel may herald our entrance . . . but once in the thick o’things, we can heft a heist or jive and jolt with the big boys, you know ~ youse guys. We admire good guys being tough guys pulverizing bad guys. Revenge? Sweet? Name me a dame down deep inside her lush, lacy lingerie that won’t look ya straight in the peepers and smile sultry when she murmers, “Well, you know he had it coming.”
What it takes to get there — making the final frame count, the lasting sentence resound — is found smack dab in all the scrolled pages of Matt Hilton’s ‘gathering of the vibes’ ~ ACTION: PULSE POUNDING TALES. I could tell you more of my savvy character Angel Towse, whose name genuinely translates from Olde English to new Bootlegger as ANGEL TOUGH, but I’d rather all you folks out there read my story, felt a good woman’s tough ends make her due come true. You notice I’m not alone as a femme fatale crimewriter in this posse of renown: The memorable Kate Laity, Zoe Sharp, Theresa Derwin and Natasha Marie Thomas pack a mean-scene wallop to their pretty punch and still meet up with me at the corner bar later for beltin’ much more than sloe gin fizzes to toast our plotlines.
But what you 32 other boys jam-packed in this so-hot-it-gunsmokes anthology? Nah, you don’t scare off or turn off a wise woman-reader with a mind to explore the more where the daring, the who-dun-its, the shrilling thrilling killings move their momentum. A true woman’s mind is as steely as it is naturally sensuous. Ladies do and shall groove to our book.
Bring it on baby. Bring it on.
Womenfolk love when a worthy read gets their juices all jumpin.
Ian Graham, tell us about your story.
My story is titled ‘At Close Range’ and features an antagonist named Torrance Sands who, in the covert world of killers-for-hire, goes by the codename AU, the chemical symbol for gold. His codename is due to the fact that he is rather vain and has long blonde hair. Like my primary protagonist (who I’ve yet to debut) Sands’ history is deeply rooted in the Troubles of Northern Ireland.
As ‘At Close Range’ opens Sands is in the desert of northwest Texas in the United States and has accepted a job from an American politcian. His mission is to eliminate a cult leader who has gotten his pediphiliac hands on the politcian’s granddaughter. Sands has been hired for this job because he is renowned for being the man to call if you want the kill to be up close and personal no matter what the odds against him are. Like the Russian Spetsnaz soldiers that trained him over two decades ago, Sands has a proclivity for violence second to none. In ‘At Close Range’ he willingly launches himself head on into a situation that calls for him to kill multiple assailants before even reaching his primary target, but as he soon finds out, there is more to this job than can be plainly seen.
Andy Scorah, how important a concept is heroism in the anthology?
Without heros and heroism, we would have no pulse pounding stories. Action PPT is a form of escapeism, between the electronic pages you can lose yourself in the dareing do of the characters. If it had been full of stories about the day in the life of a travelling salesman or a shelf stacker at Tescos no one would buy it but if that travelling salesman uncovers a terrorist plot and only he is in the right place to save the day and because of his ex special forces training it becomes more interesting because then it morphs into a heroic story.
People love heros, because mostly life is mundane, we get up in a morning, go to work, come home and maybe do some shopping then go to bed and the next morning start all over again; so with a book like this for a few hours we can escape from our day to day lives.
I suppose as well, we are transported back to our childhood when we played Cowboys and Indians, or Pirates even Robin Hood, everyone wanted to be the Cowboy but never the Indian. Action Pulse Pounding Tales brings out the kid in all of us. Heroic action has been the staple in literature going all the way back to the IIiad and Odyssey because people have always needed heros and heroines whether to save us from the mundane or transport us to a forgotten time where men were men and women well sometimes women were just as tough as the men. Without a hero we have no story and without a story we would not have ACTION: Pulse Pounding Tales Vol 1, to put it simpler, we all want to shoot the bad guys, blow stuff up, get the girl and save the day.
Thank you everyone for a scintillating and great interview.
Stephen Leather – Strangers on a Train
Matt Hilton – Satisfaction Guaranteed and Trench Warfare
I S Paton – Valley of Death
James Oliver Hilton – The Real Deal
Adrian Magson – Jingle Bells
Joe McCoubrey – Death By Licence
Zoë Sharp – The Night Butterflies
Col Bury – Gallance
Matt Hayden – Battle For Baghlan
David Barber – The Stranger
Gavin Bell – Expiry Date
Jochem Vandersteen – A Most Honorable Death
Steven Savile & Steve Lockley – Jack Be Nimble
Ian Graham – At Close Range
James Hopwood – Cutter’s Law
Absolutely Kate – Angel Tough
Iain Purdie – On Her Majesty’s Bloody Service
Keith Gingell – The Legend of Jimmy-The-Gimp
Terrence P. McCauley – Blood Moon of 1931
Daniel Moses Luft – Skinner Alive
Asher Wismer – Jobs Taken
Gavin Hunt – The Handler
Les Morris – Blood on Their Hands
Graham Smith – Issa’s Island Prison
Andrew Scorah – Eastern Fury
Paul D. Brazill – The Liberator
Paul Grzegorzek – The Tower of Marnir
Theresa Derwin – Bit Part Player
Evan Lewis – The Judgment of Jean Lafitte
Natasha Marie Thomas – Avenged: Sixfold
Mark Dark – Man or Mouse
Robin Jarossi – Stokey
Richard Godwin – Savage Sun
Pete Sortwell – One Flew Over the Policeman’s Bonnet
Laird Long – Born of Woman
K.A. Laity – Chickens