I travel a lot and am a frequent user of London’s Underground train network, also known as the Tube and its New York counterpart, the Subway.
Whenever I use these transport systems, I am struck by their similarities as well as dissimilarities.Both define their cities. If the Tube or the Subway’s services are disrupted, then thousands of offices and office workers are affected.
New York’s Subway has even more awesome stats: 1.65 billion passengers in 2012, 5.4 million journeys on weekdays, 468 stations and 24 subway lines.
Subway Stations are generally have an ‘industrial’ design, dim lighting, with girders, trunking, and the MTA’s subway cars have those gleaming silver/aluminum looks.
Tube stations have a lot of white in them, a lot of tiles, white lights and the trains reflect that style.
Subway’s trains are larger than the Tube’s, more space inside and importantly, are air conditioned! Anyone who travels by Tube in the summer will give an arm and a leg for air-conditioning.
Naturally, natives of each city will prefer their local transit system, however which transit system will a tourist prefer?
I believe the Tube is more tourist and visitor friendly:
Brightly lit stations. That white light gives a huge comforting factor.
Maps – Tube stations have a lot of maps of the network all over the place. In contrast, the Subway’s stations have a meager amount.
Attendants – I see more attendants pacing busy Tube stations than at Subway stations
Day Travelcards – This is a neat fare on the London Tube that enables a visitor to travel on the Tube, bus, Docklands Light Railway, as many times a day, for a day. Travelcards can also be bought for 7 days. This is wildly useful for visitors since for just one transaction they can buy unlimited rides for the day.
Unfortunately the Subway’s Metrocard has nothing similar to the Tube Day Travelcard. It has a 7 day Metrocard which is similar to the 7 day Tube’s 7 day Travelcard, but no PACKAGED fare that allows unlimited rides for the day. A visitor will have to buy a Metrocard and top it up on a pay-per-ride basis for a day’s use. In my opinion this makes the packaging of fares less attractive as compared to the Tube.
So there you are…if you are a first time visitor making a decision to visit either London or New York on the sole (and highly unlikely!) basis of the more-user-friendly underground rail system, then it has to be London!
We are talking thriller characters here, specifically those thriller characters associated with action.
And we are debating which thriller character is the best named.
That one name which instantly evokes imagery of silent deadly force, of hunters, of mean streets and bad lights…you get the picture. We will discuss only those characters that have a series around them, since it is such characters that are best remembered.
Some of the contemporary thriller writers I enjoy and their character creations, are below. This is by no means an exhaustive list of course and there are many more authors and books out there that I haven’t heard of. But let’s limit the universe eh?
So in no particular order, here goes:
Lee Child – Jack Reacher
the late Vince Flynn – Mitch Rapp
Brad Thor – Scot Harvath
Robert B. Parker – Spenser and Hawk (Hawk being Spenser’s occasional partner)
Robert Crais – Elvis Cole, Joe Pike ( In the earlier books, Cole was primary character and Pike was his partner, but Crais has started a new series with Pike as the central character. And that series is awesome.)
Harlan Coben – Myron Bolitar and Win (Win being Myron’s partner)
Tom Wood – Victor
Robert Bidinotto – Dylan Hunter
Stephen Hunter – Earl Swagger, Bob Lee Swagger, Ray Cruz (each of these characters have a few books around them)
Mark Greaney – The Gray Man
Jack Higgins – Sean Dillon
Stephen Leather – Spider
There are many other authors that I have read but the above are some of my favorite and whose books I look forward to eagerly.
And of all these characters, there’s one whose name rolls of the tongue and demands respect, whose names evokes images of fast draws and the sound of a gun clearing leather. A character whose name embodies ‘indomitable.’
Who’s yours? Why don’t you take the poll below and nominate yours? And if you would like to nominate some other character, or my own creation, Zeb Carter, don’t be shy!
There aren’t many books that I instantly relate to, and neither are there many authors I can instantly identify with.
Those who know me and have read my book, know my story – a new thriller author, self published, and trying to get my voice heard by more. There are millions like me, but as in life, there aren’t that many that I can relate to.
I connected to it. Instantly. No ifs. No buts. No bouts of incredulity. I was immersed in the book. It stayed in my mind and replayed itself, long after I had finished it. And that’s what fiction writing is about. Taking you to different universes and letting those universes stay with you.
I got in touch with Robert to just connect and compare notes and seek advice, and didn’t expect any reply. A polite, bland reply at best, which is what I got from many established authors.
I was pleasantly surprised when Robert replied to my mail in twenty four hours. Not just that, it was an elaborate reply, giving me several pointers. And to top it, he had researched my book and gone through my profile before replying and his suggestions were specific to my situation and were gold dust.
Made me feel like the most important person in the Universe. I then requested him to guest post here and the result is an evocative, atmospheric post that should make you get your card out and get his book.
My Moral Teachers Were Fictional Lawbreakers
Growing up in a dying mill town in western Pennsylvania was an oppressive experience. And in our blue-collar home, there were few windows that opened to a world of wider possibilities.
That wasn’t my parents’ fault. Their lives had been brutally tough, their own horizons painfully limited. My dad was born on a nearby farm and never made it to high school. For many years, he worked with his hands—stone mason, soldier in WWII, carpenter, railroad brakeman. Mom never finished school, either. She displayed early signs of musical talent, but there was no money for piano lessons. She spent her young adulthood on the assembly line at the “the pottery”—the local china factory.
After the war, they met, married, and settled in a tiny ranch house. Later, they bought and ran a local tavern, to help put my brother and me through college. They worked like mules; there was little time for anything else. So, culture was an unknown. There were no books in our house. We didn’t go to plays or concerts. The local radio stations featured farm reports and Patsy Cline.
Like most parents of that generation, they desperately wanted their kids to have more than they did, so they valued education. But the local offerings were limited. Each morning, I rode an old yellow bus with bad shocks to a school where the biggest club was the Future Farmers of America. I was eternally lucky that the school had a quirky librarian with political passions, an art teacher who played classical recordings during class, and an unforgettable history teacher who opened my mind to the world of ideas.
But the cultural inspiration of my youth came from the TV action heroes of the 1950s.
As a toddler, I became addicted to TV. Mom would park me in my little walker in front of our massive Philco. She told me that somehow I figured out when my favorite shows would come on, and I would scoot the whole walker forward to change the channels. That small screen introduced me to the concept of vigilante heroes—appropriately, in black and white.
My earliest imprinted images of manhood included the Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, Robin Hood, the Range Rider, Hopalong Cassidy, Wyatt Earp, “Lash” LaRue, “Cheyenne,” and Tarzan. There was a Saturday serial cliffhanger featuring the adventures of an amazing guy with a “jet pack” on his back, “Commando Cody.” Meanwhile, Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club served up a regular diet of Zorro and Davy Crockett.
And then there was Superman. Boy, did I love Superman.
Later, I discovered other comic-book heroes—vigilantes all. There was Batman (still my favorite), the Flash, the Green Lantern, Aquaman, the Phantom, and Spider-Man. Novels—especially science fiction and action thrillers—came along later, during adolescence.
I can’t tell you how important such experiences were to a lonely little kid with a big imagination, growing up in that four-room ranch house. Those heroes told me that life didn’t have to be a series of boring, empty routines. That there was more to the world than the claustrophobic rural township where I grew up. That the universe was a huge place filled with adventure and romance, open to infinite, exciting possibilities.
But, most importantly, that you always had to stand up for justice.
Like millions of other kids from that era, I took all this very seriously.
I still do.
I offer this personal preamble to my forthcoming survey of great thriller novels because such fare is universally dismissed as the literary equivalent of junk food. Certainly, almost no one takes action thrillers seriously or believes that they have anything important to impart to readers. They are pure “escapism,” it is said.
Well, all works of fiction transport the reader to another time and place. And, yes, a mental journey into an imaginary world can offer a few hours reprieve from boring routines and unhappiness. Call that an “escape,” if you will.
However, for the ambitious soul, fiction offers more than an escape. It provides the fuel and the road map to set out on his own real-life journey to a different, better place. For the morally ambitious soul, it can provide a lot more: the inspiration and insight to become a better person.
Of all genres of popular fiction, action thrillers are my favorite, precisely because they present an extravagant, open-ended, no-limits vision of human potential. Just as TV, film, and comic-book heroes can spark passion and idealism in children, thrillers can keep the fires of that passion and idealism burning in adults—at least, in those adults who have not surrendered to cynicism.
For example, many members of America’s armed forces and intelligence agencies love the novels of thriller masters Vince Flynn and Brad Thor, which feature the heroic counterterrorist adventures of Mitch Rapp and Scot Harvath, respectively. Our soldiers identify with and are inspired by their stoic, determined, take-no-prisoners approach to fighting the War on Terror.
Similarly, as proof of fiction’s direct inspirational power, Pentagon brass visited the set of Fox TV’s former hit series “24” several years ago to complain about the tough-guy exploits of fictional counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer. It seems that soldiers who were fans of Bauer were resisting official, Politically Correct military indoctrination about treating and interrogating captured terrorists respectfully, preferring Jack’s more (shall we say) “direct” approach.
Almost without exception, thriller heroes are exemplars of individualist values and virtues. They think for themselves and stand by the judgments of their own minds. They take great risks for their highest values. They stand alone against obstacles and opposition that would overwhelm ordinary people. They are resourceful and relentless, creative and courageous. Though they are hard-headed realists, they’re invariably principled and committed to some private, inviolate code of honor.
It’s therefore no accident that so many action-novel heroes also act as vigilantes, to one degree or another. Thriller protagonists typically find themselves forced into the “lone maverick” role: They are transformed by circumstantial necessity, becoming law-breaking rebels who must defy arrogant authorities, indifferent bureaucracies, and choking rules in the interests of justice.
Sadly, we live today in morally rootless world, a world that needs such images and examples in order to help us recover our ethical bearings. It is a terrible and telling commentary on our times that so many of us seek our exemplars of moral principles in fictional stories about people who break rules and laws.
I wrote HUNTER: A Thriller in that spirit and tradition. Though a tale for grown-ups, its morality is firmly rooted in those days during the early 1950s that I spent glued in front of that big old Philco with the tiny screen, mesmerized by the Lone Ranger and Zorro and Superman. For they were the moral inspirations of this Vigilante Author.
Check out Robert’s aptly titled blog, A Vigilante Author, here: www.bidinotto.com
And buy his book, Hunter, here. You won’t be disappointed: http://amzn.to/16wEWoO
Does a thriller writer allow his political leanings or beliefs to color influence his characters? If that happens, does the story get enhanced or diminished?
Lee Child, creator of the wildly successful Jack Reacher series, gave Reacher an anti Iraq stance in his book, Nothing to Lose
I didn’t think Nothing to Lose was the best Reacher book and the political view that Reacher espoused subtly, jarred with the overall image of Reacher having no political leanings and beliefs thus far.
That’s not to say that characters cannot or should not mimic their creators’ beliefs, as long as those fit with the plot and the making of the character and equally importantly, as long as the writer is O.K. with it.
Syria is all around us. We cannot escape it and almost all of us have an opinion on what the right course of action should be for the Western world.
The Syrian crisis prompted me to think what The Warriors – Zeb, Broker, Roger, Bwana, Bear and Chloe, the primary characters in my book The Warrior, would feel on this issue. Given that all of them have a military background, they would have views on whether there should be military intervention or not.
The Warriors, all ex Special Forces or US Rangers, have no political leanings, are the slightest bit anti establishment, use their special skills to be a force for good. They are primarily a reactive group who mobilize only when they are sucked into a situation directly or one of them or someone close to them needs help.
But the most relevant characteristics about them is that they know they can’t help everyone and do not exist to set the world right.
And that’s why I think The Warriors would advocate a ‘No Military Intervention’ policy by the Western world in Syria.
Some of you have read my thriller. What do you think?