GUEST BLOGGING ON BISHSBEAT TODAY IS HENRY (HANK) BROWN, AUTHOR OF FIGHT CARD: TOMATO CAN COMEBACK. HANKS LATEST MEN’S ADVENTURE STYLE NOVEL, TIER ZERO HAS JUST BEEN RELEASED IN E-BOOK AND PAPERBACK FORMATS ...
ALONG WITH MYSELF, HANK HAS AN ABIDING FACINATION WITH MEN’S ADVENTURE PAPERBACKS. TODAY, HE SHARES WITH US HIS TAKE ON THE PAST AND FUTURE OF THE GENRE ...
THE ONCE AND FUTURE GENRE
The turning point came at a Seven-Eleven somewhere between Albuquerque, New Mexico and St. Louis, Missouri. That's where I found The Sergeant # 4: The Liberation of Paris on a spinning rack of paperbacks. I can't remember what else was bought there that day. Soda? Chips? A candy bar? Probably some gasoline...
Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had just crossed paths with another offspring of the pulp fiction which also inspired the comic book and movie heroes I liked best: the men's adventure paperback. Only one thing was knownst to me right then, and that was that I'd never read anything like it before. And it gripped me like Fae Wray in the fist of King Kong.
The Sergeant was a series in the war fiction subgenre. Len Levinson, writing as Gordon Davis, began the book this way: "It was a hot August day and the sun baked the boxing ring."
It was a dark and stormy night, anyone?
But who cared? Not me. I've been called many things, but "literature snob" is not one of them. How could I find time to nitpick Levinson/Gordon's prose in the midst of all those bayonet clashes and tank battles? With characters as big and bad as Master Sergeant Clarence J. Mahoney and Corporal Edward Cranepool?
That paperback was a gateway for me...to other war fiction like Mac Wingate; Levinson's other WWII series The Rat Bastards; The western series Easy Company; The Death Merchant; The Penetrator; Soldier For Hire; Soldier of Fortune and quite a few stand-alone novels with the same, or similar, subject matter.
My first couple years in the Army, my father (a Don Pendleton fan from way back) would send me the newest Mack Bolans as he finished them. I branched out on my own and a book store was always a part of my agenda on a weekend pass. I consumed Doomsday Warrior, Renegade and collected the entire Last Ranger series.
Something happened by the time I returned to civilian life: You couldn't find this kind of fiction at the convenience store any more. Or the drug store. Not even the book store.
Ironically, this is the same period of time in which I first began to get serious about becoming a writer.
I dabbled in sci-fi, fantasy, and detective fiction. For the first time in my life I brought to completion a novel that wasn't complete drivel. If you're familiar with my genre work, you'd probably be shocked how literary it was.
I submitted query letters here, there, and everywhere but nobody would even look at my stuff. I studied the art of writing query letters, subscribed to Writer's Digest, and tried all the things I knew to try. This was the age of traditional publishing, which seems like the Dark Ages, looking back.
Life happened, but I kept my dreams alive. Then I was inspired to write a military thriller which would eventually be titled Hell and Gone.
I remember painstakingly poring through The Writer's Market looking for an agent or editor who accepted queries for men's fiction, war/military or even plain ol' action-adventure. That was a frustrating search, lemme tell ya. In fact, the only publisher listed who did consider men's adventure turned out to be a vanity press. But they didn't have the integrity to admit that in their listing. Wasted time; wasted effort; wasted SASE.
I wrote about some of my experiences spanning this period in an article entitled "From Writer's Purgatory to the American Dream."
What happened to men's fiction while I was in the Army? Did publishers dump the fans, or did the fans dump reading? I have my suspicions about the whole chicken-or-the-egg dynamic, but can't prove anything. What I know beyond any doubt, though, was that book stores had become less and less interesting to visit. Eventually I stopped attempting to shop in anything but the used book stores, where I could still find stuff I enjoyed.
When I joined the e-book revolution (after missing the heady Gold Rush Days for having my head planted in the sand), I suffered some small frustration attempting to categorize my books. Neither Amazon nor their competitors had any such genre as "men's adventure" to choose. It wasn't there for readers; it wasn't there for authors.
With this in mind, I opened the Two-Fisted Blog and later Virtual Pulp Press, purposefully seeking out film and fiction red-blooded males could sink their teeth into (especially fiction, as there's still plenty of flicks being produced to appeal to male viewers and therefore doesn't need my skillful cherry-picking). I networked with other readers who shared some of my tastes and frustrations. Among them are authors who, like me, make an effort to raise men's adventure from the dead. After Hell and Gone hit the virtual stores, their books followed.
They built a following – some of them quite rapidly. Seemingly overnight, Facebook pages and groups popped up. The phrase "men's adventure" re-entered our lexicon, but often without the sneering, contemptuous tone that once was mandatory. We had ourselves a microcosmic zeitgeist.
I get emails from folks who have discovered the Two-Fisted Blog and a recurring theme is, "I thought I was all alone!" It's not just a blog; it's therapy. Just call me Dr. Brown.
See, I KNEW the fans were still out there. They turned to movies and videogames during the literary drought, but we're finding them and gradually pulling them back from the Diaspora.
Confirmation that I'd helped make a difference came the other day when preparing Tier Zero for publication: Amazon now has a Men's Adventure category in their genre matrix! Take ten, boys, and smoke 'em if ya got 'em.
The world at large is oblivious to this new marketing insight, but for me it's a significant breakthrough. Welcome to the second wave of men's adventure fiction! And as much as I miss the first wave, I think the quality, on average, is higher this time. Not necessarily because we're better writers, but because we have more respect for the intelligence of our readers than did the editors in traditional publishing (back when they condescended to acknowledge that middle income males know how to read, but prefer to read something less depressing or mundane than real life often is).
Give Tier Zero a read and see what you think. It costs less than an artery-hardening assortment of grease, sugar and fat from the local fast food chain, and probably won't require Alka-Seltzer afterwards. While you're at it, take a look at my other books, and those of my cohorts. It's all a couple mouse clicks within reach, and you don't have to visit the Seven-Eleven unless you need gas.
DON’T FORGET TO CHECK OUT HANK BROWN'S LATEST MEN’S ADVENTURE STYLE THRILLER, TIER ZERO ...