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Monday, May 1, 2017

THE WAR FOR THE POST—APOCALYPTIC SKIES

https://openroadmedia.com/contributor/mack-maloney https://openroadmedia.com/contributor/mack-maloney
THE WAR FOR THE POST—APOCALYPTIC SKIES
 
Sold on the simple premise—Mad Max with rock star fighter pilots and their hot rod planes after WWIII—the Wingman novels morphed into one of the biggest selling post-apocalyptic military action series of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Written by Mack Maloney, the Wingman novels—and those in the other successful futuristic/sci-fi series created by Maloney—are direct descendants of the paperback original men’s adventure series, which overran the spinner racks during the ‘60s and ‘70s.
 
Lean, hard, filled with fast moving muscular prose, a Mack Maloney novel promises an escape into a dangerous world where a hero, such as Wingman’s Zen fighter pilot Hawk Hunter, must rise against the tides of darkness, destruction, and chaos—all under the banner of a tattered, but proud American flag.
 
In 1999, after sixteen novels, Maloney put his Wingman series on hiatus as demands of other writing projects took precedent. Moving from strength to strength, Maloney created an unprecedented run of successful series in his chosen genre, including Chopper Ops, Starhawk, Superhawks, Pirate Hunters, and Strikemasters.
 
In 2013—fourteen years after the 16th Wingman novel (The Tomorrow War)—Maloney again put out a call for his old buddy, US Air Force Major Hawk Hunter and his crew of hardened patriotic ex-military fighters. With the support of a new publisher—Open Road Media —making Maloney’s backlist readily available again, Wingman was once more ready for battle.  This time, Hawk Hunter and his crew were needed to save America from another threat of Armageddon in Wingman #17: Attack On Area 51, a 30,000 word novella reestablishing the world of Wingman.
 
The 18th book in the Wingman series, Battle For America, will be published this May pitting Hawk Hunter—returning from a space odyssey to divert a hurtling comet—against a 60,000 strong, heavily armed Russian army occupying New York, and the deadly threat of personal betrayal...America is once again facing anarchy in the streets and in the air, and only the flashing fingers of Mack Maloney on his keyboard can save us.
 
During a lull in the current battle, Mack has stepped into the interrogation room for a quick debriefing…
********
What would a Pentagon update tell us about the background of Mack Maloney?
 
Not much, I hope. Grew up in the Dorchester section of Boston, Catholic grade school, technical high school, went to college instead of going into the military. Became a sportswriter out of college and then worked as a flack for GE. Now writes military books and has a military-themed radio show. I think I’m pretty clean as far as the Pentagon goes, though I used to wonder, because back in college in the 70s I was friends with people in the SDS, and they were affiliated with the Weathermen and off we go. But I’ve had some experience with security clearances since then and I think all that would have come up by now. Maybe they weren’t watching as closely as we thought they were back then. It would be a different story these days. 
 
What brought you back to Hawk Hunter and Wingman after a decade hiatus?
 
By the 16th book we’d run out of enemies. This was the late nineties and the Russians were our friends. The terrorists’ threat wasn’t quite as scary as it is now and you can only fight the Fourth Reich Nazis for so long before it gets ho-hum. I grew up reading nothing but science fiction, including lots of Ace Doubles. Through a bit of agent maneuvering, I was able to continue the Wingman series at Ace Science Fiction for five more books and re-invent it in a way. Basically Hawk Hunter goes 5,000 years into the future and becomes a new hero named Starhawk. His F-16 is now able to go two light years a second. People really liked those books and I liked writing them. But then the rights to all the previous Wingman books came back to us, Open Road Media started re-publishing them and the original series became a hit again. Someone suggested I write a novella tying the Starhawk series back to the original Wingmans and that became Attack on Area 51. People liked it, so the next step was to write a brand new full-length Wingman novel and that’s Wingman #18: Battle for America. I think it’s 115,000 words. As a writer, I’m sure you can appreciate that. It was a lot of typing. 
 
You’ve said you hadn’t read other post-apocalyptic military action novels before you started writing the Wingman series. Was this a hindrance or a help? How were you able to hit the genre sweet spot while flying blind and not knowing where the target was—something of a challenge even for Hawk Hunter?
 
I was very lucky. I’d co-written a couple non-fiction books and in the process was able to get an agent. This was the mid-80s. Top Gun was a huge movie and Tom Clancy was like a superstar. And there were a lot of Mad Max-type pulp books around. Through a friend, I was hired to write the last book in a series called the Outrider. Post-apocalyptic, motorcycle-riding hero in a world full of zombies, freaks, mutants, dwarves, teen-age hookers, the works. I inherited the pen name, Dick Harding, if you can believe it. They discontinued the line before the book could come out, but I got paid a thousand dollars and, more importantly, without even really thinking about it, I had sat down and written a novel in like two months. Later on, my agent asked me for some ideas he could pitch, and I said, how about Mad Max in an airplane. He used the Outrider book as my writing sample, Zebra Books signed me up, and here we are. But it was all in the timing. If Top Gun had been a flop or if Tom Clancy had stayed an insurance salesman, I wouldn’t be here talking to you.  
 
Did you do much research before starting the Wingman series, or did you rely on your store of common knowledge to make everything up as you went along?
 
The first few books I had to rely on common knowledge because I wrote them so fast. Zebra wanted four books a year and I was still working as a PR guy for GE at the time. So I’d get up at 4 AM, write until 7AM, go to work, come home and write until 11PM or so. I did that day after day for a long time, so there was almost no time to do any in-depth research. As far as storylines, Zebra always needed a three-paragraph outline before I started a new book—these were the words that would eventually wind up on back cover. So I’d write those three paragraphs, always emphasizing the airplanes and dogfights and so on, and then get the OK to do the entire book. From there it was nothing but making it up as it went along. Just typing pages and pages of raw, misspelled words, getting the plot down before going back correcting it, editing and re-editing. It was nuts—and still, I was turning them in late which drove the publisher crazy. I lived in Saratoga NY at the time, right next to the famous race track, and my editor would leave messages on my answering machine like: Where the hell is the book! And by the way, could you put ten bucks on a horse for me in the sixth? This went on for almost three years before I was able to quit my job at GE and write full-time. Looking back on it, it was a real grind, but on another level, it was blast.
 
As Wingman and your other series progressed did you find a need for more or less research?
 
I pretty much had all the aircraft and weaponry down at first. My father was a World War Two vet and he used to read military books, especially about aviation. There were always lots of them around the house and I used to go through them, looking at the pictures before I could even read. Eventually, I knew every airplane the US military had ever built. Some kids grew up memorizing the back of baseball cards—I grew up reading my father’s airplane books. So when Zebra bought Wingman, I was able to put that knowledge to good use. Later on, when the Internet came into being, it became a lot easier just to look things up, so there’s more research in the later books. 
 
There is a refreshing difference in your approach to a post-apocalyptic American response. Your character’s actions and philosophies are patriotic, but without pushing a hardcore rightwing, xenophobic agenda. This is not the world as seen through the eyes of William Johnstone’s Ashes series or Jerry Ahern’s Survivalist series. Was this a conscious decision on your part? Is it noticed and commented on by your readers? Did your publisher ever encourage you to stray from this course?

Well, I’m not a right-wing type of guy. I grew up in the ‘60s and it was all about love and peace and music, but at the same time, the Vietnam War was going on. I knew people who went to Vietnam. My older brother was there, and on one hand you try to be patriotic, but on the other, it was becoming clear the whole thing was going south. I remember a turning point around 1969. I was in a gang in Dorchester back then—not a street gang as you think of them now, more like an old ‘50s gang. A bunch of us went to this enormous party for a guy we knew from another gang who’d just come back from Vietnam. We were at a lake, and we were all loaded, drinking and so on, but the guy himself just sat there, staring off into the distance for the whole time. He was a mess. Just about the only thing he said to us was, I saw a lot of guys killed over there trying to be John Wayne. That really stuck with me and I started questioning, what is this all for really? Fifty thousand American soldiers killed, two million Vietnamese. For what? Politics? It really started to turn me against the whole thing and when I went to college I got the full treatment from the other point of view. I know sometimes you just have to go, like World War Two and the first Gulf War. But you know, the people who start these other crazy wars are never the ones out there getting shot at. It’s easy to do when your own ass isn’t on the line. So, when Wingman came along, I didn’t want the character to be one of these lock-step guys who was fighting for some right wing agenda. I wanted the character to be a patriot, someone who loved this country because of the people who lived here and what they stood for, not because of the politics or some fat-cat generals getting their jollies. Zebra never said a word to me about it and the strange thing is, not one reader ever complained either. No one ever wrote to me and said they thought Hawk Hunter was too much of a commie. But lots wrote to me and said I joined the military because that’s the kind of patriot I want to be. 
 
Do you see your post-apocalyptic stories as entertainment, a warning, both?
 
Pure entertainment. I think at this point it’s probably too late for any kind of warning.
 
When you set out to create a new series, what goes into your thought process?
 
Just to create a character that people will like without over-doing it and to give them some kind of cool piece of machinery with which to do their thing. A jet fighter is the best because they’re sexy and can go fast, so it’s like you’re always moving. Helicopters are cool too, except you find yourself always having to refuel them, so you have to invent different ways to gas them up without slowing down the action.  
 
Your first books were pop culture television reference works. How do the media influences of your youth continue to inspire you?
 
Yes, I co-wrote two non-fiction books way back when. One was on the old Alfred Hitchcock show and another on the Perry Mason show. I used to watch them as a kid, but frankly I was more into shows like Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. Any kind of creature feature or science fiction movie, I was all over it. There really wasn’t much of that stuff around until Star Trek, so I had to look for it, but that was definitely my thing back then and still is. I’d say Twilight Zone had the biggest influence on me. I still love watching it today. It’s just so freaking weird.  
 
There is a intermingling of humor and an amount of cool MacGuyverism inventiveness in all of your books. Is this endemic to the way you write or a purposeful blending you are conscious of as the pages flow?
 
I think you could call it, unconscious blending. I mean, Life can be really funny at times, so there’s no reason a story about a post-World War Three jet fighter hero can’t have some humorous moments in it. It’s also a way of keeping it light, and not dragging around that tired right-wing agenda for every book. To me, that’s the opposite of fun. But I never think, Okay, let’s put a funny part right here. It just happens. The MacGuyerisms just come with any story that has the good guy underdogs battling some enormous bad guy army. In fact, the guy who played MacGuyver, Richard Dean Anderson, was a kind of model for Hawk Hunter. I always imagined him playing Hunter in a Wingman movie. At one point, we actually talked to his agent about it, but he had already signed on to do another TV series, so it didn’t happen. It was a long shot, but I think it would have been cool. 
 
What can you reveal about the story of Wingman: Battle For America, and what do you envision for the future of the Wingman series?
 
Again, the idea was to write a full-length Wingman novel, just like the original books. In those years when I was doing other things, a lot of people wrote me and asked when is Wingman coming back, so that was the goal. It’s convenient that the Russians are our adversaries again, and it was a chance to bring back a lot of the characters who appeared in the earlier books. On one level, the Russians have taken over New York City and Wingman and his friends try to throw them out, even though the odds are stacked very high against them. His girlfriend Dominique is involved, of course, but this time she’s more than just eye candy. There’s also that doing the most with the least angle that’s in a lot of the original books and there’s a surprise ending. The cover shows Hunter flying a Russian Su-34 jet fighter with USAF markings. How that comes to be is really the basis of the story. 
 
As for what’s next for Wingman, who knows? The re-prints are a big hit, way bigger than I ever thought would happen. I mean, combined with the other books, we’ve topped 1.1 million books. But if we knew the future, I think we’d be sitting at the racetrack right now.
 
Bestselling writer, successful music promoter, innovative CD producer (Sky Club—aliens recreating music found on a dead astronaut’s i-Pod), popular radio show host (Military X-Files), UFO enthusiast...What does your daily schedule look like, how do you fit it all in with family responsibilities, and what do you do to relax?
 
I need a nap just hearing all that. It seems like a lot and it is, but again, I’m just lucky I’m in a situation where I can do other things while I’m still writing books. We do all the music production in Boston, which is just an hour train ride away. We do the radio show at a station right here in our little town, so that’s really convenient as well. For the most part, I take the morning to do any kind of business that’s happening and then start writing in the afternoon and into the night. Thank you, Red Bull. I have a very understanding wife and that’s really the most important thing. We live in a nice place on the ocean. Nothing too crazy, just a nice beach house in a nice location. I have the MLB TV package so there’s usually a baseball game on. During football season, it’s New England Patriots 24/7. And I’ve always got some kind of music playing somewhere in the background and the refrigerator is always close by. I guess, in a way, I’m relaxing a lot of the time—unless I’m approaching a deadline. Then it becomes a certain kind of hell. 
 
Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over or a book you’ve returned to again and again?
 
My favorite book of all time is Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien. It’s a novel about Vietnam and it has many levels, but the basic plot is, a guy goes AWOL in Vietnam and the rest of his squad is ordered to go after him and bring him back, no matter what. So they follow him, on foot, all the way to Paris. Sounds crazy but it’s just an incredible book. That’s the one I recommend to everyone. 
 
What is your favorite book to movie adaptation?
 
I went to graduate school at Emerson College for film making, and as a result, I don’t like very many films. It’s a case of you really don’t want to know how the sausage is made and you wind up catching all the mistakes. Book to movie adaptations are usually pretty lame because they have to cut out a lot of the good stuff in order to squeeze everything into 120 minutes or so, and once it’s ruined like that, it’s ruined forever. But that said, the film, Munich, still haunts me. It was based on a book titled, Vengeance by Yuval Aviv, who was a Mossad agent. He knew what he was talking about and the movie proves it. But it’s not a feel-good film. Just the opposite. I remember walking out of the theater thinking, we live in a really screwed-up world. 
 
What book would you like to see as a movie?
 
How about all the Wingman books? Actually, a couple have been optioned for the movies, but the people always come back and say: It would be too expensive to do this right. But never say never. And, if I had to make choice, I’d say Going After Cacciato would make a fantastic movie if they did it right. 
 
What imaginary place from a book would you want to live?
 
Oddly enough, where we live now is not too different from a place called Skyfire where, in one book, Wingman lives for a short amount of time with his girlfriend, Dominique. Skyfire is a hay farm on the ocean on Cape Cod, south of Boston. We live on the north shore of Boston, and it’s not a hay farm, but a lot of other things are similar. It’s sort of strange how it turned out that way. 
 
What fictional character would you like to have a beer with?
 
Definitely Superman.
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Thx, Mack for spending a little time under the bright lights of the interrogation room. I’m looking forward to Wingman #18: Battle For America and whatever flows forth from your battered typewriter next...
 
All Wingman e-books published by Open Road Media are available on Amazon...Wingman #17: Attack On Area 51 and Wingman #18: Battle for America is available in e-book and in paperback at your local bookstore also from Open Road Media...
 
 
An ace fighter pilot aims to save a shattered America from Russian invasion in this new Wingman novel from the best high-action thriller writer out there (Jon Land).
 
Former US Air Force major Hawk Hunter and his band of patriotic ex-military men have fought tirelessly to reunite their fractured nation after the Russian nuclear sneak attack that put a devastating end to World War III. Now, returning from a space odyssey that began with the diversion of a comet headed for Earth, Hunter finds a 60,000-man Russian army occupying New York City, ready to invade the rest of America. Equally alarming are reports claiming that Hawk s former girlfriend, Dominique, is living with the head of the Russian secret police in a Manhattan penthouse.
 
Buzzing through the city s skyscraper canyons in a tiny STOL Highlander and glimpsing the enemy invaders massive weaponry for himself, Hawk realizes he’s up against the greatest danger his homeland has ever faced, even with the help of Captain Bull Dozer and his team of ex-Marines. But with the woman and the country he loves in dire peril, threatened by a mysterious convoy of Russian superships, the Wingman will apply all his aviation prowess and strategic ingenuity to devise a plan to launch the fiercest, most crucial battle for America yet, no matter the risks.
 
Filled with fast-paced, furious action and a wide range of aircraft and military hardware that will fascinate techno-thriller fans, Battle for America brings back favorite characters from earlier books in the series and delivers a riveting story that reveals new insight on America’s most enigmatic hero: the Wingman.
 
THE WINGMAN SERIES 
Wingman   
The Circle War
The Lucifer Crusade 
Thunder in the East
The Twisted Cross
The Final Storm   
Freedom Express 
Skyfire 
Return from the Inferno 
War of the Sun  
The Ghost War 
Target: Point Zero 
Death Orbit 
The Sky Ghost 
Return of Sky Ghost 
The Tomorrow War 
Attack on Area 51
Battle for America 
CHOPPER OPS SERIES
Chopper Ops   
Zero Red    
Shuttle Down
STARHAWK SERIES
Starhawk   
Planet America  
The Fourth Empire   
Battle at Zero Point   
Storm Over Saturn 
SUPERHAWKS SERIES
Strike Force Alpha 
Strike Force Bravo 
Strike Force Charlie  
Strike Force Delta
PIRATE HUNTERS SERIES
The Pirate Hunters  
Operation Caribe  
Operation Sea Ghost
STRIKEMASTERS SERIES
Strikemasters
Rogue War 
Fulcrum 
 
   

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