Books on Film: WITHOUT REMORSE by Tom Clancy

WithoutRemorse2021-PosterTom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst-turned-action-hero-turned-president has had a storied fictional career. The star of 12+ novels (and a secondary character in many more), he has also been the subject of a number of movie adaptations. He was first portrayed on film by Alec Baldwin, in 1990’s The Hunt for Red October — a movie that gave us Sean Connery’s portrayal of Marko Ramius, the only Soviet submarine captain to ever have a thick Scottish accent. In 2018, the character got his first TV adaptation, with Amazon Prime’s Jack Ryan (two seasons are available now, with a third apparently slated for this year). A major supporting character in Clancy’s novels and the movie adaptations is John Kelly/Clark: a former Navy SEAL and Vietnam veteran, he is a black ops specialist frequently called in to help out Ryan, to do the unsavoury things in the dark that Ryan can’t or won’t do.

On screen, the character first appeared in 1994’s Clear and Present Danger — in which Ryan (Harrison Ford) gets tangled up in the drug war — and was portrayed by the ever-excellent Willem Dafoe. In The Sum of All Fears (2002), he was portrayed by Liev Schreiber — a quieter version of the character, perhaps, but no less capable. He was more “spy” than Dafoe’s action-man-in-the-jungle version. He was more Schreiber, really.

This year, we’re getting an adaptation of Clancy’s novel that put Clark front-and-centre: Without Remorse (1993). This time, the character will be portrayed by Michael B. Jordan (one of the best young actors today). Continue reading

Quick Review: THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNEW IT by Nick Cole

ColeN-EndOfTheWorldAsWeKnewItAn interesting post-zombie apocalypse novel

In the future, an artist specializing in historical records creates a piece of art based on three separate accounts of the Pandemic. What follows is a patchwork tale of survival and horror as two lovers struggle to survive the undying dead and the collapse of an America turned charnel house. Told as memos from Ground Zero, and later in the journal of a Dark Tower-like quest by train and foot across a nightmare landscape of ruined cities and raving corpses, the three accounts reveal more than just the grim realities of society’s collapse. The Notebook meets The Walking Dead in this stained glass depiction of the end of the world as we knew it.

After learning about this book via a Tweet from BoingBoing, I promptly headed over to Amazon and bought it. I started it that same day, and blitzed through it pretty quickly. It’s an interesting read, offering something new for a genre and threw out some surprises. It’s an engaging, ultimately uplifting post-apocalyptic tale. Continue reading

“Nate in Venice” by Richard Russo (Kindle Single)

RussoR-NateInVeniceA short story from Pulitzer-prize winning author of Empire Falls

After a tragic incident with a student, Nate, a professor at a small New England college, retires from teaching and from life. He ends his self-imposed exile with a tour-group trip to Venice in the company of his overbearing, mostly estranged brother. Nate is unsure he’s equipped for the challenges of human contact, especially the fraternal kind. He tries to play along, keep up, mixing his antidepressants with expensive Chianti, but while navigating the labyrinthine streets of the ancient, sinking city, the past greets him around every corner, even in his dreams: There’s the stricken face of the young woman whose life he may have ruined, and there’s Julian, the older brother who has always derided and discounted him. Is Nate sunk? Is the trip, the chance to fall in love — in fact, his whole existence — merely water under the ponte?

This is only the second thing by Russo that I’ve read. I recently also read (and thoroughly enjoyed) Straight Man, which I hope to review at some point in the near future. I have also acquired his Pulitzer-prize-winning Empire Falls, which is very high on my TBR mountain. When this popped up on Amazon UK’s Kindle Singles page, I thought it would be a great, quick read to fill in a gap between full-length novels. I was not wrong.

The story follows Nate, who has come on this trip with his estranged brother. He is getting on in years, and has fled a strange event related to a student back home. As he tries to figure out why his brother is giving him such a hard time, while also considering his fellow travellers, we get to know what happened to him back home. As it turns out, it’s probably not what you were thinking. I thought it was a real good change from the norm, too. Interesting characters, a quick, engaging plot. What more can one want from a short story? This is, overall, a really well-written bit of fiction, very much focused on the characters.

What drew me to the story was not just because I enjoyed Russo’s novel – although, they do share some elements. I am really drawn to fiction set in or connected with universities. In this case, the protagonist is a professor, and as such the story contains some interesting (and familiar to me) commentary on universities and teaching. For no other reason than they interested me, and because I’ve experienced similar things as both a student and teaching assistant, here are a couple of examples.

First up, that somewhat depressing moment of marking the first round of essays for a class:

“… that first batch of essays was depressingly dismal. Their authors were not stupid — the lively classroom discussions had proved that much — but the writing they produced was breathtakingly incoherent. All their academic lives, they’d been cutting and pasting from the Internet — a phrase here, a sentence there—creating a pastiche of observations linked by little more than general subject matter. Individual sentences, lifted from their original context and plopped down in a foreign one, varied wildly in tone and style. Given a list of transitional phrases — but, rather, on the other hand, while, hence — the essay’s alleged authors would’ve been helpless to choose the one that correctly expressed the relationship between juxtaposed assertions, had such a relationship by chance occurred. Whole paragraphs were maddeningly free of both mistakes and meaning.”

The awkwardness of essay hand-back sessions, when hitherto spoon-fed and pampered students, not as brilliant as their parents have no doubt always told them, realise that completing the assignment is not enough to get an A…

“Handing back student essays, especially the first batch, was invariably an unpleasant duty, marking as it did the end of the academic honeymoon. Here they’d all been getting along so well, pretending to be the best of friends, and now this. A grade. Having briefly imagined that this class would be different, they now understood it wasn’t. Betrayed again.”

And the frustrating reality of students not realising that clarity is oh-so-very-important.

“… students, even the English majors, were content for their meaning to loiter in the shadows of their murky prose, as if clarity were a shared responsibility between writer and reader. His prose workshops flew in the face of their unshakable conviction that the essays they turned in were a private matter between them and him, sort of like therapy or confession.”

Anyway, back to the review. This is a short, well-written and well-constructed short story. Nate in Venice is a great introduction to Russo’s writing and style, and was a very enjoyable read. Very much recommended.

Link: An Interesting Article about Literary Agencies & One of the Most… Ornery of Agents

andrew-wylie-large

Over on TNR.com (the online home of The New Republic), they have recently posted an article about the “Andrew Wylie Rules” and the eponymous Wylie Agency. It’s comprised of a short introduction followed by an interview by Laura Bennett with Wylie himself, in which they focus a fair bit on Amazon’s new publishing ventures.

“Among literary agents, Andrew Wylie is as old school as they come. Dubbed ‘the Jackal’ for his aggressive poaching of other people’s clients, his distaste for commercial fiction and his disinterest in social media is legendary. He is the reigning king of the backlist, profiting mainly off classic titles rather than taking risky bets on new ones. His only criterion is enduring quality, and his client list is eye-popping: Amis, Nabokov, Bellow, Rushdie, Roth.”

That client list certainly is eye-popping. It’s massive! And I recognised very few of the authors listed, save those names everybody knows – those writers who have either transcended the notoriety of most authors (no disrespect intended, there, despite how it sounds), or public figures who have gone on to write (e.g. Kofi Annan). Literary Agencies continue to be rather misunderstood institutions – they don’t get a whole lot of press, in my experience, and as a result they have a rather strange place in the minds of SFF (or reading) fans. As someone who currently works for a literary agency, I thought this was an interesting look at how someone else does it.

Here’s what Wylie had to say about Amazon’s new publishing business:

“I believe that Amazon has its print publishing business so that their behavior as a distributor of digital content can be misperceived by the Department of Justice and the publishing industry in a way that is convenient for Amazon’s bottom line.* That is exactly what I think.”

* Wylie’s argument: Amazon wanted to enter into the publishing business to avoid being accused by the DOJ of trying to create a monopoly over e-book sales and distribution.

It’s an interesting piece. If you’re interested in the publishing industry, I’d recommend giving it a read for just one perspective on one of the major new developments.

Photo Credit: Melville House Article