Interview with LAURIE PENNY

PennyL-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Laurie Penny?

Back-of-a-napkin CV? I’m a writer and a political journalist, I live in London, and I come from the internet, just like you. I’m 29 years old, a pinko queer feminist social justice warrior, and a huge nerd.

Your new novella, Everything Belongs to the Future, will be published by Tor.com in October. I enjoyed it quite a bit. How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

It’s a near-future quasi-dystopian anarchist fable about biotechnology, surveillance, state violence, love and time. It’s got a cool weapon in it, and also some dirty bits.

What inspired you to write the novella? 

I’ve been interested in the politics and practical applications of biotechnology for a long time, and a scientist friend challenged me to write a story about anti-ageing treatments. Then it was a question of following the characters where they led.  Continue reading

“House Odds” by Mike Lawson (Atlantic)

Lawson-08-HouseOddsThe Latest Joe DeMarco Political Thriller

Washington D.C. fixer Joe DeMarco has been asked to handle a lot of difficult situations over the years for his boss, congressman John Mahoney. But nothing has ever been quite so politically sensitive, or has hit so close to home, as the task Mahoney hands DeMarco now.

Mahoney’s daughter, Molly, has been arrested and charged with insider trading. An engineer with a high-flying technology firm, she allegedly placed a half-million dollar bet on one of the firm’s clients. DeMarco’s job is to clear Molly’s name and keep his boss clean. But how did Molly get her hands on so much money to invest in the first place? Before long, DeMarco uncovers that there’s far more to Molly’s case than meets the eye, and the risk to Mahoney is more than just a little political embarrassment.

In this eighth novel featuring Congressional fixer Joe DeMarco, we get a look at the sordid underbelly of Beltway politics, complete with manipulative gangsters and politicians, crooks and thieves. I’m a big fan of this series, ever since I read the first in the series, The Inside Ring in a single day. Each new novel has been an addictive, well-written and expertly-plotted thriller. House Odds is no exception.

The synopsis does a great job of providing all of the information you need, so I’m not going to go any deeper than that, and keep the review short. House Odds hooked me from the start, and yet kept me guessing until the end. Things do not play out at all as I expected, as DeMarco comes across a number of liars, conflicting agendas, hidden motives, and the desperation of a powerful family brought low. It’s a novel filled with grey, and very little black or white. Lawson isn’t afraid to let the muck stick to both his protagonists and antagonists, which makes this a very satisfying and more realistic read.

Throughout the novel, as DeMarco tries to first get to the bottom of what Molly allegedly did, to then trying to get her off the hook, he is left questioning who, in fact, are the good guys. The plot is winding, and perhaps more so than previous books in the series, as Lawson keeps us guessing. The first half deals with one mystery, and the second half another, as our hero is faced with a near-impossible job. Strange alliances will be forged, threats will be made, and leverage will be exercised. House Odds shows us just how dirty politics can be.

As with Lawson’s previous DeMarco novels, there’s plenty of good commentary on the American political system – especially the egos involved. In addition, his characters are well-rounded and realistic. The author’s prose is stripped down, streamlined, and well-composed. The plotting is excellent, too, and I blitzed through this.

I really can’t recommend this series enough. If you have any interest in thrillers set in and around the world of American politics, then Mike Lawson is a must read. House Odds is excellent. Very highly recommended.

On “OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN”, “TRANSFER OF POWER” & an Author Appreciation

OlympusHasFallen-TransferOfPower

Director: Antoine Fuqua | Writers: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt | Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Dylan McDermott, Rick Yune, Angela Bassett

I finally Watched OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, tonight. I thought it was really good, too. A political Die Hard for the modern age, perhaps? The movie is action-packed, very well-paced (I never got bored, and never felt like the screenplay or movie as a whole was padded with anything that was unnecessary). It is quite brutal, though – but in a “realistic way”, if that makes sense? Gerard Butler (the hero, and a member of the Secret Service) offers a very good portrayal of a hyper-efficient, highly-trained killer (former special ops, etc.). There’s no “flash” to the fight scenes, he doesn’t suddenly break into any wire-work or seamless, stylised martial arts. It’s quite chilling, in its brutal directness. Here’s the extended trailer…

So. Why is there a picture of Vince Flynn’s TRANSFER OF POWER? Well, because there are some startling similarities. Transfer was the first Flynn novel I read, and introduces readers to Mitch Rapp, the CIA’s best operative (translation: assassin). Here’s the synopsis:

What if America’s most powerful leader was also its prime target?

On a busy Washington morning, the stately calm of the White House is shattered as terrorists gain control of the executive mansion, slaughtering dozens of people. The president is evacuated to an underground bunker, but not before nearly one hundred hostages are taken. One man is sent in to take control of the crisis. Mitch Rapp, the CIA’s top counterterrorism operative, determines that the president is not as safe as Washington’s power elite had thought. Moving among the corridors of the White House, Rapp makes a chilling discovery that could rock Washington to its core: someone within his own government wants his rescue attempt to fail.

As I subscribed to the author’s newsletter, I received the email with Flynn’s comment about Olympus Has Fallen (which was, actually, also the first time I heard about the movie). Dated on March 25th, 2013, here is part of “Vince’s Statement On Olympus Has Fallen”, in which he addresses the similarities, mentions White House Down, and also offers some information about the forthcoming American Assassin movie adaptation:

Many of you have emailed me, messaged me on Facebook, posted on my Facebook page and tweeted about the similarities between the new movie Olympus Has Fallen and my book Transfer of Power. My team and I have noticed the similarities as well and know of a second movie coming out this summer also about an attack on the White House. Neither of these movies are Mitch Rapp movies nor do I have any involvement in either project. It is very difficult to prove where a producer, director or screenwriter gets an idea, or to prove how their ideas may have been inspired.

It is exceptionally difficult to prove in court, costs lots of time and money and usually amounts to a great deal of frustration. My team and I have decided to stay focused on the Rapp Franchise – writing one great Rapp novel a year and getting American Assassin made into a movie.

With Bruce Willis signed and on board to play the surly Stan Hurley, a character that I created with him in mind, things are looking good for a fall shoot. Things will start to move quickly in the coming months as Rapp, Kennedy, Stansfield and others are cast. It will be a very exciting time.

I appreciate you looking out for me, and your concern for my intellectual material. In many ways your comments have allowed me to stay calm and focus on what I love most, which is writing a kick ass Rapp novel. For that I offer you my sincere thanks.

I loved Transfer of Power, and blitzed through it in record time. I read it when I hadn’t quite fallen down the Reading Rabbit Hole I obviously inhabit today, but it certainly marked a shift in my reading tastes – after this, I caught up with Flynn’s other books (at the time, only three others had been released), and have read all of Flynn’s novels since, always picking them up on release. That being said, I let things slip for his last two novels, and have been really slow about getting around to The Last Man. Sadly, earlier this year (June 19th) the author lost his three-year battle against cancer. He was only 47. And so The Last Man is also his final novel. There had been plans to publish his work-in-progress, but those plans seem to be on indefinite hiatus. I suppose the publisher and his estate will find someone to finish it off, at some point.

Each of Flynn’s novels has been a tightly-plotted action thriller, firmly rooted in what became the post-9/11 tradition (so yes, the villains are often Middle Eastern terrorists, but a couple of times they are American). Transfer of Power was actually published in 1999, though, which showed a creepy prescience. He was certainly, in my opinion, the best writer among his genre-peers. He was a conservative, politically, but unlike some of his contemporaries, he was always fair in his portrayal of politicians in his novels who held opposing positions to his own or his protagonists’. He was always able to present both sides in an even way. [Some liberal authors could learn something from him on this score – *cough* Eric van Lustbader in The President’s Daughter *cough*]

I will miss having new Rapp novels to read, but I am grateful to have so many to re-read over and over again.

Vince Flynn’s Novels (chronological): American Assassin, Kill Shot, Term Limits, Transfer of Power, The Third Option, Separation of Power, Executive Power, Memorial Day, Consent to Kill, Act of Treason, Protect and Defend, Extreme Measures, Pursuit of Honor, The Last Man

If you like Flynn’s novels already, but want more authors who write in the same (sub-)genre and are worth your time, be sure to check out: Kyle Mills, Andrew Britton (R.I.P.), Alex Berenson (these three are my favourites), Brett Battles, Olen Steinhauer, John Gilstrap (who I’ll be trying out very soon), Daniel Taylor, Brad Thor, Marc Cameron, Tom Cain, Dick Wolf. There are, of course, many others, but these seem to be the best. [Hm. Anyone know any female authors who write in this genre…?]

In case you are interested, here is the trailer for White House Down – which stars Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx: