Thursday, March 31, 2011

Guest Post from Steve Wilson, the author of Tremors

Steve Wilson is a well-known writer(and director), penning the screenplays for Tremors, Short Circuit and The Wild Wild West to name a few. His first foray into the literary world came with his novel Tucker's Monster (released last year) and his second novel, Fraidy Cats, a comic "expose" revealing that two self serving cats actually caused all of the problems with Dr. Frankenstein's grand experiment, is in the works.  Having been one of the original creators of the Steampunk movement, before it had it's name he's quite the interesting fellow. Find out for yourself...

Tucker’s Monster

Steampunk or Period Pulp?

It has been suggested that Tucker’s Monster is an entry in the steampunk sci-fi/fantasy universe.  In truth, while the novel was published in 2010, I actually began writing it in the early 1970s, before steampunk officially evolved.  (I got waylaid by a career in screenwriting, and it was some 30 years before I got around to finishing the book.) 

That said, I could argue that I’ve always loved steampunk.  I love steam engines in all forms, seeking out locomotives and going to steam tractor meets.  As a kid, I devoured H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, A. Conan Doyle and their ilk.  I’ve always wanted to make a movie based on Verne’s The Steam House, just for the thrill of creating that marvelous steam-powered elephant.  The Greatest Adventure, by John Taine (Eric Temple Bell) with its enormous scale, had a big impact on me.  More recently I was dazzled by the beautiful Art Deco-and-steampunkish video game, “Bayonetta.”  And, while only fragments of our screenplay for The Wild Wild West made it into the final film, one was the uber-punk mechanical spider.

Ironically, despite all the above, Tucker’s Monster was borne of something else -- my obsessive watching of 1930s, 40s and 50s horror films.  In the days before VHS and DVD, they were America’s Saturday late night TV staple, and I stayed up every Saturday.

What I noted as a young viewer were the oft recurring themes and scenes in these old classics.  Soon (like any fan these days) I could often predict what was going to happen even in films I’d not seen.  I began to think it would be fun to devise a character who has been on so many horror-movie adventures that he’s become almost bored with them.  That’s how my protagonist, Harry Tucker, came to be.  It was my way of having fun with old movie clich├ęs without openly making fun of them.

But I needed a world for Tucker to inhabit.  The story is set in the early 20th Century because I didn’t feel it would work in modern times.  Too many mysteries and legends have been debunked and/or endlessly hashed-over.  The average Joe today is more cynical even than Tucker.  The Congo is less mysterious when any couch person can cruise it on Google-Earth.  But the world of 1900 was full of wonder and exuberance.  Science was cool.  Invention was the game of the day.  Exploration was still exotic.  Tucker, though almost always disappointed in his searches, is a product of that energy.

So, I guess the real answer is that I inadvertently backed into a steampunk setting, which I could then fill with all the things I love anyway -- old guns, old gear, steam stuff.  It is no coincidence that both the movie Tremors 4 (which I directed) and Tucker’s Monster prominently feature steam traction engines.  Really, when I think of it, most stories would benefit from adding a steam traction engine.

-Steve Wilson (SS Wilson)
S.S. Wilson Author Tuckers Monster

A few Signed, First-Edition copies of Tucker's Monster are still available at The Poisoned Pen Bookstore, to order one just click here

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Interview w/ Ian Rankin

3/22: Scottish author Ian Rankin at Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale

With his Scottish police inspector John Rebus, novelist Ian Rankin created an immensely popular protagonist that lived in 17 books and inspired a popular British TV show. But after retiring the character, Rankin stayed in police mode with "The Complaints," which introduces readers to Malcolm Fox, an internal-affairs cop.
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 22.
Where: The Poisoned Pen, 4014 N. Goldwater Blvd., Scottsdale.
Admission: Free; books for signing must be purchased from the Poisoned Pen.
Details: 480-947-2974, poisonedpen.
Rankin is already wrapping a new book featuring Fox; first up for the charming writer from Edinburgh is a U.S. tour to hype the book. He'll be at the Poisoned Pen on Tuesday, March 22.
Question: How did you come up with the idea for "The Complaints"?
Answer: The internal-affairs department gave me a lot of opportunities to look at a side of the police that I hadn't done before. I thought the main character would very different character from Rebus.
Q: How so?
A: He's a professional voyeur. He's like a spy. He's not gung-ho in the way that Rebus is. He's careful and circumspect. He's a different kind of character, and I thought it would be fun. I was intrigued by the cops that do this job. Why would you do a job where you own colleagues don't like you?
Q: So why do cops take internal-affairs jobs?
A: I spoke to a few people who no longer serve with internal affairs. A lot of it boils down to idealism. They want the police to be on the side of the angels. They think there is nothing more important than that. And it is also a good career step. If you've done a few years in internal affairs, then you can go to a higher position.
Q: Why did you choose to write about another cop?
A: I retired Rebus, but I still wanted to write about contemporary Scotland and the social problems we have. For me, the best way is using a police officer. I was very aware people were worried they weren't going to enjoy the book as much because it wasn't Rebus. It was quite heartening when the book was published in the U.K. and I got a lot of positive feedback.
Q: Why retire Rebus if he was still so popular?
A: I made a problem for myself deciding early on that he would live in real time. I was 25 when I wrote the first one and I'm 50 now. I knew he had to retire at 60. It's funny, too, because since the last book, they've actually changed the law here. Not because of me! (Laughing) But they changed the rules and now you can stay on past the age of 60. So, there is a possibility that we may not have seen the last of him.
Q: When you retire a popular character, does your publisher call you and say, "What are you thinking?"
A: My publisher said, "Why can't we just stop the clock?" (Laughing) But I wasn't going to stop the clock, because I made a point of saying that the clock is still running.
Q: How do cops react to your books?
A: Usually very positive. Usually everywhere I go in the world, there will be a cop or an ex-cop in the audience, and they'll say they know guys like the ones in the book. The police are a large, bureaucratic organization, and many of us have worked for large, bureaucratic organizations, so much of it is universal.
Q: Do you interact a lot with your readers on social media?
A: I do and I don't, if you know what I mean. I'm not bringing a laptop to the U.S. I don't do Facebook. But I'm completely infatuated with Twitter. That's where fans can keep up with me. I've already arranged to go for drinks with people in various cities on this tour through Twitter that I've never actually met. If I end up in the trunk of a car with duct tape on my mouth, look to my Twitter for possible suspects.

Read more:

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Review of Sara J Henry's debut novel LEARNING TO SWIM

From the deck of a ferry crossing Lake Champlain, Troy Chance spies what she thinks may be a child fall from a passing ferry. She dives into the frigid water to his rescue. The child, Paul, speaks only French and is clearly terrified. When no anxious parents come forward to claim him, Troy faces the reality that Paul was thrown overboard to drown. 

To the uninitiated, ferry rides seem pleasant but,
in Learning to Swim, they are the scene of the crime. 

Paul is unwilling to talk about what happened to him. Troy realizes that taking him to the police may well result in Paul being at best placed in foster care or even risk his being returned to the very people who threw him into the water. Her protective instincts fully engaged, she decides to keep Paul safe and discover the truth about his identity and that of the people who tried to kill him without involving the authorities.

Troy is an intrepid heroine and though the choices she makes go against common wisdom, they make perfect sense. She is resourceful, intelligent and totally believable. In addition to some very cagey legwork, Troy utilizes online searches to learn more about Paul and the author integrates these seamlessly to drive the plot forward, not bog it down as can too often happen.

Intertwined with the riveting plot is the way in which her commitment to Paul brings Troy up against interior as well as external challenges. Reserved by nature, she finds herself opening up and reaching out to the people around her in new ways because of her quest to keep Paul safe. Her capacity for growth and willingness to experience discomfort add depth and dimension.

The supporting characters and her relationships with them are nuanced and multi-dimensional. Beyond being characters, these are people with whom I would love to be friends. Even though Troy’s friend Baker and her family make a brief appearance, they are engaging and fully fleshed out. I can only hope we’ll see more of them. (Happily, there is a sequel waiting in the wings.) Tiger the dog is also a stand out as are Troy’s roommates.

The story is set in Lake Placid, New York and the action crisscrossed the Canadian border. This moving between countries, combined with the French-Canadian language barrier, enhanced the sense of a woman out of her element and struggling in unfamiliar territory. It seems odd to consider the location exotic but it’s not one I’ve commonly read about and it worked remarkably well.

Learning to Swim ($24 Crown) Signed is the book I’m always hoping to read. In addition to plot, character and setting, the book was beautifully written. Sara Henry’s writing was a delight. My favorite aspect of the book was the way Henry brought together radically diverse and well-drawn characters that put differences aside to work together for the good of a child. This sense of good-hearted community set against one of the most evil climaxes I’ve ever read made it all the more chilling and left me eager to read more books by Sara Henry.

- Didi Bourbon 

Meet the Author...March 16

signs Learning To Swim ($24 Crown) her debut novel
4014 N Goldwater Blvd #101
Scottsdale, AZ
Visit the author's website

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Live Blues from Michael and Daniel Palmer?!

That's exactly right. You will be able to see them perform live at The Poisoned Pen on Monday, March 7 at 7pm. Click here to go to the event page.