Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Child Of Fire...
And Post London Disorientation

From November 2009...

Okay, my friend Harry wrote a book... which was bought by Random House... and is Del Rey's big fall paperback release. It's the first book he ever sold. I was going to buy it for my London trip, but the book came out the day of my flight and no one at a book store would slip me a copy before the street date. So I bought it when I got back, for my Hong Kong flight... which never happened due to a late visa.


My Visa arrived two days after my plane flew. The pisser about that is that the HKFA was handling my visa, because it was a work visa and I would be working for them (teaching my class) and the envelope was postmarked 14 days after they e-mailed me to tell me they had the visa and confirm my address so that they could put it in the mail that day. Then, it sat on a desk for 2 weeks before anyone actually mailed it. If it had only sat on the desk for one week, I'd have gone to Hong Kong.

The week between London and what should have been Hong Kong was living hell - unpack, do laundry, re-pack, mail orders... and then try to get the damned Theme Class to fit on the CD while dealing with jet lag. The edited version of the class was 4 minutes too long, and that meant trying to find 4 minutes to cut.

Oh, and in the middle of all that I went to Screenwriting Expo - which was a ghost town this year. I was in there for a couple of hours on Saturday, which included a period between classes so that I could see how many people were there - not many at all. Someone told me 1K, but I have to tell you it looked like half that at most. Shane Black said hello.

After that I went for drinks with some people I know - the evening was designed to hang out with people who were only in town for the Expo... but I don't think a single out-of-towner was there. Cat & Fiddle in Hollywood - more Guiness and pub food!

Now, every day during this week I am checking my mail like someone with OCD, looking for that visa for Hong Kong. I have a plane ticket, the plane is leaving first thing Tuesday morning, and I do not have my visa, yet.

This is controlling my life at this point. I'm still jet-lagged because I haven't had a moment to relax, and trying to get everything taken care of for the HK trip...

So, Monday rolls around - I'm flying to HK on Tuesday - and I spend the whole day checking my mail... and when the mail finally comes (it always seems to come late at times like this) - no visa. So, now what do I do? I can't teach my class in the airport, because the students would need a boarding pass to get to the gates... where I'd be stuck without that visa. So, I e-mail the Hong Kong Film Academy to tell them what happened - using their e-mail where they varified my address a month ago as the e-mail I reply to, and go about canceling my plane tickets - lost $150, and the airline keeps the rest for some future flight of mine.

That airplane ticket almost cancels out what I made at Raindance, so I'm kind of breaking even at this point. You know, there are people who think the whole teaching classes thing is a way to get rich from poor screenwriters. Um, hasn't worked that way for me, please send all complaints to Bob McKee.

Now, I'm frustrated, jet-lagged, exhausted... and my head is about to explode.

by Harry Connolly

So, I popped open Harry's book and *escape*. Escape from the Hong Kong thing and all of the frustrations. CHILD OF FIRE is almost impossible to put down. Relentless pacing, and escalating conflict, and cool stuff. I want to get me one of those ghost knives.

I am not the kind of person to read fantasy novels - I love science fiction, but anything with wizards just sounds silly to me. Harry's book CHILD OF FIRE is about a sorceress and magic spells and crap - but it's written like a noir action story. Remember those HBO movies that combined Lovecraft and Chandler? Not like that...

CHILD OF FIRE is more of a *Hammett* Continental Op novel like RED HARVEST meets HP Lovecraft - more action oriented, more brutal, more "street" - and a real fast read. Ray Lilly is a career criminal (car thief) who is awaiting trial for some murders he didn't do that have a weird supernatural element to them. His public defender is replaced by some slick mob lawyer type who tells Ray he'll make the charges go away if Ray forgets the supernatural stuff he saw. He even sets Ray up with a job as a driver. This is no normal mob lawyer - this guy is from the Twenty Palace Society - a secret organization of Sorcerers. They control magic, the way some other mob might control drugs or prostitution or motion picture distribution. Ray's driving job is for...

Annalese Powess, a sorceress-assassin who kills those who use magic without permission from the Twenty Palace Society mob. Rogue socerers, people who find some spellbook and use it... anyone who is using magic in some way that might bring down the heat on the mob - or maybe get in their way. Cast a spell without permission - they send Annalize to wack you. All of this stuff is back story we have to piece together as we read - because the book hits the ground running!

It opens with Ray and Annalise on the way to a hit...

Small town in Washington State has an overly successful toy factory - and children who spontaneously combust... and the kid's parents forget they even had kids. They find ways to rationalize the car seats and toys in the front yard. The burning kids are scary and sick and twisted - but that's just the tip of the terror in the novel. This is one of those small towns with a secret - and also a bunch of warring factions that would rather the two outsiders be dead.

No shortage of scary stuff, and no shortage of action and tension. Just when you think things can't get worse - Annalise tells Ray that part of his job is to be the "red shirt" decoy that gets killed so that she can attack...

But when she attacks, Annalise discovers the evil in this town is more powerful than she is. Ray survives, Annalize is seriously wounded... and now all of that evil from all of the different factions in the town are coming after Ray. He is the man in the middle and must figure out who and what is behind all of this in order to survive.

The cool thing about it is how those scenes you might expect to find in a Hammett or Chandler novel are here, but with a supernatural twist. Really corrupt cops who would rather kill you than help you solve the mystery? They're here - but they have also found a little evil magic to use... which makes them a million times stronger than Ray and almost impossible to kill. Wealthy Femme Fatales that lure you to your doom? Here, bit with a twist. There's even a Mayor who seems like he wandered over from THE GLASS KEY looking for some additional bribes.

And reading Harry's book allows me to finally relax... which kind of brings us up to now, present day, Hong Kong just a memory of what might have been. Or, actually, what will be in March, 2010. A good movie or book can just take you away from all of your troubles and let you experience someone with stranger troubles than yours. I didn't have it all that bad - no one was trying to kill me with magic.

CHILD OF FIRE is a real page turner, and *really dark* - kids burn to death in the first ten pages. It really gets into Lovecraft territory at the end... and has a bunch of really haunting, frightening things that stick with you long after you have finished reading it. If the book has any problem, it's *too* fast paced. No place to close it and sleep... and sometimes things happens so fast that you have to read carefully so that you don't miss anything. I know Harry, so you may think I'm biased, but the reviews on Amazon are mostly good:

Amazon Page For CHILD OF FIRE - scroll down for reviews.

And Del Rey has already bought the next two books in the series (Harry has written both already - playing beat the clock so that they could put the first chapter of the second book in here and get them ready). He was on a panel at ComiCon, too. I'm not the only one who liked the book... and I didn't just like it because my friend wrote it. I really want to read the next ones.

So, if you like hard boiled mystery stuff like Dash Hammett or Michael Connolly, or you like those friggin' Urban Fantasy novels or even stuff with sorcerers and werewolves and stuff like that, or if you like classic horror like H.P. Lovecraft, or if you just want to support a fellow writer, buy a copy! Paperback, much cheaper than hardback. And if Harry is signing at some bookstore in your area, tell him Bill sent you!

- Bill


Click The Book.


mrswing said...

Bob McKee isn't a screenwriter made good - he's an actor who wrote the perfect performance piece for himself (Starring Robert Mckee as The God Of Screenwriting), which is why there's no interaction allowed, no one can challenge his assumptions and his course hasn't changed in any fundamental way since he started performing it.
Not to say the text is bad or anything - but his chapter on scene analysis is not what a writer does, but what an actor and a director do once they start preparing themselves for the job.

And Bill, you ARE a teacher - your blog, script tips, your book and CDs are all excellent teaching materials. I don't think you should do classes instead of writing, but if I were you I'd look into teaching classes more regularly as a nice supplemental income to guard against those days when the producers take advantage of you once more...

wcmartell said...

It would never be instead of writing - it *could* never be. I will die with 100 script ideas I was itching to write. I *must* tell stories.

But right now the classes are something I don't really care about and put no effort into setting up... so I usually do a class when London calls. No classes in the USA for years... and maybe I should really organize that and do them regularly.

The classes might be good publicity for the screenwriting.

And thank you.

- Bill

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