Thursday, August 29, 2013

Gregg Hurwitz Tells No Lies to Cleveland Audience

     Gregg Hurwitz is an accomplished author of novels, movies, television, and comic books. His most recent novel, Tell No Lies, was released August 20th. Anyone who has an opportunity to meet him will know why: his stories mirror his animated, enthusiastic, and dynamic personality. Last night, about fifty people saw that first hand when Mr.Hurwitz made an appearance at the Strongsville branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library system.
Superfan Jen Forbus and Gregg Hurwitz
     Mr. Hurwitz was introduced by my friend and blogging mentor Jen Forbus, who writes for Shelf Awareness, Crimespree Magazine, and her own blog, Jen's Book Thoughts. She has been a longtime
Hurwitz fan. I could provide more details about how she feels about him, but, as it is said, a picture says a thousand words!
     During his presentation, Mr. Hurwitz talked about a topics including growing up in San Francisco, life in LA, and being a writer for television, movies, and comics. One of my favorite topics was about his experiences while conducting research for books. He spent time in Russian bath houses, surrounded by suspected organized crime members; disappeared into jungles; and watched a body being dissected, each part sent to a different place for research, more bodies nearby, suspended by the ears in a large cooler.
     Another favorite was about the violence in his books. While sometimes violence is described,  other times he intentionally does not, instead bringing the reader to the point where violence is implied. He said he finds that what the reader imagines is nearly always worse than anything he could write.
Gregg Hurwitz at
Strongsville Library
     After a short presentation, Mr. Hurwitz took some questions. The first was the obligatory, "Where do you get your ideas?" His answer, perhaps the best I've heard for such a commonly asked question, was that he doesn't know where his ideas come from any better than we know where our ideas come from.
     He also was asked about balancing his writing between novels, comics, and screen writing. Mr. Hurwitz said he thought it made him a better writer, because each of the styles could help the other. For example, screen plays require very direct, succinct writing. There is no room for lengthy dialogue or description, and that skill helps avoid getting too wordy while writing a novel.

     I have noticed in the three Hurwitz books I've read that he has an excellent ability to establish strong relationships among his characters in a very short time. Sometimes I even like the strength of the relationships more than I like the protagonists individually. I asked him about this ability, if it is something he is specifically aware of and if he has any special method for doing so. He said it comes from watching people interact, looking for small indicators about their relationship. He likened it to seeing a couple who are obviously out on their first date, or a couple where it is clear that one is more interested than the other, or a couple who have such a comfortable familiarity that they seem to be working as one. An example he provided was from You're Next, when Anabelle, the wife of protagonist Micheal, had applied too much hand lotion and wiped the excess casually onto Michael's hands.
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     The people watching skill Mr. Hurwitz described was familiar to me. Not as a writer, of course, but as a
police officer. We watch people too, and can sometimes learn more watching than talking. Body language can give away a liar or bring unwanted attention to someone. It is sometimes referred to as a 6th sense, but it isn't; it's just very small ways people interact, watch what's going on around them, pause before answering a question, looks at someone, or not look at someone, or try not to be seen, which usually makes them stick out even more.

     I try and see and meet as many authors in person as I can; it provides valuable insight into their work, is an opportunity to meet interesting people, and is always entertaining. Seeing Gregg Hurwitz was no different.
     Thank you, Mr. Hurwitz, for coming to Cleveland, and Cuyahoga County Library system for hosting him. 

     Gregg Hurwitz is the author of thirteen novels. His most recent release is Tell No Lies. Others I've enjoyed include You're Next and The Survivor.

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Steel Breeze by Douglas Wynne

     Desmond Carmichael had some baggage. He wife was brutally murdered; beheaded by a Japanese Samurai sword that he owned. He drank too much. He was fired from his teaching job. And he had a four year old Lucas to take care of. But he was doing his best, and getting better. He quit drinking and was working on getting a second book published. He was paying the bills and keeping his head above water. Until Desmond found Lucas being led into the woods by a man in a Samurai  mask; a beheaded doll next to his toy truck in the sandbox; and a mystery haiku on his laptop computer. The local police wouldn't help, the Detective instead believing that Desmond was making it up for attention, or worse, had killed his wife a year earlier.
     Douglas Wynne's first novel, The Devil of Echo Lake, was the first place winner of the 2012 JournalStone Horror Fiction contest. Steel Breeze, a crime thriller, is his second, but no less deserving of high praise. The book had a little of almost everything a good thriller should: good cops and bad cops, leads and misleads, suspense and action, heroes and villains, vengeance, jealousy, even kidnapping. And of course, murder. Cold blooded. Unsuspected. Murder. All of which culminated in a climactic and page turning ending that left me satisfied. 
Douglas Wynne
    And Steel Breeze  went a little deeper. The characters were a little more dynamic, facing choices that could take them from villain to hero in a second; from purposed, principled, disciplined to nothing but mass murderers; a bad cop who made bad decisions to a hero who sacrificed himself to save another; a father who was weak and beaten by circumstance or a father who gave it all to save the people he loved. There was potential from many of the characters, some met it and some didn't. 

     Even though the characters were dynamic and the story complex, there were some misses, too. Consider this dialogue between four year old Lucas and one of the antagonists:
"I don't like it here. I want to go home."
"Just rest, okay? Here, have some water."
Lucas shook his head. "Are you a bad guy?"
Bell considered the question..."I don't know."
"My Daddy says bad guys usually think they're the good guys."
Although short, it is one of my favorite exchanges in the book. It implies so much about what could have been explored, that good and bad are not always exclusive; that even murder and murderers are complex. Lots of stories have been told from the point of view of a righteous killer or outlaw. Fewer have told a story from both perspectives, leaving readers torn between who should succeed. That opportunity could have been realized. Instead, the passage quoted above was just a glimpse of what could have taken Steel Breeze from a good to great thriller.

Wynne, Douglas. Steel Breeze, JournalStone Publishing, 2013.
ISBN-13: 9781936564842


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