I’m pleased to welcome Matt Hilton to today’s WildCard Tuesday here on Murderati. Matt is the highly successful author of the Joe Hunter action thriller series. He’s also one of the most prolific authors I know, and as well as producing numerous books and short stories, he’s also found time to edit a few anthologies, plus co-editing the fiction webzine Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers. His latest project is an e-thology that harks back to a previous era, when men were men and sheep were nervous. (Well, he is from Cumbria … ZS)
Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s I was reading books ‘borrowed’ from my father’s stack of dog-eared paperbacks, that he acquired through a read and share scheme with his friends. It seemed that my father and his pals all shared a love of action tales the likes of Don Pendleton’s ‘Mack Bolan’, Richard Sapir and Warren Murphy’s ‘Remo Williams’, or George G Gilman’s homegrown western books, ‘Edge’ or ‘Adam Steele’, or a Nick Carter: Killmaster book.
Those books were high-entertainment to me and I couldn’t get enough of them, or indeed Robert E Howard’s Conan series, or Lin Carter’s Thongor of Lemuria, or Karl Edward Wagner’s Kane. I loved my stories full of action and adventure, and it didn’t much matter to me where, when, or how the story unfolded. It was through reading those kinds of books that got me into writing. I wanted to emulate the kind of books that I loved to read.
Those were the days when heroes were heroes and the action was furious and full-blooded. Often as not, the hero was quite the opposite: an anti-hero. But he needed to be, to bring the kind of violent justice to villains worse than him. Political correctness took a back seat, even as the bullets and karate chops were flying. Basically it was good old harmless fun. It was a case of disengaging your moral compass and getting down with the hero as they took on all comers, and they did it with balletic grace and uncompromising violence. Gratuitous? Yes. Realistic? No. Great fun? You betcha!!!
Over the years I’ve written many a take on the action-style book, and it was always my plan to hark back to those Golden Days when penning my own crime thriller series. Although influenced by the pulp masters, I wanted to reinvent the style somewhat, albeit grounding my tales a little more in the real world, making the tales more contemporary. My character ― Joe Hunter ― could have stood shoulder to shoulder with any of those action heroes but also sits nicely in modern times.
Funnily enough, some of my detractors bemoan the fact that my novels ‘verge on pulp fiction’, and they mean it as an insult directed at my lean, pared down style. Little do they know that they are giving me a compliment. I’m a fan of the pulps, always have been, and am not ashamed of the fact. The books pretty much are what they are supposed to be: action-packed fun reads where you can disengage your moral compass, suspend your disbelief and join Joe Hunter on a wild ride for a few hours.
It was partly due to these detractors that I thought about putting together an eBook collection of stories that paid homage to characters such as Mack Bolan, Remo Williams, and Edge et al. At first I considered writing a collection of stories myself, but then decided that it would be much better if I sought like-minded writers to pitch in with their take on the action genre. So the call went out and the submissions rolled in for the project I named ACTION: Pulse Pounding Tales Vol 1.
I expected new authors, aspiring authors and the like to submit, but more than that I hoped that some ‘names’ would come on board. And I’m thrilled to say that I wasn’t disappointed. Stephen Leather ― whose ‘Spider’ Shepherd ranks as one of the best thriller figures in action fiction ― heard the call and his story “Strangers on a Train” kicks off the collection in style. There are stories from other greats such as Zoë Sharp, author of the terrific Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Fox series, Adrian Magson, author of the excellent Harry Tate spy thrillers, as well as some up and coming names like Paul D Brazill, Col Bury, Gavin Bell, I S Paton and many others. Being greedy for readership I pitched in a couple of stories too, including a homage to the 1970s action men and the bonus Gilman-esque Western story that rounds off the collection. The authors had fun with the briefing and tales from the wide spectrum of action stories are included. I imagined that I was putting together an anthology or compendium from the best of the action genre magazines, and within its pages you will find secret agents, vigilantes (both just and insane), cops, villains, soldiers, veterans, gangsters, swordsmen, Ninja and even a crypto-zoological beast you might recognise. Some of the tales are delivered with shocking realism, some as lighter entertainment, some on the grittier side, but each and every tale included in ACTION: Pulse Pounding Tales is guaranteed to get your heart racing.
Some do say 'write what you like'! Your books are a great ride mate. Congrats again and keep up the action-packed adventure writing. Cheers, JJ
Thanks JJ. coming from someone who knows a bit about writing action-packed adventure books I'll take that as a great compliment. Thanks, mate, and hope to see you somewhere along the way soon.
Just wanted to say I am really proud to have a story included in this anthology, many thanks to Matt for giving me the opportunity.
I love the Remo Williams series — it's camp, but it's *good* camp and the books revel in it while making a few points here and there about politics and cultural/social priorities that don't hit you until later. Plus, you know, Sinanju shark jumping . . .
ACTION sounds like my kind of anthology. Plus, a Zoë story is in it, so I'm there.
Sinanju shark jumping….you're a 'true believer', Sarah. Love it.
No story that pleases a reader need ever apologize for itself. There's a wonderful collection of horror and supernatural suspense stories from around the world titled BLACK WATER, THE BOOK OF FANTASTIC LITERATURE, edited by Alberto Manguel, and in a blurb Cynthia Ozick wrote, "It brings me childhood shudders of bliss."
Now yer talkin'.
Great post, Matt. Thanks for joining us. And best of luck with Joe Hunter. He's quite a handful.
Matt's a great champion of up 'n' coming writers, always approachable and there to offer nuggets of wisdom. I'm so proud to be sharing the pages with such talent.
I miss you, Brother Matt! I shared my very first panel with you – I think it was Bouchercon? It's great to see how successful you've become since then. Congratulations, man!
This sounds like a blast. It's so funny the pulp stuff you mentioned from the 70s. I had a short story published in Pulp Pusher a while back, and my dad read it and told me it reminded him of the old Killmaster books he and the other GIs read while stationed over in Germany. I looked up some of the stories, and have taken what he said as a huge compliment ever since. So if you've got an anthology that pays homage to all of that great old stuff, I'm definitely interested! Sounds like a fabulous read!!
Matt: It never ceases to amaze me how many of us (authors in this field, that is) seem to have been shaped (warped?) by the same reading material. Remo Williams, Conan, Mack Bolan… That was me, growing up, all the way. And just like you, I acquired my taste for this stuff by reading my father's left-overs.
Small world, huh?
Best of luck with the anthology and Joe Hunter!
David, Col, Jake, Stephen, Gar, thank you all for the kind words. I only hope that readers will find the book does a good job of 'bringing them back alive'. There are some terrific authors and brilliant stories included, so I have faith that it'll do the job nicely.
Stephen, it was indeed Bouchercon, and you did a great job. Caught you again the next year at San Francisco, but can't recall bumping into you in St Louis (maybe that was my fault). You hitting Cleveland this year?
By the way, I just wanted to point out, I was wearing that ugly shirt for a bet!
Matt – spent last Bouchercon in Ireland with my family. Not a bad excuse to be missing the show. I don't think I'll be in Cleveland – I don't have a new book out and won't for a while.
Nothing wrong with taking your inspiration from the pulps. Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer books are amongst my favourites and my horror fiction took as much inspiration from pulp writers as the more literary. I think you're absolutely right that being referred to as pulp is a disguised compliment because the purpose of pulp has always been to entertain and, whatever you write, if you don't entertain your reader then you are dead in the water. The collection looks awesome by the way.
Nice to see you here, Matt! Reading for fun is now my greatest pleasure, so thank you!
Sounds like a great collection, Matt. Thanks guys (Zoe and Matt) for a great Wildcard post 🙂
Thank you so much for stopping by Murderati. Great post and I'm absolutely over the moon to have been able to contribute to ACTION. There are some wonderful stories in there.
Sorry about the shirt pic — I couldn't resist. I was actually looking for a nice one of us at the gun range when we were in St Louis, but my desktop computer containing my photo archive died this week and I'm still doing the autopsy before deciding on cremation or dismemberment 🙂
Late to this party b/c of work . .. but boy am I glad you stopped by! thank you.
Thank you all for the kind comments, hope you enjoy the collection if you get round to reading it. Out soon…
…and a special thanks to Zoe for having me over. Ta!