Tuesday, October 15, 2013



             I can remember watching Clint Eastwood portray Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway in the classic Heartbreak Ridge as a teenager. And when I say watching, I mean habitually. Like two to three times weekly.
            The incessant ball-breaking dialogue that permeates the entire film is representative of some of the best raw, male-centric writing of insults I’ve ever seen. And in the end, it all had a purpose. Who can forget the less than warm introduction that Gunny gave his platoon upon taking over: “My name's Gunnery Sergeant Highway and I've drunk more beer and banged more quiff and pissed more blood and stomped more ass than all of you numbnuts put together. Now, Major Powers has put me in charge of this reconnaissance platoon.” Yet, as the film carried on, the surface grit, profanity and insensitivity of Gunnery Sergeant Thomas  Highway later becomes penetrated by hints of who he really was and what he really cared about—the health and welfare of his men and the health and welfare of his country.
            His platoon, at first, resented his strict bull-headed leadership. This was seen clearly in scenes like the one in which Profile (Tom Viliard) was awakened at five am after being told he wouldn’t have to be up until six am. At Profile’s complaining, Highway responded, “So I lied. So I can't tell time. So maybe some communist bastard's going to make an appointment to pop you a new asshole in your forehead. You're Marines now. You adapt. You overcome. You improvise. Let's move. Four minutes!” This dynamic was the crux of the film’s portrayal of Highway’s interactions with his men.
            But as the film progresses and Highway’s men begin to conform to the discipline that they’re forced to adopt, they begin to respect and idolize their Sergeant. So much so, that when Sergeant Webster attempted to persuade them to betray Highway with offers of weekend liberties, Stitch Jones (Mario Van Peebles) responded by advising him as follows:  “Why don't you go on back to that faggot first platoon and…don't go away angry...just...just go away. You've been told.”
            Highway’s style was to put substance and results over regulation and PC protocol. He was consistently butting heads with those above him. He called things as he saw it and did so for the benefit of his men and the mission. When Highway was frustrated with the lack of supply of night goggles for his men and was asked by Colonel Meyers what his assessment of things was, he responded bluntly: “It's a cluster fuck… Marines are fighting men, sir. They shouldn't be sitting around on their sorry asses filling out request forms for equipment they should already have.” This typified the blunt honesty and no BS approach of Highway.
            I’ve always had this part of me that could continually hear Highway’s grumpy, but urgent, commands and insults whispering to me amidst certain life situations. When the alarm clock wouldn’t cut it, I can recall imagining Highway shouting at me to “Drop your cocks and grab your socks! Off your ass and on your feet.” This would get me out of bed quickly and motivate me to charge hard towards my day. When life throws me curve balls and perpetual chaos and uncertainty abound, I always hear Highway urging me to “Improvise. Overcome. Adapt.” Recalling the words of Gunny Highway has often made a huge difference in helping me endure and conquer many of life’s tough circumstances.
            If you haven’t yet watched Heartbreak Ridge, memorized eighty percent of the lines and internalized the key principles of the film, I suggest you “…move swift...move silent…move deadly” and get that on your to-done list asap. Maybe you’ll start hearing whispers as well.

            In BLAZE: Operation Persian Trinity, my debut geo-political spy thriller, to the perceptive reader, CIA Director Chuck Gallagher’s character reveals hints—but only hints—of familiarity with the personality constructs of Gunnery Sergeant  Thomas Highway.

Purchase BLAZE: Operation Persian Trinity here.

Thursday, September 26, 2013



VINCE FLYNN     1966 - 2013

            Over the past year or so, as I approach the age of forty, it seems that I receive news of friends, loved ones, business associates, and public figures I admire passing away more frequently than I’m quite ready to absorb. This being the case, I’ve decided to begin a bit of a series here in this blog dedicated to those folks who have gone to the other side that left an impact on me before their departure. Below is part one of what I hope will be a series that I soon run out of material for.

            I really can’t at all recall when it was that I first began reading Vince Flynn. I do recall that once I sunk my teeth into Term Limits, I instantly had to get my hands on all of Flynn’s back catalogue. The Mitch Rapp novels were at the top of the list of novels that helped to light the fire in me to try my hand at writing my own spy thriller.
            As much as Vince’s writing, and the visceral aesthetics of his characters, inspired me, Vince’s personal story equally impressed me. Vince’s writing was born out of a career trajectory that looked as typical as many people I know. He was a salesman for Kraft—I don’t know if he was pushing Mac and Cheese or lesser-known products. Then, he was on the verge of becoming a Marine as an aviation candidate when adversity struck him down and he was disqualified due to medical issues he had growing up. After dealing with the disappointment of being barred from entering the Marine Corps, he was launched back into the nine to five world as a commercial real estate rep. Not content with resigning to what may have seemed like a fate that would confine him, he harvested the idea for writing a book in his spare time. He let that ambition persist and ultimately he made the bold move to quit his job, move to Colorado, and pursue writing full time during the day while bartending at night.
            But the adversity and the persistency did not end there. His first manuscript for Term Limits was rejected more than sixty times. Overcoming those rejections, Flynn decided to self-publish the novel himself. Focusing on the Twin City market, he found himself hitting the number one sales slot—leading to the agent and book deal needed to catapult his career.
            Vince was not one who would naturally have been pegged to be a writer. He battled Dyslexia. He had the normal pressures of life to battle while trying to hone his craft. Yet, he was determined to listen to the persistent whisper of his heart to push through and follow his passion.
            Flynn’s writing was blunt, real, and captured the post-911 zeitgeist perfectly. His ability to forecast near term geo-political realities and imagine the ever-evolving nature of threats from terrorists was in a war-gaming class all his own. He created scenes that had a tangible quality to them and lurched the reader eagerly into the next scene. His characters embodied the man’s man spirit and possessed natural dimension and depth.
The Mitch Rapp character grew to become an iconic symbol of the distaste for all politicians and for the cumbersome bureaucratic labyrinth of protocol and regulations that they impose. Mitch Rapp was all about results, not strict adherence to a rule-laden process. He got the job done and punished the bad guys. Internally, he compartmentalized guilt in order to accomplish what needed to be done for the greater good of the country—often while pissing off his superiors.
            The character of Stan Hurley further typified the man’s man motif. Stan Hurley was an old school, stubborn CIA spook who took crap from no one. His on-the-clock standards were high and he was loath to compliment the abilities of Rapp or anyone else that followed him. His off-the-clock standards were low and his exploits with loose women and barroom bourbon bouts layered his character with compelling flaws and moral inconsistencies.
            Although Flynn always denied any connection between himself and Mitch Rapp, to the reader, it was clear that he was lurking in Mitch’s shadow at every step—guiding his next move and steering his thoughts in tandem with his own. Mitch Rapp was indeed Vince Flynn with a 9mm berretta and CIA credentials.
            After fighting cancer for years with a strong positive mental attitude, Vince Flynn passed away on June 19th, 2013. He was taken too soon. Fourteen novels was not enough. If you haven’t read them, you’d be blessed to start now. And then you too will lament his passing.

            My debut geo-political spy novel, BLAZE: Operation Persian Trinity, details the adventures of CIA assassin Blaze McIntyre. Many influences were poured into the mold that created Blaze McIntyre. The writings of Vince Flynn were undoubtedly a strong ingredient in that mix.

Purchase BLAZE: Operation Persian Trinity here.