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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Inspiration for Trophy Target Part IV: Afghanistan’s Feared Woman Warlord

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Image via the BBC
As the outline for Trophy Target  started to come together, it was clear that Fadi Khaldun would need to travel to Afghanistan as part of his hunt for Prince Michael’s kidnappers. I planned from an early stage to have Fadi, in some respect, interact with an Afghan warlord. I didn’t know the circumstances quite yet or even why, but since warlords dominate Afghan culture and politics, it seemed like a “must have” for the story.
For inspiration, I started researching the backgrounds of Afghanistan’s various warlords. My first stop was Wikipedia, which has a handy list here. Nothing really stood out as the inspiration for a compelling storyline, so I broadened my search to the internet as a whole, hoping to find something useful like a news article. That’s when I came across an article in the BBC about Bibi Ayesha, Afghanistan’s Feared Woman Warlord.
Using real life people as the basis for fictional characters is a risky business, ranging from simply offending someone to confusing your readers to even incurring legal liability for a defamation claim. In this case, Ms. Ayesha’s inspiration for the character Huma Tanin a/k/a al-Saqr was limited solely to the gender of the warlord. So I’m confident my warlord character allows me to safely sidestep those figurative landmines.
I did not set out to have the warlord that I knew must appear in Trophy Target be female. It wasn’t even on my radar given the justified stereotype of Afghani women as second class citizens. But when I came across Ms. Ayesha’s profile, I realized that contrast was what made using a female warlord a great choice. Reader’s wouldn’t expect it but I could always point to Ms. Ayesha as an example to show it wasn’t such a far fetched idea.

Once I settled on that direction for the book, the rest of the story line involving Fadi’s interaction with the warlord character started coming together quickly and almost on it’s own. I took that as confirmation that the choice in the high level inspiration for Huma Tanin was correct.

Trophy Target is available now in ebook and print format. More information, including purchase information, is available here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Inspiration for Trophy Target Part III: Deep in the Amazonian Jungle With the French Foreign Legion

Warning: Spoilers Ahead


In the summer of 2012, I was in the early stages of putting together a detailed outline for Trophy Target. I’d identified the main theme of the thriller (see Part I: Prince Harry deploys to Afghanistan) and settled on the general idea that Prince Michael would be kidnapped while in the services of the French Foreign Legion (see Part II: Beau Geste). I still needed to flush out the details of the kidnapping a bit though.
Image via Wikipedia
As luck would have it, on July 12 of that year, I visited one of my go-to websites, Instapundit run by Professor Glenn Reynolds. The good Professor linked to a timely story that day from Popular Mechanics: Deep in the Amazonian Jungle With the French Foreign Legion by Joe Pappalardo.
I encourage you to read Mr. Pappalardo’s entire article, but in summary, he reported on a little known conflict involving the French Foreign Legion in the secluded Amazonian jungle of French Guiana. They are waging a growing war against increasingly dangerous black market gold miners who are destroying the pristine environment and looting the country of a valuable resource that is ultimately smuggled out of the country. At the time the article was written, two FFL soldiers were recently killed in the course of a raid launched by the FFL on an illegal mining camp.

This was a conflict I had never heard of before and given it’s uniqueness and exotic location, provided a great setting for Prince Michael’s deployment with the French Foreign Legion. The escalation in violence and intimidation by the miners in real life towards the FFL fit with my intention to have Prince Michael kidnapped. Also, having Prince Michael initially kidnapped by persons unaware of his status as a royal, offered an extra layer of intrigue (or so I hope) to the plot.
While Mr. Pappalardo’s article served as the primary inspiration for this story line in Trophy Target, other source materials were used to get some additional background information on the French Foreign Legion, French Guiana and the illegal gold mining trade in South America.

Up Next:  Inspiration for Trophy Target Part III: Afghanistan’s Feared Woman Warlord;
Previous: Inspiration for Trophy Target Part II: Beau Geste

Trophy Target is available now in ebook and print format. More information, including purchase information, is available here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Inspiration for Trophy Target Part II: Beau Geste

Warning: moderate spoilers ahead

Image via Wikipedia
Having selected the main theme for Trophy Target (see Part I: Prince Harry deploys to Afghanistan), I next turned to developing key storylines, characters and scenes. That first meant determining the circumstances under which the fictional prince in my book, Danish Crown Prince Michael Rhode, would be kidnapped.

I initially stuck closely to the script already provided by Prince Harry’s deployment to Afghanistan - Prince Michael would be deployed with the Danish military in Afghanistan and then kidnapped by terrorists. It seemed like a good idea. In the end, how Prince Michael was kidnapped wasn’t all that relevant anyway since Prince Michael was not a key character. He was effectively a human McGuffin.
I ran that idea by a dear and trusted friend who, diplomatically, told me that idea stunk. It was too simple and even predictable. “Of course that’s what would happen to the prince,” my friend remarked. He added that I was more creative than that and casually mentioned the novel turned film Beau Geste.
At the time, I was a bit ashamed to say I’d never heard of Beau Geste (the first remake in 1939 featured the great Gary Cooper). But since my friend had given such good advice and direction in the past, I researched the film and was attracted to the story. So I rented it from Netflix one weekend. With apologies to those who know of the film, here’s the gist: Michael “Beau” Geste was the oldest of three orphan brothers living with their aunt in Britain. Beau flees England after some controversy and enlists in the French Foreign Legion as a way to escape his past and make something of himself.
If you have at least started Trophy Target, you’ll see some similarities between the two stories, such as the key role played by the French Foreign Legion and that Prince Michael flees Denmark to enlist in the FFL. In Beau Geste, Michael (and his brothers who follow him) are deployed to North Africa. That setting needed some updating for my novel. Which is the perfect time to plug the next installment of this segment - Inspiration for Trophy Target Part III: Deep in the Amazonian Jungle with the French Foreign Legion.

Trophy Target is available now in ebook and print format. More information, including purchase information, is available here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Inspiration for Trophy Target Part I: Prince Harry Deploys to Afghanistan

Image via Wikipedia
One of the side effects of taking the plunge as a fiction writer is that you start to view things from your everyday life as a potential source of inspiration for a novel. It’s both a blessing and a curse. Seemingly insignificant news stories, events or encounters can, if you set your mind to it, quickly turn into an outline for a full blown novel. Before you know it, your head is overfilled with rough outlines for stories (most of which, sadly, you’ll never have time to write). It can be distracting but also fulfilling when one of those events results in a finished book.
In the case of my newest thriller, Trophy Target, there was a single real life event that guided the overall plot of the novel. A series of second tier events and people ultimately influenced smaller storylines and characters in the book. This post is the first installment of a series on some particular influences for Trophy Target and will lead off with the most important one.

In 2006, the idea of Prince Harry of The United Kingdom deploying to an active war zone first surfaced. The Prince actively advocated for the move, going so far as to say that, “If I am not allowed to join my unit in a war zone, I will hand in my uniform." In 2007, Prince Harry was secretly deployed to Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, one of the most dangerous areas of the war torn country. The British military rejected original plans to deploy Prince Harry to Iraq due to the even higher risk of danger in that country. The prince served in Afghanistan for 77 days until word of his deployment was leaked to the press. He subsequently did another deployment in 2012.

Having a member of a prominent royal family deployed to an active war zone was controversial. Prince Harry was blamed for increasing the risk of death or injury to his fellow soldiers since the Taliban would focus on killing, or even better from their perspective, capturing the prince. His death or capture would be used for propaganda, political and/or strategic purposes. So any soldiers affiliated with him would be at greater risk. In other words, Prince Harry was a “trophy target” prized by the Taliban for his perceived value in death or bondage. The Taliban obviously did not succeed in killing or capturing Prince Harry, though they supposedly tried multiple times.
When I first heard about Prince Harry’s deployment, I immediately started to think of it in terms of the plot for an international thriller. I racked my brain trying to think of any other books or films that had used a similar plot. It’s a terrible feeling to believe you thought of an innovative plot for a story and then later discover the idea has been done before. In this case, I was actually quite surprised that there didn’t seem to be anything similar out there. So, comfortable that using a kidnapped soldier prince as the basis for a novel was a unique idea, I brainstormed some more to see if I could come up with enough supporting storylines to justify writing a full length commercial thriller. For that, I required some additional sources of inspiration.

Up Next:  Inspiration for Trophy Target Part II: Beau Geste

Trophy Target is available now in ebook and print format. More information, including purchase information, is available here.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Book Review: Duel of Assassins by Dan Pollock

An Intelligently Crafted International Thriller

Duel of Assassins by Daniel Pollock is a well written, intelligently crafted international political thriller that lives up to its engaging title. Unlike most international thrillers out today that focus on Islamic terrorism (including those of yours truly), Duel takes place over a few decades in the late 20th century, but primarily in the waning days of the Soviet Empire. True to the genre, Pollock takes the reader on a ride to numerous and diverse settings - from Eastern Russia to Afghanistan to Washington D.C. to Turkey to Potsdam

Duel, at its heart, revolves around the contrasts of its main characters, Marcus Jolly and Taras Arensky. The two met in Russia as young men, first as adversaries, but quickly became great friends through a mutually endured tragedy. Jolly is an American who defected to the Soviet Union and becomes an accomplished special forces warrior for the Soviets. Arensky is a native Russian who does the same but ultimately defects to the United States after a catastrophic experience in the Soviet-Afghan war.

The duel alluded to in the title starts when Jolly is called out of a semi-retirement to conduct a high-stakes assassination against the leader of the Soviet Union. The Western political elite, and even the Soviets, are starting to prepare for a post-Soviet world and if Jolly is successful in his mission, it would cause chaos to their planning. Given the dire importance of stopping Jolly, the Americans turn to Arensky, who now works for the CIA, to hunt down and stop his long time but rogue friend.

What results is a classic cat and mouse game between the two accomplished friends and killers. The reader is treated to some great action sequences along with more than a few shocking revelations and unexpected plot twists. And it’s a testament to Pollock’s skill and confidence as a writer that he gets the reader to cheer for the Russian born assassin over the American born assassin.

I recommend Duel to any reader that enjoys international political thrillers, particularly someone looking for an alternative to the much more common terrorism related novels. With Russia once again assuming its role in the real world as an adversary of the United States, there will likely be a resurgence in interest by readers for Soviet/Russian themed fiction. It's timely on Pollock's part that Duel is being re-released now and it should satisfy any reader’s general craving for a political thriller, and especially those looking for a Russian/Soviet themed novel.

Duel of Assassins is currently available in kindle format at Amazon.com. For background information on the novel from the author, please read this post at the author's website: My 'Collision Course' Novel by Dan Pollock

Allen Mitchum is the author of the new thriller TROPHY TARGET, available now at Amazon.com. Download a free copy of Mitchum’s revenge themed story THE REPRISAL at Amazon.com, B&N or iBooks. His website is www.allenmitchum.com; follow him on twitter @AllenMitchum.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Free Giveaway Opportunities for Allen Mitchum thriller TROPHY TARGET

For those interested in an opportunity to win a complimentary copy of the new action packed thriller TROPHY TARGET, here's some good news. There are currently two chances plus an opportunity to win one of two $25 Amazon.com gift certificates

One giveaway is at Goodreads, where you have a chance to win one of eight print copies. This contest ends April 26.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Trophy Target by Allen Mitchum

Trophy Target

by Allen Mitchum

Giveaway ends April 26, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win
The other opportunity is with Raffelcopter, where you have a chance to win one of two $25 Amazon.com gift cards or one of ten digital copies. This contest ends on May 15.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't want to wait for the contest results? TROPHY TARGET is available now in print and kindle format at Amazon.com.

Good luck!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

How Netflix Made Watching TV Like Reading a Novel

The following is an excerpt from a new article by Allen Mitchum at PJ Media.

Comparing watching television to reading a book sounds ridiculous. Especially to those of us raised in a world where TV watchers are derided as couch potatoes and reading is deemed an enlightened activity. So I’m prepared for bibliophiles and even casual readers will take issue with the title of this post. But technology advancements and the improved sophistication and structure in television programming has turned watching TV into an experience very similar to reading a novel.

As an avid reader and author, it took me a while to fully appreciate this new phenomenon, though I’ve fully embraced it now as a regular video content consumer (see, Justified and Breaking Bad). In other words, I have, finally given into binge watching – the practice of consuming numerous episodes of a TV show in a short period of time. An activity that was once ridiculed, binge watching is now a social norm.

There are four primary factors for the rapid change in the consumption and format of TV programming that led to it resembling a live action novel. Each occurred independently, but combined, created the conditions necessary to set in motion the evolution...

Read the rest over at PJ Media by clicking here