That helicopter story that kept me awake

Or part of it anyway.

 

So, there I was, hanging half out of the helicopter, shooting a handgun at a truck speeding along a dirt track.

I know, what’s the effective range of a handgun?

The sound of the rotors was still deafening even with the earphones on and as I run out of bullets and was reaching for another clip, I heard a voice crackle in my ears.

“Some fool’s got a rocket launcher.”

That fool was trying to lean out the passenger side of the truck and aim the launcher at the helicopter.

The bucking and swaying of the vehicle nearly tipped him out onto the roadside, but something managed to anchor him, and he was taking aim.

“Now would be the time to peel away,” I said, not knowing if the pilot could hear me.

Our course didn’t deviate, so perhaps he hadn’t.

I calculated the distance between the helicopter and the ground, and the speed we were traveling.  Fast.  Short drop.  Quick landing.  Very painful.

In that moment I saw the rocket leave the launcher, I let go.

There was that instant where you feel disembodied and floating on air.  The same as that few seconds in free fall, just before pulling the rip cord of a parachute.

I hit the ground a rolled, not that I thought it would do much good, and the stopped, just before I lost consciousness.  Somewhere in front of me, there was a huge explosion, and then nothing.

Last thought, I hope the helicopter didn’t land on me.

 

© Charles Heath 2018

The thing about ‘must read’ lists

And that is, you don’t have to read any of the books on it.

Who really cares if you do or if you don’t?

It’s just a list of books that a particular writer, journalist, or editor puts together simply because they liked them and think you might also.

Of course, this doesn’t work if all you read is comics or romance books like Mills and Boon.  Hey, that’s fine.  You’re reading and this is one of the most important aspects of life, to read, and sometimes, to learn.

I know that my life changed dramatically when I read books, lots of different sorts of books.  I’ve never recommended anyone read the dry, dusty tomes about neurosis for psychiatry, or a history of the Roman Empire simply because of it something I was interested in after I saw the film, Ben Hur.

In a similar manner when we go to school, the curriculum sometimes dictates we read certain books, whether this is to give us an understanding of life centuries before, or that there is some deeper, more sinister, meaning to it all, but some of those books I had to read, back then, the meaning was lost on me.

Should I not read them?  I know most of the kids in the class didn’t because they considered reading a waste of time.  There were more important things to do like chase girls and play a sport.  And torment the teachers.  From what I hear, little has changed.

But the point here is, in my case, I’m just giving you the drum on what I read to improve my literary understand, and perhaps in a small way, help with my writing.  After all, writers must read, particularly in their genre so they have some idea of what readers want.

‘Must read’ is an unfortunate and often misused heading.  We do it all the time.  Ten films you ‘must see’, ten things you ‘must have’, ten places you ‘must go’ usually before you die.

It amuses me to see books with 1000 somethings in them before you die.  I will no doubt be well and truly dead before I get halfway through those lists if I actually took any notice of them.

But, what’s more interesting is that I like to see how many I haven’t done, which is probably the reason why we buy the book, usually off the sale table.

We are taught not to be selfish, but…

Today I decided to take some time out and read a few blogs, to see what the rest of the world is doing post-NaNoWriMo, and sometimes read some news that’s usually a few days old, not that I’m complaining.

And still working on the James Bondish piece that set my mind on fire.  Last I heard, I was just about to jump from a helicopter about to be hit by a handheld rocket.

I try to keep away from the news if it’s possible, but it comes at you from everywhere.  My browser somehow decided to allow notifications and every few minutes a little popout slides out from the bottom right corner and tells me what’s gone wrong.

Never any good news by the way.

And yes, I have Windows 10, but I can’t be bothered reading the manual to find out how to stop them.  Maybe, subconsciously, I don’t.

I never thought one man could generate so many headlines.  We had one, given the nickname, the human headline, but Trump, he is in a class of his own.

I used to like watching him on The Apprentice, believe it or not.

But again I digress…

I saw the word selfish, and it reminded me that, at times writers have to be.  There are only so many hours in a day, and after emails, blogs, reading, news, life, there’s very little time left to write.

So, we need to be selfish at those times.  I am because when I sit down to write, there shouldn’t be any distractions.  As a writer, I’m not seeking popularity, maybe one day that will come, but I’m in this writing thing because I have stories to tell and I want to get them down.  Nobody may ever read them, I may never rise above mediocrity, but I am doing something I love, and very few of us out there can say that unequivocally.

Most of us have a day job or something else that consumes a great deal of our time.

Oh to be a successful author like James Patterson?  But how does he do it?  I guess it comes down to hard work, and a little bit of luck.

And maybe, one day, if I work hard enough, some of it might come my way.

Just one of many reading lists – part 3

Everyone, it seems, will publish what they call the top 100 books that you should read. Some are voted on, some belong to the opinion of the editor of the book review section of a newspaper, and, as you know, there are a lot of newspapers, a lot of editors, and a lot of opinions.

I’m not a newspaper, I’m not an editor, but I have a list, based on personal experience, and many, many years of reading.

It’s in no particular order.

41.  The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as a host of other Sherlock Holmes stories

42.  The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad, one of Conrad’s later political novels, set in London in 1886 and deals with anarchism and espionage.  In those days spies were called anarchists.

43.  The Ipcress File by Len Deighton, introducing us to Harry Palmer, who was personified by Michael Caine and led to Horse Under Water, and Funeral in Berlin.  More of Len Deighton later on in the list

44.  The Remorseful Day by Colin Dexter introducing the somewhat enigmatic detective, Morse, his first name not revealed for a long time but oddly, Endeavour.  John Thaw brought him to life

45.  Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, hard to pronounce and even harder to read, but perhaps worth it in the end.  By the time I read this I was wishing for a Russian writer had could use an economy of words

46.  Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak wasn’t it.  A vast and lengthy dissertation on lost love, I felt very sad for Zhivago in the end.  I saw a stage play of the same name, and I’m sorry, but it’s a few hours of my life I will never get back

47.  Casino Royale, the first of the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming.  I have to say these are among my favorite spy books.  I must say I preferred the new James Bond in Casino Royale, though Sean Connery still rules!

48.  The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsythe, a fascinating story about an assassin

49.  Anything written by John Le Carre, but in particular, the George Smiley collection.  Finally unmasking his nemesis the Russian spymaster made it all so satisfying.

50.  The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlam, inspiring a long series by both Ludlam and Eric Lustbader makes entertaining reading, but the first, the man who did not know who or what he really was, was excellent.  Matt Damon didn’t harm his persona either.

51.  Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers, whose detective is Lord Peter Whimsey, a 1933 mystery novel that’s eighth in the series

52.  Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith.  You have to admit that his Russian detective Arkady Renko is up against it when his investigation goes in a direction that uncovers corruption and dishonest in his superiors

53.  The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler, a semi-autobiographical novel written between 1987 and 1884, and published in 1903.  The story of the Pontifex family.

54.  Howards End by E. M. Forster, first published in 1910, is an interesting insight into the behavior of the, and between the classes, with the Schlegels acting as the catalyst.

55.  Washington Square by Henry James, originally published as a serial, and covers the conflict between daughter and father.  I must say I prefer The Ambassadors to Washington Square.

56.  Ulysses by James Joyce, a day in the life of an ordinary man, Leopold Bloom, why could it not be the 7th June rather than the 16th, for obvious reasons

57.  The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley is a view of society at the end of the Victorian period through the eyes of a young boy.  I read this while still at school and had no clue why, but later, when I read it again, I understood the meaning

58.  Atonement by Ian McEwan, I saw the film and then read the book.  Never a good idea.  Basically, a young girl makes a bad mistake and tries to atone for it.

59.  Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell, the War and Peace of Americal novels, and as long by comparison.  The only book written by Mitchell, and the second most read book by Americans.  The film was interesting but awfully long.

60.  The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, with a man with severe burns and the effect he had on three others.  Colin Firth is villain one day and hero the next, this time in the cinematic version, an out and out cad.

More to come…

 

I’m supposed to be winding down!

It’s late at night and I just watched the start of a James Bond movie.

Not the sort of thing to be doing just before going to bed.  I watched the start, typically one of the best parts of the film, and then turned it off.

Then, while trying to switch my mind off so that I could get some sleep, it started running a hundred different scenarios that I might use in a story.

The catchy start, the sort that drags the reader into the book with a bang, high action, with bullets, grenades, a rocket launcher, maybe, a car or a helicopter chase, and a lot of death and mayhem.

Soldiers would tell you this is a typical day in a war zone, with real people, and innocent people as casualties.

Certain police forces would tell you this is what it’s like going up against drug cartels and organized crime.

Spy stories always make good reading and sometimes better movies because it is not something er, on average, equate with reality.  We have a hero, we have innocent people being saved, and the bad guys always lose.

Well, most of the time.  Sometimes they may be allowed to have a small win until the next book in the series.

It’s escapist entertainment, something that takes us away from the daily drudge.

Yes, I can see the beginnings of a story, helicopters, bullets, cars, danger.

Let me get back to you, I have to write this down before I lose it.

 

When will it ever be done?

I finally sat down and rewrote the next five episodes of my serialized private detective novel featuring Harry Walthenson.

I don’t know what it is about doing these rewrites, but it seems every time I want to do one, I find something else to do.

I mean, it’s not a problem when I get started, it just getting started that’s the problem.

Is this a subtle sign I don’t want to write it?

Or is it my mind is too cluttered with everything else, and by itself, it determines what I do next?

I wish it would make me sit down and write the ending to my NaNoWriMo project.  I have at best two chapters to go, but then I said that three chapters ago, so maybe therein lies the problem.

How long is a piece of string?

Then, of course, I’m in the middle of editing two new novels and I wanted to get these out before Christmas, but it seems the planets are out of alignment.

Make a list and prioritize, you say?

I’ve got a whiteboard and tried that.  The only person who takes notice of what I’ve written is my youngest granddaughter.

Maybe after the holidays…

 

 

“The Things We Do For Love” – Coming soon

Like Sunday in New York, this is another attempt at writing a romance novel.  I’m one of those deluded fools who believe in happy endings.

I guess that was a ‘spoiler’!

This is the description I’m currently working with.

 

Is love the metaphorical equivalent to ‘walking the plank’; a dive into uncharted waters.

For Henry the only romance he was interested in was a life at sea, and when away from it, he strived to find sanctuary from his family and perhaps life itself.  Tonbright, a small village by the sea, is one such a place, but he never expected to find another, Michelle, whom he soon discovers is as mysterious as she is beautiful.

Henry had long since given up the notion of finding romance, and Michelle couldn’t get involved for reasons she could never explain, but in the end both acknowledge that something had happened.  Plans were made, plans were revised, and hopes were shattered.

A chance encounter causes Michelle’s past to catch up with her, and whatever hope she had of having a normal life with Henry, or anyone else, is gone.  To keep him alive she has to destroy her blossoming relationship, an act that breaks her heart and shatters his.

But can love conquer all?

It takes a few words of encouragement from an unlikely source to send Henry and his friend Radly on an odyssey into the darkest corners of the red light district in a race against time to find and rescue the woman he finally realizes is the love of his life.

 

The cover, at the moment, looks like this:

lovecoverfinal1