Hope For Aspiring Authors (and a Book Review of “The Killing Clause” by Gregg Hurwitz)

Gregg Hurwitz is an author I deeply admire, a writer who goes to painstaking lengths in his research and carefully constructed prose. His settings (often my beloved California) take on a life of their own, and he knows how to keep a reader turning the pages. In my opinion, he’s one of the best thriller writers working today and it’s great to see the success his new Orphan X series is having.

kill clause.jpgThe Kill Clause is the first in his Tim Rackley series, and while the setting and characters and research are all there, it’s also obvious this is one of his earlier books. This novel is heavy on the grief, with the main character and his wife losing their daughter in a savage murder, but for a reason I can’t fully comprehend I never connected with their loss. Maybe I’m just a jaded and heartless individual, but the emotions never went beyond the words for me and I struggled to want to come back to this book. There were some major character decisions that were more plot driven than something the characters would have actually done as well as some very obvious by-the-book twists that were far too predictable. Again, read the whole jaded admission.

Interestingly, I purchased and started reading Hurwitz’s first two novels a while back and never could complete them. As an author myself, and someone who knows many novelists and would-be-writers, I find this incredibly encouraging. It really is the act of doing something that enables you to grow and learn from your mistakes and hone your craft and move on to the next project, and then the next and the next, hopefully improving every step along the way.

You don’t start off as a marathon runner, you tackle a single mile, and then as you condition yourself you keep pushing those boundaries you’ve already hit until soon you’re running further than you could have ever thought possible. Writing is no different, and sadly I see a lot of authors put out a single book and then spend the next several years marketing that one book, trying to grow their readership and market without ever doing the legwork of completing their next project. This would be like running a 5-K race and then repeatedly sharing your results with everyone you know, showing videos, putting new music tracks to clips, trying to get one more view on your Youtube channel, while giving up running! An actor doesn’t talk about the movie they were in two years ago. They promote the one that’s about to come out, creating buzz where they can while then moving on to the next project and the one after that.

So if you’re a writer or dream of one day being a writer, stop thinking about it. Stop talking about it. Stop spamming people with ads for what you’ve already created. Instead, write your next project. If you’re doing it correctly, challenging yourself with each project and not just repeating the same formula, you WILL get better. You WILL grow your marketshare. You WILL make a name for yourself. You might not be able to support yourself with your writing — less than 1% of authors do — but you will find joy in what you’re doing. And who knows, maybe like Gregg Hurwitz, you’ll break out with international success. Just know it’s a long road to get there and if you’re not enjoying the ride, you’re missing the point.

Enough of my ramblings. 2.5 stars for “The Kill Clause” – at least I finished this one, though my journey with Tim Rackley and company has come to an end.

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Book Review: Gregg Hurwitz’s “The Nowhere Man”

nowhere-manWhen it comes to cleverly plotted thrillers filled with memorable characters, Gregg Hurwitz tops the list. I’ve been a fan of his work for years, and would argue that his prose is some of the best this business has to offer. His latest creation, Evan Smoak, is both a homage to the Jason Bournes and Jack Reachers of the world as well as a unique take on the cliched “killer with a conscience” motif.

In this second book in his series, Hurwitz reverses the normal procession of the hero helping those in need by having our hero captured and locked away. The character motivations ring true and there’s (no surprise here) an incredible amount of well-researched and nuanced intricacies, which always serve to ground Hurwitz’s novels and make them more “real.”

The ultimate reason this book shines, however, is that you just want to spend time with the protagonist, Evan Smoak. He really comes into his own in this second outing, breaking the mold of those who have gone before. It’s great to see Hurwitz’s star continue to rise, and I have the feeling this is just the beginning of a series that will challenge what we’ve come to expect from our vigilante heroes. A solid 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Orphan X

I’m a huge Hurwitz fan and look forward each year to his new release. In my opinion, he’s one of the best thriller writers out there today, creating intricate interlocking webs within his stories yet making them feel as if they could actually happen. His novels typically revolve around very quiet and small ideas rather than overblown globe-trotting international “the world is about to end” premises, and it’s in these that he excels.

orphan xWith Orphan X, Hurwitz has created a character to rival Jack Reacher and Jason Bourne. The Orphan program is again something that feels like it could actually have happened, and the research involved with this novel is outstanding.

The same pedestal that gives this novel its grandeur, however, is also its downfall, as a lot of this feels like it’s been done before. It’s impossible not to see the influence of the Bourne novels, or other similar “good guy assassins,” even including a code similar to Dexter Morgan’s rules, that Evan – like Dexter – is forced to break in order to keep his conscience. I didn’t feel like the twists and turns were as exciting or surprising, given the premise and magnitude of where this story could have gone.

That being said, I also hold Hurwitz to a pretty high standard.

My favorite parts of this novel weren’t the high octane action scenes but the moments where Evan Smoak is dealing with his HOA and the people in his building. The realities of the difficulty of single parenthood while juggling life, as seen through Mia and her son Peter, were also high points. That juxtaposed relationship as Ethan enters their lives slowly and unintentionally added a depth to the novel that I really enjoyed.

Despite my small complaints, this is one heck of a read and Hurwitz definitely has a character that will spawn multiple books and movies. Definitely worth checking out.