Marked For Death by Matt Hilton
Joe Hunter has been Marked for Death in his most explosive outing to date
It should be a routine job. Joe Hunter and his associates are hired to provide security for an elite event in Miami. Wear a tux, stay professional, job done.
But things go wrong.
Hunter is drawn into what appears to be a domestic altercation. When he crosses the mysterious Mikhail however, he soon finds something altogether more sinister…
Before long this chance encounter has serious repercussions for Hunter and his friends. Good people are being killed. On the run, in the line of fire, the clock is ticking.
Researching the Hilton way.
My Joe Hunter thrillers are set in the USA. It surprises some readers, because I’m a Brit, living in northern England, and before publication of the first in the series – Dead Men’s Dust – had never set foot in America. Everything that went into that first book was written from a vivid imagination, some misconception, and what I’d learned about America from reading countless books, and watching as many movies. I guess it was an idealized version of what I thought the USA was like. Obviously since then I have visited the US on a number of occasions, but to be fair, not all the places I’ve written about in the subsequent books in the series. There’s nothing like having your feet on the ground when it comes to the locations you write about. You can use Google Earth to get an idea of the location, the topography, and jump to Wikipedia for some insider knowledge, but there’s nothing that can replace being where you intend to set your story and taste, and smell, and feel the environment. That isn’t to say you have to visit. And as I said, I haven’t been where I set the stories most of the time. I’ve written fantasy and supernatural tales where I didn’t have to visit some mythical land or haunted house (although I have done that) for the sake of research.
My research process usually consists of sitting down and writing unfettered by preconception, and when something comes up that I need to check out, I use the Internet to find the answer I’m looking for. But I also check for underlying information, the more nuanced or unique stuff that adds a sense of realism to the tale. Often, when perusing a web page or map I’ll spot something I was totally unaware of and just have to include it in the story. There was one time when I was researching a location in Florida and came across a really cool lighthouse, and decided I must write a scene in which the lighthouse featured.
In my latest Joe Hunter book – Marked For Death – the majority of the story is set in and around Miami Beach, Florida. I’ve been to Florida a half dozen times or more now, but always further north around Orlando and Tampa, never to the south. I dug deep in my research for that one, to get a very real sense of locale, but also with a view to adapting things to suit my story telling-style. As I researched, more and more interesting places began popping up, and I made an effort to use those locations to shape the action that Hunter finds himself in. If I hadn’t had access to modern research tools I might just have struggled to make the locations sound realistic to the reader, and in fact would most likely have relied on that age-old trick of making things up to suit the narrative, with the excuse that it’s a fictional story after all.
These days – through the marvels of modern technology unavailable to me when I first set off writing the series – I have friends in the US, who I can call on at the press of a button or two and ask questions of them. Often I’ll punt an open question to my readers via my Facebook feed and get the information I need direct from the horse’s mouth. Sometimes dry information found on the Internet just doesn’t cut it, and you need some local knowledge to keep you right. I asked a simple question once about how an artists’ supply shop would be referred to in the US and the answers were as varied as the number of people who replied. I chose the one that got the largest consensus, but I’m still betting a reader somewhere will have a different view when they actually read the book.
Something I’ve grown very conscious of is that if you are going to write about weapons, then you’d better get it correct, or someone is going to tell you how wrong you are. There are tropes used by writers, usually absorbed from reading other authors’ works, which are plain wrong. I think we’ve all fallen foul of following what we’ve read before and writing the same thing because we ‘think’ it’s correct. For heaven’s sake, don’t write about someone “flicking off the safety on their Glock”, or be prepared for the backlash. Even though I know that a Glock (a type of pistol) doesn’t have a safety switch (the safety is integrated into the trigger action), but does have a decocking lever, even I made the mistake of flicking off its safety – a slip – and was berated for it. Also, there was one time when I described a helicopter ‘looping around’. I only meant that it followed an a roundabout path and came back again. I received an email from a chap explaining to me all about aerodynamics, and that unless it is ‘Air Wolf’ helicopters are incapable of performing a loop-the-loop.
Recently I was writing a scene where I could have glossed over the detail but wanted to add a little realism. It concerned a child who had been flash-blinded by a super bright detonation and I wanted to know what kind of initial care paramedics would give en route to hospital. I asked the question of my readers, and the response I got from paramedics in the know was terrific. Happily what I’d written was almost correct, so I needed only do a little bit of re-writing to sort things. Social media is often derided, but it has its good points too, not least as a valuable research tool.
Looking back at my recent research subjects, it surprises even me how varied a list it is: how to shuck an oyster, where is Mar-a-Lago, how are asteroid names designated, discrete versus discreet, how fast can a Gulfstream G650 fly, how fast in MPH is Mach 0.85, and other weird and wonderful facts. Largely though, I bet my web searches would make very interesting reading to MI5. I genuinely hope I haven’t been flagged to some watch list because of my interest in modern and historical terrorism, weapons and bombs. Honest, I’m an action thriller author.
Matt Hilton quit his career as a police officer to pursue his love of writing tight, cinematic American-style thrillers. He is the author of the high-octane Joe Hunter thriller series, including his most recent novels ‘The Devil’s Anvil’ – Joe Hunter 10 – published in June 2015 by Hodder and Stoughton and Blood Tracks, the first in anew series from Severn House publishers in November 2015. His first book, ‘Dead Men’s Dust’, was shortlisted for the International Thriller Writers’ Debut Book of 2009 Award, and was a Sunday Times bestseller, also being named as a ‘thriller of the year 2009’ by The Daily Telegraph. Dead Men’s Dust was also a top ten Kindle bestseller in 2013. The Joe Hunter series is widely published by Hodder and Stoughton in UK territories, and by William Morrow and Company and Down and Out Books in the USA, and have been translated into German, Italian, Romanian and Bulgarian. As well as the Joe Hunter series, Matt has been published in a number of anthologies and collections, and has published novels in the supernatural/horror genre, namely ‘Preternatural’, ‘Dominion’, ‘Darkest Hour’ and ‘The Shadows Call’. He is currently working on indie publishing the next Joe Hunter novel, No Safe Place, in May 2016, as well as gearing up for the release of his next Tess Grey novel, Painted Skins, in August 2016.
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