It is my great, great pleasure to introduce to all you MurderSheWrites readers someone very special: Mike Cooper, whose novel CLAWBACK was just released this week. On top of being a terrific writer and all-around great guy, he is my brother! Mike and I grew up being “bookish” together – voracious readers and, before long, story writers.
Mike is also very modest, so while I did get him to write this post, he won’t tell you what other authors are saying about the book. Here’s one little gem that sums it up nicely: “Mike Cooper’s Clawback is fantastic. This is my kind of thriller and I can’t wait for the next one.” — Brad Thor, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Full Black
I hope you enjoy meeting Mike today. I know you’ll enjoy CLAWBACK!
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It’s hard enough being half of a dual-income marriage. Not only do you go to work every day, you still have to come home and run the household. In fact, the University of Michigan, which has surveyed the issue for more than forty years, reports that women’s share of housework increases from 10 to 17 hours after they get married – but the husband’s share goes down, from 8 to 7 hours. When kids arrive it only gets worse. In three-child families, the moms are up to 28 hours of housework, while the dads are putting in 10 hours.
Well, ten hours is better than zero, which is about what it was when the U of M started the study in 1968. But you can see why some mothers are so tired all the time.
Now consider a woman in the high-stakes crimefighting business. Maybe she’s a DEA agent, or a sheriff, or a private investigator. Or an assassin, or a CIA asset-in-place. Sure, she knows her way around automatic weapons and forensic labs. She can break a thug’s arm with a Wing Chun strike, or immobilize him in an elbow lock. Maybe she can hack a firewalled server and rake a Medeco lock. But when the dishes are dirty or the baby needs a bottle, well …
It starts with her training. In real life, most people with serious fighting skills acquire them in defense of the country. There are plenty of private courses around – wannabes can spend thousands of dollars on anything from tactical shooting to combat driving. But nothing compares with actual experience in the field. There’s a reason the merc firms like Blackwater hire soldiers out of the service, not certificate holders from Joe’s School of Gunnery.
The US military remains a challenging environment for servicewomen, however. At the most basic level, they’re denied so-called combat roles. This doesn’t prevent them from coming under enemy fire; more than 150 women soldiers have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. It does stymie their chances of promotion, however, since warfighting experience is more or less essential for ascent to the upper echelons.
Women in the armed forces are also subject to harassment and assault by their fellow soldiers – roughly 19,000 times last year. Men are targeted too, of course, but the overwhelming number of cases involve female victims.
Let’s assume our heroine survives unscathed – battle scarred, perhaps, but that’s the background she needs for her new profession back home. (She might stay in the military, but very few thriller heroines seem to be active-duty soldiers. I’m not sure why this is true, except that readers of military thrillers are overwhelmingly male, more so than any of the other genres. And like I said, women can’t have a combat role, which sharply limits dramatic possibilities – so it’s likely the dearth of GI Janes in fiction merely reflects reality.)
Here we come to the crux of the issue. Big-city detective, super-secret spy, FBI profiler – whatever our heroine’s job, most people she meets on the job, good guys and bad guys alike, are just that: guys.
The thriller is a man’s world. The villains are usually men – I can’t think of a single woman antagonist with a plan to, say, precipitate nuclear war between Pakistan and India, or steal four billion dollars worth of gold from a private vault in New York. The henchmen are, well, men. The foot-soldiers and goons and hangers-on are all . . . you get the idea.
It takes a tough hero to survive out there. It takes an even tougher heroine.
Finally, though, tough isn’t all. Anyone can write a two-fisted Elektra character – she just has to adjust her krav maga technique to accommodate a 36D cup. Bringing a heroine to full, three-dimensional life, from the comic book page to the real world, is a singular achievement.
Imagine a scene. Night, the docks, drizzle shining on rusty shipping containers and massive cranes. The contact’s late – maybe the Russian FSB nabbed him, or maybe the Chinese triad leader became suspicious. There could be twenty men with skylight scopes and assault rifles waiting, ready to kill whoever makes the first false move.
A car pulls up, nondescript, one person inside. The engine cuts off. After a moment the door opens, and our heroine steps out – alone but calm, unafraid, ready to handle whatever fireball of violence might be about to erupt. She looks around, makes the smallest insouciant shrug, and begins to walk to the meeting spot.
If she’s carrying a diaper bag? – now I’m impressed.
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For a chance to win a signed copy of CLAWBACK, share your thoughts on what makes a true kick-butt heroine, or a favorite fictional example – or just say hi!
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Mike Cooper is a novelist. In his latest, CLAWBACK (Viking, March), an assassin has begun shooting the rottenest, worst-performing financiers on Wall Street. “Don’t bail them out, take them out!” – it’s a good tagline for a thriller, and Mike rather hopes it remains fiction. More at www.mikecooperbooks.com.