By Rick Reed
Police Detective Sam Reeves, a 34-year-old martial arts instructor, has a solid fifteen-year record as a good police officer with the Portland Police Department. For the first time, Sam is forced to take a life in the line of duty and despite the findings of “good shoot” he struggles to recuperate psychologically from the killing.
Facing up to his fears Sam returns to work and then within days is forced to fire his weapon again— killing two more people. With his spirit almost broken, Sam meets a stranger … a man who claims to be his father, who Sam has always believed to have died in a North Vietnamese prison camp a long time ago. This odd man, named Samuel, is as convincing as he is quirky and is revealed to be a phenomenal martial artist, the likes of which Detective Sam Reeves has never encountered. This ‘Samuel’ comes out of nowhere, equipped with a family in Vietnam and a daughter named Mai who is about to graduate from Portland State University.
With a series of interlocked events of violence: a revenge-seeking uncle, the destruction of his martial arts school, his new father’s connection to some lethal Vietnamese outlaws, Sam’s life spirals into a dreadful new direction.
If you are wondering why Mr. Christensen is qualified to write a martial arts thriller, look at some of the facts I discovered about him. Mr. Christensen began training in the martial arts in 1965 and continues to this day. Over the years he has earned a total of 11 black belts, eight in karate, two in jujitsu and one in arnis. As a result of his tour in Vietnam and nearly three decades in law enforcement, Mr. Christensen’s focus in the martial arts—writing, teaching and training— has always been on street survival, not competition. He has starred in seven martial arts training videos.
In August of 2011, Mr. Christensen was inducted into the martial arts Masters Hall of Fame in Anaheim, California, receiving The Golden Life Achievement Award. As a professional writer since 1978, Mr. Christensen has penned 46 published books with five publishers, dozens of magazine articles, and edited a police newspaper for nearly eight years. He has written on the martial arts, missing children, street gangs, school shootings, workplace violence, riots, police-involved shootings, nutrition, exercise, prostitution, and various street subcultures. His first fiction—DUKKHA: THE SUFFERING—was recently published by YMAA Publications.
Praise for Loren Christensen:
“Okay, if you’re a Loren Christensen fan you know that he’s written six bazillion non-fiction books (well really something more like 45, but whatever the actual number it’s a lot). This is his first novel. That’s a tough transition for many authors, but he’s pulled it off stunningly well. He’s done a fantastic job of leveraging three decades of law enforcement experience and a Hall of Fame-worthy martial arts career to make a gritty, realistic story that pulls you in and doesn’t let you go.” ~Lawrence A. Kane, co-author of LITTLE BLACK BOOK OF VIOLENCE, and other non-fiction and fiction books.
“I guess that soon Loren W. Christensen will receive a new black belt…as a novelist.” ~ Alec, a reviewer on Amazon.com
“Loren makes his first novel look like it is the high point in the illustrious career of many a celebrated novelist who has been writing for decades. Yes, this book is that good!” ~Shawn Kovacich, Martial Artist/Krav Maga Instructor, Author and Creator of numerous books and DVDs.
Is DUKKHA: THE SUFFERING your first fiction work? If so, will we be seeing others? Are we looking at a series featuring Sam Reeves?
DUKKHA, published by YMAA PublicationCenter, is my first fiction in a series of at least three books. DUKKHA takes place in Portland, Oregon, the second book, which is being edited now, takes place in Saigon, Vietnam, and the third is set back in Portland.
I’ve written 45 nonfiction books, all the while itching to try fiction. I’ve found over the years that certain writing projects are all about timing. For example, I co-wrote ON COMBAT with Lt. Col. Dave Grossman in 2003. I couldn’t have written such a complex book in the ‘90s, probably not even in 2000. But in 2003, the experience I gained from previous writing, such as interviewing, researching, and creating readable text out of transcripts, made it possible to tackle the 31-month project.
Likewise with DUKKHA. I couldn’t have done it in 2000. By the time I began writing it in 2009, however, I’d read a ton of how-to-write fiction literature, studied the styles of just under a kuhzillion novelists, and had matured to a place where I was comfortable creating a storyline. With those things under my belt, the novel just fell into place. Okay, it didn’t “fall into place.” It came out of my pores along with buckets of sweat and blood. And tears. And curses.
I’m sure that everyone will want to know how you created your protagonist, Sam Reeves. Is he based on a real person?
There is a little of me in Sam, though he’s 30 years younger. He’s a police officer, as I was for nearly 29 years, and he’s a martial arts teacher, as I have been for the last 47 years. I’m also a little like his father in the story, same age, though I like to think I’m not as quirky, nor are my skills on a par with his.
Sam is a likable guy, funny, a good detective, and highly motivated as a protector. One of several objectives I had in writing DUKKHA was to show what happens to a person, a good cop in this case, who desperately tries to do the right thing, succeeds in part, but then something terrible happens that is so awful and unspeakable that it threatens to destroy his soul.
You obviously hold a passion for martial arts and for writing. This shows in your public life and in your writing through DUKKHA: THE SUFFERING, but is there any other thing you are passionate about?
I’m passionate about my partner, Lisa Place, also a long-time martial artist. We wrote a book together last year called FIGHT BACK: A WOMAN’S GUIDE TO SELF-DEFENSE THAT WORKS. I’m passionate about reading; I try to complete one or two novels a week, considering it my continuing education. As I read, I constantly ask: Where are the plot points? Is this the beginning of Act 2? Why is this funny? Sad? Chilling? Moving?
I’m also passionate about movies. We’ve built a large home theater with a sound system that will peel flesh from your face. When watching them, I ask the same questions as when I read.
Did you always know the career path that you would take?
No. Most stages of my life happened after I left the door open, so to speak.
As a young man, I wanted to be a radio DJ and tried it for a while after I got out of the Army, discovering to my chagrin that I was terrible. Since I had just been a military policeman in Vietnam, I thought I’d give police work a shot, which led to several books and magazine pieces.
At one point during my career, Portland was rocked by a series of hate crimes and, because I worked in the Intelligence Unit, I was suddenly the designated expert. This resulted in a couple of nonfiction books on the subject and will be the plotline of the third fiction book in the series.
After working in the gang unit, I wrote a couple of books on street gangs and after teaching cops how to defend themselves for over 20 years, I wrote one on police defensive tactics. After working in a high prostitution area, I wrote one on prostitution. After several years training in the martial arts, I wrote numerous books and magazine articles on the subject.
I’ve been fortunate to have been exposed to an action-filled life and later write about it.
What is a typical day like for you?
I begin writing at 8:30 in the morning and wrap up around 4 in the afternoon, Monday through Friday. I like to work on two books at a time, though right now I’m writing one and editing three. Once in 2003, I had seven books in various stages, as well as a martial arts DVD, all wanting attention from their publishers. My stress-o-meter was blipping into the red zone for about four months. Sometimes that’s just how projects fall into place timing wise.
A couple times a day, I hover over a four-foot square piece of butcher paper on which I’ve mapped out the three acts, fleshed out characters, and noted ideas for various scenes. I work on three large computer monitors, one for emails, one for Googling, and one for writing. Using three is at once productive and immensely distracting.
I swap lots of emails with friends who graciously give me their time to help with my stories. In the fiction series, for example, I’m helped by a medical physician, two Vietnamese, an Apache, several soldiers, three psychologists, experts on weaponry, a SWAT officer, a teenager, and two patrol officers. Oh, and Google. The stories would not be as real and accurate as reviewers are saying without these good friends.
I find fiction much harder to write than nonfiction. With non, I shoot for four or five pages a day. With fiction I strive for two. In all types of writing, I enjoy the editing process the most, thinking of the first draft as a glob of clay on which I painstakingly etch in all the details of a face.
I just wrote an eighty-nine page e-book for Turtle Press called SELF-DEFENSE AGAINST A DOG ATTACK that hit Amazon yesterday. I recently got the rights back to a nonfiction called SKID ROW BEAT that had a 10-year run with Paladin Press. I plan to rewrite it a little and release it on my own as an Amazon e-book.
Mostly I’m working hard on the fiction series for YMAA Publication Center.
A professional writer since 1978, Loren W. Christensen has penned 50 published books with six publishers, dozens of magazine articles, and edited a police newspaper for nearly eight years. He has written about martial arts, missing children, street gangs, school shootings, workplace violence, police-involved shootings, nutrition, exercise, prostitution, and various street subcultures. He has sold about a quarter million books over the past 40 years reaching about 200,000 customers. This is his first novel. He served in the military, earned 11 black belts, and nearly three decades in law enforcement. He currently resides in Portland, Ore.
For more information about Loren Christensen, please visit his website.