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By Guy Bergstrom

Thriller and mystery heroes have always been tough guys — and girls.

There is no real debate, though, that the toughest fighters in the world are the practitioners of mixed-martial arts (MMA).

And there’s no disputing the fact that the fight game, in all of its forms, has always attracted gambling and a criminal element. Sumo and boxing have often been rocked by accusations of fixed fights and performance-enhancing drugs. MMA may be new, but it’s not immune from those forces, especially in the lesser known circuits where there’s less attention and scrutiny.

Jeremy Brown’s new novel, HOOK AND SHOOT, gives us modern hero, Woody, who’s knee-deep in the fight game and the murky underworld of crime.

Hook and shoot are both MMA terms. When you shoot, you dive in to grab your opponents leg (one or both) and try to take them to the ground. A hook can mean a type of punch, like a left hook, and it’s also a term from wrestling, which has underhooks and overhooks.

Brown knows what he’s writing about. He’s trained in JeetKune Do, the martial art founded by Bruce Lee, along with MMA and close-quarters combat. He also says it hurts far less to write about such things.

Without giving away the ending or any twists, what’s at stake in your novel — for the hero and for the public — if the villain wins?

In HOOK AND SHOOT, the Yakuza is trying to worm its way into Banzai Eddie’s MMA promotion company, Warrior Inc., because of a debt he owes them. When they don’t get payment in cash, they come for Eddie’s blood–all of it. Woody has finally gained momentum in the struggle to pull away from his criminal past, and a contract with Warrior might just get him over the hump.

Woody needs Banzai Eddie alive and in control of Warrior so he can get that contract and keep the promotion from becoming a crooked front for organized crime. Woody thinks it’s his own professional life he’s defending, but by protecting Eddie, Woody puts himself in the crosshairs against an enemy much more dangerous than the Yakuza, with a very personal score to settle.

What inspired you to write a thriller instead of a mystery or other type of book?

The original manuscript for SUCKERPUNCH (Round 1 of the Woodshed Wallace series) was actually much closer to a mystery, with Woody getting sucked into helping a woman recover her kidnapped son. When I rewrote it to feature more MMA, it made sense that Woody’s primary talent should be survival, not sleuthing.

He uses his connections in the criminal underworld to get answers and resolve conflicts (not always peacefully), but the ultimate goal is to survive, not solve a mystery.

I like that this is the only question Woody really cares about: Is this a threat to me or those I love? If the answer is Yes, his response is to eliminate the threat. No room for mystery there.

What do you think thrillers have to say about the old literary question of what’s worth living for and what’s worth dying for?

There’s a song by Queens of the Stone Age titled “Go with the Flow” with these lyrics:

“I want something good to die for to make it beautiful to live.”

I think thrillers boil it down to what a character feels is worth fighting for, and the ultimate in that category is that which they cannot live without.

We talked earlier about stakes, and if the character is in a situation where she could lose something she can’t live without, she’ll fight to the death to keep it safe. Because if she loses it, she’s dead anyway.

Figuratively, the character could fight for anything–a loved one, a concept (freedom, justice), defenseless masses. In this case, the character would rather die than fail. The thrill comes when she risks her life to succeed.

I usually prefer to write about it in the literal sense, where the character is fighting against someone or something that is trying to kill him, along with any hopes or goals he may have. I find the conflict and urgency much more satisfying.

Who are your favorite authors, regardless of genre?

Elmore Leonard, Steven Pressfield, Seth Godin, Jack Higgins, Bernard Cornwell, JJ Connolly

Obviously, you’ve got a similar background to the hero. In what ways are you different?

Ha! I don’t know how similar we are–I hadn’t been to Las Vegas as an adult until I vacationed there with my wife and some friends last spring.

I’ve also never been in an illegal pit fight or worked as muscle in seedy clubs protecting scumbags, and Woody didn’t grow up with great parents in Michigan, playing with GI Joe and watching professional wrestling and The Cosby Show.

I have done some martial arts and MMA-specific training, but I’ve never competed. It takes a different kind of animal to commit to that path, and I’m happy telling Woody’s stories from a life that is nowhere close to his.

Sequels — what hints and teases can you give out?

I just finished the synopsis for ANACONDA CHOKE, Round 3 in the Woodshed Wallace series,  and I’ll get to work on the manuscript soon.

From the beginning this was planned as a five-book series, the same number of rounds in a championship MMA fight. Woody has plenty more fights ahead of him!


Jeremy Brown is the author of the Crime Files: Four-Minute Forensic Mysteries books and the MMA crime thriller Suckerpunch. He has trained in Jeet Kune Do, MMA, and close-quarters combat and quickly realized it hurts less to write about such things. He lives in Michigan.

To learn more about Jeremy, please visit his website.

Guy Bergstrom