The Internet Tough Guys return for a second fast-paced, globe-hopping adventure in the new novel by Bernard Maestas, GODWIN’S LAW.
With a tip of its hat to author Mike Godwin’s assertion that Internet debates will eventually result in comparisons to Nazis, the tale finds Alex Kirwan and Ted Reagan heading to Germany. There they must confront a cult that’s holding a young American woman, Gwen Kane.
While she might seem like one more member, the cult leader throws all of his paramilitary resources to bringing Gwen back once they’ve swept her away. That makes for a challenging trip home.
In fact, staying alive’s going to require all of the survival skills of ex-commando Alex plus Ted’s computer hacking skills.
From Germany to Canada to points in the U.S., the book unfolds a running battle with the unrelenting cult-leader villain and a clever mystery at its heart. What’s so special about Gwen? Is there a Nazi comparison? You’ll need to read the book to resolve those questions. You can enjoy the adrenaline pumping confrontations and the clever banter between Alex and Ted along the way.
Meanwhile, Maesta, a police officer who works writing in around his job patrolling the mean streets of Hawaii, agreed to a few questions about the tale, while keeping important plot points close to his chest.
Your Internet Tough Guys, Alex and Ted, return in GODWIN’S LAW, their second adventure. In previous interviews you’ve mentioned some true-life inspiration for this book. Can you fill us in a little on how this story came about without giving away any important twists?
I’ll have to keep this answer a little vague, but mainly it relates to the character Gwen. She’s based on a real person who was very important to me. When I first came up with the idea for the novel, she was heavily on my mind and I was looking for a creative outlet to channel that into. I took some creative liberties, exaggerated a lot of things, and built my story around hers.
The tale is certainly action packed. Alex and Ted are involved in some very cinematic activities including chases, hand-to-hand fights, and the theft of a train engine. How do you plan your action sequences and does your law enforcement training provide background?
Cinematic is a great way to describe the Internet Tough Guys series. The books have been referred to as “novelizations of action movies that don’t exist yet.” Most of the time when I’m concocting my stories, I see them as movies in my head, played out just for me. Then, I translate them into a medium, be it novel, graphic novel, or film.
My personal training does include performance driving, martial arts, and parkour, among other things that appear in the novel. As I expand upon below, I try to base these things on reality as much as possible and exaggerate for literary effect only when absolutely necessary. All of the techniques that appear in GODWIN’S LAW are real.
Did you do a lot of research into how trains operate? Could you steal one if you needed to in a crunch? Do you try any of the car stunts at home?
Compared to other books and aspects of this one, I did pretty much the bare minimum and focused on the U-Bahn.
I am decidedly not a hacker like Ted (sometimes I think I’m barely computer literate), so I could not pull off the theft. (I could, however, steal a car in a pinch, but that’s another story.)
Regarding the car stunts, and this is such a cliché answer (but, let’s face it, it sounds really cool), I’m not at liberty to divulge the nature of certain things that I’ve been trained to do behind the wheel!
What inspired the cult with a private army in the story? Any particular group or organization?
Hmm. I’m going to plead the fifth on this question because the primary group is extraordinarily litigious.
What I can say is that I also took some cues from American cults like the Branch Davidians. Fanatical, cult-based militias are disturbingly common, much more than most people realize.
Which authors are your biggest influences? What about films? Any action thrillers that really inspire your imagination?
I don’t know that any authors have really influenced me that much. Many have certainly inspired me, however. Early on, it was authors like Orson Scott Card, J.D. Salinger, and F. Scott Fitzgerald that made me want to turn my story ideas into prose. I read a lot and my two current favorites (Rob Thurman and ITW member Karen Traviss) help keep me motivated sometimes, I think.
I’ve said before, and proudly repeat it, I grew up in the golden age of action movies. They certainly had a huge influence on me when I was younger and, when I created the Internet Tough Guys series, part of my goal was to try and bring some of the lost aspects of those heroes back.
The Die Hard and Lethal Weapon franchises stand out most in my mind. They really epitomize those “golden age” movies, especially their heroes.
I was so thrilled once when Alex and Ted were actually described as “Riggs and Murtagh for a new generation.”
Philosophically, how do you feel about the balance between action and reality? How grounded does a thriller need to be?
This is always an interesting question, and it’s actually one that I tackled a few months ago as part of The Big Thrill’s Thriller Roundtable. Relating to this series, it’s somewhat interesting, because when I set out to write it, my plan was to include nothing but raw reality based things I’ve personally experienced.
However, I realized very quickly that some things simply don’t translate for an audience. Most gunfights and car chases, for example, are very quick, almost too quick to follow. I believe I mentioned on the panel (or perhaps another interview) that my first car chase lasted thirty seconds, tops. When putting it down on the page, certain liberties inevitably have to be taken.
Along those lines, with GODWIN’S LAW, I stepped outside of reality a little more for the sake of building a more exciting story. The original Berlin escape, for example, was going to be another car chase.
I think realism is critical in modern fiction. Audiences are more informed than ever before, thanks to the Internet, and they demand more reality in their stories. That said, there has to be a certain amount of suspension of disbelief that varies from author to author and even novel to novel.
With me, people are going to get action sequences that are rooted in reality but exaggerated or expanded upon for the sake of making every scene more enjoyable to the reader.
Is it tough to keep the banter between the protagonists breezy? That involves a different area of heavy lifting, almost from the comedy writer’s area.
I think it normally is, however, this is one of my strengths as a writer, I think. The banter and heavy sarcasm comes naturally to me and was among the easiest parts of the book to write. It was also one of the first major elements of the series that I decided upon when I was creating it and the characters. I definitely think it influenced me to make two protagonists so they could play off of each other.
I do have some experience writing comedy, interestingly enough. A good example is that a close friend and I once created a controversial TV comedy series that floated around on the Web. We attempted to pitch it but no one was going to take two teenagers seriously so it never saw the light of day.
GODWIN’s LAW includes an excerpt from the next Internet Tough Guys adventure. What’s in store for them in the future, and do you have a thought about how many Internet Tough Guys novels you’ll write?
Well, unfortunately, I can’t reveal too much detail about the next novel, though the excerpt, I think, sets the stage pretty well for the book. I think You Think This is a Game? is the best of the series, so far. If you like the action, the banter, and the Internet memes of the first two novels, you’ll love the third one!
I have big plans for the series, but won’t give any spoilers. Only one person has been told the long term direction of the series and he replied, “That’s quite a story you’re getting ready to tell.”
I hesitate to reveal this but, as of now, the plan is to write a total of nine Internet Tough Guys novels. But, I guess it depends whether or not someone keeps publishing them, too, ha ha!
Anything else you’d like to tell us about the book or the series?
I’ll use this opportunity to say a big “thank you” to every reader and fan out there. Your support means everything to me!
Bernard Maestas lives in paradise. A police officer patrolling the mean streets of Hawaii, he has a background in contract security and military and civilian law enforcement. When not saving the world, one speeding ticket at a time, and not distracted by video games and the internet, he is usually hard at work on his next book.