Tag Archives: action adventure


After a l-o-n-g delay, Destination Mutiny, the next installment of my SPACEHAWKS military sf series (published back in the previous century by Ace Books) is now available in Kindle format. Originally published in September 1991, the book is back after several years out of print and still listed under my pen name, Sean Dalton.

The Spacehawks are a special ops team that mutinies after being forced to leave a teammate behind in their previous mission. They set out against orders to rescue Operative 41.

Although #5 is a close sequel to #4 The Rostma Lure, I’ve left this project dangling for far too long. I have plenty of reasons for that, but no excuses. To the handful of people that have read the series to this point, my apologies for the wait.

The topic of mutiny has long been of interest to me. What incites someone to rebel despite heavy penalties? What drives people to violate sworn oaths of loyalty, duty, training, and possibly conscience to break orders and strike out on their own? Consider classic films such as Mutiny on the Bounty and The Caine Mutiny, where naval crews are driven to desperate measures by cruel ship captains. But is mutiny always incited by cruelty or sadism? Are there other possible causes? I believe there are, and I remain fascinated by how such situations tear people apart. But despite the variations, they usually boil down to injustice and how long someone is willing to endure it. Why will one individual stick and obey–no matter what orders are given–and why will another break free?

Don’t expect much soul-searching in Destination Mutiny, however. When I wrote the book, I was under a strict deadline to produce three novels in a year, and under editorial orders to avoid letting my characters sit down to think. Instead, it’s simply action-packed adventure.



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From My Bookshelf: Alistair MacLean

Recently I was out and about at a sale when I spied a slim book bound in fake blue leather. The title on the spine said The Golden Rendezvous. My heart leapt. I reached and took down the book. I opened it. Yes, indeed, it was written by Alistair MacLean. My favorite story among all his works. No mustiness. No damage. It even had a sewn-in ribbon to mark the place.

I bought it and carried it home with a small warm glow of accomplishment. Because at his best, nobody wrote action thrillers or spy books better than MacLean.

I discovered him in 1973, my attention caught by a book called The Way to Dusty Death. I read it and was hooked immediately. Little did I know that this novel marked the beginning of MacLean’s literary decline. It was just good enough to grab me, and I quickly busied myself in digging his earlier, better works out of the library. How I enjoyed his crisp, lean style, his flawless pacing, his relentless brand of action that pushed cynical protagonists to the edge of their endurance.

MacLean wrote from 1955 to 1986. At his best, he was superb. At his worst, he was both sad and truly awful, his efforts hindered by bouts of alcoholism. The last book of his that I read was a pathetic shambles of a story, published near the very end of his career, and I did not return to him until now.

So ignore the books published in the 1970s and 1980s. Hunt down his earlier stuff. It is terrific, whether his characters are struggling survivors of a plane crash in the Artic or a poignant spy assisting defectors over the Berlin wall during the Cold War. Altogether he wrote 28 novels, many of them NY Times bestsellers, along with a collection of short stories and three nonfiction books. For a time he fell completely out of print in the USA, but when I checked Amazon this evening, I found that some of his better-known titles were reissued in 2015.

Earlier this week, I remembered I’d bought The Golden Rendezvous and picked it up to see if the old magic would still work on me. I hadn’t read this novel since I was a teenager. But I remembered the plot twist and the danger the characters went through. I remembered that I once loved it.

Other than knowing what’s coming, it’s like reading the story for the first time. MacLean takes his time establishing the characters and the ship they’re on. I’m reminded of Alfred Hitchcock’s pacing. Introducing all the elements and players slowly, taking the time to firmly settle readers into the plot situation before BAM! trouble hits in a big way.

I’d forgotten MacLean’s style. It is as lean and precise as Dick Francis–only better. Man, I wish I could write that well. And to think, English was MacLean’s second language after Gaelic.

A Scotsman, MacLean served as a torpedo operator in the Royal Navy during World War II. His first novel, HMS Ulysses, was a hit and he is world-famous for The Guns of Navarone, which was made into a successful film.

If you like action-adventure or spy thrillers, give him a try. Just make sure the books were written before 1971. Then hang on to your seat! 

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Schlock & Horror!

Over the summer, I’ve been involved in a writing project called SCHLOCK ZONE spearheaded by author Mel Odom. About a half-dozen or more writers have banded together to write individual horror novellas that will be published in e-reader format.

The first story in the group is now live. It’s called STRIPPER POLE AT THE END OF THE WORLD and was written by Eric Beetner.

My entry will be available soon. It’s called AMERICAN SLAYERS, and I’ve put it under the revived pseudonym of Sean Dalton.

For more information, go to http://schlockzone.blogspot.com/p/now-showing.html

Why, you may ask, am I writing horror?

Why, you may cry, am I writing schlocky horror?

My reply is …why not?

I’ve never written horror before. Oh, sure, I’ve crafted some scenes containing horrific elements, but I’ve never before officially entered the genre.

It’s not a favorite area of mine. As a child, I was terrified of spooky things. As a teen, I shuddered away from films like THE EXORCIST (and have yet to see it to this day). As an adult, I forced myself to sit through one–and only one–episode of WALKING DEAD before I declared, “Never again!”

But schlock isn’t serious, and it’s not supposed to be taken seriously. No one made me write about zombies, and our editorial edict was to fill the pages with action.

I can do that. In fact, action scenes are what I love best. Under the pen name Sean Dalton, I spent some time writing three novels a year–action-adventure space opera tales that moved quickly. When you write three books a year for a few years, you learn to be efficient. I would use one month to outline the plot, which left me three months to write 75,000 words for each of those dozen books. There’s not a lot of room in such stories for deep character development or intense–and lengthy–sequels that explore motivation and internal conflict. It’s … keep moving, and hit the mark the first time. The tight deadline meant next-to-no leeway for cutting and polishing later.

Since the Dalton days, I’ve shifted my focus more to fantasy. For a while, I plowed through immense tomes of traditional fantasy peopled by large casts of characters and epic struggles of good versus evil. I wrote one book a year and filled notebooks with world-building details.

But that gets old, too. And so when I heard about the SCHLOCK ZONE project, I thought it would be fun to bring the old approach down from the attic and see if I could still write “Sean-style.”

So I cooked up a couple of characters who hunt and kill demons for bounty. I call them Slayers. I made them ex-Marines and made them patriotic. They feel it’s their personal mission to hold back the onslaught of paranormals who are taking over America.

The protagonist is John Slade. His grandmother owns an antiques shop, and she’s not only taught Slade what she knows about the business but she’s also passed along her sixth sense when it comes to feeling the presence of a demon. Slade’s best friend is Mike Pick–part Sioux and built like a brick wall. Pick hates paranormals, loves to stake vampires, and enjoys spending his spare time tinkering with the old motorcycles that he and his teenage daughter are restoring.

Their nemesis is a by-the-book Internal Paranormal Service (IPS) agent named Annis Rikker. She hounds them constantly for violating federal protection laws on behalf of paranormals and does her best to foul up the jobs they take on.

All Slade and Pick want to do is earn a living doing what they enjoy most: ridding old buildings and houses of demonic infestation. With ectoplasmic disruptors, silver-plated swords (for beheadings), and demon traps made of alloy and martyr’s blood–they’re up for any challenge.

Who knows? I had fun writing the story. In a small way, I made it a parody-homage to my favorite reality television show, AMERICAN PICKERS. I thought, what if I “cross the lines” by combining elements of GHOSTBUSTERS and AMERICAN PICKERS? This is the result.

If people like it, I’m willing to make a series of it. And if this should prove to be the one and only, it was worth the time and trouble because I had a blast. After all, if you can’t have fun writing, why do it?

Each of the SCHLOCK ZONE stories will be going live about every two-three weeks.

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