Thrillerfest–Meeting a Debut Author

One of the best aspects of Thrillerfest is the people you meet in between the formal sessions. At this Thrillerfest, I had the privilege to spend a little time with Walt Gragg.

Walt is a “success story” from Thrillerfest. His debut novel, “The Red Line” was published by Penguin, Random House in May 2017. I believed he obtained his agent through Pitchfest. It can be done.

Walt was the head of the volunteers at Thrillerfest, so I assume he had done this for a number of years. He always seemed to be available to the attendees, and he was particularly active at Pitchfest. He calmed the nervous masses with suggestions and pretty much kept order during the event among those waiting to do their pitches. He always interjected a bit of humor into the proceedings. He took the time to walk me among the rooms to be used for Pitchfest and had many valuable suggestions. Simply stated, he was a very good and decent person, and the entire event was better for his presence.

I thought so highly of him that I bought his debut novel, “The Red Line,” which was available in the bookstore at Thrillerfest. No, Walt was not pushing his book at the event. He was busy making the attendees at Pitchfest as comfortable as he could. Marketing his book was not on his agenda that day, he was just being helpful.

I was glad I bought the book. It was a World War III scenario, and he did a fine job with it. “The Red Line” grabbed me right from the beginning. His political scenario was very plausible and his descriptions of the folks in the trenches were realistic and riveting. He pulled absolutely no punches and conveyed the horrors of modern warfare to the reader without any sugar coating. His story included combatants and their loved ones.¬† He walked the fine line showing the great heroism by those fighting the war without glorifying warfare. The technical details seemed to be accurate but not overwhelming to this non-technical reader. I have read a number of thrillers as I embarked on this writing journey, including some by a number of more “famous” authors. I enjoyed this one as much as any I have read during this journey.

Walt has been an inspiration to me.¬† I recommend “The Red Line” and wish him a lot of success. I look forward to his next novel, and would not be surprised to see a film version of “The Red Line” in the not too distant future.

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Dunkirk–The Movie

We went to see the movie “Dunkirk.” We found it very enjoyable. In addition, it was a great example of the writing maxim “show, don’t tell” as well as the technique of starting “in medias res” or in the middle of things.

This movie was all “show.” I don’t believe the movie told anything. There was no backstory whatsoever. The characters were developed through what they did rather than what someone said about them. As any beginning writer will tell you, that sounds very easy to do. Trust me, it is not. Any writer looking for a great example of “show, don’t tell,” can find it in this well-done movie. This movie is nonstop action, and the characters emerge from their actions in difficult situations. The characters were not superheroes, but ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances. My only criticism was that they may have tried too hard following the “show don’t tell” mantra. I did not really identify with any of the characters and became confused at times over which character was doing what. I felt this was only a small flaw, however.

The movie began with an unidentified British soldier foraging in an abandoned war-ravaged¬† French town. The soldier was chased by unseen but terrifying gunmen. This grabbed the audience right away. As the soldier ran and ducked the bullets, the magnitude of the situation became evident. It was a great example of the writing maxim that the story should start “in the middle of things.” Dunkirk was a textbook presentation of this technique, and in this case it worked like a charm.

The special effects were really well done and the numerous plane crashes, ship-sinking, dogfights, and strafing kept you on the edge of your seat, even though you knew what the outcome was going to be. The horror of war was very evident. There was no glorification of war only the quiet heroism of ordinary people caught in an episode of World War II that an American like myself had only very limited knowledge.