Please join me in welcoming Henry to the blog.
LOST PHOTOS, OLD ARMY BUDDIES, AND WRITING MEN’S ADVENTURE FICTION
American troops have some really high-speed gear and weapons these days. Heck, people in general (including our troops) have a lot of cool stuff to play with. In particular: digital cameras.
The deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq are probably the most photographed in all history, and the shots snapped by photojournalists only account for a very small percentage of them.
I never had cause to consider this before I put my book trailer together for Hell and Gone a while back. If it wasn’t for the generosity of Jack Murphy and a few other vets, I would have had to buy an awful lot of stock photos for the project.
That’s me many moons ago with an M249 SAW trying to look like Rambo (and totally wrecking light discipline by having my buddy use his camera flash). This is one of the only photos from my Sandbox Deployment to survive; and it survives only because I mailed it to my brother (who was kind enough to scan it for me).
We didn’t have digital cameras back then, so the number of pictures I could take was limited. And if you lost the negative and the film, you lost the image forever. That’s exactly what happened to almost all of my photos from those years. Most were destroyed in a basement flood. I think the rest might be in an ex’s attic with my Class “A”s.
Anyway, I wanted to be a paratrooper ever since reading about the 101st Airborne Division’s defense of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. By the time I came of age to serve, the only Airborne division left was the 82nd, so that’s what I volunteered for. It had a pretty impressive reputation, too, so I was an All-American, and proud to be.
It may sound cliché, but I became a man in the Airborne. Before that I was an immature, naive kid with a high school diploma and a whole lot of wishful thinking. But the desire to write was already inside me. If the military career I imagined didn’t work out, at least I’d collect some experiences to write about while it lasted.
Well, I didn’t stay in for 20 years, but I sure did get some experience…and a lot more.
My now-embarrassing wishful thinking had a World War Two-style confrontation with the Soviet Union taking place, and I wanted to be in the thick of it when it did. I wanted to be a bad dude in an elite unit; but I also thought I wanted to experience conventional warfare, like those wisecracking GIs in the romanticized war movies on TV.
Hence the Airborne Infantry.
Being stationed at Fort Bragg, I had opportunities to hobnob with guys from Special Forces I met while wrenching on my street machine at the Smoke Bomb Hill auto shop, visiting the JFK Special Warfare Center, and playing “aggressor” for them out in Camp McCall. It occurred to me, after the fact, that Special Forces would have been a much better fit for me than being a line doggie in a rifle company.
(That’s me back before the US Army began handing out berets to every pogue with a breather badge from Fort Stress Card.)
Most of the characters in my two adventure novels are based on guys I knew, or sometimes amalgams of different men. I very much admired the soldiers I knew from Group, and I hope Tommy Scarred Wolf, Joshua Rennenkampf, et al, give readers the same impression I got from the real thing. I’m sad to say there weren’t as many admirable individuals in Division, though a few of them stand out from the beer-guzzling, chaw-spitting masses. Those are the guys I think of often…and smile to myself when I remember some of the crazy, stupid stuff we did. Leon Campbell is modeled after one of those paratroopers.
Part of why I take the time to develop the characters in my books is because my photos of the real-life guys have been lost forever. The next best thing I can do is paint a picture in the reader’s mind—not just of what they looked like, but what they were.
No real human being’s life plays out like a men’s adventure novel, so if you were to meet my old buddies, they probably wouldn’t live up to the badass rendering I give them in my fiction. But even though I want both Tier Zero and Hell and Gone to entertain with gobs of rip-snorting action, I’d like them to be something more than that, too. If I’ve been successful, it’s thanks to my old buddies, and the attempt to somehow capture their essence—despite the missing photographic records of them.
Henry (Hank) Brown is the author of Hell and Gone, Tier Zero and Virtual Pulp: Tales of High Adventure, Low Adventure, and Misadventure. To get up-to-speed on the blog tour and how to win the e-reader or other prizes, visit his Two-Fisted Blog.
Thanks for the guest post, Henry! I hope you enjoyed writing it as much as we did reading it.
I'd like to ask our readers to check out Tier Zero on Amazon by clicking here.
Also be sure to check out Henry's other works, Hell and Gone and Virtual Pulp!
See you all next time. Thanks again, Henry! Good luck and good writing!