Today I am thrilled to share a guest post by John Steele on publication day about his character Jackie Shaw……I hope you guys enjoy it
Years ago, I sat in a cinema on 6th Avenue in New York – or movie theatre in the local vernacular – and watched Die Hard With A Vengeance. Over two hours later I walked out into the sensory maelstrom of a summer afternoon in Manhattan, and had the surreal experience of walking from the cinema into the middle of the living, breathing movie set that is the Big Apple. Everything looked and sounded the same as it had on the big screen, a thrill for a boy from Belfast in Northern Ireland.
That was 1995, the first time I spent more than a couple of weeks away from my homeland.
I used to read a lot of fiction and watch the odd movie set in Northern Ireland during the bad old days of the ’Troubles’. The effect was the opposite of that which I enjoyed in New York some years later. The Belfast, the people, the country I saw portrayed on page and screen bore very little resemblance to the battered but resilient place in which I lived. Colin Bateman has written some fantastic comedy-thrillers about the more cartoonish aspects of life back home and David Park has produced some beautiful literary novels set in Northern Ireland, but the closest I read to a decent portrayal in a straight thriller – and this opinion still stands today – was Gerald Seymour’s Field Of Blood: a sad state of affairs when the author who comes closest to capturing the terrors of the bad old days back home is an Englishman.
John McClane is the larger than life hero of Die Hard but at heart he is an everyman. He is a regular cop placed in an extraordinary situation and the viewer gets to find out who he really is. Joseph Wambaugh is a wonderful practitioner of this breed of thriller; James Ellroy has a brilliance in this respect, also. They both write capable men who hide deep fragility. That was the protagonist I wanted to portray in my novels. Not a special forces operative, or a calculating walking war machine, or a dope-smoking break-all-the-rules copper with a love of alternative music, or a saxophone-playing gardening enthusiast with a fascination for philately who solves devilish locked-room mysteries. Just a regular cop with some useful training in an impossible situation, with his petty foibles and wee-small-hours doubts and fears. The result is Jackie Shaw.
Jackie is an essentially good man forced to do bad things in order to stop worse people. He has compulsions he struggles with and often fails to control: a volcanic temper with a capacity for brutal violence, attraction to women in relationships he knows are doomed to failure. He harbours guilt and regret over his past deeds and relationship with his parents. And he is an outsider.
This last defines much of my three novels. I was born and raised in Belfast, a city with a fractured identity but rock-solid sense of community in each of its enclaves. I left the city for faraway fields in 1995 and have never spent more than a few months there ever since. I have lived and worked on three continents and now reside in England. Jackie Shaw left Belfast under mysterious circumstances in 1993. He travelled, worked as a cop in Hong Kong and employed his gift for violence in various countries. In the first novel, Ravenhill, he returns to his hometown after twenty years and feels a shocking displacement; in the second, Seven Skins, he is embroiled in an organised crime feud among a community of immigrants, legal and otherwise, in London. In the third book, Dry River, published in August 2019 by Silvertail Books, he is on the run and out of his depth in Japan, both in the urban jungle and vast wilderness. Some of the gangland figures with whom he clashes are Burakumin, a little-known, real-world caste of Japanese who are shunned by society, strangers in their own country.
Jackie is never on familiar ground, never has home advantage, lives on his wits and what he has learned in a life of violence, and struggles to do the right thing. Throughout the books, each its own journey, he doubts his own morals, his own sense of worth, but holds close to a belief that good will win out. Through all the carnage, he holds on to a stubborn sense of hope and compassion.
Every protagonist worth his salt needs a worthy antagonist. In that respect, I defer to John Rogers who wrote, ‘You don’t really understand an antagonist until you understand why he’s a protagonist in his own version of the world.’
Jackie has faced off against paramilitaries convinced in their cause, former killers consumed by the sense they are somehow owed by the world, ex-terrorists struggling for a sense of identity now their conflict is over, and errant mobsters breaking gangland rules for family and their own sense of honour. They are outsiders like Jackie, whether in their communities, countries or criminal fraternities. They have their own foibles, strengths and weaknesses, and they are absolutely, ruthlessly deadly.
Does Jackie have a future? That remains to be seen. But whatever the answer, the books are, I hope, a wild ride. None wilder than the sex, sadism and sake-drenched third instalment, Dry River. You may not want to get too close to Jackie Shaw, but he’s a hell of a man to know.
Now let’s check the blurb out…..
PURSUED BY RUTHLESS KILLERS AND TORMENTED BY HIS OWN DEMONS, WILL JACKIE SHAW GET OUT OF JAPAN ALIVE?
‘DRY RIVER captures a sense of place with such vivid, visceral, and violent detail that you can smell the sweat, the blood, and the wasabi.’ RAYMOND BENSON
‘A fast, compulsive crime thriller. Recommended for readers who love this genre’ SHALINI’S BOOKS & REVIEWS
When ex-undercover agent Jackie Shaw visits northern Japan for a holiday, he is in search of relaxation, an escape from the brutality and tragedy of his past.
But when a local man is butchered as he spies on a young woman in the seedy heart of Sapporo’s entertainment district, Jackie is dragged into the hunt for a terrifying serial killer and begins a long and bloody battle with vicious yakuza gangs.
From the twisted underbelly of one of Japan’s largest cities to the vast, unforgiving wilderness of the northern territories of Hokkaido, DRY RIVER is a uniquely menacing and compulsive thriller which will take you to places you’ve never been before.
If you like Barry Eisler, Mark Dawson, Adrian McKinty or James Clavell, you’ll love John Steele’s books. DRY RIVER is the third book in John’s Jackie Shaw series and the most gripping yet!
‘John Steele’s picture-perfect depiction of the yakuza world in Japan is not only accurate, it is frightening.’ RAYMOND BENSON, author of Blues in the Dark and the five-book The Black Stiletto
‘This was one fast rocking ride, with the author not sparing a moment to allow me breathe.’SHALINI’S BOOKS & REVIEWS
Dry River is out today grab your copy on the link below
About the Author
John Steele was born and raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In 1995, at the age of twenty-two he travelled to the United States and has since lived and worked on three continents, including a thirteen-year spell in Japan which inspired Dry River. Among past jobs he has been a drummer in a rock band, an illustrator, a truck driver and a teacher of English. He now lives in England with his wife and daughter. He began writing short stories, selling them to North American magazines and fiction digests. Dry River is his third novel and the third Jackie Shaw book. The first two, Ravenhill and Seven Skins, are published by Silvertail Books.