Who are your favorite authors?
The first author I really became aware of was Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. I was introduced to him by one of my junior high teachers, Mrs. Millman. In adulthood I got into thrillers. Like many writers in the genre I was inspired by Tom Clancy. The last decade or two has produced a great stable, including David Poyer, Stephen Hunter, Brad Taylor, Ward Larsen, Vince Flynn and Brad Thor. When I venture into the mystery/crime genre, my favorite is William Kent Krueger. As for non-fiction, I enjoy the works of many writers, particularly Dick Couch, a former Navy SEAL and Vietnam veteran, who has also penned some pretty good fiction.
What is your background in martial arts?
I’ve been studying martial arts since 2001. That was actually my fourth attempt, going back to my college days. Like a lot of adults, I’d hit a wall early in my training, when you discover you’re not going to be Bruce Lee in six weeks of training. But by ’01, my son Jim was 13 and well on his way to earning black belts in the Korean arts of taekwondo and hapkido. This time I didn’t give up, and earned my own taekwondo black belt in ’05. Five years later my wife Sue joined me as we began training in the Okinawan arts of isshin-ryu karate and ryukudo kobojutsu, which is the study of weaponry. We achieved black belt status in 2014. I also have extensive training in the Russian art of Systema, in which I worked with current and former Spetsnaz commandos, along with fellow students from all over the world.
If your books are made into movies, who would you like to see in the lead roles?
Like any author, I’d be happy just to see my work on the big screen, no matter who the actors might be. But if I had my druthers, I’d choose Maggie Q from Nikita or Ming-na Wen from Agents of SHIELD to play Jo Ann Geary, the White Vixen. As for the Hayes brothers in the Quest novels, actors like Hugh Jackman and Gerard Butler come to mind.
Now that we’re talking about movies, which ones are your favorites?
My wife and I both enjoy movies, and our Netflix account gets heavy usage. My all-time faves are the Rocky films, and the recent Kickboxer and Ip Man series are very well-done. The best war films I’ve seen are Saving Private Ryan, Fury, 12 Strong and 13 Hours. As for sci-fi, I have enjoyed all the Star Trek films, and my all-time favorite in that genre is the original War of the Worlds from 1953. And as a superhero fan, the recent run of Marvel and DC movies have been great fun. I also have to cite the 1997 TV movie Rough Riders, which inspired my study of the life of one of our greatest presidents, Theodore Roosevelt. But the biggest emotional impact I’ve ever had from a movie came from watching The Passion of the Christ.
How about TV series?
In days of yore I enjoyed dramas like LA Law and NYPD Blue. As you might expect, I was a regular viewer of Walker, Texas Ranger. Marvel and Netflix have combined for some great series, like Daredevil, Jessica Jones and The Punisher. The critics hated Iron Fist, so I was inclined to like it right away. Sue and I enjoyed Outlander very much. That’s one of the best adaptations of books-to-screen that I’ve seen, with great cinematography, compelling characters and fine attention to period detail. All in all, though, I’d have to say my all-time favorite is the Spartacus series that ran on Starz from 2010-13. To me, the character of Spartacus embodied the true spirit of the hero, and I like stories about heroes.
So we take it that you’re a superhero fan?
I was a big Batman and Superman fan as a kid, and still am. I think we’re in the Golden Age of superheroes now, certainly when it comes to film and TV versions. I was always a DC guy, so the films of my two biggest heroes are my favorites, of course, but I like the Marvel films, too, especially those featuring Captain America and the Wolverine. Someone asked me recently about these films: why are they so popular nowadays? I said that I think it’s because we as a society really are longing for heroes. Our recent political leadership, sad to say, has been disappointing, if not downright incompetent. Most people yearn for leadership, for someone to inspire them, show them the way. Heroes do that, and superheroes are at the top of the list. It’s too bad they’re fictional, because we could sure use them right now.
So, besides writing and traveling, you’re on the radio, too?
Yes, it’s like that scene in The Godfather Part III, where Michael Corleone complains about being constantly pulled back in even as he tries to get away. But I’m not complaining about radio. It was my first passion, starting when I was a kid. I listened to great sports announcers like Eddie Doucette calling Milwaukee Bucks basketball and Earl Gillespie on Wisconsin Badgers football, and I was hooked. I majored in broadcasting at UW-Platteville and embarked on a 20-year career that eventually brought me to Rice Lake, working for an old UWP friend of mine at his station, WJMC. I left that job in 1999 to see what else I might be able to do, and landed at the Social Security Administration office in town. Several years went by and the radio called me back to do sports broadcasting, my specialty, and after I retired from SSA in 2019, more radio work was waiting. To borrow another Godfather phrase, they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. So now I’m the morning announcer on our country station, WJMC-FM (96.1), and the play-by-play voice of Rice Lake High School sports. You can hear me on our live-stream at www.wjmcradio.com. It keeps me pretty busy, but I still get time to write, train and travel.
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