Some reflections on this subject have started, in part because of how long it’s taken me to get into Lex Talionis, in part because of a few of the reactions I’ve gotten to the announcement that the fifth book in the Praetorians series will also be the final one. After all, my primary audience seems to be focused on the Praetorians, so why not keep telling stories about Jeff and Co.?
There are a few reasons. For one, when I started the Jed Horn series with A Silver Cross and a Winchester, I found that I just needed a break, a different outlet for my mind. That need hasn’t gone away, which is why I’ve been alternating between series and genres for the last couple of years.
I’ve also made the statement that I’ve put Jeff and his boys through some pretty harrowing stuff over the last four books. I was starting to touch on how it was wearing on Jeff as a man (not a Mack Bolan superman) in The Devil You Don’t Know. That’s coming out in spades in Lex Talionis. Most real-world shooters only have so many years of running and gunning before they either go contract (which in real life tends to be far less eventful and far more comfortable than what the Praetorians have been up to), or get promoted into more administrative and logistical jobs. Even before that, far more time is spent in training than in actual combat. I’ve developed a (admittedly small) reputation for realism, if compressed realism, as Dave Reeder put it, and to not show the toll that the high-risk, low-support operations have put on these guys would be straining that realism to its breaking point.
The fact is also there that the Praetorian series was born of a particular mindset, coming out of the Marine Corps. Not to compare myself to David Drake (The man is a grand-master. I am an apprentice.), but Drake once said that the Hammer’s Slammers series was born of a mindset post-Vietnam that he really didn’t want to go back to. I’m not quite entirely in the same boat, but I increasingly find myself thinking along somewhat different lines than I used to. Some of this will be reflected in Jeff’s own internal journey through Lex Talionis.
I have found in recent months that there are some themes that I can explore through somewhat more fantastical and speculative genres and settings that are harder to get into in the military action thriller business. I have found my muse drawn in that direction more and more lately.
Also, from a purely mercenary standpoint, the mil thriller market is dominated by big names that I simply can’t compete with in the indie market. The likes of Tom Clancy (and his posthumous ghost-writers), Brad Thor, and Vince Flynn (again, posthumous ghost writers included) are the sure-money bets that Big Publishing will back, and they are the sure bets that most readers are going to pick up. The indie thriller market is a very niche one, and it’s hard to get noticed in the shadow of the rest. So, diversification offers more options and a broader audience.
None of this means that I’m abandoning the shooter genre. There are more near-future war stories on the horizon, albeit with new characters and new problems that need to be solved through speed, surprise, and violence of action.
There just might be more stories coming out in other, less familiar settings.