On Writing My Action Adventure ‘Black Ops’ Series, by Jim Eldridge
After writing about the creation and development of “THE INVISIBLE ASSASSIN” (the first in my new Malichea Quest series of action adventure thrillers with a paranormal undertone) in my blog post a couple of months ago, I thought this time round I’d give the inside track on creating and writing my Black Ops series of action adventures for teenagers.
For some years I’ve been writing historical fiction for children and teenagers in the My Story series for Scholastic. The most popular seemed to be those set against a background of warfare, usually World War 1 and World War 2, and the letters I got from readers suggested they liked the action scenes (where the hero of the book is engaged in some really dangerous battle, such as Alamein, or Dunkirk, or the Somme).
The fact that, in most of these battles, the average age of combatant soldiers was only 19 prompted me to think that the soldiers engaged in the action were not much older than most of my readers. It’s often struck me that in most ‘action movies’ and ‘action novels’ the hero is some dynamic action man in his 30s or 40s, whereas the truth is that most combat soldiers are much younger, and always have been. For example, Wing Commander Guy Gibson, the commander of the famous Dam Busters squadron, was only 24 at the time of the attack on the dams of the Ruhr, and by that time he’d already flown 170 operations. And, as I mentioned earlier, during the Vietnam War the average age of the soldiers fighting was just 19 years of age.
So, for my Black Ops series, I decided to create a unit of Special Forces soldiers who were all in the late teens or early twenties. They couldn’t be younger than that, because Special Forces soldiers have to go through a long period of training.
I also discovered that the UK and the USA have joint training programmes for their Special Forces – the UK’s SAS and the US’s Delta Force – and I thought “That would make an interesting combination: a combined covert Special Forces outfit, half UK, half US personnel.”
My next thought was: how do I introduce the reader to this particular outfit? Who will be the main character the readers will follow into the first story, and the series.
In all my historical fiction, especially those set during wartime, I have always taken the side of the ordinary soldier and usually contrasted their bravery and intelligence with the sometimes misguided decision-making of the military High Command. The famous phrase about the soldiers of the First World War, “lions led by donkeys”, sums this up.
Researching Special Forces, one thing became clear: soldiers who serve as Special Forces are a very rare and special breed – many of them have a maverick quality. This doesn’t mean they are rebels, or disobey orders, far from it; but most of them are free and lateral thinkers, who think, and act, ‘outside the box’ of traditional society, and traditional authority. For them to respect someone, it has to be earned: it is the person they respond to, not the rank.
From that I came up with the character of Mitch Mitchell, 19 years old, a former SAS soldier, kicked out of the regiment because he killed his commanding officer. At the start of the first book Mitch is disillusioned with the armed forces because of this incident, and how he felt let down by his superiors. He wants nothing more to do with the army, until he meets the charismatic Colonel Chuck Nelson, US Special Forces commander, who invites him to join this combined US-UK Delta Unit on a rescue mission in Africa. Even then, Mitch is reluctant, and some of Delta Unit are obviously suspicious of him because of his background.
That first book explores the nature of comradeship and loyalty under fire. So far there have been three books published in this series: JUNGLE KILL; DEATH IN THE DESERT; and URBAN ASSASSIN (all published by Egmont in the UK and Australia and other territories); with Scholastic USA publishing the first book (retitled JUNGLE FORCE) in the US.
I hope you like them!
Details of the books can be found on my website at www.jimeldridge.com.