Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bob Hamer Hits the Bullseye with "Targets Down"

Working undercover meant more than a fake driver’s license and a fictitious name. It was living life as a liar for hours, days, even months at a time. It meant becoming one of them without becoming one of them. Distance offered detachment, but when you went undercover, it became personal. It was getting close to people you will ultimately betray and probing the darkest side of humanity, including your own. Unlike Hollywood, there were no retakes; a botched line, a missed mark, a mistake could mean instant death. Matt Hogan walked in the flames many times; he experienced the fire.           - From Targets Down, by Bob Hamer

“Write what you know” is the first and most basic advice every aspiring creative writer tries to take to heart. Like all writing advice, this is easier said than done, and few novelists make that formula work more successfully and naturally than Bob Hamer, author of last year’s Enemies Among Us and the new Targets Down.

Undercover FBI agent Matt Hogan, the fictional protagonist of both thrillers, bears a striking resemblance to his creator, who spent 26 years as a street agent for the FBI, usually undercover. Hamer, also a Marine Corps vet, relates that remarkable quarter-century backstory in his engrossing, sometimes shocking first book, The Last Undercover: The True Story of an FBI Agent's Dangerous Dance with Evil.

In his capacity as an undercover agent, he walked convincingly in the flames with drug dealers, pedophiles, gangs, international arms dealers, and killers. Hamer brings this gritty experience to bear on every page of his novels, lending them a degree of detailed authenticity that’s unusual in the thriller genre. No less a thriller authority than Vince Flynn confirms this, having said of Hamer that he "delivers realism only an undercover FBI agent can bring."

No-nonsense man’s man Matt Hogan is one of the most genuine heroes you'll find in the genre. He’s no superhuman Bourne or Bond, but a refreshingly real-life hero of the kind that actually fills the ranks of American law enforcement – standup patriots who put their lives on the line to take down the bad guys, but whose work consists more of paperwork drudgery than flashy gunplay or the bedding of bombshells.

Hogan gets his share of action too, but Hamer's action scenes are also grounded in reality and not cartoonish – as are his plots. In Enemies Among Us, Hogan goes undercover to investigate a charity suspected of funding Islamic terrorists (that’s right, Islamic terrorists, not Homeland Security’s usual suspects: disgruntled veterans and violent, racist Tea Partiers). In Targets Down, Hogan gets down-and-dirty in the real-world swamp of Russian organized crime, neo-Nazis, sex trafficking, and a jihadist with a plan to make 9/11 seem “like a footnote in our history books.” Not a rogue CIA program or evil capitalist is to be found between the covers of either book.

His page-turners are smoothly and naturally written, and laced with plenty of humor. They’re peopled with characters, not caricatures. Unheard of in contemporary fiction, some of these characters are actually religious and attend church, and are not portrayed mockingly for it. And (surprisingly, for an author who would kick my butt for suggesting that he’s in touch with his feminine side) even Hamer's female characters are well-drawn, not simply sexy window dressing – like Hogan’s wife Caitlin, a grade-school teacher who keeps him grounded with her quiet strength and Christian faith.

Hamer’s real-life undercover experience was useful preparation for more than just his novels, as he moved on from the FBI to deal with even sleazier and more ruthless, reprehensible characters. That’s right – he went to work in Hollywood. He has consulted on shows including Law & Order: SVU, Sleeper Cell, The Inside, and Angela’s Eyes. He has written episodes for The Inside and Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye.

Most importantly, somewhere along the line, Hamer managed to hook up with one of the minority of standup, decent guys in this cutthroat town – the proudly conservative actor/director/producer Jack Scalia, whom you may remember from a 30-year career in television and film, not to mention stints in pro sports and modeling. Scalia’s chin alone has more commanding masculine presence than today’s wispy leading metrosexuals like Johnny Depp or Orlando Bloom. Scalia, who describes Targets Down as “pedal to the metal, red-lining in every gear,” has optioned the book for a feature film.

(Full disclosure: I’m honored to say that Bob Hamer and Jack Scalia are both friends of mine. Does that cast doubts upon my objectivity? Will some dismiss this article as a puff piece? Frankly I don’t care, because I’m much more afraid of either Bob or Jack spearing me with steely, disapproving glares than I am of the slings and arrows of accusations of favoritism.)

Not a day goes by on Big Hollywood that we conservatives don’t lament the leftist dominance of pop culture, and wish that there were more good-quality books and films that reflect our values instead of Hollywood’s usual nihilistic, elitist fare. Well, here’s a chance to get behind a couple of our own and support their work. Check out all of Bob Hamer’s books including the new thriller Targets Down, and hit the theaters when Jack Scalia brings the latter to the big screen.

(Originally posted at Big Hollywood here, 6/5/11)