“Remember, please, that while your basic macho man is still a staple of the genre, your protagonist is not required to be a neolithic chauvinist.”
– Michael Newton, How to Write Action Adventure Novels
Growing up I had a huge collection of men’s adventure novels from the Cold War era. They were formulaic, cheesy, rabidly patriotic, and choked full of mustached men shooting up communists while protecting America from foreigners. These were like Goosebumps books for grown men who owned fallout shelters and ate off commemorative plates with Ronald Reagan on them. They were also some of my favorite popcorn literature.
Because of my love for silly 80’s pulp propaganda I was thrilled to discover Michael Newton’s How to Write Action Adventure Novels. Newton was veteran writer of such titles as The Executioner, The Destroyer, and The Gun. In total he’s written over 180 men’s adventure novels. With How to Write Action Adventure Novels, Newton provides an in-depth guide to becoming a successful action adventure author.
What I enjoyed most about How to Write Action Adventure Novels was how normal the writing was. Newton is a normal guy who liked reading action novels and eventually started authoring them himself. He’s a professional writer, not an “artist.” This results in some of the easiest and most practical writing advice ever put to paper. There’s no pretentious holier than thou attitude, instead Newton is up front and honest about what it’s like to be a writer:
“As a theme in literature, revenge has been around forever. Moby Dick is a revenge yam, and despite the fact that college courses have been built around the ‘hidden symbolism’ of the story, I suspect that Herman Melville – and his readers, too – were more contemporarily concerned with the adventure aspects of the tale, its pacing, and the monster waiting to make hash of Captain Ahab at the end.”
How to Write Action Adventure Novels also functions well as a basic writing guide for almost any traditional work of fiction. Newton breaks down information such as when it’s appropriate to have sex scenes in a work, what type of stereotypes are and aren’t okay to be portrayed, and how to write in an intelligible manner. I also found some of the book’s grammar lessons to be quite amusing since they use what are essentially prose versions of Chuck Norris movies to demonstrate the difference between concepts like active and passive voice.
For any aspiring author’s, the book’s final chapter makes it very clear that self publishing is the way of the future. Newton’s description of getting a book published and how one must act subservient to their publisher, paint a vivid picture as to why traditional book distribution is dying out.
Overall I enjoyed this book. It’s not the best writing guide out there, but it is entertaining and informative. An aspiring action novelist could do far worse than to pick up this guide and follow it’s instructions. Even an unemployed English or Journalism major could probably benefit from spending three dollars on How to Write Action Adventure Novels. I’m sure that with a little work an ambitious person could make some decent money writing and self publishing their own men’s adventure series.