By David Higginbotham
As we mentioned in our earlier piece, College Bans Book Because of Gun on Cover, author J.M. Maloney, an avid golfer and mortgage financier, has been caught up in a strange mix of First and Second Amendment politics. Maloney and his Brad Stephens series of murder mysteries were barred from a recent charity golf tournament at Santa Barbara City College because of a pistol on the cover of Maloney’s novel Breakfast Ball. Rather than cave under the pressure of censorship, Maloney wants to get the gun details right, and he’s looking to GunsAmerica readers for suggestions.
The irony of Maloney’s plight is that guns play a relatively small part in the mystery that unfolds in Breakfast Ball. The novel’s climactic action unfolds in a relatively brief hail of bullets. Without giving anything away, I’ll simply say that some aspiring terrorists find it hard to hit their targets while bobbing up and down on jet skis. As this is fiction, the undercover agents have no difficulty dispatching the terrorists with what we are led to believe are handguns they had effectively concealed beneath golfing garb. The good guys make multiple center-mass hits from long distances and do with their handguns what the terrorists can’t manage with their rifles.
It isn’t completely plausible, but few readers will notice, as the action at the end of the book is intense and filled with layered intrigue. Yet what differentiates a novice from an experienced author is the ability to convincingly shape the world of the book. If the gunfights in the book are going to be implausible, they still have to be believably implausible. We read books like this to escape reality, but we still want some realism.
So Maloney’s looking to us for some advice. When he and I talked about the censorship he faced at SBCC, we also talked shop. Here’s his latest dilemma. He’s building a scene and needs some details, and he is looking for us for advice.
So here’s the situation…
Maloney writes: In the second book, Death at the High End, I begin moving Brad Stephens, the main protagonist, towards self-defense. One of the things he does is to buy a handgun for household protection. In doing so, his buddy, Sergeant Raoul Espinoza, starts taking him to a local shooting range.
I tie a golfers’ joke into the scene when they’re practicing:
“Why am I missing high and right?” Brad asks.
“It’s due to your LOFT,” Espinoza says.
“You mean loft like on a golf club? I wasn’t aware guns had loft.”
“No—LOFT, as in Lack of Fucking Talent.”
The handgun? It’s a Walther PPK. Yet for Maloney’s character, the PPK is more of a cinematic homage, and the choice hasn’t been all that well thought out. In the third book, Subprime Indiscretions, Brad Stephens is getting serious about handguns, and Maloney needs to know the specifics. What gun? What caliber? What kind of holster, and where would it be worn? How does Brad Stephens carry the gun? What does he do to train? Does he carry with the safety on or off?
So what’s right about the PPK choice? Is the over-sized .380 still a relevant tool for self defense? And what would our protagonist choose if he wanted something smaller, and with more punch. This is your chance to influence the course of the novel. Let us know in the comment section below.