When I talk about industry I am referring to the publishing industry. This is not a rant about publishers. Okay, maybe a little but not directed towards publishers per se but more towards the authors that they publish.
Here are the paramount issues: lack of due diligence research and failure to check your facts. Right now, fact checking is the latest big ‘thing’.
Below are a number of examples of those who did not do research or check their facts:
Let’s start with John Grisham. He is an author who has written and sold more books than me and for good reason. The man is a machine. His specialty is legal thrillers. With that in mind, his latest novel, Gray Mountain, is in need of some technical assistance. This novel, set in coal mining country, has a character who uses a ’51 millimeter, semi-automatic rifle’ to shoot mining truck tires. John, I say this with the utmost respect, there is a difference between caliber and millimeter, please learn the difference. Pretty sure he was referring to this weapon:
And not something like this:
If such a rifle existed as described, it would be a crew-served, light artillery piece and not in any way man-portable. If such a weapon system were used to shoot mining truck tires, investigators would be hard pressed to determine that the truck was even a truck after projectile impact.
Don Pendleton, the author of the Executioner, Able Team, and several other series, died a number of years ago. The publisher, by means of an army of ghost writers, continues these titles today. However, they are now rife with wtf moments and lack serious research. There are scenes where characters rack a round in the chamber of a semi-automatic handgun without removing said firearm from the holster. Scenes where a character, using a limited range weapon, somehow engages a hostile that is way outside the range of that weapon or its capabilities. Just as bad, we have a character picking up a hostile’s weapon, having an internal dialogue about not knowing how much ammo is still in that weapon then proceeding to go full auto. These are all wtf moments that astute readers, Hell, any reader, will pick up on and call foul.
Tom Clancy, also deceased, has books coming out with his name on them but authored by those I like to call the author of the week. None of the recent novels with his name on them can hold a candle to the work he did while he was alive. If you’re an author who is under contract to write a Clancy novel, do your research or, dare I even say it, ask someone who has the information so that the alleged ‘tactical’ movements done by characters within your ghost-written novels has some real-world tactics, techniques, and procedures that will lend a sense of credibility and realism to their actions.
Z.A. Recht, author of the Morningstar Strain, also deceased, has his publisher pumping out sequels to his book that are not even close to what I can only imagine Recht’s vision of the series should be. In The Morningstar Strain: Healers, there are so many technical issues within the first 200 pages that I had to try to determine if by some chance, it was set in an alternative universe. A few prime examples of my confusion were references to the M242 as a machine gun, statements that the C-130 was ferrying troops and supplies in WW2, and also incorrectly not being able to access the driver’s area from the troop compartment of a Cougar MRAP. To address this, the M242 is an automatic cannon, in fact a chain driven automatic cannon not even within the generalized concept or family of machine guns. The C-130 took its maiden flight in 1954 and was adopted by the US Military in 1956. To have flown in WW2 would mean some kind of time/space continuum issue. The MRAP problem, if you’ve been in one, you know how easy it is to access the driver’s area from the troop compartment.
C47, the workhorse of WW2.
M242 known as a Chain driven automatic cannon
Cougar MRAP, exterior
Cougar MRAP interior as seen from rear troop doors.
In Long Shot, co-authored by Donald Davis and Jack Coughlin, there is one glaring error that stands out. For me anyway, not a total deal breaker but a wtf for sure. Coughlin is good, probably one of the best Marine snipers that the corps has ever produced. Davis is a great author and I don’t normally find errors within their combined work. But, in Long Shot, in one of the later chapters, we have a character that makes a statement that the US is at DEFCON 5.
DEFCON or Defense Condition or Defense Readiness Condition, is the general status that the US military places their units at. The higher the number, the more peaceful condition, the lower the number the more serious the event is. To state a condition of DEFCON 5 would mean total peace, something that I doubt the US military has ever been at and not what I’m sure the author was attempting to convey given the plot of the novel. In the real-world, DEFCON sits at about 3 with some military units at 2 depending on what they are and where they’re stationed at.
As you can see, research and fact-checking is an industry wide concern. It’s not just indie authors or small presses. Some will say, ‘But, but this is fiction.’ Sure it is. But all fiction has a basis in reality. If an author uses real world items, equipment, weapons, situations, etc, they establish the baseline of reality.
All these examples are meant to demonstrate why there is a need for a Military and Technical Advisor who specializes in assisting authors. Wait, don’t MTAs do that already? No. They provide assistance for screenwriters not authors. The Ward Room is the only site of its kind whose primary focus is on the author.
Contact the Ward Room and start providing your readers with the quality they expect.
Take your work to the next level.