Brian January, Thriller Author

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Emerald update!

One of the joys of writing novels is the creation of characters who seem to come to life--people who, just like actual human beings, change and evolve over time and with experience. This, of course, is the classic character arc of literature. Even so, to my mind, action-adventure protagonists should stay relatively stable--James Bond, for example, is always James Bond. Still, over the course of three novels and four novellas that chronicle the exploits of OSR field officers Park Skarda and April Force, subtle changes have occurred in these characters' interactions that just weren't conceivable when I first wrote Emerald, the flagship book of the series. While Skarda is still Skarda, still haunted by the murder of his wife, and April will always be April--enigmatic, competent, and dangerous--nevertheless they have changed in subtle ways over the span of their adventures.

Therefore I've decided to update Emerald with a second edition (WIP), taking into account what I've come to learn about Skarda and April over time. I hadn't re-read the novel since I published it in 2011--at that time it received some favorable attention from agents and publishers, but I decided to self-publish, anyway--and when I recently went through it again I was pleased to find that the story held up well as did the all-important pacing (I write for entertainment purposes--plane or beach reads that make my readers happily turning pages and take them away from their daily cares for a few hours--so fast pacing is a must). I did find a couple of typos and duplicated words that I and my proofreaders missed the first time (we're just human after all, but reviewers will give you a 1-star rating for a missing period), and there were a couple of factoids that my research at the time told me were correct, but which turned out to be wrong. It's essentially the same story, but a few things have been deleted and few added. So if you've already read it, no need to buy a new copy (unless you want to!) and if you haven't, I hope you will read it and enjoy it! It should be out soon! As always, many thanks to all my readers and fans!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The new Park Skarda-April Force thriller is out!

It's been a while since I published Sapphire (bundled with Platinum), but finally Iron (bundled with Ruby) is out, available at!

Here is the book description:

OSR field officers Park Skarda and April Force are back again for more edge-of-your-seat action in two exciting new novellas from Brian January!


Astrophysicist and genius inventor Dr. Lucius Nero is a man in torment, whose sickness is compelling him to do nothing less than destroy the entire Earth by pulling asteroids out of their orbits to wreak destruction on the planet.

When Skarda and April witness the first wave of meteorites strike the Washington Monument, they set off on a race against time to try to stop Nero from carrying out his suicidal plan.

From Washington, D.C. to the rust-colored deserts of northern Arizona, it's a non-stop thrill ride as the minutes tick down toward the last seconds before ultimate extinction.

Iron is a novella of approximately 20,000 words, bundled with Ruby, a novella of approximately 32,000 words.


When Skarda finds an ancient ruby in a medieval burial chamber, it triggers off a maelstrom of events that pit the OSR team against an obese sex trafficker named Zaric, whose mercenary force steals the ruby and kidnaps Hailey Buchanan, the daughter of a United States senator.

Now it's personal, and Skarda and April will stop at nothing to rescue Hailey and get back the precious gem. From the streets of Paris to the Croatian coast and the rugged wilds of the Dinaric Alps the chase is on!

Ruby is a novella of approximately 32,000 words bundled with Iron, a novella of  approximately 20,000 words.

Here is the link to the Amazon page:

I hope you enjoy reading the novellas! As always, many thanks for all the support of readers and fans--I do appreciate it!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sapphire (Plus Platinum) is out!

Sapphire (bundled with Platinum), the new Park Skarda-April Force adventure thriller, is out as a Kindle edition on Amazon!

Here is the book description:


When OSR sends Skarda and April to Sri Lanka to hunt for a missing geologist who has unearthed a deposit of rare sapphires, they discover chilling news: a ruthless international arms merchant needs these gemstones to manufacture handheld laser weapons, capable of fearsome destruction, which he plans to sell to America’s enemies.

Now, plunged into desperate battle with the arms dealer and Perera, his sadistic lieutenant, Skarda and April must stop at nothing to keep the sapphires from falling into their adversaries’ hands. From Paris to the Amalfi Coast to the Sri Lankan rainforest, they embark on a lethal race against danger, double-dealing, and devastating consequences if they fail. 

Sapphire is a thriller novella of approximately 20,000 words or 80 printed pages. It is bundled with Platinum, a novella of approximately 35,000 words.


—15,000 years ago, in the remote Koryak mountains of northeastern Russia, a meteorite crashed to Earth, bearing with it an unknown type of crystal with a strange atomic structure, called a quasicrystal.

—In 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt confiscated gold coins and bullion from the American people, melting the precious metal into bars and securing them in the newly-built Gold Depository at Fort Knox, Kentucky. But decades later, an ambitious congressman is making public allegations that the gold is missing.

—In the 1960’s, the Soviet Union embarked on secret experiments with the ultra-rare isotope platinum-205 to develop cloaking technology that will make human beings invisible.

Now, deep in the Siberian wilderness, OSR officers Park Skarda and April Force witness the impossible: three Spetsnaz soldiers materializing out of thin air.

But someone else knows about the invisibility technology, too. A team of mercenaries attacks, led by the vicious Pavel Toll, setting off a globe-spanning chase with implications that could ignite a powder keg for international war.

Framed for murder and outmaneuvered by Toll, Skarda and April must win a deadly race against the clock in a desperate attempt to stop Toll and his mercenary team from carrying out their ingenious scheme.
Platinum is a thriller novella of approximately 35,000 words or 140 printed pages. It is bundled with Sapphire, a novel of approximately 20,000 words.

Here is the link to the book on Amazon:

Be sure to read the previous Park Skarda-April Force thrillers Emerald, Silver, and Diamond, available as Kindle editions on Amazon!

And many, many sincere thanks to all my fans for making the books a big success! As always, my goal is to entertain!

Monday, November 11, 2013

More Favorite Action Movies!

Another 48 Hours (1990)—Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte reunite to reprise their 48 Hours roles. This time, Jack Cates (Nolte) seeks out Reggie Hammond (Murphy), about to be released from jail, to help him track down “The Iceman”, an elusive drug dealer who has hired some very nasty bikers to kill him (Cates). Exceedingly violent and disturbing at times, but the action comes fast and furious, with Nolte at his grumpy best and Murphy giving his usual stand-out performance.

Die Hard 2 (1990)—Bruce is back as John McClane! When terrorists take over the air traffic control system at Washington Dulles International Airport, McClane goes into action to thwart the Bad Guys’ plan to rescue a South American drug lord who is being transported to the States to stand trial. None of the series can possibly stand up to the original, but this one doesn’t suffer badly by comparison. A cable TV staple.

Judge Dredd (1995)—in the dystopian future of the third millennium, overcrowded Mega-City One is policed by law officers called “Judges”, who serve as judge, jury, and executioner (“ I am the law!” snarls Dredd). But when former Judge and psychopathic villain Rico (Armand Assante) escapes from prison and frames Dredd for murder, Dredd is sent to prison. Escaping, he sets out to stop Rico’s pogrom of assassinating the tribunal of Judges and taking over the city. For some reason, filmmakers always feel the need to temper an uber-violent lead character with a comic foil and it’s no different here: Rob Schneider plays Fergee as Dredd’s goofy, unwilling sidekick. From the British comic anthology 2000 AD.

Passenger 57 (1992)—former police officer John Cutter (Wesley Snipes) is the fifty-seventh passenger to board a flight to L.A., on which two FBI agents are transporting the international terrorist Charles Rane (Bruce Payne) to stand trial. Unbeknownst to Cutter, Rane has confederates on board to effect his escape. It’s Die Hard on a plane!

Road House (1989)—mullets abound in this small-town actioner starring Patrick Swayze and Ben Gazzara. James Dalton (Swayze) is a professional “cooler” (bouncer) hired by a local Missouri bar owner to shore up his security force. It isn’t long before he butts heads with local power broker Brad Wesley (Gazzara), who wants to usurp ownership of the bar. Sam Elliott shows up as Dalton’s aging ally and local nurse Kelly Lynch is the love interest. Good movie—it holds up well!

Runaway (1984)—Tom Selleck was still Magnum, P.I. when he starred in this sci-fi action flick. In the future, robots are as common as toasters, but occasionally one malfunctions as a “runaway”. When a runaway robot commits murder, police sergeant Jack Ramsay (Selleck) and his new partner Karen Thompson (Cynthia Rhodes) investigate, uncovering an evil plot spawned by the villainous Gene Simmons of Kiss. Look for Kirstie Alley in one of her early roles.

Soldier (1998)—in the not-too-distant future, Kurt Russell is Sergeant Todd, trained from birth to be a ruthless, conscienceless soldier and now old enough to be considered useless. When he loses a combat trial with a younger, new breed of genetically-engineered soldiers, he is presumed dead and shipped to a waste disposal planet, where a group of survivors from a crashed spacecraft have managed to eke out a primitive existence. But when a squadron of genetically-engineered soldiers arrives on the planet to wipe out the colonists, Todd, newly connected to his emotions, unleashes his rage in a one-man war to save the day. The tone is generally grim, but it’s well worth seeking out.

The A-Team (2010)—a big-budget adaptation of Stephen J, Cannell’s iconic 1980’s TV show of the same of name in which a team of ex-Special Forces soldiers, having escaped from an Army prison for a “crime they didn’t commit”, take on mercenary assignments while on the run. Liam Neeson stars as their leader, John “Hannibal” Smith, with Bradley Cooper as Templeton “Faceman” Peck, Quinton Jackson as B.A. Baracus, and Sharlto Copley as “Howling Mad” Murdock. It’s a bit uneven in spots, clever in others, and doesn’t really resemble the TV show (bad guys actually get killed!), but overall it’s a fun ride! Look for cameos by Dwight Schultz (the original “Murdock”) and Dirk Benedict (the original “Faceman”) and Simon and Simon’s Gerald McRaney shows up as General Morrison.

The Expendables (2010)—Sylvester Stallone stars as Barney Ross, leader of a band of mercenaries on a mission to overthrow a Latin American dictator who turns out to be a puppet of profiteering CIA operatives. Plenty of action and quality kills and you can’t do wrong with the legendary co-starring cast: Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lungren, Eric Roberts, Steve Austin, and Mickey Rourke. Stallone co-wrote and directed.

The Punisher (1989)—when the mafia murders ex-cop Frank Castle’s family, he goes to ground, waging a one-man vigilante war against organized crime. Starring Dolph Lungren as the stone-faced Punisher.

The History of the Emerald Tablet

Cloaked by the dust of centuries and entwined in the complex mythological traditions of the ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, and Greeks, the mythological tradition of the Emerald Tablet of Thoth is not only obscure, but open to question: did such an artifact actually exist and if so, who created it? Since the Tablet serves as the spine of the plot of my thriller novel Emerald, it’s worth a short investigation into its fabled history.

Also known as the “Smaragdine Tablet” (Tabula Smaragdina in Latin), the Emerald Tablet is said to have been a rectangular plaque carved out of emerald or green crystal, etched with mystical writings (the sum of all knowledge) in bas-relief letters in an alphabet resembling the Phoenician, Syriac, or Chaldean. Legends about its authorship abound: some ancient commentators maintained that Thoth, a priest-king of Atlantis who had fled to Egypt when the doomed city sank beneath the waves, carved and inscribed the Tablet, eventually hiding two copies inside the pillars of the temples at Khum (Hermopolis) and Wase (Thebes); Jewish mystics believed that Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve (perhaps misidentified with the Egyptian god Set/Seth), wrote the Tablet, while others, syncretizing Thoth with the Greek god Hermes (Hermes Trismegistus), had Hermes giving the Tablet to Miriam, the sister of Moses, who cached it in the Ark of the Covenant; and still another legend held that Thoth/Hermes was a fifth-century BCE philosopher who found the Tablet in a cave in Ceylon.

The name Thoth is the Greek transcription of the Egyptian Djehuty (from the root dhw, meaning “ibis”), one of the most ancient and principal deities of the Egyptian pantheon, a son of Ra and a lunar god who invented writing and the alphabet, created magic, taught wisdom to mankind, and, like his Greek counterpart, Hermes, acted as the messenger of the gods. The Egyptians credited him with the authorship of all works of science, religion, philosophy, and magic. As a lunar deity he was represented fully as a baboon, but most depictions portray him as a man with the head of an ibis (a wading bird with a long, curved beak).

Following the campaigns of Alexander the Great (and particularly after his death in 323 BCE), the spread of Hellenism into Egypt served to conflate Thoth with the Greek Hermes, himself a god of writing and magic, to create the new archetypal figure Hermes Trismegistus (Thrice-Great Hermes), a god worshipped in the Temple of Thoth at Hermopolis. Eventually he came to be imagined not as a divine being but to have been an historical human prophet or philosopher and the author of the Corpus Hermeticum, a series of short texts in Greek for the teaching of alchemy, astrology, theurgy, and magical spells (in his Stromata, the third-century CE Christian theologian Clement of Alexandria specifies the number of books as forty-two). The origin of the epithet “Trismegistus” is unclear, but seems to date from the first century CE (its earliest mention is in the works of the Phoenician grammarian and historian Philo of Byblos [circa 64-141 CE]), even though Hermes Trismegistus was credited with the authorship of thousands of works of great antiquity. That Hermetic writings—by multiple authors—did exist in the early centuries of the Christian era is entirely clear, as evidenced by references to them in the works of Plutarch, Tertullian, Iamblichus, and Porphyry. Since the early Church fathers believed that Hermes Trismegistus had been a contemporary of Moses, Abraham, Enoch, or Noah and had predicted the coming of Christianity (Augustine dedicated chapters of The City of God to him), during the first few centuries of the Christian era Hermetic works enjoyed great popularity as evidence of the prisca theologia, the doctrine that God had bestowed a single, true theology on humans in the remote past. However, most of the extant Hermetic writings were destroyed by the Church during its purge of non-Christian literature starting in the fourth century (as late as 1600, the Italian friar, philosopher, and astronomer Giordano Bruno was tried by the Inquisition and burned at the stake for espousing Hermeticism, among other presumed heresies).

Notwithstanding, the rise of neo-Platonic humanism in Renaissance Europe (spurred in large part by Marsilio Ficino’s translation of the Corpus Hermeticum into Latin in the late 1400’s, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa’s De occulta philosophia libri tres [a compendium of occult and Hermetic philosophy published in 1531], and John Everard’s The Divine Pymander in XVII Books of 1650 [an English translation of Ficino’s work] ushered in a resurgent interest in mysticism and occultism: alchemy, astrology, numerology, and ceremonial magic (spells to protect boxes or similar objects resulted in the modern expression “hermetically sealed”).

Into this arena entered the esoteric teachings of the Emerald Tablet, imagined to subsume the secret of the prima materia, the raw material required for the alchemical process and the creation of the philosopher’s stone which could change base metals into gold. The Tablet’s text (whose author is identified as Hermes Trismegistus) circulated freely among medieval and Renaissance alchemists. But did an actual ancient tablet carved out of emerald exist? According to legend, the Tablet (or two copies of it), along with thousands of scrolls written by Thoth (the ancient Egyptian historian/priest Manetho gives the figure of 36,525), were hidden inside twin pillars, one at Heliopolis and one at Thebes. The Athenian statesman Solon (circa 638-558 BCE) claimed to have inspected them and the Greek historian Herodotus described them in 400 BCE as one made of pure gold and the other of brilliant emerald. The pillars were later moved to the temple of Amun at Siwa in the Libyan desert, where they were found by Alexander the Great and put on public display at the Temple at Heliopolis. In 331 BCE Alexander left Egypt, allegedly taking with him the treasures stored in the pillars and secreting them in an underground cavern in Cappadocia (modern-day Turkey). Here, it is claimed, in 32 CE a youth named Balinas (later to be known as Apollonius of Tyana) found them.

These tales, however, are doubtful, since the earliest known appearance of the text ascribed to the Emerald Tablet dates from an Arabic work written sometime between the sixth and the eighth centuries CE. The oldest surviving source of the text is the eighth-century CE Kitāb sirr al-alīqa (Book of the Secret of Creation and the Art of Nature), attributed to Balinas. Another Arabic text, Kitab Ustuqus al-Uss al-Thani (Second Book of the Elements of Foundation) attributed to the alchemist Jabir ibn Hayyan around 800 CE, contains a copy of the Emerald Tablet that also cites Balinas as the source. In the West, the text first appeared in the pseudo-Aristolean Secretum Secretorum (Secret of Secrets), a Latin translation of the Arabic Kitab Sirr al-Asar (Book of Advice to Kings), in the thirteen century.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Another Ten of the Greatest Action Movies!

Here are another ten great action movies you might have missed, forgotten about, or never heard of!

Our Man Flint (1966)—the charismatic James Coburn as super-genius super-spy Derek Flint in a broadly-drawn spoof of the James Bond films. When a trio of bad-guy scientists threaten the planet with a weather-control machine, Flint is called out of retirement to save the day. Far-fetched but fun to watch!

Cobra (1986)—rewritten by Sylvester Stallone from the original script of Beverly Hills Cop (in which he was slated to star before Eddie Murphy). Los Angeles police officer Marion Cobretti (Stallone), a.k.a. “Cobra”, does violent—very violent--battle with a neo-Fascist killers. Crime is the disease and Cobra is the cure!

Knight and Day (2010)—starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz in a high-octane action comedy about an innocent woman who is inadvertently swept up in a globe-trotting chase with maybe-good-guy, maybe-bad-guy spy Tom Cruise. The pace is non-stop and the roller coaster ride is pure fun!

Firefox (1982)—from the novel of the same title by Craig Thomas, this Cold War thriller pits Clint Eastwood against the KGB as he tries to steal a high-tech, radar-invisible Soviet fighter plane from a Russian air base. Although the movie seems a bit disjointed at times, it’s still very suspenseful, especially the air chase at the end.

The Land That Time Forgot (1975)—during World War I, Bowen Tyler (Doug McClure) and other survivors of a torpedoed merchant ship seize the U-Boat that sunk them, piloting the submarine to an uncharted sub-continent in the South Atlantic where they encounter living dinosaurs and primitive humans. Good story coupled with superior special effects for the time.

Open Range (2003)—when Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall) and Charley Waite (Kevin Costner) drive their open-range cattle through pastures controlled by local land baron Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon), hostilities break out, resulting in a shoot-out between Baxter and his men and the open rangers. Annette Bening provides the love interest for Charley. When I first watched this movie, I dismissed it as a romance novel set in the Old West, but now that I’ve viewed it several more times, I’ve come to appreciate it and it’s become one of my favorite movies.

Pale Rider (1985)—Clint Eastwood as “The Preacher”, a mysterious stranger who protects a community of gold panners from violence at the hands of rich and powerful hydraulic miners. The last act is classic Clint wiping out the Bad Guys one-by-one.

The Peacemaker (1997)—George Clooney as Army Special Forces Lieutenant Thomas Devoe and Nicole Kidman (with a good American accent) as nuclear expert Dr. Julia Kelly. When a Russian general steals a trainload of nuclear warheads, detonating one, Devoe and Kelly are assigned to retrieve those remaining. Finally succeeding, they learn that one of the warheads is still missing and set to explode in New York City. The first half of the movie is first-rate (with a truly superb car chase/shoot-out sequence), but the second half oddly runs out of steam and seems like a let-down.

Force 10 From Navarone (1978)—loosely based on Alistair MacLean’s 1968 sequel to The Guns of Navarone, this World War II actioner stars a post-Star Wars Harrison Ford as leader of Force 10, a sabotage unit sent into Yugoslavia to blow up a German dam. Not as good as the first Navarone movie, but well worth watching.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)—Australian actor and model George Lazenby was the first to take over the Bond reins from Sean Connery (after this one film he refused to play the role again), going head-to-head with arch-foe Ernst Stavro Blofeld (played by a somehow-less-than-menacing Telly Savalas). Lazenby’s depiction of Bond’s cruel nature is perhaps closest to the character of the books (although I maintain that Pierce Brosnan has earned this honor overall). Diana Rigg plays Bond’s love interest with an icy coolness.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Ten More Must-See Action Movies!

Another list of not-to-be-missed action flicks!

For a Few Dollars More (1965)—classic Clint in the second outing of the spaghetti western Dollars Trilogy (although it was filmed in Spain). Bounty hunter Manco (Clint) forms an uneasy alliance with Colonel Douglas Mortimer (Lee Van Cleef), also a bounty hunter, in a scheme to rob a bank of a million dollars in gold while thwarting the ruthless, psychopathic bandit Indio. Charles Bronson turned down Van Cleef’s role.

Above the Law (1988)—a very svelte Steven Seagal in his film debut as ex-CIA operative, now Chicago cop, up against corrupt police, politicians, and CIA types in the Windy City. Lots of first-class Seagal martial arts action. Henry Silva is a stand-out as the head Bad Guy.

Broken Arrow (1996)—during a top-secret mission on a Stealth Bomber, U.S. Air Force Major “Deak” Deakins (John Travolta) shoots his co-pilot Captain Riley Hale (Christian Slater) and steals the two B-83 nuclear bombs on board. Hale, still alive, manages to punch out over the Utah Canyonlands, teaming up with ultra-cute Park Ranger Terry Carmichael (Samantha Mathis) to stop Deakins from selling the nukes to terrorists. (Thankfully) unobtrusively directed by John Woo and written by Graham Yost, the penner of Speed.

Enemy of the State (1998)—starring Will Smith and Gene Hackman in a tensely-written, gripping thriller about a cadre of NSA agents who murder a United States congressman and frame an innocent lawyer for the killing, forcing him to go on the run while pursued by high-tech intelligence operatives. Gene Hackman as a retired NSA communications expert is riveting and Will Smith shines at his charismatic best. Watch for Regina King, who lights up the screen.

Most Wanted (1997)—while Keenen Ivory Wayans as U.S. Marine James Dunn languishes on death row, wrongly accused of killing his commanding officer during the Gulf War, he is recruited by a clandestine ops team commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Grant Casey (Jon Voight). But when the First Lady is assassinated, Dunn is framed as the trigger man and has to hit the streets to uncover the truth. Robert Culp is at his most Culp-iness as corrupt industrialist Donald Bickhart.

Predator (1987)—from the glory days of Ah-nuld’s career, a true classic about a team of Special Forces commandos dispatched to rescue hostages held by guerillas in the Central American jungle, but who are stalked and systematically—and gruesomely—killed off by an alien trophy hunter. Lots of quality kills and very cool creature makeup.

Silverado (1985)—with an ensemble cast of big stars (Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn, Danny Glover, Kevin Costner, Brian Dennehy, Jeff Goldblum, John Cleese, and Linda Hunt), this movie is a throwback to the great westerns of the past, pitting a group of misfit gunslingers against a corrupt sheriff. It’s an old story re-told refreshingly well, mostly due to the engaging cast and numerous subplots. This was Kevin Costner’s breakout role.

Tango and Cash (1989)—playing incessantly on cable TV, this formulaic buddy cop film somehow manages to be riveting, due in large part to its stars, Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell. Los Angeles narcotics detectives Ray Tango (Stallone) and Gabriel Cash (Russell) are framed and sent to a maximum-security prison by the criminal kingpin Yves Perret (Jack Palance). Managing to escape, they set out of stop Perret. Jack Palance is hyperbolically (and often hilariously) over-the-top and the big-wheeled assault vehicle at the end is pure 1980’s. The prison sequences are the best part of the movie.

The Package (1989)—a riveting political thriller starring Gene Hackman, Joanna Cassidy, and Tommy Lee Jones. During the Cold War, Master Sergeant Johnny Gallagher (Hackman) is assigned to escort Army deserter Thomas Boyette (Jones, the “package”) from West Berlin to the United States to stand trial in a military court martial. But when Boyette escapes, Gallagher discovers that the deserter is actually a professional assassin assigned to kill the world leaders at a nuclear arms summit meeting in Chicago.

Three Days of the Condor (1975)—when low-level CIA researcher Joe Turner (Robert Redford) returns to his office after a lunch run, he finds his co-workers assassinated and soon he’s on the run in the streets of New York City with the killers hot on his trail. With no one he can trust, Turner tries to unravel what happened as he outwits his pursuers. Although it’s a bit slow in spots, it’s still a gripping tale of 1970’s-era political paranoia.