Writing Comic Books Changed Author's Approach to Mysteries

By Behe, Rege | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 27, 2011 | Go to article overview

Writing Comic Books Changed Author's Approach to Mysteries


Behe, Rege, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


The bookshelves in Duane Swierczynski's home in Philadelphia are filled with titles by James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, and volumes of history and science fiction. There also are comic books, as Swierczynski contributes to Marvel Comics series including the Punisher and Iron Fist. From this stew emerged Charlie Hardie, an ex-cop-turned-security-expert with an invaluable asset: He's almost impossible to kill.

"If action heroes from an '80s movie have a super power, it's that they can't be killed," Swierczynski says. "They can survive anything. You know that Sly or Bruce or whoever is going to walk away. I thought, what if, in real life, there's a character who couldn't be killed, not for supernatural reasons, but because he's too stubborn to die. ... Hardie is actually my link to 'Die Hard' because the last name is "Die Hard" inverted. That's the secret of the name. But he's also an everyman who gets the crap pounded out of him and yet still gets the upper hand. Sometimes."

The second book, "Hell & Gone," finds Hardie reeling after a family he was guarding in Los Angeles is attacked. Severely injured, he is whisked away in an ambulance, but not by friendly EMS techs. Operatives transport him to a bizarre prison where he's told he's the warden. But he can't leave, there's no way out and Hardie -- limping on one leg, with one arm useless -- wonders if it's better to just give up. Albeit briefly.

One of the more clever -- and easy to miss -- features of the book are the quotes that head every chapter. Discerning readers will figure out that each quotation is related to incarceration, punishment or some other aspect related to being imprisoned. And three quotations -- by Edward Heward Bunker, Jack Henry Abbot and Malcolm Braly -- are from writers who were inmates.

Swierczynski admits this aspect was "just me having fun," but there's also a serious thread running through the novel concerning "a secret America" and forces that are hidden from the mainstream. …

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