Al Hooper

Truth in fiction

Not all of life’s
questions are
created equal



Al Hooper lost track of the number of newspapers he’d worked for when the total reached 12. Among his ports of call were Seattle, Yakima and Bremerton in Washington, and three different dailies in Vancouver, B.C.

For some years Hooper has focused exclusively on fiction.

His most recent novels include
Flynn’s Last Stand, vividly keyed to five fateful days in the life of screen legend Errol Flynn, and Cole’s Last Chance, a sequel to Flynn’s Last Stand that takes place amid the maelstrom of the 1960s anti-war movement.

Other published novels include
Martial Law in Yakima, a crime thriller with a martial arts background, and Hidden Valley, a dinosaur-centric suspense tale for readers “aged 10 to 90 and up.”

The following faux interview provides answers to questions he often wishes he had asked himself.

QUESTION: How do you find time to write?
ANSWER: With difficulty. So many things compete for your time … taking out the laundry … emptying the trash … going to Starbucks … cleaning your shaver …

Q: Is your workday structured?
A: Strictly. I shoot for five hours a day divided into two shifts. Naps are optional.

Q: Do you warm up before you begin?
A: That’s why God created Starbucks.

Q: Who do you like among modern authors?
A: Mostly me. I seem to be the only one now working who can tell a story in under 500 pages.

Q: You don’t like overlong novels?
A: Does anybody? Except for publishers, of course. They can charge more for the long ones. They still hope to find a way to to sell those tedious tomes by the pound.

Q: Your novels Flynn’s Last Stand and its sequel, Cole’s Last Chance, provide a fascinating insight into the heyday of a metropolitan newspaper chasing the big story. You’re a veteran of that scene. Was it really that much fun?
A: Put it this way. There were no dull days. Or if there were, you forgot about them over a beer.

Q: Ever want to go back to that life?
A: I like it better where I am. I wallow in whatever novel I’m working on. I believe in the story and in the people living the story. I admit that some of them remind me of me, but with fewer character flaws.

Q: Your novels all have a gripping suspense component. Is the (quote) crime thriller (unquote) your favorite fictional form?
A: Absolutely. It’s the one genre that guarantees a real story. You get motivation and commitment, and a minimum of navel gazing. A good novel is a shared experience between the reader and writer. If it’s written well enough, it can be a life-changer.

Q: What’s the theme of the novel you’re working on now?
A: When did you stop beating your Schnauzer?

Q: Does that mean you’re averse to talking about a book in progress?
A: I’m averse. Sorry to sound like every other writer who ever lived.

Q: Don’t you think that’s just a shade paranoid?
A: I hope so. There are two kinds of people in the world: readers and non-readers. Readers can hold your attention for hours. Non-readers have you checking your watch after three minutes. The trick for a writer is to save his best stuff for the reader.

Q: Any other advice for beginning writers?
A: Be direct, clear, concise. Avoid commas. Commas are the devil’s spawn. They give readers hiccups. So do the long-winded sentences that breed them. One more thing: Keep your GPS tuned to the nearest Starbucks.

Q: Is Starbucks paying you for this endorsement?
A: No. But I like the idea. Is there someone I can call?

Q: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
A: I forget who said it but it goes like this: “Don’t write down to your readers. Anyone dumber than you can’t read.”

Q: Final question, then. What’s your choice of writing accessory? A Mac or a PC?
A: A quill pen. Except when my cat steps in the inkwell. I chalk it up to expenses.

Q: I’m leaving now.
A: Keep in touch. I may think of another question I wish you’d asked me.

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All books listed on this website can be ordered from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, among other mainstream booksellers.

Two of the novels, Hidden Valley and Martial Law in Yakima, may also be ordered from Authorhouse.com.




REVIEW: Flynn’s Last Stand and Cole’s Last Chance (2015)

(Carol McGraw is a journalist and freelance writer who has won numerous awards while with the Los Angeles Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, among other prestigious newspapers. She currently resides in Colorado Springs, where her projects include a genealogical history of her family tree. She wrote this review of the Adam Cole novels as a freelancer.)

By CAROL McGRAW

Wow! Just came up for air after reading Flynn’s Last Stand and Cole’s Last Chance.

Loved the writing, loved the plots – weaving together Vietnam and Bruce Lee and Gung fu; and Errol Flynn and newspapering, bad cops and romance and never knowing what’s going to happen next.

I loved Whipper Billy (even the name) and Black Cloud and the other newspaper characters right out of a real newsroom. All such believable characters.

The sense of place regarding the newsroom was amazing: night city editor, crotchety news desk, the sports guys. And things I hadn’t thought of in years right down to the smallest details – like the dupe spikes, for heaven’s sake. (They got rid of them at one paper I worked for, can’t remember which, when OSHA feared we would kill ourselves on them.)

The sense of the era is great … all those songs and products (Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by The Platters is still my all-time favorite).

Bright dialogue, great humor, and all the droll and ironic asides (“Some questions answer themselves. Does a housecat pee indoors?”) Herman the cat was a nice touch.

I was a bit weepy at the end of Cole’s Last Chance when Adam went to visit Bruce Lee’s grave. What a great scene. And I didn’t know about the circumstances of Errol Flynn’s death until reading Flynn’s Last Chance.

Aside from the pleasure of the writing, I learned a lot I didn’t know before.


REVIEW:
Cole’s Last Chance (2015)

(Paul Archipley, who owns a trio of newspapers in Western Washington, published the following review in all three newspapers on Dec. 21, 2015.)

Crime novelist Hooper
shows mystery mastery


By PAUL ARCHIPLEY

Fans of crime novels appreciate writers who understand the power of character, place and plot, and are able to mix the right proportions of those ingredients when cooking up a page-turner.

Readers will discover a tasty recipe in “Cole’s Last Chance,” the latest offering from local novelist Al Hooper.

Hooper, well-known to long-time Beacon readers as a former editor, has not allowed his command of the written word to go fallow since exiting his regular newspaper gig. Instead, he has turned his obvious love of crime novels and journalism into a new outlet for his well-honed ability to write crisp, active verse that keeps readers engaged and eager for more.

“Cole’s Last Chance,” a sequel to Hooper’s 2012 novel “Flynn’s Last Stand,” features journalist Adam Cole who thinks, talks and writes like a scribe who knows his craft and has that newspaperman’s eye for the story behind the story. If readers don’t know Hooper’s background, they might suspect he had some ink running through his veins.

“Last Chance” takes place – where else? – in the Great Northwest, in this case Vancouver, B.C., during the turbulent Vietnam War era when some of America’s young men said a very loud “No!” to military service, and instead escaped to Canada where they often remained active in the anti-war cause.

Cole is an American exile who owns a one-man, barely-breathing business as an “editorial consultant” (Hooper calls it “code for unemployed journalists”), while also picking up a few bucks as a columnist for an alternative newspaper, the Vancouver Underground.

The story begins when a pair of suspect characters walk into Cole’s office, looking for help in locating Jed Harris, an American draft dodger who has been a leading voice in the anti-war movement. Of course they aren’t who they claim to be.

It takes most of the book to figure out who they really are, as well as other characters Hooper introduces while the plot thickens, along with plot twists, a romantic interest, a side story (or is it?) involving Cole’s work with martial arts great Bruce Lee and, of course, as the bodies begin to pile up.

Hooper proves adept at some of the best traits of good mystery writers: Like Dashiell Hammett, Hooper’s prose is unsentimental and journalistic, with moral judgments left to the reader; his character, Adam Cole, is tough but honest and a little bit sentimental, like Raymond Chandler’s famous detective, Philip Marlowe; and like author Tony Hillerman, who also utilized a journalism background to craft gripping crime novels, Hooper is deft at painting scenes that give structure to his unfolding story.

There’s a little of Charles Dickens or J.K. Rowling in Hooper’s work too, with character names like Whipper Billy Walker, an aging pro wrestler, and Detective Calderon, a mean and dirty cop.

When Hooper does delve more deeply into his cast, he turns out tight, clean prose that one would expect from a well-trained journalist. For instance, he says of Marti, a secretary Cole shares with Whipper Billy: ”She was over 50 and still a knockout. Sleek and slim, brilliant red hair, nifty eyeliner. She rarely went a day without being hit on by some Troy Donahue wanna-be, whom she dealt with as deftly as she handled her IBM keyboard.”

Clever names, taut prose, character development and scene setting aside, it’s plot that keeps readers turning the page, and Hooper delivers.

All four of Hooper’s novels are available through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble and other booksellers.

His website, which lists and describes the novels as well as imparting his singular views on writing, is e-hooper.com.


REVIEW: Cole’s Last Chance (2015)

I’ve just spent a delightful seven days with Adam Cole. By the end of Page 1, I knew I was once again in the hands of a great writer, transported to another time and another world.

I’m hoping that this is Book 2 in an Adam Cole trilogy!

– Sandy Ryan
Seattle, WA


REVIEW: Cole’s Last Chance (2015):

An edge-of-your-seat page
turner! Highly recommended

By Sheila K. Michaels

Adam Cole has a way of getting into nail-biting, life and death situations with reprehensible individuals.

Possibly because of his years of martial arts training with Bruce Lee and his one-step-ahead-of-you friend, Whipper Billy, Adam felt confident enough to take a walk in the dark in Stanley Park one night with a couple of thugs. The story takes place in beautiful Vancouver, Canada in 1967 while the Vietnam War was going on.

I learned more about the Vietnam War, Bruce Lee, Steve McQueen and the newspaper business than I ever knew. There was a great combination between non-fictional and fictional characters to make the story so believable that I went to Bruce Lee’s grave site at Lake View Cemetery to see it for myself.

Reconnecting with Adam’s former co-workers from the defunct Vancouver News-Herald was fun too, tying up loose ends from the preceding book, “Flynn’s Last Stand.” This is another great read with excellent research done on Errol Flynn’s sad life.

I look forward to the next installment of the further adventures and love life of Adam Cole. I’m wondering if Adam and Jason will be husbands-in-law a second time around? I’d like to meet up with Adam and Amy to discuss future wedding plans!

By the way, how large did Herman the Bengal cat get, anyway?


REVIEW:
Cole’s Last Chance (2015):

I finished Cole’s Last Chance very quickly, couldn’t put it down. Such a great read!

I was intrigued by the sections about Bruce Lee, and couldn’t help but wonder if the author knew or had studied with him. Lee is an interesting character in the book, although Adam Cole is the most interesting as usual.

One of my best friends is buried near Bruce Lee’s grave in Lake View Memorial Cemetery. She was there a bit before he was. I visited them both there when they first became “neighbors.”

That scene in the novel hit especially close to home…

– Judy Guitton
Edmonds, WA