Sunday, April 21, 2013




I grew up fascinated with the combat arts. It started with ninjas and professional wrestling (scripted or not, it’s an art). I had the full ninja getup, complete with tabi boots, and my best buddy Josh and I were very careful not to hit each other with the Dim Mak (Touch of Death). We also created a wrestling tag team called The Birds of Prey, with patented finishing moves The Talon and The Wingspan. If you happened to live nearby when we held our outdoor events, I apologize. 

Then Mike Tyson came along, and I fell in love with boxing. He was a new breed of warrior, a destroyer of the heavyweight division. I was even scared to fight him in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out. I watched in awe during George Foreman’s second comeback in 1987, stomping forward with his cross arm defense and standing up between rounds when he thought he was slacking. It’s a shame the two never met in the ring, an issue which became quite common the more I got into boxing. 

Since speculation was all we had, we fight fans had to debate who would win the contest. This invariably spiraled into the absurd, ending with, “All right, who wins: Mike Tyson vs. Bruce Lee.” Absurd because Bruce Lee was deceased, but also because we’d never see a boxer fight a martial artist. 

Then in 1993 I watched the first Ultimate Fighting Championship, and everything changed. These men were fighting in a cage instead of a ring, there were no rounds, and the rules basically came down to No Firearms. Gerard Gordeau kicked Teila Tuli’s teeth through the fence and some skinny guy named Royce (but it’s Hoyce??) Gracie slithered around and made everybody tap out. Wait, what’s tapping out? 

Among Gracie’s victims that night was Art Jimmerson, a former professional boxer and National Golden Gloves Middleweight champion who made the interesting (in hindsight: alarming) choice to wear one boxing glove in the cage. He may be the only fighter I’ve seen submit to a position, simply because Gracie had the full mount with Jimmerson on his back and the boxer had no idea what to do. The debate was settled. 

This was when I started to practice the combat arts as well as observe. I was at student at Western Michigan University at the time and tried judo for a semester. I took Jeet Kune Do with a crazy man who loved to put everybody in motorcycle helmets so we could punch as hard as we liked. I poked around in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, then hooked up with my JKD instructor again a few years later. He had evolved his training into a hybrid of JKD and knife, stick and gun close-quarters combat. Those classes were interesting and eye-opening. 

During this time, the UFC and mixed-martial arts in general was struggling in the United States, mostly due to campaigns to have it banned for being “human cockfighting.” The sport was thriving in Japan’s Pride Fighting Championships, but I didn’t catch on to the Pride spectacle until around 2005. This was the same year the UFC debuted The Ultimate Fighter reality show, which provided much-needed MMA action. Contestants and paydays aside, the first season did a damn fine job of hyping the rematch between Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell and Randy “The Natural” Couture, a prime example of striker vs. grappler. The UFC was turning its fighters into heroes. They were also answering, in most cases, the “who would win” question. When two guys rose into the debate, they actually fought. 

This was also the time I had finished my first two books, the CRIME FILES series, and was looking for my next fiction project. I knew I wanted to write a noir crime thriller, something along the lines of The Big Sleep. But I was stuck trying to define my hero. I didn’t want a retired/disgraced cop, or a former fill-in-the-blank military type. I wanted a badass, but somebody without the polish of a professional career or schooling. Wait—what if his profession is being a badass? And there it was. My hero was going to be one of these warriors I loved to cheer for, these fighters who made a living by dishing out—and taking—massive amounts of punishment. 

And I had the name. “Aaron Wallace” had been in my back pocket for a protagonist’s name since the mid-90s, when I was taking fiction workshops at WMU. I even created an outside linebacker for my Madden ‘97 Pittsburgh Steeler team with the name, and he held the single-season sack record with 92, thank you very much. “Woodshed” kicked its way into the middle, and I loved the alliteration as well as the context of taking somebody out to one for a whuppin. Woodshed Wallace. Woody, for those of us who know him well. 

One thing I liked about Woody right away: while most thriller protagonists rely on weapons or need to psych themselves up with emotional or physical conflict to mix it up with the bad guys, Woody’s gut reaction is to clinch, headbutt, elbow, sweep, and ground & pound. He has to constantly resist his instinct to fight, rather than work up to it. When he finally gets to open the can, it’s glorious. 

The fighting is just one reason writing MMA heroes is so fun. These are our modern-day gladiators, and I enjoy exploring the codes of honor that set them apart. These fighters spend three to five rounds (sometimes just a few seconds) working to physically, mentally, and spiritually dominate each other, then they hug. Only they know what they’ve endured to get to there. The mutual respect is inspiring, and the desire to belong to this warrior tribe is powerful. 

This theme of honor, respect, and fighters being a different kind of animal runs through all three Woodshed novels (Suckerpunch, Hook and Shoot, and the forthcoming Anaconda Choke) and The Kalamazoo Kid, which features retired MMA fighter Ray Kurt and his very talented pupil Tallis Dunbar. The Kalamazoo Kid also digs into what it means to send another person into the cage to fight, and how only someone who’s made the same walk can even begin to understand what it takes.

Woody, Ray Kurt, and Tally are all very comfortable in situations which would ignite fight-or-flight in mere mortals. They don’t mind getting punched in the face and choked, because they know they will survive it. I did some MMA training as research while I wrote Suckerpunch and Hook and Shoot. I needed some experience with the subject matter, and part of me wanted to see if I happened to be a rough diamond phenom who would get plucked from the crowd and carried to the spotlight  The parallels with a writing career are here somewhere.

Guess what? MMA training sucks. It hurts, it’s hard, and it makes you sore for a long time. It can be frightening when you realize you’re up against someone who is there to put food on the table, when all you want is a good workout and some noteworthy material. But it’s also very fun, and the camaraderie and pride of shared suffering builds quickly. Those who do it on a regular basis have my deep respect. 

Bottom line, this quote from the elite Joe Rogan sums it up: “You can’t dabble in MMA.” You’re either inside the cage or you’re not. I am not, but I love spending time with Woody and his crew and the warriors from The Kalamazoo Kid. I hope you do too. 

And Bruce Lee would have won. 

Friday, April 19, 2013




So, the Irish -- even us Northerners, whatever the religious flavour -- are often the subject of stereotypes. Is that fair? Frankly, I don’t give a feck. Maybe that’s because I’m too busy drinking, fighting and writing.

Am I joking?

Nah, just exaggerating a little. Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story, right? That’s a bit of an Irish tradition too.

I write. That’s a fact. You can find my stuff online or on bookshelves in some very select places. And yes, I do enjoy my booze, but I’m considered a light drinker in many circles. I don’t drink much for an Irish guy sums it up. My fighting is done in the form of sparring at a small local boxing club. I’m no pro, obviously. I’m don't even consider myself good enough to be an amateur boxer. But I hold my own at our wee club and I know what it feels like to take a punch. Not bad for a guy in his thirties.

Actually, I learned what it was like to take a punch a long time ago. I wasn’t a troublemaker (honest), but I must have grown up with a face that people liked to punch. In school, playgrounds, and later in pubs; I’ve been in my unfair share of scuffles. For a short time in my teens, I lifted weights and walked with my chest puffed out, but I was always vaguely aware I might not have been properly equipped for a street fight, should I find myself in another one. I got into martial arts in my twenties and eventually became an instructor. Even opened my own kung fu club for a short time. 

I met lots of great people with interesting stories and backgrounds while I studied and taught kung fu. Also met some not-so-great people who had ideas above their station, but let’s keep this civil. Those years gave me a great insight into fight psychology. Rich material for a writer. 

There are many reasons to learn a martial art – self defence being at the core – but for some it’s simply about the urge to fight and finding an appropriate outlet that is legally and socially acceptable.

During my time as a martial artist, I also became a bullshit artist, or in politer terms, a writer. I hang those labels on myself with a lot more confidence now than I did in my twenties. Back then I would tell you, I do a bit of kung fu and/or I like to write. The titles, martial artist and writer, in my opinion, had to be earned. Now, either I’m more laidback about most things or I believe I’ve done my time, but these titles are just words to me now. And, words have become my stock and trade. I can call myself a writer because I can prove that I can write.

Fighting is different.

If you can fight, there’s no point telling me about it. Especially not on internet forums. Even if somebody calls you out, what’s going to happen, really? Premeditated assault? Probably not a good idea. But there are ways to prove yourself, if that's your thing. Should you go to a bar and pick on some guy? NO! Don’t even think that, you looper. Just keep your prowess to yourself, and feel safe in the knowledge that you can rely on it if you ever have to. 

Or compete. 

Shut up and fight. But don’t do something stupid that’ll get you arrested. Simple, right?

The only real way for a fighter to test their mettle these days is through combat competition. And I have nothing but respect for any man or woman who steps into a ring, a cage or an octagon. Fighters, of any style, are cool in my book.

What’s my point? I’m a writer, not a fighter, I guess. And I’ve no desire to be a fighter. At some point in my life, before I turn forty, I might step into a ring just for the experience. It’ll be some sort of white collar boxing event, I’d imagine, but I’ll train for it like I’m stepping up to a pro. I’ll go in prepared to crack some ribs or get my bell rung by an unseen right hook, then I’ll recover, laugh about it, write about it, daydream about it, and go back to light sparring at the club until I’m too old to raise my gloves. If that takes the form of boxing, Muay Thai or MMA, so be it. But I’ll have an interest in scrapping for a long time to come.

Which is why I was delighted to pen a novella as Jack Tunney in the new Fight Card MMA series. An old-school writing style applied to a modern sport and publishing model. An opportunity to exercise my writing muscles and draw on some of my low-level fighting experience. And an Irish setting? Writing Welcome to the Octagon was a no-brainer. Making it about an underground scrapper with greater aspirations was my most obvious move. I resisted playing on the booze stereotype, though. Gotta keep the readers on their toes. My protagonist has sworn off alcohol to become a better competitor. 

Will this blend of experience and whimsy prove to be a knockout?

Why don’t you read it and let me know? What have you got to lose? It’s only writing. About fighting. Nobody needs to worry about getting knocked out, except for the characters ...



Fight Card Publications is excited to announce the release of the first two novels in the new Fight Card MMA series – the first of several new expansions of the bestselling Fight Card brand.  Fight Card MMA takes the Fight Card series from the ring to the cage, while delivering ground-and-pound action equal to the exciting fistic pulp action demanded by fans of the monthly Fight Card novels.

Like the original Fight Card novels, the Fight Card MMA tales will be written by many of the best authors working in New Pulp today using the series unifying pseudonym, Jack Tunney.  

First up in the cage is author Gerard Brennan. His Fight Card MMA: Welcome To The Octagon takes readers deep into the hardscrabble world of Ireland’s burgeoning MMA scene, from dangerous underground battles to the spotlight of the cage.  Brennan has previously won critical acclaim for his hard-hitting novels The Point, Wee Rockets, and Fireproof 

Published simultaneously, Fight Card: The Kalamazoo Kid comes from top MMA author Jeremy Brown.  Brown’s previous MMA themed novels, Suckerpunch and Hook And Shoot – featuring rising MMA star Aaron Woodshed Wallace – have become the benchmark by which all other MMA themed novels are judged. Fight Card: The Kalamazoo Kid is a tightly plotted tale of revenge where every move inside and outside of the cage can be deadly.


Belfast 2013

Mickey The Rage Rafferty has gone through some tough times, but he's not ready to tap-out just yet. The Belfast widower has to take care of his eight-year-old daughter, Lily. However, his main talent is fighting and the only way he can make enough money off it to support his girl is to take dodgy underground matches paying off in bloodstained cash. Mickey’s trainer, Eddie Smith, doesn't approve. He wants his most promising student to step into the cage as a real martial artist, not as a fool for thugs and gangsters.

With Eddie on the verge of cutting him loose, Mickey is up against the cage – crushed between fast cash and a legitimate career. Mickey has some big decisions to make and some even bigger opponents to face.

The MMA life can be harsh, and it’s never easy ... Welcome To The Octagon ...


Ray Kurt was one of the first guys to step into a sanctioned MMA fight – back when you scrapped four times a night and didn't wrap your hands until you got to the hospital afterward.  Now, he trains fighters in his Kalamazoo mixed martial arts gym, searching for someone he can take to the top.

Young fighting phenom, Tallis Dunbar might just be that someone, but Tallis comes attached to a whole lot of trouble.  Detroit mob fixer Andru Harp wants Kurt to turn Tallis into an MMA beast tough enough to take on the Chicago mob’s fearsome fighter, High Voltage – the same man who nearly killed Tallis’ brother a year earlier.

For Detroit and Chicago it’s all about turf, but for Kurt and Tallis their lives and redemption are balanced on a razor’s edge.  Kurt is used to fighting with few rules, but now there is only one – survive ...