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This fortnight’s lead blog entry comes to you courtesy of aged Scotch Whiskey and hearty Syrah. My wife and mom joined me for an after dinner beverage or three and Bob Nolan’s character was the topic. I asked questions and took notes, the edited version of which appears below. I’d be interested in reading what True Lies nation thinks about Nolan. It’s more than an academic interest: there are two books to go and the clay is still damp.


In keeping with the Bob Nolan theme, I’ve copied photos of leading men featured in the Insider’s Guide to Sea of Lies and handicapped them as potential Nolan’s. Thanks to one Amazon reviewer’s suggestion, I’m partial to Tom Hanks playing against type and offering a nuanced interpretation of our anti-hero. However, should Lies end up a TV series, then Bryan Cranston as Nolan would be equally intriguing . . . and probably more affordable, too.

Source:, Tom Hanks in ‘Bridge of Spies’

Source:, Bryan Cranston as Walter White in ‘Breaking Bad’

The fishing was poor in northern British Columbia the past two weeks due to a lack of rain leading to the salmon and steelhead going off the bite. This in turn gave me lots of time to reflect on tricky points in Pack of Lies. I’m pleased to report several breakthroughs in respect of de-bottlenecking plot threads and nuancing characters.


I close with a jaundiced eye squinted in the direction of independent author internet-based help sites. As my BC downloads cannot exceed 300MB/day—a fraction of what most of us use (even those not surfing porn)—I’ve been clicking the unsubscribe tag with increasing frequency. What’s left is worth a look if you’re an author or enjoy learning more about the writing process.


As we say up this way in the fall, “Tight lines, eh.”


Bradley West

Skeena Valley, BC


Unholy Nolan
The edited transcript of a well-lubricated conversation among my mother and wife, with yours truly lobbing the questions and scribbling notes.

What’s your overall view of Bob Nolan’s character?

Mom, “Weak.”

Wife, “Exactly.”

Elaborate, please.

Mom, “His morals are lacking. He’s so readily led astray by a skirt: just too easily enticed.

But Bob’s been shut out of the marital bedroom.

Mom, “You’re talking to the wrong person. I don’t have a forgiving nature.”

Wife, “Mom and I think alike.”

Mom, “His children are out of the nest, so if I were Joanie I’d say ‘There’s the door, don’t let it hit you in the ass when you leave.”

Wife, “Bob’s wife hasn’t been easy on him. She no longer idolizes him. He’s just using this as an excuse to screw around. It’s just a pretext to cheat when Millie comes on to him. Of course it’s not justifiable from a woman’s perspective.”

Sunny Leone

Source:, Sunny Leone NDTV inspires Millie Muckerjee character

Mom, “What I don’t understand is why they’re still under the same roof?”

Bob is trying to reconcile with his wife after the Shook affair blew up two years ago. Joanie is on the verge of having sex with him again when the action in the book takes place in March, 2014.

Wife, “To be fair, Millie seems to be going after him at every turn. While I empathize with him, he still can’t expect to be forgiven for screwing her. Kaili is the far worse of the two.”

What makes Yu Kaili worse than Millie?

Wife, “Well, it’s certainly worse for Bob as it’s the second time in less than a week that he cheats on his wife! That’s just inexcusable. Kaili opening a bottle of champagne and inviting him next door doesn’t exonerate him, either. Maybe he’s vain: he thinks women find him attractive. No, that’s not it: he’s weak. He allows Kaili to play him even though he knows he’s being manipulated . . . and by a foreign agent at that!

Contance Wu

Source:, Constance Wu as Yu Kaili

Does Bob have any genuine feelings for either woman?

Wife, “No.”

Mom, “Opportunities present themselves all the time. Maybe the only way I can comprehend this irresponsible behavior is the tremendous stress he’s operating under. Adrenaline and ‘flight or fight’ response.”

Yes, he’s certainly under pressure with the MH370 investigation triggering pursuit by Teller and then his godson’s predicament brings those NSA disks into play, putting Bob’s liberty and life doubly at risk. So this is mitigation?

Mom/Wife in unison: “No! Cheating is not allowed.

Mom, “To even ask that question means you don’t understand the psyche of married women.”

He’s loose with the truth, so even considering the stress and danger angles, it would be harder to forgive him for these indiscretions than if he was otherwise a straight arrow.

Looking ahead, what does Bob have to do to reconcile with Joanie in Pack of Lies?

Wife, “Joanie should throw him out.”

Mom, “I question whether he even wants to get back together.”

Wife, “If Bob can somehow involve the kids, then if he can save them or solve a crisis, it could lead Joanie to forgive him.”

Mom, “Express remorse and act the part. Volunteer to attend couple’s counseling. Spend time with her doing penance if she’ll tolerate his presence. Try to enlist the children to his cause. But I still don’t think Joanie is going to bring him back inside.”

Bob was planning on dying in Australia so that his wife and children benefited from his Agency life insurance. Doesn’t this count?

Wife, “If he had died and the family cashed a five million policy, then yes you’d forgive him as his widow.”

Mom, “But he’s a scumbag.”

I’m writing Pack of Lies now. I’m trying to work out Bob’s love life. You should know that the book opens with Bob’s bunking in with Damien Barling, the Singapore-based DEA chief who is a bachelor with a spare bedroom in his condo. Does Bob lead a straight and narrow life, and try to win back Joanie’s trust and end up back in the family home?

Wife, “Get Yu Kaili back in the picture. He should develop feelings for her, and she should manipulate the hell out of him.”

Mom, “And Joanie needs her own love interest. She’s been a model citizen up till now. Bob should get a taste of his own medicine.

Thank you, ladies. I’m going to barricade myself in the spare bedroom tonight lest you two want to lynch Bob’s creator.



The Insider’s Guide features plenty of Hollywood macho types. Expanding on the Tom Hanks and Bryan Cranston wishful thinking, I’ve added snapshots and snippets to lengthen the list of actors who might someday bring Bob Nolan to life in a movie or TV series.


George Clooney as Seth Gecko in From Dusk Till Dawn would be a more conventional Nolan than Tarantino . . . but Quentin is almost the right age and would bring quirkiness to the role, too, so he’d be invited to read as well.

Clooney Tarantino

Sean Penn in Shanghai Surprise would be a no-go, but these days he plays fifty-plus with aplomb. He’s a great actor, though his El Chapo escapade makes me wonder if he’s gone loco.


Dustin Hoffman’s twenty-two-year-old Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate isn’t the right age as he’s overshot the mid-fifties by twenty years. Today’s Dustin would make a better Frank Coulter.


Speaking of Frank Coulter, wouldn’t Bob Redford be grand? He’s a little older than when he was in The Sting with Paul Newman.

Redford Newman

Mel Gibson would play an interesting Nolan, but maybe we’d have to write in some anti-Semitic dialog to pique his interest.


Either Woody Harrelson or Matthew McConaughey from True Detective, Season One, is a decade or more too young to play Nolan, but how about as Sam Hecker?

Harrelson McConaughey

Billy Bob Thornton steals the stage irrespective of the size or nature of his character. Fargo, Season One, pulled down a Best Supporting Actor Emmy for his role as a darkly comic hitman. Thornton as Nolan would really be something to watch as he tells one lie after the other.





Pack of Lies had a big Tuesday while I was getting skunked fishing. I spent more time scribbling on scrap paper than swinging a fly as Bob Nolan’s Pakistan adventures began to crystallize, while Yu Kaili figured out her next moves vis-à-vis Bob.




Not a lot of notable and quotable in my world the last two weeks. One of my favorite exchanges from Casablanca popped into my head just now, so I’ll share that with you and suggest that perhaps Bob could be channeling Peter Lorre while estranged wife Joanie summons her inner Bogart.

Howard E. Koch, Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Casey Robinson

Casablanca, 1942

You despise me, don’t you?” (Ugarte/Peter Lorre)
If I gave you any thought I probably would.” (Rick Blaine/Humphrey Bogart)


When I started writing fiction full-time two-plus years ago, I spent over an hour a day prospecting the web for helpful websites and advice. I devote maybe an hour a month these days, not because I’ve learned much, but due to a conviction that most of what’s being sold to aspiring novelists isn’t useful. Some of the advice is good, but there are so many people looking for ideas that everyone ends up trying to do the same thing all at once . . . which pretty much destroys the effectiveness of whatever is being touted.
One of my favorite examples of rear view mirror coaching is software that analyses reader search patterns in Google and on Amazon. These clever programs trawl the web and find out of there’s an unmet demand for “Paleo-diet healthy desserts” based on their algorithms. Maybe this works for a quick fire cookbook, but it’s at least one and maybe three years before an author writing to meet the perceived demand for aliens versus cowboys for the YA market. In that time, tastes have moved on, other books (or movies) have come out, and what if the author actually isn’t interested in writing about this topic in the first place? The folks writing and selling the programs are the ones with the best sellers, not their self-published author clients!

Back on the topic of too much information running ‘round my head, I temporarily live in a cabin where the internet comes (expensively) via satellite. This forced rationing led me to cut way down on web surfing and online browsing. I’ve dropped at least two-thirds of the blog feeds and newsletters I previously subscribed to. However, the following three authors and consultants are still on my weekly must-browse list, and I commend them to you.

Till September!