Jonathan Wood's Smoking-Hot Debut Novel "No Hero"
Sometimes sheer bravado and break-neck pacing can lift up a potential cliché into something more. In the case of Jonathan Wood’s first novel, No Hero, the author has created a riff on supernatural noir that’s rollicking good fun and acknowledges its debts with good humor. It also one-ups its influences with some excellent action scenes. What’s the set up? The main character, a cop, asks himself one question a lot: "What would Kurt Russell do?" It’s not a question he’s had to answer a lot—until a secret government agency recruits him to fight the Progeny, be-tentacled horrors from another dimension. Omni checked in with Wood to find out more…
Amazon.com: Any mysteries about publishing solved in prepping for the release of your first novel?
Jonathan Wood: Well, I know about the robes and the animal sacrifices now. But I'm still only a novice initiate.
Amazon.com: Your protagonist asks “What would Kurt Russell do?” First of all, do you think Kurt Russell would like your novel, and secondly what sparked the idea of having your detective reference noir and horror in pop culture?
Wood: I honestly can't speak for Mr. Russell's literary tastes. I get the impression most of his characters wouldn't have time for it. They'd be too busy busting caps and hitting on outrageously blonde women. As for the pop culture references, they're largely there to highlight the disparity between movie heroes and reality. Hopefully it adds a human frailty to Arthur (the protagonist) when you compare what Kurt Russell might do with what he has to do (which is mostly trying to not soil his underwear).
Amazon.com: What is it about mixing cosmic horror and the detective genre that appealed to you?
Wood: What? Are they not comparable to Peanut Butter and Jelly for anyone else?
Amazon.com: Is Arthur Wallace a nice guy?
Wood: He's trying to do the right thing most of the time. He blocks his own shot a lot, so to speak, but at least he aims in the right direction.
Amazon.com: Can you tell me what Wallace would do in the following scenarios? First, mean old lady about to be hit by a car in the middle of the street.
Wood: Oh he'd totally try and save her. I'm just not convinced he'd be successful. Hopefully there would be someone faster nearby.
Amazon.com: Tentacular horror rising from subway entrance.
Wood: Run and cower. No question. But after the first mind-numbing stab of panic he'd probably curse his sense of duty, and the poor examples of self-preservation Hollywood had set him, and then go and throw rocks at it until he thought of a better plan.
Amazon.com: Ice cream melting and running down the ice cream cone.
Wood: Lick! Lick like there's no tomorrow! Tame that cone!
Amazon.com: To what extent has film influenced your novel?
Wood: Probably far too much. It's my main medium for consuming story at this point, due to its relative brevity and ubiquity. I actually structured the book on an action movie model: a series of increasingly ridiculous action “set pieces” that build to a cataclysmic finale. Also, visuals are always easier for me. I sometimes have to actively remind myself to add character thought. One of the reasons I like first-person perspective so much is that it's easier for me to remember to do that.
Amazon.com: Does No Hero contain anything autobiographical that you’d like to share in embarrassing detail?
Wood: Well there was that time Nyarlathotep got me drunk and... Wait, I'm not sharing that!
Amazon.com: What are you working on now?
Wood: I'm nearing the end of a first draft of the sequel now. The working title is Yesterday's Hero and it promises teleporting Russians, zombie dinosaurs, and mutant pigeons. I'm having a lot of fun with it.