Jon Land is the author of the Caitlin Strong series, [as well as the Blaine McCracken series (“Omicron Legion” and “The Omega Command”)]. He is a Brown graduate who lives in Providence, Rhode Island. His credits list over 25 books.
In “Strong at the Break,” Land took some of every topical news strand out there and jammed nearly all of them into an action-packed book, “Strong at the Break,” to be followed by an even newer Caitlin Strong book, “Strong Vengeance.” (July, 2012).
The man is a writing machine. The publication dates for his four Caitlin Strong novels: May 12, 2009; June 22, 2010; June 21, 2011, and July 17, 2012. Wow! As someone who labored three years on her first novel, I am impressed by Jon Land’s output! You’d think the man never left his house or his computer, but, instead, we learn that he is very active in martial arts.
Caitlin Strong, a 5th generation Texas Ranger, has appeared in Land’s four most recent books (of 35): “Strong Justice,” “Strong Enough to Die,” and “Strong Vengeance: A Caitlin Strong Novel” (which followed “Strong at the Break,” my focus here).
“Strong at the Break: A Caitlin Strong Novel” derives its title from an Ernest Hemingway quote, “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”
In an interview by Doug Cobb published in June of 2011 on the online blog “Boomtown,” Cobb asked Land questions about his Caitlin Strong series:
“Strong At the Break featuring Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong, the third book in your series, just may well be the best one yet! It has three–count ‘em, three–main plot lines that at first seem to be unrelated, but you brilliantly tie them all together. There’s the one involving Caitlin’s journey to Canada to assist the Mounties in their efforts to stem the tide of illegal drugs coming into America; then, there’s the one where she’s concerned about and active in stopping the sex slave trade based in Mexico; and, lastly, there’s the one where she attempts to shut down the militant quasi-religious group, the Patriot Sun, headed by Malcolm Arno, before he can start up a second Civil War.
Would you say there is any actual evidence that a portion of the $20 billion Bremer had at his disposal in Iraq may have found its way back to America to fund certain militant groups, or is this more of a very dramatic plausible deduction you have made?” (*Cobb forgot to mention the page-time devoted to Don Imus’ philanthropic gestures towards amputee veterans.)
Land gave great answers to Cobb’s questions, and revealed the scoop regarding his fourth Caitlin Strong novel (July 17, 2012).
The original series, said Land, came about when a need for strong female heroines was articulated to him by Tor/Forge books.
Jon Land Picture In the Cobb interview, Land also said, “But the best advice I’ve ever been given about writing actually came from my martial arts instructor who told me to get out of the way of the story and let the characters do the work. The book’s about them was his advice, not me.”
I agree with this assessment. It is why it has taken me so long to finish the third of the four Caitlin Strong books. I had trouble envisioning Caitlin Strong as “real.” Nor did I believe her “maybe-love-interest” Cort Wesley Masters was a real flesh-and-blood person. I’m not fit to hold Caitlin’s six-shooters, that much is for sure. What a rootin’ tootin’ heroine! And she has almost no sex or interest in same in “Strong at the Break.” One chaste kiss. Talk about denial of one’s basic urges!
A book clearly could be written about Land, an author of over 25 books who also has had a 25-year career in the martial arts. (He is an associate member of the U.S. Special Forces) Land is an affable fellow who also is Vice President of Marketing for ITW (International ThrillerWriters). In fact, the dedication of “Strong at the Break” says: “For International ThrillerWriters, keepers of the flame.” Land has written and produced one screenplay (“Dirty Deeds”) and sold the rights to his novel “The Seven Sins: The Tyrant Ascending” to be turned into a DC comic book series and eventual film franchise.
The uncorrected ARC advance copy I read did not have a cover. It opened with heroine Caitlin Strong helping stop drugs being smuggled in from Canada. This immediately made me think of Melissa Leo’s role in the 2008 film “Frozen River.” But “Strong at the Break” isn’t content to stop with a riveting story about Canadian drug dealers and the slavery of Chinese would-be immigrants and Hell’s Angels, it quickly jumps from Quebec and the LaChance brothers to San Antonio, and we are off to the (Ranger) races. [Texas Rangers, that is.]
I admire Jon Land’s ability to jump around within his novel(s) and keep his places and times straight, all things a writer has to do and difficult, at that. His Phi Beta Kappa/magna cum laude abilities definitely show up in the way he is able to reintegrate disparate plot elements, ranging from the Malcolm Arno quasi-religious group (read Waco), to an amputee veteran who blows the whistle on billions of dollars that went MIA in George W. Bush’s war (Bremer in Iraq), to the kidnapping in Mexico of Cort Wesley Masters’ son, Dylan, who functions as a quasi-son to the unmarried Caitlin.
I don’t begrudge men writing about women, or women writing about men. I just need to be able to believe that the woman (or man) I’m reading about could really exist. They have to seem real. Despite some backstory about Caitlin’s having been present at the face-off outside Pearsley’s Tackle and Gun Shop in Midland, Texas in 1990 when her father shot down a religious wing nut in full view of his teen-aged son (who later becomes a bigger menace than the old man), I just could not get in to Caitlin Strong. I did not buy her cowgirl-who-can-kill with the best of them. I tried, but I just could not. I could believe that the slight Swedish heroine, Lisbeth Salander, could defend herself against far bigger opponents (and hack into their bank accounts, if necessary) but Caitlin just seemed unlikely and unrealistic. Maybe it was all the jumping around in time and place, from Canada to Mexico to Texas to wherever. I would like to see the talented Mr. Land concentrate on just ONE of his many storylines. I admire his dexterity in keeping them all straight, juggling all the balls in the air at once, and pulling them all together by the novel’s end (348 pages later) and I admire his prodigious output.
All I can say to Mr. Land’s rabid Caitlin Strong fans and to the fascinating author himself is that, sometimes, “less is more.” I’d love to see an in-depth investigation of just one of the (many) plot strands thrown out there in “Strong at the Break.” And I’d like to add, “Happy Mutual Birthday!” (with no mention of the year, of course) as my birthday, too, is July 23rd.
But, meanwhile, I salute Jon Land’s hard work and prodigious output.