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Exclusive Interview with Hank Steinberg - Creator and Executive Producer of "THE LAST SHIP"

The following interview is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our author reviews and interviews by clicking on the Books category link (and in this case Television as well).  This is the second interview with Hank Steinberg.  The first one is located here (August 2014)

Lastshiptv (1)

The Last Ship

Creator and Executive Producer Hank Steinberg
Sundays at 9 PM EST

The Last Ship is an action-packed and explosive TV Show created by the producing team of Michael Bay and Hank Steinberg.  It is based on the novel by William Brinkley of the same name, in which a nuclear war destroys much of civilization with the only survivors being those on board this one ship. The TV series modernized the novel’s storyline yet kept the central idea of the lone ship. The first season aired on TNT last year where the episodes had the crew of the naval destroyer the USS Nathan James assigned to find a cure for a pandemic virus that wiped out most of the world’s population.  This year the plotline had Commander Tom Chandler (played by Eric Dane), the XO Mike Slattery (played by Adam Baldwin) and those on the ship trying to find a way to save humanity from the brink of extinction.  Below is an interview for blackfive.net with Hank Steinberg who also created the hit TV Show Without A Trace.

Elise Cooper:  Did you film on a real Navy Ship?

Hank Steinberg: We film the exterior scenes on a real ship in San Diego.  The Navy has graciously coordinated with us and allows us access to ships in port.  Active destroyers are usually in port half of the year so we try to find a ship and work around their schedule.  For the interior scenes on the ship we use the sets built in Los Angeles.  We use visual effects to show the ship as moving, when they are supposed to be out to sea. 

EC: Did you use a model of a destroyer or what we see on the Universal tour, the pond they created?

HS:  No.  We have a special effects person who makes it appear like the ship is moving in the ocean.  I don’t know much about technology so we get the experts to help.  The computerized technology today is amazing on how real everything looks.  It would have been very difficult to make this show fifteen years ago because of the financial achievability.  The visual effects can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of months to finish, depending on how complicated they are.  Then there are a few weeks of editing.

EC:  What about experts, any military?

HS:  Yes.  There are many military advisors on the set who are former Navy, including a few writers. They tell us how to do the action stuff.  We also have people from the Navy who arrange things logistically from being able to film on the ship to providing help with the dialogue, the way people move, and how they act.  We want to be as realistic as possible. We want to make the characters professional and realistic so we consult on how things look, sound, and work.

EC:  Do you have scientific experts?

HS:  We have several including microbiologists and those specializing in kinetics.  Some come to the set to make sure we have the correct props and equipment.  They work with Rhona, Dr. Rachel Scott, to teach her how to use the equipment.  We wanted to make everything scientifically grounded even though what is being accomplished is somewhat more advanced than what has been done.  For us it must be in the realm of plausibility.  The scientists help us formulate how our ideas could happen, making sure the science is actually correct. 

EC:  This season it seems the plots are based on a Holocaust comparison with white supremists. True?

HS:  We did not speak of Nazism so much but I could see why the comparisons would come up.  I don’t think Ramsey thinks of himself specifically as Hitler, but

Chandler does comment about a ‘master race.’  The Immunes led by the Ramsey Brothers seek biological purity instead of racial purity, but do have a sense of their own superiority as inheritors of the race.  There is a sense of primitive tribalism as a result of the breakdown of civilization.

EC:  What about the episode with the children found on an Island. Did you base it on the Lost Boys from Peter Pan?

HS:  No.  We were thinking more of Lord Of The Flies.  We wanted to explore what happens to children when they must survive on their own.  We always wanted to do a story on children survivors without any adults.

EC:  The characters this season have more gray areas than last.  Please explain.

HS:  As the series develops you always want to explore deeper and deeper with the characters.  We put them in different situations to show who these people really are, to show their different sides.  It is interesting to watch how these people deal with impossible circumstances and find the strength and courage within themselves.  For me, I am interested in the ongoing struggle and how they evolve without making them too old-fashioned because we do give them flaws.  The main characters are trying to do the right thing and are up against incredible odds.

EC:  A lot of fans were upset with Commander Chandler for his reaction to Rachel after she killed someone.  Why did he not support her?

HS:  The Commander believes in a moral authority and military discipline.  Rachel violated this code as well as his trust by doing it behind his back, lying to him, and allowing rumors on the ship to run rampant. With the President on the ship there would have been blow back on him as well as the Commander because some of the crew thought they condoned it. 

EC:  But she killed evil so what is wrong with that?

HS:  We are a country that is based on rules of law.  As the population is starting to create a new society they need to make sure someone is put on trial for their wrong deeds.  I know a lot of people were upset with Chandler because Rachel did something that was clearly what they would have done.  Yet, she acted emotionally and did not think about the other consequences.  There is a saying about values: when you only stick to them when they are convenient, then they are not values.  The fact that people were arguing about the Commander’s toughness on Rachel is exactly what we wanted to achieve.

EC:  Why did you decide to kill off certain well-regarded characters?

HS:  It is based on the direction the story is going.  The Israeli soldier, Lt. Ravit Bivas, (Inbar Lavi) bid farewell after getting mortally wounded. When she said the Shema prayer it was very emotional to me because I am Jewish.  We wanted to make it inherently tragic with her.  It was a dramatic inevitability based on her frustrated ideology.

EC:  How do you come up with the antagonists?

HS:  That is the biggest and most important question for the series.  What defines the whole story is the challenges these villains present to the heroes.  We try to create very interesting ones that are fresh and make sure never to cannibalize from previous stories.

EC:  What do you want the viewers to get out of the storyline for The Last Ship?

HS: The same thing I want viewers to get out of anything I have ever written.  I want them to feel for the characters, feel that they are part of a situation, and to feel connected as the story moves along since we live somewhat vicariously through the characters. I want people to think about what would I do, and how would I react in that situation.  Sitting on their couch but feeling as if they are there.


An Opportunity to Share Your Story

Did you do something stupid in combat and barely lived to tell the tale? Did you inhale freon from an air conditioner just before an enemy attack on your FOB? Did you call in an airstrike on the moon or kill a jihadi with a sharpened toothbrush? Want your story featured in a book full of other Joes who did the same stupid shit? Graybeard books, a blood brother of Blackfive, is compiling an anthology of funny stories from warfighters that will be published in 2016. Hit us up if you've got one. 

Submissions go to Kcrigger@graybeardbooks.com.

B5, out.



Photo - Reunion on the Flightline


U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Brandin Salazar greets his daughter on the flightline on Naval Base Ventura County following his return from deployment on Naval Base Ventura County, Calif., Aug. 26, 2015. Salazar is a steelworker assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5, which conducted maintenance and infrastructure improvements at U.S. military facilities in the U.S. Pacific Command area of operations. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Lowell Whitman 

Photo - American Badass in Ghazni 2012


U.S. Army Pfc. Kristina Batty dons a headscarf to meet with female Afghan villagers in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, May 5, 2012. Battym a medic assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, is joining Female Engagement Team members to discover what females of the village need. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

Book Review - Robert B. Parker's "The Devil Wins" by Reed Farrel Coleman

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar.

9780399169465_p0_v1_s192x300The Devil Wins is Reed Farrel Coleman’s second novel since he has taken over the Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone series.  Anyone that was a Parker fan and those new to the world of Paradise Police Chief Jesse Stone should enjoy these stories.  Coleman expands on the supporting cast of characters he inherited from Parker, is able to create his own very well developed characters that add to the plotline, and allows the readers to learn more about the small town of Paradise, Massachusetts.

In this novel the Paradise’s residents allow readers to see how the town developed over the years.  The reason for this is that the story is both a cold case and a new case having to do with the town’s occupants.  After a storm three corpses are found, a man wrapped in a tarp along with the skeletal remains of two teenage girls.  After being examined the girls are identified as Mary Kate O’Hara and Virginia Connolly, two 16-year-olds who vanished about 25 years earlier during a Fourth of July celebration.  The crime predates Jesse’s arrival into Paradise and also involves one of his police officers, Molly Crane, who was good friends with the girls.  Jesse is attempting to solve these murder mysteries but is stifled by the town’s tight lips and unsupportiveness. 

Enjoying the supporting cast of characters, Coleman noted, “In some way this is a book about Molly. Her regrets are about her past boyfriends, wanting to be a big city cop, and her desire to be a patrol officer. She and Jesse are the central figures.  In this book we see some of her personality other than the wise cracking person to Jesse.  What I am doing with the series is writing the story of the supporting characters.  There were about twelve books about Jesse and the supporting characters played minor roles. But all the characters are so rich I think there is an opportunity to write their stories.  That is the genius of Robert Parker, he left space to explore these characters and the town of Paradise.” 

For those readers new to the series Jesse Stone is a law enforcement officer in the mold of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch. They both have insecurities, and will push the line to make sure the victims gain justice.  With both Jesse and Harry, they see themselves as providing victims a voice. But, Jesse is his own character since his life is based on regrets.  He is more of the mold of the old west sheriff, a combination of Matt Dillon and Wyatt Earp.

Coleman commented to blackfive.net, “All Jesse Stone books to some extent are about regret and struggling.  He is really a hands on guy who women adore.  He is a tough guy, very athletic, one of the top former homicidal cops in Los Angeles, and currently the police chief of a beautiful New England town. Since there is not much fault to these attributes he has to have something the average person can relate with, which is his struggles with alcohol and his regret of being injured causing him to not have a professional baseball career. Because Bob Parker always thought of his characters in a western sort of way, I think the reality is Jesse is somewhere between Dillon and Earp.” 

The author also gave a heads up that in January 2016 he is going to have his own book out.  The main character, Gus Murphy, is a retired Suffolk County (Long Island, N.Y.) cop, who is happy with his life. Not an overly ambitious guy, he is satisfied to live a life of retirement, having a great pension, a wonderful wife, and two mostly grown children. But a family tragedy unravels his life. This first book begins two years after the tragedy. Gus finds his way back to life when he decides to help solve the murder of the son of someone he arrested years ago. Coleman is also busy with next year’s Jesse book, Debt To Pay, which will bring back Diana, the former FBI agent.  She and Jesse are romantically involved and work on a case together as the villain Mr. Peppers makes a re-emergence. 

Anyone looking for a good mystery should read Coleman.  He has taken up the torch of Robert Parker and allowed Jesse Stone to grow as a character.  His plots are action packed and fast moving while the characters are relatable and likeable.  The Devil Wins is a riveting and suspenseful novel.

Update/Thoughts And A WARNO

I've been asked more than once recently "What happened to Blackfive?"  The question has come from long-term readers and from people I would never have expected to be readers.  

The common thought behind that question is what happened to our regular, often in-depth, posts on a variety of topics pertaining to the military and national security.  It is a good and valid question.  

Speaking strictly for myself, I think it was a combination of things.  

When Blackfive started, there was a huge interest in, and need for, discussion and explanation of things military for a public that is increasingly disconnected from the military and from issues of national security.  What Blackfive did was provide that discussion, and Matt wisely (IMO) started adding guest posters and then other regular writers to cover a wide range of areas as well as the various services.  

Continue reading "Update/Thoughts And A WARNO" »

Book Review - "A Pattern of Lies" by Charles Todd

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category on the right side bar.

9780062393104_p0_v2_s192x300A Pattern of Lies by Charles Todd has the main character Bess Crawford deeply involved in solving a “who done it.” As with all the books this strong female nurse is put in a situation where she has to help solve a case that is always surrounded in mystery.  An added bonus is learning what it was like living during the World War I era.

In this book readers are immersed in the culture of 1918.  This includes how the medical profession began to use specialists, and how prisoners were not allowed to see their families, a decision determined by the police. 

The plot begins with Bess assigned to accompany a convoy of wounded soldiers to a hospital specializing in internal wounds. Nurse Bess Crawford is left stranded when her train is detained in the small town of Canterbury, Kent.  While strolling, she sees a former patient, Major Mark Ashton, who insists she stay with him and his family.  It is here she finds out two years earlier, the family business (a gunpowder factory), exploded, causing more than 100 deaths. Though the official investigation ruled out sabotage, rumor has it that Mark’s father, Philip, was responsible. Bess finds herself caught up in a malicious show of hostility, including how the family was terrorized and a whisper campaign blaming Philip, which leads to his arrest.  Bess risks her life to find out the truth of what happened behind the explosion.

This is a book about revenge. The most interesting part of the story is when the authors explore the mob mentality, as the townspeople attempt to create a believable truth.  The campaign of terror includes the police and ranges from subtle to outright viciousness.  The Todds told blackfive.net they wanted to convey how “people are eager to find someone to point a finger to, and wanted a scapegoat.  People wanted answers and someone to blame considering the explosion took away the town’s economic livelihood and many lives.”

A Pattern of Lies has a very interesting plot based upon the true event of the 1916 Oare Gunpowder Works explosion in Kent.  Readers will enjoy how the authors weave into the storyline historical insight of the time period. 

The Todds also gave a heads up about their future projects.  Coming out in September in print form will by a short anthology, Tales, which include two Bess Crawford and two Detective Ian Rutledge stories.  Their next Bess book will bring back the American, Captain Thomas Barclay.  Fans should look forward to this since the chemistry and interaction between the two characters makes for a lively plot.  The next Rutledge book, also based on a true story, will take place in Cornwall, England where the detective must sort out if four young women actually committed murder. 

The 2015 Hugo Awards: Some Thoughts

There a few things in this world that truly make me mad.  I'm not talking the things in life that can make us spark.  There are lots of things in this world that can make me spark, and there is a reason that my nickname in early high school was "Spark Plug" and "Sparky."  Those who truly knew me, however, knew that the problem was not when I sparked, which was soon over, but when I got very quiet and coldly precise.  

This morning, I awoke to very unsurprising news about the Hugo awards.  I am disappointed, but honestly expected nothing less from the Social Justice Bullies and related ilk.  Indeed, I'm more surprised that one or two categories more didn't get no award -- the equivalent of destroying the village to save it.  That was their plan almost from the start, since those labeled "Wrong Fan" dared to get more fans involved in a dying award that represented the thoughts of less than 600 "Right Fans" who bought supporting or full memberships to the World Science Fiction Conventions -- which is where and how the Hugo awards are decided.  For those truly interested, note the attendance figures for the WorldCon over the last 30 years, note the numbers of people who actually voted in the Hugo process, and then note the size of conventions like DragonCon, the various ComicCons, and such.  

As noted previously, I was in the past involved with some conventions and even had a small role in an Atlanta-based WorldCon (ConFederation).  I long ago left such, many of the so-called "Right Fans" and people who styled themselves as Secret Masters of Fandom (SMOFs, though I note there is a huge difference between the self-styled guardians of what they regard as right and proper and real SMOFS) leaving a bad taste in my mouth.  Frankly, I decided that my best interest was to focus on writing, which has been a large part of what I've done in real life.  Most of my work has been in non-fiction, and that which has gone to the public has even won a couple of awards.  To be very honest, one of the reasons I became active in Fandom, as it is known, was to meet editors, publishers, and other writers (particularly those of whom I was a fan).  Going in was calculated, what happened was simply fun. 

What can you say about meeting classic Science Fiction writers from the Golden (and other) age(s)?  About meeting and talking with Gordon Dickson, who's Dorsai series spoke to me and made me think and explore?  About meeting and talking with the wonderful de Camps, Fred Pohl, the delightful Pournelle's, Fred Saberhagen, Harry Turtledove, Jack Williamson, the Zahn's, the Niven's, A.E. van Vogt, and others?  About hanging out with the delightfully irrascible Bob "Horseclans" Adams in his room parties, or "smoothing" with Tucker himself?  Of finding out that David Drake, who's combat SF was his way of dealing with his experiences in Viet Nam, was painfully shy -- and quite sharp with his wit.  Of being able to form friendships with some of them, and with the likes of the Webers?  Of course, you do meet a few who were and are assholes, and I shall not name them and have never bought anything by them after meeting them on panels or in private. 

Early on, I met a veteran named Jim Baen.  Jim and his (former) wife Toni Weisskopf became something more than just acquaintances, and they pushed me to begin writing fiction.  Honestly, they believed I could do it long before I thought I had a shot at writing good fiction (other than some AARs and such).  Jim, of course, is the founder of Baen Books, and is widely and properly credited with saving the field of military science fiction.  You can find video interviews done with Travis Taylor, Mark L. Van Name, David Drake, David Weber, Michael Z. Williamson, and Tom Kratman on that and other subjects on the Blackfive YouTube channel.  That he did so because he saw that money could be made in it does nothing to diminish the fact that he did save it.  Then again, Jim (and Toni) saw that publishing was changing on many levels, and found ways to embrace those changes, adapt, and be successful.  I would note that Baen Books, and it's Barflies, have donated a massive amount of print and electronic books to the troops, particularly the deployed.  Others play at it via token efforts.  Baen and it's readers live it in a huge way.  

Toni has been a true and wonderful friend to me.  In fact, if you look at my photo books done from my embeds for Blackfive, you will note the thanks to her for editing them.  Toni has encouraged me in many ways and levels, and done things to help me along.  She (and Jim) believed in me before I truly believed in myself.  

The Hugos have been gamed for years, and there are those very unhappy to have that exposed by Larry Correia with the original Sad Puppies campaign.  This year, the Sad Puppies and the independent Rabid Puppies effort, showed that gaming for all to see -- along with the truly rabid response of those who have gamed it.  The Hugos have been for some time about message and not about the best works of Science Fiction.  The Puppies were and are about making it about good stories well told (and not the right cisgender normative message no matter how horrible the writing and/or editing).  

As I said, the response and results were not unexpected.  I honestly thought No Award would take at least two more slots than it did.  

Where I'm not sparking is with how things were handled.  First, there was the biased and childish panel that preceded the Hugos.  Second, was the awards ceremony itself.  That one or more Hugo nominees walked out early (along with other professionals) says it all.  The deliberate and willful disrespect, and bias, shown says it all for me.  

So, for me, it's on.  For those of you ignorant enough to buy into the Social Justice Bullies lie that the Puppies were all angry white men, I simply point out that the Puppies were far more diverse than those that opposed them.  For a group of "neo-nazis" as an employee of Tor books called them (us, honestly), there sure are a lot of mutts in the group, and a lot females too.  In fact, one author attacked in this manner actually fought real neo-nazis and injustice, and has the wounds to show it.  Another author also schooled the idiots with the real deal.  I further note that only one, repeat ONE, reporter writing on the subject of the Puppies had the courage and integrity to actually interview the wonderful Sarah A. Hoyt, who is not a white male.  That Larry Correia is far more a mutt than I am, and hardly a lily-white male (unlike most of those attacking him).  That strawman Larry is not just a jerk, but an asshole and I want at least ten of the ribbons saying he is a jerk.  I could go on, but it is easy to pick apart the slanders, libels, and lies heaped upon them, Brad Torgersen, and others -- for those with interest in the truth that is.

The blatant disrespect and insult offered to Toni last night is the final straw.  You attacked a friend. 

So, I'm in on Sad Puppies 4.  If you want to destroy WorldCon and the Hugo awards, you will have your chance and you will own the results.  My hope, faint though it is, remains to make the awards truly relevant again as a means of promoting good writing, editing, and other efforts regardless of the message. 

Meantime, my limited funds will be my vote and those funds will not be spent at Tor (or Forge), or probably with MacMillan as a whole.  Tom Doherty:  I doubt you remember me, but we have met and I found you to be a likable person who seemed to have integrity and honor.  I am sorry to do this, but your employees have engaged in what I believe to be slander, libel, and more -- and, yes, I use those terms advisedly and with full knowledge of the difference between them.  That they have also sought to harm some of your own writers...  WorldCon, your bias is showing.  For my author friends with Tor or MacMillan, sorry, but I will not support them as much as I want to support you. 

I plan to spend with publishers who put out good books/stories first, and message second.  I plan to buy from Baen; I plan to buy from other publishers and those who also publish independently, such as Sarah A. Hoyt, Kate PaulkCedar Sanderson, Amanda S. Green, Dave Freer, Jim Butcher, Tom Kratman, John Ringo, John C. Wright, and Michael Z. Williamson.  With traditional publishing tanking, voting with my money has a far larger effect.  

Now, I've wasted enough time on an award that most likely can't be saved.  This is time that could have seen a couple thousand words written on the new novel I'm frantically trying to write, revise, and submit.  It likely would be a far better use of my time, but I will not let stand the attacks on Toni, Sarah, and other friends.  Choose as you will, my money vote is cast. 


UPDATE:  Sarah A. Hoyt has a very good read on last night.  

Photo - Show of Force

Hires_150811-N-XX566-016cThe USS Chung Hoon, USS Moble Bay and USS Russel follow the USS John C. Stennis during a show of force as they transit in the Pacific Ocean, Aug. 11, 2015. Sailors from the John C. Stennis Strike Group are conducting composite training and joint task force exercises, the final step in certifying to deploy. 
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andre T. Richard

Book Review - "Deadline" by J.J. Livingston

The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our author interviews and reviews by clicking on the Books category link on the right side bar.

51Giir4ktAL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Deadline by J. J. Livingston, a pen name for Jennifer Greer, is a fascinating read.  It explores many issues women face including their treatment in Middle Eastern countries, and the timely issue of stem cell research.  But it is also a book that everyone can relate with, through the action packed plot and the issues of trying to cope with PTSD, hold onto a job, being a single parent, and empty nest syndrome.

The author has experienced many of the issues her characters have gone through.  She commented, “My husband died when my two girls were nine months and two years old.  I have been a widow for fifteen years now.  My husband died instantly in a car accident.  Being a single parent was a tough transition for me. First you go into shock because you realize at this moment the finality of death.  Yet, you don’t feel it or process it then.  It’s only over time that you come to accept it.  I still remember being notified as if it were yesterday.  The Fresno coroner personally drove to my house even though it was an hour away.  He saw I was with my children and decided to wait for my two pastors to come over to inform me.” 

As a former police reporter she is able to use her past experiences to write a very realistic and believable plot.  The main protagonist is Whit McKenna, a tough and driven journalist who seeks out the truth.  She is a former war correspondent who had to overcome rape, torture, and her husband being killed in Afghanistan. Ending up going back to Medford, Oregon to raise her two children, she eventually finds a job at the local paper. Thinking that will be a safe environment for her two children, she finds out otherwise when a string of murders occur. While seeking out the truth about a certain clinic and attempting to connect the dots about the different killings, she must also cope with disturbing flashbacks about her time in Afghanistan. After writing a number of front-page articles McKenna receives the ire of the killer who will stop at nothing to silence her. 

Some of the most potent scenes are the descriptions of McKenna’s time in Afghanistan.  Livingston describes the rape, the beatings with kicks, punches, and tree branches at the hands of Al Qaeda insurgents.  But most powerful was this quote, “John (her husband) felt helpless and couldn’t stand watching me suffer…He shared my pain. I think he may have felt the same way about Afghanistan.” It brings into focus the real war on women and how hard it is for rape victims to cope.

Livingstone noted to blackfive.net, “I was a journalist in Bosnia. We were at the war zone, five miles from the front lines.  Periodically we were stopped and frisked at gunpoint.  While there I covered a story about women and children refugees.  A lot of people never made it into the camps before they were raped. My whole point of writing, whether journalism or a novel, is to touch the hearts and minds of my readers.  When I pick up a book I like learning something new.  It is like reading a news article in a different format.  I like to take on social issues and incorporate them into a fictional story.” 

Deadline is a riveting and informative thriller.  In addition to a fast paced and suspenseful plot it has well developed characters.  Anyone that enjoys a story with a lot of twists and turns should read this book.