Marcus Wynne’s THE REVENGERS

SALT: Book 1 of The Revengers by [Marcus Wynne]

Rob the corrupt. Then kill them.

Evil lurks in the streets of Minneapolis. Where the police can’t or won’t act, retired US Marines Salt and Raul Sanchez take justice into their hands. Hybrid vigilante-hitmen, they stalk their prey, rob them blind, and finish them. Permanently.

Book 1, SALT, introduces readers to the world of Revengers. When a corrupt cop abuses his badge to victimize a young girl, Salt and Sanchez make a stand. Partnering with a Russian hacker and his surveillance crew, they hunt the target in the shadows of Minneapolis to deliver their brand of justice.

Book 2, ARIEL, follows in the footsteps of SALT and shines a light into the Minneapolis illegal sex trade. Ariel, the Revengers’ young protoge, encounters a human trafficker who runs a web of blackmail and vice from a collection of properties-turned-brothels. With the Revengers behind her, she takes aim at the spider at the middle of the web.

Book 3, GITA, takes place immediately after ARIEL. After rescuing a group of trafficked women, the Revengers place them in the care of social worker Gita Barnes. When a violent psychopath moves into the neighbourhood just down the street, Gita turns to Salt and Sanchez for help.

Books 1 and 2 are available on Amazon. Individually they are a cut above most self-published thrillers. Wynne is a military veteran and a trainer to many of America’s finest military and police tactical units, and one of the finest writers in the business. Nonetheless, he could have done with an extra round of proofreading or with an editor; some minor but jarring typos and formatting issues show up on occasion.

The Revengers series is a marked departure from Wynne’s other works. His earlier books were traditional full-length modern novels, incorporating a heady mix of tradecraft, action, character drama, and noir sensibilities. With Revengers, he is experimenting with classic pulp fiction structure.

In his words:

 You take an approximate word length of 60,000 words, break it into four quads of 15,000 words, subdivide into two smaller pieces of 7500 words, and structure your acts along those lines.  Act One is the first 15,000; Act Two is the middle 30,000; Act Three is the final 15,000.  So classic Aristotle structure, yeah?  What happens in the STARK books is something I wanted to try:  the first half of the book is all about the protagonist(s) setting up their heist, hit, whatever, when they get betrayed/set up/ambushed at the mid-point. The third quad is all from the perspective of the bad guy who has set them up at the mid-point.  The fourth quad is the final act and is breakneck action culminating in a satisfying resolution and set up for the next book.

The Revenger books make this structure explicit. Each novel is clearly divided into four parts of roughly equal length. Part 1 gathers the players and describes the situation. Part 2 has them setting up for the hit, ending in a twist. Part 3 reveals the villain’s backstory, motivations, and the events leading up to the twist. Part 4 has the characters recovering from the twist, turning the situation around, and in the ending set up the next book.

This structure is a major departure from Wynne’s previous books. I’d say his experiment succeeded, but with reservations.

Wynne’s strengths lie in action, tradecraft, character and dialogue. With this plot structure, the action is shifted to the final quadrant of the book. That means tradecraft, character and dialogue must carry the first three quads.

I am a tradecraft junkie. I appreciate the little tradecraft details, from surveillance to radio etiquette to how a hacker can uncover a person’s online life. From a regular person’s perspective, however, the tradecraft scenes seem to slow down the story.

Character description and development is low-key and economical. Here, Wynne doesn’t go into as much detail or with as much emotion as his previous books. But through dialogue, the banter, and little habits and actions, Wynne effortlessly distinguishes his characters and shows their dynamics and relationships.

In Book 1 you see Wynne feeling out and exploring this structure. It’s a tight story with no fluff. Act 2 ends with a great twist. But this twist is resolved in Act 4 with a somewhat questionable tactical decision. Admittedly, this decision sets up the climax, which could not be possible had the characters done something more tactical and believable.

Wynne gets more comfortable with the structure in Book 2. Where Book 1 was tightly focused on the hit, here you see a few scenes dedicated solely to character growth and development. Further, with the antagonist having minions on the payroll, the action quad is a little more intense and involved than Book 1.

The 4-act story structure keeps the novels tightly focused. There is a sense of relentless forward momentum, with the story inexorably building up to the climax. Every scene and every line advances the plot, reveals something about the characters, or shows a facet of the dark world they inhabit–often two or all three at once. This structure went a long way towards keeping the story compact and economical.

Of special note is Wynne’s treatment of action scenes. Fight scenes in his earlier books are characterised by heavy firepower, ultraviolence, seamless use of blade and gun where appropriate, and sheer stylized chaos.

Revengers takes the opposite tone. The action scenes are clinical and focused. There is still emotional intensity, but the action scenes are smaller in scope, described in a dry matter-of-fact fashion. They aren’t traditional ‘fight’ scenes either; they are short, sharp, and overwhelming, the way professionals dish out violence.

The plot, character, structure and set-up combine to create these tightly-focused action slices. While justified, it is still somewhat jarring to read if you’re coming off from Wynne’s earlier fiction. The action scenes here are closer to his earlier books LOVELADY and WARRIOR IN THE SHADOWS, with their heavy psychological focus, than his more recent WYLDE and SWORD OF MICHAEL novels.

Marcus Wynne is the master of gunfighter noir. His stories combine tradecraft, psychology, intense violence, deep characters and an unflinching look at the darkness in the human heart. If you’re looking for quick pulp action thrillers, check out the Revengers.

Marcus Wynne’s THE REVENGERS
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