ELAINE ASH: Tell me about your night at the illegal drag races.
BRIAN DRAKE: My cop contacts warned me that things were pretty hot because of a hit-and-run death that occurred at one of the races, and the perps were still at large. [I went anyway,] dumb and happy, asking questions and drawing attention to myself. A contact told me someone thought I was a cop and they were going to conk me over the head. I saw some of them watching me and we watched each other watch each other for a while. Then cops showed up and everybody scrambled and I was dumb enough to stay there and say, “Hi, I’m a journalist,” and the cops almost arrested me. The bad guys thought I was a cop and the cops thought I was a bad guy. It was a heck of a night!
ELAINE: Your day job is in radio and TV, right?
BRIAN: Along with talking about traffic on KCBS and filling in as a gopher at one of the local TV stations, I’m working on a new talk show for an internet station.
Elaine: Tell me about flying.
Brian: [As a traffic reporter] we fly Cessna 172s. Great little planes. Basically my duties are to fly a specific route, or beat, and observe the traffic pattern. I have a two-way headset to communicate with the radio station. If I see delays, backups, stalls or accidents I let the station know and when it’s time to go on the air, I report what I see. It’s fun, stressful, and dangerous. Every now and then a plane will have a problem and sometimes you have to boogie back to the ground. One time a plane ran out of gas because the pilot was negligent in checking the level before he took off and had to land on the freeway. Recently a colleague reported that he and his pilot were smelling something burning behind the control panel and they landed at the nearest airport–that was only a few days ago so I don’t know what the problem was yet. It’s unlike many other jobs but you can also die. I think, for me, that’s part of the appeal.
Elaine: Let’s talk about Ian Fleming.
Brian: When I was starting out as a young writer, at around 15 or so, Ian Fleming was the big influence; in later years the names changed, but, nowadays, I’m back to Fleming as a main source of “I want to write like that.” Basically, the more I dug into his creation of James Bond, the more I wanted to do that kind of hero, somebody larger than life, getting mixed up in international intrigue. I’m inspired somewhat by the men’s adventure novels I read growing up (The Executioner, The Destroyer, The Survivalist, etc.
Elaine: What about Robert Ludlum?
Brian: What I learned from Ludlum is that while you can have fantastic adventures, you also have to have a sense of reality. When people get shot, they get hurt, they don’t jump back into action like John Wayne, and Ludlum used that very example once. Go back to Fleming for a similar example. The literary James Bond got hurt a lot and had to recuperate a lot and didn’t always get the girl nor did he always jump into bed at every opportunity unlike his cinematic counterpart. I wanted to write fantastic adventures but not a cartoon, so I emulated the styles of Ludlum and Fleming in that regard.
Elaine: Is there anything you’re doing that doesn’t involve planes, guns or cigars?
Brian: I’m working on a new talk show for an internet station and trying to get married before I’m 40. The state of the dating world is as bonkers as ever, if not more so, and the experience will make a great book some day.
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MOVING TARGET cover art by REBECCA FORSTER www.rebeccaforster.com