INTERVIEW: Stuart R Brogan
– By Dave Dubrow
Stuart R Brogan is the author of the recently published novel JACKALS, and was kind enough to answer some questions about himself, his writing, and his unorthodox beliefs.
Other than entertainment, tell us what you’d like the reader to take away most from your novel Jackals.
Hi David, and thanks for having me. For me as an author, one of the main things I want a reader to take away from reading Jackals is some sort of deep rooted “feeling”. It could be shock, intensity or the sensation of helplessness or solitude. They themselves are locked into the world of the Jackals and are along for the ride wherever it may lead; it’s a roller-coaster from which they can’t escape. Life is harsh and brutal and I want the reader to admit to themselves that it could actually happen. I am a huge fan of realism and as such it comes through in my writing. I want the reader to feel the elation or despair of the characters, to have a sense of empathy with the horrendous odds levied against them. The reason I write what I do (apart from enjoyment) is even though the monster under the stairs scenario is all well and good and the threat of some dystopian pandemic makes for a solid base for the genre, I believe the cruelty and horror mankind can inflict on others is far more terrifying than any boogeyman, and as such I believe the more plausible and likely the story arc, the more the reader will react to the progression of the story told.
On the cover, it says, “Embrace the primitive.” What do you mean by that? The antagonists of the novel intend a kind of “devolution”, not just of individuals, but society itself. Do you find any value in this philosophy of returning to a simpler time?
Embrace the primitive is indeed the Jackals’ mantra, one of their reasons for embarking on what they see as a righteous cause. You are correct in stating they wish for devolution within the social setting as well as on a spiritual and personal level. They are of the belief that mankind’s true nature is to kill or be killed; the restraints of social dogma are seen as chains holding back the true essence of what it is to be human, thus to attain what they see as the pinnacle of human evolution they must kill primitively. I don’t want to give too much away but you get the main arc of their reasoning.
With regards to my personal feelings, I am of the opinion that as a species we rely far too much on technology in this modern age and as such have lost a lot of skills that our ancestors took as normal and fundamental to our true nature. Self-sufficiency and the ability to look after ourselves and our loved ones seem to have taken second place to the urge of “let someone else do it” and anyone with thoughts of standing on their own two feet free from the restraints and archaic laws of Government are deemed as “odd balls” at best but at worst as some sort of dissident. I am a firm believer in self-empowered action; I believe in personal freedom and find most of the constraints of modern society to be a form of financial and social enslavement.
You’re a former bouncer, a martial artist, and an avid shooter. Which martial arts do you practice? Eastern, Western, or both?
That is correct. I was a bouncer for fifteen years and started on the doors when I was seventeen years old; at the time my first door was a biker bar so you can imagine the fun times had there! I have worked in some really hard-core venues and sustained injuries from knives and other weapons; luckily, I am still standing and didn’t receive anything life-threatening. I also branched out into private investigation specializing in surveillance as well as a little close protection.
With regards to Martial Arts, I started when I was a kid with Karate, then progressed to Aikido. Even though they had their merits, something just didn’t “feel” right. When I started on the doors I learnt very quickly what worked in a real-life situation and what would get you injured or possibly killed. Don’t get me wrong, every martial art has its good points but we don’t live in honourable times anymore; there is no respect between opponents. It’s a dog eat dog world and in that moment the most vicious and brutal wins: it’s as simple as that. Most encounters I have been involved in were over very quickly and had escalated from nothing to full on life or death in a matter of seconds. Being able to switch “it” on and reading the situation are the two most valuable attributes; if you have those two skills then you need very minimal techniques.
As well as learning on the job, my father was ex-Special Forces, so a little came by way of him and his experiences, not to mention being able to train with some very capable people over the years regarding Close Quarter Combatives. I kind of have a “take a little away from everything” attitude. I don’t have any black belts, nor trophies, but most certainly know how to take care of myself and those I care about. These days I am a fully qualified instructor in the RAT system (Rapid Assault Tactics) devised by Sifu Paul Vunak and was taught by his UK representative Sifu Clive Whitworth. The first time I was exposed to it I was blown away by the simple yet multi-layered attributes of the system. The basis in JKD and Kali just impressed the hell out of me. My instructor described it as carrying a loaded gun and should only be pulled when left with no choice, but when you do pull it out of the holster and squeeze that trigger there is no going back. There are no negative movements: just continual motion until the target is terminated. It’s a brutal, devastating and beautiful system.
At more than one point during the narrative of Jackals, one of the characters wishes he had a gun when either because of arcane rules or the UK’s restrictive firearms laws he couldn’t carry one. Is this a source of frustration for you, also?
Absolutely. I am VERY pro-gun and find the current gun laws in the UK archaic. I am of the belief that it is my right to own a firearm as long as I am not a criminal or mentally unstable. I used to pistol shoot many years ago before the ban and am sorry that I can no longer enjoy it. I do however still shoot in a variety of disciplines. I currently partake in Tactical Rifle utilizing a Smith and Wesson M & P 15-22, I also shoot .38 / .357 Underlever for fun, Practical Shotgun (I am partial to high capacity semi autos) and F-Class scoped rifle (.308) out to one mile.
Luckily I have a really good gun club just an hour’s travel from my home and they are a fantastic bunch; no matter how much you think you know or how good a shot you think you are there is always someone else better or more knowledgeable. No egos or drama, just a really good group of law-abiding gun enthusiasts; if I’m not writing or at my shop you will find me on the range.
You describe yourself as a pagan, you’ve written a book titled Heroes of Pagan Britain, and you’re the co-owner of a Viking/Asatru (Heathenry) shop. Tell us non-pagans about your religious beliefs. What’s the main thing you’d like people of other faiths to know about it?
Wow, loaded question! I could go on for hours. In a nutshell I class myself as HEATHEN: that is basically the indigenous spiritual and philosophical beliefs and practices of the Northern Hemisphere during the Viking / Anglo Saxon period. Even if you have never heard of it then you would have heard of some of its Gods and Goddesses: Odin, Thor, Freyja, etc. It does have other names but I prefer the term used. Unfortunately most of the general public may associate it with the far-right movement due to the Nazis hijacking some of our symbols and other elements. I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not endorse any hate or racially-divisive rhetoric; in fact I despise those that do. Heathenism is what I would deem a Reconstructionist Philosophy for daily life. Some may believe in the physical forms of our deities, others may see them as just metaphorical focal points for human characteristics. They have their flaws as well as their attributes. As Heathens we do not bow or kneel before our Gods, we stand on our own two feet and accept the consequences of our actions. We understand that the world does not owe us anything; if we want something we must work for it. I personally feel I honour my faith by my everyday actions and how I deal with everything that life throws at me. We have a saying that the Gods help those who help themselves. We don’t need one special day to proclaim our piety. I strongly advocate personal growth through education and treating others how I expect to be treated; however we don’t suffer fools gladly.
You’ve also written a book called Heathen Warrior, about heroism and the warrior ethos. Why’s this book relevant in today’s modern society? Outside of the military, why do we need warriors?
It is my belief that everyone has the ability to face hardship regardless of its origins and be able to overcome whatever it presents. The warrior ethos is having the courage of your convictions and standing tall in the face of adversity and not backing down. Don’t get me wrong: I am not saying that we should all be this muscle-bound brute doing battle with everyone, and I realize that we cannot all be “Alpha” males. Rather, it’s about having the self-confidence to deal with problems without relying on others to do it for us. We must have the inner strength to protect ourselves and our loved ones, win or lose, it matters not; all that matters is our fortitude and self-resilience and refusal to be a victim. I call this the RVA principle (Realisation – Visualization – Actualisation). It can be applied to any task we undertake – First we must Realise our weaknesses or obstacles before us, then we must Visualise the outcome desired once we have started our journey; finally, the Actualisation of our preferred outcome. The warrior ethos is about inner strength and the iron will to win and not depending on others. We must have the courage of our convictions and be willing to back them up when needed. In my humble opinion we as a society have become soft; we feel safe and secure that others will protect us. This could mean Police, Fire Service, Military etc. but we are doing ourselves a huge disservice. What would happen if these people weren’t around? Could you defend yourself or would your skill set be found wanting? Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
Jackals is filled to the brim with blood and guts. Is that your favourite kind of horror to read? To watch?
Funnily enough, no. In fact I am not a great fan of blood in guts in either book or film. This may seem strange considering the amount of it in Jackals, but it was necessary to tell that particular story. The violence was strategically placed for the continuing momentum of the tale. I wanted to convey the sense of wanton recklessness and total disregard for human empathy, not to mention the utter brutality of the protagonists. They are primitive in both action and rationale, and as such mimic nature. When animals kill they do it without remorse and it is completely brutal. Without that level of violence the reader wouldn’t be able to comprehend the lengths to which they would go to achieve their new world.
I may or may not write my future works with that level of blood and gore, it all depends on whether it needs it. I will never use gore for the sake of it; it must serve a purpose, not merely for shock value. Jackals is in fact the first in a trilogy and the second book will focus on the hunters becoming the hunted: it is their turn to know fear.
Do you do any reading outside of the horror genre? Any favourite non-horror authors?
My favourite author is without a doubt John Twelve Hawks, author of the Fourth Realm Trilogy. He doesn’t use gore, nor is his style drenched in blood, but his social observations are second to none with regards the “Big Brother” world we now find ourselves in. He understands that the true enemy and force of evil is the corporate businessmen whose sole agenda is to enslave the majority, be it religiously, financially or by means of the media. The divide and conquer tactic is the most tried and tested way to funnel the cattle to the point in which serves you best. Some may say it is conspiracy theory to even suggest such hypothesis but one only has to look around us to see that it is happening. Unfortunately they seem to be succeeding despite more and more people questioning the actions of both Governments and those in power.
Aside from the above, his stories are full of excellently-crafted characters, heart-stopping action and emotion both negative and positive. I thought his first book The Traveller was exceptional; in fact it is my all-time favourite. Again, this may sound strange but I haven’t read any horror since the early 90’s, so when I wrote Jackals I had no idea the current state of the genre nor did I know what was trending. I basically wrote it in a vacuum, uninfluenced by anything at the time; it is only now I am beginning to explore the vast array of new horror authors and their works. Here in the UK there are some very talented people plying their trade. To be honest I didn’t really pigeonhole it as a horror when I was writing it but now view it as an action / horror novel. The only fiction books I have read over the last few years were by Duncan Falconer or Tom Wood, both excellent thriller / action novelists who have absolutely nothing to do with the horror genre. I also like to read shooting magazines, or doesn’t that count?
Thanks very much for your time, Stuart.
For information on purchasing Stuart R Brogan’s books on Amazon, click here.