Bestselling Author Joe Finder Interviews His Confidential Source:
Jack Hoban, The Ethical Warrior

FinderI’ve talked a lot, here and elsewhere, about the research that goes into my books. The books give me an opportunity to learn about all kinds of things I’d never otherwise have reason to know — everything from flat-screen technology to airplane composites to perfume.

And where do I find out about these things? Well, from books, of course, and the Internet has made the whole world available at the click of a button. But there’s still no substitute for being able to pick the brain of a living expert. A live human being can understand what I need even when I don’t, and can tell me when I’m not asking the right questions. I’m endlessly astonished and grateful by how generous people are when it comes to sharing their expertise, and I’ve been lucky to find experts who have become not only sources but friends.

One of these sources is Jack Hoban, President of Resolution Group International, martial arts instructor and former Marine, who has been an invaluable source of information and inspiration since I first met him, during research for POWER PLAY. In fact, I don’t remember exactly how I found Jack; probably through his website, Living Values [www.livingvalues.com], which not only discusses the mechanics of martial arts, but also explores the moral, political and economic issues related to the warrior’s life. Hoban is a subject matter expert (SME) for the US Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP), and has published three books on the martial arts. Under the guidance of the late Robert L. Humphrey, noted conflict resolution specialist and author of VALUES FOR A NEW MILLENNUIM, Hoban has spent years developing the concept of the “ethical warrior,” a man who can use violence when necessary but within the broader context of a responsible, community-oriented life.

Jack agreed to answer a few more questions for this month’s newsletter.

Q. When and how did Joe first make contact with you?

A. Joe found me through martial arts, I think. I got an email from a guy asking, “would you help out a writer?” Joe said he was writing five scenes that he needed help with.

As it turned out, I had actually read one of his books — I had read PARANOIA, and liked it. Joe had questions about martial arts techniques for his new book, which became POWER PLAY.

I had helped a couple of people with movies, but I’d never done anything like this. Joe started calling, asking all these arcane questions – at 7:30 on a Sunday morning, 10:00 on a Sunday night. I keep kind of strange hours myself, so that was fine.

Q. How do you work together now?

A. Joe calls me up, he gives me the scene, and then we [Hoban and his students and associates] go to the training hall and figure it out. We film it with a flip camera. I send it back to him, and we work it out. Now, I can’t do that for everybody – but since Joe was the first one . . .

Q. Did answering Joe’s questions change the way you saw your own work?

A. Talking to Joe absolutely broadened my perspective. I’m mostly uninterested in the fight scenes in books and movies, because for the most part I don’t look at fighting as entertainment. I like Joe’s characters. I think they have a lot of depth. And to help him make them as realistic as possible is interesting.

Q. You’ve recently been a source for Steven Pinker’s new book THE BETTER ANGELS OF OUR NATURE: WHY VIOLENCE HAS DECLINED.

A. Steven Pinker happened to be writing a book on the evolution of human morality. [With] the Marines’ martial arts program, which is really more of a conflict resolution program . . . one of the concepts we focused on was this idea of the ethical warrior. These guys in the Taliban and al-Qaeda do some really terrible things. How do we avoid turning into that as well? It became quite a philosophical program in how you train someone to be an ethical warrior, even though that sounds like an oxymoron. Steven Pinker and I corresponded about that. We used “values stories” instead of PowerPoint to teach these concepts, sort of parables – there are a couple of very powerful parables we used, and a couple of these parables turned up in Steven Pinker’s book.

Q. Do you see your contributions in Joe’s work?

A. I think the concepts of ethical warriorhood have rubbed off on Joe’s characters. They’re trying to do the right thing even though they have to use violence – how do you use violence in an ethical way, and how do you prepare yourself for it and mediate the effects of it afterward? Unless you’ve used violence, you don’t realize that it hurts you too, even if you win. Good guys who have to use violence, even for ethical reasons, pay a psychological toll for that.

When you’re a young guy in the Marine Corps and you’re exposed to very harsh training, you can become a very harsh person if you don’t watch that. To be able to reconcile that with an approach that can make you healthier without making you weak . . . that was kind of a lucky thing in my life.

A lot of what the Ethical Warrior concept is about is being able to live in both of those worlds – the world of service, whether it’s the military or police work, and being psychologically broad enough to live a regular life. And that’s what interesting about characters in books like Joe’s. For the duration of the book, [the hero] is hip-deep in this stuff, but what is the rest of his life like? That kind of depth to the character makes it interesting, and if you’re a good writer, you can create that. If I can help Joe do that, I feel like it’s really worth it, and it’s also been a lot of fun.

Thanks, Jack! Jack is working on another book of his own, to be called THE ETHICAL WARRIOR, and will be a featured speaker at Thrillerfest 2012. I’m sure he’ll answer lots of other authors’ questions there – which is fine, as long as he always has time for me.

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