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I shouldn’t be doing this, thought Colonel Garin, as he walked the grim streets of New York.

As Homeland Security’s top troubleshooter, with extensive connections to the army and its special forces programs, there were a thousand other pressing things that demanded his highly-paid attention.

After all, America was still reeling from the aftermath of the plague delivered by China’s canister conspiracists. The worst of it was now over, the noxious spread of the plague on US soil halted, but the American death toll was in the unknown millions. Just about everyone knew of someone who had died. The country was one race, color and creed united under fear.

And violence.

America’s cities and suburbs had become war zones, its suspicious, scared residents becoming paranoid and hostile after rumours that those taken to “quarantine zones” were never making it out alive. Thus once-compliant keyboard warriors and soccer moms were fighting the police tooth and nail in the streets. Molotov cocktails crashed against plastic shields. Riots that made Watts and LA look like bonfire parties were breaking out in all the major cities. Many areas had become or remained W.R.O.L – Without Rule Of Law.

If truth was the first casualty of conflict, then innocent civilians were the second, with law enforcement officials coming a close third.

Many police officers died.

Looters roamed the streets. Snipers were exercising their Second Amendment rights by shooting down news helicopters.

Up was down. Black was white. One and one made three.

The only disaster missing was a Sharknado.

“It’s chaos out there,” Garin said aloud, causing nervous citizens on the streets of once-fair Gotham to avoid him.

The authorities were doing the best that they could, but the United States hadn’t experienced this level of disruption and paranoia since the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, which killed more than 3 per cent of the world.

The main difference now in the current age of entitlement was that, half the country was heavily armed and had access to the still-functioning internet, listening to every crank and tin-foil hatter claiming that the government had released the plague on purpose. Some citizens had even refused to take the cure, holding up siege-style in their houses, thoughtfully infecting all their loved ones in the process.

Many called for war against China for its part in the plague – sometime just had to take a major hit after the death toll in America. The only reason that the stealth bombers weren’t already fuelled and dropping the Mother Of All Bombs on Beijing was because China had suffered just like America, and the canister conspiracists had been rogue agents rather than state-sanctioned operatives.

So, in fact, the only folks happy with the situation – apart from the one per cent of the population who were psychopaths, who thought all their Christmases had come at once and were busy bringing their darkest fantasies to life – were the doomsday preppers eating tinned meat and hoarding toilet paper in their bunkers. They could finally point one Nomex-gloved finger at the liberal media and say “I told you so”, their paranoid choice of lifestyle vindicated at last.

The country had had, to use the Chinese phrase, to chi ku: to eat bitterness. And after pampered years as the world’s lone superpower, the United States neither had the taste or the stomach for much bitterness.

Then there was the rest of the world. The world had changed. And not for the better.

The global economy was in the crapper: to quote Garin’s son Robbie, the craven investment banker and economic hit man, fruit of his loins if not his soul, “Wall Street can’t make any money in this environment!”

“Damn punk kid,” Garin muttered.

China was holding Japan’s ships vessels hostage for “reparation for World War II crimes”, while ramming Vietnamese vessels in the South China Sea. It was also taking advantage of the world’s distracted state to build what was being called “The Great Wall Of Sand” in the South China Sea, claiming as much territory as it could despite the objections of its neighbors. If the world had had any lingering doubts about how China posed an existential threat to the current global order, such doubts had now vanished.

Meanwhile, Japan was making ominous noises about rewriting its post-World War II constitution so it could re-arm itself. It had rushed through bills allowing its soldiers to fight overseas for the first time since 1945. Japanese and Chinese fighter jets were flying so close to each other in the South China Sea they were colliding mid-air.

North Korea sensed weakness and was launching probing attacks on its border with South Korea.

Africa was divided along tribal, religious and economic lines.

The Germans ran Europe again.

The Middle East was its usual mess.

Taiwan remained occupied by the People’s Liberation Army. Hong Kong? Well, everyone knew what had happened there.

Meanwhile, the UN was left holding its various multinational dicks in its hands.

Among its allies, America’s impotence in allowing the tragedy to happen was noted, its status as the world’s sheriff in question.

More and more people were saying the world had gone from a unipolar world dominated by Uncle Sam to an unstable bipolar world where it had to share power with China: a development viewed with suspicion and fear by many.

In the face of all this, Washington was paralysed with indecision, partisanship and horror. Barbed wire was everywhere in the homeland, like some Martian weed, as if to suggest that the country was undergoing some horrible transformation.

In short, it was a darker world. A darker America.

Garin watched as a homeless man screamed incoherently to himself on a street corner, trying to ward off some invisible evil.

“I know how you feel, pal,” Garin thought.

He was reminded of a quote from his more religious days: “Outside the church there is no salvation.” But Garin was not about to get down on his knees and start reciting the 23rd Psalm. He wouldn’t cry or scream or pray to the Lord, the Sky Father or even Oprah. That was not his way. That was the not the special forces way.

And as they liked to say in special forces: the only easy day was yesterday.

Game Of Killers: The Spartan is available now on Amazon as a hardback or ebook. You can also see how we got here in the first novel, The Spartan.

I MET Keanu Reeves once. It was at the premiere of The Matrix Revolutions at the Sydney Opera House in 2003. By a stroke of luck I had made my way past security into the VIP area where Reeves, Paris Hilton and her sister and uber-producer Joel Silver were ensconced.
I wasn’t actually supposed to be there – my press pass only allowed me to mingle among the hoi polloi – but I acted like I belonged with the VIPs when I flashed my pass, which, of course, is the secret to gatecrashing everywhere.
Like the gaming nerd I am, I took the chance to congratulate the beautiful Jada Pinkett-Smith on her role in The Matrix video game. She was pleased by the compliment, no doubt used to hearing more commentary on her role in the movies.
Then it was on to talk to Reeves, who was sitting on a couch.
Reeves looked pretty much exactly like he did on screen: handsome, chilled-out, with eyes that bespoke a deep intelligence. And believe me, not every Hollywood star looks the same as they do on screen. Some, in my experience, look radically different: almost unrecognisable (no names … but you know who you are).
Anyway, I went up to Keanu and shook his hand.
“Good movie,” I said.
“Thanks,” he replied.
Then he yawned.
But that was OK. It’s a 16-hour flight to Sydney from the US.
Anyway, it would be more than a decade before Reeves would find another great action franchise.
And I believe he has found one with John Wick.
Described as one of the best action films of 2014, it’s a welcome return to form for Reeves, a pacy shoot-’em-up that reminds me of the excitement and vigour of the first Taken movie. The shooting scenes are particularly interesting as Wick takes down Russian Mafiosko close up, almost using his pistol as a third hand or extra fist.
Yet what stuck out in my mind was Wick’s motivation for bringing the pain: the Russian mafia killed his dog. Or rather, they killed the dog that was the last gift from his late wife. But still … it’s all about the dog, whose collar Wick keeps on his bedstand as a reminder to keep his rage fresh. Several Russians can’t believe that Wick would go postal over a pooch. After all, who goes all Rambo over a dog?
Still, it’s a welcome twist from the usual tired themes of revenge movies. The “they killed/kidnapped his wife and family … and now it’s personal” gambit has been played out in everything from Taken to Commando.
Let’s hope Hollywood makes more “alt-revenge” movies in the John Wick vein. I’d like to see a revenge fantasy based on a burnt-out Italian hitman taking revenge on the Russian mob for a bad customer rating on eBay. I’d book early online to see a psychopathic version of Sideways where snobs go at each other hammer and tongs because someone brought merlot to dinner. I’d definitely tape Revenge For Flipper … and at least watch the first 10 minutes of The Artisanal Bread Massacre.
Missing cats, neglected goldfish, overgrown hedges, crude personal graffiti on toilet walls, disses on Facebook, poor service in stores and social exclusion in high school now writ large in the adult mind are all real-world fodder for alt-revenge … providing said revenge is exacted on tough, demanding, armed foes and not, say, innocent teen fry cooks.
Perhaps a gun-toting gluten-intolerant could take their intolerance out on the gluten-loving world at large in some bizarre remake of Falling Down (“at first he was gluten intolerant … now he can’t tolerate anything”). Perhaps a $10,000 Apple Watch could be the McGuffin in the suitcase in Pulp Fiction II, the item avaricious gangsters fight and die over. Maybe pimped-out grocery carts could be transformed into Mad Max-style battle vehicles as the apocalypse comes to the frozen food section of your local grocery store (“Everyone is checking out on aisle nine in Store Wars: Episode III”).
I await Hollywood’s best efforts.

My new military thriller Game Of Killers is out now on Amazon.

WOOF, Australia’s peak body for domesticated dogs, today demanded an apology from humans everywhere for decades of leaving half-empty water bottles on lawns.
Dubbing the move cruel and unusual, Doctor Canine Rex, spokesdog for WOOF, said it was about time humans apologised for their long-held practice of preventing dogs from relieving themselves on lawns.
Doctor Rex claimed many of its members remained traumatized over the sight of water bottles taunting them on their morning walks and forcing many to hold on in agony before they could relieve themselves on home soil.
“Humans have long policed dog’s bodies with leads, tags and Star Wars cosplay uniforms,” said Rex. “Attempting to police our very bowel movements with plastic instruments of terror is going too far.
“Seeing one’s reflection glinting back at oneself during mid-poo is enough to put anyone off their ablutions.
“Even those who overcome their terror end up leaving strange faeces. Where do you think all that weird white poo comes from?”
While many homeowners have long since given up the practice, there still remains a stubborn segment of the population that leaves half-empty 1.2 litre bottles of soft drink and mineral water on their lawns in what Rex calls a “retrograde act of anti-canine prejudice”.
“It’s 2018,” he barked. “Surely we’re past this by now.”
Critics claim that the practice is essentially an old wives’ tale and that only the meekest of dogs would be put off over such superstition.
However, Rex says such comments stigmatise dogs and play into notions of “bow-wow body shaming”.
“Now pat me and tell me what a good boy I am,” said Rex.
In related news, the nation’s peak feline body, CATS, also demanded an apology, claiming those same bottles had prevented many of its members from spraying foul-smelling piss everywhere.

Pictured above … a dog that still remembers the half-empty VB you left on your lawn.

My new military thriller Game Of Killers: The Spartan is out now as an ebook or paperback.

In the event China went to war with the United States, the Chinese military had prepared a list of American targets it called “the irreplaceables”. These “irreplaceables” were the best of the best of their enemy: brilliant men and women whose genius-level talent and brainpower could potentially sway any conflict.

Sourced from all races, colors and creeds, “the irreplaceables” had the ability to win battles, create entire industries from scratch, plan trillion-dollar economies, out-think the world’s smartest people, imagine the future and forge the technology and circumstances to bring a country there.

They were once-in-a-generation types, the flukes of nature that sprang up at random, the prodigies that even China – with its own gene pool of 1 billion-plus very smart, very hard-working people – feared. They were the Isaac Newtons of their eras, the Einsteins, the Marie Curies. They were threats to China’s future hegemony.

Their skills and abilities were so impressive that they would be impossible to replace: hence the name.

America would bleed if the irreplaceables bled.

The leader had seen some of the names of the irreplaceables.

Now he decided to act against them.

Game Of Killers: The Spartan is out now as an ebook and paperback.

Forget about season eight of Game of Thrones.
The real battle in Sydney featuring majestic flying creatures is the Game Of Bins.
And the players? The legendary “bin chickens” you see every day: on uni campuses, in public parks, on the streets of our fair city.
Only one ibis will ultimately sit on the Iron Bin.
As the Battle of the Bin Chickens heats up, we take a look at the front-running ibises that just might one day perch on the Iron Bin.
Which noble house will you support?

Lord Eddard Aark
– Stupid but honourable
– Favoured among Arts students
– On the rugby union team
– Notorious for “dad jokes”

Jon Crow
– Constantly surrounded by the hottest women on campus
– Super brave: will eat a hot chip right out of your hand
– Always watching from on top of a wall
– Went to a public school and slightly ashamed of the fact

Cersei Bannister
– Hits the “bin juice” pretty hard
– Coined the phrase “you bin or you die”
– Surrounded on all uni quads by enemies
– Her inexplicably hot brother is always hanging around

Prancer Aark
– Used to be besties with Cersei until they had a fight over a necklace
– Will have those lemon cakes or cheeky Nando’s you’re eating if you’re finished with them, ta
– Member of House Jacaranda, eternal enemy of House Flametree

Daenerys Faarkgaryen
– Queen of the Law students
– Strong sense of entitlement because she grew up on the North Shore
– First boyfriend was a “westie”
– Untrustworthy around a Webber

Littlebeak
– Creepy mature-age student who always sits up the back during lectures
– Studies economics or engineering: his answers are always cryptic
– Always running for Students’ Representative Council but never elected
– Hasn’t moved for a while

Gendry Barhoppean
– On the rowing team
– Says his dad used to be a “king” or an investment banker: “same thing”
– Never around when it’s his time to buy a round

Tyrion Bannister
– Rich dad
– The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads – they all adore him
– Fellow “bin juice” connoisseur
– Who you really want to sit on the Iron Bin but won’t because reasons

My new thriller Game Of Killers: The Spartan is out now as an ebook and paperback.

Designed in new, non-phallic shapes

A quieter crunch to reduce the social awkwardness of loudly crunching in public

“Lady Doritos” polled better with groups that “Suffragettos”

Optional “sparkly unicorn” packaging

Doubles as a body scrub and exfoliant

Introduces identity politics into chips

Comes in pink

Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce ran their ruler over it and could see nothing wrong with the concept

“This is the best marketing decision since New Coke”

Will probably cost more than “Gentlemen Doritos”

My new thriller Game Of Killers: The Spartan is out now as an ebook and paperback.

No one throws a sub-editor through a window, either … even when they take a red pencil to the very first line of an earth-shattering exposé

No one screams across the newsroom: “Do you have the Dalai Llama’s phone number? Or the Pope’s?”

There is no real estate lift-out featured with the headline “why it’s never been a better time to buy”

No one is asked to file 1000 words for page one and 500 “for the website”

No one is stabbed with a newspaper spike

It is journalistic tradition to ring a giant bell when you finish a story

There is no furious debate over whether to drop the Marmaduke, Hagar The Horrible or Cathy cartoons to make more room for bigger stories

Hot type and Xerox machines became obsolete in journalism at least a year ago

There is way too little smoking in the office

No one is pictured wearing a hat with a “press” card stuck in the brim

No intern is forced to do a Starbucks run for pumpkin lattes

Journalists never succumb to random monologuing

There are no car chases or action montages

Tom Hanks makes editors seem “dangerously likeable”

Bob Odenkirk is pictured using something called a “pay phone”

No one rolls up their sleeves to reveal a tattoo in an edgy German newspaper font

No one sits around trying to make puns out of the names of Thai restaurants

The latest “superfood” goes sadly unreported

In one scene, you can clearly see that someone has managed to solve the daily Sudoku

The Pentagon Papers are unveiled through cloak-and-dagger journalism rather than being discovered in a cabinet in a second-hand shop

My new thriller Game Of Killers: The Spartan is out now as an ebook and paperback.