Book Review – Violence: A Writer’s Guide By Rory Miller

Posted October 29th, 2010 in Links, Review by Rob


I had started watching Boardwalk Empire a few weeks ago and after a couple episodes, I thought that it was not nearly violent enough for the subject matter. Really, I was comparing the violence to the movie "Good Fellas", which from what I remembered depicted some very violent scenes accurately. I’ll watch it again (Good Fellas) to see how I feel about it now though.

We have all seen a movie or have read fiction that involves a fight scene and think that the dynamic is nowhere close to being accurate. From the posturing to the language to the "tactics" to the physiological portrayals of the “dying scene”, it’s Hollywood and for the trained eye, there is little entertainment value. As an audience, we’re not impressed and it can be better.

Sgt. Rory Miller’s latest book (an e-book called Violence: A Writer’s Guide) is written for writers in order to explain what really happens before, during and after use of force encounters; the ones that deal "with the part of life that civilization seems designed to deny". Be it the criminals, operators, victims he includes the psychology of the subjects along with its aftermath that doesn’t immediately come to mind. Yes, the torture of our judicial system is as real as it gets. For you and I, who may or may not deal with violent people every day, it can be a look into the professional’s world of fighting. Good guys, bad guys and then sadly, the innocent victims of violent crime.

Notably for me, which is also an echo from Meditations on Violence, is the fact that predatory attacks are a surprising ambush that are swift and harsh with little time for the target(s) to react. From rookies to professionals, we all freeze, but it is to what degree and how long that freeze takes that defines the outcome of the encounter. We could stop cold in our tracks as a reaction to a diversion to a plan or implement the training and experience we have and take a microsecond to reorient our self and stay in the fight. Though, as he explains, even with proper training, one won’t know their true fight or flight response until it actually happens to them. I gather that the way to control the freeze/unfreeze rate and the mastery of the physiological effects on the body is to be in multiple real life encounters after umpteen amounts of hard training and stress inoculation. Notwithstanding the amount of luck involved with the dynamics of an encounter.

Authors and screenwriters can take this material to further study the subject to create content for their medium that is more realistic. The "entertainment" value will still be retained, but with the added realism of what these unique people who work in violent environments to keep other people safer (like soldiers, law enforcement). Miller can fight unarmed, armed, with edged weapons or spears and offers lists of examples for further examination. A short read, he does not get in depth on the details of any particular weapon. In fact, he does not cover any great details on any of the subjects. He doesn’t need to for his primary audience. The book is self-published and seems to be an interim work before the release of “Facing Violence” in 2001.
I am not an operator, martial artist or author, rather a regular guy with a generic lifestyle. However, I carry a gun daily and am in the continual process of acquiring training. All of Miller’s works help to keep, top of mind, some of the concepts of predatory violence in the real world and allow for a reminder and direction to what kind of training to take that could protect myself in my specific daily environments. Your mileage will vary. Whatever level you are at with your knowledge of fighting and training, check out this book and in this next moment, think about where your next training class will take you.

-Lee B.

Lee’s disciplines include competitive pistol and road cycling. The desire to learn as much as possible fuels his waking moments and activities throughout the day. He can be reached at the Gun Rights Radio Network forums (username Mistertaco).

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