Following his debut novel Velocity, Steve Worland's second effort Combustion continues the adventures of NASA astronaut Judd Bell and Aussie helicopter pilot Corey Purchase.
His two heroes, respectively American and Australian, reflect Worland's own connection to both countries. Feeling the need for a greater Australian presence in this genre, Worland's intention in writing these novels was "to take a classic action adventure and insert a genuinely interesting Australian character".
"I love big adventure stories," he says. "Growing up watching American shows such as Magnum P.I., I was constantly frustrated by the fact that nothing reflected an Australian sensibility. I wanted to take a classic action adventure and inject an element of 'Aussieness' I felt was important for our cultural identity."
The witty repartee between Judd and Corey sparkles throughout Combustion. "I wanted characters who were exciting and fun for my readers to enjoy knowing them," Worland explains. "If people aren't engaged by characters, they won't finish the book."
Corey (described by Worland as "eccentric, innocent and loyal") is "quintessentially Australian" and the kind of mate we all want to have. Worland also describes Corey's dog Spike (with whom Corey holds intelligent conversations) as "a typical Australian working dog who is a great mate, too".
Worland has worked in film and television both here and in the US. He wrote the screenplay for Bootmen, which won five AFI awards, and is working on a third novel. He says he prefers writing novels to scripts. "As a novelist you have the freedom to tell the story you want," he says.
Combustion has plenty of non-stop explosive excitement, with frantic helicopter chases and devastating chaos amid extreme bravery.
Worland has reason to subscribe to the view that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, having survived a car accident which left him painfully scarred and needing facial reconstruction. "It made me think about living my life as well as I could. When you come very close to death, you realise that you never know what's around the corner."
Worland is conscious of the environment and the harm mankind inflicts upon it. "I don't want to preach but I want to touch on areas of concern. I worry about what will happen."
His villain, eco-maniac Bunsen, is determined to teach the world a lesson regarding the profligate use of fossil fuels. He brings LA to a halt through the release of The Swarm, a virus that causes fuel in engines to explode.Worland's achievement is a novel that encompasses action, eco-terrorism, friendship and love in one package with memorable and likeable heroes. "I knew what I needed to deliver," he says.