Scorpion Winter by Andrew Kaplan

By Terry DiDomenico

Once a writer always a writer.

When Andrew Kaplan was a teen he wanted nothing more than to be a writer. As he grew older he carved out a successful career as a journalist and war correspondent. His bio states, rather briefly, he served in both the U.S. and Israeli armies and worked in military intelligence. If that isn’t enough to capture your interest, it goes on to say: “The CIA has tried on several occasions to recruit him.”

He states rather modestly that  “the stuff I did around the world—all very Hemingway—was my understanding at the time of how to learn about the world and how to learn to write about it. Although it wasn’t planned that way, it ended by giving me a strong background for the international thriller genre that is Scorpion’s world.”

Andrew first exposed us to Scorpion in 1985, and it was a long wait before we saw him again in 2012. That’s right 2012—just a brief hiatus of 27 years!  And readers of that book, SCORPION, are more than thrilled this unusual hero has made a dramatic return.

Just read the first five pages of the recently published SCORPION BETRAYAL and see if you don’t agree the opening scene is a masterpiece.  And what is even better for die-hard thriller fans is that the rest of the book doesn’t disappoint.

What struck me after reading both novels was the way Andrew was able to keep the wonderful uniqueness of his character and then add depth and growth. The combination is intriguing and grabs the emotions of the reader, placing them on a roller coaster of a ride as they follow Scorpion through his quest.

And then a few months after SCORPION BETRAYAL, comes the third in the series, SCORPION WINTER. If I was impressed with the character development in the previous book I was even more so with this latest adventure. What Andrew has managed to do is take a tale, obviously set in the winter months, and build layers of meaning into the various winters, including emotional, that Scorpion endures.

Don’t think for a moment that action has been sacrificed to character development for it hasn’t. Chilling in multiple ways, for example, are the scenes that take place in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. They begin innocently enough with a tour and tour guide, include murder and mayhem, and add to the knowledge Scorpion is gathering to find out who the hidden perpetrator might be.

Typical Kaplan.

To make such scenes work, Andrew incorporates a number of methods when writing. For action scenes, such as the one that opens SCORPION BETRAYAL, he actually practiced going through the moves, seeing how it would work in reality, timing the sequence, etc. He “strongly recommends, within reason, writers physically act out what their characters do. Otherwise it all becomes James Bond.”

His writing features an amazing sense of place that draws on Andrew’s talent for taking the known, adding what he learns through research, sprinkle it all with a dash of creativity and imagination and ends up placing the reader right in the middle whether it be a tent in the middle of the desert, a hut in the heart of the world’s greatest nuclear disaster, or places in between.

In writing these scenes, Andrew believes that rather than citing everything he researched, a more compelling and real verisimilitude can be created with one single telling detail about that person, place, or thing.

With SCORPION WINTER, Andrew found the early structure to be the hardest part of writing that tale. How to combine the disparate pieces of a prisoner in Siberia, a CIA op in Yemen going bad, Scorpion’s safe house world being suddenly threatened, and a plot in Eastern Europe was tough, but once he figured that out everything “clicked.” The easiest writing he found in SCORPION WINTER were those scenes in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

He was surprised to find echoes of Nazi Germany in the 1930’s as one political party seeks power in an election in SCORPION WINTER. “It wasn’t planned at all. It just happened, but I feel it gives the book an extraordinary tension and moral resonance,” he added.

How Andrew became author to a thriller series is as unique as the man himself. Back in the mid-1980s, he was author of four international best sellers. Then as he tells it: “I was about as hot as a writer could get. Then my career hit a speed bump (read brick wall). Meanwhile I had a family to support so I started a technology company that consumed a staggering amount of time and energy. About three years ago, I decided to write again.”

Thanks to a suggestion by his son (and “by far his toughest critic”), Andrew reconsidered the idea of doing a series and that led to the return of Scorpion.

In comparing his hero between his first appearance to SCORPION WINTER, Andrew says, “In a more profound way, this is a completely new Scorpion. Originally the character was more James Bond-ish and plot driven. The character now is different, more textured, darker, more layered and his world is more complex and real.

“With SCORPION WINTER, I wanted to get back to the classic spy thrillers: Europe, winter, men in the shadows double- and triple-dealing. Le Carré country. The “Winter” of the title, of course, is not just physical, but metaphorical as well—it’s Scorpion’s dark night of the soul. That was part of the motivation for me: to plumb the depths of the Scorpion character and explore the limits of friendship, patriotism and love. In that sense, this is a very personal book. I believe it may be my best book yet.”

To find out if you agree, read Andrew Kaplan’s SCORPION WINTER.

*****

Andrew Kaplan is a former journalist and war correspondent who has covered events around the world. He served in both the U.S. Army and the Israeli Army. His books have appeared on bestseller lists around the world and his novel, DRAGONFIRE, was a main selection of the Book of the Month Club in Britain. His film career includes being one of the writers of the James Bond classic, GOLDENEYE. SCORPION WINTER is the third book in the Scorpion series.

To learn more about Andrew and his other books, visit his website.

Terry DiDomenico

Terry DiDomenico has spent most of her professional career editing and writing for university publications with a little freelancing on the side. She lives with her husband and two cats on four acres in south central Pennsylvania. She is working on her first novel - a thriller of course.

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