By Rick Reed
Brad Taylor’s life and career is reminiscent of the late Tom Clancy’s protagonist, Jack Ryan. Brad served more than twenty-one years in the U.S. Army, retiring from Special Forces with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He has held numerous infantry and Special Forces positions, including eight years with the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta. He conducted operations in support of U.S. national interests in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other classified locations. He holds a master of science degree in Defense Analysis from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and has taught as an assistant professor of Military Science at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina. These days, when not writing, Brad serves as a security consultant on asymmetric threats. He lives in Charleston.
Brad’s talent and experience shines in his latest novel, POLARIS PROTOCOL, released in January 2014 by Dutton Publishing.
In POLARIS PROTOCOL, Taskforce operators Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill are used to putting their lives at risk, but this time it’s Jennifer’s brother and countless more innocents who face unfathomable violence and bloodshed.
Pike and Jennifer are in Turkmenistan with the Taskforce—a top-secret antiterrorist unit that operates outside US law—when Jennifer gets a call from her brother, Jack. Working on an investigative report into the Mexican drug cartels, Jack Cahill has unknowingly gotten caught between two rival groups. His desperate call to his sister is his last before he’s kidnapped.
In their efforts to rescue Jack, Pike and Jennifer uncover a plot much more insidious than illegal drug trafficking—the cartel that put a target on Jack’s back has discovered a GPS hack with the power to effectively debilitate the United States. The hack allows a user to send false GPS signals, making it possible to manipulate everything from traffic signals and banking wire transfers to cruise missiles, but only while the system’s loophole remains in place.
With the GPS hack about to be exploited and Jack’s life at stake, Jennifer and Pike must find a way to infiltrate the cartel’s inner circle and eliminate the impending threat. The price of failure, for both the Taskforce and the country, is higher than ever.
There’s no shortage of excitement in this fifth Pike Logan thriller, so strap in, it’s going to be a ride you won’t soon forget.
“Bestseller Taylor’s fifth Pike Logan thriller takes all the energy of the previous installments and multiplies it by a force factor of 10…A great premise, nonstop action, and one of the baddest villains in the genre…make this a winner.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (starred review)
“Taylor continues to tell exciting action stories with the authenticity of someone who knows the world of special ops. He also has the chops to create terrific characters whom readers will root for. This series just gets better and better.”—BOOKLIST
What was your first experience with being a published writer? How did that experience influence your future writing?
My first experience was the publication of ONE ROUGH MAN, the first in the Pike Logan series, and the process certainly influenced my future writing. I have had no formal instruction on writing fiction, and had a lot to learn. All of my education came from reading, which was invaluable as a foundation but still left me a little rough around the edges. Working first with freelance editor Caroline Upcher, then with Ben Sevier, my editor at Dutton, I absorbed a tremendous amount that I have applied to every book since.
Do any of the characters in the Pike Logan thrillers resemble real people you have known? And, of course, are you Pike Logan in your books? If not, how do you create your characters?
I get asked this a lot, and no, I’m not Pike Logan. I’ve had the honor of serving with many, many Pike Logans, but I would never pretend to be him. As for my characters, I suppose they come about just like others who write fiction, by developing them based on the plot. For me, characters drive the story—in some cases push the plot forward instead of vice-versa—and I enjoy exploring their nature. For instance, THE POLARIS PROTOCOL is set in Mexico and deals with the ongoing drug war. I’d done some research work about the cartels for a security contract and could not believe the horrific level of violence. I read about some of the acts and thought, “How on earth could any human being do that to another?” And yet they weren’t isolated incidents. It was/is endemic to the drug war no matter which cartel is being discussed. What would turn a whole class of people into violent, sadistic murderers? I decided to explore that, and the Sicario was born.
Do you keep a list of people—a character bank—that you use, or are going to use, in your books—killers, victims, street people, etc?
Not really. The characters come about based on the specific threat or plot I’m dealing with, and thus aren’t plug and play. Am I talking about drug cartels or al Qaeda? Is it al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb? Or maybe Hezbollah? All of them have different motivations, different regional biases and certainly different naming conventions. On the other hand, I do have to keep a list of characters going while I write, especially during assault scenes. I’ll be banging away, describing a specific gunfight, and then realize the guy that’s firing an H&K UMP up close and personal was a mile away with a sniper rifle in the last paragraph. Juggling five bad guys fighting five good guys can get complicated. Not only does each have to act in a manner that would be consistent in the real world, but also it has to be seamless for the reader to follow. That requires a list of characters and even a little storyboard sometimes.
THE POLARIS PROTOCOL is the fifth Pike Logan thriller written and published in the last two years. How difficult, or easy, do you find it to keep coming up with plots, characters, and endings?
Honestly, each manuscript has been entirely different. Some have been harder than others. Some just flow out on the page wholesale, others give me fits as I try to square the circle of the plot.
Where do your ideas come from?
Usually from the news or other research. I’ll see something and think, “Man, that would be a good story.” From there, I start working it. If it’s interesting enough for me to continue fleshing out, then it’s probably interesting enough to develop into a story. For THE POLARIS PROTOCOL I read a bunch of intelligence assessments about what was going on in Mexico, and that was enough to get me interested in it as a possible setting. The more I researched, the more fascinated I became.
What authors influenced your writing style?
I suppose this is where I should say something erudite like Tolstoy or Robert Frost, but the truth is that I have been a voracious reader all of my life and it would be hard to say which writers had the most influence. Certainly it would start with Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and Piers Anthony from my youth. As an adult, honestly, I read a lot more murder mysteries than I do in my own genre, and all of them have had an effect on my writing, from John Sandford and Robert Crais to Nelson DeMille and Michael Connelly. There’s a little bit of Lucas/Elvis/Cory/Bosch in Pike Logan.
What kind of research did you do to write thrillers?
Probably way, way more than I should. I can’t be an expert on everything, so inevitably I’ll make a mistake somewhere, but I still owe it to my reader to give it a shot and thus I spend an enormous amount of time conducting research. For instance, for THE POLARIS PROTOCOL I traveled to Mexico City and talked to people in the know about the drug cartels. I also gained access to the control floor for our GPS constellation at Schriever AFB in Colorado Springs, getting to ask any questions that came to mind. My past has been pretty handy in that respect, as I know a lot of people in a bunch of different positions. In addition to on-the-ground research, I inevitably end up reading five or six non-fiction books dealing with the subject matter at hand, such as the history of the drug cartels in Mexico for THE POLARIS PROTOCOL. In the end, only about ten percent of all that research makes it to the page, but in my mind if it makes one reader appreciate the story more it’s worth the effort.
What is a typical day like in the life of Brad Taylor?
This is a tricky question, because it all depends on what cycle I’m in. Am I on a security contract? Then I’m probably getting rained on. Promoting a new book? Probably getting up at the crack of dawn in a different city every day. Researching a new book? Probably trying to decipher how to get on a metro in Tagalog. The best part about being a writer is that there is no typical day.
What advice would you have for aspiring authors?
My best advice would be to simply write. I was extremely lucky to ever get published, but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t finished ONE ROUGH MAN. I did so because I enjoyed the process, not because I thought I was going to put down my guns for a different career. Write because you enjoy it, not because it might make you money. Eventually, with perseverance and a little luck, you’ll get both.
Where can your fans find a list of where you’ll be appearing, and do you have a Facebook or Twitter account?
My website has the entire tour listed for THE POLARIS PROTOCOL, starting January 14th with a book launch in Charleston. They can also read excerpts of all of the novels to get a flavor of my writing. My Facebook page also lists the current schedule as well. Twitter is the same, with the handle @bradtaylorbooks.
Brad Taylor served for more than twenty-one years in the U.S. Army, retiring as a Special Forces lieutenant colonel. During that time he held numerous Infantry and Special Forces positions, including eight years in 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta, where he commanded multiple troops and a squadron. He has conducted operations in support of U.S. national interests in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other classified locations. He holds a master of science in Defense Analysis from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. When not writing, Brad serves as a security consultant on asymmetric threats. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina.
You can find more about Brad and his books on his website.