What’s better than watching Homeland on TV? Reading Andrew Kaplan’s page-turner about Homeland’s cast of characters. His latest novel, HOMELAND: SAUL’S GAME, takes us into the story before the television show begins.
In this adventure, CIA operations officer Carrie Mathison is leading a mission to capture a master terrorist when she discovers a deadly threat inside the Agency. But unlike the first book of the series, HOMELAND: CARRIE’S RUN, this one doesn’t just focus on Carrie. This time Saul, Brody, Dar Adal, and, in fact all the key characters put in an appearance. And their back stories are fleshed out in more detail.
“The books explore the past of these characters,” Kaplan says, “including the childhood, the things that make these characters who they are. For the Brody character in particular, that was essential.”
That’s because, while many U.S. soldiers have been taken captive, none has turned into a jihadi traitor. So one wonders what made Brody, a native-born United States Marine, turn. It was never adequately explained in the show, so Kaplan knew he had to deal with it if Brody was to be a character in his book. Early on, when Kaplan first got involved with Homeland, he asked for the show “Bible.” That’s what series showrunners use to establish character biographies, characteristics, season arcs, and so on. He was stunned to learn they didn’t have one (they do now).
“In other words, thirty seconds before the Homeland pilot begins and Carrie walks into that prison in Iraq, she didn’t exist,” Kaplan says. “For my first Homeland book, I wound up creating everything in her past before that moment. In the new book, HOMELAND: SAUL’S GAME, I do the same for the other key characters, especially Saul and Brody.”
But the new Homeland book is not just about character. It’s a sizzling thriller. The story kicks off in Damascus in 2009. Carrie Mathison is leading an operation to capture or kill al Qaeda terrorist, Abu Nazir. But arriving at the compound where he was supposedly hiding, they find it empty. Carrie believes that someone in the CIA is leaking information to the enemy, a serious threat to American interests in the Middle East. To expose the mole her boss, Saul Berenson, devises an elaborate ruse that will send Carrie on the most dangerous mission of her life.
Kaplan says he was reluctant to take on the series when first approached. The studio wanted a prequel set before the TV show started. Kaplan would only do it if he was to be the only author, he would use his own original stories, and he could work closely with the producers to avoid inconsistencies between the show and the books.
Kaplan set HOMELAND: CARRIE’S RUN in 2006 because he saw the story with Carrie starting in Beirut, and interesting things were happening in Lebanon and the Iraq war at that time. But with HOMELAND: SAUL’S GAME, there was a complication. The showrunners told Kaplan in advance that Brody was scheduled to die in the season three finale.
“The studio asked, well, begged me to include Brody in this book, because otherwise Brody’s story would never be told,” Kaplan says. “Because of a particular flashback in season one, this meant I had to set the book in 2009. Thus, the book is set one year before the Arab Spring, when only Saul and Carrie see what is beginning to boil, which makes for a very interesting backdrop.”
While the characters may be familiar, the books are not the same as watching Homeland on TV. The TV world is surface. The books give the show’s world depth and texture, its smells, sights, local people, background, reality.
“The book tells you not just who the characters are, but how they became that way,” Kaplan says. “Where and how did Saul become who he is? How do we understand his relationship with Mira, this marriage between an Indian woman who wants to save the world and a lonely boy raised as an Orthodox Jew in rural Indiana? Where did Dar Adal come from? What’s behind his ruthlessness, his disregard for people in general yet his closeness to Saul? What about Carrie? Why is she the way she is? What about the men in her life? The show doesn’t tell you. The book does.” And of course there’s the big question: was Brody a traitor or a hero?
Kaplan also says that the CIA tradecraft in the book is much more authentic than that of the show, and he is qualified to make that statement.
“I lived in the Middle East for four and a half years and have visited and spent time there since,” Kaplan says. “I served in the Israeli Defense Force during the Six Day War, also in Military Intelligence, speak Hebrew and Arabic, have been approached by the CIA on a number of occasions, have consulted with think tanks and know a lot of people, including some high level ones. For me, research isn’t Google. If you want to get it right, you need walk the ground.”
Kaplan has also written a number of spy thrillers beside HOMELAND. You can see what he has learned in his back list soon, because Open Road Media, the largest ebook publisher, will republish all of his out of print titles in October, including WAR OF THE RAVEN (selected by the American Library Association as one of the “100 Best Books ever written about World War Two”), DRAGONFIRE, HOUR OF THE ASSASSINS and the original SCORPION novel. He learned a lot in the process of creating those bestsellers and assures me that “after reading HOMELAND: SAUL’S GAME, you will understand the Middle East in a fundamentally different way than you do now.”
Of course, that understanding is only part of the reason to pick up this novel. Even for die-hard fans of the television show, Kaplan says, there are better reasons, some of them fundamental. “Because it’s fun. And they’ll get to really know the characters, Carrie, Saul, Brody, Dar Adal, and the world they inhabit.”
Andrew Kaplan is the internationally known author of two bestselling spy thriller book series: SCORPION and HOMELAND. His work has been called “a gold standard for thrillers” and has been translated into twenty languages, topping bestseller charts around the world. Recently three of Amazon’s top 20 mysteries and thrillers at one time were SCORPION books and his HOMELAND: CARRIE’S RUN, an original prequel novel based on the award-winning hit television series, HOMELAND, is an international bestseller. His film writing career includes the James Bond classic, GOLDENEYE. HOMELAND: SAUL’S GAME is his second HOMELAND novel.
To learn more about Andrew, please visit his website.