In Russia, the military is anxious to assert its military strength and regain its role as a superpower. The Russian President refuses to greenlight a bold plan to disable American strategic nuclear capability and retake the Ukraine and the Baltic States, fearing the potential consequences of involving nuclear weapons. But the generals won’t have it and at their first opportunity, they overthrow the president in a military coup. Then they use a narrow window to initiate their bold plan—the Zolotov option—which will render all of America’s B2 bombers and ballistic missiles useless. With the US off the board, they swiftly invade the Ukraine with an overwhelming force, an invading army that even NATO can’t hope to resist.
The Big Thrill spent some time with bestselling author Rick Campbell to discuss his latest military thriller, TREASON:
By Dan Levy
Writers tend to stick to the type of writing they know. It’s rare when a successful poet also becomes a playwright, or the creator of award-winning radio spots pens a screenplay that makes it onto the big screen.
Even more rare is the engineer who spends a career writing aeronautical technical reports and then gets a thriller published. And then another. Unless, of course, you’re J. E. Holling—whose second novel, AN EVIL AMONG US, released in early March.
“I had no formal education with respect to writing,” Holling says. “Over the course of my education, I took English and composition and wrote book reports in grade school. Then, I took more comprehensive writing when I was in the higher grades.”
Holling says that over the course of his career, he learned to value the importance of clear communication. That helped him with his fiction writing, but still, the shift was a challenge.
“(Technical writing) helped in the sense of establishing structure,” he says. “If you’re going to put technical detail in a story—or a technical report—it has to be structured right. That helped me come up with the overall structure of the novel. The one thing that technical writing did not help me with, or prepare me for, was writing dialogue. There is no dialogue in a technical report.”
Abandoned by his part-Cherokee Ma, Charlie Kincaid escapes servitude with his uncle. He jumps a boxcar, accompanied by his schoolmate, Roxy, who is escaping troubles of her own. Charlie becomes a US Navy diver.
Mattie Blanc is from a genteel New Zealand family. But when her brother’s friend persuades her to take a ride, it all goes horribly wrong. Desperate, she flees her family’s stifling expectations for a new life in Auckland.
After the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, Charlie sets sail for Auckland aboard the USS Rigel. And there she is, the girl of his dreams. Mattie is everything that Roxy isn’t—sophisticated, tender, and patient. But the war intervenes… Rigel embarks for the Pacific war zones.
Charlie’s letters are sporadic. Mattie is tormented by doubts; did he truly love her, or was it only a dream?
Author L. M. Hedrick answered a few questions for The Big Thrill about her new military and historical thriller, THE RIGEL AFFAIR:
On leave, and out of his head with boredom, NZDF Sergeant Taine McKenna joins biologist Jules Asher on a Conservation Department deer culling expedition to New Zealand’s southernmost national park, where soaring peaks give way to valleys gouged from clay and rock, and icy rivers bleed into watery canyons too deep to fathom. Despite covering an area the size of the Serengeti, only eighteen people live in the isolated region, so it’s a surprise when the hunters stumble on the nation’s Tūrehu tribe, becoming some of only a handful to ever encounter the elusive ghost people. But a band of mercenaries saw them first, and, hell-bent on exploiting the tribe’s survivors, they’re prepared to kill anyone who gets in their way. A soldier, McKenna is duty-bound to protect all New Zealanders, but after centuries of persecution, will the Tūrehu allow him to help them? Besides, there is something else lurking in the sounds, and it has its own agenda. When the waters clear, will anyone be allowed to leave?
Award-winning author Lee Murray met up with The Big Thrill to discuss her latest thriller, INTO THE SOUNDS:
Trained to endure extreme danger and survive impossible odds, elite military operator Red Harmon has battled our nation’s enemies for years. While in the Rocky Mountains for R&R, his family is violently attacked by an international squad of assassins. No ordinary wet-team, this group is only the vanguard of a power play threatening national security.
Danger is everywhere . . .
Red and his young daughter escape a brutal firefight, but are separated from his wife. Evading though the woodlands, stripped of his unit’s support, Red puts his survival skills to the test all the way from Pikes Peak National Forest to Israel’s West Bank. He must defend his country, protect his family, and identify the unthinkable forces that are willing to slaughter anyone in their path.
International bestselling author David McCaleb sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss the latest installment in his Red Ops series, RECON:
The 1980s and 90s were filled with nail-biting military novels that offered alarming scenarios and were also frighteningly accurate. If you think “they don’t write them like that anymore,” you haven’t read ASHES OF VICTORY by Joe Weber and R. J. Pineiro.
In this novel the unthinkable has happened. The United States is under attack from the air and sea. After thousands of deaths, the U.S. military’s ability to respond is crippled. The key figure dealing with this crisis is the fictional president, Cord Macklin. He knows that he must do something different than his predecessors to win this war of terror—and the authors have created a man who is qualified to take the battle to the enemy.
“Macklin is an Air Force Academy graduate,” Weber says. “He has given and suffered violence while flying F-105 Thunder Chiefs in the skies of Southeast Asia during the Vietnam war—and has the scars to prove it, earned a lifetime ago, along with a Silver Star and a Purple Heart. After getting shot down once, he spent three harrowing days rushing through the jungle with the Vietcong relentlessly hunting him like a dog.”
Despite the history, Macklin doesn’t see himself as a hero, but rather as a veteran with much empathy for all military personnel, present and past.
The best way to highlight a hero’s worth is to pit him against a worthy opponent. In this book that role is filled by aging General Deng Xiangsui of the People’s Republic of China. Much of his motivation is fueled by his old grudge against America for its historical intervention in what he believes is the rightful reunification of the renegade island of Taiwan with mainland China.
Southern Afghanistan, 2005. NATO forces are battling the Taliban across Kandahar Province. In a terrifying twist, the rebels unearth a tactical nuclear bomb lost in the final days of the Soviet occupation. The years buried in the sand have damaged it, so the Taliban seeks the help of al Qaeda to secure replacement parts through its contacts in Saudi Arabia, the Opium Cartel, and the Russian Mafia. Doing so, however, inadvertently alerts the Americans, the Russians, and the Israelis.
Hunter Stark and his team of CIA contractors are on the chase, dispensing explosive waves of violence to track where the Taliban is hiding the weapon. But Russian Spetsnaz and Israeli Mossad operatives are also in the region following their own agendas–as is NATO–triggering chaos and confusion.
The stakes skyrocket when a courier delivers the components and the weapon becomes functional, forcing Stark to drive full throttle, without fear, into a world of terror, going beyond duty and honor to prevent the unthinkable.
Col. David Hunt & R. J. Pineiro took time out of their busy schedules to discuss their military thriller, WITHOUT FEAR, with The Big Thrill:
By Don Helin
Dismantled centuries ago, the sword of Goliath is still rumored to thirst for the blood of its enemies.
Cole “Tox” Russell wants only to put the dangers of his past behind him and begin a new life with Haven Cortes. But the deadly Arrow & Flame Order intends to reassemble and use the sword of Goliath. Tox, Ram Khalon, and the Wraith team must neutralize the sword and destroy the AFO—or join them in the flames.
Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author of more than 20 titles. She grew up an army brat, and now she and her army-veteran husband live a short train ride from New York City with their children and retired military working dog.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Kendig the other day and ask her a few questions for The Big Thrill.
What do your hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope readers see that friendships are the mortar that cements life, even for those who are immersed in the protection of a country or city. And the roles they take on have risks and costs—nobody walks away unaffected, whether out in the field or at home.
Max Maxwell is working on a stalking case involving the unhappily married lady he has been seeing when he gets a call from an old army buddy, Bill Hart, who is now running an off-the-books intelligence operation in Washington, D.C. Bill asks Max to help out with a situation involving another of his associates. All Max has to do it pick up a sailboat and get it across the Puget Sound to Seattle. He wasn’t told that Bill’s associate was working undercover and had been murdered on the boat or that the Canadian Intelligence Service, a Korean smuggling ring with a deadly mission and a double agent, was involved. This will be a Sentimental Journey Max will never forget-if he even survives.
Novelist and screenwriter Paul Sinor spent some time discussing his latest thriller, SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY, with The Big Thrill:
Despite the efforts of the Assad government and its Russian and Turkish allies, Syria is succumbing to the Islamic State. While Crocker and his SEAL Team Six comrades try to help a small Kurdish border town organize a resistance army, he finds an unexpected connection with Severine, a French epidemiologist working for Doctors Without Borders.
As Severine and her colleagues establish a makeshift hospital in besieged Aleppo, Crocker counsels caution. He knows too well that their NGO status will be no protection from the Viper, a notoriously vicious ISIS general with a deeply personal hatred of the West. When the Viper’s men kidnap one of Severine’s American colleagues, Crocker will pull every string at his disposal to launch a rescue mission. But in a situation where the US has no official business, he’ll push every boundary of how far he’s willing to go–and how far his SEAL brothers in arms will follow him–to save innocent lives.
The Big Thrill caught up to New York Times bestselling author Ralph Pezzullo to discuss his latest thriller, SEAL TEAM SIX: HUNT THE VIPER:
Shtefan Brandt, young adjutant to Colonel Erich Himmel of the Waffen SS, has made it through the war so far in spite of his commander’s habit of bringing his staff into combat, and a pair of secrets that are far more dangerous. Shtefan is a Mischling, one of the thousands of partial Jews who have avoided the death camps by concealing themselves in the ranks of the German Army. And he is in love with Gabrielle Belmont, the colonel’s French mistress. Either of those facts could soon mean his end, except that his master has other concerns. Colonel Himmel can see the war’s end on the horizon and knows he will not be on the winning side, so he has taken matters into his own hands, hatching a plot to escape Europe. To fund his new life, he plans to steal a fortune from the encroaching Allies. A fortune which Shtefan, in turn, plans to steal from him….
New York Times bestselling author Steven Hartov met with The Big Thrill to discuss his latest thriller, THE SOUL OF A THIEF:
To Colonel Zack Kelly, a trip to New York City is more than an opportunity to bond with his daughter, Laura. It’s a chance to find out once and for all what happened to his father, an NYPD cop shot and killed by drug dealers, then branded a dirty cop some thirty years before. Someone doesn’t want Zack to learn the truth of his father’s past. When he arrives to talk to one of his father’s partners, he finds the man assaulted and on the floor of his apartment. Zack suspects the corruption his father was investigating may reach as high as the New York City Police Commissioner. Or maybe even higher?
Laura Kelly is caught up in an hijacking aboard the Staten Island Ferry. Meanwhile Zack’s partner, Lieutenant Colonel Rene Garcia, uncovers a plot by a group of ex-military called the Forgotten Warriors to take over the Alamo in San Antonio. Zack suspects these two events are connected and to find the solution, he’ll have to take the longest walk of his life. And it may not even lead him home.
Don Helin took time out from his busy writing schedule to discuss LONG WALK HOME with The Big Thrill.
If you like your thrillers to be complex, stimulating, and tension-filled, with heroes you love and villains you hate, your next read should be SINS OF THE FATHERS by Joseph Badal.
The sixth installment of the Danforth Saga kicks off with the kidnapping of Michael and Robbie Danforth, the son and grandson of veteran CIA operative Bob Danforth. The abductions lead to terrorist attacks and Special Ops campaigns in the United States, Mexico, Greece, Turkey, and Syria.
Badal writes big stories, but with very human characters. “Bob and [his wife] Liz are American patriots and are portrayed as everyday heroes,” he says. “But they are, unlike protagonists in many other thrillers, the antithesis of superheroes.”
The senior Danforths are kind and loving people—until you threaten their loved ones or their country. And there are threats aplenty in this epic tale of political intrigue that ensnares three generations of the Danforth clan. Multi-generational stories, while fairly common in romance and fantasy, are rare in thrillers, but Badal cites a practical reason for expanding his cast: Bob and Liz are now in their seventies, so the focus of SINS OF THE FATHERS is more on their son, Michael, and teenage grandson, Robbie.
“I felt the Danforths were characters who would have an enduring impact on readers,” Badal says. “But thrillers need lots of action and I came to the point where Bob and Liz were too old to provide all of it. That’s the reason I slowly brought along their son and grandson.”
Considering the series’ roots, it’s not surprising that family bonds have emerged as a dominant theme. Prior to a four-decade career in the financial services industry, Badal was a decorated U.S. Army officer whose deployments included stints in Greece and Vietnam. The Danforth Saga evolved from the author’s real-life experiences, including the kidnapping of his two-and-a-half-year-old son in Greece—an event that inspired the 2011 series-starter Evil Deeds. It all grew from there. The ongoing saga involves CIA and military operations, plus terrorist sleeper cells and drug cartels. One reason the action seems so real is that Badal has the background knowledge to bring it to life. Besides his military experience, he tries to visit every country that plays a role in his novels.
Freshly minted college graduate Maggie O’Malley embarks on a career fueled by professional ambition and a desire to escape the past. As a pharmaceutical researcher, she’s determined to save lives from the shelter of her lab. But on her very first day she’s pulled into a world of uncertainty. Reminders appear on her phone for meetings she’s never scheduled with people she’s never met. People who end up dead.
With help from her best friend, Maggie discovers the victims on her phone are connected to each other and her new employer. She soon unearths a treacherous plot that threatens her mission—and her life. Maggie must unlock deadly secrets to stop horrific abuses of power before death comes calling for her.
The Big Thrill caught up with author Kathleen Valenti to discuss her novel, PROTOCOL:
In the near future, Africa collapses into an enormous failed state, leaving the continent lawless and severely depopulated. For most, the breakdown brings horror, but for others—the outcast, the desperate, the criminal, and the insane—it allows unparalleled opportunity: a new frontier of danger and unlimited possibility.
In America, ex-Navy SEAL Slade Crawford, emotionally crippled after twenty years of front-line combat, the dissolution of his marriage, and the accidental death of his son, is falsely accused of terrorism. Slade flees to Africa to build a new life and escape his past, but he is captured by an enigmatic American colonel, Gary Kraven, and blackmailed into tracking down a blood cult that is rampaging across the sub-Sahara. Struggling to stay alive and to free himself from Kraven’s grasp, Slade pursues the cult across the lawless African frontier. He soon learns that nothing is as it seems and that he is standing at the epicenter of a global struggle that will determine the course of history. Slade must decide whether to fight for his life or his honor—he can’t have both.
Lt. Col (R) John Mangan, author of INTO A DARK FRONTIER, spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel:
By Don Helin
Red Harmon, a military operator, discovers that the threats against his life and that of his family are part of a complex plot of espionage and currency counterfeiting that links North Korea, China, and a mole within the CIA. He and his team are inserted into the snow-covered ravines of North Korea, where they destroy an intelligence data warehouse. Caught in a brutal catch-22, he must decide between protecting U.S. national interests—and killing his wife.
At the same time, torn between loyalty to state and family, a disenchanted North Korean prison guard reluctantly cooperates with Red’s team, providing them transport while also struggling to keep his daughter and sister alive in the crossfire.
A Chinese electrical engineer fosters a bitter grudge against the communist government and cooperates with the CIA to bring simultaneous strikes upon China’s own intelligence data warehouses, but at a brutal cost.
Three personalities, three points of view, melded into a single mission and plot.
I had the opportunity to catch up with McCaleb and ask him some questions for The Big Thrill:
Six months after stopping a deadly plague, Cole “Tox” Russell and his team are enjoying a little rest. That peace is short-lived when a sniper shot hits Tox. The enemy is discovered to be one of their own, a rogue Special Forces team operator.
Alec King is perhaps the only person as skilled as Tox, and he’s out for justice. Furious with orders that got his men killed, he intends to make those responsible pay. And he insists Tox join him, believing they are the same breed of soldier.
Afraid his old friend is right, Tox battles a growing darkness within himself as he and his team engage in another deadly encounter with antiquity. It appears Alec is cheating—he’s using a mysterious artifact, a crown that history has linked to some of the worst slaughters in humanity. Racing to stop Alec before his vengeance is unleashed, Tox must fight the monster without becoming one.
CROWN OF SOULS author Ronie Kendig took some time out of her busy schedule to discuss her latest novel with The Big Thrill:
Scarred by war, in pursuit of truth: Army veteran True Brighton left the service when the development of robotic helicopters made her training as a pilot obsolete. Now she works at Requisite Operations, a private military company established by friend and former Special Ops soldier, Lincoln Han. ReqOp has embraced the new technologies. Robotics, big data, and artificial intelligence are all tools used to augment the skills of veteran warfighters-for-hire. But the tragedy of war is still measured in human casualties, and when True makes a chance discovery during a rescue mission, old wounds are ripped open. She’s left questioning what she knows of the past, and resolves to pursue the truth, whatever the cost.
The Big Thrill caught up with author Linda Nagata to discuss her military thriller, THE LAST GOOD MAN:
When the United States realizes that Brunei is building an island right next to the wreck-site of a missing U.S. bomber carrying nuclear weapons, THE TEAM must be dispatched to help recover the nukes. THE TEAM, the CIA’s most effective tool to combat terrorism, is made up of SEALs, Force recon Marines and CIA black-ops agents. With their unique blend of talents, they can take on any enemy, anywhere on the globe.
Disguised as oilmen working a semi-submersible oil platform, THE TEAM finds themselves facing Chinese military patrols, ISIS terrorists and a dangerous nuclear bomb recovery in six-hundred feet of water, while their boss at home, CIA Director Wallace Holstrum, is charged with a crime that could end his career and land him in jail—unless his agents can help figure out who’s really behind the nasty allegations.
In typical Salkin style, THE TEAM will keep you up past bedtime as you race to the heart-pounding end of DANGEROUS GROUND. The Big Thrill had the opportunity to discuss David M. Salkin’s latest book in THE TEAM series:
As Real As It Gets
U.S. Navy veterans and thriller authors Brian Andrews and Jeffrey Wilson followed the success of last year’s Tier One with WAR SHADOWS, the second thriller in the series. As a member of Ember, the most covert counter-terrorism entity in the United States, John Dempsey finds himself in a race against time to stop an attack from an old enemy.
Tell me a bit about the Tier One series, and what readers can expect to find in John Dempsey as a character?
BRIAN: To tell you who John Dempsey is, we first need to tell you who he is not. John Dempsey is not “the everyman” hero, but he’s not Superman either. He doesn’t have superpowers, use magic spells, or possess a supernatural mutation. John Dempsey is just a man, but a man of the highest possible caliber. He is a Tier One Navy SEAL—an operator, a patriot, and a member of an elite brotherhood. In his world, heroism is expected. In his world, country is always put ahead of self. And in his world, tragedy is unavoidable. To do his job requires a level of self-sacrifice—as well as mental & spiritual toughness—that few people will ever know. To understand him, you have to walk in his shoes, which is why we write his character using an intimate, and intimidatingly close, third person POV. After you’ve read the opening chapter of WAR SHADOWS, you will have felt like you’ve been on a mission with Dempsey. That’s as real as it gets.
JEFF: Like Brian said, we are always striving to make all our characters—but most especially John Dempsey—as real as possible. It’s our goal that readers leave each book feeling like they know him, and all the characters both protagonists and antagonists, even beyond what is written on the page. And as always, we hope that our friends from the communities we left in the Navy can read our work and say “yep, that’s exactly what I would have done.” All of the characters in the Tier One Series have become real to us, and we hope we do a good job of bringing them to life for everyone else.
When an invasion splits Brad Stone’s family apart he finds himself fighting for his life as he searches for his family. His wife, Youngmi, is captured and exploited by Alaska’s new Communist warlord. His sons narrowly avoid massacre and retreat into the icy wilderness with a troop of Boy Scouts. Brad, a former Marine, finds himself thrust to the front as the warrior they call “Ice Hammer”, and thanks to a drone image of a vicious combat encounter, Brad finds himself listed as the most wanted man in Alaska.
Brad, Youngmi, and their sons Ben and Ian must find their way through the horrors of war. They may not live to see victory, but they will not live as slaves. They have already learned a brutal truth:
The age of peace has ended. The age of the Ice Hammer has begun.
Author Basil Sands spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest novel, ICE HAMMER: INVASION.
In a future California ravaged by drought and on the brink of political upheaval, a high-profile assassination triggers a cascade of violence and sabotage facilitated by the highest levels of power. Nathan Fisher, an unassuming government employee, is drawn into the unraveling conspiracy after accidentally witnessing a suspiciously timed clandestine military-style operation.
Pursued by Mason Flagg and the sinister Cerberus organization, Nathan and his embattled family—accompanied by tough-as-nails Marine David Quinn—make a desperate run across the blasted wastes of the western United States, seeking sanctuary in Nevada.
Woefully outmanned and outgunned by a cadre of ruthless Russian mercenaries enlisted by Flagg, and closely pursued by the drug cartels that rule the ravaged Southwest, the Fishers need some serious help to survive…but at what price?
Author Steven Konkoly recently took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss his latest thriller, ROGUE STATE, with The Big Thrill.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
First and foremost, I hope readers are thoroughly entertained! That said,ROGUE STATE, book two in the Fractured State series, expands the scope of the political and corporate conspiracy to control the flow of natural resources to one of the largest economies in the world, California. Set in the very near future, the book explores the distinct possibility that the current drought in the southwest United States will not improve over the next few decades, and the situation could deteriorate even further at the hands of a few unsavory characters.
Four years after a tragic mission decimated his career and his team, Cole “Tox” Russell is persona non grata to the United States. And that’s fine—he just wants to be left alone. But when a dormant, centuries-old disease is unleashed, Tox is lured back into action.
Partnered with FBI agent Kasey Cortes, Tox has to pull together a team to begin a globe-spanning search for answers—and a cure. As their quest leads them from continent to continent, it slowly becomes clear they’re not just fighting a plague—but battling against an ancient secret society whose true goals remain hidden.
With time running out and opposition growing on every side, the key to everything may rest in an antique codex, the Crown of Jerusalem. But will Tox and his team be able to trust each other enough to break this century-spanning conspiracy of silence?
Bestselling author, Ronie Kendig, took some time out of her busy schedule to talk with The Big Thrill about her latest book:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope readers will have an excellent reading experience that will not make them think, but take a second (or third) look at historical events and artifacts.
By Anne Tibbets
Tony “Red” Harmon’s life is a lie. In RECALL, Red discovers the hidden truth – he’s not a construction worker and suburban father – he’s a special ops veteran for an elite military squad with a dormant memory. Now, when tragedy strikes, Red’s buried skills are put to the test and he must rejoin his old team to prevent an international incident.
Veteran, U.S. Air Force Academy grad, and author David McCaleb isn’t messing around when it comes to writing military action – his love of the genre runs deep.
“I’ve always gravitated toward thrillers and action-adventure movies,” says McCaleb. “My father held a deep regard for the military and helped instill it in me. I feel my military background is more a reflection of my personality and upbringing, as is my love of writing black ops thrillers. What specifically I love about this genre is that war – armed conflict – is one of the greatest tests of man. And to follow my characters through an operation, documenting their thoughts, actions, and emotions, is, well…thrilling. I don’t know exactly how it’s going to turn out, so I want to hurry up and write the next chapter as much as I hope my reader wants to read it.”
Complete with action, tech, and weaponry, RECALL never lets up, taking the reader on a fast-paced ride from page one. McCaleb’s attention to detail in each scene adds to its authenticity, and proves just how seriously he takes his research – especially with weapons.
“Figuring out what tool is best for the job, learning how it works, how it performs, and how people interact with it. Does the plot call for a shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missile? What does it need to acquire its target? A heat signature or radar? What can throw it off? Make it fail? How reliable are they? Does the character have access to the latest model, or are they stuck with a Vietnam era weapon that may prove as dangerous to its operator as the target? All that said, weaponry isn’t what carries a thriller. Characters are, by far, the most interesting part of any novel, commercial or literary. Weapons are simply an extension of them.”
And McCaleb is quick to point out that weapons are only useful if you’ve got a solid battle strategy first.
Post Hill Press released David M. Salkin’s twelfth novel in July of this year. The fourth novel of The Team series, SHADOW OF DEATH, has reached Amazon’s Top 100 military thrillers, where the first three stories remained for almost a full year.
The Team series has been your most successful books to date. Why do you think this series has been so well-received?
The Team books are espionage/military thrillers, but they also contain plenty of action and adventure. Combine that with a cast of characters that reminds you of your friends in the military, and you have full-emersion into interesting places and exciting plotlines.
Although book one was based on a real covert CIA mission run in Vietnam, the stories are all fictional. The stories always revolve around real-world news and contemporary headlines. I think that makes readers feel the stories are more immediate and plausible, which makes them more believable and a little scarier.
So far, The Team series has taken us to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the jungles of the Tri-Border Region of South America, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Where does book four take place?
SHADOW OF DEATH opens in the Syrian Desert, obviously a hot spot in the world. It is here that deep-cover agent Apo Yessayan hears Spanish being spoken, and realizes that ISIS is dealing with the Mexican drug cartels. It’s not far-fetched. Drugs from Afghanistan go through Syria to get to Mexico, and then end up in the USA. With the current war going on in Syria, the drug trafficking has been interrupted. In recent news, the cartels have threatened to “take on ISIS themselves,” but we all know that’s blustering machismo. In real life, they don’t have fully mobilized armies and they’re much more likely to just cut a deal—drugs for cash and ammunition. ISIS has plenty of weapons, but they’re always looking for more ammo. So, while the story opens in Syria, most of the action takes place in Mexico.
Would you say that your stories tend to reflect your interest in world politics and how you think U.S. foreign policy should be handled?
As a storyteller, I try to paint a little bit of both sides of arguments and interests. That said, I’m a pretty outspoken, patriotic guy. I bleed red, white, and blue. It gets difficult sometimes to remain neutral when I see so much going on in the world that infuriates me. I think my characters get to say things that I often think myself, and I hope the scenarios I paint cause readers to think about the world in which we live as well as current foreign policy. Even when I offer the perspective of the “other side,” usually enemies of the Unites States, I think readers will understand their motivations are not in the best interests of most people in the world.
Not many writers have the knowledge and experience to write authentic submarine military adventures. Rick Campbell does have the chops, and he proves it in his latest novel, ICE STATION NAUTILUS. The action starts when the newest American fast attack submarine and one of Russia’s new ballistic missile submarines collide and sink under the Arctic ice cap, which sets up an exciting plot
Life-support systems aboard the submarines begin to fail as both the U.S. and Russia rush to the aid of their crews, adapting their submarine rescue systems for the descent through the polar ice cap into the frigid waters below. Campbell is qualified to give full details of such actions. He’s a retired Navy Commander who spent more than twenty years in uniform and served on four nuclear-powered submarines. He’s quick to admit he couldn’t have written ICE STATION NAUTILUS without the experience he gained in the Navy.
“It helps me get the details correct,” he says, “as well as the broader concepts of submarine warfare and the protocols and directives the Submarine Force operates under. The scenario is pure fiction, although I did leverage the fact that submarine collisions occur occasionally, which is what sparks the nefarious Russian plot in ICE STATION NAUTILUS.”
Yes, far more is at stake than the lives of the men trapped aboard their submarines. Both sides realize that whoever reaches the sunken ships first will be able to board the other country’s submarine and get their latest weapon and tactical system technology. With the U.S. pulling ahead, Russia employs their Arctic Spetsnaz special forces to ensure they win the race and board the American submarine.
Is this all some futuristic fantasy? Campbell says no.
“My novels are present day thrillers,” he says, “as realistic as possible considering classification issues and some simplification so the average reader who hasn’t served in the Submarine Force can follow along. The goal is to tell the type of story that can occur in real life.”
By R.G. Belsky
Scott McEwen is the co-author of American Sniper, the #1 New York Times best-selling memoir of legendary U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle that went on to become a blockbuster movie starring Bradley Cooper.
Now he writes the Sniper Elite thriller series featuring fictional U.S. Navy SEAL Gil Shannon and a colorful cast of other military heroes—with the eagerly-awaited new book, GHOST SNIPER, out this month.
So how much of Chris Kyle is there in McEwen’s thrillers?
“Chris used to tell me a lot of stories that were never able to be put into non-fiction,” McEwen said in an interview from his home in San Diego. “Gil Shannon is certainly not Chris Kyle, but there’s a lot of inspiration from Chris Kyle and others like him in the character.
“Gil Shannon is really an amalgamation of a number of guys I’ve known from SEAL teams. He’s a tough guy, can take a lot of beating and a lot of lead and keeps on moving. There’s people that say that’s outlandish; no one could do that. I point them to a particular Navy SEAL— Mike Day.”
Day was shot 27 times during a single firefight in Iraq, but still managed to kill the four al-Qaeda members who shot him, and then walk to a medivac helicopter. “Anytime people think fiction is crazier than fact, just look at that story,” McEwen said. “That’s really the inspiration for Gil Shannon—the Mike Days, the Chris Kyles ….”
McEwen’s new thriller GHOST SNIPER—like his earlier books—is ripped from the headlines of some real life current events, this time the Mexican drug wars. An American politician and her convoy are assassinated in Mexico City by a ruthless drug cartel leader. When Shannon and his Sniper Elite team go after the killer—a mysterious ex-U.S. military man known as the Ghost Sniper—they uncover political corruption at the highest levels.
McEwan said the issue is a very “personal” one with him because he lives so close to the Mexican border, spends a lot of time there, and sympathizes with the plight of the Mexican people.
By Don Helin
After graduation from college, I entered the military, serving in Vietnam and other overseas tours as well as stateside assignments, including eight years in the Pentagon. The time in the Pentagon provided me ample material for my thrillers.
When I began writing fiction, it was natural, with my military background, to feature a military protagonist. My first thriller, Thy Kingdom Come, found my hero, an army colonel, fighting white supremacists. In the second, Devil’s Den, my hero was faced with the possibility of ghosts in Gettysburg as well as a struggle with the Irish Mafia. In the third novel, Secret Assault, my protagonist dealt with antagonists driven to right wrongs from a past war.
As I developed a theme for my next novel, I happened upon an article in the paper about sexual abuse against females in the military. My research showed the problem to be far worse than I had originally thought, and it also seemed to be growing.
For any young soldier, enemy attacks like those which occurred in Afghanistan and Iraq would have been stressful. However, I read one soldier’s story that she didn’t feel respected by the men around her. She was definitely considered the weaker gender, and the men in her unit had no problem telling her that.
When another female soldier returned home from Iraq, she said she didn’t realize how much things had changed. She came home to a stack of boxes and an almost 3-year-old who didn’t know her anymore. Her son couldn’t understand his mother’s disappearance and developed self-destructive tantrums and other behavioral problems. Not only is sexual abuse a problem, but statistically, the marriages of women enlistees are more than twice as likely as men’s to crumble.
In summary, over 20 percent of female VA patients who served in Iraq or Afghanistan reported sexual assault or repeated threatening sexual harassment that had occurred during their military service. By 2040, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that women will comprise almost 18 percent of all veterans. Therefore, it appears the effects from this problem will be with us for a long time.
By David Healey
Joshua Hood may be a relative newcomer to the ranks of published authors, but he is one of those rare thriller writers who has lived more than a few of the experiences described in his military fiction.
Jumping out of airplanes? Check.
Duty in Iraq and Afghanistan? Check.
Combat experience? Check.
He served with the 82nd Airborne for five years, which included missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was decorated for valor in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Now out of the military, his day job still involves its share of excitement as a full-time member of the Memphis SWAT team.
Even while living the life of a thriller character, he never gave up on wanting to be a storyteller.
“I’ve always wanted to be a writer,” he said in a recent interview. “Very early on I developed this love for the written word. Being from the South, I think we’re all kind of natural storytellers.”
In WARNING ORDER, protagonist Mason Kane and other covert operators are in Syria, battling ISIS operatives. It is hard to know who to trust and where loyalties lie. This seems to be true among the American military operatives as well—the plot twists will keep readers off balance. Bullets fly off the pages of the urban combat scenes, described in graphic detail with the accuracy of someone who has been there. It’s worth noting that Kane has a particular skill with a custom-made combat knife.
The action is fast-paced, realistic, and tells a story that begins where the headlines end.
By David Healey
When it comes to dealing with the trouble spots of the world, the United States government must have Seal Team Six on speed dial.
In SEAL TEAM SIX: HUNT THE DRAGON, the newest novel featuring Navy SEALS from the writing team of Ralph Pezzullo and Don Mann, the main character, Thomas Crocker, goes from Russia to Las Vegas and finally to a deadly covert mission to North Korea.
Although HUNT THE DRAGON is a work of fiction, it’s built around the very real missions of SEALS all over the world. These covert operators take over where diplomacy ends and direct military action would be out of the question.
“I wanted to give some sense of how busy these guys are,” said Pezzullo, a California-based writer of fiction and nonfiction. “There is a lot of animosity in the world. We think it’s all in the Middle East but there are a lot of hotspots.”
He asked one of his military acquaintances just how busy he was, and the reply was that the SEAL had spent 300 days deployed in the previous year.
Some SEALS are running 40 missions a year, which is reflected in how busy Crocker is in the novel, pinballing from Eastern Europe to Vegas to North Korea.
“Because of the nature of the wars today they rely a lot more on these special operations teams,” Pezzullo said.
To be sure, there is no shortage of trouble spots. Pezzullo, whose father was the U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua in the 1980s, grew up around some of them. One continuing trouble spot is the Middle East. “It’s a mess,” he said. He considered the failed governments, poverty, and soaring unemployment of young men “perfect fodder for ISIS.”