By Don Helin
I arrived in Vietnam as a young army officer shortly after the United States was rocked by magazine and newspaper articles about the My Lai massacre. People around the country were shaking their heads as to how something like this could have happened. The resultant backlash fueled the anti-war movement and split the country about the war.
The Peers Report, authored by Lieutenant General William Peers, and probably the most definitive report about the My Lai massacre, concluded that first, during the period March16 through 19, 1968, soldiers of Task Force Barker massacred a large number of Vietnamese nationals in the village of My Lai, and second, that efforts were made at every level of command, from company to division, to suppress information concerning this incident.
If it were not for the letter from a young soldier, Ronald Ridenhour, to Congressional Representative Morris Udall, the incident might never have come to light. Independent investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, broke the story about the massacre on November 20, 1969 in articles carried by Time, Life, and Newsweek.
The soldiers involved in the massacre were angry because of the killing of a popular sergeant in an ambush. Conditions were difficult, as the American military was constantly on edge in this “no front” war. They never knew when an enemy, or someone they thought was a friend, would pop out of the bush and try to kill them. Many in our country argued our soldiers never should have been placed in this position. Others countered that while these were trying times for our troops, nothing could excuse this massacre or the resulting cover-up.
By Dan Levy
When you consider the recent NSA revelations, the Edward Snowden leaks, the 9/11 Commission Report, and other scandals, it’s been a tough decade or two for America’s intelligence communities. With over one hundred thousand people working in intelligence agencies across the U.S., there are bound to be individuals who get those agencies the wrong kind of media attention—as well as attention from the thriller writers seeking inspiration for an antagonist.
A former intelligence officer for the United States Air Force, Tom Wither wrote his debut novel, THE INHERITOR, to remind readers that U.S. intelligence services are filled with Americans serving their country with honor and patriotism. Wither characterized the current perception as frustrating: “As part of that frustration, I wanted to express the professionalism, the sacrifices, and the great work ethic that the vast majority of people in the intelligence business bring to the table.”
Now, before you think that Wither is using his novel as a platform to pontificate, hold tight. Wither will be the first to tell you that conflict and character are paramount. “It is a challenge to make sure that as I craft the story, I do so in such a way that I’m telling a good story, that I’m using modern-day technology, and that I’m showing what it’s like to live in the profession,” said Wither. He added that the need to compartmentalize his professional and personal lives helped as well, “When you sit down to craft a story, as a knee-jerk reaction, you don’t think about work. You think, ‘How can I build an exciting story? How can I have characters do things that will hold a reader’s attention and make (him/her) enjoy the ride?’”
Ralph Pezzullo is a New York Times bestselling author and award-winning playwright and screenwriter. His numerous books have been published in more than twenty languages and include his acclaimed Seal Team Six series. This month, Pezzullo (with Don Mann) release the latest in the series, HUNT THE JACKAL, which promises to be the best one yet.
In HUNT THE JACKAL, a senator’s wife and teenage daughter are kidnapped and Thomas Crocker and SEAL Team Six are sent to Mexico’s lawless countryside, where federal agents protect instead of hunt down violent narcotics kingpins. The two women have been kidnapped by the Jackal, a drug lord drunk on power and influence. He also happens to be a self-styled modern Che Guevara, who has undergone plastic surgery to disguise his looks and justifies his brutal methods and Machiavellian drug empire with the politics of social revolution. The Jackal is as ruthless as he is colorful, and he must be stopped.
Pezzullo graciously agreed to answer some questions about the new book, his background, and his writing career.
In your newest and fourth SEAL Team Six novel, HUNT THE JACKAL, you send main character Thomas Crocker into perilous new territory hunting narcotic kingpins in Mexico. What challenges does he face there?
As soon as Crocker and his team of SEALs (known as Black Cell) enter Mexico they face a number of very dangerous challenges. The FBI/DEA team that is coordinating the rescue of Senator Clark’s wife and daughter sends them to a raid a compound in the Zapopan section of Guadalajara. Instead of finding the hostages, they’re ambushed by Mexican Federales with heavy weapons. Two SEALs are badly injured. When Crocker and his men limp back to the FBI safehouse, they find that five FBI and DEA officers they had been working with dead and decapitated. Now, Crocker has to improvise, he can trust the local police or military, and the clock is ticking.
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.
By Jeff Ayers
Don Mann and Ralph Pezzullo latest novel, HUNT THE FALCON, finds SEAL Team Six chasing “The Falcon,” an Iranian terrorist who has been stealing Libyan nuclear material. The hunt takes the team from Bangkok to Caracas in search of The Falcon’s forces. Crocker convinces the powers that be to allow him to operate in Iran, and he and the team go in full black in order to take down their mark. Meanwhile, Crocker’s estranged father–a former firefighter and hell-raiser who was kicked out of the Navy as a young seaman–reappears, forcing Crocker to recognize his life outside the shadows of SEAL life. It’s not easy when work calls over 300 days of the year, and when it’s this essential to take an enemy down.
Pezzullo took some time to answer some questions about the book and the series for THE BIG THRILL.
Could you talk a bit about your writing career before you met Don Mann?
I met Don Mann about four years ago. Before then I had written a number of fiction and nonfiction books, including JAWBREAKER with CIA operative Gary Berntsen, which was a NEW YORK TIMES bestseller. I started my writing career as a journalist and worked briefly for the NEA in Washington, before moving to New York City and becoming a playwright. I’ve written over a dozen full-length plays that have been produced in New York, Chicago, London, and other cities. To make ends meet I also worked as a freelance copywriter and a speechwriter for executives and political candidates. In 2003, I moved with my family to Los Angeles, where I have written a number of screenplays and TV pilots and have collaborated with talented directors including Oliver Stone, James Foley, Antoine Fuqua, and George Gallo.
By John Darrin
Imagine my disappointment. I’m assigned to write a profile on George Mavro and when I Google his name, I get this world-class chef and I’m thinking, maybe I can wrangle a gourmet meal in exchange for a great profile. Turns out there are two problems with that. First, it’s the wrong George Mavro. The chef is actually George Mavrothalassitis while my author is George Mavromates, both having adopted pen names.
The second problem? Convincing anyone I can write a great profile.
It all worked out well. My George (I’m not sure I should refer to him that way) is retired Air Force and writes military thrillers. I like the Air Force and military thrillers.
So let’s get the important stuff out of the way. Air Force or not, George can’t fly a plane, so all of my plans to ask him about harrowing flying stories are out. But George can write, and he’s written three novels and is at work on a fourth. The current one, WAR AND DESTINY, is a very clever story within one very important and yet little recognized aspect of WW2 – the diversion of a substantial part of the German Army to Greece to bail out the defeated Italian Army, thereby delaying Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of Russia, by a month and forcing the Germans to fight in the Russian winter and eventually lose.
I’ll let George describe it:
“WAR AND DESTINY is an action/adventure novel that begins in the darkest days of World War 2 as seen and experienced through the eyes of a young Greek-American named Markos Androlakis who is accidently caught up in the events of the time. He ends up fighting the Nazis on the island of Crete and assists in thwarting Nazi SS officer George Mueller in his attempt to capture the Greek King. Both Markos and the King escape to Egypt. There, Markos is recruited into the OSS to help build Greek resistance groups, acknowledged by historians as probably the most effective resistance of WW2. His return to Greece interrupts a budding romance with a British war widow and places him squarely against Mueller as the Nazis effect one of the greatest atrocities of the war – the death of 500,000 Greeks, 7% of the entire population, by murder and starvation. The book is based on historical facts, and the battles and events are real.”
By George Ebey
Author David Rich’s latest thriller, MIDDLE MAN, returns readers to the exploits of Lt. Rollie Waters, a character from his previous book, CARAVAN OF THIEVES.
Lt. Rollie Waters’ expertise is going undercover to solve complex crimes involving powerful military officials and unknown enemies who are prepared to kill for stolen fortunes. In his most recent case, Rollie is recruited into the U.S. Military’s elite, covert group SHADE. His assignment is to locate and retrieve the millions of dollars taken from Saddam’s cache during the Iraq War and shipped home in the coffins of dead soldiers. When a sniper fatally attacks the team and the list of graves he recovered proves to be wrong, Rollie is given a new mission: assume the identity of wealthy investment banker Robert Hewitt to find the puppet master who initiated the whole plot.
David checked in with me recently to discuss the approach he took when creating this latest chapter in the Rollie Waters series.
MIDDLE MAN is the follow up to your previous novel, CARAVAN OF THIEVES. Can you tell us a little about that story?
CARAVAN OF THIEVES is a father/son thriller about Rollie Waters, a Marine Lieutenant just back from Afghanistan and his charming con artist father, Dan. A cabal of officers in Iraq has stolen money that Saddam Hussein stole and shipped it home in coffins containing $25 million each. Dan has raided one of the coffins and now the Marines send Rollie to find his father before the bad guys get to him. But nothing is smooth and easy when it comes to dealing with Dan, and Rollie has to follow Dan’s clues about his past in order to find the money. Along the way, Rollie finds out the truth about his past and makes an uneasy peace with Dan. And, when he gets the money, he uses it to lure the bad guys into traps.
The Story Behind THE WARRIORS
By Tom Young
Twenty years ago, Sarajevo burned. From 1992 to 1995, the Bosnian capital endured one of the worst sieges of modern warfare. Before the war in Bosnia ended, more than 100,000 people lost their lives.
In my new military thriller, THE WARRIORS, Air Force officer Michael Parson faces a war criminal who wants to finish what he helped start during the Bosnian conflict. Wealthy arms dealer Viktor Dušić hopes to use a terrorist attack as the match to reignite the flames that ravaged that part of the world two decades ago.
I witnessed that conflict by taking on two vastly different roles—one of them by reporting on the war through the media, and the other by serving in the military.
It’s fitting that Brad Taylor was born in Okinawa, Japan. If writers are made not born, then Brad Taylor was forged in the more than 21 years he spent in U.S. Special Operations, folded like the jewel steel used to fashion Samurai blades in the crucibles of Iraq and Afghanistan as a Delta commander until he retired as a Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel.
He’s honed and polished his skills since, trading a weapon for a pen, and the strategy of the field for the plotting and tactics of an author. As a NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling author he’s undoubtedly earned his authorial stars, but best of all, Brad Taylor’s briefs are no longer classified.
We have the benefit of his expertise and, as they say, the pen is mightier than the sword. We needn’t look far for proof:
“Readers of novels set in the world of Special Forces have many choices, but Taylor is one of the best. His obvious insider knowledge, combined with a well-constructed narrative, make all his work…a delight for fans of the subgenre.”—BOOKLIST
“…clever plotting and solid prose set this above many similar military action novels.”—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
“Fresh plot, great action, and Taylor clearly knows what he is writing about…when it comes to tactics and hardware, he is spot-on.”—Vince Flynn
By Don Helin
Ralph Pezzullo and Don Mann’s thriller, HUNT THE SCORPION, opens when the cargo ship, MSC Contessa, is captured by pirates off the east coast of Africa and SEAL Team Six is called into action. What looks like a simple search and rescue turns into something much more dangerous—the ship’s cargo is yellowcake, an important component in nuclear weaponry that could be deadly if it falls into the wrong hands.
The team is sent to Libya, where a supposed wealth of nuclear material is likely to attract terrorist attention. They find a war-torn country still reeling from its recent revolution, a virtually lawless collection of sects and tribes at war, and a desperate government trying to keep the peace. There are hardly enough bullets in the team’s clips to fight their way through the madness of Tripoli, but their objective is clear: secure the nuclear materials before the terrorists can unleash nuclear hell on the free world. To make matters worse, Thomas Crocker’s wife Holly—also on government assignment to Libya—disappears from her lodging under suspicious circumstances. For Crocker it’s a brutal choice–complete the mission or save the one he loves.
By Jeff Ayers
Claude Berube’s first novel is set against a background of modern piracy in the Gulf of Aden, the story begins as the new Ambassador to Yemen, C.J. Sumner, is assigned to negotiate access to the oil fields off the island of Socotra and enlist help countering pirates who are capturing ships at will off the Horn of Africa. Meeting with resistance to her diplomatic overtures, Sumner recruits Connor Stark, a former naval officer turned mercenary who knows the region, as her defense attache. When Stark sets up a meeting with the owner of a Yemeni shipping company and the ruling family, the challenges begin.
Against this backdrop, diplomatic security agent Damien Golzari is investigating the death of a State Department official’s son when he stumbles on an illicit khat trade involving Somali refugees in the United States. His probe leads him to Yemen and the shipping company owned by Stark’s contact. As a result of this chance discovery, the two men are forced to become unwitting allies when they discover that their mysterious roads lead to one source.
After Lt. Rollie Waters is yanked out of his latest assignment and tossed in the brig, he’s only partly surprised when the officials in charge mention one name: Dan Waters. U.S. government money—a lot of money—has gone missing, and they think Rollie’s father took it. The only way to find Dan is to trace the frail tendrils of truth scattered among Rollie’s childhood memories. To do that, he’ll have to go deep into the undercover identity of a lifetime: his own.
Debut novelist David Rich added, “The story is about how the quest for millions of stolen dollars allows some people to face the truth about themselves. Others, who never question the quest, fall by the wayside. Rollie discovers the truth of his past, and discovers that the deficiencies of his childhood, the pain inflicted by Dan’s deceit and neglect, have given him the skills he needs to survive undercover as a Marine, and to handle the situation Dan leads him into.
Colonel Zack Kelly escorts his friend, Blake Lannigan, to Gettysburg. Blake runs onto the battlefield at Devil’s Den to look for ghosts and disappears. Zack, who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder from his three tours in Afghanistan, has no memory of what happened to Blake. He becomes the FBI’s number one suspect.
Zack’s search for Blake takes him to Washington D.C. where an Irish Mafia assassin attempts to kill him; to Galway, Ireland to determine why there is a contract on his life; then back to Washington to unravel a mysterious Irish connection.
In Zack’s corner are Irish medium Shelia O’Donnell, and his partner on the President’s National Security Advisor’s Task Force, Lieutenant Colonel Rene Garcia.
By John Rabb
Thomas Young’s latest book called THE RENEGADES is the third book in his series that stars characters Lt. Colonel Michael Parson and Sgt. Major Sophia Gold. Thomas has served in Afghanistan and Iraq under the Air National Guard and used his experience to pen THE MULLAH’S STORM the first book in the series. His books have been critically acclaimed, putting Thomas as an up and coming author in the political / military thriller genre. Check out below the interview we conducted with Thomas to talk about his series and also what he does outside of the pages.
By Andrew Zack
Years ago, while working for Donald I. Fine, a small house run by a maniac with an ability to spot diamonds in the rough that had been proven again and again, I learned perhaps the most important lesson about writing thrillers: You must have verisimilitude. As an editor and an agent, I have lectured authors on this point repeatedly. So I was pleasantly surprised when I was asked to write about Brad Taylor’s latest, ALL NECESSARY FORCE, as if there’s one thing everyone seems to agree on, it’s that LTC Brad Taylor (USA, Ret.), knows how to “make it real.”
In his new novel, Taylor again introduces the reader to “the Taskforce,”—first seen in Taylor’s NEW YORK TIMES best-selling debut, ONE ROUGH MAN—a top-secret team that exists outside the bounds of U.S. law and is charged with finding and destroying threats to our country.
General Muhammad Kemal, has contrived a devious plan to restore the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans and unite the Islamic world under his evil rule. To accomplish this, Kemal will launch a devastating war with all the tools in his arsenal including Islamic Jihadist terrorists and WMDs. His first targets are US alley Greece and the few remaining American forces stationed in the region.
by Michael Haskins
Since the invasion of Kuwait by the Iraqi army up to the recent assassination of Bin Laden, military men and women have been writing stories of their adventures – true stories as well as fiction. A few of these writers go on to thrill us with more books and Thomas W. Young has proven to be a writer with a future.
Silent Enemy, Young’s second thriller scheduled for publication this month, follows on the acclaim of his first book, The Mullah’s Storm, published in 2010.
“I hope the book will put readers right into the aircrew seats and let them experience military aviation in a way they’ve not seen in other thrillers. Also, I’m introducing readers to some special friends of mine – the flight medics who transport the wounded. I’ve had the honor of flying aeromedical missions, and I have great respect for the medical pros who take care of our troops,” Young said, talking about Silent Enemy.
A threat to the Himalayan Kingdom of Nhala unites Army Captain Mike Shafer and Lucy Merritt, an expert restorer of manuscripts. A deadly ancient prophecy of the world’s end is manifesting-and so is their attraction to each other. Can they save the world and their chance at love?
Lucy Merritt was orphaned at 14 when her parents, both CIA operatives, were killed. She wants nothing more than her quiet life as a book restorer, but her country needs her, and she can’t refuse the CIA’s request to return to the Himalayas to examine an antique document. Serving as her faux fiancé and protection, Army captain Mike Shafer is immediately drawn to her. To their attraction, add a dying king, a trapped princess, a pending coup, and terrorist plots aimed at the United States, India, Israel, and a tribe in Africa, and the recipe for disaster is complete. –Publishers Weekly
Steven Pressfield began his career as a novelist with The Legend of Bagger Vance, about a golfer who is haunted by his wartime experiences. He has been writing about war and soldiers ever since, in such historical novels as Gates of Fire, Tides of War, Killing Rommel, and others. His new military thriller, The Profession, is set in the Middle East in 2032 and depicts a future in which war is contracted out to mercenaries. Recently he spoke about his work and his vision of war, past and present.
Action should be Raymond Benson’s middle name. When you write six original James Bond novels, three film novelizations, and three short stories about this legendary spy otherwise known as Agent 007, you must know how to write great action. But that’s not all Benson knows. His thrillers Dark Side of the Morgue and A Hard Day’s Death immerse readers into the world of rock n’ roll. And Benson is on top of his game (and the New York Times best-seller list) when it comes to writing successful videogame novelizations.
By Don Helin
In his debut novel, One Rough Man, Brad Taylor unleashes a plot so fiendish that New York Times bestselling Author John Lescroat says, “Brad Taylor’s One Rough Man is an auspicious, adrenaline-soaked rocket ship of a debut novel. Taylor’s protagonist, Pike Logan, is one rough man who is one bad dude – as a super hero, Pike ranks right up there with Jason Bourne, Jack Reacher, and Jack Bauer.”
Summary: They call it the Taskforce. Their existence is as essential as it is illegal. Commissioned at the highest level of the U.S. Government. Protected from the prying eyes of Congress and the media. Built around the top operators from around the clandestine, intelligence, and special forces landscape. Designed to operate outside the bounds of U.S. Law. Trained to exist on the ragged edge of human capability.
By Don Helin
In the third thrilling action adventure novel in the Death Force Series, Shadow Force, Matt Lynn unleashes a plot so fiendish that the Daily Item review reads, “I was anticipating a good time and I wasn’t disappointed. A cracking action thriller. You can taste the dust and smell the blood.”
Brad Thor’s newest title, THE ATHENA PROJECT, is certain to be a huge hit with thriller fans around the world. There’s no one better at creating such high levels of action and suspense. Brad grabs you from page one and doesn’t let go. And he reaches across cultural boundaries—his books have been translated into 20 different languages and sold on every continent.
THE ATHENA PROJECT promises to be his best work yet. It’s a seamless, fast paced thrill ride into uncharted territory. Here’s a snapshot:
#1 New York Times bestselling author Vince Flynn returns with yet another explosive thriller, American Assassin, introducing the young Mitch Rapp, as he takes on his first assignment.
Before he was considered a CIA superagent, before he was thought of as a terrorist’s worst nightmare, and before he was both loathed and admired by the politicians on Capitol Hill, Mitch Rapp was a gifted college athlete without a care in the world . . . and then tragedy struck.
By Brett King
Ben Coe’s powerful debut thriller, Power Down,imagines a series of tightly constructed attacks on America’s energy-producing capacity. Under the direction of the brutal and brilliant Alexander Fortuna, terrorists manage to blow up a major hydroelectric dam. But when they target the mammoth Capitana platform off the coast of Colombia–slaughtering most of the crew and destroying the oil field–they encounter a formidable challenge to their campaign of terror.
By George Ebey
For most military aviators, an encounter with the enemy usually happens in the form of lights streaming up from the earth. It has an air of unreality about it, almost like a video game. If those lights don’t hit you, they don’t hurt you.
But what if you had an airplane blown out from under you and you met the enemy on his terms, in his territory? What would you face on the ground? What would your buddies need you to do? Under conditions of extreme duress and hardship, would you make decisions you could live with later on?
By Aaron Brown
Ward Larsen is a writer who has led a life as interesting as the characters from his novels. As a fighter pilot in the United States Air Force, he flew over twenty combat missions in Operation Desert Storm, was awarded two Air Medals, received training in aircraft accident investigation, and attended USAF survival training where he learned, among other things, which snakes can be eaten and how to resist “interrogation under hostile conditions.”
In JJ Cooper’s Deadly Trust, a riveting thriller set along Australia’s eastern coast, former army interrogator Jay Ryan enjoys the quiet life after leaving the military behind–or so he thinks. Old habits die hard, and when he realizes someone is trying to kill him and make it look like an accident, he’s interested to find out who…and why.
By George Ebey
Author Dan Fesperman is no stranger to international intrigue.
An accomplished journalist, he has worked for the Fayetteville (N.C.) Times, the Durham Morning Herald, the Charlotte News, the Miami Herald, and The Sun and Evening Sun of Baltimore. During his career he has been front row center for many history making conflicts, including his coverage of the Gulf War from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait; his running of The Sun’s Europe bureau during the Yugoslav civil wars in Croatia and Bosnia; as well as his reporting of events in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the wake of 9-11. Through this work he has experienced his fair share of adventure, which includes accepting the surrender, along with a colleague, of ten Iraqi soldiers in the Kuwait desert in 1991, as well as surviving a fatal ambush on a convoy of journalists traveling through Afghanistan in November of 2001.
By Dan Levy
With a family military history that reaches all the way back to the Civil War, and has Golemons on the battlefields of every American war through Vietnam, it’s easy to understand David Golemon’s love of history and its importance in his previous four novels. The same hold true for latest release–Primeval–An Event Group Thriller.