Marc Cameron draws on decades of law enforcement experience—and his love of motorcycles—in his new Jericho Quinn series, which debuts this month with NATIONAL SECURITY.
Hand picked for a global task force, Air Force OSI agent Jericho Quinn and US Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Jacques Thibodaux answer directly to the President’s Director of National Intelligence. Riding modified BMW R1200 GS Adventure motorcycles, they join CDC epidemiologist Dr. Megan Mahoney in a desperate race against the clock to find a Saudi terrorist set to unleash the most devastating biological weapon the world has seen.
Bestselling author Brad Thor calls Cameron “one of the hottest new authors in the thriller genre” and describes NATIONAL SECURITY as “terrifying…in one word: Awesome.”
New York Times bestseller Steve Berry praises Cameron’s “fascinating characters” and calls NATIONAL SECURITY “masterful.”
A native of Texas, Cameron spent nearly thirty years in law enforcement, on assignments that have taken him from rural Alaska to Manhattan, from Canada to Mexico and points in between. A second degree black belt in jujitsu, he often teaches defensive tactics to other law enforcement agencies and civilian groups. Cameron lives in Alaska with his wife and BMW motorcycle.
What inspired the plot of NATIONAL SECURITY? Did a particular situation or news event start the train of thought that led to the book, or did the idea evolve over time?
I had a character I really liked–Jericho Quinn–that I’d been mulling over. I knew he was a warrior soul and found myself looking for a tough situation to drop him into that would showcase his particular skill set. About that time, I read online about a secret Iraqi lab where Saddam had been trying to weaponize the Ebola virus, using human test subjects. I thought, if someone had pulled that off, it would be a great problem for a man like Jericho Quinn. I spent some time at the gun range with a friend of mine who works with the CDC talking over the various possibilities. The result was NATIONAL SECURITY.
What kind of guy is Jericho Quinn? What are the beliefs or principles that govern his life?
Quinn is a renaissance man. He’s an Air Force Academy Grad, Fulbright Fellow, multi-lingual and has a deeply sensitive side when it comes to his daughter. But he can move from civilized to savage in the beat of a heart. If there is such a thing as the super-athlete gene, he was blessed with it, excelling at most anything physical. As a Air Force Combat Rescue Officer (CRO) prior to becoming an OSI agent, he endured some of the most lengthy, grueling mental and physical training military Special Operations dishes out. Growing up in Alaska’s rough and tumble environment certainly shaped him. Intensely patriotic, Quinn has an iron-clad sense of right and wrong, often jumping in to the fray at great personal and professional risk. He enjoys a good fight, knows he’s meant for such things and from a young age, felt it his calling to protect those weaker than himself. He knows the life he leads is damaging him, but he willingly accepts the cost.
In short, he’s the sort of man who runs toward the sound of gunfire.
Is there anything he would refuse to do, even on a direct order from the President?
Absolutely. Quinn lives by a strict moral code, much like you’d see in a cowboy hero on an old western movie. The orders he’s given are, more often that not: “Here’s a problem. We ‘the government’ are removing the shackles of red tape and social niceties that would normally hold you back. Have at it.” There are lines Quinn wouldn’t cross but only for conviction’s sake, not because he’s squeamish.
Does Jericho have a flaw that could threaten his safety or his mission?
Quinn’s Achilles Heel is his little girl, Mattie. He can usually compartmentalize thoughts about her during his missions, but, as we see in the next book. The Eleventh Hour, his feelings for her can be a powerful tool when used against him. Quinn’s other “issue” is his tendency to go things alone. He will not leave a team member behind. Knowing some missions outweigh the human cost in the big picture, he prefers to do the might-not-come-home jobs solo.
You’ve said that you “spent nearly thirty years in the gun culture of law enforcement” before you became a novelist. Would you tell us something about your career? What branch(es) of law enforcement were you in, and what kind of work did you do?
Actually, some of the time, the two things were concurrent. I began my career in a medium-size police department in Texas in the early eighties, working uniform patrol for a while–traffic accidents, speeding tickets, domestic disturbances–all the fun stuff patrol officers do. I served as a detective for a few years, investigating everything from bicycle thefts to homicides. I wouldn’t trade a single day of the experience, but my favorite time there was as a mounted officer, riding my horse, Max. I got picked up by the feds just before I turned thirty and have been fortunate to have a ton of adventures with my particular agency. I’ll keep mum on which one for now. It’s better if a little time passes between my retirement date and too much discussion on that topic. I will say, it’s not any of the agencies I write about. I have friends in many of the agencies I mention in the book and hold them all in high regard. Jericho does poke a bit of fun at the FBI, they’re so big and bureaucratic that it’s pretty easy to do, but I respect the heck out of them and their work.
Did you always have an interest in writing fiction, or is this a relatively new ambition?
I’ve scribbled stories for as long as I can remember. When we were newlyweds, trying to survive on a starving police officer’s salary, my wife got me two expensive gifts–a ballistic vest (we had to buy our own back then) and a nice typewriter to show her support for my dream of being a writer.
The older cops who were my mentors where such great storytellers. I clearly remember thinking: I am living the life that others only get to read about. I should really get these characters, these crazy situations, down on paper. In one of my recent blogs I mention a Texas Ranger who told me to “write down everything you see…and watch out for the blowflies” as he helped me with a particularly grisly murder investigation. I’ve been keeping a little notebook ever since. Growing up in Texas, Western fiction came easier for me at first and I wrote several western novels as a ghost writer then under my pseudonym, Mark Henry before moving to thrillers.
Do you think you could have written NATIONAL SECURITY and created the character of Jericho Quinn when you were in your twenties or thirties? How has your life experience prepared you for a second career in writing?
I don’t think I could have done him justice twenty or even ten years ago. Jericho and the other characters are mixtures of the incredible folks I’ve been fortunate enough to work with over the last several decades–sprinkled with a heavy dose of my own imaginings. Though Quinn is thirty-four, I’m not sure I was mature enough at that age to write about him the way he deserves.
Sometimes, we see a new rookie come out of the academy who appears to know it all. He’s read and memorized every gun magazine in the stacks and isn’t afraid to share his vast knowledge with everyone in the squad room, though he really has no war stories of his own. He says “copy that” instead of “yes” and talks in the phonetic alphabet because he thinks that’s what cops do…and it sounds cool to his ear. You can’t be that guy and write with much authority–and I may very well have been that guy in my twenties.
Beyond that, I’ve had the opportunity to learn some of the more subtle nuances of government and politics that, I hope, will lend to the stories as they develop.
I enjoyed a good confrontation when I was young. Life was all about the scrap. Now, I use my brain more…at least I hope I do. In defensive tactics we like to say, “Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the beak.” Plans tend to change after that happens. My career has punched me in the beak more than once, in both figurative and literal ways. I still have a long way to go, but I think those punches have helped put me on the road to becoming a better writer.
Why did you put your characters on motorcycles? Do the bikes give them an advantage they wouldn’t have if they traveled more conventionally?
I wanted Jericho to be different from any other fictional government agent out there. There are a lot of extremely tough, competent guys in print–Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath, Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp, James Bond… All these guys know how to ride a motorcycle, I have no doubt about that. But there’s an adventurous persona around people that make riding a lifestyle that fits well into my image of Jericho Quinn. For one thing, riding is inherently more dangerous than driving a car. Even if you’re a perfect rider, some numbskull on their cell phone can smear you into the dump truck in the other lane and not even know you were there. People that ride are used to an accepted level of risk. The freedom that comes with being out in the wind makes that risk worthwhile.
Tactically, Jericho’s bike gives him a great deal of mobility for darting in and out of traffic and getting places fast. I was running on the Mt. Vernon Trail along the Potomac River across from DC one evening watching a traffic jam on the bridge that goes from Arlington Cemetery to the Lincoln Memorial. I thought, man, if I needed to get into town now, a motorcycle would be the only way to go. Jericho finds himself in that exact situation in NATIONAL SECURITY.
The fact that he rides also gives me an excuse to put him in ballistic armor in the form of a leather riding suit. It’s akin to something Batman might wear but looks perfectly normal when he rides a motorcycle. Get out of a car wearing full black leathers and people think you’re a whack job, ride up on a bike in the same outfit and you’re cool.
Most of my family rides. Weather permitting, my wife commutes on her Yamaha scooter. Alaska is chock full of beautiful scenery, and though the season is short, is a great place to ride. I spend a good deal of time in the summer pondering plot lines on my BMW. I take the 800 mile round trip between Anchorage and Fairbanks several times each summer as well as side trips whenever I get a chance. My youngest son and I have been riding together for several years and plan on doing the Alaska Highway next summer.
I’m not near as cool as Jericho Quinn, but we do happen to ride the same bike.
I assume you do most of your writing on a computer in a house that has electricity, but for the final editing you rough it. Would you tell us about that – and why it works for you?
For so many years I’ve been tied to a pager or BlackBerry. I always enjoyed the excitement of the work, but find I have to get completely away once in a while or I get sort of flinchy waiting for the phone to ring.
I work from an outline, filling in the blanks until I have a decent draft. Then, I print the whole thing, stuff it in my backpack, strap on a pistol and trudge a couple of miles into the mountains to a little state cabin with a wood stove, bunk beds, a table and lantern. I’ve never planned it this way, but on the last three books it has been early winter when I’m out there with temperatures in the low teens. The bears are mostly asleep so I don’t have to worry too much on my walks to the outhouse, and it’s a great rest for the brain–just me and the wolves howling across the frozen river and the Northern Lights overhead. We only have about six hours of daylight that time of year so I’m not tempted to go on any long hikes. It’s one of those blessed places that is completely out of cell phone range.
Other than splitting firewood, melting ice for water and cooking simple meals, I don’t have to worry about anything but the story. It’s a pretty magical place and the anticipation of it draws me to the end of the book.
Are you planning a long series of Jericho Quinn adventures? What are you working on now?
THE ELEVENTH HOUR comes out in June. It will see Jericho chasing moles within the U.S. government and riding bikes in DC, Manhattan and Afghanistan. I’m in the middle of a third in the series that puts him in the jungles of Colombia, among other places.
Jericho Quinn leads a rough life and loses a little piece of himself in every book–sometimes literally. He’s a tough guy though, with a lot of fight left. If readers like him, I plan to keep him around for awhile.
A native of Texas, Marc Cameron spent nearly thirty years in the gun-culture of law enforcement. His assignments have taken him from rural Alaska to Manhattan, from Canada to Mexico and points in between. A second degree black belt in jujitsu, he often teaches defensive tactics to other law enforcement agencies and civilian groups. Cameron lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife and BMW motorcycle.
To learn more about Marc, please visit his website.