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.
How did the two of you team up?
Don Mann contacted me about four years ago. He told me that he had a long career as a Navy SEAL and was looking for someone to work with. We hit it off right away. He’s one of the kindest, most considerate people I’ve met, and I admire him a lot.
How do you collaborate together?
When we started, I asked Don lots of questions about his background, missions he’d been on, what it was like to be a member of SEAL Team 6, his personal life, and interesting SEAL teammates. I digested all this and came up with an idea for the first book in the Hunt series, HUNT THE WOLF. I basically develop the plots and vet them through Don. Then I start to write. I show everything to Don and ask him tons of questions. How would you do this in such-and-such situation? What kinds of weapons would you carry? Would you assault the building from the ground or would you fast-rope from a helicopter? We try to keep everything as real as possible in terms of the mission, and what the characters go through in their personal lives.
Have you received any comments from the military or the alphabet agencies regarding your stories being too close to reality?
Don has a lot of friends on SEAL teams and I have quite a few in the intelligence community and State Department. So we hear a lot about what is going on around the world in terms of clandestine operations. Our goal is to keep the series as current and real as possible. I get a lot of emails from people in the security area who read the books and ask: how did you know that? Or where did you get that information? It’s amazing what you can find out if you know the right people.
Is your main character, Thomas Crocker, based on any real person?
Thomas Crocker is based very closely on Don Mann and his life.
HUNT THE JACKAL, which takes places primarily in Mexico, will come out in May 2014, and there are two more Hunt books planned to follow. I’m currently working on two nonfiction books that are separate from the work I do with Don. One is an inside look at CIA ops in southern Afghanistan, and the second is based on the files of a famous Hollywood PI who bugged JFK with Marilyn Monroe.
“HUNT THE SCORPION reads like a Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child – clean and fast. But there’s more military structure, more politics, and lots of action. HOOAH!” –SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
“A rocket-fast read.” –GRIT MAGAZINE
“A gripping book that will satisfy from the very first page until you close the book for the final time.” –LIBRARY JOURNAL
“Never a boring moment. You’ll literally burn through HUNT THE WOLF in a matter of hours. It’s that good. A plus.” – SHAKEFIRE.COM
Ralph Pezzullo is a NEW YORK TIMES best-selling author and an award-winning playwright and screenwriter. His books include Jawbreaker and The Walk-In (with CIA operative Gary Berntsen, Inside SEAL Team Six, Plunging into Haiti (winner of the Douglas Dillon Award for Distinguished Writing on American Diplomacy), At the Fall of Somoza, Most Evil (with Steve Hodel), Eve Missing, Blood of My Blood, Hunt the Wolf and Hunt the Scorpion (with Don Mann), and the upcoming novel Saigon.
To learn more about Ralph, please visit his website.