By Dan Levy
While most of us have never been to the Military Academy at West Point, we can imagine what it might be like to attend. With little effort, you can visualize young men and women in perfectly creased uniforms moving about under a canopy of fall foliage, each moment of their day filled with plan and purpose. They carry a unique vision and mission for themselves, while working to fulfill a larger purpose in the defense of the United States.
Now, imagine one of the cadets, a seventeen year-old plebe, in his bunk late at night, writing by the light of a flashlight. He defies orders and routine to satisfy a need to tell stories. That is exactly how author and retired Brigadier General, A.J. Tata, spent years at West Point. “It became a balancing act between this genuine desire to serve my country and my passion to be a fiction author. I still have the spiral bound notebooks with the stories I wrote at West Point.”
Tata’s need to write didn’t stop once he graduated. If anything, for the man who commanded combat units from the eighty-second and one hundred and first Airborne Divisions, as well as tenth Mountain Division, it intensified. “My Threat series developed from a lot of late nights when I was out on deployment. I’d get back from combat missions and need to disconnect from and process everything that went on. (Writing) was helpful throughout my career. Escaping into (a) fiction world helped me, in some ways, deal with reality.”
Tata, who retired from the military in 2009, drew from his experience to create the four-book Threat series. But while the series met with much acclaim, Tata’s need to grow as a writer drove him to sideline his series protagonists (Matt and Zach Garrett), to explore a new focus. During his four-year hiatus, Tata reexamined his craft, who he was as an author, what kind of an author he wanted to become, and what mattered most to readers. “(Readers think), ‘I’m going to read the next Scott Harvath novel,’ or ‘I’m going to read the next Jack Reacher novel,’ or ‘I’m going to read the next Mitch Rapp novel,’” Tata said. “I’m trying to create that same type of character with Jake Mahegan. One that people fall in love with and want to follow regardless of the plot.”
In FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC, Jake Mahegan is a soldier who seeks to find the American company that provided the lethal technology that killed his best friend in Afghanistan. A Native American, Chayton “Jake” Mahegan, kills an enemy prisoner of war attempting to escape when a roadside bomb maims his protégé. Dismissed from service, Mahegan searches in coastal North Carolina for the maker of the sophisticated trigger that ignited the bomb. In the process, Mahegan becomes a murder suspect, involves himself with an actress from The Lost Colony theater production, follows those pursuing pirate gold, and fights an army of undocumented detainees from Iraq and Afghanistan, called “ghost prisoners, who are conducting terrorist attacks along the East Coast.”
In FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC, Tata isn’t looking to trade action for character development. Instead, he’s taken time to craft a character with more depth, demons, and desire. And it’s those qualities that drive his latest novel. “Jake does some wildly unpredictable things, and he is an unreliable narrator. But at his core, what I love about him most, is that he’s driven by justice.”
Tata’s publisher likes Jake Mahegan, too. A second Mahegan novel is in the works, entitled Three Minutes to Midnight. Tata teases that as Jake finishes his business in FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC, he reflects on the brutal murder of his mother. Mahegan’s quest to get vengeance and justice for his mother puts him on the trail of the owner of the largest construction company in North Carolina. “He gets on a work crew (for that company) and he finds some very bad things are happening,” said Tata.
Tata noted that his new series doesn’t mean the end of the Threat series or the Garrett brothers. It’s more like he’s given them a temporary leave for a job well done.
Regardless of the novel, readers are guaranteed authenticity from Tata’s every word. “I’ve sat face-to-face with Afghan warlords, Iraqi henchmen, and Balkan warriors as they’ve tried to surrender arms. I’ve been in firefights and combat. With Jake Mahegan, I’m able to put in the reader’s mind some of the reality of combat.”
Those experiences continually translate to the page with unique details and perspectives that also make Tata a trusted military and terrorism source for NBC’s Today Show, Fox News, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and other national media outlets.
A. J. Tata is a career paratrooper and infantryman. Retiring as a Brigadier General, he commanded combat units in the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions and the 10th Mountain Division. A West Point graduate and Harvard University National Security Fellow, he is the award winning author of four critically acclaimed novels, Sudden Threat, Rogue Threat, Hidden Threat and Mortal Threat. He was also a writer in Glenn Beck’s New York Times Bestselling Miracles and Massacres. Tony has been a frequent foreign policy guest commentator on Fox News, CBS News, and The Daily Buzz. NBC’s Today Show featured General Tata’s career transition from the military to education leadership. He served as Chief Operations Officer for Washington, DC, Public Schools and then as the superintendent of Schools in Raleigh-Wake County, North Carolina, the sixteenth largest school district in the nation. An avid surfer, he is married to Jodi and has two children, Brooke and Zachary.
To learn more about A. J., please visit his website.