By Jeff Ayers
The Sri Lankan navy is unexpectedly attacked by a resurgent and separatist Tamil Tiger organization in Claude Berube’s follow up to The Aden Effect. In SYREN’S SONG, the government issues a letter of marque to former U.S. Navy officer Connor Stark, now the head of the private security company. Stark and his eclectic compatriots accept the challenge only to learn that the Sea Tigers who crippled the Sri Lankan navy are no ordinary terrorists. The Sea Tigers have created a new weapon that not even the West possesses, fueling it with a previously undiscovered element. Stark and his team race against the clock to prevent another Sea Tiger attack.
Claude Berube is the author of two novels featuring Connor Stark, both published by Naval Institute Press. But he’s also co-authored non-fiction, including A Call to the Sea: Captain Charles Stewart of the USS Constitution (Potomac Books, 2005) and Congress: Games and Strategies (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007 & 2009). He is currently writing his doctoral dissertation through the University of Leeds on Andrew Jackson’s Navy.
He took time to chat with The Big Thrill.
With your background, what prompted you to want to write The Aden Effect?
Although I write non-fiction (naval history and national security), I always wanted to write fiction as well. I was influenced by a number of series such as Bill Granger’s November Man, William F. Buckley’s Blackford Oakes, Robert B. Parker’s Spenser, and others. Part of THE ADEN EFFECT was influenced by my non-fiction research on modern piracy and private maritime security companies. In 2004, I was recalled (I’m a Navy Reserve officer) on the USS Bunker Hill for six months. That deployment included tsunami relief operations in Sumatra, security operations in the Persian Gulf, and piracy operations off Somalia. A few years later I had a moment of inspiration in Scotland. Everything—the characters, the plot, and the locales—just fell into place.
Who is Connor Stark?
I wrote an unpublished manuscript about Connor Stark in the 1990s where he’s a naval officer who has to take a stand on an issue and is court-martialed forcing him to be discharged. The Aden Effect picks up a decade later as he’s become a mercenary. Martin Luther King wrote in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail that “everything Hitler did was legal; everything the Hungarian resistance did was illegal.” That influenced the character. Stark’s more of a justice than a law guy. In The Aden Effect he still carries around his discharge papers. Despite that he loves the Navy and wants to restore his honor and the justice denied him at his court-martial.
What sparked the idea for SYREN’S SONG?
Many military thrillers deal with the big wars (like Clancy’s Red Storm Rising.) My non-fiction work has focused on the small wars—the battles on the periphery because navies are either too small or too busy elsewhere. So my series deals with maritime non-state actors like pirates, terrorists, insurgents, traffickers, etc. but some of the big players like China are in the background. For SYREN’S SONG, I was interested in the Tamil Sea Tigers who, arguably, had a robust naval force. Other non-state actors used some of the tactics in the book.
The Sea Tigers utilize a terrifying weapon. Is it based on reality? How dangerous is it to our real Navy?
What if a terrorist had a weapon that effectively shut down communications, computers, modern cars, and trains in an isolated area? That’s a concern a lot of people have written about with regard to EMPs (Electromagnetic Pulse.) In SYREN’S SONG, the Sea Tigers have found a particular element, pure hafnium that makes it so powerful. In reality, that isomer doesn’t exist.
How did you end up writing fiction for a publisher who usually doesn’t publish fiction?
Actually, Naval Institute Press also published Stephen Coonts’s Flight of the Intruder (in addition to Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October) as well as other fiction. I think it helped that I had published several articles for Naval Institute Proceedings and Naval History, both published by USNI, so they were familiar with my work and decided to take a chance. They’ve been great and supportive of more Connor Stark novels.
What elements in our current world terrify you the most?
I’m not sure “terrify” me is the right word. How about “deeply concerned?” There’s a lot. We’re at a remarkably unstable point in mankind’s history but my top three concerns would be cyber-attacks by hyper-empowered groups or individuals, China, and the Islamic State, all for different reasons and not in that order. China is behaving as a rational, predictable state actor and that means we can deal with them state to state but continues to pose challenges to its neighbors and to us. That’s unlike the other two.
What’s next for Connor Stark and you?
I’ve outlined the next Connor Stark book but need to finish writing my doctoral dissertation on Andrew Jackson’s navy. Once that’s finished in 2016, I’ll write the third book and move on to more sequels.
Claude Berube is the author of the Connor Stark novels – THE ADEN EFFECT (Naval Institute Press, September 2012) and SYREN’S SONG (Naval Institute Press, November 2015.) He earned his B.A. in History and Soviet Studies, his M.A. in History from Northeastern University, and his M.A. in National Security Studies from the Naval War College. He is currently writing his doctoral dissertation through the University of Leeds on Andrew Jackson’s Navy.
He was a 2004 Brookings Institution LEGIS Fellow and a 2010 Maritime Security Studies Fellow at The Heritage Foundation. He worked on political campaigns, for the Office of Naval Intelligence, in the U.S. Senate, and taught at the United States Naval Academy where his courses included American Government, Terrorism, Campaigns & Elections, Intelligence & National Security. Maritime Security Challenges, Naval History, and Emergent Naval Warfare. An intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, he has served on active duty assignments in Europe and deployed to the Persian Gulf in 2004-2005 with Expeditionary Strike Group Five.
He has co-authored two books: “A Call to the Sea: Captain Charles Stewart of the USS Constitution” (Potomac Books, 2005) and “Congress: Games and Strategies” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007 & 2009). He is the co-editor of “Maritime Private Security: Market Responses to Piracy, Terrorism and Waterborne Security Risks in the 21st Century” (Routledge, 2012) His articles have appeared in The Washington Times, Forbes.com, The Christian Science Monitor, Jane’s Intelligence Review, Orbis, Small Wars Journal, Vietnam Magazine, Naval History and Naval Institute Proceedings. He is a regular contributor to WarontheRocks.com.
To learn more about Claude, please visit his website.