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The Big Thrill Discusses DEAD HAND with James Stejskal

Dead Hand CoverRussia has won the war in Ukraine and is eyeing the Baltics next. The world stands on the precipice of war.

When a spy deep in the Kremlin contacts his handlers and mentions a code word for an insane Russian plan for winning a nuclear war, it sets off alarm bells in Washington.

A legendary CIA officer is sent to meet him. Former Special Forces and CIA operator Joshua Devlin is coaxed out of retirement to be his backup, with promises that the job will be little more than babysitting. But things go sideways, initiating a chain of events that throws Devlin back into a deadly world where failure could mean nuclear Armageddon.

Author Photo: James Stejskal

James Stejskal

Author James Stejskal recently spent time with The Big Thrill discussing DEAD HAND, his latest espionage thriller.

Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and knowing just how far it might go if someone isn’t stopped…

When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?

He’s a guy that grew up during the Cold War and had to learn the difference between patriotism and the everyday reality of a conflict between two superpowers, not to mention what happens when confidence gives way to fear.

A novel is such a major undertaking; there’s the writing of it, of course, then you’re spending months and months revising, polishing, and then promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?

It was a revelation and a necessity… I had to change directions with a new publisher.

Then it came to me. In the world of spies, the Cold War never ended. It morphed into something different yet remarkably similar, something that calls for the same knowledge and skillsets as before. That was my answer: recall some of my old (literally) friends to active duty and have them jump back into the fray.

Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?

Spy Game meets Day of the Jackal while Leaving Berlin.

In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?

A desire to go back in time and experience what the Cold War was like in the 1960s and 1970s…

What can you share about what you’re working on next?

Berlin 1957.

In a city awash in intrigue, tension builds between the Soviet and the Allied occupation forces while two young Americans, one an intelligence officer, the other a Special Forces soldier, make an unlikely pact to find a traitor and a killer in the grim shadows of communist East Berlin.


James Stejskal spent 35 years as a “Green Beret” and CIA case officer living and conducting operations around the world during the Cold War and after 9/11. He has written five military history books, along with numerous articles, and received accolades for his book Masters of Mayhem: Lawrence of Arabia and the British Military Mission to the Hejaz. His fiction centers on intelligence and special operations and DEAD HAND is the fourth book in his The Snake Eater Chronicles. He lives in northern Virginia with his wife, Wanda.

To learn more about the author, please visit his website.

DEAD HAND with James Stejskal