RED WARNING with Phil Halton
RED WARNING with Phil Halton
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The Big Thrill Discusses RED WARNING with Phil Halton

Book Cover: RED WARNINGAfghanistan. 1978.

Lieutenant Mohammed Mirwais Ahmadzai is an ambitious investigator in Kabul’s Criminal Investigation Division – a corrupt officer intent on furthering his own career at any cost.

When prominent Communist leader Mir Akbar Khaibar is murdered outside his home, Ahmadzai finds the body but loses the case to the Secret Intelligence Service.

Ahmadzai is quickly diverted to the murder of an American woman, shot dead in the street. Ahmadzai pursues the investigation with his usual vigour, but his superiors want it closed, not solved, and are not interested in the links he uncovers to Khaibar’s murder.

Ahmadzai quickly falls out of favour. Eager to again prove his worth, he accelerates his investigation. Ahmadzai’s zeal may prove his undoing. The closer he gets to the truth, the more he puts his career – and life – in danger.

Author Photo: Phil Halton

Phil Halton

Phil Halton recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss his latest historical thriller, RED WARNING.

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

I was working in Afghanistan, and became had a chance to see police corruption close-up. I began to realize how “dirty cops” got that way – that they were on a slippery slope, trying to navigate their duties, local politics, and their personal survival. Somewhere in that mix were also the ideals of justice and fairness, but abstract concepts had a hard time winning out over stark reality. The seeds of this book were sown then.

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?

I started to play around with the story, and it just started to write itself. I had reams of material that could fit into the book, more than I could ever use, and that’s when I realized that the book had legs. And the deeper that I got into the writing process, the more the characters came alive and began to speak their own lines in my head.

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

Not to make a shameless plug, but I thought a lot about my own work of history that focuses on social conflict in Afghanistan, Blood Washing Blood. It provides the historical fabric that the action in the novel plays out on. I also listened to Afghan and Pakistani music while I wrote, particularly Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

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

I’ve sketched out the next two novels in this series, which will take the reader through an incredibly tumultuous time in Afghan history. Stuck in the middle of these “great events” are men like Lt. Ahmadzai, who are just trying to survive while forces outside their control come crashing down.


Phil Halton is a Canadian Army veteran. He is also the author of This Shall be a House of Peace, and Every Arm Outstretched, as well as Blood Washing Blood: Afghanistan’s Hundred-Year War.

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