Monday, August 29, 2011

Full Black: An Interview with Brad Thor

Brad Thor is the perennial New York Times bestselling author of eleven thrillers. His extensive real-world knowledge of espionage, covert special operations and terrorism caught the attention of Homeland Security, who invited him to join their “Red Cell” Program of writers commissioned to brainstorm on terrorism scenarios.

The plot of Thor’s latest, Full Black, revolves around a planned wave of dramatic terrorist attacks designed to cripple America and pave the way for a socialist utopia. It’s an action-packed page-turner to literally the very last line of the book, pitting Thor’s hero Scot Harvath against Russian hitmen, Muslim suicide bombers, and a radical Left terror financier. But it’s more than just beach-read escapism; it’s also a forceful defense of capitalism, freedom, and American character.

Mark Tapson: Full Black is your tenth novel to feature your protagonist Scot Harvath, an ex-Navy SEAL turned covert counterterrorism operative. What is it about Harvath that you think resonates with so many readers?

Brad Thor: I think what resonates with so many readers about Harvath is that he is a good guy – a very good guy – but he realizes the only way to win against an enemy who refuses to fight by any rules is to take the gloves off. I think we’re all beyond tired of political correctness in this country and it’s refreshing to see somebody actually taking the battle directly to the bad guys.

MT: Harvath’s principal antagonist in the novel is described as a billionaire anti-capitalist, a Jewish anti-Semite, a master manipulator of our media, economy, and education – a “malignant, messianic narcissist” whose goal is the collapse of the United States. That no doubt rings a bell for readers of FrontPage Mag. Can you elaborate on your inspiration for this character?

BT: My number one job as a thriller writer is to entertain you. That’s why I strive to write fast moving, cinematic chapters. I love hearing from readers who say they sat down intending to read only a couple of pages and the next thing they knew it was in the morning. If you’ve had that experience, if I have given you a terrific, white-knuckle, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride then I have done my job as an author. But that’s not enough for me. I want you to get even more out of my novels and I think that “something more” is one of the hallmarks of a Brad Thor thriller.

I want you to close the book a smarter, better-informed person who knows more about a range of topics than when you began. I want to take you inside the intelligence, political, and special operations arenas and show you things no other author can show you. I also want to present things to you that are happening at home and abroad that you probably had no idea about.

When you finish my books, I want you to be conversant in a host of very interesting, very consequential topics that are facing our nation and our way of life.

I realize, though, that his doesn’t really answer your question, does it? I have refused to mention publicly (or privately) who the main antagonist in Full Black “might” be based on.  I know who everyone thinks he is, and all I can say is that readers will have to pick up the book and come to their own conclusions.

For me, the best part about this particular antagonist is that he allowed me to lay out some deeply disturbing and very real issues that I think all Americans should be concerned about.  In fact, I’ve had scores of people claim that Full Black (in particular, Chapter 32) should be required reading not only in the White House, but in every school across the country. As a thriller author, that’s pretty powerful stuff.

MT: Harvath decries the media figures and politicians who “try to put a happy face on Muslim extremism and Sharia law under the banner of cultural diversity,” the ones who use “the false moral equivalency card [to] paint Christian fundamentalists as equally dangerous and prolific in their violence.” How significant are the barriers of political correctness and multiculturalism to combating the threat of fundamentalist Islam?

BT: I have long held that our Achilles heel – the greatest chink in our national security armor – is political correctness.  It will be the death of this nation (if government spending doesn’t do us in first).

Nothing hinders the reformists within the Islamic faith more than the politically correct apologists outside it. When they make excuses for Islamic terrorism, when they refuse to even call it Islamic terrorism, they prop up the terrorists and blunt the voices of the good Muslim men and women who are trying to root out the evil within the ranks of their faith.

As per multiculturalism – don’t even get me started. All you need to know is that Western Europe is the canary in the coalmine. France, Germany… they all realize now what an utter failure their leftist social policies have been.

It’s not our differences that make us stronger – it’s what we have in common. We need a shared sense of identity and shared sense of purpose to be successful in a nation-state. The leftists, though, do not want nation-states to be successful.

This is a big reason why you see the hard left working so hard to compartmentalize everyone into victim groups. If you can isolate people into smaller and smaller cells and then blame the right for all of their woes, you can garner more votes – at least that’s their hope. It is “Balkanization” and it’s despicable. There is only one minority group that makes a whit of difference in this world and it’s the smallest minority group there is – the individual.

MT: In the book, you pull no punches in your criticisms of the CIA. You describe it as a top-heavy, inefficient, risk-averse, hidebound bureaucracy that, ten years after 9/11, is still more  obsessed with protecting its own turf than correcting the intelligence mistakes that led up to the attacks of that morning. If you were made CIA Director, how would you transform the agency?

BT: In Full Black I also state that the CIA is filled with many absolutely remarkable, patriotic men and women who are being stymied by the bureaucracy and lack of leadership. Not one single head rolled at Langley after 9/11 and I think that says a lot about the problems there.

If I was made DCI – the first thing I would do is have a meeting with former DCI, Porter Goss. Mr. Goss had been sent in with a mandate to clean up the CIA and clear out all of the “deadwood.” Mr. Goss’s tenure at the Agency was short-lived. I have to imagine he could probably offer a lot of suggestions on how he might go at things differently today if he was given another crack at the broken culture at Langley.

The bottom line is that the CIA is a cold-war era relic that needs to be figuratively burned to the ground and rebuilt. If I was the architect of that rebuilding, I’d design the CIA’s replacement in the style of its precursor, the OSS. I would keep the great, patriotic Americans of the CIA who value protecting their country above protecting their backsides and I’d dump everyone else. We need intelligence people who are focused on the next threat, not the next promotion – and we need to provide them with a culture in which they and the nation can succeed.

MT: As if Harvath isn’t defending America against enough enemies in Full Black, the Chinese also play a behind-the-scenes role, facilitating a devastating strategy of “unrestricted warfare” against the United States. Based on your experience in counterintelligence circles, is China more of a serious and imminent terrorist threat than most Americans realize?

BT: China knows it can never defeat the U.S. on the conventional battlefield. That was why, in the 1990’s, two colonels from the PLA drew up a blueprint to secretly collapse America from within. The attacks had to meet two criteria. They could not be traceable back to the Chinese, i.e. no Chinese fingerprints, and the attacks had to all seem like random occurrences that America wouldn’t be able to link in a pattern.

To that end, the plan called for many things including: encouraging the work of George Soros, co-opting al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups to attack America and American interests (it specifically mentions attacking the World Trade Center), and developing the capabilities to shut down America’s power grids (there have been reports that some inside the intelligence community believe the 2003 Northeast blackout was caused accidentally by Chinese hackers mapping our power grids and planting Trojan viruses in preparation for just such an attack).

I saved the best parts of the plan for Full Black, but as I was writing it, I was stunned by how so much of the plan seemed to be unfolding right now in real life. In fact, national security columnist Bill Gertz came out with an article while I was polishing the draft saying that there were elements affiliated with the Pentagon that believed the 2008 financial crash may have also been part of this same master plan to covertly collapse the United States from within.

MT: Recently Warner Bros. Studios picked up the rights to your novels to develop what will hopefully be a movie franchise as successful as the Jason Bourne series. Tell us about your experiences trying to find a home for Harvath and your books in Hollywood. Did you meet with any resistance to having such an openly conservative character in left-leaning Hollywood?

BT: I have long held that al Qaeda didn’t pick the World Trade Center because it was filled with Republicans, but because it was filled with Americans. And when they attempt to carry out their next attack on the NYC subway system, they’re not going to post operatives at turnstiles asking to see voter registration cards and suggesting Democrats and Independents ride the bus that day.

National security should be an American issue, not a partisan issue. Al Qaeda is united in its mission to kill Americans and we should all be just as united, if not more so, in our mission to kill all of them first.

As far as Hollywood is concerned, there is a reason anti-American films like Stop-Loss, Redacted, Lions for Lambs, etc. have bombed at the box office. Americans want to see their values triumph. We want good to succeed over evil.

And speaking of good, there are lots of good people in Hollywood. They don’t all look down their noses at “fly-over” country. They know there’s much more to America than just her coasts and they also know that the area between the coasts is where a majority of their ticket sales come from.

I have been nothing but impressed with all of the people I have been working with at Warner Bros. We’re not making “conservative” movies or movies with a “conservative” hero. We’re making an action franchise with a tough-as-nails American protagonist who everyone will stand up and cheer for – Republican, Democrat, and Independent alike. In fact, these movies are going to be so spectacular, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that al Qaeda’s dirtiest little secret is how much they love Scot Harvath and seeing the Brad Thor books up on the big screen.

If people come to a deeper understanding of the threats our country faces by watching these movies, that’s terrific. But at the end of the day, I – like Warner Bros – am in the entertainment business. I want our moviegoers to walk out of the theater raving about what they have just seen. If we do that, then we have done our job as entertainers.

(This article originally appeared here at FrontPage Mag, 8/30/2011)