REAPER: GHOST TARGET: Five Questions with Nicholas Irving (Part 1)

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If you love big, smart, lethal, larger-than-life characters who throw down and kill bad guys. . . then you’re going to love Vick Harwood, aka The Reaper. 
Harwood, one of the most decorated snipers in the history of the United States military, is one of the best new characters to take the genre by storm in years. And, while he reads like Superman with a long rifle, he’s actually based on famed combat veteran Nicholas Irving, who, get this, really is one of the most decorated combat veterans in the history of the United States military. 
Irving, who earned himself the nickname the “Reaper,” due to his lethal abilities behind the scope, teamed up with fellow combat veteran turned bestselling novelist A.J. Tata to create Harwood, a fictionalized version of himself.
When I received an advance copy of Reaper: Ghost Target from the publisher late last year (you can read my review here), two things jumped out at me immediately: First, Harwood is one of the only African American protagonists in the genre. Secondly, there hasn’t been a sniper like this since Stephen Hunter introduced the world to Bob Lee Swagger.
I was immediately sucked into Harwood’s world, and, though I typically race through novels as fast as I can to keep up with my review schedule, I can honestly say that I didn’t want this book to end. There’s such a freshness about Harwood, and he brings a different culture and swagger to the genre that other authors haven’t already hit on. Plus, the story is fantastic, full of action and even a few twists that you don’t typically see in these types of political thrillers. 
Everybody knows that Tata (a retired brigadier general) and Irving would make a lethal team on the battlefield. . . but they’ve proven to be a literary force unlike any other duo writing together right now.  
Both Irving and Tata agreed to go on the record for our Five Questions segment, making it the first time in Real Book Spy history that we’ve had co-authors partake in this Q&A. Rather than put their answers together, we’ve separated them into two parts, with Tata’s being Part 2, which will run tomorrow. Trust me, you’ll want to keep an eye out for that! 
A big thank you to Nick Irving for providing such great answers and for taking the time to participate. Check out the Q&A below, then keep scrolling to learn more about Reaper: Ghost Target, in stores tomorrow, Tuesday, May 8th.
Reaper: Ghost Target: Five Questions with Nicholas Irving

TRBS: What a book, man! I loved Reaper: Ghost Target, and cannot wait for readers to get their hands on this one. Obviously, you wrote a couple of nonfiction books, but when did you decide that you wanted to write a thriller?

Irving: “Thank you! I’ve had the idea for some time. My first fiction book was actually in middle school, based off of the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine. I still have it today. Taking the “Reaper” into the fiction world, was something that I felt I could really release the past me and explore a different world, giving characters the freedom we don’t get a chance to in real-world combat. In many ways, it gave me the opportunity to be a kid again.”

TRBS: As one of the most decorated snipers in the history of the United States military, Vic “The Reaper” Harwood feels like a fictional version of you, man. What I’m wondering is, how are you guys the same, but also, how are you different. . . and does Harwood use the same rifle setup that you used? 

Irving: “Ha! Hardwood is definitely loosely based off of me, although [he’s] extremely different at the same time. I used my skillsets and tactics that I would use and embodied them into a character. By him going head to head with the Chechen, allowed me to re-engage a target that haunted me in real life again, something readers wonder from reading The Reaper.

 And Harwood couldn’t be the reaper if he didn’t have his named sniper rifle. . . A signature in many ways.”
(note: The Reaper is Irving’s autobiography which he co-wrote with Gary Brozek, released in 2015.)

TRBS: Your writing partner on this book, A.J. Tata, is also a high-profile veteran, having served a long career in the military before transitioning into his career as a novelist. First of all, what was your experience like working with Tata, and did it help that, like you, he understood first-hand the challenges Harwood and other service members (in the book) were facing because he’s lived that life himself?

Irving: “A.J. was a huge help in developing a fictional timeline and structure. Talking for hours and hours before the ideas went to paper, I learned more in that time than I did my entire time writing. A totally different world. It was like being in the military again, in a sense of leadership and grunt work. A.J. is a true leader, and his status as a General showed in his work as a co-author as well.

A true leader.”

TRBS: You’re kind of everywhere right now, with a bunch of different things going on. Can you tell us a little bit about your current and upcoming projects or things you’re involved with?

Irving: “Thank you. Ha! The best thing for guys who come from a high intensity, fast-paced occupation. . . one of the best things we can do, is stay as busy as possible. I’m currently working on future novels and working on a production that I’m truly excited and humbled to be apart of, though we’re still under lock and key at the moment.”

TRBS: Last question. What’s next for Harwood, and when can readers expect to see him again?

Irving: “There’s a whole new world that Vick has to figure out! Just as in real combat against terrorism, no matter how many targets you eliminate, there seems to always be tenfold more to take their place. We can definitely expect to see Harwood on paper again!”


Reaper bookThe explosive new thriller series written by Nicholas Irving, the New York Times bestselling author of The Reaper and star of Fox’s American Grit.

American hero, or unhinged vigilante?

In Reaper: Ghost Target, Vick “The Reaper” Harwood is an esteemed sniper with a record kill count―33 kills in 90 days―when he is knocked out under mortar attack in Afghanistan. He wakes up back in the United States with little memory of what happened, his spotter and gun both unrecovered from the battlefield. Harwood has resigned himself to slowly picking up the pieces of his life, training Special Forces snipers in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and starting a promising relationship with an Olympic medalist named Jackie.

But when a series of assassinations start occurring in the area, Harwood can’t explain why he just happens to be nearby for each killing―or how a sniper rifle that matches the description of the one he lost seems to be involved. His memory of the past few days is hazy and full of blackouts, and even he has to wonder, is he being framed? Or is he the killer?

As Harwood runs from the authorities, his girlfriend falls off the radar, his missing spotter resurfaces, and the assassinated men are outed as drug and sex traffickers. Nothing is adding up. Harwood realizes he has to unravel this mystery, and fast, or find himself paying the ultimate price for crimes he may not have committed.



Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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