If you like Mark Greaney or Brad Taylor, then you’ve got to try Peter Kirsanow’s books.
As a whole, I really think Kirsanow’s (a prominent attorney and a member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights) series, which is only two books long, including the just-released Second Strike, is one of the most underrated franchises in the political thriller genre right now. Michael Garin, Kirsanow’s hero, is a former Tier One operator turned leader of a top-secret unit designed to handle the most dangerous assignments imaginable. When America’s national security is on the line, it’s Garin and his guys who get the call to save the day.
While Garin has the same skill set as other heroes such as Mitch Rapp, The Gray Man, and Scot Harvath, he’s actually more of a boy scout. In fact, if I were to point out a single negative about Kirsanow’s books, it’s that Garin can at times come across as too perfect. Not even from an operational standpoint, though he is head-and-shoulders above everyone else on the battlefield, but just in general. He’s the white knight, with few, if any, character flaws. While that bothered me at first, I actually find it refreshing now, and it’s a lot of fun following Garin around. One thing’s for certain, Kirsanow is a fantastic writer who knows how to mix action with suspense, delivering a high-stakes thriller that grabs you right away and never lets go.
I was thrilled when Peter Kirsanow agreed to go on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I asked him about everything from how much research he does for his books to what’s next for Garin. Kirsanow gave some great answers, even going as far as to tease the title of his third book.
Read the Q&A below, then keep scrolling to learn more about Second Strike, now available in bookstores everywhere.
SECOND STRIKE: Five Questions with Peter Kirsanow
TRBS: Target Omega was a special debut, and you certainly built on that in Second Strike, which is phenomenal. How did you come up with the idea for the plot, which involves Russia planning to detonate an EMP, and how much research did you have to do before actually sitting down to write the book?
Kirsanow: “Each of the books is about actual existential threats to America. The EMP plot was inspired by several congressional hearings that are cited in the book. The book’s description of the catastrophic consequences of an electromagnetic pulse attack is derived from the testimony and evidence from those hearings. I did a considerable amount of research on EMPs and Iran’s nuclear program prior to, and during the course of, writing the book to ensure accuracy.”
TRBS: What is your writing process like? Do you outline the whole book before writing it or have a certain word count you try to hit each day. . . and what advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Kirsanow: “The time limitations placed on writing by all things associated with my legal career put a significant premium on efficiency. I don’t outline the book, but I do write a 1-2 page synopsis that I regularly amend while writing the first draft.
“On weekday evenings I jot down ideas and partial narratives for what I’m going to write on the weekend. The actual writing occurs between 5 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturdays, and between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Sundays. I average 40-45 pages per weekend. Listening to light classical music (mainly Mozart) speeds the writing process, but the action scenes are fueled purely by Steppenwolf, Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin. The occasional sip of Smirnoff doesn’t hurt either.
“As far as advice for aspiring authors goes, I suggest following the old Nike commercial: Just Do It. Don’t play Hamlet. Write brazenly and with confidence. And when you’re not writing, read, read, read.”
TRBS: Michal Garin, your protagonist, is a great new character in the vein of Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp or Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath. Who, if anyone, was your inspiration in creating him, and who are some of the characters (and authors) you personally enjoy reading when you’re not writing?
Kirsanow: “Garin was inspired in part by a couple of operators I’ve known, but he’s chiefly a combination of the attributes of my brother-in-law and my late father—one of the world’s great badasses. In fact, Nikolai “Pop” Garin is my father—the scene involving the escape from the NKVD, with slight adjustments, actually occurred.
“As far as favorite authors go, I never miss a Daniel Silva novel, and I enjoy Tom Clancy and Mark Greaney. Given the aforementioned time constraints, I try to read as many authors in the genre as I can. But much of my reading is Russian literature: Turgenev, Tolstoy, Solzhenitsyn, Gogol, Chekov. Their names are sprinkled throughout my books as minor characters—usually Russian operators or government officials.”
TRBS: Is it possible readers might one day see Garin on the big screen, and who would be your dream casting choice to play him?
Kirsanow: “All I can say is, we’ll see.
“The Garin character—and for that matter Congo Knox, Taras Bor, and the rest—are larger-than-life naturals for the big screen.
“A few readers have suggested that Dwayne Johnson should play Congo Knox. But I’m not sure there’s a contemporary actor who adequately captures Garin’s tenacity, physicality, and lethality. He’s a composite: one part Sean Connery, one part Gary Cooper, one part Dwayne Johnson, one part Clint Eastwood, and one part Daniel Craig. Shaken, not stirred.
“Of course, no one conveys the evil of Taras Bor, but if readers have a suggestion, please let me know.”
TRBS: Now that Second Strike is set to hit bookstores, what’s next for Michael Garin? Will there be a third book, and what, if anything, can you tell us about it?
Kirsanow: “The third book, tentatively titled Invincible, is nearing completion. Garin and many of the regulars are back, a couple of whom show themselves to be something other than what you may have believed. In addition, I’m also about one-third done with an as-yet-untitled fourth book; same genre, completely different characters and plot line. I’m very excited about it.
“Without revealing much, in Invincible, the president resigns after a terrorist attack, and the vice president/new president may be compromised after a murder in the White House reveals a peculiar interface between the National Security Agency and a seemingly ordinary Silicon Valley firm. The Russians, Chinese, and Iranians all make appearances. The U.S. as a democratic republic is in jeopardy, and its continued existence depends on whether a previously unknown and somewhat astonishing relative in Russia provides Garin assistance. It’s a non-stop sprint from page one, with as much action as the first two installments but even more intrigue.
“Many thanks to all my readers!”
Peter Kirsanow delivers a gripping, high-stakes thriller in which special operator Mike Garin faces off against a lethal Russian assassin–and a devious plot to wreak chaos in America.
Within mere weeks of thwarting a cataclysmic electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack against the United States, Michael Garin, former leader of the elite Omega special operations unit, discovers that Russia has triggered an ingenious and catastrophic backup plan. Garin’s efforts to warn the administration of the new attack, however, fall on deaf ears. No one believes the Russians would initiate another strike of such magnitude so soon.
Without government support, Garin turns to three people for help: Congo Knox, a former Delta Force sniper; Dan Dwyer, the head of a sprawling military contracting firm; and Olivia Perry, an aide to the national security advisor. Yet Garin and his ad hoc team are checked at every turn by the formidable Russian assassin, Taras Bor, who is directed by an individual seemingly able to manipulate the highest reaches of the US government.
As evidence mounts that the Russian plot has been set in motion and that Bor is pivotal to its success, it’s up to Garin and his team to thwart an attack that will cause the death of millions and establish a new world order.
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.