MAN OF WAR: Five Questions with Sean Parnell



They say “write what you know,” and when it comes to Tier One operators and the world of military operations, Sean Parnell knows what he’s talking about. 

Long before penning Outlaw Platoon, the New York Times bestselling nonfiction book about his time in the Army, Parnell was just a college kid nursing a hangover when he turned on the television and saw airplanes flying into the Twin Towers. As was the case for so many others that infamous day, Parnell’s entire life changed. 

That day, of course, was September 11, 2001. Following the attack on American soil, Parnell joined the Army to “get into the fight against the people who attacked us,” and never looked back. Now, seventeen years later, he’s set to debut his first novel, an action thriller called Man of War, that introduces readers to Eric Steele, an operator who shares Parnell’s love of country, as well as his desire to take the fight to those trying to hurt America and her citizens. 

Part of an elite, off-the-books unit known simply as the Program, Steele is the alpha dog to the other alphas. The best of the very best. No longer held back or tied down by bureaucratic red tape, the Program offers Steele a unique opportunity–to fight terrorists using their playbook–and he’s not afraid to put a little red, white, and blue hurt on ’em in order to protect the country he loves and serves. Things change, though, when a rogue unit ambushes a CIA convoy and steals a nuclear warhead. Steele’s the man tasked with taking out whoever stole the warhead and stopping their plan at all costs, but rather than going after a jihadist, the person Eric is forced to track down and eliminate is Nathaniel West, a man he once fought alongside, bled with, and previously called a brother. 

Parnell ramps up the tension in a big way as the story chugs along, throwing in plenty of suspense to counter the nonstop action, creating a high-stakes page-turner in the vein of Brad Taylor and Alex Berenson. 

Ahead of the release of his highly-anticipated first thriller, I caught up with Sean Parnell, who graciously agreed to take part in our Five Questions segment, and asked him about everything from why he joined the military to who some of his favorite authors are. Of course, he also offered plenty of information about Man of War, in stores this Patriot Day, and even teased some details about his next book. 

See the full Q&A below, and then make sure to head out and grab Man of War, in stores everywhere September 11, 2018. 


TRBS: Man of War is just fantastic. Not only did I love it, but I’m predicting it to be a massive hit among Book Spy followers. Where did you come up with the story idea for your first thriller? 

Parnell: “Well, first of all, thank you. That is high praise from a voracious reader of books like you! Like many people, I love mentor-turned-enemy stories like Batman Begins or even Star Wars. I think they resonate because audiences can feel how personal the story is. Driven by great characters, with a rich history, stories like this can be really powerful if done properly. I’ve wanted to write a story like that my entire life, and after coming up with the concept of the Program and Eric Steele, the decision was easy. In his first adventure, I wanted to put him up against someone that was older, smarter, and more experienced. And readers will get that in Man of War.”    

TRBS: Obviously, you’re well known for Outlaw Platoon, your New York Times bestselling nonfiction account of your time in the military. I’ve read your story, and it’s so compelling. Just so those who haven’t read Outlaw Platoon yet know, what made you decide to join the Army? 

Parnell: “Hands down, September 11th. Seventeen years ago I was a college kid, wandering aimlessly. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. Didn’t know my major. And worse yet, didn’t care. Then one morning I woke up on my couch, surrounded by beer cans, and had the hangover of a lifetime. When I sat up the world was spinning, and as I staggered over to the TV set I turned it on and watched it flicker to life, just in time to watch an airplane crash into the World Trade Centers. At that moment, my life became laser-focused. I was pissed. I wanted to join the Army and get into the fight against the people who attacked us as soon as possible. So I did.”

TRBS:  What was it like transitioning from nonfiction to fiction, and which one is easier to write? 

Parnell: “Transitioning from nonfiction to fiction was brutal. It’s a totally different style of writing.”

TRBS: Who are some of your favorite authors, and what was the last really great book you read? 

Parnell: “This is a complicated question. There are SO many incredible authors out there. Here are my favorite thriller writers, along with some of their best books.

Lions of Lucerne by Brad Thor: I read my first Scot Harvath thriller on combat outpost Marghah. I finished it at 2 am. At 4 am my unit got intel that 350 bad guys were coming to attack us. If you read Outlaw Platoon, then you know we made short work of them. When we made it back to our forward operating base, I tracked down every book by Brad Thor I could find and made short work of them too. 

The Killing Floor by Lee Child: In my eyes, Jack Reacher paved the way for the modern-day thriller. Pick up a book by Lee Child and read it. They’re all written at a feverish pace. And who doesn’t enjoy Jack Reacher pounding people into oblivion? 

Open Season by CJ BoxI read my first CJ Box novel in the mid-90s and loved it. When I was in Afghanistan I saw a few of his books lying around our makeshift library on our base. I started with Open Season and never looked back. Joe Pickett is a great character.”

TRBS: Lastly, Man of War is the first book in a new series. When might readers see Eric Steele again, and what can you tell us about the second book?

Parnell: “I just finished the second installment of the Eric Steele Saga and I am psyched about it! 

“The same cast of characters will be back in action: Eric Steele, Meg, Demo, and Rockford. All of them will face a threat unlike anything the United States has seen before. And there will be casualties.”


Man of warThe New York Times bestselling author of Outlaw Platoon makes his fiction debut with this electrifying military thriller—a gripping tale of action, suspense, and international intrigue that introduces a compelling new hero, Eric Steele.

Eric Steele is the best of the best—an Alpha—an elite clandestine operative assigned to a US intelligence unit known simply as the “Program.” A superbly trained Special Forces soldier who served several tours fighting radical Islamic militants in Afghanistan, Steele now operates under the radar, using a deadly combination of espionage and brute strength to root out his enemies and neutralize them.

But when a man from Steele’s past attacks a military convoy and steals a nuclear weapon, Steele and his superiors at the White House are blindsided. Moving from Washington, DC, to the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, Steele must use his considerable skills to hunt this rogue agent, a former brother-in-arms who might have been a friend, and find the WMD before it can reach the United States—and the world is forever changed.

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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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