Brad Taylor has been on a roll pretty much since the moment his first book, One Rough Man, came out back in 2011. Now, eight years later, Taylor is set to publish his 13th novel featuring Pike Logan, a former Delta Force soldier turned star member of the top-secret government program known only as the Taskforce.
Taylor, himself a retired Special Forces lieutenant colonel who served for more than twenty years in the U.S. Army, including eight years in 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, is known for the gritty been-there-done-that authenticity that he so effectively injects into his thrillers, adding an unprecedented realness to his stories. Aside from the action, Taylor has been known to beat headlines and predict the future as well as anyone in the game, and he was also one of the first authors to incorporate badass female characters into his series. That’s a common thing now, and a lot of writers are adding hard-hitting, strong female characters to their books, but Taylor helped pave the way, and he’s still doing it at a higher level than the competition.
Just before hitting the road to kick off his upcoming book tour, Taylor was kind enough to come back and partake in our Five Questions segment. This time around, I asked him about everything from crazy research trip stories to why he started spotlighting strong women in his books, and as always, Taylor provided really great answers.
See the full Q&A below, then make sure to order your copy of Daughter of War right away!
TRBS: Another year means more Pike Logan! This book is really fantastic, maybe even your best yet. How did you come up with the plot details for Daughter of War?
Taylor: “Two news stories came together on this one. At the time I was kicking around ideas for Daughter of War, the United States and North Korea were rattling sabers about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Having served on Okinawa in a Special Forces assignment where our wartime mission was the defense of the South Korean Peninsula, I’m a little more versed on North Korea’s offensive capability than the average person, and I was struck by how the United States is convinced that a nuclear-armed North Korea will spell the end of civilization, and yet we don’t seem to care one whit about North Korea’s other WMD capabilities. It currently has upwards of five tons of chemical and biological munitions, along with a willingness to use them–in fact, Kim Jong-un used nerve agent to kill his half-brother in a Malaysian airport a couple of years ago (something straight out of a thriller novel). We are rightly worried about Kim selling nuclear weapons components to the highest bidder, and yet we don’t seem to care about him doing the same thing with chem/bio weapons—when they’re much easier to make and transfer than a nuclear bomb—and we know he has them. I thought it would be interesting to explore how he might sell his other WMD to get around the crushing sanctions we have placed on him for his nuclear ambitions. At the same time, I came across an interesting news story involving North Korean officers having an accidental discharge on a Swiss rifle range. It sounded like an article from The Onion at first, but upon digging, I found a pretty healthy cross-pollination of North Koreans running around Switzerland–one of the few western countries that will allow them to even enter. With Switzerland housing the heart of the United Nations, a crazy cold-war bunker system, and a healthy history of intrigue, the story began to form.”
TRBS: You’re known for scouting all the locations you use in your book. Are there any fun stories from traveling while researching this one that you can share?
Taylor: “Unlike other books, this one takes place in some pretty spectacular but safe areas, so I didn’t have to worry about getting shot by a drug cartel or rolled up as a spy. We traveled to Monaco, France, and Switzerland, and while it was an incredible trip for research, it was pretty uneventful on the “didn’t expect that to happen” front. The biggest “didn’t expect that” was the famed Monaco casino. Having seen it in all the James Bond movies and having read about it in other novels, I set out to use it some way in Daughter of War before we even flew. So we made a special trip to Monaco, bringing along a coat and tie for the dress code and looking forward to slinging some cash on a table and saying, “Taylor. Brad Taylor.” When we arrived, I was crushed. So much so, I almost didn’t even use it in the book. The casino is small, worn down and shabby. The patrons were all dressed like tourists, some even in shorts. It was like Disneyland had recreated the casino for tourists at another location, and we weren’t in the “real” casino. But we were, and we were overdressed and underwhelmed. The one bright spot was the private room in the back. That was the only area that had any semblance to the movie magic. On the plus side, while strolling around Montreux, Switzerland, we stumbled upon a statue of Freddy Mercury belting into a microphone with his fist in the air on the banks of Lake Geneva, which would be about as strange as finding a statue of David Bowie in drag on the San Antonio river walk. Turns out, Queen’s primary studio was in Montreux, above a casino, and it’s now a museum. That, naturally, had to make it into the book somehow.”
TRBS: This is the third year you’re putting out just one book (and a short story) instead of the two novels you did for so long. How are you spending the extra time?
Taylor: “Actually, Daughter of War is the second book on the yearly schedule and I’m now into my third year of having 365 days for a novel. Honestly, I look back on those days and have no idea how I did it. Pumping out two books and two short stories a year was something of a miracle. It seems like time just disappears now. Between security contracts, book research trips, promotion for the current book and actually writing, I don’t find I have a lot of downtime. For Daughter of War, unfortunately, I spent most of the spare time I had undergoing a couple of knee surgeries, culminating in having my knee replaced and the follow-up recovery. That pretty much ate up any extra time I had, and I found myself back into the six-month routine in order to finish the book.”
TRBS: Recently, there’s been a number of writers who’ve started creating strong, kickass female characters. I noted in my review that you’ve been doing this longer than just about anyone and at a much higher level. What prompted that, so many years back, when you started with Jennifer and then Shoshana, and so on?
Taylor: “Thank you for that compliment, by the way. I never set out to be a trailblazer for female characters in military thrillers, it just sort of happened organically. When I began to write my first book, One Rough Man, I was looking to create a story of redemption, and Jennifer was a part of that from the very beginning. My publisher calls the books “Pike Logan Thrillers”, but it’s always been Pike and Jennifer to me. I write about counterterrorism because that’s what I did in my former life, and as a result, Jennifer had to develop some badass skills to compete in the arena, but that isn’t why I created her. If I’d have been a priest, Pike would have worn a collar, and Jennifer would have been a nun, but the redemption theme would have remained. Jennifer just wouldn’t be kickass. I remember getting a review for my third book, Enemy of Mine, and the reviewer stated that I had created Jennifer as a toss-off to gather in the female reader, which made me laugh. One, I never thought I’d have a single book published–much less three at that time–and two, the thought that I could be smart enough to even consider a readership split into segments with characters specifically created to draw in that segment was ludicrous. Shoshana was more deliberate, but once again I didn’t make her female because I wanted that gender. I made her female because Pike’s male. I wanted a character that rivaled Pike’s skills, but one who never had a moral compass to begin with. I wanted someone that was the same but opposite of Pike–if that makes any sense–and because of it, she became female. Honestly, I have never really considered the gender of the character to be defining in any way. I served with some pretty extraordinary women throughout my military career, and identifying them as a female soldier as opposed to just a soldier is a little bit insulting. Jennifer and Shoshana are who they are, and yes being female is a part of that, but it isn’t the end state. In the end, that’s probably why they work so well. If I had twisted myself into a knot trying to develop them as females first, as opposed to the reason they were created for the story, I’d have probably screwed that up like no tomorrow.”
TRBS: Lastly, what’s next for you, and when can readers expect to see Pike Logan again?
Taylor: “I just returned from Brazil and am currently banging away on Book Fourteen (yet untitled–well I have a title that I like, but I’m not sure the publishers will like it. Yet…). I don’t want to give too much away, but someone’s finally put two and two together, and Pike’s actions in Daughter of War have caused a reaction against the Taskforce. There is some significant trauma in this one, which could potentially mean the end of Project Prometheus. The result puts Pike on the warpath not so much for United States’ operational security, but for purely personal reasons. And his team of choice reflects that: Yes, Shoshana and Aaron are back, but so is Nung, and there’s going to be hell to pay.”
Former Special Forces Officer and New York Times bestselling author Brad Taylor delivers a heart-pounding thriller featuring Taskforce operators Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill as they come face to face with a conspiracy where nothing is as it seems.
Hot on the trail of a North Korean looking to sell sensitive US intelligence to the Syrian regime, Pike Logan and the Taskforce stumble upon something much graver: the sale of a lethal substance called Red Mercury.
Unbeknownst to the Taskforce, the Syrians plan to use the weapon of mass destruction against American and Kurdish forces, and blame the attack on terrorists, causing western nations to reassess their participation in the murky cauldron of the Syrian civil war.
Meanwhile, North Korea has its own devastating agenda: a double-cross that will dwarf the attack in Syria even as it lays the blame on the Syrian government. Leveraging Switzerland’s fame for secrecy and its vast network of military bunkers, now repurposed by private investors for the clandestine storage of wealth, North Korea will use Red Mercury to devastate the West’s ability to deliver further sanctions against the rogue regime.
As the Taskforce begins to unravel the plot, a young refugee unwittingly holds the key to the conspiracy. Hunted across Europe for reasons she cannot fathom, she is the one person who can stop the attack–if she can live long enough for Pike and Jennifer to find her.
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). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.