Jack Carr, the talented new author whose hard-hitting debut novel The Terminal List (2018) drew comparisons to Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, and Robert Ludlum, is widely considered to be the hottest new writer in the political and action thriller genre.
Personally, I’m a big fan of Carr and his work. Aside from doing the first-ever Real Book Spy Book Club with him, a great experience where I was fortunate enough to get to know him a bit, I’ve had the pleasure of covering him since shortly after he signed a publishing contract with Emily Bestler Books, an imprint of Atria Books at publishing powerhouse Simon & Schuster.
I also did the exclusive book announcement for True Believer last June, seeing first-hand how excited readers are for more James Reece, Carr’s fictional hero. Without question, it’s one of the most anticipated thrillers of 2019, as readers have long had April 2nd, the book’s announced date of publication, circled on their calendars.
Now, sadly, publication has been delayed until the end of July, as Carr’s new career is being held up because of his previous career with the United States military, where he served as a Navy SEAL.
Here’s the full statement from Carr’s publisher:
— Atria Mystery Bus (@AtriaMysteryBus) January 25, 2019
The release reads:
New York, NY, January 25, 2019—Publication of TRUE BELIEVER, the highly anticipated follow-up to former Navy SEAL Jack Carr’s acclaimed 2018 debut thriller THE TERMINAL LIST, will be delayed due to a United States Department of Defense security review. Originally scheduled to publish on April 2, readers eager to learn the fate of hero James Reece must wait until July 30. In the preface to THE TERMINAL LIST, Jack Carr wrote, “Due to the sensitive nature of the security clearances I held while in the military as a Navy SEAL, I am required to submit any written material intended for public release, including works of fiction, to the Department of Defense.” That review was conducted by the Department of Defense Office of Prepublication and Security Review in a fairly timely fashion and returned “Cleared as Amended”. Instead of editing and making changes to the manuscript, Carr instead chose to leave the redactions in the text of the printed books. Carr followed the same submission protocol for his second thriller, TRUE BELIEVER. However, in this instance, the Department of Defense has been examining this manuscript for far longer, extending their deadline several times. Their review has now stretched past the six-month mark. Carr says he doesn’t believe there are any secrets in the novel, or anything that could be harmful to national security, though he does wonder if the conspiracies woven into the storyline might hit a little too close to home. “Most likely,” Carr said, “it’s just the nature of a government bureaucracy being government bureaucracy, which coincidently is a sub-theme of my novels.” Emily Bestler Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster’s Atria Books is standing by for the Department of Defense to disclose what, if anything, is too sensitive for the public to read in TRUE BELIEVER.
After combing over the press release from Atria Books, I did a quick search for the Defense Office of Prepublication and Security Review. The website, found here, clearly states that “the Defense Office of Prepublication and Security Review (DOPSR) is responsible for managing the Department of Defense security review program, reviewing written materials both for public and controlled release.”
Their mission statement then goes on to state, “This includes official government and defense industry work products, as well as materials submitted by cleared or formerly cleared individuals pursuant to their voluntary non-disclosure agreement obligations. DOPSR also coordinates official work products with Defense enterprise stakeholders to ensure that information being released is both accurate and represents the Department’s official position,” before listing types of materials that DOPSR reviews, such as manuscripts, articles, theses, conference papers, briefings, brochures, and congressional hearing statements, just to name a few.
The DOPSR website, under their guidelines section, does state that “due to an increased number of submissions, book-length manuscript reviews are currently taking several months. We apologize for this inconvenience. Please ensure adequate time for a prepublication security and policy review prior to committing to any publishing deadlines or sending the manuscript to a person or organization for endorsement.”
Intrigued by the wording of their guidelines, specifically the portion that reads “Please ensure adequate time for a prepublication security and policy review prior to committing to any publishing deadlines,” and “book-length manuscript reviews are currently taking several months,” I reached out through the DOPSR Customer Support line listed on their website for comment–both in relation to Carr’s situation, but also for a generalized understanding of how their process works.
By all accounts, it sounds like Carr did everything he was supposed to do, so I informed the person I spoke with that I was seeking clarification on the DOPSR’s timeline, as they’ve already had his manuscript for over six months, certainly longer than the “several months” they claim book-length manuscripts are currently taking for review.
Currently, I’ve yet to hear back after leaving my contact info with the DOPSR office, but will update this article if and when that changes.
To get an idea for what Carr used to do in the military, I went back to an interview Jack did with Crimespree Magazine last March, where he said, “I enlisted and became a SEAL sniper specializing in communications and intelligence. Then as a junior officer leading assault and sniper teams in Iraq and Afghanistan, to a platoon commander practicing counterinsurgency in the southern Philippines, to commanding a Special Operations Task Unit in the most Iranian influenced section of southern Iraq throughout the tumultuous drawdown of U.S. Forces. I retired from active duty in 2016.”
With Carr’s explanation laid out in the press release (above) as to why he must submit his work to the DOPSR, I pulled up another interview where he spoke about the submission process for The Terminal List to compare where things currently stand versus how they went last time around.
Speaking to Mystery People last March, Carr explained what it was like having his first book reviewed by the government, saying he “went into it expecting a frustrating experience, but the opposite ended up being true.”
Carr then elaborated, saying, “I went through a law firm so there would be some separation between me and the Department of Defense and because the regulations and directives surrounding prepublication for those that have formally held security clearances can be confusing if you don’t have a law degree. I just wanted to make sure I honored my commitments and did it right. I was extremely careful throughout the writing process to not compromise anything that could have an adverse effect on national security or my brothers still actively engaging the enemy downrange. I was surprised when the Department of Defense amended the novel by taking out a few sentences, including some written by my writing partner who has never been in the military. Be that as it may, I am not the arbiter of what is classified and what is not, so I kept the redactions blacked out in the novel.”
Carr’s words from fourteen months ago–“I just wanted to make sure I honored my commitments and did it right”–paints the picture of a man who genuinely wanted to honor his past commitments while embarking on a new career path. For those reasons, it’s sad that his ability to publish his next book, and thus earn a living, has been delayed for unknown reasons. Moreover, the delay effects more than just Carr, as the trickle-down reaches his publisher and, on some levels, even booksellers.
While Carr’s publisher should be commended for their stance, backing their author while being totally forthright with his fans, Carr (who has expressed disappointment) seems to be taking things in stride. After the announcement gained attention on social media, with Townhall editor and Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich among those coming to Carr’s defense, the author tweeted out last night to his followers, offering a lighthearted line about the DoD not being “big readers,” while ensuring he’s doing everything within his power to speed the process up.
In another response, this time to a Twitter user who replied to Carr in a joking manner that the DoD was probably done with the review, but enjoyed the manuscript so much they were passing it around the office, Carr wrote back,”I’m fairly certain they will not ‘like’ the storyline,” before adding, “government bureaucrats are not shown in a positive light . . . for exactly this reason.”
Others, however, have speculated that perhaps Carr hit on something so timely and relevant that the review is taking longer while the government decides how to handle it. Those who read The Terminal List may remember a few pages with redacted portions (both of these points were mentioned in the Atria release), which Carr chose to leave in. If that’s the case–a purely speculative if–then the hype around True Believer is sure to grow as we inch closer to the new pub date.
While the three-month delay is a bummer for fans anxious to get their hands on Carr’s next book, it does give readers who’ve yet to discover his work a chance to get caught up before True Believer (available for pre-order here) hits store shelves on July 30th.
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.