If you don’t know the name Hap Stoner, you should. And chances are, that if you’re a fan of high-flying action and ripped-from-the-headlines plots, you will soon enough.
When a secret WWII Nazi gold cache stirs up all kinds of trouble on a remote Caribbean island, Former Lieutenant Colonel Hap “Kang” Stoner finds himself smack dap in the middle of all the danger, and it’s up to him to keep the peace before the body count soars any higher—a task made infinitely more challenging when both the Russians and the Chinese enter the picture.
Think Steve Berry meets A.J. Tata, and you’ve got a good idea of what to expect from the latest offering from underrated author Hugh Simpson. Caribbean Cabal is fast, action-packed, and one hell of a fun ride.
Just after the release of his new book, I caught up with Simpson, who agreed to go on the record for our Five Questions segment, and I asked him about everything from how he came up with the plot idea for this one to how he’s able to nail such crucial, in-depth details that make his aerial fight sequences some of the best in the business.
TRBS: First and foremost, what a story! How did you come up with the plot details for your latest Hap Stoner adventure?
Simpson: Life as a history and geopolitical enthusiast, compounded by the fact that I’m a retired LtCol in the Marine Corps with wide-ranging business experience, has framed the four corners for Caribbean Cabal. I became conversant with Latin American affairs having spent 12 months as my Helo Squadron’s Intelligence Officer with Latin America being a “region of interest” during the 80s. As I do with all my stories, Characters “good and bad”, life events, history, and current geopolitical climate, book-end Hap Stoner books.
TRBS: Parts of this book reads almost like a Clancy technothriller, with great detail about planes, flight patterns. etc. What sort of research did you have to do before actually sitting down to write this one?
Simpson: A 20-year Marine Corps helicopter pilot, flying scenes in the Hap Stoner series are based on life events and inserted into the current scenario in any given scene. During my career in the Marines, I served as a Battalion Air Officer which allowed me to see the inner workings of a Battalion Headquarters. I also worked as a Forward Air Controller with four Battalions controlling close air missions from the ground and air. All of that goes into my books.
TRBS: What did you do before you became an author, and when did you know that you wanted to write thrillers?
Simpson: I began to write 34 years earlier writing during my travels in the Marine Corps, and then as a Civilian traveling for business. During these early years, you could probably call me a storyteller and the work I did during those decades was not wasted. Two years earlier I committed to becoming a thriller writer and engaged professional help to transition my writings from being just a storyteller to an author. Can’t say enough about these professionals and how instrumental they were/are in getting my first book Borderline Decision published.
TRBS: Hap is a really fun, great new character who can kick ass and take names, but also as another side to him as well. Heck, he’s even a pilot, which isn’t something we see a lot in this genre. Who, if anyone, was your inspiration for creating Hap on the page?
Simpson: My writing honors personalities I had the privilege to serve or work with, both in the Marines and in my civilian career. I would argue, it’s the cast of characters “good and bad” who formed the character…Hap Stoner.
TRBS: Lastly, now that Caribbean Cabal is finally set to come out, what is next for you and Hap Stoner moving forward?
Simpson: The third book in the Series, Fairplay, takes place in North Africa, and is currently in the editing stages. The story begins in the Texas Hill Country and journeys to the Mediterranean and Libya to rescue captured missionaries before the girls are auctioned like cattle to the highest bidder. As in all the Hap Stoner books, current geopolitical events tend to create obstacles along the way which adds to the tension.
While that one undergoes editing, I’m currently writing the fourth book in the series, Unhinged, which takes Hap Stoner into the cesspool in today’s U.S. politics.
Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck 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.