If you’re looking for a fun, heart-thumping adventure, author John P. Morse serves up a wild ride with his new thriller, Chokepoint, a perfect book for fans of Don Bentley and Mark Greaney.
Dan Steele, Morse’s hero, is as flawed as he is lethal. Broken and hurting from the loss of his wife and children, who were brutally murdered at the hands of a terrorist he longs to hunt and kill, Steele is working as part of a top-secret government cutout—where he handles some of the most sensitive and dangerous operations.
Here, Steel is called on when a rogue Russian general defects and sets out to establish the same international chokepoint that the Ottoman Empire rules some four hundred years earlier. Thing is, world leaders quickly discover that removing the general won’t be nearly as easy as they hoped, and it doesn’t take long for Steele to discover that the general has a powerful ace up his sleeve . . . one that could change things in a big way should he fail to stop what’s coming.
Fast-paced and tons of fun, Morse’s latest packs a bang.
Agreeing to go on the record for our Five Questions segment, I asked Morse about everything from how he came up with the story idea for Chokepoint to what’s next for him and Steele moving forward. See the full Q&A below, then click here to get your copy of Chokepoint, now available in paperback and e-book.
TRBS: First and foremost, what an exciting book. Well done. How did you come up with the story idea for this one?
Morse: Thanks, Ryan. It all started with coffee. I read an article about how some entrepreneur revitalizing Yemen’s coffee trade and found a nugget about the Ottoman Empire which controlled the Arabian Peninsula 400 years ago charging a fee for ships transiting the Red Sea. I thought what would that tax look like today and how could someone impose it? Freedom of the seas and international waterways are taken for granted these days, and the audacity of someone thinking they can control an international waterway is incredible.
I had a good character in Dan Steele, a young ex-SEAL who is older and wiser and some a solid supporting cast from the first in the series, Half Staff 2018. I wanted to put him in a situation that would really stress him. That required a very tough adversary in the form of a corrupt, bigger than life Russian General who fears nothing and lives for one-on-one blood sport. Plus, a SEAL gone bad surfaces to complicate the challenges Steele faces. What could be done by the free world with the potential regional disaster that an overt military operation could trigger?
TRBS: What sort of research, if any, did you have to do before you could actually write?
Morse: The Middle East was familiar territory. During my Navy career, I deployed there twice on destroyers and later was assigned as the senior naval officer in a joint command in Saudi Arabia. I had detachments on both coasts and traveled extensively throughout the region. I had first-hand experience diving in the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea so that fit well into the story.
I was lucky to have an insider’s view of the Pentagon and how the services respond to crises and squabble over resources and the story of Napoleon’s plan to invade Russia, and his early interest in building a canal connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean led me to the treasure angle. Missing nuclear-tipped artillery shells from the Cold War provided a trump card for the bad guys.
TRBS: When did you know you wanted to be a writer, and what made you finally decide to take the plunge?
Morse: Writing has always been an important part of my professional and personal life. In high school, I wrote for the school newspaper and won an award for a creative series. In college, I majored in English and took one creative writing course that fulfilled an electives requirement. It did little more than provide entertainment for my fraternity brothers as I tried to capture ribald tales of college life. A fellow alum wrote “Animal House” so you get the picture. During my Navy career, non-fiction dominated with endless reports formatted with discreet data fields and prescribed fonts — there was little opportunity for creativity except for some naval-oriented articles that I prepared for professional journals and book reviews on naval subjects published in local newspapers, magazines and Library Journal.
So, I had a good handle on technical writing where compliance with the requirements weighted heavily. Using my imagination to write something creative yet realistic was something I always wanted to do. My first novel, Half Staff 2018, was five years in the making, a story mostly written during long international flights. The story features multiple overseas venues that were easy to write about because I’d been there. My writing sandbox is larger than ever before and there are no constraints. I can color anywhere- there are no lines.
TRBS: Who are some of your favorite authors, and what is the last great book that you read?
Morse: Many of my favorite writers are featured on your website. Real page-turners that take control of your life. Geoffrey Household John D. MacDonald, Wilbur Smith, Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, Lee Child, Brad Thor, Daniel Silva, Nelson DeMille, and Michael Connelly. The best book I’ve read recently was Jack Carr’s, The Terminal List. James Recce is a terrific character. I like to read across multiple genres but I prefer National Security thrillers because the stakes are high, something that world leaders must decide.
TRBS: Lastly, what’s next for you moving forward, and when should readers expect to see more from Dan Steele?
Morse: I have a story in my head but nothing on paper yet. I plan to start another Dan Steele novel in the Fall. My commitment to the reader is to create a realistic look into the near future based on my knowledge of how things work in the world and to craft a story whose characters can transport the reader to a place full of real challenges that will intrigue, excite and in some cases, frighten. I hope that people like the stories as much as I enjoy writing them. There’s no greater compliment than for a reader to tell me that they just couldn’t put the book down.
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.