First, he burst onto the thriller scene as the co-author of Red Metal (2019), the best military thriller since Red Storm Rising, now he’s going solo with Assault by Fire, the first book in his own series—and Rip Rawlings does not disappoint.
Following the success of his collaboration with Mark Greaney, Rawlings is now ready to introduce readers to Major Tyce Asher, a U.S. Marine Corps infantryman who finds himself running point on the ground efforts to hold off a Russian army after they storm U.S. soil and kick off World War III. Think Red Dawn (the original movie, not the awful Chis Hemsworth remake) on steroids, and you’ve got Rawlings terrific new thriller.
For more info, you can read my review here.
Just as his new book was hitting shelves, I caught up with Rawlings, who agreed to go on the record for our Five Questions segment, and asking him about everything from how he came up with the story idea for this book to what’s going on with the sequel to Red Metal.
Check out the full Q&A below, then make sure to pick up your copy of Assault by Fire, now available wherever books are sold.
TRBS: First and foremost, congrats on the publication of your first solo thriller. Most readers know you as one of the co-authors of RED METAL, and I think those who enjoyed that book will absolutely love ASSAULT BY FIRE. How did you come up with the story idea for this book?
Rawlings: Thanks Ryan, really appreciate it! The idea for Assault by Fire was born from all my strategic work while I was detailed to the Pentagon. We read a lot of other people’s mail—Ha! … actually we did… Mostly through that work, it was clear to me that Pax Americana (peace born from an American superpower keeping world order) is actually very fragile. The Marine Corps wargames a wide array of global conflict scenarios, mostly offensive in nature. Hey, the Corps is mostly an assault force, so what do you expect. But also a myriad of defensive wargames, from basic to complex ‘protect the Homeland’ type thing. The battle drills and global strategic perspective gave me a lot of insight into some of America’s opponent’s political machinations and illuminated the vast array of military capabilities we face. Without breaching the classified: there are a lot of bad dudes out there who wish us ill. We, that is the U.S., is generally naive to our own vulnerabilities. It’s almost as if we ignore the last several thousand years of human history. It’s unfortunate to say it, but if we let our guard down, we are very very vulnerable.
TRBS: What is your writing process like, and how does it change from co-writing to just writing your own thriller?
Rawlings: Solo is a lot more difficult, but is also very rewarding. Co-authoring is more like hanging out at the bar with a good buddy and telling tall tales. But when you pull that layer off and go solo, it’s just you concocting the twists-n-turns. So, when you look up from the typewriter, inevitably with a huge grin because you’ve just spun a really snazzy plot point, no one cares. At least not until 6-10 months later when it’s on the shelves. Yeah, so I think the big difference is that you have to spend more time reflecting on whether something you think as an author is really crafty, should stay in the book, or be sliced out to make way for something even more fun.
TRBS: Is Tyce Asher a new franchise guy? I’m sure readers will hope to see him again. You’re writing a second one, correct?
Rawlings: It is! We have another (which I am typing right now) called the Kill Box. In Kill Box we follow most of the same characters, however, there is a new antagonist. I should say that on my test audience, consisting mainly of some USMC war buddies and my wife, they REALLY hated the character
TRBS: Who are some of your favorite authors, and what books are currently on your TBR list?
Rawlings: Uugh, the list is too long. I usually read about 6-10 books at a time. To say I am a voracious reader is a bit of an understatement. Ok, so here is the shortlist: I just finished Bernard Cornwell’s Gallows Thief. I love his characters and I am hitting the Sharpe’s series again. David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest for a FaceBook book club. John Coast’s Railroad of Death. I have been interested in Japanese death camp books ever since compiling my great uncle’s memoirs from the Bataan Death March. John le Carré’s Agent Running in the Field because, well, because it’s John! Andrews and Wilson’s Collateral, who write remarkably fun action. The Fatherland Files by Volker Kutscher (I really enjoyed Babylon Berlin). The Whimsey Papers by Dorothy Sayers—research for something else I hope to write one day. Marc Cameron’s Triple Frontier, Trained to Hunt by Simon Gervais. Sword of Honor, because I enjoy reading other people’s wartime experiences especially through such a subtle author as Evelyn Waugh.
TRBS: Lastly, what’s next for you, and are there any updates on the RED METAL sequel?
Rawlings: There is indeed a Red Metal sequel. It is such a pleasure writing with Mark Greaney, so I’m really looking forward to our collaboration. At his wedding last weekend (27 September, 2020) we couldn’t resist having a few discussions about this or that character. As a professional author, I think he’s always thinking about his next plot, as am I.
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.