One of the coolest things I’ve experienced since I started covering the thriller genre back in 2014, is the rise of Jack Carr.
If you know me at all or follow me on social media, then you likely know that my all-time very favorite author is the late Vince Flynn, the genius behind the #1 New York Times bestselling Mitch Rapp series (which is now being written by Kyle Mills). While The Real Book Spy was far from launching back when Flynn took the genre, and the publishing world, by storm in the late 1990s, in many ways, covering Carr feels like what that time period (which also saw careers launched by Daniel Silva and Lee Child, among others) might have been like. Heck, Carr even has the same editor that Flynn did, and is with the same publisher. Carr’s first book, The Terminal List, is widely regarded as one of the best debuts ever, alongside (you guessed it), Flynn’s Term Limits.
I’ve had the pleasure of covering hundreds of authors over the last seven years, but nobody has exploded onto the scene quite like Carr, who reached the coveted New York Times bestselling status with his third book, last year’s Savage Son. That means expectations were high for Carr coming into 2021. Really high. And while I don’t want to give anything away, I will say one thing.
The Devil’s Hand isn’t just Carr’s best book to date . . . It might be one of the best action thrillers ever written. Seriously, it’s that good. (Check out my full review here if you want to know more.)
Obviously, I was pumped to catch up with Jack ahead of his highly anticipated new release, both in our sit-down chat via ThrillerTalk, and a Five Questions piece for TRBS. For this interview, I asked him about everything from how he came up with the story idea for The Devil’s Hand to what’s going on with The Terminal List television show starring Chris Pratt (Avengers: End Game, etc.) as James Reece.
Check out the full Q&A below, then make sure to order your copy of The Devil’s Hand, in stores on April 13th.
TRBS: Well . . . I gave THE DEVIL’S HAND a perfect, 10/10 rating, which I’ve only ever done a handful of times. I absolutely loved this book, and cannot wait for readers to get their hands on it. How did you come up with the story idea for this one?
Carr: Wow! So humbled. Thank you! Each novel thus far has had a distinct theme. THE TERMINAL LIST was a story of revenge without constraint. TRUE BELIEVER was a journey of redemption. SAVAGE SON explored the dark side of man through the dynamic of a hunter and hunted. For THE DEVIL’S HAND, I wanted to take a breath and put myself in the enemy’s shoes. This fourth novel in the James Reece saga centers on a topic I thought a lot about during my time in the SEAL Teams and one I continue to contemplate as an author: what has the enemy learned by watching the United States on the field of battle in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other hot spots around the globe over the past twenty years at war. If I was a senior-level intelligence or military strategist in Iran, Russia, China, North Korea, or a supper-empowered individual or a leader in a terrorist organization, what lessons would I have taken and applied to future battle plans? That question formed the basis for THE DEVIL’S HAND.
TRBS: I know you’ve done a ton of research for all of your books. How was researching this one different, and was that harder in any way because you were also–like the rest of the world–dealing with COVID and lockdowns, etc.?
Carr: I wrote the outline for THE DEVIL’S HAND on the plane to and from Russia in August of 2019. I was headed to the Kamchatka Peninsula where much of the action takes place in SAVAGE SON. I left my computer and phone behind as a security precaution, so I wrote out the outline in my notebook. When I returned home in late August, I incorporated what I’d learned in Russia into my draft of SAVAGE SON and then started researching THE DEVIL’S HAND. Much of that research focused on the history of infectious diseases and the weaponization of infectious diseases, particularly from the end of World War II up through today. Because I was so deep into that research, I was hyper-sensitive when COVID-19 hit. And, because of the theme of the novel, I studied our response to COVID-19 through the eyes of the enemy. I used that same lens to analyze the civil unrest in our cities, and then an extremely contentious political season and election cycle. The enemies of the United States are not watching these events with passing interest. They are watching, learning, and adapting. I was fortunate that THE DEVIL’S HAND takes place, for the most part, in the continental United States so I did not need to travel for research having already been to most of the places I describe in the novel. On the flip side, our schools shut down in March and our three children were home for the majority of the writing process. Everyone working from home can relate…
TRBS: You recently released a new podcast. Can you tell readers a little bit about that, why you just now decided to launch it, and where everyone can check it out at?
Carr: DANGER CLOSE: BEYOND THE BOOKS WITH JACK CARR has been in the works for a while. I started it as a way to engage with readers through a medium better suited for topics that lend themselves to more nuanced discussion than is possible through a one or two-sentence response to a question or comment on Instagram or Twitter. I am also extremely fortunate to be able to talk with a number of extraordinary and inspiring people. Now I get to share those conversations with readers. It is on my YouTube channel, Apple podcasts, and Spotify.
TRBS: Everyone is super excited about THE TERMINAL LIST television show, starring Chris Pratt as James Reece. What do you think about the rest of the cast, and are there any updates?
Carr: I could not be more excited to see THE TERMINAL LIST come to life. I recently spent a week on the set and was completely blown away by the entire production. 350 people are working on it to include former SEALs I served with in the Teams. It was like a reunion! Chris Pratt is the only person I ever imagined playing my protagonist, Navy SEAL Sniper James Reece and he is CRUSHING IT. And, Antoine Fuqua is the only person I ever imagined directing. That these two incredible human beings teamed up to make this happen is completely surreal. THE TERMINAL LIST could not be in better hands. The entire cast is amazing! In breaking news, the Navy decided not to assist with filming which is not surprising…I do blow an admiral up in his office with a suicide vest after all…
TRBS: Lastly, now that THE DEVIL’S HAND is set to hit bookstores, what’s next for you?
Carr: I’m in the middle of book five (title classified). I already have the book six outline complete so that I don’t waste any bandwidth worried about where the story is going as I write book five. All that bandwidth is focused on making this next book the very best it can be. I do hope the world opens up a bit more by late summer, early fall as there are a couple interesting places I’d like to conduct some “boots on the ground” research…
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. Additionally, he co-hosts ThrillerTalk, a new podcast with K.J. Howe. 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.