“Espionage is about relationship,” Joe Goldberg tells me, kicking off our short, but telling interview. “Relationships will always fuel the ideas within my books.”
If you’re not familiar with Goldberg or his work, it’s time to get acquainted.
Secret Wars, his first book, was released in 2014. And while mostly a standalone, it paved the way for The Spy Devils, the first book in a new series starring Trowbridge “Bridger” Hall, the leader of a highly trained team of covert agents who operate in the shadows. Bridger, a phenomenal new character, was born into the world of spies—literally. In fact, his handler and CIA contact is actually his mother, a woman with power and notoriety. And their dynamic is something unlike anything else in print today. It’s those types of relationships that drive the heart of his spy thrillers, and it turns out, that was very much by design.
“I sought to capture these personal bonds in Secret Wars and then The Spy Devils,” Goldberg says ahead of the release of his third novel, Rebellious son, which at the time of this article is currently available wherever books are sold.
For his latest offering, Goldberg takes a page out of Bridger’s book (no pun intended) and relies on his own background—more on that below—and people from his past to shape part of the plot for the Spy Devil’s next adventure.
“In Rebellious Son, I’m trying to pay homage to the people in my life for their support. My mentors. My parents. A ‘thank you’ espionage thriller book, in a way. I started with those relationships and then worked in the action. This may seem like a ridiculous theme in the era of action thrillers, but I dare anyone to say that they haven’t had a parent, mentor, family, or friend they wouldn’t drop everything to help. Bridger and the Spy Devils are doing that in this book. I built around the idea of a dying old spy looking, hoping, needing to get that one last chance to play the espionage game,” Goldberg continued. “Would you help? How far would you go? How about an aging parent? Then mix those relationships with action, terrorism, drones, narcotics trafficking, money laundering, and a whole range of emotions, and you get Rebellious Son.”
For those who maybe haven’t read his first two books, I asked the author to elaborate on the team of spies that he’s built, and he shed plenty of light on his hero, but also the team around him—touching again on the mother-son relationship that adds so much depth and intrigue to Bridger and this series. So, who are the Spy Devils, and what do they do?
“Led by Bridger, the Spy Devils are a usual collection of covert espionage experts outside the traditional CIA structure,” Goldberg explained. “Bridger formed them to hunt foreign intelligence operations and international criminals. Usually, they eliminate these targets by posting videos on social media that go viral. Interestingly, their posts have made Bridger and the team world-famous. One point of tension is Bridger’s trainer and CIA connection is his mother. She is an intelligence legend who raised him only to become her unique independent intelligence weapon.”
Goldberg, who has worked as a CIA covert action officer, corporate intelligence director, an international political consultant, and currently is a college instructor and writer, knows the life of a spy and he’s able to infuse his writing with a level of realism that’s, frankly, not often found in the thriller genre. How much of his fiction is based on reality, though, remains a question, though I got him to open up on that just a bit.
“The original concept came from slamming together my CIA propaganda background with my years in corporate intelligence at Motorola. What happens when someone gets caught up in those worlds? Who would come to help? The Spy Devils. Many ask me if Bridger and the Spy Devils are based on ‘real’ people. Bridger did write the forward to The Spy Devils and is doing the same for Rebellious Son. I leave ‘real’ to the reader’s truth-is-stranger-than-fiction imagination.
Indeed, readers will notice that before the action starts, Bridger himself, written in the first-person narrative, pens the forward in both books. That unique little spin on things, a fresh and organic take that I’ve not seen done quite this way before, allows readers to get to know the series’ protagionist before ever meeting him in the actual story. And trust me, once you start Goldberg’s books, there’s no stopping—as you’ll quickly find yourself enthralled in a twisting, turning series of events that not only has enough action to keep even the pickiest readers happy but proves to be as smart as it is entertaining. And for fans wondering about the future of the Spy Devils, rest assured, there appears to be at least one more book on the horizon, with the possiblity of more entries down the road.
“I pledged to write at least a three-book series,” Goldberg explained. “Rebllious Son sets up for a follow-on book. If the situation changes, I can keep them going after that.”
Rebellious Son, the must-read follow-up to Joe Goldberg’s The Spy Devils, is now available. Check out the offical plot detail sdown below.
REBELLIOUS SON: A SPY DEVILS THRILLER
Caught between an infamous bomb maker and a dying CIA spy, Bridger and the Spy Devils fight for their survival while preventing a radioactive disaster.
After bombs explode across Europe, the evidence proves Specter—the infamous and legendary bomb maker—has come out of retirement. The CIA’s former terrorist-hunter Wes Henslow pleads with Bridger to help find the only terrorist he never caught. Bridger agrees, but May, his mother and CIA handler, orders Bridger not to assist their friend. Why?
Suspicious as always of May and wanting to help his mentor, Bridger ignores her. A ruthless game of cat and mouse begins that leads Bridger to Specter’s stunning niece Lena. Bridger’s urgency increases as he discovers Specter has access to radioactive materials. Unfortunately, Bridger doesn’t know that the Spy Devils are also being hunted by a deadly adversary seeking vengeance.
Battling a Chinese drug cartel, old hatreds, and the CIA, Bridger’s every decision will determine who lives or dies.
REBELLIOUS SON is the second novel in the award-winning THE SPY DEVILS series.
Joe Goldberg has been a CIA covert action officer, corporate intelligence director, international political consultant, and currently is a college instructor and writer. His work at the CIA garnered three Exceptional Performance Awards. In the private sector, as leader of Corporate Intelligence at Motorola, Joe received the Meritorious Award recognizing a single individual who has made significant contributions to the intelligence profession. He holds degrees in Political Science and Communications from the University of Iowa. In 2014, Joe self-published the novel Secret Wars: An Espionage Story, with sales of nearly 9,000 print and e-book copies. It was a finalist in both the fiction and historical fiction categories of the Independent Author Network awards.
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 is building a growing community on Twitch. His debut thriller, FIELDS OF FIRE, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Jack Carr says “will leave you speechless and begging for more,” is now available. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. And to take part in free, exclusive BOOK CLUBS each month, join The Real Book Spy on Discord.