From time to time, Kirkus Reviews has to go a long way to land an author interview. This month, we sent questions all the way to a combat outpost in Afghanistan, where retired United States Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North has been capturing stories from the front lines for Fox News. With limited access to the outside world, Col. North sent answers by email to offer our readers great insight into his new novel, Heroes Proved. Set in 2032, this futuristic thriller combines North’s patriotic fervor with the high technology from his other recent consulting project, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, for a result Kirkus dubbed, “Old-school Clancy in a brave new world.”
Just to give us some introduction to your latest novel, what sort of America are we living in the circa-2032 era of Heroes Proved?
The president claims America is now safe from terror. A global fiscal crisis threatens to plunge the U.S. economy into free fall. Unemployment is at record levels. The American people are told Iranian nuclear weapons are not a menace to our citizens. Leaders in Washington insist that United Nations treaties, financial controls and innovative technologies can protect us and assure peace in our time. To save money, our Armed Forces are cut to the bone – while scandal rips at the fabric of the U.S. government.
When the president and the White House staff lie to cover up a deadly terror attack, Peter Newman sets out to discover the truth. In a precarious quest that places his entire family in lethal peril, he exposes the most ominous threat to the United States in our nation’s history.
Tell us about some of your characters. What sort of men are your heroes, Peter and James Newman?
All my books, fiction and non-fiction, are about heroes—people who knowingly put themselves at risk for the benefit of others. The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and U.S. civilians here at this outpost and the special operators I was with in the shadows of the Hindu Kush last month are the embodiment of courage, competence, commitment, integrity and tenacity in the face of great adversity. Their families at home make extraordinary, unsung sacrifices while hoping and praying for the safe return of loved ones serving in harm’s way.
What will your readers be surprised to learn in the pages of Heroes Proved?
That Marines can write.
This is your fourth novel, among a host of nonfiction titles. What appeals to you about writing thrillers?
Heroes Proved, the sequel to Mission Compromised, The Jericho Sanction, and The Assassins, is a novel. It’s also about real heroes—the kind of people with whom I have spent my entire life. Experience in war, service as counter-terrorism coordinator on the National Security Council staff in the Reagan administration and more than 50 overseas “embeds” covering U.S. troops in combat for Fox News provide context and material for these books. But telling these stories presents the prospect of disclosing information or identities that would put brave men and women in even greater peril. That’s why these are novels, where actual names, dates, places and classified tactics, techniques and capabilities are altered.
Are there any experiences in your own extraordinary military career that informed the writing of Heroes Proved?
The dialogue and action sequences in these books are akin to what actually occurred during events in which I have been an eyewitness—and sometimes an unexpected participant. Having “been there, done that” is a significant advantage when crafting a realistic, suspense-filled story replete with adrenalin-pumping threats, high-risk challenges, unforeseen dangers and unpredictable outcomes. If all this causes readers immersed in the story to lose some sleep, good; because that’s what really happens to heroes proved in difficult and dangerous places like this.
You’re recently spent some time with the 8th Marine Regiment in Afghanistan. What message would you send home about your comrades still fighting there?
This is a fight we dare not lose.
You recently offered your expertise on the new Call of Duty: Black Ops videogame produced by Activision. What advances do you foresee in the future of American warfare?
The high-tech capabilities in the video game and this novel are self-evident. Of greater concern are the political, economic and global dimensions of the vulnerabilities we face. Heroes Proved is a glimpse into the future—of what life could will be like on this planet—and in our country—just a few short years from now. We’re already confronted by bloody combat in the Middle East and rocked by the possibility of a global economic meltdown. Our political leaders promise a new wave of government intervention aimed at saving the people from further hardship. Do we really want or need “New Rules” that mandate we all must rely on government to define right and wrong; good and evil; and determine what’s best for us?
If we continue on our present course, our world may well be dramatically different from the one we know today. UN conventions, multilateral treaties, astonishing new technologies and the explosive growth and cost of government could well transform America in a remarkably short time. Consider what life would be like if an omnipotent government used high-tech devices to track the day-to-day spending habits, lifestyles, energy use and locations of most people in the United States. Now think of what happens if Iran acquires nuclear weapons—and we abandon Israel, our staunchest ally. Unfortunately, all that is now plausible.
What aspects of Heroes Proved do you hope appeal to readers?
Readers tell me Heroes Proved is a gripping, suspense-filled story full of realistic, unforeseen threats, unexpected challenges, unwanted dangers and unpredictable outcomes. It’s probably going to cause some readers sleepless nights. But this book is also in the tradition of great heroic literature. After all, the stories of heroes, whether they succeed or fail, inspire us to be better men and women than we otherwise might be. And even those who know where they're going and why they are going there sometimes need to be inspired. That’s my goal for Heroes Proved.