Serpents Underfoot finds JD Cordell facing a terrorist group that plans to detonate nukes on US soil. What were some sources that informed this novel’s development?
This story grew out of thoughts I have had about what it would be like to be a Spec Ops warrior. I served in the military and spent most of my time overseas. I served in the Army infantry, and when I enlisted, I scored high enough on the ASVAB test to get Ranger School in my contract. Unfortunately, when they discovered I had a slight speech impediment, they would not send me to Ranger School. There were going to let me out because they couldn’t honor their end of the deal, but I asked to stay. Hell, I could still shoot pretty darn well. So, I guess it is, at least in part, a fantasy about what might have been.
Combine that with a lifetime study of martial arts, the political climate at the time, my interest in Asian culture, and you have the birth of this story.
The rest is simply a bunch of “what if” questions. For instance, what if a soldier in Vietnam married a Vietnamese girl who saved his life? What if their son became a Navy SEAL, and what if his team uncovered a major terrorist plot? What if it involved high-ranking US government officials? You get the idea …
JD Cordell is essentially a composite of several people I have known and respected. While I was a bit too young to serve in Vietnam, I was old enough to have several good friends who did. One friend, in particular, served as a medic on long-range reconnaissance patrols in the region the first few chapters of Serpents Underfoot is set in. I also know a couple of former Navy SEALS, one of which recently passed away. He was actually an Underwater Demolition Team member and served in the Mekong Delta region during the Vietnam War. The UDT teams were essentially forerunners of the Navy SEALs.
What were some challenges you set for yourself as a writer with this book?
I guess you could say the writing challenges were pretty extensive, and they essentially set themselves. Serpents Underfoot was my first serious attempt at a book. I am still amazed that I finished it, published it, and have gotten some pretty rave reviews, including Literary Titan’s excellent review and many great reader reviews. It even got a good review from Kirkus.
And I did make a lot of newbie mistakes. It was self-edited, which I learned right away is not a good idea. I used an editor, Beth Kallman Werner, for my second book, Montagnard. She was a great help and worth the investment. But for Serpents Underfoot, there were several frantic re-edits and uploads of the book’s interior as readers pointed out problems or typos to me. I knew nothing about launching a book release or marketing. I mean, in reality, writing it was probably the easy part. It has even gone through four different cover revisions.
All that being said, I wouldn’t trade anything for the experience. I grew so much as an author during that process. We learn so much more from our mistakes than our successes.
What draws you to the military action-thriller genre?
It is a genre I have always enjoyed reading. I like action thrillers of all kinds and have read a great deal by authors like Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, W.E.B. Griffin, Ken Follett, Greg Iles, Vince Flynn, and Ian Fleming, to name just a few.
I was also a huge Louis L’Amour western fan, so I guess this kind of thing comes naturally. I like stories where despite terrible odds, the good guys win. Louis L’Amour had a great quote I’ve always loved, “There’s no stopping a man who knows he’s in the right and keeps a-coming.” I think JD Cordell personifies that quote.
And I also love reading military history, especially World War II and the Vietnam War. As I mentioned, I have had several friends over the years who were Vietnam Veterans, and I was appalled by how this country treated them on their return to the US. So, I like to write stories that cast American military members in a positive light; who stand on principle and won’t back down.
Serpents Underfoot is the first book in The JD Cordell Action Series. What can readers expect in book two?
Book two, titled Montagnard, is already out. I sort of did this “review thing” out of order. Montagnard also received a 5-Star review from Literary Titan and even won your Literary Titan Gold Book Award for August 2020. I was shocked but very thrilled. I have to give a lot of credit for that to my editor. Beth told me it was good and that I should submit it for review. It was that success that prompted me to submit Serpents Underfoot as well.
In Montagnard, JD Cordell and a few buddies try to rescue his mother, who disappears into Vietnam after traveling there to find her adopted brother. Dish, of course, played a significant role in Serpents Underfoot. JD’s mother, Mai, inadvertently falls victim to an old feud between her adopted brother and a former Viet Cong colonel. During the rescue mission, JD also receives assistance from a half-Thai, half-American nightclub owner, a great character full of surprises.
I am currently working on book three, titled Reciprocity. This tale picks up where Montagnard leaves off. In Reciprocity, JD finds himself drawn into a deadly conflict with a criminal gang trafficking young women forced into lives of prostitution. In this case, two young women you meet in Montagnard. It is a dark topic but, sadly, all too relevant in today’s world. I hope this book, while fiction, will help bring this topic to more people’s attention.
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In The Shadow Of The Kingmakers follows a British spy plotting to sabotage American interests in Persia finds when an international scandal foils his plot. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?
Many years ago my uncle told me about the main event of the story. After extensive research, I decided to tell the story and explain the human toll of superpower roles in the lives of their prey.
James is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?
Thank you. I studied the lives of many spies of the period, their skill sets, and how they merged within their surroundings. One of the examples was Lawrence of Arabia or T.E. Lawrence.
What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?
In my opinion 1920s were extremely important years in the development of our modern world. From the superpower’s race to modernizing Navy ships, to the expansion of the Bolshevik USSR and push for the export of communism and rapid discoveries of oil countries and political systems were tested against the rapid changes. These changes resulted in the world we currently live.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
In May 2020 I published my memoir, LIKE THE WIND I GO, A memoir of Iran, America, my struggle to freedom. Which is a more modern history of the event in Iran in 1978. Currently, I’m working on a sci-fi novel.
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In The Shadow Of The Kingmakers by Vahid Imani is a thrilling historical fiction novel set in 1920s Iran. We follow James Malcolm a British spy stationed in the Middle East during a tumultuous time in history. Malcolm plans on sabotaging American interests in Persia, but before his plan can unfold an international scandal erupts. Malcolm is thrown into the middle of a dangerous fight for oil and power between American diplomats, double agents and soviet spies.
Author Vahid Imani’s writing captured my attention from the start of the story and held it to the very end. The book is a little over 300 pages but because the story is so enthralling the pages go by quickly. The reader immediately travels back to 1920s Persia. The setting of the story is vividly described and expertly sets up an exotic backdrop to this rousing story. The plot of the story is complex, as international politics usually are, but Imani’s writing is smooth and gently eases the reader into the plot, making the story and the various characters easy to follow.
Throughout the story you begin to sympathize with Persian people and their families because they are in the middle of a political battle and are essentially collateral damage. The characters are expertly developed, grounded and easy to empathize with. I was able to easily connect with Malcolm because I understood his motivations. This leads to some really hair-raising scenes as you get fully invested in the character and the dangerous situations he finds himself in become much more suspenseful.
Author Vahid Imani has shown readers a different side of the petroleum industry as well as the key players involved. In The Shadow of the Kingmakers is an explosive and gripping read, with intense characters all set against a turbulent historical backdrop. Readers looking for a fast and complex historical thriller will find themselves lost in this story.
Pages: 322 | ASIN: B07NHC5XGX
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State of Grace by John Sweeney is a fast-paced and intriguing espionage thriller that will keep you eagerly flipping through its pages. Set between World War I and World War II, State of Grace tells the story of Phillip Kumar, a young man in London who is recruited by the British intelligence service for a secret mission in Germany. Phillip, a completely quotidian man with no experience as a spy, accepts the mission and finds himself in Bavaria, at the center of history as the National Socialist (Nazi) party grows in power and begins setting in motion their horrific and racist work.
The novel follows Phillip, who, in spite of his inexperience, is rather likable and an enjoyable protagonist. Though Phillip is of mixed heritage, he passes as someone with Nordic roots. It is through this lens that most of the novel is experienced – Philip, concealing his Indian roots, is both blessed and cursed with his Nordic looks, as in Germany he is welcomed and admired as an “Aryan” Adonis, while in his heart he knows that the racial preference he receives and the work of eugenics that many in Germany advocate is deeply wrong. As Phillip embarks on his mission in Bayreuth, a university town in Bavaria, he quickly falls in love with Ruth, a young woman of Jewish heritage. Their relationship highlights the fractures within German society and the not-so-subtle racist sentiments held by many, in Germany and beyond.
What I enjoyed about State of Grace primarily was its setting, both in time and location. I find the interwar period to be exceptionally fascinating, especially in southern Germany, where the Nazi party came to power. I enjoyed how Sweeney juxtaposed his novel with many of the actual historical events that occurred at the time, though of course this is a work of fiction. I also enjoyed that Sweeney did not single out Germany as the sole perpetrator of racist activity during the interwar period; he puts both Britain and the United States under a microscope for their racist principles and activity, which is a dark side to these countries’ history of which many may have been unaware. Additionally, I have had the pleasure of visiting Bayreuth multiple times, and was excited to read a book set in this quaint city. I enjoyed picturing Phillip, Ruth, and the supporting characters of State of Grace running through the cobbled streets of Bayreuth, where I, myself, have walked many times.
Where State of Grace could have been improved in my opinion was in depth of character and plot. The novel is fast-paced, which is often a good thing, but I found that it felt rushed. With numerous minor supporting characters, I found myself somewhat confused about who was who and what was important. The character relationships felt rushed and forced as well, with Phillip falling for Ruth in seemingly a weekend and for no reason other than her availability. In spite of these things, I thoroughly enjoy reading State of Grace for its creative story and honest examination of racism in many countries in the interwar period. I would recommend this riveting story to readers interested in history or spy novels.
Pages: 483 | ASIN: B08GQ5N25F
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The Australian government is sponsoring research on the Lamarr chip, an invention that could improve data download speed beyond anything the world has ever seen. But right there at CSIRO, the agency spearheading the research, there’s a network of industrial espionage woven around the project. Project manager Sarah Pease, electronic engineer Marcus Hall, and their friends find themselves unwittingly caught in this web of conspiracy and espionage. As research into the Lamarr chip turns up startling results and unexpected discoveries, the scramble to take control of the resulting innovations heightens. In a race against time, the Australian government must protect its project from the vicious claws of clandestine forces while attempting to secure the lives of innocent citizens caught in the skirmish.
Chas Murrell’s Yearn to Fear is an Australian spy thriller brimming with political intrigue and nail biting situations. Murrell’s debut novel has all the workings of a typical tale of espionage. From conceited spymasters to accidental civilian detectives, lofty deceptions to astute deductions, the author throws in all the spy thriller ingredients but not without his distinct personal touch.
Author Chas Murrell spins a seemingly straightforward tale that quickly becomes anything but that – a very welcomed twist if you ask me. I mean, what’s a spy novel without some moments that will have you scratching your head? Don’t fret though, every move is well explained, and in the end, you’ll have answers to your questions.
The book is doused with several moments of tension that keep you dangling deliciously on the cusp of the truth. On the one hand, you want to scurry to the end of the page and find out what happens. On the other hand, you also want to prolong the suspense because it’s so exciting. I also love how an even-keeled plot suddenly switches to a story unfolding at neck-breaking speed.
I couldn’t miss the well-placed humor and banter too. The book includes delightful tongue-in-cheek moments and comments that add flavor to the story and provide much needed comic relief amidst the tension.
Reading this book is an excellent way to be entertained and learn a couple of fascinating facts about the human mind, tech, guns, and even whiskey. Somehow, our Aussie author was able to create a book with just the right dose of cool nerdy stuff to appeal to a wide range of audiences.
Yearn to Fear is the first part of a trilogy, and that revelation has me excited. If the sequels turn out to be half as good as this one, then the author’s getting a place on my list of “super-cool Australian authors to keep an eye on.” Inaugural entrant or not, getting on that list speaks volumes of his writing prowess.
Pages: 351 | ASIN: B08MTFMK6J
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Skies of Red Dawn follows a CIA agent looking at retirement but finds himself framed and running from his own agency while trying to clear his name. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?
I took a lot of inspiration from James Bond and Jason Bourne, I got the inspiration for the plot as I watched one of the Bond films with having something stolen, but I didn’t want to do a normal run of the mill spy galivanting across the globe. This is where Bourne helped me with inspiration by having Robert Johnathan be chased by his own comrades adding that twist in as well having that character development for Robert Johnathan too. Ideas in the plot simply came from my own mind I have always been interested in the cold war and the world wars era, so they played a lot for when I was crafting out the plot.
Robert Johnathan is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind his character development?
With Robert Johnathan his character development is different, his character came from my own mind I wanted a different type of spy. I didn’t want to write another cheesy James Bond-esque nor a gritty serious Jason Bourne. I wanted to add a family connection to him, make him look and feel human, to have his own quirks, strengths and weakness. Bond and Bourne did play some inspiration in his character development but nothing tremendous it was about making a human more than it was making a character. But I wanted a character that was past his glory days and had endured a lot of pain and trauma, the idea of having him loose those closest to him was the best way as it truly shows how through the book he has less and less to personally fight for and showing the depths of his character as he continues to fight on regardless of his own loss.
What were some themes that were important for you to focus on in this book?
There was a lot of themes that I wanted in the book family was one I wanted but I wanted the theme of loyalty and duty, good and evil as well as history was never forgotten. Most themes in the book are there by my choice or to use as a reflection for the location they are in. But the most important theme for me was age vs experience, which is portrayed through the two main characters, Sterling is younger and in his prime, whereas Johnathan is older but has more experience than his younger counterpart.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Since writing Skies of Red Dawn, I have written a horror novel revolving around paranormal entities, The Hellish Man is already out and available to buy on Amazon. But I am currently writing another horror novel, ‘The Sleepwalker’ set around dreams and sleeping which will be coming out sometime after the new year.
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Matt Taylor’s Skies of Red Dawn follows Robert J. Johnathan, a retired CIA agent who is framed for traitorous actions that result in a team of comrades dying during a mission. With his own team going after him he enlists his ally, British MI6 agent Captain Liam Thomas James Sterling, on a personal mission to uncover the source of the ambush, only to find himself tangled in the midst of a dangerous terrorist plot.
Skies of Red Dawn has all the makings of a great spy thriller. It has a fast-paced narrative that keeps readers engaged, and the characters are dynamic and likable. The references to weaponry, reconnaissance language, and battleground tactics also imply that the author completed the necessary research to make this story believable.
While I enjoyed this compelling novel, I felt that there were a few punctuation and spelling errors that distracted from an otherwise stimulating read. If this book had a good proofreading, I have no doubt that this will be a top-notch book.
The story takes Johnathan and Sterling from English-speaking America to Cuba and Cyprus, where both agents encounter other individuals who speak non-English languages. As a Spanish speaker, I was able to fully understand the exchanges in Spanish. However, the exchanges in Greek left me feeling lost since I am unfamiliar with the language. The story keeps an air of authenticity in this way, but I do not feel as though I got a full understanding of each scene due to the lack of translation
Matt Taylor has written a story with action-packed narration, an intriguing spy theme, and a solid plot along with engrossing character development. With some helpful translation and proofreading I think the focus will remain on these solid pieces of storytelling. Skies of Red Dawn will be welcomed by readers that enjoy spy thrillers with an authentic feel.
Pages: 269 | ASIN: B08GM98LMB
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The Hainan Conflict by D.M Coffman, is a fast paced thriller with incredible and fascinating adventures combined with fast-paced action, and traces of romance. The shadowy hidden cave reckons to end the military conflict of the loyal troops, the island hosts some wicked organization. U.S attorney, and undercover detective YI along with Sarah, a Tibetan judge, are on a mission on the Hainan Island, all are in pursuit of clues relating to the discovery of a refined computer system, concealed in the heart of this aboriginal village. As Sarah, is recovering from an attack, Yi realizes the operations of the internet along with other bio –weapons, all in the underground cave.
D.M Coffman, has used engaging and descriptive language along with intense imagery that clearly reveals the essence of intelligent and brave, but sometimes manipulative, characters. The tension is set high early on in this book and explodes every time the tension breaks with fast action scenes. The mystery of the dynamic personalities of the characters is what intensifies the essence of conflict since every moment brings new discoveries.
As a thriller fanatic, I am particularly impressed with D.M Coffman’s style of delivery, the intrigue that comes along with divided interests even among the inner circle of main characters. So amazing, that there is a heightened tension between Sarah and Yi, yet they have to resolve their differences fast and amicably lest they are defeated by their mysterious enemies.
I liked the turn of events from the time Yi, the undercover detective discovers the enemy’s plan to attack. How he quickly needs to form a secretive military conflict whose fundamental requirement is to be in sync with the US-Sino collaboration. These calculated series of events are the real grounds of the Hainan conflict which eventually result into a forced landing on the island.
The conspiracy among individual characters which pops us in every chapter only heightens the suspense and curiosity. The Hainan Conflict is a captivating political thriller that fans of a Tom Clancy or Robert Ludlum will heartily enjoy.
Pages: 254 | ASIN: B082WMGYF9
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