What was the inspiration for your story?
I’ve been writing a series of legal thrillers called, “Brent Marks Legal Thriller Series” since 2014 and have developed a following of loyal readers who enjoy the books. One of my readers is a retired First Class Sergeant with the U.S. Army who suggested the premise of the book, which is a young officer who is prosecuted for following orders to kill all military age males in four houses in an Iraqi village who were suspected al Qaeda operatives, as a scapegoat for the “higher-ups” in the government who handed down the orders. When I started to do the research on the book, I discovered that these types of orders had, in fact, been given, and that military subordinates had been court-martialed for following these orders, instead of their superior officers. My reader wanted me to express to all my readers what it was like to be a soldier in a foreign war. It is a pro-soldier, anti-war novel.
What kept you going throughout the writing process?
I knew that what I was doing was not just writing my twelfth novel. It wasn’t just to generate income and it wasn’t to entertain or establish myself as a known author. I was telling a story that had to be told. Thousands of our soldiers have been killed in foreign wars and many more thousands have come home to devastated lives. Most of them suffer from PTSD, and find themselves abandoned by their former employer, often separated or divorced from their loved ones, and at a disadvantage compared to their peers who did not go into military service. The debt we owe them is never repaid by the government, who uses them to reap huge profits for the military industrial complex, which lobbies and supports them. This has to stop. The anti-war movement needs to wake up and realize that it is not only ruining the lives of our soldiers who should only be deployed to protect our homeland, but also ruining the lives of millions of innocent people whose homes, schools and hospitals are destroyed, and who are living in poverty, disease and without fresh food and water. At the same time, we suffer because we, as taxpayers, must repay the war debt (not the military industries which profit from it), and the trillions of dollars which are printed to be spent on military contractors do not trickle down to the average American. War is a profitable business, but it is not for the citizenry, and it has awakened the largest global jihadist movement since the defeat of the Crusades in the Middle Ages.
Who is your most meaningful character and why?
My favorite character in the book, and the one which I had the most fun writing is Robert Garcia. Robert Garcia was an unremarkable man. Other men, the exceptional types, could never be forgotten. Men of striking, imposing persuasion, or those with a certain superior intellect or cleverness. Robert held none of those attributes but, if you had the misfortune to have him touch your life in any way, and were fortuitous enough to live after the experience, he would be indelibly etched in your memory.
Robert’s characteristics were fine-drawn, precise. He could drift in on the night air with only a whisper of the wind, and then disappear into the shadows, the only place where he has ever felt secure and content. At five-foot-eleven, dark-haired with a touch of grey around the edges, he was a chameleon that blended into most crowds. But under the ordinary clothing he wore he had the body of a herculean powerhouse, chiseled and ripped. Née John Richards, Jr. to an American military career man who had taken an Arab wife, since Robert had been old enough to walk, he had marched in the footsteps of his father. When his country came calling, John Richards, Jr. proudly answered that call and served with pride as his father’s son, the nephew of his Great Uncle Sam. There was never any question of it. Working up the ranks the hard way, he made Captain, and it wasn’t long before his special traits and abilities landed him his first secret assignment, along with his first alias – Malik Abdul.
Malik was a name that fit Robert well. He never did look or behave like a John Richards. That was a name his Anglo Father, John Richards, Sr., had insisted on giving the child and his mother dutifully went along with it. Eventually, it was adept profiling that helped Malik recognize his destiny. His swarthy skin and his second language – Arabic – made Malik a valuable asset to his country. Beyond his language prowess and physical attributes, Malik possessed a unique set of special skills, forged by intensive training and honed to perfection with experience. Malik and his band of assassins were utilized only in the most extreme of circumstances – covert operations for well-known agencies who called themselves by three letter acronyms – and the unknown ones as well.
Malik had tried to retire, tried his hand at transforming his life into the “normal” one of Robert Garcia, and dutifully took the number 4 train Monday through Friday, from his little brownstone in El Barrio to Two Penn Plaza, where he worked as a janitor. But Malik’s past had beckoned. It was a call he could not resist. He had come out into the open to support a fellow soldier who had been given a bum rap. About the only thing Malik had left which resembled a conscience was the soldier’s creed. He had no morals, no principles, except for those, which were burned into his hardwiring like a brand on a cow: The mission comes first; never accept defeat; never quit; and never leave a fallen comrade.
Robert came back from the court-martial trial on the coast a ball of nerves, constantly looking over his shoulder. He had no choice but to come out of the cold to testify for Captain Ryan Bennington, who was being railroaded as a scapegoat for unspeakable acts the United States government had committed during the Iraqi insurgency. Robert had been an instrument of those unspeakable acts. Now that the record had been set straight, Robert’s life was in a state of distress and disquietude. He couldn’t go back to his job as a custodian. They could be watching for him there. He couldn’t go back to the woman he had been seeing regularly, and who had given him hope that he actually could rejoin society after all that he had seen and done, and he couldn’t go back to the little apartment in the quaint brownstone on 118th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues in Spanish Harlem that he had called home for the past five years. Well, only one last time.
Can we expect to hear more from these characters in the near future?
The Robert Garcia character is the main character in the book I am currently working on, which is called: “Paladine”. It is the story of an assassin whose business is to target and kill jihadist terrorists and is made into a hero by urban folklore.
How has this story touched your life?
I have learned to have a great respect for our men and women in the military service and their love for their fellow servicemen or women. Not many people know the true meaning of friendship, but these men and women definitely do.
What motivated you to start writing?
A tiny insect. In 2012, my wife, Valentina, who is a professional photographer, started an environmental photography project to show the world just how important those buzzy little guys are to us. Most of our crops could never be grown without them. By helping her with the project, I learned all that I could about bees and put it all together in my first book, “Bless the Bees”.
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