What would happen if a U.S. Special Forces operator with a score to settle brought the insurgent tactics he’d been fighting against overseas back home? That’s the idea behind The Terminal List, the debut novel from former Navy SEAL and Special Operations Task Unit Commander Jack Carr.
In this episode of the Stratfor Podcast, Carr sits down with Stratfor Chief Security Officer Fred Burton to discuss his background, his writing and what comes next.
The Terminal List by Jack Carr
Military and Defense Analysis on Stratfor Worldview
Lessons From Old Case Files, Fred Burton’s collected writing on Stratfor Worldview
Beirut Rules by Fred Burton (Available October 23, 2018)
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Fred Burton [00:00:00] Hello, I'm Fred Burton and this episode of the Stratfor podcast is sponsored by SpyMaster, the latest audiobook from number one New York Times Bestselling Thriller author, Brad Thor. Take a white-knuckle thrill ride with Navy SEAL, turned covert counter-terrorism operative, Scot Harvath, as he defends freedom by any means necessary. The Spymaster audiobook is as current as tomorrow's headlines. Brad Thor's Spymaster is available now on CD and for download wherever audiobooks are sold.
Jack Carr [00:00:41] Samurai code of honor, bushido, they would go into battle thinking they were already dead because they thought that made them more effective and efficient warriors. I thought, how do you take that ancient code of honor from Japanese samurai and apply that to a modern day warrior?
Ben Sheen [00:00:58] Welcome to the Stratfor podcast, focused on geopolitics and world affairs from Stratfor.com. I'm your host, Ben Sheen. In this episode, Stratfor Chief Security Officer, Fred Burton sits down with former US Navy SEAL turned author, Jack Carr, to discuss his debut novel, The Terminal List. He'll also be talking about his part from SEAL sniper to commanding a special operations task unit in Southern Iraq, and then onto his current adventures writing thrillers. Thanks for joining us.
Fred Burton [00:01:31] Hi I'm Fred Burton, here today with Jack Carr, whose written a wonderful book called The Terminal List. It's published by Simon & Schuster and Jack is a former Navy SEAL sniper and his resume is something right out of a Brad Thor novel. Jack welcome to our podcast and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to chat with you today about your new book The Terminal List.
Jack Carr [00:01:59] Thank you so much for having me on, it's an honor to be here. I was an early adopter of Stratfor back in the early days in the teams. I was enlisted first and I was an intelligence specialist, cause you had to have an MOS or an A school before you went to BUD/S back then, but so when I showed up to my first team, I was the intel guy and a comms guy for my platoon and I found out about Stratfor, so it was about 10 emails ago, so I couldn't go back and find out exactly when I joined, but I remember finding out about it, just before September 11th, if memory serves. I've been a fan ever since, so it's a real honor to be on here.
Fred Burton [00:02:37] Well, it's great having you Jack and I know we have a mutual friend in Brad Thor and both of us landed our books in Brad's new book The Spymaster. How long have you known Brad, he's a great guy, we've had him on our podcast.
Jack Carr [00:02:53] I was introduced to him by a mutual friend right about four months into my writing process. I had really just started writing my novel and someone said, "Hey would you like to talk to Brad Thor?" I said, "Well I would love to talk to Brad Thor, if he'd talk to me that'd be wonderful." I didn't know anyone in publishing, didn't know any other authors, and my friend set up a call and Brad was so nice, could not have been more helpful and we talked for about an hour or so and I guess I passed his test on why I wanted to be an author, why I wanted to write. It's something I've wanted to do since I was a little kid and I was about to make that transition from the Navy to the private sector and that's what I wanted to be, wanted to do with the next phase of my life was to write thrillers. He told me a couple things in that first conversation, but two that stick out, the first one was give yourself permission to write a bad chapter and he didn't really mean write a bad chapter, what he meant was don't wait for everything to be perfect, just start writing. Don't wait for the stars to align, just get out there and do it, just write. Be professional and write. It was really interesting to hear that from somebody like Brad Thor was very liberating. He's such an amazing guy. Then he said, "The only difference between a published author and an unpublished author is that the published author never quit." For me, that really rang true because of my experience in the military and BUD/S,
Jack Carr [00:04:17] being able to self-select out of that program so easily and so yeah just never quit. Then, I felt so fortunate, but he's like, "Hey I'm not going to help you go along with this process, I'm not going to read anything for you, I'm not going to give you any advice, but if you write one, I will send it to New York for you." A friend had told him some things I did in the SEAL teams and he's like, "Thank you for what you did, I'll send it to New York. Can't guarantee they'll open it, can't guarantee they'll like it, definitely can't guarantee they'll publish it, but the least I can do is send that to New York for you." So, he said, "When are you going to be done?" And I said, "A year from today," and so he said, "Okay." Then a year from that day, I call him back and said, "It's done." And here we are on Stratfor podcast today.
Fred Burton [00:05:00] That's an amazing story, Jack, it really is. Tell me a little bit about Lieutenant Commander James Reece, who's your key figure in your book The Terminal List. I was, it's hard not to like James Reece, tell me what made you put him together?
Jack Carr [00:05:18] Yeah, so that's the protagonist of the story, James Reece and he has a background similar to mine in that he was a prior enlisted SEAL sniper that becomes an officer at a certain point and it's at that phase of his life where he's getting back from a deployment and is about to move into the private sector because that was going to be the last deployment that he ever tactically maneuvered guys in the battlefield and as you gain rank in the military you kind of get more removed from that tactical battlefield level leadership and that's where I was at that stage of my life as well. His background is similar to mine, but that's really where it ends, everything else is complete fiction. He's thinking about moving on, taking care of his family and that's when disaster strikes, both on the battlefield and on the home front, and he finds himself part of the conspiracy that the idea I got from the Church hearings in the last 70s that investigated some abuses by different agencies of the federal government, CIA, the NSA, and I said hey what if those church hearings didn't take place or somebody didn't get the memo in the modern world and they did some testing of drugs on our most elite special operations forces. Some things go haywire and they need to cover it up. That's where the story really begins and gets moving, but one level deeper than that is about a guy who really abandons everything that he's believed in for the last 16 years at war and essentially becomes the insurgent that he'd been fighting.
Jack Carr [00:06:44] He takes what works well against us overseas that insurgents and terrorists use and he brings those tactics here to the US as he works his way up a list that he puts together of people that conspired to kill his troop and family to cover up these tests. That's the basis of the novel.
Ben Sheen [00:07:06] In the second part of our conversation with author Jack Carr, we dig into his personal affinity for revenge tales and also his love of classic Toyota Land Cruisers. But if you'd like to go ahead, pick up a copy of his book, The Terminal List, we'll include a link in the show notes or you can check out his website, officialjackcarr.com and that's with two r's. You can also find more of Fred Burton's reflections on the history of counter-terrorism and his experiences with the US State Department's Diplomatic Security Service at Stratfor Worldview. We've collected his reflections and other podcast interviews in a series called, Lessons from Old Case Files. You'll also find collected military and defense assessments from our analyst team collected under the Worldview topic section. Now back to our conversation with Fred Burton and author Jack Carr.
Fred Burton [00:07:56] I really enjoyed the opening with, "This is a novel of revenge." Any of us who have been in the counter-terrorism arena and it's one that I spent some time in a lifetime ago, it kind of resonates and as you go along with the story and you look at the challenges that Lieutenant Commander James Reece has had and the obstacles and the boulders that he's pushing up the hill, I don't want to give away too much in the story, but it's really a great storyline Jack and I think you did a wonderful job with it.
Jack Carr [00:08:31] Oh thank you so much. When I started writing, I wrote about five or six different ideas down about you know half page, couple paragraphs on each idea and I would try to figure which one I should go with for my first novel and I chose the one that I thought would be the most hard hitting, the most primal out of the gate. For me, I grew up reading my mom was a librarian and I'm a child of the 80s, so I love those 80s movies and the one's I always naturally gravitated towards were the ones that had themes of revenge. I grew up reading David Morrell, J. C. Pollock, Nelson DeMille, later I found Stephen Hunter in college and then Daniel Silva, Vince Flynn, and then in later Brad Thor of course. I just always resonated to those stories that were about revenge, so this one is really about revenge without constraint and I wanted to figure out, hey how do you make this more than just a story about someone who has "nothing left to lose" and that's where the drug conspiracy comes in. I kind of got that from samurai code of honor, ,bushido, and how they would go into battle thinking they were already dead because they thought that made them more effective and efficient warriors. I thought, how do you take that ancient code of honor from Japanese samurai and apply that to a modern day warrior and that's where that comes in. He goes through this novel thinking that he's already dead, which is something I wanted to introduce into the storyline. It was a blast to write, I love every part of the process, coming up with the idea, coming up with the title,
Jack Carr [00:09:56] writing, editing, I love every part of this, so I feel very fortunate to be doing something in the second phase of my life here that I love so much.
Fred Burton [00:10:05] You've done a great job too with the gear. What I find fascinating, and I remember chatting with Brad Thor about this as well because I write non-fiction and you try to be as accurate as you can, and what I take away from reading The Terminal List is this obsession with gear. Is that just a SEAL thing, what's going on there?
Jack Carr [00:10:26] I've always been into gear since I was a little kid, so it predates my time in the SEAL Teams and it was just a natural thing for me to do to want to research different gear, test different gear, and when I became an officer I had to make sure my guys were going down range with the best gear possible to give us every advantage we possibly could have on the battlefield. That's just, and it continues to this day, I'm always messing around with different backpacks and different gear and it's just something that came very natural to me so that translates over to the book as well, so everything that the protagonist uses in the story is something I've had hands on experience with.
Fred Burton [00:11:03] It resonates, it comes across in the book Jack and you've done a good job with that and in fact for our listeners, you have to check out Jack's website, officialjackcarr.com, @JackCarrUSA because he's got a great... Section there on gear and you can look at some of the gear that he talks about in The Terminal List. I was going through that yesterday and today and actually jotted down a couple things that I'm going to have to buy, but not tell my wife.
Jack Carr [00:11:32] That's right, that's right, you've got to have a slush fund. I wanted to have something on the website for people who were really interested in the gear could do a little deeper dive. There's a lot of information in the story that's accurate and it's detailed about gear, but for those who really want to deep dive then I wanted a separate site for them, so that's one section of the website really deals with that.
Fred Burton [00:11:54] And tell me about your fixation with old Land Cruisers because I have one too. Do you have-
Jack Carr [00:11:59] Oh really?
Fred Burton [00:12:00] Yeah, do you have an old Land Cruiser?
Jack Carr [00:12:02] I do, so I have an FJ62 1988, same one that our protagonist James Reece uses in the book, and I think each book will have, so the next one I'm working on is called True Believer and as part of character development, there'll be some conversations in there, a Land Rover slash Land Cruiser debate, so do you know like a 9 mil 45 debate And I'll use that as a character development tool, but I've always loved the old Land Cruisers, they're just such an iconic vehicle and my personal Land Cruiser's getting a little makeover right now and it's get a new engine and getting worked on by the guys at TLC Cruiser in LA, the same guys that do the icon if you're familiar with them, but it's getting complete overhauls so I'm looking forward to getting that back to sometime in 2019. But yeah I love such iconic vehicles and it's funny every time we drive somewhere, I'd park it and someone would come up, there's this whole subculture of Land Cruiser enthusiasts, so every time we go somewhere, someone would come up and want to talk to me about it and my wife's would just roll her eyes and not quite understand it. Everybody that owns them seems to be like such cool people, so I've had great conversations with people that they're also Land Cruisers enthusiasts and I'm just a big fan.
Fred Burton [00:13:16] Yeah I've had two or three, if not four FJ Cruisers and I did have a 99 Toyota Land Cruiser, but I haven't gone back as far as you have with yours, but you've stoked my interest again, I'm going to have to go out and figure out a way to get one and maybe just hide it somewhere where my wife won't find it.
Jack Carr [00:13:37] That's right you need the storage unit where you can hide all the toys.
Fred Burton [00:13:41] There you go, there you go. Now, your next book The True Believer is that out a year from now or when are you scheduled to publish that?
Jack Carr [00:13:48] Yep so I think I saw an April 2nd publication date on that one so The Terminal List came out March 6th, so about the same time, spring of 2019 the second book will hit shelves and very excited about it. I'm in the editing process right now, which is part of the process that, well I love all the parts of it, but it's fun to go back in there and cause you don't right it in one sitting, so sometimes you get kind of near the end and figure out something you wanted to insert in there, but now you have to go back and kind of lead up to it because it doesn't make sense just standing alone if you throw it in near the end and so it's fun to work through that whole process and smooth things out and make sure everything makes sense and I absolutely love it. But the paperback of The Terminal List, that'll come out in December this year and that leads into the hardback of True Believer, so it's also fun for me to learn about the publishing industry and how it all works and so it's just fascinating to me and I've been very fortunate to have been introduced to Simon & Schuster and Atria and Emily Bestler books and I just couldn't be with a better group of people to help show me through this process as a debut author.
Fred Burton [00:14:59] Do you have a trilogy Jack? Do you have a three book trilogy for Lieutenant Commander James Reece?
Jack Carr [00:15:05] I don't want to give away too much, so I'll say in the second book that there are characters from the first one that end up in the second one, but which ones and in what capacity that's the secret. I'd love this to go on as long as it can possibly go and I have ideas written out for the first six books or so, six or seven. Looking forward to exploring each and everyone of those topics.
Fred Burton [00:15:28] Well, I can say this that if True Believer or the books that follow The Terminal List are anything like The Terminal List, you've got a great series and a very bright future with Lieutenant Commander James Reece, Jack. You did a wonderful job with this story. Thank you so much for being on the Stratfor podcast. Again for our listeners, I would encourage you to download or purchase The Terminal List: A Thriller by Jack Carr and visit Jack's website which is officialjackcarr.com. I don't think you'll be disappointed and thank you again Jack for coming on our show.
Jack Carr [00:16:03] Of course, thank you for having me. Looking forward to Beirut Rules.
Ben Sheen [00:16:12] Well, that's it for this episode of the Stratfor podcast. Thanks again for joining us and if you'd like to learn more about Jack Carr's debut novel, The Terminal List or his upcoming book, we'll include links in the show notes. If you'd like to delve deeper into the global military trends unfolding today, be sure to check out our collected analysis at Stratfor Worldview. If you're not already a Stratfor Worldview member, you can sign up for our free newsletter or learn more about complete access to our analysis through individual, team, and enterprise membership at worldview.stratfor.com/subscribe. For more geopolitical intelligence, analysis, and forecasting, to reveal the underlying significance and future implications of emerging world events, follow us on Twitter @Stratfor.