Jack Carr (shown above right) made a big splash in the literary world when he released “The Terminal List” last year.
With Navy SEAL Lt. Cmdr. James Reece, he introduced a hard-nosed protagonist who could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other beloved modern western heroes in literature, such as Brad Thor’s Scot Harvath or Stephen Hunter’s Bob Lee Swagger.
What made Carr’s writing so engaging and fresh, in part, is that he’s had a career as a Navy SEAL. That knowledge helped inject something new into “The Terminal List.” Because of Carr’s work with the military, he needed to go through the rigorous process of having his book approved by the Department of Defense (DOD), which had to ensure Carr was not divulging any government secrets he’s been sworn to keep.
The process went smoothly enough and “The Terminal List” made it to shelves everywhere.
The same cannot yet be said for his second book, however. Carr’s much-anticipated follow-up novel — “True Believer” — has had its release date delayed due to the review by the DOD.
Originally set to be published April 2, “True Believer” will now have a publish date of July 30. Carr’s publisher released a statement about the delay through Twitter.
Here it is:
— Atria Mystery Bus (@AtriaMysteryBus) January 25, 2019
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Carr’s first book was “cleared as amended” by the Department of Defense Office of Prepublication and Security Review; and Carr left those redactions in the text of his book.
He was planning on doing the same thing with his new book, but the Department of Defense has pushed the deadline several times.
LifeZette interviewed Carr — who lives with his family in Utah — via email about his thoughts on the delay of his new book and what readers can expect from “True Believer.”
Question: Is there any chance the Department of Defense review could cancel the publication of this novel? Do you have a timeline for when the review will be done?
Answer: First, I need to say that, in the grand scheme, I realize these are exceptionally good problems to have. I feel extremely fortunate to be doing something I love so much each and every day. Now, I doubt they could cancel the publication of “True Believer.” It is 100 percent a work of fiction set against a current geo-political backdrop. They may redact or “over”-redact, but I can’t see how a work of fiction could possibly warrant this much scrutiny, much less cancelation, by the government.
The timeline they gave, as per the instructions on their website, was for a 30-day review. My first novel, “The Terminal List,” took 45 days to review, which I thought was reasonable. They blacked out six or seven sentences, and I published the novel with those blacked-out redactions so I wouldn’t have to resubmit. The Senate Armed Services Committee has sent four official inquiries to the DOD asking why they are so late in reviewing “True Believer.” After the first or second inquiry, the DOD changed its website to say that the review process could take “several months” rather than “30 days.”
Since they are now also past their new “several month” timeline, perhaps they will change the website again to read “several years”?
Q: Is there any specific material you think caused red flags?
A: There is nothing in the novel that could in any way cause harm to national security. However, I suspect they will err on the side of over-censoring, because in a bureaucracy, the government employee doing the review could get in trouble for missing something — but can’t get in trouble for blacking out too much. In my first novel, they redacted things that can be found on their own websites.
I truly believe it is simply government bureaucracy and ineptitude, but it is not beyond the realm of possibility that some of the conspiracy theories woven into the fabric of the story hit a bit too close to home.
Q: You served in the military for a number of years and have requirements you need to follow, but as a writer, does this at all feel unfair and discouraging? Is your free speech and voice being silenced right now because of government red tape?
A: I would be lying if I said I was fine with the requirement and the process. The regulation is written broadly by design to give the federal government the power to target private citizens as they see fit. I have to believe there is a challenge to be made on First Amendment grounds to at least change the wording of a regulation that most prior service members are not even aware exists.
Among a sea of authorities and regulations, if one can find it without an army of attorneys, a former service member would find a regulation that reads: “Policy” section (5230.09(4)(f)) expressly states it is DOD policy that: “Retired personnel, former DOD employees, and non-active duty members of the Reserve Components shall use the DOD security review process to ensure that information they submit for public release does not compromise national security.”
Interestingly enough, this does not apply to former service members who jump on cable news to discuss ongoing military operations.
I feel that I have held up my end of the bargain of what I believe is an overreach of government power. If the government could adhere to their end and at least get it back within a reasonable amount of time (even if it is a bit past what they advertise), that would be fine. But if they have the power to sit on a work of fiction for months, and maybe years, past their promised review timeline, then I think the regulation needs some attention. Or, perhaps in the future we should submit it via audiobook.”
For more on the Jack Carr story, check out the video below:
Update: Jack Carr’s novel has been approved by the Department of Defense and will be released on July 30th. Carr will keep the requested redactions in the final book, but will also appeal. Any changes that come from the appeal will be reflected in the paperback version of the novel.
This piece appeared earlier in LifeZette and has been updated.