‘We’ve Lost Sight of Things We Have in Common in This Country,’ Says Brad Thor
Novelist opens up to LifeZette about his latest thriller — and about Trump and the role of our government
“I had not set out to write a series character,” Brad Thor told LifeZette in a conversation about “Use of Force,” his latest thriller, which follows counterterrorism agent Scot Harvath.
Harvath has appeared in 17 of Thor’s books, 16 of which he’s been the main character. Thor said it was his publisher and editor who convinced him Harvath was worth another adventure after the first book, and now the character serves as Thor’s “alter ego.”
“He gets to do the things I joke my wife won’t let me do,” said the 47-year-old author, a native of Chicago who is now based in Nashville, Tennessee. To be fair, he said his wife did allow him to go to Afghanistan to shadow a black ops team to research a previous book — so Thor’s life is filled with plenty of adventure.
In the latest Harvath thriller, the CIA operative is pushed into a dangerous web of terrorism that's connected to a man's body, which washed ashore from the Mediterranean Sea. With an opening that depicts a terror attack at the Burning Man festival, Thor only ups the stakes from there.
"With 'Use of Force,' I actually chose something that happened in the real world. There was a laptop discovered in a terrorist safe house and it looked like there was nothing on it. And when they drilled down into it, they discovered all these incredible attack plans ... It really panicked the U.S. intelligence community, but they could never find the guy who was the author of the laptop [plans]. He escaped when the safe house got taken down. And I thought: Wow, wouldn't this be a fascinating idea for a novel?"
A real-life event inspiring a story is nothing new for Thor, whose previous books examine the war on terror, as well as mysterious organizations like the Federal Reserve. He described his books as "faction — you don't know where the facts end and the fiction begins."
After 16 books with Harvath, "Use of Force" was difficult to write, said Thor — and not just because he needed to challenge himself to "reveal something new" about his Harvath character. He wrote the novel during the presidential primaries and general election, a time that the battles between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and the seemingly endless number of Republicans who first took the debate stage were constantly on everyone's mind — a hard thing to stay away from for someone as politically outspoken as Thor.
The author revealed he needed to unplug the Wi-Fi router in his office just to avoid the distraction of politics some days. "I had to shut everything down," he said.
"No matter where you sit on the spectrum, politics has been exciting."
He added, "No matter where you sit on the spectrum, politics has been exciting." Aside from the surprising and distracting election, Thor set the bar higher for himself on this novel than on any other. "I really wanted things to go sideways and for Harvath to not catch a lot of breaks, if any at all," the author revealed.
The novel suggests he more than pulled this off — as the main character brings up Murphy's Law multiple times, and for good reason.
"This was a difficult book for me to write because every single night, when I left my office, I said, 'I don't know how I'm going to get him [Harvath] out of this' ... and I used to joke that my wife could tell if it was a red wine night or a bourbon night based on the expression on my face when I would walk in the door. It was a bourbon night every single night of writing 'Use of Force' because I'd create these scenarios," he said.
The ultimate challenge was to write a book better than the last. "I consider myself a small business person. I'm only as good as the last book that I've done," said Thor. "I have to get better with each book."
Since finishing the novel, Thor has been able to plug himself back into politics a bit more — and as a right-of center force who describes himself as a "conservatarian," he always has an independent and unique cultural and political voice that adds weight to any discussion. (go to page 2 to continue reading)