NYT bestselling author Brad Thor sets new thriller “Dead Fall” in Russia-Ukraine war
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Turning the pages of Brad Thor’s new thriller Dead Fall, readers might think they are reading a news website or war correspondent’s blog instead. Thor crafted the story of a rogue splinter group of Russian mercenaries operating in Ukraine, as a real-life group of the same name captured international headlines in recent months.
Thor’s 23rd thriller begins with Scot Harvath eliminating one of the world’s biggest threats. The New York Times bestselling author then proceeds to drop the top spy into a land war in Europe, without America’s military and intelligence assets as backup. It has the true feel of a World War II backdrop.
“I think it is a perfect setting to put in an American,” Thor said. “Plus, I always like to have the odds stacked against him, and so essentially what this guy has to do to achieve the objective he’s sent to do is, he has to join the Ukrainian International Legion to go and rescue an American that’s been taken hostage by the Wagner Group. The U.S. cannot send a contingent of soldiers with him. He’s got to go in alone.”
Yes, there’s a Wagner Group in Dead Fall. The same name as the private military organization fighting for Russia in Ukraine, that threatened mutiny during a march on Moscow earlier this year. Harvath and a squad of foreign fighters he teams with on the battlefield track and ultimately tangle with The Ravens, a brutal group recruited from the depths of Russia’s worst prisons and institutions. Their leader, known as The Colonel, leads his team on a search for valuable pieces of art, taking hostages and leaving a trail of bodies behind. Thor says the current circumstances and players in the Ukraine war reminded him that, as fellow author Francis Fukuyama said, ‘History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes’.
“At the end of World War II, Hitler threw his worst SS battalion at the Warsaw Uprising,” Thor explained. “And these guys, much like the real-life Russian mercenary organization The Wagner Group, Hitler’s SS battalion, this particular one, recruited from insane asylums and some of the worst prisons in Germany. And so there was a lot of what happened in August to October in Poland in 1944, that I could see coming down the road with the Russians, that they were running men through the meat grinder of Ukraine, they were going to start picking up bad guys wherever they could find them and throw them into this war. So if anything, I was saying, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’ll be lucky to just hit the finish line with the headlines!’ I pride myself on beating the headlines. So, there was a little bit, of nervousness with this book.”
Harvath takes on the mission after being briefed on the atrocities happening in Ukraine at the hands of the rogue Wagner troops. Nicholas, the former SEAL’s adversary turned best friend, lays out a plan for him to infiltrate the active war zone without creating an international political scandal. Harvath agrees, becoming a lone operator carrying out America’s interests to save an American’s life.
“It’s fascinating when you read about some of the men who are going over from different countries to fight in Ukraine,” Thor said. “There’s a no longer active Marine, and he talks about how a lot of people in his family don’t like that he went over to fight for Ukraine. There’s Canadians, there’s Aussies. So the stories of people and why they go are fascinating. And the fact that you can join that international Legion, you can break the contract at any time and leave the battlefield. But I wanted this kind of choice to be presented to my hero to say, ‘Okay, listen, you’re a good guy, you believe in helping protect the little guy. This is what you’ve always stood for. You can take this assignment or leave this assignment. He had no choice. Personally, he felt that it was his obligation to go into Ukraine and look for these missing Americans and see if he could make a difference because that’s the kind of hero he is.”
With such similarities to players on the ground now in Europe, I wondered if it gave Thor any concerns about potential retribution. In one of the earliest conversations I had with the author, we spoke about the threats he received following the publication of The Last Patriot, his 2008 thriller about the prophet Mohammed.
“I don’t think the Russians would ever waste sending somebody after me,” he says. “The Islamic threats that happened after The Last Patriot were very, very serious. We took it seriously and took a lot of steps to upgrade our security. But you know, that being said, I’m never going to set foot in Russia. I’m very, very tough on the Russians. I try to have characters with different points of view on what’s going on in Ukraine. But I have a very particular point of view. A lot of people don’t know that the guy who heads the Wagner mercenary group, who we’ve not seen since he sent those soldiers up within 200 miles of Moscow, the guy hasn’t been seen since June 24th. He actually is the founder and owner of the Internet Research Agency, which is the big troll farm in St. Petersburg. So, when I go after Russians for invading Ukraine, I also go after them for all the stuff they’re trying to do to us on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. So, I’m not making friends in the Kremlin I’m sure.”
Fans will enjoy Thor’s hat tip to Conor Sullivan, who he calls “a fabulous, fabulous author’. They will also enjoy this Harvath story. It is one of Brad Thor’s best, putting his central character in the ultimate uphill, life-or-death climb against an enemy that knows no boundaries or morals. Dead Fall continues Thor’s string of thriller excellence.
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