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The obvious purpose of thriller writing is to scare the hell out of the reader through serial killers, kidnappers, sociopaths, terrorists, ruthless ne'er do wells and all sort of literary things that go bump in the night.
Brad Thor, author of the multiple-bestselling series starring ex-Navy SEAL/Secret Service agent Scot Harvath, is particularly frightening. His plots not only feature incredibly dire global situations and sinister political villains - they're also disturbingly close to real-world potentiality.
Thor's latest book is "Act of War," and he appears Thursday in the Mohegan Sun Cabaret as part of the casino's "Winning Authors Series." Mitchell Etess, CEO of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority, will host the event and interview Thor. After the session, Thor will sign copies of "Act of War" in The Shops at Mohegan Sun.
"There are a few authors I particularly like and I make sure I read every one of their books on publication," Etess says. "The folks who produce the Winning Authors know the stuff I like and keep me in the loop. When the opportunity to sit down with Thor - one of my true favorites - it was too much to pass up. It'll be like interviewing Scot Harvath himself!"
In "Act of War," Harvath, who works for a top secret and independent security operation, faces an almost impossible task.
China has identified the U.S. as a target: only if the Chinese have access to and ultimately control our resources can they stave off disaster in their own acutely depleted country. They have also acknowledged no chance of defeating the U.S. in conventional battle. As a solution, two Chinese colonels in the Peoples Liberation Army came up with a white paper called "Unrestricted Warfare" that basically states there are NO rules and outlines a plan on how China could topple the U.S. without so much as firing a shot.
Instead, intelligence information suggests long- and short-term tactics might include making huge loans to America (requiring collateral in the form of drilling or mineral rights), manipulating Muslim proxies in terrorist activity, disrupted power grids and the Internet, and other quick hits on "anything goes" soft targets. When sufficiently weakened, a masterful killing stroke will cripple American society and leave us ripe for takeover.
Intel further suggests that the Chinese are ready to pull the trigger on the whole campaign - and Harvath and his colleagues have no time to spare.
It's top-speed beach-read stuff - and the action is riveting. But what's more freaky is that, Thor says, a lot of the set-up is true.
In a phone call earlier this month from his new home in Nashville, the energetically cheerful Thor says, "I write what I call 'faction,' where the reader doesn't know where the facts end and the fiction begins. Yes, one of my jobs is to entertain, but another is to beat the headlines. I do my homework. A lot of this stuff is happening or has happened."
For example, Thor says one of the scenarios in "Unrestricted Warfare," which was written in the 1990s, talks about co-opting Al-Qaeda. If, through money or equipment or weaponry or whatever, China was able to steer Al-Qaeda to try a second attack on the World Trade Center - and it was successful - China could significantly benefit.
Thor's prescience is nothing new. In earlier Harvath adventures, he wrote about events that seemed far-fetched at the time. And yet, in "Black List," which anticipated the National Security Agency scandal, and "The First Commandment," which detailed an upper-level Taliban/Guantanamo Bay prisoner exchange, the writer correctly foretold the future.
Of course, in all of these books, Harvath was around to keep the country safe - but it seems to get a little harder for the protagonist each time out. This is because the world keeps getting more dangerous - and also because the Harvath books take place chronologically and he ages in real time.
"One of the most sacred obligations as a writer is to tell the truth," Thor says. "I know other successful series where the characters never age. But, to me, one of the ways to keep readers engaged is that you reveal pieces of the recurring characters with each book."
As for Harvath himself, Thor says, "Fortunately, Scott is career special ops. In terms of conditioning, it's like being a pro athlete. In fact, special ops soldiers are our highest performing athletes - and not only are they in top shape, they have access to the best doctors and the best care. Scot can't not age. But he's less impulsive and more wise."
Thor laughs. "I like to think of Scot as my alter ego, but in fact he's based on several special ops and law enforcement people I know that are my friends, and these are people who devote their lives so the rest of us have the luxury of living the American Dream."
Who: Brad Thor
What: Bestselling thriller writer appears as part of the Mohegan Sun’s Winning Author’s Series
When and where: 7:30 p.m. Thursday live Q&A session in the Cabaret Theater and 8:30 p.m. book signing in The Shops at Mohegan Sun
How much: Free on first-come/first-served basis; Thor only will sign copies of “Act of War,” available for sale on-site at Spin Street
For more information: mohegansun.com