Interview with Norm Clark
Norm Clark has two action-packed thriller novels in the Jack McDuff series available in ebook and print formats (“Resurrected” and the recently published “The Saladin Strategy”). Number three is in the works.
His work is dictated by his upbringing and choice of friends through the years. He was born and raised in a military environment, which, to a large degree, set the tone for the genre. Input and stories from friends (In particular: two Navy Seals, a Force Recon marine, and a Viet Nam era Air America pilot) greatly influenced his plot-lines and writing style.
About the Books:
The new administration’s kinder, gentler CIA has clamped a tight lid on a horrific sequence of events in the European theater, Knowledge of the events would provide fodder for opponents of the Agency’s new image and policies.
Jack McDuff, the Agency’s top rated covert agent over the past twenty years, has been reassigned to a desk job in Miami.Cast aside by the Agency, he has made the decision to resign when an unlikely contact makes him aware of the restricted intel, and then presents a solution.
Jack readily accepts the unsanctioned rogue mission, and sets out on the most difficult assignment of his career. He begins a journey fraught with danger, mistrust, uncertainty, and surprise. It will require every resource developed over the past twenty years to survive and succeed. Throughout his journey, he discovers new enemies, makes new friends, and uncovers secrets that will change his life forever.
His search for the mastermind twists and turns through Europe and the Middle East, then halfway around the globe to Mexico, Texas, and the Caribbean to a final dramatic showdown with an ingenious conclusion.
Jack McDuff’s ‘blind meet’ with an unknown contact in Vienna pulls him from the ‘good life’ with Mary Conlan and thrusts him back to the dark world of murder and terrorism.
Survival from assassins and the discovery of a secret Jihadist plot unknown to our intelligence services forces Jack into an unsanctioned mission, which ultimately takes him to our nation’s Capital.
Details emerge and elevate the plot to the highest level. The Jihadist mission’s success will upset the global political balance and eliminate America’s influence in the Middle East with no support from her allies. Faced with an imperative to negate the threat, Jack deals with a dilemma. His opposition reaches high into the White House hierarchy and he trusts no one.
Filled with twists and turns, Jack’s rogue mission races to a dramatic finale.
1) When did you first realize you wanted to be an Author?
I was in my mid-twenties when Ken Follett’s “The Eye of the Needle” sowed the writing seed and to a degree set the genre for my work. Unfortunately, life got in the way and postponed my dream for many years. I purchased a number of ‘How to Write Fiction’ books through the years and stayed in touch with my dream.
2) What would you say is your interesting quirk that only happens when you are writing?
I often become a character to respond or react correctly in the given circumstance.
3) What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing your books?
When all is right and the stars are properly aligned, the story tends to write itself, and turn me into a typist. It still requires editing, but is often quite good.
4) Where did you get ideas for your books?
From the headlines the majority of the time. An underlying theme in both books in the ‘Jack McDuff Series’ is the kinder, gentler CIA, which germinated from the public hue and cry to the waterboarding incidents in Guantanamo. The central storyline for the second book, “The Saladin Strategy”, was created from an actual missing nuclear warhead incident in 2007. I, of course, took literary liberties for the benefit of the story. Here is a link to Wikipedia’s story if interested in the details. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_United_States_Air_Force_nuclear_weapons_incident
5) Out of all the books you have written which is your favorite and why?
My favorite book is always the most recent one written. Creative writing has a long and steep learning curve, and I believe is an ongoing process. Therefore, I feel each project is an improvement over the preceding works.
6) Who is your target audience?
That’s a great question Elizabeth. My initial target audience concept was: male, 40+ years of age, and ex-military. However, I have received many great reviews from female readers, which broadened my perspective and pleased me to no end.
7) What do you think makes a good story?
You can write a story with a good plot, a solid premise, great characters, properly formatted, and still lose your readers if you do not keep them engaged in the book. Many novice writers tend to write long descriptive narrative paragraphs with every minute detail of the scene or a character, which stalls the story and often costs you the reader. Do not underestimate the intelligence of your reader. Use your dialogue and narrative to dole out enough details for them to form their own mental pictures of the scenery and the major characters. They will enjoy your book more and have a more positive opinion.
8) Who are some of your favorite Authors?
I’ll try to keep the list at a manageable level. At about the same time as the aforementioned Ken Follett, I sunk my reading teeth into the older crime novels of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Micky Spillane. I also recall a lost weekend attributed to “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo. A number of Robert Ludlam’s books brought me to more recent Authors such as Tom Clancy, John Grisham, Lee Child, James Patterson, and Brad Thor. My current reading is derived from social media activity, which includes many Indie Authors and a much broader spectrum of genres. I’ll name a few; Christoph Fisher, Bob Rector, Khalid Muhammad, Simon Okill, Hetta Coffey, Dianne Harmon, and Hunter S. Jones.
9) If you could pick one actor to play a character in your book in the movie version, who would it be?
Though a rarity for me, I did pattern the craggy appearance of ‘Ski’ in “The Saladin Strategy” after Liam Neeson, a favorite actor of mine.
10) Who are some of the people that influenced your love of writing?
My wife, Pamela, wrote an epic biography of her father’s search for his father, and the technical assistance and editing I contributed to her project revived my repressed desire to write.Her encouragement, plus that of friends and family, brought my dream to life.
11) What kind of TV shows do you like and do you find that as a Suspense/Mystery Writer that you gravitate toward the shows such as Law and Order or Perry Mason?
My desire to watch the TV shows has diminished over the years as they all seem to become soap operas or fall into repetition. The possible exception would be “24”.
12) If you had one piece of advice for an aspiring Author what would it be?
The majority of fledgling Authors never finish their books, so if you can commit to the project’s learning curve and the difficult process ahead, write your masterpiece.
13) What would you like to say to friends and family of Authors (not just your own)?
Support and encourage their dream. If asked, and qualified, give your Author legitimate constructive criticism. Sugarcoating your advice does them no good.
I selected this excerpt from “The Saladin Strategy” because of the previous mention of the character Ski.
Jack selected the ‘Bär und Bulle’, a large tavern in Vienna’s financial district frequented by the city’s bankers and stockbrokers. The mid-afternoon lull between the overflow lunch and happy hour crowd gave him needed privacy. He settled in an empty rear section at a small, round table that abutted the tavern’s typical dark-wood wainscot.
Ski needed to know the truth about Romy’s death, so Jack ordered a stein of Helles beer and worked on a plan.
Mary answered the phone after a half-ring. “It’s about time you called, I’m going crazy.”
“I’m sorry, but the meeting turned into a nightmare and this is my first chance to call.”
The explanation calmed her. “Fill me in,” she said.
“I’ll have more details and the time to update you when I get home tomorrow.”
The conversation reached an inevitable critical point and he hoped her involvement would ease her frustration. “I have no choice Mary. We require a local contact here, and I need you to set it up for us.”
He grimaced through her insufferable pause. “Okay, give me the plan.”
Jack exhaled a sigh of relief. “Call your friend at the Vienna station. See if she will talk to Mike Wolenski on the sly and have him call me from a secure line away from the station.”
“Why the secrecy?”
“We don’t want the Agency involved until we figure out the scenario.”
“Makes sense,” she said. “I’ll call you if there’s a problem.”
“Thanks Mary. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Mike (aka “Ski”) called in ten minutes with tempered excitement to hear from an old friend. He apologized for his somber mood. Three hours earlier, he learned of the accidental death of a close relative.
Jack gave him condolences, and offered to buy him a beer at the ‘Bär und Bulle’. When Ski accepted, he closed the call and stared at his phone dreading the conversation with Ski about his niece.
Ski joined Jack with fresh steins of Helles from the bar. The stress of Romy’s death showed on his face and in his body language. He sipped his beer then tilted his head. “Jesus Jack, how’d you get the monster mouse on your head?”
“We’ll cover that later,” he said. “I’m glad you could break away.”
“Are you kidding? The President’s new Agency policies leave a longtime field agent like me with nothing but time on my hands. Besides, the distraction will help take my mind off my niece.”
He kicked open the door for a Romy update and Jack took a deep breath to begin.
Ski spoke first.
“I’m convinced you’re on a mission here Jack. Why else would you request a discrete contact from me? We’ll be overrun with bankers and stockbrokers in a couple of hours, and you need to reconsider your attire if you expect to glean intel from this group.”
Jack stifled a grin. “I picked this place for two reasons Ski. I wanted to buy you a beer, and we have the privacy needed to talk before their happy hour starts.”
“Okay,” said Ski. “What’s next?”
“I have bad news about Romy.”
Ski’s craggy face screwed into confusion. “How do you know my niece’s name?”
“I met with her this morning. The incident happened when she left our meeting.”
“Incident?” said Ski. “You mean the accident.”
“Not an accident.”
Ski’s well-known temper flared. His face reddened. “You led killers to the meeting and my niece paid the price?”
Tired of accusations, Jack snapped a response. “Don’t lay the blame on me. We didn’t set up the ‘blind meet’.”
The blood drained from Ski’s face. “I’m sorry for jumping to a conclusion, I know better.”
Jack understood his pain and hoisted his stein in acceptance.
Ski returned the gesture and paused…“Who murdered Romy?”
“I don’t know, but I could use your help to track down the bastards.”
“I’m in, all the way. What’s our first step?”
He showed Ski the flash drive. “We need to assess Romy’s intel.”
“Where are you staying?”
“I need to find a room.”
“We’ll work at my place. I have a spare bedroom and an unopened bottle of single-malt scotch.”