Andrew Vachss is a crime writer and an attorney whose mission is to protect children. He has worked tirelessly on this issue through his legal work and also through the many novels he has written over the years. He writes stories from, “down in the zero” which is that place that you don’t ever see in the headlines. Some people just don’t want to know, especially when it comes to sexual predators and those who would traffick children to them for profit.
While Vachss started his writing endeavors as a vehicle to tell the world about these crimes, my own work started out somewhat differently. I had just gotten out of the Army in 2010 and had some experience working in Army Special Operations units. I felt I had seen some things and witnessed some history that no one was talking about, or writing about, as of yet. It was too soon to start writing a non-fiction book about the “Task Force” but I decided to write a novel. I figured it would be cool to take my experience and training and then apply it to a completely fictional scenario to write the ultimate action-adventure novel. This is what became Reflexive Fire. In the next book, Target Deck, I took a lot of stories about modern Counter-Terrorism operations and disguised them within a fictional scenario taking place in Mexico.
The third novel took on a very different tone. There are certain subjects that I’ve spent a long time researching. These are things that I can’t write about as fact. The court of public opinion would crucify me, even if I could probably prove these things in a court of law. There are some narratives that the American public clings so tightly to that you will never be able to change their mind about.
One of the most frustrating comments I get is from people who read my books and then say, “this is nothing like Tom Clancy or Brad Thor.” Yes, that is quite intentional on my part. These guys are talented writers, but they are coming from a very different perspective than I am. They may even be far better writers than I am, but they never walked the walk.
It was only after I finished Direct Action that I realized what I had done. Like Vachss, I’d told a story from The Zero. The plot of the novel is a work of fiction, a series of events I strung together for narrative purposes. However, the individual scenarios, situations, and conversations in the book are very real. The general thesis of the novel is that a Special Operations soldier was found mutilated by the enemy in Afghanistan after a contact with the enemy. Those who recovered him swore that from then on it would be an eye for an eye and that it set a certain segment of the Special Operations community down a very dark path. I wish that this wasn’t true.
The best comments about the books that I receive is when people tell me that they are creepy. Sometimes they tell me that the events depicted in the books feel like something that is happening right now. That’s a great observation. There is a reason why they get that feeling.
Perhaps at some point the full story will be told. I was warned by friends in the Special Operations and Intelligence world about what I was investigating when I wrote Direct Action. “They won’t hesitate to kill you,” was one of the more blunt warnings. There was no question as to who “they” are.
In the end, I have no doubt that people will absolutely hate me for writing about these things. People like to talk about their desire for the truth but in my experience, it is the last thing that they actually want.
Why choose the hard right when you can choose the easy wrong?