The SHOTS editors Mike Stotter and Ali Karim ventured to New York last summer to attend the 2nd Thrillerfest conference organised by ITW [International Thriller Writers]. One of the many highlights was meeting and drinking with bestselling author - Vince Flynn, writer of the Mitch Rapp political thrillers.
Ali Karim, Vince Flynn & Mike Stotter
The 3 part report of the Shots visit to Thrillerfest 2007 was posted over at The Rap Sheet :
Part One – Click Here
Part Two – Click Here
Part Three – Click Here
Vince came over to the UK to talk to Shots about his action thrillers as his latest Mitch Rapp thriller PROTECT AND DEFEND hit our bookstands hard. Flynn is as ever topical as he sets up Mitch Rapp to investigate an attack on Iran’s secret nuclear facility which then triggers a global seek and destroy mission for Rapp who is sent to Iran to investigate. Like all Vince Flynn thrillers, nothing is as it seems and soon Rapp is despatched to the Middle East to diffuse the situation and extract vengeance because CIA Director Irene Kennedy has been kidnapped……..
Read Ali Karim’s full review here.
Mike Stotter met up with Vince and underwent some combat training learning the tricks of the trade from the man who created Mitch Rapp. This is what Mike reports:
The Spy Game Day was organised by his UK publishers, Simon & Schuster, as a meet and greet to the trade but I managed to pull off a last minute invite, as we missed out on Vince’s previous UKvisit. Vince remembered me from ThrillerFest (a testament to his memory) and we chatted about how the convention went. Then off we all went to the specified location. Now the idea behind the day was to train us up to learn some spying techniques. For us, who sit behind a keyboard, it was all new to us but someone like Vince, well, he had the advantage.
Once there, we were split into teams and the challenges began. I was on an opposing team to Vince (sporting a natty buzz cut as he had been holed up in his cabin writing to meet a deadline), and soon found out he was a very competitive guy. The first challenge was to clear an urban area. Kitted out with safety gear and our “machine guns” we were first shown how to do this, followed by a timed version. Vince and his partner, Matt won by mere scant seconds.
The next event was the weapons training session. At the rifle range t was hard to concentrate; it was a windy day, resting on a wobbly table and the other team making such a racket at their turn on the urban range. I think I hit the target a couple of times but not the centre. The axe throwing was a hoot. Image a bunch of grown ups, wielding axes (Indian tomahawk style) and trying to hit a cut-out target whilst giving it some painful war cries! Not a pretty sight.
You can see from the picture that wedidn’t take the unarmed combat technique session that seriously. Even Kate Lyle-Grant (editor) managed to twist my arm up my back without too much effort, or damage.
In the VIP protection scenario we learned how to use a pistol and the "quick draw" technique. Thank God they didn’t have to rely on us rookies – we must have shot the VIP and other team members quite a few times before we got it right. I’ll mention no names but someone manage to “kill” a car but re-enacting a Starksy and Hutch bonnet roll. Well, we all survived as you can see:
Mike Stotter, Julian King, Emma Harrow S&S, Vince Flynn, Matt Bridge (Woolworths buyer), Kate Lyall-Grant S&S and Grainne Reidy S&S
After a buffet lunch it was the time to test our mental aptitude. Keeping in our teams we had to break codes, crack safes, defuse bombs and guess as many celebrities in the ID parade. Now for some reason I was pretty good at this and Vince nicknamed me Iron Mike, don’t ask me the reason why, I haven’t got a clue (needless to say we won that section by a landslide).
The best part of the day was the evasive driver training which covered handbrake turns on a dirt track course. anti-ambush drills. And just to add to the pressure we had some time trials on the slalom course. The winner in our group was the very quiet and unassuming Grainne, I think Matt took the record for smashing up the most amount of cones. But the best was left to last: the J turns and anti-ambush drills. You’ve seen it in the movies: the baddies are after the good guys and try to block off their route; the goodies slam the car into reverse and screech off down the street backwards, then WHAM! They throw the car into a J turn. Watch any of the Bourne films for great examples. And that’s what we had to do. Although he wasn’t as good as Jason Bourne, Vince turned out to be a natural Everyone had at least three or four attempts at it, and not one person crashed or rolled the car. It was exhilarating stuff. Here’s the whole gang, who look like they are singing a chorus of Chimchiminee!
Rory Scarf S&S, Helen Masterson S&S, Mike Stotter, Nick HaywardS&S, Jeff Jameson S&S, Emma Harrow S&S, Kate Lyall-Grant S&S, Grainne Reidy S&S, Julian King (Alpha buyer), Julie Wright S&S, Matt Bridge (Woolworths buyer), Amanda Shipp S&S and Vince Flynn
I must say a big thanks to Simon & Schuster publishers, especially to Kate and Emma for inviting me and to Vince for his great company; and not a drop of Knob Creek in sight! Now over to Ali and his grilling…er….interview with Vince:
Ali Vince we heard that as a child you suffered from dyslexia – so what made you embrace the written word considering this problem?
Vince Not being able to read and write above the level of an eight grader was very embarrassing. I was decent athlete and that kept me out of trouble. My junior year in college I decided to confront the problem and forced myself to begin reading for the first time. I started with Trinity by Leon Uris, and then dug into Ludlum, Follett, Higgins, Clancy and many others. Even though I was a slow reader I realized early on that my dyslexic mind could predict what was going to happen with each story. Almost overnight I became passionate about the thing I feared most as a child.
Ali You took a big risk leaving successfully careers to enter the precarious world of writing commercial fiction. Can you tell us what drove you to take such a huge risk?
Vince After working on a few ideas in my spare time I decided if Tom Clancy can do it why can’t I. I know that sounds a little flippant, but my parents raised all seven of their kids with a very egalitarian outlook on life. I thought I had this hidden talent to write a real page turner and I didn’t want to look back twenty years later and kick myself for never writing that damn novel that I’d been kicking around in my twenties. I don’t like living life with regrets.
Ali Can you tell us the evolution of Mitch Rapp as a character and what research you undertook to make him such an authentic character?
Vince Rapp is an amalgamation of people I’ve met over the years. Mostly spooks and special forces guys. So far he hasn’t evolved a great deal. That’s the thing with most of these silent warriors. They are not fickle people. They tend to stand by their beliefs and are disgusted by those who practice situational ethics.
Ali What is it about power politics and espionage that interest you?
Vince I’ve always felt the most compelling stories are ones that mirror reality.
Ali I hear that your work is popular with many in the Oval Office and at Langley, can you tell us a little about your relationship with those at the top of the political tree?
Vince I take it as a huge validation that these people not only read my books, but want to talk to me about world issues.
Ali What’s with your fascination with Middle Eastern politics and why are you not frightened to confront the issues that face the world today?
Vince This battle between Islamic Radical Fundamentalism and the rest of the world is the most important fight of our time. The fanatics want to spread their form of intolerant Islam to the rest of the world and drag us all back to a time where church and state are one in the same. Where religious men run the courts and censor everything that is said and written. The thought of going back to a world like that is truly frightening.
Ali There is much talk about 9/11 and Al Qaeda in your work. Did you feel apprehensive using these themes when the world seems soaked in political correctness?
Vince No, because I think political correctness is a well intended movement that has run amok. Intellectually honest people are color blind and recognize groups like Al Qaeda for the biggoted, sexist thugs that they are.
Ali And your readership considering your best-seller status must come from all quarters?
Vince Every time I go on tour I’m amazed by the array of people who show up at my events: Liberal, conservative, old, young, male, female; it’s all across the board.
Ali I enjoyed meeting you at Thrillerfest 2007 in New York this summer, can you tell us a little about your highlights of the event?
Vince Meeting you of course, and then to prove how small the world is, I flew over to Dublin this past September, and ended up meeting your brother-in-law by accident.
Ali Karim acting as Vince Flynn's Bodyguard
Ali And what do you think about ITW?
Vince It’s a great organization, run by some very talented people who have helped raise the profile of the thriller novel.
Ali I loved Consent to Kill [which was shortlisted for the ITW Best Novel in 2006]. It felt to me to be your most personal and in some ways most moving and mature work. And at its core there’s a conspiracy. Can you tell us a little about this pivotal work?
Vince Without giving away too much of the plot, it was a book that had to be written. At his core, Rapp is an assassin. Since the beginning of his creation I’ve struggled with a simple question. How does a man that has seen and done what Rapp has done, expect to have a normal domestic life? How does a taker of life expect to create life, and not have his job come home to haunt him?
Ali In Act of Treason [out in paperback] you detail a high level political conspiracy involving the hand of terrorism. So what is it about conspiracy theories that interest many of us, yourself included considering the plots of your thrillers?
Vince Thanks to history, it is easy to be cynical when it comes to those who wish to rise to the throne.
Ali Many feel that the events on 9/11 may be part of either failings in the security community or at worst part of a conspiracy – what’s your take on these dreadful events?
Vince If you believe there was a conspiracy, which I do not, you have to buy into the idea that Osama bin Laden is either a Jewish or American agent. That is where pretty much every conspiracy theory falls apart. The intelligence and law enforcement communities failed, but I put the blame on the politicians who over a period of three decades gutted agencies like the CIA all in the name of political correctness. It was all very naïve and self serving.
Ali I enjoyed Syrianna, a film which plots events related to geo-politics – have you seen the film and what’s you take on the need for oil and the darker side of human nature?
Vince Syrianna was a fascianting film. I agree that oil companies do not act on the principle of humanitarianism, so I think it was very fair for the director, writer and producers to show the oil industry in that light. I thought it was very unfair, though, that they made a lack of economic oportunity the motivation for the terrorists. There are poor people all over the world and you don’t see them attacking civilians with suicide bombers. At some point Hollywood needs to take a hard look at Islam’s cult of suicide.
Ali Some describe your work as right-wing and jingoistic, but I do tend to feel that over-simplifies your work, as I find a level of humanity under the smell of cordite. What’s your take on critics that would dismiss your work as purely gung-ho right-wing action tales?
Vince My books make certain people uncomfortable. I wear that as a badge of honor.
Ali Mitch Rapp is a huge success internationally so what do you put down to his mass appeal to readers in the US and overseas?
Vince He speaks truth to power and people find that refresing.
Ali I read that you will not grant film rights to your work featuring Mitch Rapp? Is this true?
Vince I will sell them if the right person is behind the project.
Ali And what about your TV work, any updates on what we expect to see?
Vince I have put the TV stuff on the back burner for the next four months so I can focus on finishing the next book.
Ali And what has passed your reading table recently that you enjoyed?
Vince Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. I loved it. J.K. Rowling is amazing.
Ali Vince, thank you for taking time from your schedule to talk to us.
Vince My pleasure Ali.
Have you explored the world of Vince Flynn?
Vince Flynn Bibliography
Term Limits (1998)*
Transfer of Power (1999)
The Third Option (2000)
Separation of Power (2001)
Executive Power (2002)
Memorial Day (2004)
Consent to Kill (2005)
Act of Treason (2006)
Protect and Defend (2007)
* Note Vince’s debut Term Limits is his only non-Mitch Rapp Thriller.
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Shots would like to thank Kate Lyall-Grant of Simon and Schuster [UK] for organizing this interview.