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Hunter Ripley “RIP” Rawlings IV.
1. For new fans just getting to know you, you recently retired after 23 years of active duty in the Marine Corps. Thank you for your service! Do you miss it? Can you share some of your most memorable experiences?
And thank you for yours, Slaven.
Those who serve certainly share a very special bond. Retired Marine and Movie Star Captain Dale Dye is fond of the quote, “For those who fight for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know.” And he certainly should know, he served in war, overseas in Vietnam and in many of the same units I did. I’ve asked him about the quote, and he says it’s a real quote from a Marine in combat. It was found on the back of a K-Ration carton written by a Marine who died in a fighting pit during the Siege of Khe Sahn.
Do I miss it? Well, yes, sometimes. There are times I miss the battle-tested camaraderie, the motivation readily apparent in the spring in everyone’s step, the unified focus you feel from being with a tight team, a singular focus to be the best, to come together to win and vanquish some very evil foes who spanned the whole globe. Yes, I miss that. Do I miss ridiculous minutes, hours, weeks without sleep and under constant, mind-numbing stress? No. Do I miss getting shot at and blown up? No. Do I miss 6-month deployments away from kids and family? Hell, No! I mean, even in basic stuff, like having no clue what’s happening in pop-culture or in our larger society; things basic citizens take for granted in music, film and books. That all sucked – but one thing I was famous for, I was always glass is half full and when you deploy you have 4 or 5 really good books or films waiting for you.
Stories, hmmm… well, waaaaaaay too many for me to list, but maybe that’s a good problem to have as a burgeoning author. Okay, here’s one. Most of the time, my Marines and I had pretty good senses of humor. One week, after a particularly rough week where we had several very large IEDs and sustained injuries, we were all in the dumps. We only had a month to go in the deployment and getting hit that late in the deployment felt like a gut punch. A gut punch every second of the day. One of my radio operators knew I was overly intellectual about… well pretty much everything. He kind of razzed me. Every night he had a different topic. Like the earth being flat, that they had faked the moon landings or that dinosaurs never existed but were just a racket-of-ruses to keep museums open. By the way, I asked him how they made dino bones, and without skipping a beat, he said they were all cement or plaster casts. I was so flummoxed that there was actually someone who believed these things that late in the evenings – where I regularly sat awake inside a bowl of coffee and next to my radios – I spent my spare minutes using logic and science to try to convince him he was utterly and dead wrong.
I’m pretty sure he didn’t believe any of those things, but instead knew full well that it was a great way to get his CO’s mind off of the grind and terror we all experienced on a daily basis in Fallujah and Ramadi. At the end of deployment, I found a drawing among my papers of a dude in a dinosaur costume. I still have the drawing; it hangs in a frame in my office where I’ve set up my author’s nest. Enlisted men do a really good job of taking care of their officers. They know it’s a sucky, pain filled profession we were all in. But especially because it’s lonely at the top and misery loves company.
Ask me later to tell you about the time we found a working flame-thrower. Or when we captured a Makarov pistol engraved from Saddam himself to a very seasoned battlefield commander-turned insurgent we killed. I guess the list goes on…
2. With the pandemic still around, how / where can fans order an autographed copy?
Easy, just send me a DM on FB or Twitter. Fair warning: I am a little slow to respond. Mostly because I’m not very good with social media. But in any case, ship it to me and I’ll gladly sign it and send it back. P.O. Box 297, Great Falls, VA, 22066.
3. Who is your protagonist Tyce Asher? Is he a reflection of one of your Marines in the past?
Major Tyce Asher, is a U.S. Marine Corps infantryman. In the opener, we find him at the peak of his career. He has made several deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, but that’s when things go awry. He loses his leg to a grenade along with a fair amount of confidence in himself during the house-to-house fighting in Fallujah, Iraq. We pick him up again, years later after he’s recovered is now outfitted with a prosthetic leg where he is trying to remain on active duty. Unfortunately, he’s denied a chance to remain with USMC combat forces and is instead sent to go train reservists in West Virginia. He’s not thrilled with the prospect of getting a bench seat, especially when tensions flare with Iran and he realizes he’s missing another deployment. But he realizes his combat experience is still valuable to assist training West Virginia National Guardsmen.
I think almost all of my characters are a mix of people I have known. It hasn’t been hard for me to write composites when you’ve served with a bunch of crazy characters!
4. Like your novel Red Metal with Mark Greaney. You have strong female characters in Assault by Fire is this the future of modern warfare?
Hmmm, maybe the present and past too! I’m not a die-hard feminist, but I think pretty tough ladies make for very exciting reading for everyone. And yes, my punctuation in the previous sentence is intentional.
5. How did you come up with the plot for Assault By Fire?
During the Cold War, the Soviets did a tremendous amount of war planning. They believed that Europe would be relatively easy to roll up if the time and circumstances warranted. Not so with the U.S. We are literally oceans apart in terms of geography and composition of forces. Russia is very much of a land power and even in the Soviet days focused mostly on fighting large land battles in Europe and Asia. If America got involved, it was assumed there would be some sort of a nuclear exchange, but they also knew once they were entangled in Europe no one would fire strategic nukes, just tactical nukes. They hedged their bets. The U.S., by contrast is a regional and global hegemony. We keep sea lanes safe for our trade, which necessitates securing sea-lanes for peaceful, global trade. This “global peacekeeping” keeps us fat and happy. It also pisses Russia off to no end. But until recently, countering the U.S.’s global dominance was a pipe dream. But most folks don’t know this, Russia, to this day, has retained a HUGE stockpile of tactical nuclear arms. Wasn’t really something the U.S. worried about because of what I mentioned earlier, but we’re still oceans apart, right? Well, what if Russia decided that they could bring the tac-nukes to us.
So, the hypothesis for Assault by Fire is largely based on analysis and war games I did while in the Pentagon as a Strategic Planner. It goes like this: what’s stopping Russia now? The answer is simple and complex at the same time. The simple version: #1 U.S. strategic nukes, #2 the large U.S. standing military ready to defend America’s shores and #3 a shit ton of privately owned firearms in the hands of U.S. patriots.
So in the book, a Russian officer is tasked with figuring out “How do you remove those items from the playing field?” He arrives at an answer all too convenient for the Kremlin: #1 arrive on U.S. soil before we can use nukes, #2 wait until we deploy ready forces in another foreign war, #3 engineer social reasons for the U.S. to remove or restrict the Second Amendment. They’re pretty good at #3 already, if you’ve been following the recent news. The rest is just a game of political chess and waiting – Russia is very good at both.
6. Attacking America, especially in the capacity you did is bold. Do you think an attack like that is possible?
Yes. Unfortunately, it is. I saw directly into our Nation’s frailties when I was in the Pentagon, and its all pretty frightening stuff. Without breaking any classifications, I’ll leave it at this: when we deploy our forces overseas, we become very vulnerable at home.
7. Why the Russians?
Two reasons: #1 they now possess the forces and modernization to do it, and #2 they make such a classic enemy in literature! Don’t you agree? They are classic “black hat” wearin’ baddies. In truth, we – that is the U.S. – have a deep seated and earnest belief that we are utterly invulnerable to an outside invader. That reticence to even believe it is possible is an immense weakness, a blind spot that spans from military planning all the way to defense expenditures. This type of national sentiment was prominent at the height of Ancient Greece, the Persian Dynasties, the Roman Empire all the way to China and the invasion of Manchuria in WWII. The Pax Americana will only last as long as we don’t have enemies seeking to best us and until we fail to pay into the peace dividend with our standing and reserve militaries and support those of our allies.
8. What’s next for Tyce Asher?
In the next book, entitled The Kill Box, Tyce and his band of merry men and women are trying to get into some type of steady state operations. They want to keep doing hit-n-run tactics against Russia. Something Tyce got good at defending against in Iraq and Afghanistan. But now he finds himself on the side of the insurgent. The insurgent Americans who are both the smaller and the lesser armed force. All that crashes together in the beginning of the book. Any chance of just being the courageous Robin Hood that he kind of envisions in the first book gets tossed when a network of truckers brings him undeniable intel that the occupying Russians are up to something really dirty, some really nasty stuff. There are several surprise characters in book two also. One is introducred in the first chapter. A character I really hope fans will love to hate. On my test audience, consisting of my wife and a few Marine war buddies, they were all were so angry that they all tried to get me to assure them the character would be killed off by the end of book #2. You’ll have to read it to find out if I lived up to that promise… or not.
9. What is your writing schedule like and how is it writing solo compared to collaborating?
Solo is a daily mission. Though I have to say I’m collaborating for Red Metal 2 right now and enjoying starting a new volume of that series with Mark Greaney. My daily writing habits without the kids in school are not as regular as I’d like them to be. Though I always get this itch where a scene, plot twist, or some other juicy tidbit hits me at the most inappropriate of times. So sometimes at 0200hrs I bolt from bed and have to jot down some notes before I forget them. Or while driving I’ll pull out my phone and voice-to-text a message to myself. My kids think I’m insane, but all three of them are really creative too. They paint, draw, listen to hippie music and 80’s tunes and one writes her own works of fiction. Just before I did a radio interview last week, she asked me to tell the interviewer, Steffan Tubbs on 710 KNUS, to tell America (his audience I presume), that she was going to write some really powerful stuff and to just get ready for her.
10. What are you currently reading? What is on your TBR stack?
[Looks over bookshelf and tabs through Kindle] Uugh, I’m reading about ten books right now… Waaaaay too many at once, but I just get caught up in new story lines and can’t put them down. Let’s see, I’ll toss out a few: I just finished Bernard Cornwell’s Gallows Thief – love his characters and I re-read the first of the Sharpe’s to see what his first novel looked like; I’m reading David Foster Wallace Infinite Jest for a FaceBook book club; John Coast’s Railroad of Death I have been interested in Japanese death camp books ever since compiling my great uncle’s memoirs from the Bataan Death March; John le Carré’s Agent Running because, well, because it’s John! Andrews and Wilson Collateral who write remarkably fun action, The Whimsey Papers by Dorothy Sayers – research for something else I hope to write one day, King Ottokar’s Sceptre by Hergé (and Green Eggs and Ham, etc, you can probably guess why…), The Diary of Samuel Pepys – to see what another plague experience was like, The Fatherland Files by Volker Kutscher (I really enjoyed Babylon Berlin), Marc Cameron Triple Frontier, Trained to Hunt by Simon Gervais and Sword of Honor, because I enjoy reading other people’s wartime experiences especially with such a subtle author as Evelyn Waugh.
Ok, that’s more than 10. Guess I can’t count either…
ASSAULT BY FIRE Overview
In the rip-roaring tradition of Red Dawn and The Dirty Dozen, this action-packed thriller from Lt. Col. Hunter Ripley “Rip” Rawlings IV takes all-American patriotism to an explosive new level . . .
ASSAULT BY SEA
U.S. Marine Tyce Asher knew his fighting days were over when he lost his leg in Iraq. He thought he’d never see action again—certainly not on American soil—until the Russians attacked us by sea . . .
ASSAULT BY LAND
With so many troops stationed in the Middle East, the U.S. government is counting on Tyce and other reserve fighters to step up and defend their country—when Russian boots hit the ground . . .
ASSAULT BY FIRE
This is much more than a surprise attack. It is a full-fledged invasion orchestrated by a military mastermind hellbent on destruction. As the Russians move inland, killing and maiming, Tyce has to enlist every patriot he can find—seasoned vets, armchair warriors, backwoods buckshooters, even mountain moonshiners—to unleash their 2nd Amendment rights . . . on America’s #1 enemy.
REVIEW COMING SOON!!