Brad Thor, New York Times Bestselling author, joined the Guy Benson Show to discuss the release of his upcoming book Dead Fall and the inspiration that he took from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In addition to being a 20-times New York Times bestselling author, Brad is also a national political commentator who deeply intertwines real-world conflicts and technologies in each of his novels. Dead Fall releases everywhere on July 25th.
Listen to the full interview below:
Guy Benson: With us now is Brad Thor, New York Times bestselling author. And he’s back with his newest book, due out July 25th. It’s called Dead Fall, another Scott Horvath thriller. Brad Thor, welcome back to the show. Congrats on the book.
Brad Thor: Well, thanks, Guy. It’s great to be back with you.
Guy Benson: I read the whole book as it’s like an annual tradition now, and I’m always very grateful. I go up around the fourth to Cape Cod, spend some time on the beach. There was actually one year where I had an advance copy of one of your thrillers and one of your fans saw it and came running up to me on the beach. Like, where did you get that? Very jealous. It didn’t happen to me this time. Maybe people were just secretly thinking it. But I got the chance to read Dead Fall before the pub did, and it, of course, grips you from the jump. Brad, set the scene for Dead Fa;;.
Brad Thor: Okay. So a rogue Russian military unit has gone AWOL in Ukraine and they are committing horrific war crimes. And they make the mistake of targeting an American aid worker who happens to be in the eastern part of Ukraine. And that sets a whole chain of events in motion. And the United States can’t commit troops, but they can send one person over and deny they knew it. And they send my series protagonist Scott Horvath, over to see if this aid worker, this woman from Chicago who was targeted, if she’s still alive, if this rogue mercenary group is holding her and they want him to get her back in to wipe this unit out. So it’s fiction, it’s toes in the sand book in the hand kind of a thing, but it’s set within the current war in Ukraine.
Guy Benson: Oh, yeah. And I want to get to that in just a second. Just the, you know, ripped from the headlines faction, as you call it, fact and fiction colliding in your novels. And I’m big time in this case. But what as an author in your process you have to make a call because you put out a book basically every year? You have to make a call pretty early on. Okay, The setting of the novel is going to be here and the general outline is going to be this When and how do you decide, all right, this is going to be inside the war zone in Ukraine.
Brad Thor: Growing up, I loved thrillers about World War II, and I love World War II movies now. So I mean, I love where Eagles Dare. Great book, great movie with Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. I love Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan Fury with Brad Pitt, and I’ve always wanted to take my hero in, put him in kind of a World War two style scenario. But in current times and when the Wagner mercenary group that works for Putin started recruiting out of insane asylums and prisons, the worst prisons in Russia, I was reminded of this horrible Nazi SS battalion that went into Warsaw in August of ’44 to put down this uprising of the Polish home army right towards the end of the war. And I said, this is Francis Fukuyama, it’s history, doesn’t repeat, but it does rhyme. And I said, I’ve got to use this as the setting for Dead Fall, and that’s what I did.
Guy Benson: So now you flash forward months and months later. And you have to be pinching yourself, Brad, Because the whole concept, the whole main driving plot of this brand new novel coming out in just a few days, Dead Fall. It’s this rogue element of the Wagner group in Ukraine. And what has been splashed across international headlines for the last couple of weeks, the Wagner Group. I mean, it’s not like no one ever heard of them before. They were an element in the war and folks who were plugged in had heard of them and sort of understood what they did in their work around the world. But they did not have anywhere close to the household name recognition that they do now because of actual world events. And here is your novel coming out on the heels of that. That is that is almost spooky, Brad.
Brad Thor: Listen, it’s what is good luck is where preparation and hard work meet.. So, you know, listen, I bust my butt every year to create a great thriller. It’s just that kind of Puritan work ethic in me. I want to give readers the best that I’m capable of, and I don’t phone it in. I really work hard to try to beat the headlines. And I got to tell you, it was a nail biter. I was worried that something might happen as I was writing the book that I wouldn’t be able to catch up with. So I tried to create an evergreen story. I tell people and Guy, we’ve talked about this before. My novels are like the James Bond movies. If you’ve never seen a Bond movie, you can go out and see the latest one, right? If you’ve never read a Brad Thor Thriller, you can get Dead Fall and start right there. But the goal is to take a big geopolitical set piece that’s fascinating and then set a fictional thriller against it, but have it feel like it’s real to feel like you’re in the middle of this as you’re turning those pages. And so this is the first time I’ve ever done something kind of in real time, if you will, as events were unfolding on the world stage. So, again, nail biter. But I’m really happy with the way it turned out in the early reviews have just been fantastic.
Guy Benson: I mean, including from yours truly, we’ve been texting privately. I’m saying it here. I literally I start reading this book on the beach. A little over a week ago. And it’s about the Wagner Group, which we’ve been talking about literally days prior on this show. I was like looked up at the sky and like, how did he do this? This is crazy. The publisher has to be like “oh fantastic”, because you’re always looking for something, something of a hook, and you’re promoting a book and you’ve got a huge built in fan base to begin with. Every single one of your books is a bestseller. It’s only a question of, is it number one or, you know, top three or what have you. Here’s an actual news hook in addition to everything else is sort of that that built in base that you’ve earned and developed over many years. This is a hyper relevant thriller novel where sometimes, as usual, Brad, you and I talk about this, I have to stop and Google. Is this real? Did he just tell me something that’s real in history or present time, or is that artistic license? And sometimes those lines are blurred. Sometimes it’s tough to tell. And I’d imagine you would consider that one of your calling cards as an author.
Brad Thor: I would. And it’s an incredible compliment. Thank you. I love hearing from readers saying, you know, it’s not that I have to, but I enjoy reading your novels with Google Open so I can go in search things in the book because I read this and I go, Oh, Thor must have made that up. That can’t be real. And then they search it and they’re like, Oh, it is real. So that that’s part of the fun. I mean, my job, I’m in the entertainment business. I want you to have the toes in the sand, book in the hand, and just enjoy, just forget about the world for a while and just sweep your way and give you a great white knuckle thrill ride. But if you close one of my thrillers with some questions about things that are happening in the world, or you’re a little bit smarter about things, and that just kind of happened without you having to work at it, that’s the icing on the cake as far as I’m concerned.
Guy Benson: You also delved a bit into American politics in this book. There’s a plot line in DC where you’ve got the FBI. There’s conspiracy theories being floated around that involve Russia and other related things. You’ve got a disgraced former U.S. senator who’s perhaps I don’t want to spoil too much, but potentially under foreign influence. And he’s trying to meet with the Speaker of the House. So how closely do you try to mirror the current political moment? How much do you want to create a little bit of separation? What’s your mindset there?
Brad Thor: Well. So what’s interesting is your audience notwithstanding, because you guys talk about the Wagner group, but I think a lot of people don’t know that the head of the Wagner group also headed the the Internet Research Agency out of Saint Petersburg, which is their big troll farm. And they love seeding social media with conspiracies and all this kind of stuff. They love to try to impact American culture. And what I talk about is they try to inject poison into our cultural bloodstream. So to be able to pursue some of that was was fun. But I’ve been just the revolving door between politics and lobbyists in D.C. has always fascinated me and people that would come in idealistic into Congress to be, you know, to protect and defend the Constitution, only to come out the other side trying to cash in on that as much as they could. I thought, you know what? There’s some there’s some seedy characters. Every thriller novel needs a little seediness. And what better than a disgraced, you know, senator who says, you know what, I don’t care about the United States anymore. I’m going to cash in. I’m going to use every contact I have. I don’t care what happens to the country. I just want to fatten my bank. I’ll get money and I’m going to bail. Yeah, I’m going to get mine. And so I think he makes a despicable character and I hope that readers will be disliking him.
Guy Benson: He definitely does. I do want to ask a question, and it’s sort of a painful one. Some of the horrors that you describe clearly fictionalized that are perpetrated by this Wagner group offshoot splinter group in your novel. I mean, it’s just unspeakable. And I know there have been some horrific war crimes committed in real life over the last two years-ish by Russian troops, whether they’re paramilitary, official, military, you know, hired guns or what have you. As you wrote some of those scenes, or at least the aftermath of the fictional atrocities, how much reality is that? How much reality is reflected in that, Brad?
Brad Thor: It’s a lot of reality. This was the most intense thriller I’ve ever written, and that intensity comes from not only describing those scenes, but also researching real life war crimes committed in this conflict. And then going back, like I said, I modeled this splinter group from Wagner based on things that the Wagner mercenaries and Russian soldiers had done, but also this horrific, horrific Nazi SS brigade that was going in Warsaw, going to field hospitals and torching them with flamethrowers in. As the prisoners ran out, they would execute them or not. The prisoners, the soldiers, the wounded soldiers, the wounded Polish soldiers would try to escape. They’d be out there and they’d machine gun them right outside the tents. These guys, it just it’s. Truth is stranger than fiction oftentimes. But the difference between fiction and reality is people expect fiction to make sense. So there are monsters on the battlefield. And we have rules of engagement, rules of war. We have the Geneva Conventions, and the Russians are straight up not observing those. And so I wanted to keep these things as close to reality as possible. But as a thriller writer, I need to take a little bit of license to force the story in a direction I needed to go.
Guy Benson: But it’s just, you know, it’s evil and the real life stuff is evil and the fictionalized version is evil. And that’s part of this book. Dead Fall sort of builds up the moral outrage, the righteous outrage of the reader setting up sort of all those events that you mentioned, that chain of events hurtling toward the conclusion of this novel. Brad, I want to just pivot to the real world for a few minutes that we have left here as we think about the war in Ukraine and the president’s over at the NATO’s summit. And there have been a lot of conversations around Ukraine and of course, what the Russians are up to with all those developments involving the Wagner Group and Prigozhin and all of it. What do you make of that? I keep waiting for this guy to end up with a bullet in his head. But maybe that’s there’s more to this than meets the eye. Maybe Putin’s biding his time. When you look at what’s happened over the last couple of weeks, not in your book, although it’s sometimes tough to tell if you squint, but in real life, what’s going on over there?
Brad Thor: Well. So first of all, I think Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner group, when he marched on, when he marched on or had his men like sent about 5000 men up to march towards Moscow right around June 23rd, I think he thought he had his ducks a lot better in a row. I think he had in his mind many more people that were going to support him, particularly within Kremlin power circles, and push Putin out. We have not seen Prigozhin head of the Wagner Group again since June 24th. He has disappeared. We’ve had a lot of reports out of the Kremlin. It’s been very one sided. He’s not appeared on his Telegram channel…
Guy Benson: There was audio, right? There was some audio of him, at least allegedly.
Brad Thor: Allegedly. So we’ve only got Peskov, the spokesperson for the Kremlin, speaking about this guy. And he’s he’s vanished from sight. So he’s either in a prison or he’s room temperature somewhere. They’ve killed him. The fact that we haven’t seen him in weeks is a very Yeah, yeah, there’s it’s bad. And they went through his house in Saint Petersburg and tried to make him look like an idiot or, you know, all these disguises, and they released photographs of him. It’s just they are.
Guy Benson: So you’re… you believe that he is imprisoned or dead already?
Brad Thor: Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, you had the Belarus president say he’s not in Belarus, and that allegedly was the deal that if he fled to Belarus, Putin was going to let him go.
Guy Benson: Well, they said they had a meeting. I was like, what kind of meeting would that be? Why would you ever agree to that? Even if they told you everything was fine and assured you it was going to be fine, I would be highly skeptical. He doesn’t seem like a fool. He seems evil and awful and Machiavellian in a lot of ways, but not a fool. So perhaps you’ll be proven right again. Brad Thor. In the meantime, I think it will be yet again proven. A New York Times bestselling author with Dead Fall, a Scott Horvath thriller coming out July the 25th. I read it. I mean, I flew through a total page turner, as usual. Brad, great stuff. Congratulations. Best of luck. And we will talk to you in my friend.
Brad Thor: Thanks, Guy.