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Book Review and Author Interview - "Back Blast: A Gray Man Novel" by Mark Greaney

The following book review and interview is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper.  You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category on the right side bar.

9780425282793_p0_v4_s192x300Back Blast by Mark Greaney brings back the Gray Man, a former paramilitary officer with an agenda.  Anyone looking for characters and plotlines in the fashion of Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp series should read this book.  It discusses intelligence organizational politics, technology possibilities, and has a main character whose job it is to assassinate bad guys.  The plot is spellbinding and riveting with non-stop action.

The Gray Man, Court Gentry, has been away from the US for five years.  He has returned to find out why his former agency, the CIA, has turned on him, putting a “kill on sight order.”  Realizing he can trust no one he must stay one step ahead of those targeting him.  As bodies pile up Court is blamed for all the deaths, even those he is not responsible for; yet, the Gray Man has the ability to outthink and outgun those hunting for him. 

The characters are captivating.  Court Gentry morally does not wear the black or white hat.  But readers root for him, knowing that all his missions were necessary to keep Americans safe.  This book gives insight into the personality of Court.  Layers of his past are revealed, which allows the readers to understand this very complex character. Over the years he has matured and has become wiser, less trusting, and more fatalistic.  At times he is the hunter searching for his prey, but soon he becomes the hunted.  What makes this character so fascinating is his ability to take the offense when he should be on the run.

Contrast that with Denney Carmichael, the Director of the National Clandestine Service.  His attitude learned, from his Vietnam days, is kill or be killed.  Wanting to climb the ladder in the Agency, his ambitions dictated his desire to eliminate anything construed as negative, including Court.  By creating this elaborate frame up of the Gray Man Carmichael is able to deflect criticism off of himself, and protect what he construes as national security.

An interesting character brought in to make the story more realistic is the reporter Catherine King.  Readers will be reminded of Sharyl Attkisson.  Someone who searches for the truth while uncovering a story, that has no agenda other than finding the facts and the reasons behind why events unfold.  These days there are not many reporters whom people can respect, but King fits into that mold.

Back Blast is one of those books where readers will not want to put it down.  Many of the details are very realistic and the thrilling action will keep people glued to the pages.  Anyone interested in an espionage spy novel should read this book.

Q/A with author below for

Elise Cooper:  How did the Gray Man series come about?

Mark Greaney:  I submitted the plot to my agent who told me that the sub-plot should be what the book is about.  He said it is much more interesting to have the hunter being chased.  This cat and mouse chase turned into the Gray Man series. My agent also helped me with the name of the series, changing it from the Goon Squad to this series title.  The Gray Man name came out of the Special Ops community, which is how they refer to maintaining a low profile.

EC:  Did you base Denny Carmichael on anyone?

MG:  I do hope readers’ dislike this character. It is less about the real world and more about the world the writer created.  But readers can think of people like J. Edgar Hoover. Carmichael thought of himself as a good guy.  He felt Court’s life was a small price to pay to get information that would help the US, that the end justifies the means.  He saw it as a win-win. 

EC:  Why the reporter Catherine King?

MG:  She was based on some real national security reporters.  What the Gray Man had done all over the world is now happening in Washington DC. I thought it would be interesting to have reporters trying to figure out what is going on and how the press would deal with it.  I think Catherine has a lot of integrity.  My father was in TV news, head of the NBC affiliate in Tennessee.  Because of his experience I felt a deep understanding of the media since I have been around it.

EC:  What about the firearms scenes?

MG:  I do own a lot of weapons the characters use in my books. In researching this book I did a lot of firearms training with the leading arms instructor for naval special warfare.  I also trained with a bunch of SWAT guys who had me be a part of the opposition force.  The SWAT team came into a dark house with their flashlights to shoot me with paint balls. I was sore for weeks. Friends of mine are tactical officers whose brains I picked for a free breakfast. 

EC:  What about the drone used to help Court in one of his escapes?

MG:  It is based on Robert Fulton’s Skyhook that the CIA came up with in the 1950s, used to rescue people from behind enemy lines.  This is a modern version I created. The technology is a million times better today so who knows if there could be something like this, but I do not think I would get a patent recognition.

EC:  Can you give a heads up about your next books?

MG:  I will be writing another Clancy book out in December and then another Gray Man will be out next February.  The setting for that book will be Southeast Asia.  I think this next Court book will be less of a spy novel and more of a big action piece.  I want to bring in some new characters. In future books all the previous characters like Catherine will come and go as the plot dictates.