Brad Thor is not averse to taking risks. He did so with his thriller THE LAST PATRIOT, about a Homeland Security operative named Scot Harvath, who goes on the hunt for a secret final revelation made by the Prophet Mohammed just before his assassination. Then he appeared on Glenn Beck. Is he still a target today himself, as a former Homeland Security operative?
TOWER REVIEW: Your Last Patriot novel was part covert ops political thriller and part DaVinci Code mystery. How did it click for you to combine the two?
BRAD THOR: My thrillers have always centered around covert/black ops and the domestic political landscape. They are subjects I love to write about. Through my writing, I have gotten to know lots of the players in these two arenas. The more time I spend shadowing them and seeing what their lives are like, the more I fall in love with this subject matter and the more I want to write about it.
Q: Do you have any fears of becoming the next exiled Salman Rushdie for postulating such a volatile story line?
A: What a lot of people don’t know about me is that I have spent the last 20 years of my life learning about Islam. It is a fascinating subject, especially in how it promotes violence. What’s also fascinating is that whenever early copies of the Quran are discovered in Muslim nations, they are quickly secreted away. Researchers who have attempted to study them have wound up dying in very mysterious accidents. Now I have come out with a thriller that suggests the Quran is missing a very key text and I am being threatened with death. My book is fiction, but it is based on a handful of fascinating facts and the death threats only seem to support my theory that Islam is hiding a very big secret. Am I afraid of becoming the next Salman Rushdie? Honestly, I don’t relish the idea. Rushdie at one point had a $5 million bounty on his head and supposedly hundreds of Muslim assassins had traveled to London to kill him. Will I change what I have written or somehow recant and beg forgiveness for what is contained within The Last Patriot? Absolutely not. In fact, I find the hypocrisy here fascinating: Islam is a religion of peace and if you say that it isn’t, we’ll kill you.
Q: What kind of research was involved in writing The Last Patriot?
A: The idea for this novel was born in part from an Atlantic Monthly cover article by Toby Lester entitled What is the Koran? I had discovered the piece, several years after its January 1999 publication, while doing research on another novel and had tucked it away for future use. Then I came across an article written by Gerard W. Gawalt, formerly of the Library of Congress, entitled America and the Barbary Pirates: An International Battle Against an Unconventional Foe. I started wondering if there was a way I could combine the historical relevance of the Quran and Thomas Jefferson’s experience with the Barbary pirates to create a thriller that would be relevant today.
Q: Jefferson and Islam. There’s a connection?
A: Yes. Thomas Jefferson was the first American president to go to war against radical Islam. The problems Jefferson and America faced over two hundred years ago are incredibly similar to what we as a nation face today and there is much to be learned from them.
Q: I wrote a short story whose fictional premise was that someone in the Bush administration suggested bombing Mecca. An absurd and wild idea for a story, I thought. Then I learned that someone actually had suggested it. Have you had any surprises in your research that affected plotting?
A: I have surprises like this happen to me all the time. There are certain suggestions and possibilities that just make sense. The key is in beating other writers to it. As I wrapped up the first draft of my manuscript, I received a call from my editor. She had just read a story in The Wall Street Journal about a mysterious archive of ancient Quranic texts in Germany that was believed to have been destroyed in 1944. It contained 450 rolls of films that supposedly chronicled the evolution of the Quran, the Muslim holy book which all Muslims believe was revealed complete, perfect, and inviolate to Islam’s founder Mohammed in the 7th century. The archive, and its subsequent study, had only been handled by three men. The first died in a strange climbing accident in 1933. The second died in a mysterious plane crash in 1941. The third man, wanting to be rid of the entire collection, pretended it had been destroyed and never spoke of it for over sixty years. He died recently at age 93. It seems there is much here worth investigating, and for which men are still willing, even in the case of The Last Patriot, to kill to keep secret.
(Thor’s latest books are Full Black and Black List.)