Carr returns with another page-turning thriller in ‘Savage Son’
A Times Book Review Jack Carr knew knew from an early age that he wanted to do two things in life – become a writer and to be a Navy SEAL.
Carr said a strong love of country and a desire to serve in the military were hard wired into his DNA.
His grandfather was killed in World War II and he grew up admiring his medals and the the old black and white pictures of his squadron.
As a child of the ‘80s, Carr grew up seeing Walter Cronkite on the nightly news talking about how many days the American hostages had been held in Iran, reading stories about the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 and the Achille Lauro by terrorists, and going to movies like “Rambo: First Blood Part II” and “Indiana Jones” in the theaters that made him want to join the military.
“I’m seeing all those things and it was very impactful to a young kid,” Carr said.
“I knew that was going to be my war in uniform. And as soon as I found out what the SEALs were, I knew that was my calling.”
Carr spent 20 years in Naval Special Warfare Warfare Command before making the transition to his other calling as a writer with his debut novel “The Terminal List” in 2017.
The novel introduced readers to former Navy SEAL James Reece, a character with a background not unlike his own. Carr followed that with “True Believer” in 2019 and is back with another New York Times bestselling thriller, “Savage Son,” his third in the series. And like the previous two books, Carr delivers more page turning action that fans will find hard to put down.
In “Savage Son,” Reece is recovering from brain surgery in the Montana wilderness slowly putting his life back together with the help of investigative journalist Katie Buranek and his longtime friend and SEAL teammate Raife Hastings. Unbeknownst to Reece, a traitorous CIA officer who has taken refuge with the Russian mafia has sent a hit squad to take him out.
Meanwhile, half a world away deep in the wilds of the Russian Far East, a high ranking Russian mobster’s son is hunting human prey and lures Reece into a deadly game of cat and mouse.
If the plot sounds a bit familiar, that’s because “Savage Son” is Carr’s homage to Richard Connell’s famous 1924 short story “The Most Dangerous Game,” which he read in sixth grade and really made an impact on him.
“It was just so different from what we had been studying,” Carr said. “This one had humans hunting each other. I decided back then that one day I would write a thriller that paid tribute to “The Most Dangerous Game” and explore those themes.”
Carr said when he first started writing he wrote down six or seven story ideas and actually wanted the story in “Savage Son” to be his first novel. He knew though that the character of James Reece wasn’t developed enough to where he thought he could explore the theme of the dark side of man through hunter and hunted.
“I had to start with “The Terminal List” because I knew coming out of the gate that the theme of revenge was a good one to start with,” Carr said.
“Growing up, I loved books and movies with that theme and other people do too. That’s why authors and filmmakers keep going back to it because it is so visceral and the things you can do with it. The second one was a story of violent redemption where the hero continues on his journey.
And this third one, I finally knew that I could explore that theme in “The Most Dangerous Game.”
Carr grew up with a love of reading, particularly the action packed thrillers and spy novels that his parents read. In the mid-80s before the Internet, there wasn’t much information available about the SEALs. What little he could find, came from the novels that were on the shelves of his parent’s bookcase.
“Fifth grade was the time I remember making the transition from young adult type fiction to books like Tom Clancy’s “The Hunt for Red October,” Carr said. “Then I discovered David Morrell, who created Rambo, and his book “Brotherhood of the Rose,” where he took aspects of US spy fiction and melded them into a genre.”
Carr said he was inspired by the storytelling of authors like A.J.
Quinnell’s, JC Pollack, and Nelson DeMille’s. At the same time he was reading those classic thrillers, Carr was also studying the art of warfare. He’s been able to draw on his own real life combat experience as a Navy SEAL sniper and junior officer leading assault teams in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a platoon leader practicing counterinsurgency in the southern Philippines, in the pages of his own books.
“I took that study of war, plus the fictions I grew up reading and still read today, and applied the feelings and emotions behind certain things I was involved in with Iraq and Afghanistan in a practical application,” Carr said. “I am able to bring all that together in the pages of my thrillers.”
Being a thriller writer, Carr pays particular attention to detail – everything from the weapons used, to the locations where the action takes place. For “Savage Son,” Carr visited Kamchatka in the Russian Far East where much of the action is set.
Continued on Page 14 JACK CARR (cont.)
“I do as much research as I can on the ground,” Carr said. “I went to Mozambique for my second one, and I had been to Morocco and to Odessa and the catacombs under Odessa. And in the first book, I’d been to Iraq and Afghanistan, and I’ve lived in San Diego and knew L.A. and New York. But for this third one, I had never been to Kamchatka, which is just south of Siberia. It was very different from Mozambique. In Mozambique, everybody wanted to tell me the story of their country. They would talk about the politics and the different religions. When I got to Kamchatka, it was very hard to get people to talk and open up in Russia, especially when you are asking questions for a political thriller.”
Carr said while much of the action in thrillers is admittedly over-the-top, he said there are men out there like James Reece doing this kind of clandestine work around the world for our government.
“This is complete fiction,” Carr said. “But there are people out there with those skill sets who acquired them in the military, usually in special operations, and then at some point, maybe after they retire or are in the middle of their time in uniform, they switch over to the CIA.
They do missions that aren’t quite military, it’s more on the paramilitary side.”
Carr is already well along writing the fourth installment, which will be set in the United State and deal with the ethics, morality and legality of targeted assassinations.
“I always want at the end of every chapter for the reader to have to keep turning the pages and keep them up all night long reading the book because they can’t put it down,” Carr said. “It’s the same with the end of the last chapter. You have to want them wanting that next book. So I will be delving into those subjects.”
Carr has made a limited number of specially autographed book plates available with the purchase of the book at Novel bookstore