Mount Pleasant resident and New York Times best-selling author Brad Taylor is out with his latest Pike Logan novel: "The Polaris Protocol" (Dutton, $26.95). Taylor talks about the new book, GPS, Mexican drug cartels and terrorism.
The Polaris Protocol
The Polaris Protocol
By Brad Taylor
Q: Where did the idea for "The Polaris Protocol" come from?
A: I was doing research for a security contract I was working on and originally it was just going to be a simple human interest story, a rescue of Jennifer's (Cahill) brother from the Mexican drug cartels. I used the drug cartels because I'd done some research and seen reports and was just shocked at the level of violence going on down in Mexico with the drug cartels. ... But then I had to figure out a way to get the Taskforce involved and kind of came up with the drones and eventually that led me to the GPS constellations.
Q: Do you think the general public realizes how much the GPS constellation is involved in their everyday lives?
A: I don't. As a matter of fact, I was floored by it. I've been involved in precision-based munitions, which relies on GPS when I was in the military, but this has gone way beyond that. It seems like GPS is everywhere in our lives. Anything that relies on clocks and timing has GPS. FedEx, the Dow Jones, when you talk on your cell phone or use your debit card. You can't do that without GPS. Traffic lights run on GPS. That timing signal is everywhere and if something ever happens to the GPS constellation, we'd be in big trouble.
Q: So your book shifted from a simple kidnapping to something far more sinister?
A: Yes. What was just your average cartel kidnapping and rescue, if there is such a thing, now is a national threat because of the GPS. The book evolved during the planning process and that does happen.
Q: One of the characters in "The Polaris Protocol" sells or reveals national security documents much like Edward Snowden.
A: I came up with that idea about a week or two before the story broke on Snowden. I know people are going to think I based that character on Snowden but I didn't. They both have similar beliefs in freedom of information and all that, but I had already thought this guy up.
Q: That seems to be a hazard of your writing. You want it to be cutting edge and then in the middle of a book, you have to change course because of something that has happened in the news.
A: It's happened in just about every book I've written. It happened when I went to Mexico for this book. It happened when I was going to Syria and was writing "Enemy of Mine." It seems every country I visit starts to fall apart when I get there and I have to rewrite a bunch of stuff.
Q: Do the drug cartels really pose a threat to the United States?
A: They really do. The one cartel, the Los Zetas, are former special forces guys from the Mexican army that we trained. They started out working against the Gulf Cartel, but then realized it was more profitable to go into the drug business.
At first, Los Zetas worked as the enforcers for the Gulf Cartel. They were horrifically violent. Then they realized that they could go into business for themselves. Remember we've trained these guys, they are very, very advanced. Mexico has a very corrupt government, but we're not immune to corruption. We like to think we are not, but when there's that much money involved, there's going to be corruption.
Q: Why doesn't the U.S. do anything about it?
A: I think eventually we'll have to. The cartels are already in the cities in the United States. That's an insidious force that will break the fabric of our society. The drug cartels are in Denver, in Chicago, in Dallas, in Los Angeles and always looking to expand. They're using the local gangs to do it. It's almost a terrorist state in and of itself.
Q: And the news media, in general, ignores it?
A: The acts of violence down in Mexico don't make the news in the United States. People want us to invade Syria because people are dying in the civil war. There was a story on Mother's Day in 2012 where four people were killed in car bombing in Syria. Obviously, that's terrible. But the same day down in Mexico, they found a bus load of 70 people who had been massacred, but they couldn't identify them because they'd cut off their heads, feet and hands. That doesn't make the news and it's right across the border.
Q: You think there is a connection between the cartels and some Middle-East terrorists?
A: No question. They both have similar goals and one of them is to get bad things into the United States. Who better than the drug cartels to do that. They're the experts. They've been smuggling in drugs, people, weapons, you name it, into the United States for years. They've used submarines, tunnels, ships, planes, automobiles. They've got the infrastructure in place. So there's a definitely a nexus there. ... While there are a lot of similarities between Al Qaida and the cartels, there's a distinct difference: The cartels are in business to make money. If they go around killing Americans, they view that as one less customer, while Al Qaida wants to kill Americans because they view us as the enemy.
Q: Speaking of terrorists, there's one character in "The Polaris Protocol," the Ghost, who is almost a sympathetic character helping out Pike and the Taskforce.
A: I think people don't understand the dynamic of terrorism. You've got so many factions with so many agendas and goals. The Ghost isn't a member of Al Qaida or Hezbollah. He's a Palestinian nationalist, and while he hates America and Israel, he doesn't care about a Caliphate. He's Muslim, but he's a Palestinian nationalist. I wanted to show the difference between those different factors. When I wrote about him in "Enemy of Mine," I started to like him and didn't want to kill him.
Q: The Ghost is kept in a prison called the Cloud? Where did the concept of The Cloud come from?
A: The Cloud is obviously fake, it doesn't exist. I have to tell readers that all the time. I try to do things as realistically as I can think of. But at the end of the day, Pike is running around doing things that are against the Constitution. So I had to think of a place where we'd keep an illegally caught guy like The Ghost. You can't put him in a place like Gitmo. So I came up with a place like The Cloud, which is basically a bunch of local jails that hold onto guys like the Ghost.
Q: What's next for Pike?
A: The next book is called "Days of Rage." It'll come out this summer, hopefully in July. I've been wanting to weave an historical tale. I read a story about Russia and the FSB, the former KGB. Russia has really turned back into the old USSR under (President Valdimir) Putin.
In the Cold War days, the Soviets had these elite units whose sole mission was to go into another country and look, talk and act like the people in those countries. When the war broke out, they'd go around killing important people in that country. It's a lot like the Taskforce. Then there's the Wrath of God operation that the Israeli's did after the massacre at the Olympics. So, you've got three factions kind of going after each other over the Boko Haram, which is an awful terrorist group in Nigeria. Russia is trying to get us involved in Nigeria and drain our resources. That's the plot in a nutshell.