One of the myths non-writers have about characters an author uses to populate his or her novel with is that they think the author always makes himself or herself the protagonist.  In some cases that might be true, but in most cases it is not.  Another myth that friends and relatives of an author often have is that they think that one of your characters are themselves!  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I have found that most, if not all, of my characters are either totally made up, or are composites of several people I have known and/or seen sometimes even only briefly.

By composite characters I mean you might take a certain physical feature and/or personality trait from one person, and other trait from another and then maybe mix all of that with attributes from yet another, and so on.  All of that being said, yeah, there might be a little bit of me in some of my characters, but never all of me in just one character.  Rather, my traits, attitudes, and physical characteristics are chopped up and distributed among several of my characters--while mixing it all with traits from other people.


As an author you also want to avoid cliches.  Examples of bad cliches that we see too often in the movies and brand-name novels are that The bad guy rides the black horse, and the good guy rides the white horse.  Another is that the bad guy always has to be bald.  If there is a bald guy in the movie, you know he's always the bad guy.   Being bald myself, I have always resented that cliche.   That being said, in this novel I do have one bad guy who does happen to be bald.  But I provide good reasons for his baldness, and his badness.  I have also peopled my novel with other bad guys (and girls) who play a larger role than the bald guy does.


Which brings up another point.  Cliche characters are okay once in awhile when they are merely "wheel 'em on and wheel 'em off" characters.  In those cases using a cliche character can give the reader an instant impression/description saving the author the trouble of wasting tons of words on a character who appears for only a brief moment.


On the other hand, your major characters, and your major minor characters need a little more depth and/or uniqueness to them.  Thus, one or more of your main characters might have certain habits and/or interests that seem out of place in the 3rd decade of the 21st century where my thrillers take place.  But at  the same time, these characters also have to be believable and consistent with their role in the profession that the novel has them playing around in.   In that respect, when spies, intelligence agents, military, and special ops type people are conversing with each other there is a certain language that they use which be foreign to much of the general civilian population.


The conversations of these military and intelligence types might also from time to time be laced with an attitude that die hard liberals might perceive as being "conservative" and or "politically incorrect."  If anyone takes offense at that, it is unfortunate, but such talk by the characters themselves is necessary in order to be authentic, to remain true to the characters that they portray.

Now, as far as the specialized lingo used by some of the characters in this novel, such as the acronyms for various government and military institutions and practices:  I have included most of these in the books glossary which you can also find on this website.  The glossary also includes a number of Arabic terms that are used in the novel.

THE CHARACTERS (only the major characters and major minor characters in order of importance)

MATT NOLAN -- Matt is an employee of the McGowan Corporation which is a super secret front company of the CIA.  They take on jobs that the CIA either doesn't want to do itself such as the scanning and translating of open source news media to clean items of intelligence value, or to engage in activities that the CIA can't touch for legal and/or political reasons.

Matt was raised in Battle Creek, Michigan by a blue collar, middle class family.  His father, who once had dreams of being a trumpet player in the big bands of the 1950s, ended up working at the Kellogg's facility in Battle Creek.  Matt thus grew up with a love of the big bands of yesteryear, and a fascination for the iconoclastic automobiles of that era.  However, in college he majored in Semitic Languages, particularly Arabic and Akkadian, because he also had a fascination with the Middle East, both ancient and modern. 

After doing a tour in Iraq, Matt returned to the University of Michigan for his MA degree.  His expertise in Arabic led to his recruitment by the NSA.  Once "in the system," he then transferred to the McGowan Corporation via the CIA because he wanted a little more "action and adventure" that offered by the NSA.  Part of this motivation was spurred by the death of his first wife
Susan Black.  She was pregnant with their first child when she was killed in an auto accident in Tunisia.  Matt had always believed that the "accident" was a terrorist hit job because the vehicle she was driving had DIP plates identifying her as an employee of the U.S. embassy in Tunis.  Thus Matt wanted to spend the rest of his life in a job that would allow him to hunt down terrorists and eliminate them.

At the time of this novel, Matt is in his mid-thirties.  In physical appearance, he is 5'10" 170 lbs.  Has green eyes and brown hair he keeps in a 1950s military style crew cut.  Matt is very athletic and possess the gymnastics ability of a teenager.  He also has enough firearms and martial arts expertise to serve him well in his chosen profession.  But not as much firearms and martial arts expertise as possessed by his new girl friend:

INGRID WOLFHAUSER -- Ingrid is a colleague of Matt's in the McGowan Corporation.  She is the grand daughter of immigrants from the former East Germany.  She thus grew up fluent in both German and the Russian spoken by her grand parents on both sides, and to a lesser extent by her parents as well.  Growing up in Pennsylvania, she went to Penn State where she obtain a double major in German and Russian before signing on with the CIA.
In her college days she won an Olympic medal in sharpshooting, and after joining the CIA she won numerous sharpshooting awards in the FBI, Intelligence, law enforcement, and special ops circles.  For good measure she also possess a 4th degree black belt in Taekwondo.  She's blonde, 5'10" and has a killer body.  But with all those attributes she'd not had much success with men before Matt came along.  Most men were either intimidated by her, or saw her as a conquests.  Matt saw her as a person, and as an equal, though she was several years younger than he, being in her late twenties at the time of this story. 

Her only weakness, if she has any, is a fondness for pizza and beer--neither of which hurts her due to her highly active life-style.   A life-style and diet indulgence she comes to enjoy with a new found friend in this novel:

ANN SHARYLSON = Works as an investigative reporter for the National Internet News (NIN).  Early in her career, when workingfor Central Broadcasting System, she did an expose of the Benghazi scandal which won her an Emmy for investigative reporting, but was reprimanded for it by the big shots of her company, and then fired when her reporting almost brought down a presidency.  She then accepted a job working for the National Internet News which specialized in publishing the stories that the MainStreme Press tried to avoid.

Both of her parents had been killed in an auto accident when she was five.  Her uncle Bob raised her.  Uncle Bob was a bachelor, but had lots of girl friends, which influences Ann's "wild child" lifestyle. 

Ann went to College at Ohio State, played volleyball where she became friends with future member of Congress Beth Michelin.  After college, Ann joined the Air Force and actually flew a few combat missions in Afghanistan.  She holds a 4th degree black belt in Taekwondo.

One of her main regrets in life is to not have been able to complete her investigative reporting on Benghazi.  Her main goal, therefore, in this book, her driving force, is to not let anything get in the way of her pursuing the Aleppo scandal to its logical conclusion.

BRUCE LISKIN = Grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Played some tight end for the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricanes.  After college he joined the Army who sent him to the DOD language school in Monterry, California to learn Arabic.  He met Matt Nolan while serving in Iraq.  They had both saved each other's butts a number of times and became close friends.  When his tour in Iraq was over the army sent him to NSA where Matt Nolan was then working as a civilian.  Their friendship deepened, and when Bruce's military commitment was completed, he followed Matt to the McGowan Corporation in Reston, Virginia. 

Bruce was six feet three, and like Matt, very athletic, but more in the weight room than in a gymnastics sense.  He has a mop of hair the color of a Capybara, and his married to a woman named Sarah.  They have two small children.  

JOHN STURGEON = The Director of the McGowan Corporation.  He grew up in one of Atlanta's all-black neighborhoods.  He Went to college at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Georgia where he used his 6' 5" height to earn a scholarship playing  Defensive End for the Eagles.  After college he joined the army, served three tours in Iraq.  After 20 years in the army, he retired and signed on with the CIA, rose through the ranks and was then sent to Reston to run the McGowan Corporation.  John has two daughters in college.

TIMOTHY J. MARKMAN = President of the United States.  As the former Speaker of the House, he was yanked into the presidency when both his predecessor and the vice president were impeached, removed from office, and placed in prison.  Because he had assumed the presidency without being elected to the office, Markman fears that he isn't liked and respected enough by the voting public.  He feels the need, almost desperately, to perform some miraculous deed that could win the popular approval of the masses.  It is in this context that he agrees to a scheme to have the U.S. ambassador to Syria kidnapped by a group loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood, after which he would negotiate for the ambassador's release.  This scheme was also connected with a larger plot to recreate the Islamic Caliphate of the Ottoman Turks with Turkey's ruling party closely allied to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

Markman and his supporters believed that this new world power would then be able to defuse the regions rising Islamic radicalism and keep the Russian Bear caged.  If Markman can pull this off, his poll numbers would skyrocket.  All he has to do is to trade the "Blind Shaykh" for the kidnapped U.S. Ambassador.

SHIRLEY C. REMINGTON = Markman's Secretary of State.  Remington is a bitter political rival of Markman, and has her own eyes on the presidency.  But she knows that if Markman's administration fails, then her chances of being elected next time around would also be nil.  Thus, she convinces him to pursue the plot to have the "Blind Shaykh" traded for a kidnapped U.S. Ambassador.

She is married to a popular governor from Missouri who runs an international "charity" organization, from which he and his wife can funnel funds for their personal and/or political use.

HODA ABD AL-ISLAM = She is Shirley C. Remington's chief of staff and bed partner.  Her mother heads the female division of Egypt 's Muslim Brotherhood.  Her late fat her was a key figure in the Brotherhood's Shura council (or parliament).  Hoda was active in the Muslim Students Association (an arm of the Brotherhood) during her years at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
The brotherhood then commanded her to practice "taqiya" (meaning to act in the most un-Islamic way possible).  Thus, she acted in a few soft-core porn flicks, married a Jew, became active in the Lesbian underground.  With her "secular credentials" thus firmly established, she attached herself to one of the brightest rising stars of the American Political arena:  Shirley C. Remington.

Her goal is to insert herself into the highest reaches of the American power structure so as to influence policies in such a way as to benefit the MB in the U.S., and throughout  the Middle East.

GARRISON (GARY) VAILE = President Markman's chief of staff.  He also serves as Markman's chief of staff for political campaigns.  The media has nicknamed him "Markman's hitman," because he specializes in digging up muck on Markman's political opponents.  A bachelor, he lives alone in a single family home in McLean, Virginia.

BILL KERSON = Cigar smoking CIA chief of Station (COS) at Damascus.  He once dated Susan Black, who became Matt Nolan's first wife.  Kerson never got over his crushing disappointment, and heartbreak, from losing the love of his life to Matt Nolan. This life-long grudge builds into an uncontrollable feeling of hate and resentment once he sees Matt face-to-face in Syria.

STEVE CHRISTENSON = U.S. ambassador to Syria.  He is a career diplomat who rose up through the ranks to become one of the few true diplomats in the American system to become an ambassador.