Suspense/political thriller author, Joel C. Rosenberg, is a New York Times bestselling author of 15 novels and 4 non-fiction books with 5 million copies in print. He is also the founder and Editor-in-Chief of two news and analysis websites, www.allisrael.com and allarab.news. His last novel, The Jerusalem Assassin, hit the Publishers Weekly bestseller list at #6. Joel and his wife, Lynn, are dual U.S.-Israeli citizens and live in Jerusalem. Two of their four sons have served in the Israeli Defense Forces. In this interview, Joel discusses his latest book in the Marcus Ryker Series, The Beirut Protocol.
FF: What inspired the story in your new book, The Beirut Protocol?
In 2014, my wife and sons and I left the Washington, D.C. area and moved to Israel. We now live in Jerusalem. It’s a challenging life, but it’s ideal if you’re writing international geopolitical thrillers. Israel, after all, is a target rich environment. We have a lot of people and groups and nations that want not only to attack us but wipe us off the map. So, there’s a lot of worst-case scenarios to write about.
For The Beirut Protocol, I knew that I wanted to write about Lebanon, since it’s not a country that I’ve ever written about in any detail before. It’s also a country that hasn’t been in the news for many years. But I believe Lebanon is the most likely theater for the next Arab-Israeli war and so I wanted to explore the reasons why that’s the case.
What’s more, I knew that I wanted to write a story in which my main character was captured and pulled deep behind enemy lines. I’d never written a novel like that before, but I thought it would be intriguing for readers and a major challenge for me as an author. In the first chapters of The Beirut Protocol, therefore, Marcus Ryker–a Marine combat veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq and a decorated former U.S. Secret Service Agent–and his team are ambushed by a Hezbollah terrorist cell on the Israel-Lebanon border and taken captive.
It’s a terrifying prospect actually. I’d really worked hard in the previous three novels in this series on establishing who Ryker is, what his training and values and skill sets are, and why he’s now working for the Central Intelligence Agency. But I got intrigued with the question of how Ryker might handle himself if he was taken hostage. I’d already set him up as of the most effective clandestine operators in the Agency. But what if all of his strengths and skills were neutralized? What if his team was also captured? Then what? What would he do? And from where would he summon the strength not to give up but find a way to fight–maybe even to escape?
As The Beirut Protocol unfolds, I get to tell a very personal and intimate and close-quarters story of Ryker and his colleagues as they face interrogation and torture. They have no idea where they area, and no idea how to get free. Ryker is suddenly facing the horrifying prospect of certain death at the hands of a bloodthirsty enemy. The only good news is that his captors don’t seem to know who he is, or that the Iranian regime has put a $50 million bounty on his head.
At the same time, I get to zoom out and tell the big picture story. How would the Israeli military respond to a hostage taking on the Lebanon border? How would Hezbollah’s senior leadership respond? Would such an incident trigger the Third Lebanon War? How the White House would react? And what would the CIA do to get Ryker and his team back safely? And just for good measure, a throw in a few curve balls to keep even further off balance.
Two of our four sons have served in the Israeli Defense Forces. One served for a short time on the Lebanon border. The other served in a special forces unit in the West Bank. What’s more, we have a lot of Israeli friends who have served in similar units. I’ve also gotten to know current and former high-ranking US and IDF officers, high-ranking intelligence officials, even the current Israeli Minister of Defense. So, that gave me access to a lot of research that I could use to write this book.
FF: What can you tell us about the main characters?
Marcus Ryker is a killer. The Iranians hate him with a vengeance and want to take him out. So do the Russians and the North Koreans. Because Marcus keeps messing with their malign plans for the world.
But despite the fact that he’s 6’2’’ and about 175 pounds, you might not even notice him at a cocktail party. He makes it a point not to stick out in the crowd. That’s not just his personality. It’s his training. He’s a clandestine officer working for the Central Intelligence Agency. That said, his cover is that is a Special Agent for the Diplomatic Security Service, the branch of the State Department that protects American and foreign diplomats and dignitaries. Before all this Marcus was a former agent with the US Secret Service, and served with distinction on the Presidential Protective Detail. And before all that, he served multiple combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq with the U.S. Marines.
Marcus does not see himself as a hero. And he’s highly uncomfortable getting any attention–much less kudos–at all. He doesn’t want praise. He doesn’t want attention. He prefers to work in the shadows, protecting his nation’s leaders, secrets and freedoms.
That said, Marcus is battling a great deal of pain and loss. His wife and son were murdered in one the earlier books in this series. I won’t give away how it happened. But this haunts Marcus. He has spent his entire professional life protecting his nation and its leaders, but he hasn’t been able to protect the two people in this world that he loved the most.
FF: What can you tell us about your next book?
I’m working on two projects right now–the next thriller in the Marcus Ryker Series that will release in March 2022, as well as a non-fiction book that will release in September of this year, to mark the 20th anniversary of the al Qaeda terror attacks on America on September 11th, 2001. That one is called Enemies & Allies: An Unforgettable Journey Inside The Fast Moving and Immensely Turbulent Modern Middle East. It’s full of exclusive interviews I’ve done over the last few years with the President and Vice President of the United States, the Secretary of State, two directors of the CIA, the President of Israel, and kings and crown princes, presidents and prime ministers throughout the Sunni Arab world. I look at how we’ve dealt with past threats in the Middle East like al Qaeda and ISIS, and what new and even more serious threats are coming up over the horizon. And even more interestingly, at least to me, I take readers inside motorcades and palaces and my personal conversations with some of the most interesting and controversial and consequential leaders in this region. Attitudes are really shifting in this part of the world. Sweeping, tectonic changes are underway. But most Americans aren’t aware of just how huge the changes are, or how such change will affect their lives. It’s been a fascinating project. I’m just finishing up the editing process now. I love writing novels, but it’s been exciting to work on a non-fiction book given all the drama underway in Jerusalem and Riyadh and Abu Dhabi and Cairo and Tehran.
FF: What do you want readers to take away after reading The Beirut Protocol?
That a major war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon is a very real and dangerous and growing prospect–what I write about in The Beirut Protocol could really come true, and soon.
One of the things that inspired the story was an event in 2006 in which a Hezbollah unit attacked an IDF patrol on the border. Several Israeli soldiers were killed. Several more were captured. And the Second Lebanon War erupted. In 34 days, Hezbollah fired 4,000 missiles at Israel.
But today, senior Israeli officials tell me the Third Lebanon War could lead to Hezbollah firing 4,000 missiles a day–or more–at Israel. That’s a grim prospect. But it makes, I think, for a fascinating political thriller.
FF: What are the biggest challenges for you as an author writing in your specific genre?
The biggest challenge I face is trying to make up a story that is completely not true yet will compel people to spend money and time they don’t have to buy it and read and keep coming back for more. That is extremely difficult for any bestselling novelist, and in that sense I’m no different.
But I have an additional challenge in that some of my readers are national and world leaders. How do I write stories compelling enough for them to read and keep coming back for more.
When I got started, I never imagined that my novels would be read by people like Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former President George W. Bush, former CIA Director Porter Goss, former Delta Force Commander General Jerry Boykin, former senior White House advisor Jason Greenblatt, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, former Israeli Interior Minister Natan Sharansky, former Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, and many other American, Israeli, Arab and other foreign leaders, not to mention Members of Congress, governors, and other interesting people. That’s been a lot of fun to know that they’re reading and enjoying the books as well as to meeting and corresponding with them. But it adds a lot of pressure to write books that hold the attention of such high-powered leaders in high places.
Probably the most surprising was to learn in 2016 that Jordan’s King Abdullah had read The First Hostage, which is a novel in which ISIS terrorists try to assassinate him, blow up his palace and take over his kingdom. The next thing I knew, rather than banning me from the Kingdom of Jordan forever, the king was inviting my wife and me to come visit him for five days to get to know him and his senior military and intelligence advisors. That was absolutely fascinating, and set into motion a number of meetings over the years. I have the highest respect for King Abdullah and it’s been a thrill to know that he’s become a fan of my novels.
FF: What authors or books have inspired you as an author?
Growing up, I loved reading the Ian Fleming James Bond novels, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan thrillers, and John Grisham’s legal thrillers. But mostly I love reading autobiographies, biographies and history–I’m fascinated with how world leaders and military leaders and spies make decisions that can change the course of the world for good or for evil.
FF: How has your faith or world view impacted the way you tell stories?
My faith as an Evangelical from a Jewish background is deeply important to me. In some of my novels, characters explore faith. Some use religion to justify their hatred and violence. Others use it to draw courage to fight their nations’ enemies, and make hard ethical and moral decisions. Others aren’t sure what they believe and are worried about whether they go when they die. So, it’s true that I find ways to weave faith and religion into many of my books. At the same time, I try to make my books readable and accessible by people of all faiths and no faith. That’s challenging. Very challenging, actually. Most political thriller writers–indeed, most novelists–avoid faith and religion all together. I don’t. But it adds a level of complexity to what I’m trying to achieve.
Visit Joel’s author page HERE:
A game-changing peace treaty between Israel and the Saudis is nearly done.
The secretary of state is headed to the region to seal the deal.
And Special Agent Marcus Ryker is leading an advance trip along the Israeli-Lebanon border, ahead of the secretary’s arrival.
But when Ryker and his team are ambushed by Hezbollah forces, a nightmare scenario begins to unfold. The last thing the White House can afford is a new war in the Mideast that could derail the treaty and set the region ablaze. U.S. and Israeli forces are mobilizing to find the hostages and get them home, but Ryker knows the clock is ticking.
When Hezbollah realizes who they’ve captured, no amount of ransom will save them—they’ll be transferred to Beirut and then to Tehran to be executed on live television.
In the fourth installment of Rosenberg’s gripping new series, Marcus Ryker finds himself in the most dangerous situation he has ever faced—captured, brutalized, and dragged deep behind enemy lines.
Should he wait to be rescued? Or try to escape? How? And what if his colleagues are too wounded to run?
This is the CIA’s most valuable operative as you have never seen him before.
The Beirut Protocol
Marcus Ryker Series #4
Joel C. Rosenberg
Genres: Suspense, Thriller, Mystery
Release Date: March 9, 2021
ISBN-10 : 1496437896
ISBN-13 : 978-1496437891
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