Q&A with Tom Young

Elise Cooper: Your bio terrorism scenario seems very realistic and plausible. Is it based on your military experience?

Thomas Young: I hope this scenario never really happens where terrorists get their hands on chemical weapons in variety and in quantity. Fortunately, I have never experienced a chemical weapons attack. But my training during twenty years in the Air National Guard included how to respond to that scenario. In chem warfare exercises I learned to recognize symptoms of chem weapons poisoning, how to use protective equipment such as gas masks, and how to administer antidotes. We even practiced flying into a chemical-contaminated environment, wearing protective suits, special masks, blowers, and filters.

EC: Why did you decide to bring Blount back after his appearance in your book The Renegades?

TY: Blount nearly stole the show in that book. People liked how the powerful and quick-thinking Marine had a soft spot for children and great loyalty to his friends. Because I got such a positive reader response about Blount and enjoyed his character I decided to give him a starring role in his own novel.

EC: You have a powerful quote about the cowardice of the terrorists. “For years he’d seen them use civilians as shields, throw acid on women, hang suicide vests on children.” Can you explain?

TY: I wanted to summarize the nature of the enemy and put the reader into Blount’s head. Those in the military have no misconception of who the enemy is and how they will be treated if captured. There are three kinds of people in the world. The wolves that take advantage of people; the sheep that are not prepared to meet the threat; and the sheep dogs that are the ones to protect the sheep. Blount considered himself a sheep dog.

EC: You discuss how serving in the military is a generational thing. True?

TY: Yes. Military service tends to run in families. His grandfather who served in World War II inspired Blount. I based this on the epic story of how a hero, before he decides to slay the dragon, meets with his mentor. This old warrior of the past talks about what is needed to meet the threat.

EC: What gave you the idea for this story?

TY: Part of my duty was to carry tons of “Meals Ready to Eat” to Marines. During that short time on the ground I could see the fatigue in men’s faces. Yet, I did not hear one word of complaint and I saw in their faces not just exhaustion but an unshakable commitment to the mission and their fellow Marines.

EC: You also refer in the book to how the different branches work together to accomplish a mission. Can you explain?

TY: No unit wins wars by themselves. I tried in this novel to demonstrate how different services work together toward a common goal. A watchword is ‘jointness.’ My Air Guard career gave me opportunities to work with the Marines, Navy, and Army. There is the attitude: one team, one fight.

EC: What would you like the readers to get out of this novel?

TY: The motivations of those who volunteer to serve in the military. Since only about one percent of our population serves there is a big disconnect between the military and civilian life. Through my novels I hope to bridge that gap, especially since I retired after twenty years of service. While people are reading my book I want them to remember those in uniform who remain in harm’s way. Always keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

EC: Can you give a heads up about your next book?

TY: Blount will not be in it, but Parson and Gold are prevalent characters again. It takes place in Somalia and deals with a relief mission.