After serving 21 years in the Army Infantry and Special Forces, Brad Taylor knows a thing or two about the military. The Charleston resident’s debut novel, One Rough Man, uses his experience to tell the story of Pike Logan, a member of a government anti-terrorism operation called the Taskforce.
Logan is a leader of the super-secret team tasked with eliminating terrorists, but when his wife and daughter are brutally murdered, he’s so consumed with rage that he’s viewed as a danger to the force and discharged. He falls into a life of solitude and alcoholism until he receives a cry for help from a college student named Jennifer Cahill whose anthropologist uncle was murdered after discovering an ancient weapon of mass destruction in the Mayan jungle.
Operating off the grid, Logan resembles a superhero, fighting for vengeance and righteousness in the name of America. Taylor assures us the organization is completely fictional: “The fact that Taskforce is in my book is proof positive that it isn’t real, because I wouldn’t put it in there.” He also admits there were times he wishes such a group could exist, above protocol and above constraints. “It’s kind of this make-believe organization everyone has a fantasy about,” he says.
Though recently retired, Taylor has plenty of personal experiences to pull from, including eight years in the Delta Force, where he commanded multiple troops and a squadron. He served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other classified locales. Events in the book are inspired by his military career, but don’t generally reflect actual events.
“No overarching real-life events are depicted in the book,” he says. “As far as I know, we’ve never killed a drug kingpin in Guatemala, captured a terrorist getting a dirty bomb in Georgia, or killed a terrorist in Sarajevo. Having said that, a host of experiences, which happened to me or to people I know, appear. It’s impossible for them not to.”
With his broad knowledge base, Taylor was extra careful not to reveal sensitive information, calling on friends in the military to proof the book before publication.
“I write fiction, which means I can make up whatever I want,” he says. “If I paint myself into a corner where the only way to keep the plot moving forward is something classified, I simply back up and start again.”
A stickler for detail, Taylor supplements his deep knowledge base with meticulous research. He studied Guatemala, Belize, and Washington, D.C. over the course of writing One Rough Man. For an excerpt in which Pike and Jennifer must break out of an interrogation facility at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Taylor actually visited the airport, tracing his characters’ steps from customs, noting cameras, alarms, and checkpoints.
“In my mind it’s kind of insulting to the reader if you don’t do any research at all,” Taylor says. “In fact, I won’t even finish a book if it’s something I know about and the guy’s just making things up off the top of his head. I’ll just put the book down because it smacks of laziness.”
Taylor had always toyed with the idea of writing a book, but didn’t have time until he retired in 2010. During a stint teaching military science at the Citadel, he suddenly found himself with extra time on his hands.
“When I got there, it was like I was on a 200 mile-per-hour train and now I was on one doing 10 miles-per-hour,” he says. “It was a real rewarding job, but it was nowhere near the pace, so I said I would try to write a book.”
With no official training, One Rough Man was a brand-new learning experience for Taylor.
“I learned to write on the fly, initially through the help of a freelance editor named Caroline Upcher,” he says. “She was brutal on my first manuscript — which will never see the light of day — and it was a steep learning curve, but in the end she taught me the rudimentary skills of the craft.”
With that training behind him, Taylor is prepared to bring Pike Logan back in a series of books. In fact, his second has already been turned in to his editor. While he won’t divulge the details, Taylor says that Pike and Jennifer open a business to be used by the Taskforce as a cover to conduct operations, dealing with a homegrown threat that’s “very, very plausible.”
Realistic threats and current events factor prominently in Taylor’s plot.
“It takes about two years to get a novel out, and in that time any number of things could happen,” he says. “Truthfully, a big fear I had with One Rough Man was that Iran would cause a war, which would have drastically affected the currency of the book. I tend to stick to overarching themes as opposed to concrete current events.
“For instance, the Mexican drug cartels are a bit player in One Rough Man. I wrote that section a long time ago, because I figured it wasn’t going to be solved anytime soon, and now the cartels are big news, so it worked out,” he says. “On the other hand, Egypt is a large part of book two. I’m looking at the current events over there and wondering how much rewriting I’m going to be doing.”