“The Terminal List” is a debut thriller by Jack Carr. What makes this book special is that Carr uses his experiences as a SEAL to write a realistic, action-packed story. It takes readers to a time when rules of engagement had the Special Forces acting as cowboys, where they took out the enemy up close and personal as well as from afar with sniper fire.
Carr served for more than 20 years with an expertise in communications/intelligence, to leading assault/sniper teams and to practicing counterinsurgency. He uses all this in the story when his hero, Lt. Cmdr. James Reece, seeks revenge after losing almost all his men in an Afghanistan ambush killing 36 SEALs, 28 Rangers and four aircrew members in his unit as well as his wife and child. After finding out that the murders were perpetrated by high-level rogue government and military officials, he creates a list of 12 who must die.
Reece has no regrets since he believes he is dying from a terminal brain tumor because the government decided to use his unit for experimentation of a drug that would be used for those with PTSD. Readers will be reminded of Vince Flynn’s books “Term Limits” and “Consent to Kill.” Carefully plotting these assassinations Reece is determined to see that justice is served.
Elise Cooper: I assume Jack Carr is not your real name?
Jack Carr: Yes. I remember meeting Lee Child and he told me I needed a pen name. Child noticed that there were a lot of best-selling authors like Clancy, Creighton and Clark, who all had a last name that begins with C. Since Child is so successful, it was pretty good advice. I wrote out three pages of names and ended up with the name of Jack Carr.
EC: Can you tell a little about your experiences?
JC: I enlisted and became a SEAL sniper specializing in communications and intelligence. Then as a junior officer leading assault and sniper teams in Iraq and Afghanistan, to a platoon commander practicing counterinsurgency in the southern Philippines, to commanding a special operations task unit in the most Iranian influenced section of southern Iraq throughout the tumultuous drawdown of U.S. forces. I retired from active duty in 2016.
EC: Did you use your personal experiences in this story?
JC: I was lucky to combine two professions I always dreamed of since the age of 7. I took my experiences of studying warfare and the real world and applied it to this story about revenge. I based it on the Samurai warrior mentality that understood they might die while going into warfare. All of the emotions, flashbacks and remembrances I felt over the last 20 years were placed on the protagonist.
EC: Do you think the story is realistic?
JC: Yes. In the 1970s Sen. Church had hearings on experiments done to people in the military. For example, they put Navy divers down at a certain depth for a certain amount of time. If they had issues they would reduce the time. These guys were used as guinea pigs. I molded much of this information into a fictional story.
It is also based on Vince Flynn’s “Term Limits” in that in both stories by killing the bad guys justice was served so there were no regrets. This is why I put in the book quote, “Killing was not so much about taking a life, it was about sustaining life: the lives of your countrymen, your unit, your family, yourself.” I personally sleep very well at night regarding my decisions.
EC: How would you compare yourself to Reece?
JC: I am not as good, smart or as athletic as Reece is. I certainly did not want to make him a superhero or a caricature of what a SEAL should be. I hope he would be somebody readers would want to sit down with and have a beer. He is based on my past, although he knew more about explosives than I do.
EC: It was interesting how you put readers into the decision-making process.
JC: Because not everyone is directly touched by someone serving as with the world wars, I wanted to write about it. There are so many contingencies that could happen in a mission. These include getting hit by an IED to getting a flat tire, having a helicopter go down or not working after landing.
We had to think about what could happen getting to the target, during the mission, and afterward. After getting back we did an after-action review, where everyone gets in a room together to consider what went right, wrong and how to improve for the next time.
EC: You also comment on the professional versus the career
JC: I have pretty strong opinions about it. From colonels on up they no longer lead their guys into combat and are not on the front lines. Those in combat are the enlisted and the junior officers. I never wanted to be a career guy who turns into a political animal. All my characters are inspired by real people. I took people from my past and amplified their traits.
EC: Why did you decide to write this story?
JC: The book was essentially written for me. It was very therapeutic. I revisited what was important to me over the last 20 years including emotionally, strategically and tactically. I combined them into a fictional thriller hoping to make the weapons and the people authentic. It was me pouring out my passions and emotions. It also helped that my friend partnered with me to write this story.
EC: Can you give a heads up about your next book?
JC: It explores friendship, loyalty and lies over time. Reece will be going international. It is based on my experience in Iraq when someone who was helping U.S. forces just disappeared. In the book, I have them going rogue with some terrorist implications.