Red Metal by Mark Greaney and Lt. Colonel H. Ripley (Rip) Rawlings IV fills the void of military thrillers left by Tom Clancy’s death. This novel combines the great story-telling of Greaney with the Lt. Colonel’s vast experience, serving twenty-two years as a reconnaissance and infantry officer. The result is an action-packed realistic plot.
The book begins when a desperate Kremlin takes advantage of a military crisis in Asia to simultaneously strike into Western Europe and invade east Africa in a bid to reoccupy three Rare Earth mineral mines that will give Russia unprecedented control for generations over the world’s hi-tech sector. While America and her allies are concentrated in Asia, countering a Chinese threat, Russian troops and armament are racing through Poland on their way to the heart of Germany. They are determined to win back Russia’s dominance on the geopolitical stage. This mine contains 60% of the world’s known supply of essential minerals and would give Russia a much-needed upper hand in its dwindling economy among world super powers.
Special Forces Spetsnaz Commander, Colonel Yuri Borbikov designed a plan, “Operation Red Metal,” to regain the mine of rare earth ores found in only a handful of places around the world and essential for production in today’s hi-tech world. The plan calls for a Russian raid into Europe to destroy America’s Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany, and a simultaneous attack to retake the mine. Besides killing many of NATO’s troops they also kill Western satellites to take out GPS and make Europe deaf, mute, and blind. There is hope after Lt. Colonel Dan Connolly figures out what is happening, comes up with a plan to fight off this Russian threat, and depends on the many heroes and heroines that step up to the plate including Poland resistance fighter Paulina Tobiasz, US Submarine commander Diana DelVecchio, US tank commander Tom Grant, and US Apace pilot Sandra (Glitter) Glisson.
The action never stops in this war-time thriller. The various battles fought on land, sea, and in the air are exciting, realistic, and technically detailed. Readers take the journey with the US forces along with the high emotions experienced. There are up-close battles fought, with tanks, artillery, air support, machine guns, carbine rifles, even at one-point hand to hand combat. This story brings home what could actually happen in a WWIII scenario.
Elise Cooper: Why did you decide to write a collaboration?
Mark Greaney: We met in 2014 when I was doing research at the Pentagon. He was also a writer and we started talking about ideas for books in a very general sense. We decided that at some point we would work together. At the Marine Corps Ball in Las Vegas we talked about what we would do.
EC: Who wrote what?
Lt. Colonel H. Ripley (Rip) Rawlings IV: I added a military flavor to the book, how people would react in certain settings. In some instances, Mark would ask me what would happen here. Between the two of us I would come up with some conclusions and I might add a tactical flavor, while Mark is the spinner of words. Although every character was jointly conceived, Mark came up with the Polish patrician Paulina.
MG: It was a 100-100 collaboration. We talked together about every character and every scene. It was hands on. For the character Lt. Colonel Dan Connolly I pictured Rip in that role.
EC: Let’s talk about some of the characters I thought played an important role. First, Commander Diana DelVecchio.
RIP: She was the commander of the actual submarine the USS John Warner. She makes it her business to really know the crew inside/out and is a tough, tenacious lady. On a side note, when I visited it, I had this realization that this is the boat which launched all those missiles against Syria. The commander told how the sub launches. I asked him how realistic it would be to have the commander of his boat as a female character. He responded that he has three female crew on board and that these women are in the top .5% of officers in uniform. They outclass a lot of the crew and made everybody up their game.
EC: What about Paulina Tobiasz?
MG: It was important to me that not all the characters be in the military. She is just a young Polish girl who took a job in the weekend militia to save money for a car. She is now thrown into this incredibly horrific war. I wanted readers to see the war through the eyes of someone not in the military. She becomes tough and a leader out of necessity. I’ve never written a character who goes through so much so unprepared, and her transformation throughout the novel captivated me.
EC: Lt. Colonel Tom Grant?
RIP: He was the composite of really tough soldiers I worked with when I had the opportunity to attend the Military Cavalry School. I went through courses and worked with heavy armor. In his background, Grant had been a tanker and has been retooled as a supply/maintenance officer because of something that happened. His job is to get the tanks warmed up and ready to go. But after the Russians kill all the leaders, Grant must take over the command. After being pushed against the wall by the Russians he makes a decision that alters the European conflict. He is a leader and takes the initiative for the right reasons.
EC: Lt. Colonel Dan Connolly?
MG: He is the heart and soul of the book. He finds himself in the beginning trying to figure out what was happening and by the end is involved in the combat. I hope he made a great impact. I can picture he and his family like Rips. Connolly has risen to the ranks because he is intelligent and has a lot of abilities.
RIP: I have a cousin who wanted to remain anonymous but who this character is loosely based upon. My cousin was one of the first female Apache pilots. We showed how she rallied to become a fighter in this war. On a side note, the call signs of pilots are usually awful names. The nickname for Sandra came about after flying over her commander and accidentally dumping her flares. Her only comment with her radio keyed on was ‘oooh-pretty.’ Thus, the name, Glitter.
EC: Russian Colonel General Eduard Sabaneyev?
RIP: He looks like a Hollywood actor and has a commanding presence. He exploits others and will do whatever it takes to get to the top. He is driven and self-serving.
EC: Those serving make different sacrifices?
RIP: We set it during the Christmas and New Year holidays. I had to leave my family on many Christmases because I was deployed ten times. We wanted to pay tribute to service members through Connolly. We talk about his family and his bad knees. His wife makes things workable while he is deployed. She is his heart and soul. Russia knew that by attacking on the holidays it was our weakest moment. Although we are supposed to be ready all the time, in reality, we tend to drop our guard. Each character grew through the trials and tribulations of war and rose to the occasion.
EC: Describe the scenario set up in the book?
RIP: Russia treated Poland and Germany as transient zones. They left behind destruction. They used a 1-2-3 punch to overcome the US military might. The first punch was to get America preoccupied with Taiwan and China, drawing a huge body of forces into the Pacific. The second attack was in Europe that drew the residual of our armies. The last punch is moving into Africa for the mineral mine. The Russian justification made sense to them because many times the bad guys don’t think they are the bad guys.
EC: Some Americans do not understand what officer requirements are?
RIP: Anyone who rises to Captain or above knows how to get an entire battlefield to work like the instruments of an orchestra. Every officer in the military must have gone to college and have a degree. I have three.
EC: What do you want readers to get out of the book?
MG: An entertaining and thrilling story. Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising was one of my favorite books. I literally spent the last thirty years wondering what the modern version of Clancy’s book would be. I am thankful I had the opportunity to do it.
RIP: There is a small minority of readers that did not expect a war book, but thought it was going to be a spy novel. This is a larger and sweeping piece of fiction.