With Red Cell, published May 1, Mark Henshaw has written a great thriller and showed his prowess as a writer. The book is particularly impressive when you factor in that it is his debut.
Also, many people might not realize that Mr. Clancy also produced an excellent set of non-fiction works that take readers inside US military units and co-authored memoirs with several of our country's most recent outstanding military officers — Fred Franks, Tony Zinni, Chuck Horner, etc. So he's made a major contribution to our military literature as well, and I used several of those non-fiction books in my research for Red Cell. So he's set another high bar on the non-fiction side as well.
But I'd be lying if I said it didn't also make me a little nervous. Being compared to someone who has made such an impact creates high expectations. We'll see how the readers feel about it.
How did you come up with the story for Red Cell? Can you summarize it for the readers? Also how would you describe the two protagonists, Jonathan and Kyra?
I like stories that integrate real history in their backgrounds, so I figured that I could come up with a story idea by taking an interesting historical event and projecting the implication into the future. During my research, I came across two interesting events, geographically close, that happened with six weeks of each other in 1999. I won't reveal them here, but readers of the book will see what they are. I thought "if those two were connected, that would be very interesting," and the rest of the story grew out of that.
The story revolves around Kyra Stryker, a CIA case officer who gets shot during her first assignment and ends up reassigned to a desk job in the CIA Red Cell--the Agency's real out-of-the-box think tank.
There she partners with Jonathan Burke, a smart but prickly officer who decides the young woman has potential and makes it his mission to teach her how to think like an analyst. They get their first assignment when the Taiwanese government arrests several Chinese spies in Taipei, which provokes the Chinese and sparks a major military escalation. The Chinese are oddly unfazed by the threat of US naval intervention, so CIA director Kathy Cooke tasks the two analysts to study why the PRC isn't backing down.