Interview: ‘American Sniper’ co-author talks about his new SEAL sniper novel ‘Target America’
The author of the new Navy SEAL thriller “Target America: A Sniper Elite novel” talked to Human Events about his writing, his friend “American Sniper” Chris Kyle and what it is like to be with the SEALs.
“One of the things we go over in Target America, my latest book is that you can’t have a dull spear in dealing with these bad guys because they’re bringing the fight to us,” said Scott McEwen, the former member of the Navy’s Sea Air and Land special warfare force, who was the co-author of Chris Kyle’s memoirs “American Sniper” with Jim DeFelice.
A movie based on “American Sniper” is in development with Bradley Cooper starring as the legendary sniper with 160 confirmed kills, and far more than that by his own count. The film is slated to be directed by Clint Eastwood.
The new novel brings back Gil Shannon, a Navy SEAL sniper and leader of a secret team of Delta Force and SEAL operators, he said. Shannon is tasked with taking out a band of Chechen terrorists carrying suitcase nuclear weapons—but, to do it, he has to put back together his own band of operatives, who have gone off the grid, since they were last seen in the first Sniper Elite book “One Way Trip.”
McEwen said the novel, the second in what he plans to be a six-part series, meant to be a good read, but it is a chance to make a point about keeping our military strong.
“I just hope that this administration, and those with differing opinions over what we need to do, would not dull the tip of the spear because the tip of the spear needs to be very, very sharp when we’re dealing with bad guys,” he said.
“’Target America’ more focuses on some domestic stuff, the first book was basically all war stories that were fictionalized and things changed,” he said. “I had a theme, which was a downed helicopter female pilot that was taken prisoner and these guys have to go get her.”
The former SEAL, who now works as a California attorney, said once he set up the theme and the structure, he was weave in real-life “secret” stories from his deployments and other stories he heard that, if they were not fictionized, would have never come out.
“The character Gill Shannon, who started out in Sniper Elite, is an amalgamation of a few guys that I’ve known, special forces guys and he really is the character that is the modern day James Bond a Tom Clancy Jack Ryan,” he said.
“He is a character that really does operate in today’s very dangerous world of espionage, of taking out bad guys and of protecting this nation’s interests,” he said.
“As a result of their patriotism and their refusal to stand down and that’s the kind of character that I want to build into the Gil Shannon that never stay quit, protect this nation at all costs,” he said.
“The funniest criticisms for me is when the people say: ‘Oh well this is clearly out there because this happened and this happened and that would never happen.’ It’s funny that they almost always point to stories that were actually almost verbatim,” he said.
“It’s like reality is always crazier than fiction,” he said.
“When you think that you’ve approached the edge of reality and you think: ‘Hell, nobody would ever–’ and you write something fictionalized and you fictionalize it, that’s almost always the stuff that people say, “Well, that could never happen,” and that’s what the stuff that does happen.
Part of the problem is that civilians or even conventional military personnel are unfamiliar with what is considered normal in the world of special warfare, he said.
“If it’s that crazy about people being shot and continuing their missions and just heroic stuff that has happened,” he said.
“People are like, ‘That would never happen. Yada, yada, yada,’’ he said. “HALO drops, LALO drops, it happens all the time.” A HALO is a High Altitude Low Operating insertion jump, where the operator freefalls for most of the jump and then opens his parachute just as he is at the landing zone. A LALO, or Low Altitude Low Operating jump, is a very dangerous insertion technique that limits the paratroopers time in the air, used for landing zone where there is hostile fire.
The special operators, the ones who know the stories, are a great audience for his books, McEwen said. “Yeah, I think the guys that were involved really love reading stuff. Some of them know what it’s about too. Some of them know what the stories are because I’m told they really like it.”
In addition to his two novels and assist with “American Sniper,” McEwen released a book in February “Eyes on Target: Inside stories from the brotherhood of the U.S. Navy SEALs,” which he wrote with Richard Miniter.
The lawyer, who is active supporting the Navy SEAL Foundation, said meeting the SEALs has been a privilege. “Well, the thing with Navy SEALs is I mean it’s a special group of guys that people ask me why do I even write about them? I just state because I have met so many of them that are very, very special warriors and they’re all different.”
McEwen said he still misses his friend Kyle.
Kyle was a man, who spoke directly and when he was critical, it flowed from his belief that everyone can be the best at what they focus on mastering. “It’s just a matter of disciplining and just like shooting is nothing more than discipline.”
His co-author said Kyle was always helping others, even if it meant he was in danger.
The late Navy SEAL murdered Feb. 2, 2013 by a disturbed combat veteran Kyle was mentoring at a firing range.
“That’s really when we tried to describe what I felt was the most outrageous and at the same time truly patriotic thing that I did that ‘American Sniper’ was really about was that Chris never looked at anybody, whether on the team, whether a Marine, whether whatever as anything but another American,” he said.
Even though he was the member of an elite force with a specific mission, Kyle would join regular troops, he was supposed to be guarding from a distance, clearing rooms and sharing his expertise, he said.
“He’d be kicking down doors and stuff which he was not supposed to do because he was on overwatch and could’ve been reported and actually brought up on some pretty serious charges, he didn’t care,” he said. “He was like: ‘You know what, I know how to do this better than them and you know what, I’m going to go with them because I know how to do this.’”