Bestselling author Marc Cameron and son discuss Jericho Quinn
Bestselling author Marc Cameron has a way of taking his audience on thrilling adventures through the actions of Air Force OSI agent Jericho Quinn.
Marc is currently in Japan visiting his son Ben, an OSI agent stationed at Yokota Air Base.
Stripes Japan sat down with the two to talk about the inspiration behind Jericho and how it’s all played out.
Marc, your novels center around OSI agent Jericho Quinn. Your son, Ben, happens to be an OSI agent. Is that a coincidence?
Marc: I’d been a deputy with the US Marshals Service for about twenty years when I started writing Adventure/Thrillers. I was fortunate enough to work incredibly interesting assignments, hunt some really bad men, and work with talented folks from a variety of agencies. This was before reality TV brought US Marshals a little more into the public eye so few folks outside of law enforcement knew we still existed. I was prohibited from writing about my own agency but knew I wanted the hero of my books to be something different than FBI, CIA or a Navy SEAL—the literary world was already smack full of those. Jericho would be a quiet warrior, someone who did his job and let his actions speak for his politics. I wanted him to work for an agency/service that reflected those traits. My son, Ben was in his last year at the Air Force Academy at that time and in the final process being accepted by OSI. I’d worked with OSI agents at both Elmendorf and Eielson and found them to be extremely capable operators who blended the expertise of a criminal investigator with the street savvy of a warfighter. The more I talked to Ben, the more I was sure Jericho Quinn was an OSI agent. I know several folks in Alaska who serve in Air Force Pararescue and I’d been considering giving Jericho a background as a Combat Rescue Officer from the beginning. The OSI connection melded naturally with that.
I have readers from across all branches of the service who jokingly ask why I chose an Air Force protagonist. After meeting more of the people Ben has worked with over the course of his career, I’m surprised I didn’t come to the conclusion to make Jericho Quinn Air Force even sooner.
Ben: I noticed a lot of parallels between Jericho's background and my own, except Jericho does everything much better. I boxed a little at the Academy and did alright, but Jericho was the team captain and Cadet Wing Open Champion. I studied Asian languages and am bilingual, whereas Jericho speaks several languages. After I read his first book, I called my dad and apologized (jokingly) for not being as cool as Jericho. I'm glad that he chose an Air Force Officer/OSI Agent play the hero.
Ben, How is it being the son of a best-selling author?
Ben: I travel quite a bit, and it is fun to see my dad's books in airports and bookstores around the world. I really knew his books were taking off when I spotted some copies at a little bookstore on a small island in the Western Pacific. Right now one of his books is being translated into Japanese, and I hope it comes out before we leave Japan.
Some of my OSI agent colleagues have read his books, and they like to joke about how they are the "real Jericho" because they speak multiple languages or ride the same motorcycles as the main hero in my dad's books.
Marc, what made you decide to become a writer. What was the inspiration?
Marc: My wife knew when we got married that I wanted to be a novelist and have a career in law enforcement. Early on, she gave me a ballistic vest and an electric typewriter. She’s been a big support and partner in both pursuits. I read a lot of Tom Clancy, Elmore Leonard, W.E.B. Griffith, Clive Cussler, Frederick Forsyth, Ken Follett, and of course, Ian Fleming. My grandmother and both my parents were teachers and one of my aunts was a librarian so books have always been important to me. As far as Jericho Quinn, anyone who knows Ben can see certain similarities, particularly in the way they are both so focused in whatever they pursue.
Ben, do you provide input or guidance to your Dad when he’s writing, and have you read all of his books?
Ben: I have read and enjoyed all of his books, some of them before they came out in print. My dad and I often discuss different ideas, and I've shared a few things with him that I've learned from my experiences at the Air Force Academy, in OSI, and from living in Asia. I get a kick out of seeing how our discussions play out when I read his books. Even though he is writing fiction, my dad is pretty meticulous about checking his facts by either talking with experienced people or gaining those experiences himself. For example, for one of his books he peppered me with questions about cadet slang and traditions at the Air Force Academy that only an insider would know. Also, many of the exotic places he mentions in his books are places he has actually visited.
Marc, what is your target audience?
Marc: I write what entertains me. Any police officer, federal agent, or warfighter knows too well, the hours of mundane work in even the most exciting job. I’ve heard it said many times—and don’t try to dispute—that my books are “over the top” when it comes to plot. Jericho Quinn is a federal agent, working in the realm of spies, assassins, and counterterrorism, so it’s natural that the books are shelved with the likes of Clancy, Thor, and Flynn, but in the end, the books are adventure stories, more James Bond or Indiana Jones. There were countless situations in my career when red tape hamstrung me and/or my team. In the books, I remove some of that red tape for Jericho and allow him to carry on, doing what I wish I could have. It’s a difficult endeavor to write believable action for men and women who have themselves seen real conflict. I try to be real enough that readers can believe to story but stretch the bounds of reality enough that those same people will be excited by the break-neck speed and adventure of it all. I hear from readers who are deployed, a variety of law enforcement officers, and a fairly equal number of men and women. Quinn is often seen on a bike and is involved in quite a few hairy, high-speed chases in the early books so I have quite a few readers in the motorcycling community.
Marc, pretty neat that the hero of your novels is an Air Force officer. Tell us your thoughts on the U.S. military.
Marc: My hat is off to the men and women of all branches. I’ve had the opportunity to work and train with military units during my career with the US Marshals as part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. I ran the multi-agency Alaska Fugitive Task Force for a few years. Early in the Second Gulf War we were fortunate to work with soldiers returning from Iraq, sharing our tactics, fugitive apprehension and arrest procedures.
Many of the deputy marshals I’ve worked with over years are veterans and I have drawn much from my experiences with them. The branch rivalry has always been interesting to me—and is one of the things I explore with Quinn and his partner, Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jacques Thibodaux. The gunny is constantly jibing Quinn about being in the Air Force—calling him "Chair Force" more than any other name. And still, there is a high level of respect between the two men. When they fight together, any rivalry evaporates.
I’m extremely proud of Ben and the things he’s accomplished in the military, but as a father, it’s rewarding to meet and get to know the incredible men and women with whom he serves. We always want the best for our children and the Air Force has certainly provided an excellent life for him and his family.
Marc, Tell us about your latest novel.
Marc: I write each book so there is a stand-alone plot but with an overarching story and characters. BRUTE FORCE sees Quinn team up with a beautiful Chinese MSS agent named Song as they race to stop terrorists who have stolen an experimental Chinese thermobaric weapon. The terrorists intend to use the weapon in the United States, an act that could push the US and China into war. The hunt takes Quinn and Marine Gunny Jacques Thibodaux from a K2 base camp, through Western China, Croatia, Seattle, and Washington DC. The previous books had fairly severe cliff hangers and BRUTE FORCE clears them up…mostly.
I’m a fistfight, guns, motorcycles, and fast car guy. There are plenty of all those in this book—and Jericho gets to chase down some bad guys in one of the new Dodge Challenger Hellcats, so the research was big fun.
Ben, How long have you been in the military and why did you join?
Ben: I have been in the military about six and a half years. Many of my role models growing up were in the military and that was a big factor in my decision to join.
Ben, do you also have the gift to write?
Ben: Unfortunately I do not, at least not like my dad. He is the storyteller in the family. My writing is mostly limited to the reports I write as an OSI agent (unlike Jericho, the main character in my dad's books, who seems to get to do the exciting stuff without any paperwork).
Any last thoughts from either of you?
Marc: One of the greatest things about being a professional novelist is the opportunity to meet new people. Through my former career and now, Ben’s Air Force career, I’ve been able to talk with dozens of OSI agents and learn even more about the job they do—but frankly, the sensitivities of OPSEC drilled into me by my years in federal law enforcement make me careful about how many of the details I actually put in the books. What I do hope to include is the structure, the camaraderie, the lingo to lend a sense of realism to Jericho Quinn’s adventures.
I’ve always been intrigued by those who toil away in the shadows, unknown to most of the people they serve, doing the dangerous and sometimes mundane work that has to be done. That’s Jericho Quinn—and its also AFOSI.
Ben: I admire my dad for finding success in doing what he loves. I was lucky to grow up with dad who was a gifted storyteller, and now people all over the world get to enjoy his stories too.