Blackmail

Oct 11, 2017

Expertly mixing action and geopolitics, Rick Campbell's first four military action thrillers have been  compared to the late Tom Clancy's techno-thrillers. 

A retired Navy Commander, Rick Campbell served more than 20 years on four nuclear-powered submarines, finishing his career with tours in the Pentagon and the Washington Navy Yard. On his last submarine, he was one of the two men whose permission is required to launch the submarine's nuclear warhead-tipped missiles.

A U. S. Naval Academy graduate, Campbell grew up from age eight to 17 in Cocoa. He is appearing at the Vero Beach Book Center on Saturday, October 14 at 1 p.m. when he takes the stage for a talk and Q&A session followed by a book signing.  

Upon retirement from the Navy, Campbell fired off the query about his pending military thriller to forty agents. Not a single one replied. Eventually, he landed a New York City agent and signed  with  Macmillan / St. Martin's Press for his novel - The Trident Deception--  that was hailed by Booklist as "the best submarine novel since Tom Clancy's classic, The Hunt for Red October. It was followed by Empire Rising and Ice Station Nautilus.

In Campbell’s fourth thriller, Blackmail,  the Russians decide the time is right to attack because the U.S. Navy has been seriously depleted by the war with China that was the focus of 2015’s Empire Rising. Russian president Yuri Kalinin boldly tests the U. S. military by approving an assault on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt patrolling the Western Pacific Ocean, damaging it with a surprise salvo of cruise missiles. When the U.S. doesn’t immediately retaliate, Kalinin thinks America has lost its resolve to fight and initiates a plan to invade Lithuania and Ukraine.

The Russian government officially apologizes, claiming it was the result of a fire control accident during a training exercise, although in actuality it is a calculated provocation. In response, the U.S. attacks Russian naval forces off the coast of Iran. The Russians counterattack, and begin wiring every major oil and natural gas pipeline with explosives. If the U.S. makes one move to thwart Russia, they'll destroy them all. It's called blackmail.

So how much of an influence was Tom Clancy?

"He is a major influence," Campbell replied in a recent phone interview. "My work is  structured like his books. The gold standard for submarine books is The Hunt for Red October. It was published in 1984, so there was no internet. He had to track down all this submarine background going by what had been published in print up to that time and his key sources. Tom Clancy really pushed the envelope and that book was very accurate."

In Campbell's books readers gain a sense of each of the book's character's personality and motivations by what they do and say.

"Show, don't tell," he says. "I want my characters to be very real, someone you could meet in everyday life rather than this larger than life person."

In Blackmail the action is fast paced with a plot that is a realistic representation of how events can unfold with believable strategies and tactics.

"There is an ongoing balancing act, the challenge being to impart the necessary information as unobtrusively as possible since pacing is such a crucial element of thrillers," Campbell explains. "My books are geared to the average reader who doesn't know a whole lot about the Navy or submarines, but adding some details so experts will appreciate the authenticity of my books."