The Writer’s Corner: The Craft of Writing Political Thrillers
For the last twenty years, America has been on the offensive against terrorism. As a result, there have been no major attacks inside the homeland because the U.S. made sure that the front lines of the battle were all overseas. However, over the past few years, Americans in general and Washington, D.C., in particular have grown tired of the money and the bloodshed and the negative global reputation brought on by maintaining a military presence in the Middle East. Besides, there are so many pressing economic and social battles to be fought back at home. So those zones of battle are being steadily abandoned. Unfortunately, that means those terrorists who were previously occupied fighting in their own nations are now free to bring the battle back to America. That is the essential premise of my next thriller, The Libyan Diversion, which releases on May 16.
I didn’t start my writing career by trying to publish novels ripped from the headlines. I was trying to write about threats that could hit America hard if leaders in Washington weren’t paying close attention. But when the very events I wrote about in The Last Jihad began to actually take place in real life—or close enough—I found myself labeled as a modern-day Nostradamus.
Just to be clear: I’m not a psychic or a clairvoyant, nor do I pretend to be. Nor do I play one on TV. I’m just someone who studies our enemies very closely and talks to a lot of world leaders and high-level intelligence officials and operatives who are in the know. And based on that research—and extrapolating it forward with my own imagination—I write novels that feel a little too close to reality.
There are some authors who try to get specific in their geopolitical predictions, but that is a dangerous game. On one side, their prognostications may not come to pass, which makes their books irrelevant. On the other side, it may come to pass but way too soon, making their books passé before they are even released.
Instead of being a predicter of events, I am an analyzer of geopolitical trend lines. And the incredibly dangerous reality worrying me to no end right now is the terrible fatigue that has set in when it comes to staying vigilant against America’s most serious enemies and the complacency that has largely taken over. The battle for the safety of America has become a battle for the soul of America. The external fight has become an internal war. America’s eyes are turned inward. That’s in part because of “war fatigue” after Iraq and Afghanistan. But it’s also because Americans feel like there are severe social and spiritual battles at home—over LGBTQ+ rights and critical race theory and the denial of biological genders and over abortion and free speech and so much more. When Putin first invaded Ukraine and threatened nuclear war, the American media was all over it. And much of the nation took notice. But as that war slogs on—with the death toll soaring—people are getting tired of that, too. And forget coverage of terrorist groups firing 4,000 rockets and missiles here into my country of Israel like what happened in May of last year. That barely makes news in the U.S. anymore. My colleagues and I cover it on All Israel News and on my new prime-time TV show on TBN, The Rosenberg Report. But the mainstream media have all but given up on international news—unless it’s about a major rock star or social media sensation or the death of the world’s longest-serving queen.
It’s not that there aren’t many who care about threats rising on America’s borders or beyond. There are. It’s just that the well is only so deep, and in a climate where 44 percent of Americans fear that a civil war could break out, most people’s concern is being taken up by domestic problems.
As a novelist, I see these trends and it makes me work twice as hard to capture people’s attention—and imagination—and show how complacency could cause America to be blindsided by terrible evil. In The Libyan Diversion, Marcus Ryker thinks the bad guys are in North Africa. But read the title of the book again. He’s being set up. The most dangerous terror master in the world—Abu Nakba—is creating a diversion. So while Marcus and his team are being pulled deeper and deeper overseas, the bad guys are preparing a massive attack inside the United States. Will Ryker realize his mistake in time to thwart the real attack and save the lives of tens of thousands of Americans?
It’s been a long time since the United States has been hit inside the homeland, and thank God for that. But don’t kid yourself: there are still a whole lot of people out there who want to kill Americans in massive numbers. The current administration in Washington has given terrorists little reason to have to stay in their own countries, and the porous border is offering them easy access into the Southern states. My prayer is that The Libyan Diversion will only be a warning of what could happen if Washington doesn’t wake up and get serious about border security, rather than another book ripped straight from future headlines. But one thing is for sure: I’ve done my best to get your heart racing and your adrenaline pumping faster and harder than it ever has before. Let’s just pray none of it comes true.
—Joel C. Rosenberg