Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Amy Lignor is talking with Marc Liebman, author of Raider of The Scottish Coast.
FQ: Your military background is a long and diverse one, to say the least. With more than twenty years in the Navy, what were the perks (such as, the knowledge gained throughout your life) that came in handy when putting this book together?
LIEBMAN: When I was promoted from commander (lieutenant colonel in the other services except the Coast Guard) to captain (full colonel in Army, Air Force and Marine Corps), there was a step change in the how I was treated and what was expected of me. The difference was much greater than when I was promoted from lieutenant commander (major in our sister services) to commander. At the time I was selected for captain, the total strength – active and reserve – of the Navy was ~600,000 men and women. Of those, there were only 800 captains in the active and reserve Navy. That’s not even a tenth of one percent! I felt as if suddenly, I was expected to know something! Also, well before the PC world of today, as a captain, I had to be much more careful about what I said in public.
Then there was the added responsibilities. For example, as a captain, one of the more interesting projects that landed in my lap was reviewing and updating the war plans for the Commander, Seventh Fleet. Each potential enemy – the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) - had its own war plan with several plausible scenarios. The work took almost a year, the team I led had to (a) evaluate information from U.S. and Allied intelligence agencies; (b) understand the foreign policy goals set forth by the National Command Authority, i.e. the president of the U.S; (c) test the plans in war games based on the capabilities of the Marine units, ships and planes Seventh Fleet would likely have under its command; and (d) consider the limitations of logistics and supply. This was a PhD course in collecting, analyzing and synthesizing data to create viable operational strategies and tactics for each scenario. These plans had to be coordinated with our sister services as well as shared and integrated within given guidelines with our allies in the Seventh Fleet operating area. As part of this evolution, I found myself briefing general and flag officers and fielding their tough questions.
What this experience gave me was a deep understanding of our potential enemies as well as the potential situations which would cause the U.S. to be embroiled in a major conflict. Now I had insight into how our intelligence community really operates and the info they provided along with detailed knowledge of our military capabilities in areas in which I had no prior experience. So, coupled with my love of history, this background helped me include realistic geo-politics in every book of the Josh Haman series.
FQ: Your books have touched upon a variety of different wars and countries. Do you have a personal interest in one war in particular? If so, why is that?
LIEBMAN: I do and I don’t. I don’t believe wars happen by accident. There is always a chain of events that leads to a war. If you look at history, most have underlying issues which usually economic (colonies/territory/natural resources) or religion or both.
The American Revolution is an exception because one can make a very strong argument that the war was about personal freedom to choose ones destiny versus being dictated to by a king or queen. However, right behind the desire for individual and national freedom came the desire to get out from under the yoke of intrusive taxes, rules and regulations.
While writing Raider of the Scottish Coast, the time I spent researching the years before, during and after the American Revolution caused me to realize how much of our country’s DNA stems from that period. I have a whole new respect for our Founding Fathers and what they accomplished. When the American Revolution began, the Thirteen Colonies went to war against the wealthiest, most powerful country in the world that had the best Navy and one of the best armies. In 1775, when the shots were fired at Lexington and Concord, the thirteen Colonies had no navy or army. Our Founding Fathers and those they led persevered for eight long years. The war left the colonies economically devastated. Four years after the war, they wrote one of the most phenomenal documents in the history of the world, the U.S. Constitution. At the time, all the “talking heads” thought our democracy wouldn’t last 10 years because the “common” people couldn’t govern themselves without a king or queen.
This is a long way to get to the answer to your question. I think the period of 1775 to 1815 which encompasses four wars – the American Revolution, the Quasi War, the War Against the Barbary Pirates and the War of 1812 – is my favorite. Number two would be the Spanish American War because in the span of a few short years, the U.S. becomes a world power.
FQ: What made you decide to become a full-time writer? Is there one specific genre and or subject you have not yet written about that you wish to pursue in the future?
LIEBMAN: I’ve always wanted to be novelist, but didn’t know how. So, in the late 80s, I tried and failed miserably. Attempt number two ended in frustration in the 90s. In 2008, I tried a third time and in 2012 Big Mother 40 was published.
There is good news from by early flailing and failing. My first attempt back in the 80s had the working title of Moscow Airlift. My second attempt in the 1990s was titled The Kuril Wedge Incident. At the time Big Mother 40 was published, I’d committed to a series of books so I listed those as the last books in the series as an afterthought. A revamped Moscow Airlift was published in 2018 and The Kurile Wedge Incident has been renamed and re-written and will be published as The Simushir Island Incident in November 2020.
As far as genre goes, I will continue to write fiction. Most will have military, terrorism, spy type plots or like Raider of the Scottish Coast will be in the Age of Sail genre However, I have several books in my planned list of books to write that are different.
There is a non-fiction book called Gold & Silver Wings – Tales from Three Generations of Military Aviators coming probably in a few years. This is a “memiography” in that the contents are anecdotes from my father’s, my son’s, and my military flying careers. Some of the stories will make you laugh, some will bring a tear to your eyes and some, after you’ve read them, will cause you to ask, “what were they thinking?”
There are also two novels that are not military related. One is a novel about consulting which has the working title of Outsourced and the other is a story about ski racing called Hannenkam.
FQ: Given the state of the world as it exists today, do you have any personal worries that we are headed down the road to another war?
LIEBMAN: I do and I don’t. The People’s Republic of China is a long term competitor that wants to extend its influence globally. However, neither countries want a shooting war to erupt. What I see is economic warfare, not in terms of tariffs, but escalating in other ways. The PRC’s leaders know that if the U.S. significantly reduces the purchase of goods made in the PRC, their economy collapses. We’ve been fighting them over their theft of intellectual property from businesses and governments all over the world. They continue to refuse to honor patents and copyrights. However, based on PRC’s deception and carelessness with Covid-19, they may have set in motion events from all over the world that may adversely affect their economy. Only time will tell.
Which brings me to the two countries that I see as the most likely embroil the U.S. in a shooting war. One is North Korea, a country I can spend hours talking about. It is a dismal place to live. Economically, it is a basket case. However, we, as does the United Nations (many people forget this little fact), have a treaty which obligates us to defend South Korea if attacked by North Korea.
North Korea wants to unify the peninsula under its repressive communist regime. South Korea wants a commercial relationship in which South Korean goods flow north and people can travel freely across the DMZ. If this leads to unification under a democratic government so, be it. The South Koreans know they cannot afford to fix the economic and environmental disaster that is North Korea.
North Korea is the only communist country in which power has been passed from the father (Kim il-Sung) to the son (Kim Jong-il) to the grandson, Kim Jong-un. Everything, and I mean everything that Kim Jong-un does on a daily basis is geared to regime survival which is defined as his survival. A war could happen if Kim Jong-un, or possibly his successor, needs to placate hardliners to stay in power. More than likely, it will start with a raid or an outright attack on South Korea that kills U.S. servicemen/servicewomen.
Since 1960, North Korea has launched attacks well over 100 times. These range from “small” shooting incidents, commando raids and torpedoing a South Korean Navy corvette.
Another provocation could lead to miscalculation on North Korea’s part. Kim Jong-un’s threats to use nuclear and chemical weapons are just that, threats. He knows that if he starts a war, neither he nor his regime will survive. How much help he would get from the PRC or Russia is an unknown. While the PRC does not want another democracy on its border, the country sees North Korea’s antics as a way of distracting the U.S.. Intervening as it did in the Korean War may not be in the cards because it would lead to sanctions, loss of the U.S. market, seizure of investments wealthy Chinese have made in the U.S. and more. However, a power struggle within the factions in the North Korean government could lead to a civil war in which the South Koreans may decide to get involved.
Which brings to the greatest threat to the United States in terms of a “shooting” war and that is the Islamic Republic of Iran. This country is, by far and away, the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Tens of thousands of Iranian soldiers are deployed in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Venezuela, Sudan, and other places around the world. Iran wants to be the dominant power in the Arabian Gulf. The country is ruled by religious fanatics who are committed to destroying Israel and attacking the U.S. who they call the Great Satan.
A nuclear armed Iran is a threat to every nation within a 1,500 mile radius of Tehran. The nations along the southern coast of the Arabian Gulf see the danger which is what drove the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to sign peace treaties and normalize relations with Israel. More treaties with the remaining Gulf Cooperation States (Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait) will come.
Israel and the Trump administration has been very clear that they will not tolerate a nuclear armed Iran. The current sanctions have crippled the Iranian economy. The PRC buys almost all its oil from Iran has largely ignored the sanctions and is one of Iran’s largest trading partner. As customers of Iranian oil find other long term, reliable sources, the stress on the Iranian economy will increase.
The Iranian military continues to provoke, taunt, and often attack the U.S. as well as other nations in and outside the region. The recent blatant attempt to interfere in the 2020 U.S. national election as an attempt to ensure Trump is not re-elected is just another one in a series of provocations. Iranian leaders fear Trump will continue to increase the economic pressure on Iran to end its nuclear program and stop its support or terrorism. The question is what will Iranian leaders do if they start to lose their grip on the population?
FQ: If you were given a choice to sit down at lunch with a past leader, writer, politician, etc. – who would it be and what question would you most want to ask?
LIEBMAN: That’s an easy one. Teddy Roosevelt. Few men in their lives have had as great an impact on U.S. (and the world) as he did. Think about this, he oversaw the rebirth of the U.S. Navy which at the time, helped establish the U.S. as a global power. As a young man, he wrote what is still probably the best analysis of the naval part of the War of 1812. Roosevelt pushed for the Panama Canal. He won a Nobel Peace prize for negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War. TR established our national park system and was a strong, vocal early supporter of woman’s suffrage. While president, he pushed for an amendment to the Constitution. I could keep going on and on about Theodore Roosevelt.
What would I ask him? The mind boggles to think of just one question. But I would start with why he became embroiled in the Russo-Japanese War? My next question was why was he confident that U.S. military doctors under the leadership of Dr. Walter Reed could eliminate the threat of yellow fever to the workers of the Panama Canal?
FQ: I had read in your bio that you and your lovely wife like to travel in an RV; is there a specific location that you love; and, perhaps one you are hoping to visit one day soon?
LIEBMAN: Yes. Pensacola Beach. The sand is the color and texture of confectioner’s sugar. There’s an RV park right on the beach on the Naval Air Station!
Both of us would like to drive the Alcan Highway. We have talked to many who have and say that the trip is worth it, but is very, very hard on your RV.
For the record, we just sold the RV.
FQ: What title is up next that readers would absolutely love to know about?
LIEBMAN: Chronologically, the next book to be released is The Simushir Island Incident which is the last book in the Josh Haman series. This novel comes out in November 2020. The bad guys are North Korean and if you want to read more before the book is published, go to - https://marcliebman.com/book/the-simushir-island-incident/. FYI, I am already getting requests for other Josh Haman to fill in the gaps.
Next to come out is Flight of the Pawnee which will be released on January 12th, 2021. This novel is the first in a new, what I hope to be a four book series based on a character named Derek Almer. The story takes place in Texas in 2016. For more on the book, check out this page on my web site - https://marcliebman.com/derek-almer-series/.