Duty's Cost is finally finished

Duty's Cost is finally finished

This weekend I finally hit send on the final approval of the last proof and interior layout of Duty’s Cost. It felt good. For me, no matter how passionate I am about a story, the finishing phase of a book is tedious. Grammar. Punctuation. Spelling. Ugh. This one was especially tough. I am glad to be done, and happy with how it turned out.

This book is based on the experiences of an army buddy of mine. He and I served together back in the early 90s in Germany. We were aviation officers on our first operational assignment. After a few years there, we rotated back to the States and took different paths. I eventually went special operations aviation, and he went human intelligence—recruiting and running spies.

I got out of the army in 2000. My buddy, and many like him, stayed in, enduring the past two decades plus of conflict. The stories of his service told to me over whiskies, at Army Navy games, and during weekends with our wives fascinated and humbled me. I started writing Duty’s Cost, inspired by him, in 2016.

The inciting spark was his time in Kosovo in 1999. Troubled as it was, it seems now to be the apogee of Russian/American cooperation on the international stage. The tales of his time there amused, intrigued, and disturbed me. They also reinforced my belief that military professionals from different countries, even the most adversarial, have more in common with each other than they do with their own respective civilian populations. Particularly in America, where the civil/military divide yawns ever wider.

So, the concept of a close friendship—formed during shared hardship, when Russian and American interests were, if not aligned, at least temporarily not openly antagonistic—bounced around in my head for a few years. How, with a slight nudge of fate, could their paths cross again after Kosovo? And then again? And then, perhaps…again? And how would that friendship fare as the arc of history and diverging national interests sparked off each other? Under Putin? After 9/11? Iraq? Afghanistan? Syria and then Ukraine? And what would it do to the two friends?

Striving for realism, I researched extensively and interviewed former CIA, special operations, and State Department professionals. I also leaned on my own experience with the 160th SOAR (A).

The resulting narrative is accurate in terms of the training, tactics, techniques, procedures, and fieldcraft used at the time of the story. Big events, like Kosovo, 9/11, and the Iraq War, are also portrayed as accurately as possible. The same with places and settings. One of the most enjoyable aspects of writing Duty’s Cost was the opportunity to write about many of the places my friends and I loved so much when we were stationed in Europe.

Using all of that, I wove as realistic a tapestry of events as I could. And then dropped in a couple of characters that are, though inspired by real people, entirely made up.

The three questions I hear a lot are, first: Who is this army buddy? Then: Did any of it really happen? And finally: Why did you end the story in 2014 before the war in Ukraine?

In response to the first: Not going to say. He is too modest, and the topics are too sensitive.

Regarding the second: Yes, some of the funniest, scariest, and most awful things in here are pretty close to shit that really happened.

And finally: The truth is that history accelerated past me. I had the story outlined for a couple of years before Russia invaded Ukraine. (And, yep, I’m an outliner. I can’t just sit down and write. At least not very well.) I thought about adjusting the story arc but decided against it. Mostly because I don’t think the story needed it. And, also, as flawed as they are, I like the characters too much to put them through that.

Stepping back now, I see the through line from Spirit Mission to Duty’s Cost. I majored in philosophy at West Point and am interested in circumstances that put personal expectations at odds with institutional or national obligation, particularly that most excruciating and lonely of times—when the demands of duty, honor, and friendship come into direct conflict with each other. The characters of this story each have different perspectives on duty, but they each pay a cost.

The Global War on Terror has lasted for more than two decades now. I’ve steered clear of the national and institutional strategic and moral questions in Duty’s Cost. The characters in this story, like those that have served in all conflicts, are trying to do their best during the time they served. I’m happy with how the book turned out and hope that the reader will find it interesting enough to finish. By the end of its writing, I had even more respect for my buddy, and all of my classmates and friends that stuck with it and served in this time of war. I hope that the reader will as well.

I’m done with the real world for a while, maybe for good, and am diving back into Sci-Fi. I am working on a retooled beginning of the Spirit of the Bayonet series and have the story arc for the first five books planned out. I am excited to immerse myself in that troubled, not-so-distant universe. Hoping to have the first three books out early next year.

In the meantime, I hope you will give Duty’s Cost a try.


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.