To call Brad Thor a best-selling novelist is to practice the art of understatement – something rarely associated with the politically provocative writer known for his more-is-more plots. Thor has sold millions of copies of his Scot Harvath thrillers, in which a hard-boiled ex-Navy Seal tries to save cities and continents from total annihilation – or at least limit the damaged caused by bloodthirsty madmen. Though he peddles escapism, Thor himself is all about the gritty details, which is why he travels the world in order to make sure he realistically renders the settings he spends hundreds of pages lovingly dismantling with guns and ammo. Because the fictional world of his work is perpetually teetering on the brink of chaos, Thor's observations of the real world tend toward the colorful.
Scot Harvath gets around – 'Hidden Order,' just released, sees him careening around America on the heels of a shadowy government agency – which means Thor spends a lot of time on the road. This suits him fine: As the former host of a PBS travel show and a born wanderer, Thor is always eager to see something new, to find fresh fodder for his books. This ceaseless drive has taken him from Switzerland to New York to Afghanistan, where he researched the Black Ops by embedding on a patrol.
When Thor is your guide to this world of intrigue and conspiracy, the borders between fiction and reality blurs, then disappears entirely. We spoke to Thor recently and asked him to share the most intriguing places where he went to research his thrillers. Here are his top six.
Thor visited North America's most populous city frequently as a child, hanging out in a restaurant called Hacienda de Los Morales on his way to vacation with his family in the coastal town of Zihuatanejo. When he returned to the city to research a book orbiting the city's drug cartels, the restaurant was still there, but a lot had changed.
Eager to get a firsthand look at the violence, Thor joined a convoy headed toward a safe house where members of a cartel were allegedly holding hostages. He says that the neighborhood run by the cartel reminded him of Afghanistan. "They had kids on the roofs watching us and a motorcycle tailing the cars," Thor remembers. "The cartels operate a lot like the Taliban."