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.
New York City
Though he's a Chicago native, Thor has spent a lot of time in Manhattan promoting his books and happily taking in the sites, but he said he came to see the island a bit differently while working on 'Takedown,' a book inspired by alleged plots to perpetrate a Mumbai-style assault on Midtown. "When I came to New York as a writer, I was taken with the idea that you're only getting in on bridges and ferries and through tunnels," says Thor. "The idea behind 'Takedown' is that it would be very hard to get out."
In order to get a sense of how alert New Yorkers really are to threats, Thor says he watched to see how often people looked up from their phones and left an empty bag in a hotel lobby to see if security would remove it. "Nobody noticed the bag. People are careless about that stuff."
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