by | Mar 20, 2020 | The Real Book Spy | 3 comments

by The Real Book Spy

Who is Matt Drake? That, I suppose, depends on who you ask . . . but for my money, he’s the next big star of the thriller genre—and so is the author behind him, former Army Apache helicopter pilot turned novelist, Don Bentley.

In my time covering thrillers, I’ve seen several really talented writers make their highly anticipated debuts. From Matthew Betley and K.J. Howe—one of the fabulous Rogue Women Writers—to Jack Carr and, more recently, Chris Hauty, there has been an infusion of exciting new talent over the last five years, replenishing the thriller genre with a plethora of kickass new heroes.

In my opinion, Bentley is the next big name, and someone to watch very closely moving forward.

Whereas Jack Carr reminded me of Vince Flynn from day one, Don Bentley immediately struck me as the second coming of Brad Taylor, one of the finest action thriller writers on the planet, with a dash of Mark Greaney thrown in there for good measure. He’s got it all—a smooth, easy prose, lights-out storytelling ability, and enough been-there-done that authenticity to have readers running for cover when the action starts. To say I’m high on this book would be a dramatic understatement, and I’ve been waiting a long time to tell readers how good it is.

Truth is, I have a bit of history with Don and his book. I read it before he’d signed with Penguin, long before they’d designed the slick-looking cover that’ll soon be plastered all over bookstores. So, in a lot of ways, I’m one of his first fans (the downside is that I’ve been waiting a lot longer for the second book than everyone else), but I’m also one of his biggest. I cannot wait for readers to meet Matt Drake and fall in love with Bentley’s story like I did, and trust me, if hard-hitting action is what you crave, you’re going to flip for WITHOUT SANCTION. Promise!

Without Sanction Rogue Writers Research Blog

Don Bentley
A friend of mine said that in a good book, the author is actually using the novel’s pages to answer a question for himself. This was definitely true for me as I researched and wrote my debut novel, Without Sanction. While deployed to Afghanistan as an Army Air Cavalry Troop Commander, I was part of an operation that went tragically wrong. For years afterward, I wrestled with many questions about that day, but two in particular haunted me: Could I have done something differently? and Would I ever have the chance to atone for that awful day? In Without Sanction, my protagonist, Defense Intelligence Agency case officer Matt Drake, must answer both of these questions after an operation gone wrong leaves his best friend crippled and his asset dead.

After my time in the Army, I was privileged to serve as an FBI Special Agent. As an agent, one of my jobs was to recruit and run what we called sources and what members of the intelligence community call assets. The relationship between handler and source, or asset, is a fascinating one, rife with opportunities for conflict. I knew that I wanted to incorporate this experience into my novels, so Matt is a case officer charged with running and recruiting assets for the DIA.

For the last eight years, I’ve worked developing and marketing technology to SOCOM, or Special Operations Command. As such, most of my coworkers hail from this very insular community. This has been invaluable to my writing. I have access to subject matter experts on diverse topics ranging from High Altitude High Opening (HAHO) parachute jumps to long distance stress shooting. As I say in my acknowledgements section, anything that rings true in my novel is a testament to them. Anything I got wrong is absolutely my fault!

Beyond just technical knowledge, my colleagues have helped me to understand what it means to be a part of their community. For instance, three of my close friends are veterans of the Army’s storied 75th Ranger Regiment. Rangers are famous for many things, including their strict adherence to the Ranger Creed. Non-Rangers might mistake the six stanzas comprising the Ranger Creed for just another organizational mission statement or HR-generated set of values. Nothing could be further from the truth. To a Ranger, these simple, yet powerful words mean many things. Depending on the circumstances, the Ranger Creed can be a rallying cry, a moral code, or even a prayer. After seeing first-hand how these words still govern my friends’ live years after they’ve left the military, I knew Matt Drake had to be a Ranger.  

Thank you to The Real Book Spy and Don Bentley. Another great pick!
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  1. Jamie Freveletti

    Hi Don: Congratulations on the launch of Without Sanction! I knew a little about your background, but, whew, PERFECT for writing a thriller. Can't wait to read it!

  2. Chris Goff

    Hey, Don. I know your work, but I didn't know much about your backgorund. Thanks for your service! And thanks for bringing alive your world through your fiction. I'm reading you with a different eye! See you at ThrillerFest?

  3. Unknown

    I'm reading Without Sanction and find it riveting and exciting. Thanks Don Bentley.