|Thunder in the Morning Calm, Volume #1, Pacific Rim Series|
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Young naval intelligence officer Bob Molster never knew his grandfather who disappeared in Korea in 1950. Haunted for years by the uncertainty of his grandfather's fate, Molster is determined to find out the truth behind rumors that the North Koreas may still be holding some American POWs. He enlists the help of two retired special forces commandos, and finances an elaborate and dangerous plan that takes the trio deep into North Korea. The only thing they know for sure is that they'll probably return heroes, or not at all.
Don Brown, a former U.S. Navy JAG Officer, is the author of Zondervan’s riveting NAVY JUSTICE SERIES, a dynamic storyline chronicling the life and adventures of JAG officer ZACK BREWER. DON BROWN graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1982, and after finishing law school, continued his post-graduate studies through the Naval War College, earning the Navy’s nonresident certificate in International Law. During his five years on active duty in the Navy, Don served in the Pentagon, was published in the Naval Law Review, and was also a recipient of the Navy Achievement Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal. He is a member of the Board of Advisors for the newly-formed ARMED FORCES MUSEUM AND ARCHIVES OF THE CAROLINAS, currently being built in Mint Hill, North Carolina, just outside of Charlotte..
Favorite Verse: 2 Timothy 4:7 - "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
Visit Don Brown in our Writers' Corner
Our Interview with Don Brown
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in a small town in Northeastern North Carolina, Plymouth, population about 4,000. I fished, cut grass, worked in tobacco barns in the summer, played trumpet in the high school band, and was close to four wonderful, wise, God-fearing grandparents. Plymouth is somewhat poor, with over one-third of the population on government assistance. My family wasn’t poor, but things were tight to say the least. Still, I wouldn’t trade my formative years there with anyone from any other place. I learned so much in Plymouth that couldn’t be replicated in areas of higher socioeconomic blessing. I later attended the University of North Carolina, went to law school, took a commission in the Navy, and served as a JAG officer. After five years active duty, I settled in the Charlotte area. I’m a single dad with two girls in college, and a 15-year son who lives with me. My oldest daughter, Mary Claire, is starting law school in the fall, following her daddy’s footsteps into the legal profession. My younger daughter, Caroline, is a sophomore in college, and is kind of interested in teaching, but that could change.
My son, Graham, is a freshman in high school, and has joined the Navy JROTC, and plays a ton of basketball. My 20 year-old nephew, Adam, now lives with me and Graham, and he’s attending college in Charlotte. Graham and Adam are always talking sports and playing basketball, so it’s most active around the Brown household.
How did you come up with the concept for Thunder in the Morning Calm?
Back in 2006, I traveled with my son as part of a “Father-Son” group from Charlotte to tour various Civil War battlefields, culminating with the battlefield at Gettysburg. I’d been to Gettysburg before, but this trip stirred me as never before. We were standing at the Eternal Light Piece Monument, dedicated on July 4, 1938, at the 75th Anniversary of the battle. By that time, only about 8,000 vets who had worn the blue and the gray were still living. Eighteen-hundred Civil War Vets attended that day, and only 25 veterans of the actual battle itself. I’ve seen video clips of the event with active duty US Army soldiers bringing feeble, dying vets from both sides in on stretchers, in wheelchairs, helping the old men be there to commemorate what had happened. What a moving sight!
But though there were but a handful of living vets remaining, President Franklin Roosevelt spoke to a crowd of over 250,000 on and around the battlefield that day! That’s a quarter of a million Americans jammed in and around that battlefield to honor that dwindling few.
Fast forward forty-six years. I remember watching President Reagan on the top of the cliffs at Normandy, the English Channel behind him, making one of the most eloquent of his many eloquent speeches, paying tribute to “the boys of Point-du-Hoc,” the brave American Rangers and other allies who took the steep cliffs against Nazi machinegun fire under conditions of living hell. Ten years later, President Clinton returned to Normandy to again pay eloquent tribute to our allied heroes on the 50th anniversary of D-Day, calling the spot “this hallowed place that speaks, more than anything in silence.”
Books have been written and movies produced and ceremonies held commemorating the American Revolution, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, even Vietnam.
This country has honored its fallen heroes in many ways, and rightly so – with one exception.
And that exception is Korea.
My dad served as a soldier in Korea. Not during the war, but just after it, in 1956 and 1957. Because of his job, he had free access in and out of the Demilitarized Zone, and was often at Panmunjon, where the 1953 Armistice was signed.
I remember as a boy listening with fascination to his stories about being in the room on the border with the stripe painted down the middle of the table where the 1953 Armistice was signed.
But it was not until later that I started questioning, “why all the much-deserved recognition for vets of other wars, and we don’t hear much about Korea?”
They call it “The Forgotten War,” whatever that means, but for whatever reason, unfortunately, a lot of truth rings in that.
When you stop and think about it, South Korea today, one of the worlds’ great, vibrant democracies, is just as liberated from tyranny because of American blood as are France, Germany and Belgium. The communists in 1950 attacked the south and quickly controlled the entire peninsula except a small enclave around Pusan. Most Americans, sadly, don’t even know that.
Why is it, that our Presidents don’t travel to Inchon to commemorate on national television the great anniversaries of MacArthur’s daring invasion – a battle involving 75,000 troops and 261 naval vessels – the battle, that, like Normandy, was the daring turning point of a war?
We are now in the midst of the 60th anniversary of that war. Why no significant national remembrance? Why no adequate tribute? We finally got around to dedicating the Korean War Memorial in 1995, 42 years after the war ended. Better late than never, but why so long?
To be honest, it bothers me and even sometimes angers me that our Korean vets don’t get the national recognition they deserve. So, as we enter the sixtieth anniversary period of the war, I wanted to pen a novel not only as a tribute to our Korean vets, who have been disgracefully overlooked for their service in my opinion, but that in some way would tie the past to the present, so that a new generation of Americans would be able to relate to them through a prism of modern, contemporary events set forth in the novel.
So I came up with this idea for a novel about an active-duty intelligence officer, serving in a modern setting, sneaking behind the lines, north of the DMZ, to search for clues about his grandfather, who had disappeared at the battle of Chosin Resevoir. In this way, I sought to tie the past to the present, and hopefully, deliver an entertaining story based both on past historical events and current events that will satisfy the reader, that will educate, and that will pay tribute to those who served.
When I visited the Korean War Memorial on the National Mall about a year ago with Alicia Mey of Zondervan, and my fellow Zondervan author Amy Clipston, that visit just reinforced to me that this is what I needed to do with the novel.
Do you have a favorite character Thunder in the Morning Calm? Why?
I like LIEUTENANT COMMANDER GUNNER MCCORMICK, the Navy intelligence officer who is haunted by the disappearance of his grandfather and wants to do something about it. Gunner isn’t satisfied that the US Government has done enough for the POW/MIAs from Korea, and is spurred to action by a top secret communiqué that he reads in connection with his duties as an intel officer.
But if you’re asking for my favorite character… well by the time I’d finished penning the novel, I’d surprisingly become quite fond of JOHN O. “JACKRABBIT” GURGANUS, a retired, crotchety, US Army special forces officer, now living as an expat in Seoul. I don’t want to spoil the storyline, but suffice it to say I like just about everything about Jackrabbit, from his nickname, to how he got his nickname, to his sometimes cantankerous personality, to his amazing proficiency with a weapon.
How much research did Thunder in the Morning Calm take?
Tons of research. Probably hundreds of hours if I’d been timing it with a stopwatch. As a rule of thumb, however, I’d estimate that I spend two hours research for every hour writing.
How many books will be in the series?
THUNDER IN THE MORNING CALM is the first of three novels under contract in Zondervan’s new PACIFIC RIM SERIES.
What are the most interesting facts that you learned while researching and writing Thunder in the Morning Calm?
That’s a hard question because you learn so much fascinating stuff when writing a novel like this. For example, I’ve picked up a few words in Korean, enough to actually impress the Korean waitress at my local IHOP hangout! But the research was dual-faceted in that I was researching (a) the period in and around the Korean War and also (b) researching modern geo-contemporary events surrounding the modern dictator-state of North Korea, which all too often, has been in the news as of recent. So let me share a couple of tidbits I found fascinating from each era.
During the war, the daring battle of Inchon, involving all those troops and ships that I mentioned earlier, was one of the hardest and trickiest amphibious invasions to pull off in human history because of very rapidly-changing tides in Inchon Bay. There was a minute window to pull this off, in which precise timing was critical, or it could have spelled military disaster. Instead Inchon was Douglas MacArthur’s finest hour as a military commander.
From the modern era, one of the most fascinating things I researched was how large, evangelical churches in Seoul have helped rescue people from the North, taking part in dangerous missions, and helping North Koreans to sneak across the Yalu River into China, and then through China along a dangerous and sometimes deadly southerly path of over a thousand miles, into southeast Asia, across the Mekong River, and then into Thailand, where the North Korean Christians who have been rescued request asylum in Bangkok. The true story of these brave Korean Christians is moving and heartwarming.
What are some of the challenges you face as an author?
Finding the time to balance everything. It takes a lot of hard work, especially for a single father still running a law practice. I’m often up after midnight, then up again by 6 AM to take my son to school.
What aspects of being a writer do you enjoy the most?
I love the research because I’m researching things that I’m fascinated by. Then, I love taking the product of that research and weaving it into story. I also love just interacting with my readers and trying to help aspiring authors in any way I can. I believe in the words of the Master, who said, “to whom much is given, much is expected.”
What clubs or organizations are you involved with helping with your writing?
I’m not active in any clubs or organizations focused on writing, but I have been helped tremendously over the years by attending various writing conferences. One of the best is the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference at Ridgecrest, Black Mountain, NC, run by my friend and fellow author Alton Gansky. Highly recommended.
What new projects are on the horizon?
As I mentioned earlier, in the PACIFIC RIM SERIES, there are two other novels after THUNDER IN THE MORNING CALM currently under contract, so they will keep me busy for a couple of years, and I’m also working on a unique proposal idea right now with my agent and another author which should be out there soon.
What message would you like your readers to take from reading Thunder in the Morning Calm?
Remember our Korean Vets. Remember their sacrifice. Remember that as dangerous as the situation is in Korea today, it would be far, far more dangerous if it were not for them. Pray for our vets. And pray for our active-duty servicemen and servicewomen serving in all branches of the military in and around Korea today, and in other areas of the world.
What was your favorite book as a child?
Two things. When I was a boy, my Aunt Margaret gave me the entire Hardy Boy Series, and so the Hardy Boys series was my favorite fiction series. Second, and this shows what a nerd I was, but I was addicted to the World Book Encyclopedia, and used to get in trouble in grade school for grabbing the World Book instead of listening to my teachers!
What is your greatest achievement?
I really can’t say that I have any great achievements. I’ve simply been greatly blessed beyond anything I deserve. You know, “amazing grace, how sweet the sound.” But without waxing theological on you, I’d say that my greatest blessings this side of Heaven are my three children, Mary Claire, Caroline and Graham.
What do you do to get away from it all?
To me, believe it or not, reading and writing is “getting away from it all.” I guess when you love what you’re doing, at one level, you really don’t want to get away. I do love Hilton Head whenever I can get there, which is the most relaxing place on the East Coast to me. I love visiting my “second home” in San Diego, whenever I can, where I have an “adopted family” from my former church there. So I love travel when I can find the time. Above and beyond all that, I enjoy fishing, shooting, and recently, I’ve started my first vegetable garden! It’s a container garden, and I’ve planted a few tomato plants, corn, jalapenos, squash and okra. Check with me next year and ask me how this turned out!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks so much for the opportunity to share. I’m grateful for your interest and each and every reader. Take care and God bless!