Born in New York City. When with five years old his father joined the Foreign Service of the State Department. His job took us to Washington, DC, Mexico, South Vietnam, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Uruguay and Nicaragua. We lived in Saigon during the Tonkin Gulf Incident, the overthrow of Diem, a number of other coup d’etats and almost daily Vietcong terrorist attacks against Americans. After that, we survived three years gasping for air at 13,000 feet in La Paz, Bolivia during the time that Che Guevarra was trying to build a guerrilla base in that country. By 1980 his father was the US Ambassador to Nicaragua, and he was there witnessing the first days of the Sandinista Revolution.
These experiences molded me. He saw how political instability could throw peoples’ lives in chaos and test their character. In his teenage years, he became a sounding board for his father’s opinions on how to best formulate and carry out US foreign policy. Many of his friends were other diplomats, CIA agents, and military attaches. Through observing them, he developed an appreciation of the unique kinds of challenges US representatives faced in nations where our interests and cultural perspective often sharply differed from theirs.
After college, he bounced around from working for the National Endowment for the Arts, to freelance journalist, to moving to New York City and writing plays (over a dozen of which were produced Off and Off Broadway), to writing campaign speeches and screenplays.
In 1994, he wrote his first book about the role his father played as US ambassador in the Nicaraguan Revolution – At the Fall of Somoza. He also used his father as a principal source for a book he wrote about the effort to restore deposed President Bertrand Aristide to power in Haiti – Plunging Into Haiti. The same theme ran through both: US policy overseas is often undermined by our inability to fully appreciate other nations’ cultures, histories, and politics.
He also tried his hand at mystery novels (starting with Eve Missing), literary fiction (The Testimony of Miguel), radio drama (The Swamp Fox), and poetry. To support his growing family, he supplemented his income as a copywriter and bartender. In 2004, shortly after moving his family to Los Angeles, he received an email from a gentleman who said he was a clandestine US intelligence operative and wanted to collaborate with me. The book we wrote together about the CIA-led operation to overthrow the Taliban in late 2001, called Jawbreaker, was published in 2005 and appeared on numerous bestseller lists.
Following Jawbreaker, he started to receive calls and emails from other former government officials – DEA and FBI agents, police detectives, Special Forces soldiers, and Navy SEALs – who had interesting stories to tell. He helped turn some of them into bestselling books, including Most Evil and Inside SEAL Team Six.
All of these courageous individuals had experienced conflict and human suffering first hand and had their core beliefs tested. Their views often clashed with policymakers, who saw the same conflicts through the lens of bureaucratic politics. Many of his co-authors had experienced the same phenomena he had seen growing up overseas – how time after time our political and cultural myopia, or inability to fully grasp the importance of local history, language, and culture, had led to bad decision-making and caused us to be ineffective.
In addition to writing nonfiction, he continues to write plays, screenplays, and fiction – much of it informed by real events. The sixth book in the series of thrillers he writes with his friend and former Navy SEAL Don Mann, Hunt the Dragon, will be published in May. And his play, The American Wife (written with fellow playwright Stephen Fife) premieres at The Park in London this fall.
- Douglas Dillon Award, The American Academy of Diplomacy, Plunging Into Haiti
- Audie Award, Best Audio Book of the Year, The Chopin Manuscript – a serial thriller with Jeffrey Deaver, Lee Child, and other authors.
- Center International Theatre Festival, Best Play – Wilderness of Mirrors
- Kesselring Committee Award, Best Play – The Tail of the Tiger
- National Endowment for the Humanities Grant – The Swamp Fox
- Mellon Foundation Grant – The Swamp Fox
- Peabody Award Nomination – The Swamp Fox
- Jerome Foundation Playwriting Fellowships – Wilderness of Mirrors, Hide Mother in My Heart, Gauguin’s Parrot, Spain, Okeechobee Split
- Writer’s Guild East Foundation Fellowship – An Unacceptable Person
- New York Independent Film Festival, Best Screenplay – Flashback (with Stephen Fife)
- Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati New Play Festival, Finalist, Best Play – Walk in My Soul
- Beverly Hills Best Play Contest, Finalist – Asylum
- Rocky Mountain One-Act Play Festival, Best Play – Bullfight
- Bellwether Prize for Fiction, Finalist – The Testimony of Miguel
- The Dramatists Guild
- Authors League of America
- Mystery Writers of America
- Writers Guild of America
- Thriller Writers International
- PEN USA, Membership Committee
- Private Eye Writers of America
- International Association of Crime Writers
- Who’s Who in America, 2001-16
- Who’s Who in the World 2001-16
- Independent Film Professionals
- Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training
- Art Students League, NYC