Writing nonfiction more compelling than a great thriller for author


Sometimes fact can be even more exciting than fiction. And when W. Craig Reed writes, that is always the case.

More than five decades ago, the world was brought to the brink of destruction when Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev sent four Foxtrot submarines toward Cuba. Each one carried a nuclear torpedo. Officers aboard all four vessels, when backed against the wall by President John F. Kennedy’s naval forces, came within a breath of firing their torpedoes andstarting World War III.

W. Craig Reed was the first author to bring the entire chilling story to light in his New York Times best-selling book, “Red November: Inside the Secret U.S.–Soviet Submarine War.” For the first time in print, he revealed why Khrushchev really backed down and removed his missiles from Cuba. Kennedy trumped the Soviet president by playing an ace that averted a nuclear war and changed the course of history. The ace was a new technology invented by scientists at the Naval Research Labs in Washington, D.C., and deployed worldwide by Reed’s father, U.S. Navy Lt. William Reed.

In his new book, “Cold War III: How the U.S Navy Can Defeat Putin and Halt Climate Change,” Reed once again gives readers the experience of a thriller in a nonfiction read.

You have served in the military and been enormously successful in the tech industry. When did you decide to also become an author, and with what genre did you begin and why?

My father was an author and ghost-wrote movie director John Huston’s biography. He and I collaborated to write “Tarzan, My Father,” for Johnny Weissmuller Jr., and “Crazy Ivan,” a nonfiction submarine book. That encouraged me to begin writing my own books.

You write fiction and nonfiction, thrillers and business books. Which do you find easier, fiction or nonfiction, and why?

Non-fiction, as novels require much more imagination and characterization and setting and plot design. On the other hand, nonfiction requires much more research and digging for facts.

How much research goes into the writing of your non-fiction? Your fiction? And do you do your own research, or do you have an assistant?

I do an extensive amount of research and leverage contacts and friends in high (or sometimes low!) places with “inside” knowledge. Usually they must remain anonymous, and they also check my facts.

You are a New York Times best-selling author. How does membership in that lofty club change or enhance a writing career?

It does help with validation, although I’ve met some writers who I think are far better than I am who are not on the list.

Your novels are fact-based, which makes them all the more compelling. With “Cold War III,” you give us nonfiction written to read almost as a novel. How do you find writing with a novelist’s sensibilities enhances the reader’s experience? And in what ways does it facilitate your intention as a writer?

I’m “thrilled” that I’ve been a member of the International Thriller Writers organization since its inception almost a decade ago and now have many close friends who are No. 1 through No. 10 New York Times best-selling authors. They are all wonderful people who have helped me greatly to better my craft. Learning novel and thriller techniques has been invaluable in creating a more compelling nonfiction book that reads like a thriller.

In your book “Red November,” you revealed how John F. Kennedy trumped Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis by leveraging a new technology invented by the U.S. Navy and deployed worldwide by your father. What was this technology? How was your father involved? And how did the media miss this during the Crisis?

The project was called Boresight, and it was classified top secret. The press missed it, as it was never revealed by the U.S. government, so the world didn’t know about it until I wrote “Red November.” My father spearheaded the deployment of and training for a new technology used to locate Soviet submarines and briefed President Kennedy and the ExComm Group at the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy used the technology to locate the four Soviet submarines threatening the Cuban blockade, and he forced Khrushchev to back down.

How much and in what ways does your military service inform your writing?

Tremendously, as I am able to leverage my experience and contacts to discover facts others miss, and bring those facts to life in vivid color, so to speak.

“Cold War III: How the U.S. Navy Can Defeat Putin and Halt Climate Change,” debuts this spring. Without giving away the whole book, tell us a bit about the premise of it.

Putin has led Russia through a major economic boom due to profits from oil and gas. He is motivated to protect his people from economic harm, and when the U.S. tried to get Ukraine to join NATO so they could control half of Russia’s gas pipes that feed Europe 33 percent of its gas, Putin invaded. He is trying to lock up more oil and gas in the Arctic to supply his new customers — China and Japan — and wants to move the world off the U.S. petrodollar and over to the Russian petroruble. If he does, it will devastate the U.S. economy.

The U.S. is fighting back by getting Saudi Arabia and OPEC to create an oil glut and devalue the Russian ruble, but it can’t last long. The U.S. energy industry, which accounts for almost 100 percent of the U.S. GDP growth, is already hurting from this move. Due to climate change, resources are becoming more scarce in populated areas and more accessible in the Arctic, which is why Putin is focused on owning this region. All of this sets up potential conflicts or even wars within the next few years.

The U.S. has a secret weapon that most politicians don’t know about — an invention made in the Naval Research Labs — that can solve the world’s energy needs while actually lowering carbon emissions. If deployed, it could pull the wind out of Putin’s sails, improve the U.S. economy, and mitigate climate change. Unfortunately, government officials appear clueless and are not funding or focusing on this potential world-saving technology.

How timely is the information in this book, and how did you become privy to it?

It is extremely timely given the situation with Russia, Ukraine, climate change, the Arctic, and the U.S. economy. I was the only author invited by the U.S. Navy to visit the ICEX training camp in the Arctic in March 2011 and spent several days aboard a nuclear submarine under the polar ice cap. It was there that I learned about the potential resource wars brewing in the Arctic, and through years of subsequent research, uncovered what Putin’s real motives are and how technology invested in by the U.S. Navy can stop him and mitigate climate change.

How and why is or isn’t the American government dealing effectively with Putin and his aspirations?

They are trying by getting Saudi Arabia and OPEC to create an oil glut and devalue the Russian ruble, but this is a temporary measure. They can’t do it for long as it will also hurt the U.S. and Middle East economies. Also, Russia has plenty of reserves and can weather the storm. The only way they can muzzle Putin is to control his supplies of oil and gas, which is what they tried to do in Ukraine and why Putin felt he was forced to invade.

In what way, if any, is Putin a danger to the world?

Only one way really counts: He is trying to move the world off of the petrodollar standard and onto the petroruble standard. If he does, it will create an economic crisis in the U.S. not seen since the Great Depression.

What do you see in Putin and Russia’s future? Is he as unstoppable as many in the Western world seem to think he is?

He is trying to lock up three key areas in the Arctic to ensure he can keep his oil and gas reserves high enough to meet future demand (after signing a $400B gas deal with China). He is also trying to increase gas profits and lower dependency on oil profits, at least until he can get Saudi Arabia to stop backing the U.S. petrodollar. Obama is playing into his hands by angering the Saudis with his Middle East policies. Putin is only stoppable if the U.S. and E.U. can keep him from controlling all of the Arctic’s resources, including the sea lanes, and use that control to keep him from moving the world over to the petroruble.

What do you hope readers take away from your books?

Knowledge that they will not get from our shallow and biased media, knowledge that will help them motivate world leaders to take proper action before it’s too late.

What is the best advice you received as a writer?

To write with passion and do it for the love of writing and the desire to inform and entertain others, and for no other reason.

What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Everyone says this, but it’s true — rejection is your friend. Embrace it, learn from it, and use it to motivate you to improve your craft. It’s all about making progress, not about attaining perfection. Also, marketing is just as important as writing. Know who you are writing for, and what they will love, and then reach them with your books.

Antoinette Kuritz and Jared Kuritz are the team behind both STRATEGIES Public Relations and the La Jolla Writer’s Conference (www.lajollawritersconference.com).