April Jack Carr Reading List

This month’s reading list is a special one. It is special because instead of the usual six books, I am highlighting only four; the four that inspired SAVAGE SON.  If you are just discovering these lists for the first time and want to explore past selections, they are posted on the blog section of my website. For those new to the Team, each month I highlight six books; some are from the professional reading list I was asked to put together for the Naval Special Warfare Center before I retired from the SEAL Teams and others are books I have enjoyed at various stages of my life. This month I want to focus on the classic stories that form the foundation of my third novel in the James Reece series, SAVAGE SON.  I recommend you sit back, pour a drink, and read these books through the prism of the time in which they were written.  Time to turn the page.

For additional details on the books, why I think they are important, and the impact they had on my development as a combat leader and writer, keep reading. This blog is for you.

There is nothing I like more than discussing books and reading.  I look forward to sharing my thoughts!

April reading list:

  • The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell
  • Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household
  • First Blood by David Morrell
  • Last of the Breed by Louis L’Amour

The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell

I first read THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME by Richard Connell in the 6th grade and have been captivated by it ever since. Upon that initial reading, I was determined to one day write a modern thriller that paid tribute to Richard Connell’s classic tale, exploring the relationship between hunter and hunted.  That tribute is the third novel in the James Reece series, SAVAGE SON.  One of the most intriguing passages in THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME is this exchange between the protagonist, Sanger Rainsford, and the antagonist, General Zaroff, where the central theme of the narrative is revealed:
“I wanted the ideal animal to hunt,” explained the general. “So I said, ‘What are the attributes of an ideal quarry?’ And the answer was, of course, ‘It must have courage, cunning, and, above all, it must be able to reason.’”
“But no animal can reason,” objected Rainsford. “My dear fellow,” said the general, “there is one that can.”

Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household

Written by Geoffrey Household, a veteran of British Intelligence in World War II, ROGUE MALE was first published in 1939.  It is almost unbelievable to me that as a student of the genre I did not discover Geoffrey Household earlier in life, especially considering what an influence he was on one of my literary heroes, David Morrell.  I was leaving Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale Arizona with industry icon Barbara Peters after interviewing my friend and fellow author Mark Greaney when a retro-looking book of matches near the front desk caught my eye. It pictured a man with a rifle in an elevated position looking down on what appeared to be a castle. ROGUE MALE was printed across the top of the matchbox and in smaller letters near the bottom was the name Geoffrey Household. I purchased the matchbox and immediately ordered the book which I read in one sitting. I was well into SAVAGE SON by this point, but it was Geoffrey Household’s seminal work that would bring it all together for me and lead me where I knew I must go.  As a tribute to this classic thriller and its author, there are two sentences quite intentionally written into SAVAGE SON as a sign of respect to this legend of the genre.  If you are picking up ROGUE MALE for the first time, pour yourself a brandy by the fire and transport yourself back to the world of 1939, a world on the brink of war.

First Blood by David Morrell

“His name was Rambo, and he was just some nothing kid for all anybody knew, standing by the pump of a gas station at the outskirts of Madison, Kentucky.”  Those words introduced the world to John Rambo in David Morrell’s 1972 classic thriller, FIRST BLOOD, though in the novel he is known simply as Rambo.  I had already seen the 1982 movie starring Sylvester Stallone and read David Morrell’s THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE ROSE, the first in a trilogy that includes THE FRATERNITY OF THE STONE and THE LEAGUE OF NIGHT AND FOG when I finally read FIRST BLOOD.  In fact, because of my age I had seen RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II in the theater with my dad and had read David Morrell’s novelization of the screenplay before I read FIRST BLOOD.  I was struck by how different the novel was from the film adaptation and how both were impactful for different reasons. The differences would be at the forefront of my mind over thirty years later as I advised on the script for the adaptation of my first novel, THE TERMINAL LIST.  Never one to chase the market and one of, if not the best to ever ply the trade, David Morrell, “the father of the modern action novel,” is not just an author who continues to reinvent himself writing stories that make him and his readers “fuller, more significant people,” he is truly a “first rate version” of himself and an example for us all.  With each and every project, David moves the genre forward.  If you have seen the film but not cracked the cover to FIRST BLOOD, prepare yourself to get to know a character you might not fully recognize and for a story that will linger with you long after you’ve turned the final page.

“With his new novel, SAVAGE SON, Jack Carr continues to amaze me. He’s the real deal. Having lived the life he writes about, he absorbs the best of the thriller tradition and moves it forward. Thoughtful as much as visceral, he’s my idea of what a thriller author should be.”

David Morrell

New York Times bestselling author of First Blood

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Last of the Breed by Louis L’Amour

I read Louis L’Amour’s LAST OF THE BREED in the summer of 1987, a time when Reagan was in the White House and the Cold War was in full swing.  To a kid who had his sights set on becoming a SEAL, I was enthralled with the story of Air Force Major Joseph Makatozi on the run in Siberia, evading the Yakut tracker Alekhin, surviving in the wilderness, fighting his way towards the Bering Strait and freedom. I still have that first book I read under the Northern California pines that summer, though its pages are now yellow and brittle with age.  I didn’t want to re-read it prior to writing SAVAGE SON. Instead, I wanted to tap into the memories I have of it, the magic of escaping into its pages, the spirit of the story; a hunted man, his skills, drive, determination, training and mindset keeping him alive.  Joe Mack was a man with grit.  Even all these years later I can still recall the prologue and can recite the final words of the last chapter from memory.  I’d venture to say they are the some of the most powerful final words to a thriller ever written.

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