Foreword Reviews

Interview with Mike Brogan, author of Car Wars

Car Wars billboard

Considering how long homosapiens have lived on this planet, one would expect us to be better at keeping ourselves alive. Instead, we ride roller coasters, dive with sharks, jump from planes, and eat deep-fried butter. As much as we appreciate our survival instincts, we also cannot resist overpowering them. We invite fear in order to conquer it, to achieve the unmistakable rush of choosing fight over flight. Whether scaling mountains or pushing through a horror movie marathon, we are all thrillseekers in our own way.Car Wars cover

And for those of us who prefer the page-turning variety of pulse-pounding adventure, look no further than the mystery thrillers of Mike Brogan. His latest, Car Wars, dives into the world of advertising, scratching off the veneer of flashy commercials and glossy magazines to reveal the rot underneath, while near-future elements pluck at anxieties about the limits—and costs—of rapidly advancing technology.

Having enjoyed many of Mike’s novels, we thought it about time we sat down with the man himself, and set up this interview to learn more about his process and upcoming projects. We are sure his answers will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Breath Mike Brogan “Excels at suspense…fast-moving and political intrigue…”-Foreword Clarion Reviews “Riveting suspense from a master!”-Midwest Book Review

You’ve written several thrillers, all with very different premises and settings. From the cutthroat advertising business to international terrorism to a search for belonging in small-town USA, the world building is always meticulous and immersive. Which of your novels would you say presented the most rewarding challenge to construct?

The most rewarding challenge to construct was probably my mystery thriller, Breathe. I had to research the ways in which massive numbers of innocent men, women, and children could be killed with biological or chemical weapons. The research revealed far too many ways. And many bad actors in the world have them. Both individuals and governments. Syria used them on their own people. Saddam used them on his Kurdish men, women, and children. What terrified me was how these weapons can be delivered to their victims. Secret, invisible ways … ways that kill in seconds or minutes. In Breathe the antagonist has found a completely unique delivery system to kill thousands of innocent people. But my Internet research got me in trouble—as I was boarding my flight to Florida the check-in attendant said, “Sorry, sir, you’re on the No-Fly-List. You can’t board.” “Me?” Thirty minutes later, after explaining I was researching terrorism online for my books and showing them a copy of Car Wars, they finally let me run for my flight. Made it. The NSA is closely watching the Internet for “hot word searches.” But that’s a good thing.

Your novels often revolve around independent, confident women with a habit of not taking “no” for an answer. Is this dogged determination you imbue your protagonists with inspired by women in your own life?

I grew up with independent, confident women. My mom, Kate, was raised with six mischievous brothers. She took no guff from them and put them in their place when required. Which was a lot. Me, too, more than a few times. She taught us good and bad, and if we had to ask if something was bad, it probably was. My wife, Marcie, got the same DNA gene for independence and confidence. She graduated summa cum laude in handling male chauvinists. Her confidence helped grow her tiny advertising agency from two young women at a tiny desk to a large multistate advertising and social media company. No question—mom and Marcie helped create the strong female protagonists in Car Wars and my other mysteries.

Kentucky Woman-A suspense thriller-Mike Brogan “mystery and intrigue, engaging, interesting characters…”-Foreword Clarion Reviews “Complete mastery of mystery genre. Impressive. Very highly recommended.”-Midwest Book Review “…dangerous bad guys, an appealing romance. A commendable story.”-Kirkus Reviews Available Now

The heroine of your most recent novel, Car Wars, is a whip-smart lead with a voracious appetite for the truth, but the various villains are also well developed, each given unique voices and motivations. Of the more nefarious cast of characters, who would you say you most enjoyed climbing into the mind of?

Elmore Leonard once told me, “Spend more time with the bad guys. They’re much more interesting.” I agree. So I’ve tried to use antagonists who are born evil or made evil, or a little of both. But I try to give them some redeeming humanity. In Madison’s Avenue, nefarious Eugene P. Smith, an ex CIA agent, has become a hired assassin who never fails. This time he’s out to eliminate our heroine, Madison. But Eugene also shows his human side when he hands a street kid fifty bucks. In Car Wars, the antagonist, Robert Khalid Bruner, born in Iraq where his innocent family died from American bombs, seeks to avenge their deaths by attacking innocent Americans. But he also helps fellow Arabs. In Kentucky Woman the antagonist is a man who says he’s helping the protagonist, Ellie Stuart. In truth, he’s trying to kill her so she doesn’t inherit a fortune. In G8, Valek Stahl, the antagonist, plans to assassinate the G8 Summit world leaders, but finds time to help a couple less fortunate folks along the way.

While the self-driving cars of Car Wars are hopefully not being used as inspiration, similar inventions are making waves in the tech community as they grow closer to becoming everyday realities. What fictional invention would you most like to see make the jump to real life next?

As you know, fictional inventions often become real. I’m sure we’ll see new inventions in industry, science, healthcare, communications, and the arts. Personally, I’d like to see more inventions that actually help people. Innovations that help protect us from deadly pandemics and unstoppable diseases like Covid-19. Inventions that help develop new vaccines and treatments much faster. And quicker medical testing and diagnoses that will save lives. And more research to discover cures for cancers and other diseases. Like one I just read about. A fantastic new treatment that cures blindness in some young children. The cure involves a DNA treatment that actually replaces the bad gene that causes the blindness with a good gene that lets blind kids see! Imagine their excitement. We need more medical miracles like that. We also need a miracle invention that lowers the overall cost of skyrocketing healthcare, especially for families who can’t afford it.

Car Wars A thriller Mike Brogan “Tense, engaging journey through corporate espionage and revenge. A timely mystery thriller.”-Foreword Clarion Reviews “Compulsive new page-turner from a Writer’s Digest award-winner. Suspense from a master…”-Midwest Book Review “Frighteningly realistic…”-Kirkus Reviews Available Here

Last but not least, is there another novel in the works for you right now? Any details you can share?

Speaking of medicine, I’m working on my new mystery suspense novel that deals with America’s present healthcare systems. We have over 5,000 separate healthcare plans in the country, plus high prescription costs, plus outrageously expensive hospital charges, especially if you don’t have insurance. Over forty million people don’t have health insurance. Another thirty million have lousy health insurance, with high co-pays they can’t afford. 62% of all personal bankruptcies in the US are due to medical bills even though 78% of these people had health insurance.

Bankruptcies due to hospital and health costs are up 200% especially among the elderly. Last year, the average cost per hospital day was $16,537 in the US—while nine other major countries averaged $400 to $1000 a day. It is estimated that hospitals overcharge Americans by about 10 billion dollars every single year.

So how did two hundred other civilized countries deliver universal health care to all their citizens for less money? In my new story, we follow the money. There are greedy corporate executives who will do anything to retain their high profits and bonuses. Some will do anything to prevent universal health care for all Americans from becoming law. And yep, in this story two strong women try to fix health care—but soon find themselves running for their lives. The book, tentatively titled Heal, should be finished in October.

Car Wars

Book Cover
Mike Brogan
Lighthouse
Softcover $14.95 (322pp)
978-1-73380-370-0
Buy: Local Bookstore (IndieBound), Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Car Wars is a timely mystery thriller about revenge, espionage, and corporate rivalry that’s taken to a deadly extreme.

Terrorists threaten America’s electric car industry in Mike Brogan’s thriller Car Wars.

Madison is ecstatic when her advertising agency wins a contract with the car manufacturer preparing to release the XCar, a vehicle with a revolutionary, energy-efficient battery. But her excitement turns to horror when XCars begin driving themselves off the road, injuring and even killing their owners. Madison finds herself in the crosshairs as the countdown to the deadliest attack of all begins.

Car Wars is a fast, exciting journey through the intersecting worlds of car manufacturing, advertising, and corporate espionage. Technical explanations regarding the car’s technology and the advertising business are thorough enough to flesh out the concepts without becoming tedious. Car Wars keeps one foot in reality, making its premise all the more unnerving.

The story is tense and engaging. Scenes of the XCar surges are especially nerve-wracking; it’s impossible to tell who will emerge unscathed and who won’t. However, language repeats, and the book uses italics in an unnecessary way. Major developments are followed by rounds of redundant phone calls as the news is shared among the bad guys. Light descriptions of each location enhance the narrative without weighing it down; the dingy dives where the bad guys meet are especially well-rendered.

Some characters are underdeveloped, and several go on tangents, flashing back to traumatic events that have little bearing on the story in general. Madison is a smart, likable lead, but after the halfway point, she contributes little to the plot. The story devotes much more time to the villains, who are all despicable and fully realized characters, though their backstories are filled with uncomfortable implications, including surviving child abuse. This is contrasted with Madison’s happy childhood and supportive, loving parents. Unsavory characters are often singled out for being overweight, while a Muslim villain who expresses a desire to kill “infidels” is a questionable addition.

The final attack is set up well. It results in a nail-biting confrontation, even though it is ultimately resolved off-screen, with the resolution referenced in brief in the epilogue. The people responsible for the XCar surges are dealt with in a satisfactory manner, and Madison and her friends experience closure.

Car Wars is a timely mystery thriller about revenge, espionage, and corporate rivalry that’s taken to a deadly extreme.

EILEEN GONZALEZ (August 21, 2019)

Danielle Ballantyne

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