Who are your favorite authors?
The first author I really became aware of was Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. I was introduced to him by one of my junior high teachers, Mrs. Millman. In adulthood, I got into thrillers, and like many writers in the genre, I was inspired by Tom Clancy. Since his debut, The Hunt for Red October, the genre has produced a lot of great writers, like David Poyer, Stephen Hunter, Brad Taylor, Vince Flynn, Brad Thor and Lee Child. When I venture into the mystery/crime world, my go-to guy is William Kent Krueger. As for non-fiction, I’ve appreciated the work of Dick Couch, a Vietnam-era Navy SEAL whose books about military training have provided me with a lot of resource material. I also enjoy the historical works of Doris Kearns Goodwin and especially Edmund Morris, whose three-volume biography of my all-time favorite historical figure, Theodore Roosevelt, is the gold standard.

You often reference Theodore Roosevelt in your books, and he has a prominent role in The Heights of Valor. What intrigues you about him?
I never really started studying TR’s life until the 1997 TV movie, Rough Riders, was released. I watched that and thought, “Who is this guy, who gave up a cushy government job and left his family to fight in Cuba at the age of 36?” When I started reading about him, I discovered a man who was monumentally influential in American history. His actions as president are still touching us, in a very beneficial way, over a century after his administration. I could talk all day about TR, and I have a bookcase at home filled with books by and about him, as well as some collectibles. Whenever my bookcases are starting to look a little overrun, Sue tells me it’s time for a culling. I tell her to take whatever she wants, but the Roosevelt bookcase is not to be touched.

What’s your favorite Roosevelt quote?
He had quite a few that have stood the test of time, but if I had to pick one, it would be this: “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure…than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”

What is your background in martial arts?
I’ve been studying martial arts since 2001. That was actually my fourth attempt, going back to my college days. Like a lot of adults, I’d hit a wall early in my training, when you discover you’re not going to be Bruce Lee in six weeks of training. But by ’01, my son Jim was 13 and well on his way to earning black belts in the Korean arts of taekwondo and hapkido. This time I didn’t give up, and earned my own taekwondo black belt in ’05. Five years later my wife Sue joined me as we began training in the Okinawan arts of isshin-ryu karate and ryukudo kobojutsu, which is the study of weaponry. We achieved black belt status in 2014. I also have extensive training in the Russian art of Systema, in which I worked with current and former Spetsnaz commandos, along with fellow students from all over the world.

If your books are made into movies, who would you like to see in the lead roles?
Like any author, I’d be happy just to see my work on the big screen, no matter who the actors might be. But if I had my druthers, I’d choose Maggie Q from Nikita or Ming-na Wen from Agents of SHIELD to play Jo Ann Geary, the White Vixen. As for the Hayes brothers in the Quest novels, actors like Hugh Jackman and Gerard Butler come to mind.

Now that we’re talking about movies, which ones are your favorites?
Like most people these days, Sue and I venture to the cinema three or four times a year, but once a week we’ll take in a movie on TV. Our streaming services are getting extensive use. My all-time faves are the Rocky series and the three Batman films by Christopher Nolan. The best war films I’ve seen are Saving Private Ryan and 12 Strong. As for sci-fi, I’ve enjoyed all the Star Trek films, and my all-time favorite in the genre is the original War of the Worlds from 1953. Sue and I are Jason Statham fans, and our favorite is The Beekeeper.

How about TV series?
Like many in my generation, I grew up watching a pretty fair amount of TV. The original Star Trek series stands out, and its spinoff series have been quite good, especially Enterprise and, more recently, Picard and Strange New Worlds. I was a regular viewer of Walker, Texas Ranger. The Netflix series Daredevil was particularly well done. We enjoy Outlander, even though I’ve never read any of the books. The series has great cinematography, compelling characters and fine attention to period detail. I’ve recently become a fan of For All Mankind, which describes an alternate history in which the Russians beat us to the moon and the space race carries well into the 21st century. Overall, though, I’d have to say my all-time favorite is Spartacus, which ran on Starz from 2010-13. To me, the title character embodied the true spirit of the hero, and I like stories about heroes.

So, we take it that you’re a superhero fan?
I was a big Batman and Superman fan as a kid, and still am. I think we’re in the Golden Age of superheroes now, certainly when it comes to film and TV versions. I was always a DC guy, so the films of my two biggest heroes are my favorites, of course, but I like the Marvel films, too, especially those featuring Captain America and the Wolverine. Someone asked me recently about these films: why are they so popular nowadays? I said that I think it’s because we as a society really are longing for heroes. Our recent political leadership, sad to say, has been disappointing, if not downright incompetent. Most people yearn for leadership, for someone to inspire them, show them the way. Heroes do that, and superheroes are at the top of the list. It’s too bad they’re fictional, because we could sure use them right now.

Can you talk a little about your professional career outside writing?
I fell in love with radio as a youngster and went to college at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville to get a degree in broadcasting. That started a 20-year radio career that eventually brought me up to Rice Lake in northwest Wisconsin. Having grown up in the southwest corner of the state, I never dreamed I’d ever come up here to live and work. This part of the state was considered “wilderness” when I was growing up, but it’s beautiful up here and we love our home on the lake. I left full-time radio in 1999 and did customer service work for four years before joining the Social Security Administration, where I spent many years helping people with their retirement, disability and survivor claims. It was very satisfying work and a great way to serve my community and country. While at SSA, I did some freelance radio work in sportscasting, which was my specialty, and after retiring from government service in 2019, I went back to radio, eventually up to full-time. But I finally decided enough was enough and retired for good on April 6, 2024.

From your photos and social media posts, you’re a world traveler?
It pays to marry the owner of a travel agency! Sue and I have been all over the world, and we enjoy adventure travel, as you can see on the Photos page. We have a big adventure ahead of us this fall: climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. In years to come we also plan on doing a bicycle tour of Cuba and a visit to Antarctica, as well as returning to Europe, and there are some islands in the Caribbean that we’ve not yet seen.

Can you tell us about your family?
Sure, let’s save the best for last! I met my wife, Sue, during my first day on the air at WJMC in Rice Lake in 1991. Part of my morning show was calling this gal on the phone and talking travel. Well, what did I know about travel? I’d never been anywhere since my parents brought me back to the States from Germany, where I’d been born while my father was serving in the U.S. Army. My boss suggested I go to her office and meet her, which I did three days later. That began a professional relationship that grew into a friendship and then to romance. We married in 1995. Our two kids, Kimberly and James, are both doing well. Kim is a human resources director for a company in the Boston area, and she and her husband Mike gave us our first grandchild, Pax, in 2018. Jim lives in Milwaukee and is a rising executive with Progressive Insurance, and on the side, he makes short films and music videos.


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