WHEN SPIES GROW UP THEY STILL PLAY WITH THEIR TOYS (an interview with thriller author Chuck Barrett)


I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Chuck at the Dahlonega Literary Festival in 2011. I had a great time, met some great folks, hung out with folks I knew, and had a blast. Chuck was one of the guys I talked to several times that weekend and have kept in touch with. He’s a helluva nice guy and a fellow International Thriller Writers member with me!

He just put out the 2nd book in his Jake Pendleton series, called The Toymaker, and I thought it would be nice to sit down and chat with him a bit.

So here goes:

  1. Your second book just hit the shelves. Give us a sum up of what’s going on in Jake Pendleton’s life in book 2.

Jake Pendleton finds himself embroiled again in a battle to thwart a terrorist’s evil purpose as he is propelled through deserts, explosions, gun battles and boat chases. Tormented by an unseen nemesis and his own embattled psyche, Jake must accept the help of a little known ally to the US Government and learn painful, but liberating lessons from The Toymaker, a secretive developer of spy toys and advanced technology.

2) Tell me about the Toymaker. I heard he is a real guy and I want to know if he is working for us or for the highest bidder!

Indeed he is a real man. And real-life Toymaker is as characterized in the book. I met him by happenstance on vacation in Utah in 2010. As we got to know each other, I realized he was dropping some of those buzz words I was used to hearing after years of reading spy thrillers. So, finally I just asked him if he made toys for spies. That was when I really got to know the true nature of his business. He invited me to his U.S. Factory to see some of the things he makes and has made. It was pretty cool to say the least. As far as who he works for—the real Toymaker is a true patriot. He’s served this country since the 1950’s. Any foreign entities he’s supplied ‘toys’ to have been at the behest or under contract through our government. For instance, the copper tents and TEMPEST setup was sold to the Australian Secret Intelligence Service. He’s had dealings with Mossad, Great Britain, as well as a few others. He’s not a highest bidder kind of guy. He’s a man of strong ethics and values and patriotism.

3) What do you think about the high number of J names in the thriller genre? How did you come up with the name for your character?

I don’t guess I ever really thought about until I read this question…probably because the protagonists in the most of the book I read are names like Mitch, Scot, Cotton, Myron, Michelle, Sean, and Oliver. Well, there is Jack Reacher, I guess there’s a J. I have noticed after looking into it that there are a lot of “J” named protagonists. I figure it’s probably just a phase…not unlike how baby names grow in and out of popularity over the years. But my main character will be around for many more thrillers so I guess I’ll keep adding to it. I came up with the name Jake by nothing more than putting together names until I found one that sounded like I’d want him as a main character…much like Gregg Kaplan or Elmore Wiley, or Francesca Catanzaro. They have a place and the name bears some significance in the story…even it’s its subliminal. There are some names where the name itself tends to sound ‘good guy.’ Conversely, there are names that just ring ‘villain.’ The reader will almost instinctively know which is which just by the name.

4) How did you go about getting published and what is your one piece of advice to the budding thriller writer out there?

My books are independently published. After years of frustration with dealing with the traditional publishing brick wall and the total lack of respect for authors, I figured there had to be a better way. And there is another way. As you know, the options for publishing today are many and none of them should be ruled out. Regardless of how you’re published—traditional, self, vanity…whatever—the number one rule is write a good book. Bottom line is a good story, written well, will sell. If you know you have a good, well-written story then explore ALL your options and don’t rule out anything until you’ve weighed them against each other.

5) Give me a list of the last five books you read (not for research, for fun).

Rules of Betrayal by Christopher Reich
Echo Park by Michael Connelly
Supreme justice by Phillip Margolin (who also endorsed The Toymaker)
The Jefferson Key by Steve Berry (who also endorsed The Savannah Project)
Full Black by Brad Thor

And I’m currently reading The Sixth Man by David Baldacci. Adding to my enjoyment was Frozen Past by Richard C Hale, who is a friend and just independently published his second thriller. Richard is an author to keep an eye on.

6) Hollywood came calling they want to know who you cast in the movie of The Toymaker.

Not an easy question to answer…but I’ll try anyway.
Jake Pendleton: Chris Hemsworth (Clean shaven and lighter hair)
Gregg Kaplan: Karl Urban (always with a 5 o’clock shadow)
Elmore Wiley (The Toymaker): Very difficult—Maybe Donald Sutherland because of his ability to eloquently portray eccentric characters.
Kyli Wullenweber: This one would require more thought. What started out to be a small character role ended up being major. I wouldn’t want to get this one wrong!

7) What’s next in your plan for world domination?

The 3rd Jake Pendleton thriller is in the works and is scheduled to be out by year’s end. At that point I’m tentatively planning on the first of the Gregg Kaplan stories. The two series, Jake Pendleton and Gregg Kaplan, will be distinctly different in flavor. The Jake Pendleton series will lend more toward suspense and intrigue whereas the Gregg Kaplan series will be more of a true mystery. But, as with most plans, that might change as well.

Click the book covers to read more about them and to get a link to buy.

Go support Chuck, cause he kicks mucho ass!

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