Uncaged welcomes Mark A. Hewitt
Uncaged: Your latest book will release on January 2, and it’s the fifth book in a series. Can you tell us more about this series? Does a reader have to read these in order or can they be picked up anywhere in the series?
After the Soviets shot down the U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers over the USSR, the CIA and the President vowed to never again put a manned surveillance aircraft in harm’s way. The problem was, of course, that in the early 1960s the state of technology didn’t allow for reliable unmanned surveillance flights on an as-needed basis. My books are based on the premise that a retired CIA executive teams with a retired Marine Corps fighter pilot to conduct secret limited aerial surveillance missions on a contracted basis for the CIA, in apparent direct opposition to the national policy. The only people who knows of this unique black program is the President, the CIA Director, and the retired CIA exec and the Marine pilot. The program becomes wildly successful and missions are expanded. It allows the President and the CIA to use the pilot and his airplane in various ways not ever envisioned by previous CIA Directors or Presidents, such as finding and killing the top 100 terrorists on the planet.
After spending a few years with the U.S. Border Patrol, the pilot, Drue Duncan Hunter, develops the skills “to find people who do not want to be found.” The secret to his success is a unique “quiet airplane,” one of 11 which were built for the U.S. Army at the end of the Vietnam War. And he doesn’t only find terrorists but “enemies, both foreign and domestic.” Politicians with split allegiances. My five novels are based on various international missions (such as finding terrorists camps or hideouts, or the location of hostages in the mountains of Colombia, or conduct aerial eradication of opium poppies in Afghanistan).
I purposefully designed my novels so that they do not have to be read in order. Reading them in order is helpful. At book signings I tell prospective readers that they can pick up any of my novels and they will be brought up to speed very quickly on the previous exploits of Duncan Hunter.
Uncaged: Is this an open-ended series or do you have set plans on how far the series will go?
I believe my cast of characters are “older and more mature” than what you’d find in other series of novels. In many ways these are the exploits of men and women at the top of their game, near the end of their careers, racing to finish the “unfinished business” of some of the major terrorism problems of the intelligence community before they are also retired from the program. After eradicating the vast majority of terrorists abroad, Hunter and company find there are enemies “domestically” and struggle with how to deal with them. I think there’ll be several more Duncan Hunter novels.
Uncaged: Aviation has been a huge part of your life, from the dreams of a child to the time in the military. First of all, thank you for your service. Do you still fly for recreation?
I say the only way I fly now is “first class.” After flying jets off carriers, I’m comfortable with my past and gladly allow others to take me where I want to go. I’m one of the luckiest guys I know—anytime a kid gets to fly the jet of his dreams, that is a remarkable story.
Read the rest of this interview in the issue below
Mark A. Hewitt is a retired aviation executive, college professor, and military pilot. The ideas for his books spring from life experiences, his extensive international travel, and an admiration for the unique “quiet” spyplanes from the Vietnam War. He holds a master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College and an MBA from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. His novels have been approved by the CIA’s Publication Review Board.
Basking in the glory of killing Osama bin Laden, the President revealed that US Navy SEALs carried out the mission. His constant heralding of their heroism and capabilities damaged the SEAL’s operational security, revealed tricks of their trade, and endangered them and their families.
As some in the Special Operations community expected and feared, a number of SEALs are systematically killed across the country. The Navy’s legendary SEAL commander, Captain Bill McGee, believes he is the next target of a sniper and seeks help from a close friend with unusual contacts and capabilities.
Duncan Hunter, a retired Marine Corps fighter pilot, flies a top-secret airplane with his mentor, Greg Lynche, the sometimes über-liberal retired CIA Chief of Air Branch. Together, in their quiet airplane, they execute some of the CIA’s most sensitive airborne counterterrorism missions under a Special Access Program. Saving McGee from a sniper’s bullet comes at a price as Duncan Hunter finds himself at the crossroads – either remain a contract pilot and betray a friend or become a patriot and risk exposure as a traitor. His decision pulls him into one intrigue after another, finally revealing the truth behind several conspiracies hidden behind the firewalls of top-secret security clearances, CIA files, and Special Access Programs.
0700 October 10, 1996
Del Rio International Airport, Del Rio, Texas
The overnight thunderstorms blew out just in time. Duncan Hunter sat back in his chair and stared into the distance, as dozens of maquiladoras on the other side of the Rio Grande disappeared over the horizon and into the haze. Aircraft mechanics slogged through the hangar dripping with sweat. In a couple hours, it would be show time.
It was another humid Thursday in Del Rio, and the US Border Patrol’s Director of Aircraft Maintenance would soon be on his way to the other end of the airfield either to bring Border Patrol aviation into the 20th century or watch it lapse back into a glorified flying club—or die altogether.
The uncertainty made Hunter nervous. For a former Marine fighter pilot, the feeling was new and a bit unsettling. There was a career resting on how well the presentation went. Depending on who one talked with, it was not a good fit having a former fighter pilot and aircraft maintenance officer with a couple of graduate degrees as the Border Patrol’s new Aircraft Maintenance Director. It was an odd choice for a new civil servant with little to no civil aviation experience.
Law-enforcement aviation and FAA regulations were completely different beasts than military flight and maintenance operations, but the GAO report suggested either the Border Patrol get some adult leadership to turn its aviation program around, or it would be shut down.
Not many applied for the job. Hunter was a surprise selection. Within the first hour of his first day, he met the crusty old Chief Pilot for the first time. Charles Rodriguez jabbed a finger into Hunter’s chest and spat, “Who the fuck do you know in the Border Patrol?”
Taken completely by surprise by the outburst from the short, heavily wrinkled man in a flight suit, Hunter coolly replied, “You try that again, and I’ll break your finger. I don’t know anyone in the Border Patrol.” He saw a rectangular nametag, a Border Patrol aviation patch, and a shoulder holster containing a 9mm Beretta.
Read the rest of the excerpt in the issue below