Jeffrey S. Stephens
March 29, 2024

A native New Yorker, now living in Connecticut, Jeffrey Stephens is the author of the Jordan Sandor thrillers, TARGETS OF DECEPTION, TARGETS OF OPPORTUNITY, TARGETS OF REVENGE and ROGUE MISSION, as well as the murder mystery CRIMES AND PASSION.

Interview by Elise Cooper

Q: Can you share the inspiration behind your series creation?
Jeffrey: I have a friend that worked for the CIA who was a Green Beret. He would tell me a lot of information, but not state secrets obviously. I decided to write a book about a spy who people did not know was a spy, titled Targets of Deception. I wrote four books in the series. After writing books in other genres, I decided to write a new spy series with a CIA agent, Nick Reagan, titled The Handler. One of the reasons I wrote this book, I wanted to write a classic Spy adventure all over the world. The sequel delves with terrorism and US government corruption, titled Enemies Among Us. The whole point of this book is to figure out who the good guys are and who are the bad guys in the government and how to tell them apart.

Q: What characteristics define Nick Reagan, the central figure in your novels?
Jeffrey: He is sure of himself, sarcastic, patient, has integrity, and is direct. He is a CIA assassin but is righteous even while having his own rules. He is a patriot and is incredibly loyal. He will buck authority when he thinks the interest of the country and its people are at risk.

Q: Given the timing of your publications, how do your books reflect on the threat of Islamic Jihadists?
Jeffrey: I refer to them as lunatics. When I came out with The Handler my editor was unsure if people still wanted to read about terrorists. I pointed out these intelligence officers still live in the shadows and that the terrorist dangers still exist. Then came October 7th. I had this book quote that was written before October 7th but applies, “Innocent people will suffer and die, and he (the terrorist) was the instrument of the carnage. Determined to wreck vengeance on the people.”

Q: Your inclusion of Koran quotations in your narratives is notable. What prompted you to incorporate these elements?
Jeffrey: It dictates the death of anyone who does not believe in the Islam religion. ‘Terrorize and behead those who believe in a scripture other than the Koran.’ ‘Slain the unbelievers wherever you find them.’ This is all true. This is their philosophy. Part of the reason I write the books is to make people aware of this. The home incidents that I describe in a scene occur.

Q: How do you contrast the characters of Reagan’s partner, Carol Gellos, with CIA analyst, Erin David?
Jeffrey: Gellos is secretive, fearless, and no nonsense. Gellos is based on a real person in the military who is tough as nails. Erin is confident and is more of an intellect than in the action. Both are capable, determined, and competitive.

Q: What dynamics exist between Nick and Erin in the context of their professional and personal lives?
Jeffrey: He is a bit hands off, distant, and withdrawn, because the profession is very dangerous and he does not want to have Erin hurt, physically and emotionally. They trust each other and she wants a commitment. He does sleep around at times to avoid being attached to the relationship.

Q: Can you elaborate on your comparison between the Cold War and the War on Terror within your works?
Jeffrey: Yes. I have two quotes. “The Cold War when we all spied on each other had politicians make empty threats about their global power to impress their constituents. But we all knew who the enemy was and how to keep the peace. No one slaughtered civilians or set off nuclear bombs or anything close to that.” The other quote is about the War on Terror, “the moderate leaders of Islam must take responsibility and control these forces of evil. Not all snakes are venomous, but we must be ever vigilant regarding the few who threaten our existence.”

Q: Your critique of bureaucracy, especially within Enemies Among Us, is quite stark. Could you expand on that?
Jeffrey: The people who run the biggest agencies in this country where the real decisions are made and where real-life issues are handled are political appointees. We do not vote for the head of the DOJ, FBI, or CIA. We as Americans had nothing to do with choosing them. The point of this book is to show the wrong guy might be in a position of authority, which is putting this country at risk. In the book the head of the CIA is a political appointee without much knowledge that listens to the wrong people who also happen to be the bad guys. This is the danger in our government. Some of the appointees care more about the power, obtaining wealth, obtaining control, and consider themselves elitists. I show in this book how there are those in business who work hand in hand with those in the government to control us. They are the real power in this country.

Q: How would you describe the antagonist, known as The Handler, in your series?
Jeffrey: Uncaring, brilliant, vicious, violent, and evil. He is a control freak. He is a zealot. He promotes the agenda of his beliefs to the point of morality. He is devious, cunning, ruthless, and amoral.

Q: Were the characters Derek and Connie Malone inspired by real-life individuals?
Jeffrey: Yes. They were based on a couple who in real life had botulism poisoning by a pirated version of Botox. They both ended up in comas and almost died. They were completely paralyzed even thought they could hear everything. The guy told me I should think about it as a sub-plot including the threats of Big Pharma and I did build it into a subplot. The antidote was controlled by the CDC in Atlanta which is dangerous because it is not easily available.

Q: What can readers anticipate from your next book?
Jeffrey: I am exploring my options.

Review by Elise Cooper

The Handler and its sequel, Enemies Among Us by Jeffrey Stephens will remind readers of a Nelson DeMille novel that deals with terrorists and conspiracies within the government.

The Handler has CIA operatives Nick Reagan and Carol Gellos, with the help of the CIA analyst Erin David, play a cat and mouse game with the horrific terrorist, known as the Handler. They travel throughout the world trying to track him down after the CIA uncovers details of violent assaults.

Enemies Among Us has Reagan and company continuing to search for their prey, the Handler. But inexplicably his CIA superiors order them to stand down. Accustomed to flouting authority, Reagan ignores the directive while seeking to identify the source of this obstruction. As he probes, it becomes increasingly evident that the evil he faces is from not only the terrorist, but corruption from within his own agency and government.

Both books have fast-paced action and the conspiracy angle will make readers think about what is really happening in the world today.

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