Matthew Quirk studied history and literature at Harvard College. After graduation, he spent five years at The Atlantic reporting on crime, private military contractors, terrorism prosecutions, and international gangs. He lives in San Diego.
Q How did you get the idea for this excellent political thriller?
Matthew: I try to strike a balance between a conspiracy shadow behind certain powers, while adding hope, realism, and not feeding into the cynicism. The premise has what would happen if a President came under attack? I played with these questions for the readers to think about. What is the drive behind someone going against the office they are protecting? Are they protecting a larger value by taking matters into their own hands? Is going rogue part of the problem or solving the problem? Who can be trusted? This is my go at a Die Hard or Seven Days in May story with a bit of Agatha Christie thrown in.
Q Was the President based on anyone?
Matthew: This is an interesting time for politics, with such a high temperature. I try in writing a plot to be non-partisan. Some readers of my books have diametrically opposed views. They find corollaries of what is currently happening. For them, the story will often confirm their views of how they perceive Washington DC. For instance, if there is a crooked President in the book, each side thinks the President is part of the other side. For me, it is interesting that I can write these political thrillers in an incredibly polarized time and still have them appeal broadly.
Q How would you describe President Kline?
Matthew: Some think he is paranoid, elitist, aloof, but others think he is caring and protective. One of the mysteries of the book is, can the President be trusted to defend the Constitution?
Q What is real in the book?
Matthew: “Yankee White,” a special background investigation, basically a clearance, required of anyone who will hold the President’s life in their hands such as a chef, helicopter pilot, and a doctor. There is this distinct circle of people that would single handedly be able to kill the President.
The saying “shut up and color,” which is military slang for “do your job and follow orders.” This was one of the themes of the book because what if doing the right thing and following orders are at odds.
My friend had written an entire book on Raven Rock, the bunker 700 feet under a mountain near Camp David. I tried to find a bunch of imagery. In the beginning of the book, I drew a simplified layout of the architectural buildings and tunnels. I wanted the reader to follow along with the action I did take some liberties to streamline things, but everything in the book comes from real life.
The Presidential Emergency Action Documents, which are documents that can be invoked by the President. No one knows what is in them. The President could possibly create martial law, suspend Congress, nationalize industries, and ignore the Constitution.
Q Do you think Secret Service Agents can be flies on the wall?
Matthew: I have this book quote, they “can see everything and see nothing.” I did talk to Secret Service people for the book. Their job is to protect the person and yet they are seeing Washington politics up close. They still do their job, which is protecting the office. Even if it someone they do not respect they are still willing to protect them, even to the point of sacrificing their life. This is very honorable.
Q How would you describe the Secret Service Agent Eric Hill?
Matthew: Direct, a straight talker, protective, has a slight temper, loyal and suspicious. Because of his backstory he is disillusioned.
Q How would you describe the rookie Secret Service Agent Amber Cody?
Matthew: Tough, smart, stubborn, enthusiastic, disciplined, and feels she needs to prove herself to be brave.
Q There is a book quote about the Secret Service that reminds me of those in the military. Please explain.
Matthew: You are referring to this book quote, “The Service was in many ways closer than family. Agents spent more time with each other than they did with their wives and husbands and kids. They gave everything to the job, including their lives… They lived together, ate together, counted off endless hours driving through the sticks, standing in the rain, staked out in cars, and holed up in hotels.” Many of them are former military. Talking to the real-life Secret Service Agents gave me this impression. They are so dedicated. It is like a military brotherhood.
Q Is there any screen adaptation in the works?
Matthew: Yes, we just announced that Chernin Entertainment has optioned the book for a feature film. I’m really excited to be working with them. The Night Agent has been renewed for season two with the plan to be out in 2024.
Q What’s your next book about?
Matthew: It’s early, so this could change, but the premise is that an actress who always plays tough characters and is well trained in weapons and martial arts has her friend gone missing. While looking for them, she is drawn into the world of espionage and diplomacy. To save her friend and survive she needs to become as tough as the characters she plays on TV.
Inside Threat by Matthew Quirk is a political thriller that will remind readers of Vince Flynn’s Transfer of Power and David Baldacci’s characters Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, retired Secret Service Agents. The plot has secrets, lies, and betrayals with the readers not knowing who the bad guys are and who are the good guys.
The book begins with an attack on the White House, obvious that it has been breached. The President, his wife, the most trusted officials, and the best Secret Service Agents move to a secure underground facility known as Raven Rock. Most impressive is how Quirk drew a simplified version of this complex. It is a facility 700 feet under a mountain near Camp David.
Secret Service Agents Eric Hill and Amber Cody, soon discover the threat is locked inside with them. Communications have been cut, exits sabotaged, and bodies piling up. Hill and Cody must use their skills and instincts to determine who can be trusted. Are the perpetrators the officials, or those in the Army, or the Secret Service? Both know they must do whatever it takes to protect the institution they have been sworn to serve and protect.
Given the current events, this concept of a threat to the government from within is very scary. Wondering who is a friend and who is a foe has readers taking the dangerous journey with Hill and Cody. The many twists will keep people reading, not wanting to put the book down. The Q&A below comes from notes from a conversation with Quirk that has been condensed.