Ryan Steck is an editor, an author, and the founder and editor in chief of The Real Book Spy. Ryan has been named an “Online Influencer” by Amazon and is a regular columnist at CrimeReads. TheRealBookSpy.com has been endorsed by #1 New York Times bestselling authors Mark Greaney, C. J. Box, Kyle Mills, Daniel Silva, Brad Thor, and many others. Ryan’s newest book, Lethal Range, will release on August 8, 2023, from Tyndale Fiction. A resident of Michigan, along with his wife and their six kids, Steck cheers on his beloved Detroit Tigers and Lions during the rare moments when he’s not reading or talking about books on social media. He can be reached via email at [email protected].
Q. Lethal Range hits the shelves today, August 8th. Tell us how it follows up on your previous Matthew Redd thriller, Fields of Fire.
Ryan: Last year, readers were introduced to Matthew Redd, a former Marine Raider who returned home to Montana for the first time in a decade to investigate the death of his adoptive father, a cattle rancher named Jim Bob Thompson, only to accidentally uncover a global conspiracy that only he could stop. That was the pitch for Fields of Fire, but if you read my first book, then you know that Redd, who was a touch hotheaded and in a hurry to get answers, made some enemies along the way. Now those enemies are back, and this time, they’ve brought a war right to Redd’s front door. These days, Redd has a wife and son, and a ranch to protect, so he’s got more to fight for. As his enemies close in around him, he once again finds himself in a fight he can’t afford to lose . . . but can’t possibly win on his own.
Q. How did the character of Matthew Redd come to life and evolve across these two novels? Has he changed? What drives him?
Ryan: I love this question because my series, perhaps more than most on the action thriller scene today, is very character driven. The Matthew Redd in Fields of Fire is not the same guy you’ll find in Lethal Range. He’s still 6’3” and 240 pounds of muscle, a sledgehammer in a scalpel’s world, but he’s a year older and has matured a bit. He has a family to think about now, and a ranch to run. He’s put down some serious roots, leaving his days as a wild, hotshot Marine Raider behind him. But that set of skills he possesses, well, let’s just say he puts that on full display here. And if there’s one thing that will push Redd to pick up his trusty maul and Ruger and go back to war, it’s someone threatening the people he loves. The real challenge to writing him as a character, though, is that Redd was the product of a situation where his birth father couldn’t raise him because of his job with the government. Now, after swearing that he’d be nothing like his biological dad, Redd faces that same moral conundrum of “how do I save the world and be a father?”—something I’ve had a lot of fun exploring.
Q. The story revolves around various locations like Spain, Montana, and a ranch. How do these locations contribute to the overall narrative, and what made you choose them?
Ryan: The opening is in Spain, yes. Redd is tracking a fugitive, but things take a turn and go south in a hurry. From that point on, basically the whole story is set in Montana. If you’ve ever been to Big Sky Country, then you know there’s just nothing else quite like it. For me, though, having been a Book Spy and a freelance editor for over a decade, when I made the transition to author, I didn’t want to write anything that was similar to books that I had worked on or covered. At the same time, I was heavily influenced by my two favorite authors, Vince Flynn and C. J. Box. At some point, I realized that we never see the Mitch Rapp or Jason Bourne type of characters out West. We don’t see them on a ranch, in Montana, in the middle of nowhere. So I was intrigued by that, and once I realized that out there—where backup can be hours away at best, and at worst, days away—Redd is really on his own, it just seemed to heighten the tension and suspense. I also think that in all of us there’s a secret desire to just unplug from all this technology that we rely on and go off the grid for a bit to recharge. It really is its own way of life out there, and so far, it’s been a perfect match for my series.
Q. Emily, Redd’s wife, is a key character who experiences a traumatizing event. Can you talk about the process of creating Emily’s character and her importance in the story?
Ryan: Sure, and I’m so glad you brought her up because I think Emily is a fundamental character to this series. You know, when you meet Matthew Redd, you will notice that he is a man of few words. He’s untrusting by nature, suspicious of everyone because he was trained to be. So in a lot of ways, I think of Emily as his moral compass. He really looks to her and leans on her in situations where he feels conflicted. She’s also the one person who can always get through to Redd even when nobody else can reason with him. In many ways, she’s based on my own wife, Melissa, who is probably the strongest person I’ve ever met. I also really wanted to write a hero who isn’t afraid to brag on his wife and love her openly. I just sort of love their dynamic. She’s the beauty to his beast, and it works.
On a funny side note, though . . . my real-life best friend’s name is Michael Derhammer, but I’ve always called him Mikey. I wrote Fields of Fire, creating Emily Lawrence, a nurse practitioner, well before Mikey was ever married. But oddly enough, he’s now married to a rock star of a wife, and her name is Emily . . . and she’s a nurse practitioner. How crazy is that? She’s one of my closest friends now too, and in Lethal Range, you’ll get to meet Mikey, who is Redd’s sidekick for most of the book. Because my series already has an Emily—Redd’s wife—I had to use real Emily’s middle name, Elizabeth, for her character. But she’s there too, and I can’t wait for readers to meet the Derhammers!
Q. When it comes to your work as The Real Book Spy, what initially sparked your interest in the thriller genre, and how has that passion influenced your career?
Ryan: I mentioned him above, but honestly, my love of thrillers began with Vince Flynn and his Mitch Rapp series, which I just devoured years back and still consider to the gold standard in the thriller genre today. From there, I fell in love with the writing of Daniel Silva, Brad Thor, Jack Carr, Mark Greaney, Ted Bell, Gayle Lynds, Joel C. Rosenberg, James Rollins, Brad Taylor, Brad Meltzer, and so many others. I was always looking for the next book to sink my teeth into but quickly found that there was not any one-stop shop for all things thriller. At the time, I was writing reviews for other outlets, and with encouragement from many of the writers I listed above, I decided to launch a website dedicated to covering the whole genre, and The Real Book Spy was born.
As far as how it influenced my career, well, I always say that Vince Flynn made me fall in love with thrillers, but C. J. Box is the reason I wanted to become an author. And I think their influence on me is pretty obvious when you look at where my series is set and who the main protagonist is.
Q. What’s next?
Ryan: No spoilers, but . . . the last three words of Lethal Range reveal the title for Matthew Redd #3, which should come out next June. I also have a prequal novella, set well before Fields of Fire, coming out in November. It’s called Redd Christmas and will be an e-book exclusive. It follows Redd’s time as a new Marine and shows the transformation he goes through to become the battle-hardened operator that you meet in Fields of Fire. I am really excited about that story, which is the hardest thing I’ve ever written. I’m currently about a third of the way done with the fourth Redd book and am really happy with how that’s coming along. I’m also working on some other projects, including a manuscript I wrote before Fields of Fire, which I might dust off and look to sell at some point. So, lots of irons in the fire, and I am so appreciative to every single reader who takes a chance on me because thanks to them, I get to be a full-time author.
Ryan Steck's Latest
On an island off the coast of Spain, Matthew Redd and his FBI fly team surveil a luxury villa in hopes of catching a high-value fugitive. But when Redd leads an unauthorized raid on the villa, he discovers they’ve been set up, and he is sent home to face the consequences of defying orders.
Meanwhile, Redd’s wife, Emily, is on a remote stretch of Montana road driving their sick baby to the doctor when she finds her SUV surrounded by a biker gang intent on harassing her. As the bikers pound her fenders and her infant son screams, Emily fights to keep the SUV on the road . . . and then suddenly the bikers back off, leaving her safe but shaken.
Redd returns home, suspended from his team and certain that he is to blame for Emily’s harassment after his run-in with the local biker gang the year before. Fearing that there is more to come, he prepares to defend his family. But Redd soon learns the gang is stronger in numbers than he could’ve imagined, and there is more behind their vendetta than he could’ve guessed. As his son’s condition worsens and his beloved ranch faces financial ruin, he finds himself fighting a war on multiple fronts―one he can’t win on his own.