It doesn't even take one page for you to be blown away by Brad Thor's highly successful thriller from last summer "Black List." It's right there on the first page of the preface.
But why are we talking about last year's success rather than his latest project ("Hidden Order") slated for release on Tuesday? Because last year's book warned of one of this year's biggest scandals: the NSA spying story.
"This is not only real stuff, but it chilled me to the bone," Thor told TheBlaze in a sit-down interview in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Friday. "This" is the NSA's capability to surveil its own citizens -- but not just its capability, also its willingness and practice.
"I said, 'That's what I'm going to base my thriller, "Black List," on,' and that's what I did."
The first page of the book makes that clear. On it is a transcript of a 1975 "Meet the Press" appearance featuring Sen. Frank Church. At that time -- nearly 40 years ago -- Church issued a dire warning on what would happen if the U.S. government ever decided to turn its intelligence-gathering capability on its own people. The correlation to the most recent headlines is eery [emphasis added]:
"[America’s intelligence gathering] capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left. Such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.
If this government ever became a tyrant, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.
I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that [the NSA] and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."
"This is all going on, and it's going on under the banner of national security," Thor, who lives in Chicago, explained. The rest of the book lays out in a pseudo-fictitious way just how the NSA is doing it. But it's only "pseudo-fictitious" because Thor calls his genre "faction" -- fiction based on fact.
So how was Thor able to "beat the headlines" as he says and deliver such a prophetic novel?
"I have a key group of very very patriotic people in D.C., in Northern Virginia, in different places in the country -- around the world -- who are involved in special operations, they're involved in the intelligence world, involved in politics [and] law enforcement, and this was an issue that was brought to me," he exlained.
"And they said, 'Listen, we are slowly moving into this complete and total state of surveillance in the United States. And they warned me, 'You have a digital exhaust.' ... All of that is being vacuumed up by the NSA, and it is being stored.'"
Case in point: the NSA hosted an unofficial ribbon-cutting this summer for a new data storage facility in Utah.
In short, Thor's vast circle of contacts told him that the NSA after 9/11 had "turned its listening ears inward" and was now targeting Americans. He wrote about it. And less than a year later, it was revealed in the press.
"I knew that was going to be the next big thing," he said later regarding his thinking while writing "Black List" a year before it was published.
But the man who foreshadowed one of this summer's actual thrill-rides says there's more: "So the NSA -- all you're hearing about it -- is really the tip of the surveillance iceberg. There's tons more that's going on behind-the-scenes at the NSA and it involves multiple other agencies."
The "other agencies" is the topic of Thor's latest thriller due out July 9. Really, it's about one agency -- one he explained in an interview with TheBlaze TV on Tuesday that is "more secretive than the NSA, CIA, and some people claim more powerful than the United States government itself.”
He reiterated that point on Friday, but he offered more details about the group and the unlikely way he came about the information.
"Something happened to me after 9/11: My wife and I were stranded on the East Coast. We were supposed to go on vacation and all the flights got cancelled ... and we ended up on the East Coast and we went to a small island off the coast of Georgia," he said.
"And while we were there I learned the story of an organization that exists in Washington, D.C., poses as a part of the United States government -- it is not -- and is more secretive than the NSA, more secretive than the CIA, and some would allege is even more powerful than the United States government."
From then on, his goal was to wrap the group into a thriller. And while he had been carrying the information with him since 9/11, with "Hidden Order" he finally has woven it in.
"I said, 'Now's the time,' because that's the next big thing that's going to explode. You think the NSA scandal was huge?" he asked. "What you're going to learn about in 'Hidden Order' is bigger and it will be, mark my words, the next big thing we're talking about in the public square."
So is the organization funded secretly, or is it out in the open but people just don't understand its true purpose?
"Everybody thinks it's different than it actually is," Thor, a graduate of USC who once had his won TV show, said. "It has one mandate up here [he points], and then there's all the things underneath it. And it has an incredible amount of unchecked power. For the amount of influence it has over out daily lives, over our federal government, the fact that they are not accountable to the American people and yet you could be destroyed by this group, I could be destroyed by this group, we could collectively be destroyed by it."
"And if I told you the name of the group, you'd never believe it," he added. "And that's because they actively have people within the organization whose job it is to deter any true observations or picking apart of this organization."
He continued: "It's going to blow you away at how precise and how good they are [at] steering everybody away from understanding what it is they do."
"People are going to be stunned when they read 'Hidden Order.'"
While he wouldn't divulge the name of the group, he did confirm at least that it wasn't the Department of Agriculture (the most innocuous organization this author could think of).
Why he's changed his mind on a major political issue
Ardent followers of not just Thor's writing but also his politics know that he's a bold conservative. He makes no bones about where he thinks this country is headed, and his writing reflects those beliefs. But recently, he has had a major reversal on a key political issue.
Thor used to believe that it was time for stronger conservatives to break away from the Republican Party and start a new one. Not anymore. In fact, he's going to unveil a new philosophy in a speech as part of Beck's Man in the Moon speaker series on Saturday afternoon.
But he's giving us a taste now.
"The big thing I've been missing at all my Tea Party rallies is: What can I do? What can you do? What is the way we turn this thing around?"
That used to mean breaking away, but now it's about reforming what's already there.
"I realized we don't have enough time for a third party," he said with urgency. "We've got the midterm elections coming up and then we've got the general in 2016."
"And the big thing I came to realize is, if you've got house that's great -- got great bones -- why would you knock the house down because you don't like the cabinets or the counter tops? Rip out the cabinets and counter tops and replace them."
In fact, he even said conservatives can learn from the progressives who have infiltrated the Democratic party and, for example, turned Colorado from a Republican state to a Democratic one.
"It's not hard, it's not rocket science," he assured. "It's all there and we can study from our friends on the left, and we can learn, and we can beat them at their own game."
Almost sounds like a great idea for a thriller.
You can watch our full interview below: