The best books about clever heroes risking everything to protect others

Thomas Sewell Author Of Techno Ranger: A Sam Harper Military Thriller
By Thomas Sewell

Who am I?

When writing about quick-witted heroes fighting through danger to protect the innocent and those they love, I draw on the thousands of books and their authors who shaped my own understanding of how a hero behaves; of the principles and emotions which drive a person to persist in the face of massive adversity. Lost in the worlds of those books, inspired by the reading habits of my adopted father, I inhaled these five authors' works in particular. They became an illustrated history of the craft for me, showing through example how adventure writing had evolved and what it could become at its finest.

I wrote...

Techno Ranger: A Sam Harper Military Thriller

By Thomas Sewell,

Book cover of Techno Ranger: A Sam Harper Military Thriller

What is my book about?

North and South Korea collide with the prospect of reigniting war in this action-packed military thriller! 

1LT Sam Harper, surfing engineer, just wants to fit in on his job and impress his CIA ex-girlfriend, but he'll risk everything to prevent mass destruction. Sam's intelligence analysts identify security vulnerabilities in a government lab in Seoul. Meanwhile, a desperate North Korean general sends a naïve Special Forces lieutenant and team across the DMZ to steal nuclear materials technology.

Sends them in disguise to infiltrate the top-secret lab Sam protects. Sam must defend against the Korean People's Army while figuring out how to end the danger to those he cares about, but his involvement with a traitor and a CIA temptress may teach him the wrong lessons about trust.

The books I picked & why

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Live and Let Die

By Ian Fleming,

Book cover of Live and Let Die

Why this book?

Drawing on Fleming's experiences in Jamaica, MI6 intelligence officer Bond, James Bond, not only outwits the villain's attempt to turn him into shark and barracuda bait but also deploys a limpet mine to good effect in order to save himself and his female companion from death by coral reef dragging, a device I pay homage to in a later novel.

Fleming's Bond novels introduced the world to a clever hero required to take direct responsibility for stopping great evil. Bond doesn't shy away from brute force when required, but prefers more elegant solutions, inspiring later writers.

Like millions of others, the popular movies introduced his work to me, but Fleming was the early master of the art of an espionage/action thriller novel, inspiring many who followed.

The Sackett Brand: The Sacketts

By Louis L'Amour,

Book cover of The Sackett Brand: The Sacketts

Why this book?

Louis L'Amour mastered the art of the adventure story. A story where we root for the hero to succeed and live their exuberance with them when they do. In 1965, he published The Sacket Brand, a western about a man and his new bride traveling to their first home together. Ambushed, badly injured, hungry, cold, and desperate, we live his experience of being hunted by enemies while uncovering the mystery of why it's all happening.

When he finally discovers the truth, we cheer as he, in turn, forces his enemies to run from him. Honor, integrity, stubborn principle. Persistence in the face of extreme adversity. Those were the life lessons I received from L'Amour's books and try to pass on in mine.

The Bourne Identity

By Robert Ludlum,

Book cover of The Bourne Identity

Why this book?

Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity showed generations of readers and writers, and me as a teen, how to live inside the head of the hero. To experience actual struggle from their limited point of view, including an internal debate as to Bourne's genuine character. Paid assassin or principled protector? He ultimately answers in the best way possible, demonstrating through his actions in the story the principles he lives by.

Science fiction was my first love as a kid, but Ludlum was one of the first action writers my dad introduced me to. At first, those adventures were just something to read, but ultimately I admired the main character's thought process while solving his tactical and strategic perils.

The Hunt for Red October

By Tom Clancy,

Book cover of The Hunt for Red October

Why this book?

In this cold-war era submarine thriller, Tom Clancy turned everything into world-imperiling stakes. He multiplied points of view so we could see the effects of events on friend and enemyhero, bystander, and villain, alike.

Clancy showed us that deeply principled men, willing to sacrifice to protect others, existed on both sides of military and espionage conflicts. That while there might be villains on both sides, there could also be heroes on both sides. A character's motivations and actions defined them, not which uniform they wore.

His deep technical accuracy, combined with fast-paced adventure, caught my multiple interests, and those of millions of others, defining a new genre I write in today, the military techno-thriller.

The Complete Hammer's Slammers

By David Drake,

Book cover of The Complete Hammer's Slammers

Why this book?

David Drake combined futuristic weapons and armor with the spirit of raw, down-to-earth, military reality; while still managing to have fun with it all. He introduces futuristic military technology like fusion-powered hovertanks firing bolts of plasma and then shows the minds of those who plot to use them to the best strategic advantage.

His work collided my science fiction and economic interests with my military and espionage adventures. Tactics and technology. Realistic military relationships combined with ever-present military bureaucracies. Drake describes both the brotherhood of war and the ultimate casual destructiveness of it, while keeping his characters' humanity mostly intact.

Colonel Hammer's mercenary company illustrated for me the incentives and realities of war, and of those paid to wage it, a lesson I made great use of later in my own work.

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