From the Crows' Nest

We all face complex challenges to global security and can examine these issues from many different perspectives. One of these perspectives is fiction storytelling, which often comes close to fact and reflects current problems. In this episode, Ken Miller talks with author Jeffrey Fischer to discuss his military fiction books and how to use these stories to help us learn, adapt, and explore creative solutions that address global security challenges today. 

Jeff Fischer is a military fiction author, retired US Air Force Colonel, longtime aviator, and EW officer. Jeff discusses his journey from being in the military to becoming a writer and how this has given him insight into global security issues. Ken and Jeff discuss Live Range and Balkan Reprisal, two books exploring these themes through Dr. Kurt Nover's story. Dr. Nover is the main character who is a retired Navy Seal turned medical doctor who battles PTSD and finds himself caught in the middle of global security-altering events.

You can find Jeff’s books here

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Creators & Guests

Ken Miller
AOC Director of Advocacy & Outreach, Host of @AOCrows From the Crows' Nest Podcast
Laura Krebs
Reese Clutter

What is From the Crows' Nest?

This podcast features interviews, analysis, and discussions covering leading issues of the day related to electromagnetic spectrum operations (EMSO). Topics include current events and news worldwide, US Congress and the annual defense budget, and military news from the US and allied countries. We also bring you closer to Association of Old Crow events and provide a forum to dive deeper into policy issues impacting our community.

Ken Miller (00:10):
Welcome to From the Crows' Nest, a podcast on electromagnetic spectrum operations or EMSO. I'm your host, Ken Miller, Director of Advocacy and Outreach for the Association of Old Crows. You can follow me and the show on Twitter at @ftcnhost. Thanks for listening.
In this episode, I sit down with friend and now regular guest, retired US Air Force Colonel and author Jeffrey Fischer, known by his call sign Fish. Jeff has an extremely diverse military career with over 30 years of operational experience. He's flown both the EC-130H Compass Call and the Navy's EA-6B Prowler with considerable combat time. Additionally, he served two tours in Washington, DC Headquarters US Air Force Pentagon. Towards the end of his career, Jeff was a senior diplomatic defense official at embassies in Austria and Kosovo, and his final assignment was a senior position at NATO's Special Operations headquarters in Belgium.
Before I introduce Fish formally though, regular listeners will recognize his name. He's been a guest on the show a couple times now. To discuss mainly his observations and thoughts on current Russian invasion of Ukraine, we had him on last spring and I believe late summer, early fall of last year. I'm sure we'll touch on that topic today, but the reason why I'm having him back on specifically is to discuss his first two books, Live Range and Balkan Reprisal. They are the first two military fiction books in a series about main character Dr. Curt Nover, retired Navy SEAL turned medical doctor, who battles his own demons of PTSD and finds himself caught in the middle of global security altering events.
As the forward to the second book, Balkan Reprisal, states, sometimes fiction cuts, disturbingly close to fact and fiction can help us explore complex issues from different perspectives with little consequence. This can help us learn, adapt, and find creative solutions that might otherwise evade us. We're going to take a look at some of the complex challenges to global security, but through the writing of Colonel Fischer and the eyes of his main character, Dr. Curt Nover. With that, I welcome retired US Air Force Colonel and author Jeffrey Fischer From the Crows' Nest. Fish, it's great to have you back on the show. Thanks for joining me.
Jeffrey Fischer (02:19):
Ken, thanks so much. It's always good to be with you, man.
Ken Miller (02:21):
I appreciate you taking time. You've been on the show a couple other times, as I said at the opening. I felt it was right to give you an opportunity to come back on the show. We really wanted to talk about the books that you've written. When you've been on before, we've talked a lot about current events, situation in Ukraine, and we've mentioned your books. But since that time, I've had the chance to read them. Loved them. I highly recommend them to our listeners. I wanted to have you back on because I wanted... You addressed some real interesting topics and scenarios in both of these books that I think we can learn a lot from in terms of how we think about current affairs.
To begin, I wanted to ask you, you have such deep experience operationally in the Air Force, in the Joint Forces, Special Forces. You leave the military and you decide you want to write fiction. Before we actually get into the books, can you talk a little bit about this journey? Because I think this journey actually explains a lot about what you're writing in terms of the characters and the plots and everything.
Jeffrey Fischer (03:23):
To me, it's a really important question, and I appreciate you asking it. In 2011, I had the idea for Live Range, and I thought it was a really cool plot twist. It was a weird, very nuanced kind of idea for a fiction thriller. A lot of it was based on my time at OSCE and listening to the debates between ambassadors about organizations that were mercenary organizations like the Wagner Group and others and what would go into creating a mercenary group, how would you organize training, equip specifically on training. I dabbled with it. I didn't do a lot. And then after 30 years in the military, I retired and my wife and I were planning on traveling around the world.
Literally two months after I retired, she came to me with a positive stick for pregnancy. At 53 years old, I was going to be a father. I wasn't ready for that, but he's awesome. I wouldn't trade him for the world. But I also realized that when he grows up to the point where he truly wants to understand who his father is, it's 50/50 I'm going to be around. So I decided to actually start writing my books, not necessarily as a biography or an autobiography, but there's hints and it lays up a patchwork of who I am. In there, I'm a little bit of Curt Nover. I'm a little bit of Buck. I'm a little bit of Smitty. My wife's a little bit of Alison.
As he reads and as he knew who I was when he was a teenager, hopefully he'll realize, "Yeah, that's my dad and I kind of get it now." That was the context. I put pen to paper and I feverishly finished Live Range. The book was intended to just be for him, which is great. And all of a sudden, my friends started reading it and they're like, "This is amazing. This should be a movie. I want to play this guy." The book sales went nuts, and I'm grateful. Most of my friends threatened bodily harm on me if I didn't have Curt Nover continue, and so he ended up in Balkan Reprisal, which we'll talk about here in a little bit.
And then he's also in Afghan Ghosts and The Russian Puppeteer. Those are the four that are out and the fifth book is being written right now.
Ken Miller (05:24):
Hopefully some of our listeners have had a chance to read. I know we've been talking about it at the AOC here for a few months and just in personal conversations and we've been pushing the book. I've gotten some feedback from people like, "Oh yeah, I've read the book. It's a great book." But for the listeners who haven't, just real quick, we won't talk plot. We won't give away any of the books. You have to read them. But essentially the first book, it's a new series that focuses on the post-military career of this Dr. Curt Nover, Navy SEAL, Special Forces. After he leaves the military, he's looking to heal.
He's struggling with a lot of demons from his time in the military. He goes into medical school, becomes a doctor. The book Live range really begins with a new chapter in his life that's opening up where he's going to leave residency and go and work through Doctors Without Borders over in Africa to help a town that doesn't have adequate medical care or so it seems. And that starts to unfold a series of events that ultimately have real global security implications that he gets caught up in unknowingly. He navigates those complexities. With that, one of the things that comes out immediately from, you mentioned this a minute ago, that Curt Nover has a little bit of you in it.
Some of the characters have other people that you've associated with. If your wife is listening to this, the character of Alison is a very positive character in the life of Dr. Nover. Good job on checking that box. Could you talk a little bit about that character development?
Jeffrey Fischer (06:58):
Sure. Remember, the foundation is that this was intended for my kid, right? He's going to grow up with a father who has PTSD, and it's managed PTSD. At some point, he's probably going to not understand it and I get that. I've read a lot of fiction thrillers and I like them.I like Jason Bourne. I liked all these series, but all these characters never seem to have flaws. They were perfect. I decided that, no, that's not realistic. Curt Nover, he's a protagonist that keeps putting his nose in the wrong place and somehow has to save the world over and over again.
At the same time, he's struggling with his own demons, and he's trying to balance his life, his time with his new lover, his girlfriend. It's tough. He doesn't win every day. PTSD sometimes wins and sometimes it doesn't, but you got to get up every day and keep fighting.
Ken Miller (07:51):
I think that that's an important point. Like you mentioned, some of these other military fictions. I mean, Dr. Nover is just basically an average person who has experience in the military, but he doesn't exhibit any unique skillset that all these other movies and books focus on. He's just a person who's trying to figure out what the next step is.
Jeffrey Fischer (08:13):
Right. He's a mentally handicapped Jack Ryan, right? I mean, I hate to say it that way, but he's got some challenges and demons in his head. That was the foundation for building Curt, of what Curt was going to be. And then some of the guys that helped him were people who were close to me. Smitty's a conglomeration of a group of friends. Buck is a conglomeration of a bunch of friends. Don't want to give away too much of the story, but these are all people that were in my life. You already quoted that or we'd mentioned before he came on air. You laughed because Don Bacon is a character in book two.
He's Captain Don Bacon's flying EC130s. Moving on to book two, one of the things that was important to me was I loved to be an electronic warfare officer. I loved it. The electromagnetic spectrum to me has always been and will always be a domain. I wrote an article that was published in Jed back in 2011 on it. It made the front page, and I appreciate Mr. Knowles greatly for putting that in there. But in that book, the electromagnetic spectrum, for those who don't know, becomes actually the supported domain.
The entire war or lack thereof or the stopping of a war is based on aspects that take place in the electromagnetic spectrum. If you're an EWO and you love EWO books and wish that electromagnetic spectrum could get its day in the spotlight, this is the book for you.
Ken Miller (09:28):
I was talking to my colleague about this. As mentioned, I read the books. I'm getting ready to interview you. When you're trying to figure out "what we do," we being the EMSO community, AOC, it really gets hard to explain it quickly and easily for other people outside of our immediate community to grasp. I think that your books actually... I mean, we need to start to, hey, you want to know what we do? You want to know why we do it? Read Balkan Reprisal. Read Jeff Fischer's books. Because it's military fiction, you take the esoteric edge off of it and it just becomes very approachable. You read this and you're like, okay, I understand how these pieces work together.
I understand what you're doing from an EMSO perspective. I want to talk a little bit more about the EW stuff in Balkan Reprisal. But going back to the first book, one of the interesting plot points is this notion of how private military companies, private mercenary companies, the role that they play in global security. We oftentimes look at major global events and competitions, Russia against NATO or US and China and so forth.
But the role of these private military forces around the world propped up by numerous countries, sometimes competing countries, and being able to use those to accomplish certain objectives, and in this case, certain training exercises that governments can't do was a really interesting look. Talk about why you wanted to focus on this notion of private military companies, mercenary groups, and the role that they play in both stabilizing and destabilizing global events around the world.
Jeffrey Fischer (11:09):
Sure. You have a spectrum of PMCs or PMSCs. There's another acronym. It's private military and security companies. We wouldn't be the military if we didn't have acronyms. When you start talking about it, there's good ones, there's bad ones, there's some that get morphed into this that aren't necessarily good or bad. There's security entity that's private that is trying to do something that's far, far removed from let's say military operations. But if we're start talking about private and we start talking about profit, how far are some countries and some individuals and some folks who lack ethical value, how far are they willing to go to profiteer from being mercenaries and what's important to them?
If you take that to an extreme, do they value human life over their profits? And that's what Live Range looks at. One of the things that I really like about, and I appreciate the military teaching me to be an electronic warfare officer, was you always had to think out of the box. That electronic warfare was this very nebulous thing and trying to explain it was hard and you had to become very good at doing that. But then you had to come up with mission planning ideas and different ways to actually employ your weapon systems. If you've practiced and trained to become a creative thinker, this is the basis for actually some of my books. And not only my books, we talked a little bit offline.
I crafted an article that was just published in the Kyiv Post last week about a private military company, the potential for a mercenary air force for Kyiv. I laid out exactly how that could happen because there are F-16s that are being used for adversary training in the United States, and Kyiv could hire these companies, be them Top Aces or Draken. Lo and behold, this morning as we talked, Newsweek picked up my article and now it's being pushed into 50, 60, 70,000 people. It's clearly thinking out of the box, and that's just one example to touch on your PMC questions. Hopefully I got to it.
Ken Miller (13:08):
When you think about creative story scenarios, I think one of the things that is interesting about your books is that, at least knowing you and knowing your career, there is a lot of real experience trying to come through. You know you're not just creating something that's not connected to reality. A lot of it rang true in terms of like, okay, I understand why he's painting this picture this way. But you mentioned your article in Newsweek. What's interesting is that when fiction is written well, it is very realistic in terms of actually... It's just an idea. It's an idea that that may be able to be implemented without some of the consequences of bureaucracy and laws and stuff like that.
You can look at it from a different perspective. If you can think of it, it can be done in a lot of cases. These groups exist in part because it's hard for governments to actually execute these responsibilities formally because of not just laws, but also funding and other bureaucratic challenges. At the same time, certain things need to be done, training exercises. You take a look at some of that gray area of things might start off really best intentioned, but start to shift a little bit when profits become a part of the equation or lives become a part of the equation. It gets even more gray very quickly. That was what happened to Dr. Nover.
It seemed everything was really crystal clear when he got on location, and it just started getting grayer and grayer and grayer, until he couldn't get out of the mess that he stuck his nose in. Talk a little bit about that in terms of, without giving the plot away, how hard it is oftentimes as a war fighter, as someone who has operational experience, who's in the global affairs, to keep aware of those lines of right and wrong and what do you need to do to serve your country, to help others and so forth, particularly in these complex times.
Jeffrey Fischer (15:16):
When you talk about military training, whether if you're a commander and you're ready to send guys into combat, you want to have the most realistic training that guys can have before they go to war. If that means you're in an EA-6B and you're going to get as many guys to rattle off an AGM-88 out somewhere off the coast of San Diego at a barge so they can feel what it feels like and they can see the flash of the missile, feel the rattle of the airplane, time out the missile, all these types of things, this is the most realistic training that you can get. The same thing with an EC130. You want to go up to Nellis.
You want to be able to turn on your jammers. You want to be able to have all the effects that are associated with that and work through some of the challenges once your jammers come on. But the US military, and I mean this sincerely, this isn't a joke, we do have our ethical lines. We draw our lines, and we stop where we need to stop. Mercenary organizations, especially if they invest heavily in an individual, if they pay $500,000 for a guy to go downrange, they want to make sure that that guy's going to come back because he's an asset. If you were going to remove ethical blinds, what kind of training would you want to give this guy so that you knew that he was going to get back?
Is there a place where you could perform that training and remove ethical challenges or ethical issues? That's the basis for that. But realistic training is the most important thing. We've talked about this on our other shows. And that sandbox training for the Russians, because they don't have enough gas to run maneuvers with all their ground forces or whatever, it proved very, very devastating from the first few weeks of the war in Ukraine. They just didn't have realistic training.
Ken Miller (16:55):
That's something that was going through my mind from our previous conversations as I was reading the book, because one of the assumptions that I was making going into the conflict, Russia invasion of Ukraine, was that they had a lot of real world experience because they were basically training by fighting on the front lines. It at least appeared that way before everything started. But once everything did kick, you realize that sandbox training was actually more or less what they were doing.
It wasn't real world experience training. It's been now almost a year since the invasion started. Now there is real world training. Are we seeing a different understanding of training? What has changed over the last year? And then relate that to this notion of how do you accomplish live training before the fighting starts?
Jeffrey Fischer (17:43):
Arguably, from what we're seeing here in Europe right now is Russia has gotten better. It's much, much harder for Ukraine to gain ground. Right now the fighting is over in the east, over in the Donbas, in that area. Russia's touting every single victory that they get. Even if the town's less than 10,000 people, they captured it and it's a huge deal, and it's not. But it plays well in the media. They're like, "We've captured town X or location X." If you equate location X to be the size of Chicago, it's a big deal. If you equate it to be the size of Tombstone, Arizona, probably not a big deal. Russia media is still churning up the propaganda and that is what it is.
With respect to training for Live Range, there's many conflicts that are going on in the world that I would argue that many Americans have just have no idea. It's not their own fault. I think US media cycles really get sucked up into national news and they really, really want to focus on national news. They are for-profit entities. If they want to report on some place in the middle of Africa that nobody knows or knows how to point to on a map, it's far less interesting than a little girl in Hebron, Indiana got hit by a car and the guy drove away. That's a bigger article. They're a bigger news story. I don't blame people.
If you're an American, you almost have to fight to get international news sometimes, unless it's breaking news. These places that are fighting, a lot of them don't abide by the Geneva Convention. We see war atrocities that are going on in Ukraine every now and then and Russia and it's horrifying. If you really want to be horrified, try and dive into the dark web sometime and see what's going on in some of these places in Sub-Saharan Africa or other locations. It's Abu Sayyaf and his terrorist gang that run around in the Asian Islands. These are ruthless, ruthless people.
Ken Miller (19:39):
You see that in a lot of the media coverage in the book about the mining company that is also a private military company. It's not just paying for certain operations or certain training exercises. There's a whole town that's almost prospering from this. If you're on one side looking in, it's a very positive story. It's almost frightening to dive into that and ask questions, which Dr. Nover starts to ask questions. Because like, wait a second, if this is going on, why is this not going on? Once you start asking questions, you do go into this darkness and you realize that it's not what you think.
A lot of people who are involved in it, they only see their slice and they're not seeing the whole big picture. When you step back and look at the big picture, you're like, oh crap, this is a mess. It's really an interesting look at how you really have to ask questions and keep an open mind. Because if you don't ask questions and you don't know what's going on, you can't get the right solution.
Jeffrey Fischer (20:35):
I learned a very valuable lesson when I was a kid and it's from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. We got to laugh about it. Charlie Bucket brings home a big candy bar and his mom goes, "Where did you get that?" Grandpa Joe goes, "It doesn't matter where he got it. He got it." People in poverty, they don't necessarily care where the money comes from if it helps get them out of poverty.
Even if you are a company that is doing horribly unethical things, if you are helping a local village and the village is surviving, those people don't necessarily care what you're doing, where the money's coming from, nor do they want anyone asking about it. They're like, "Hey, just stop asking about that. We just don't want you to know."
Ken Miller (21:25):
Going onto the second book, there are carryover characters. Obviously Curt Nover is the main character and there's a few carryover characters, Smitty, Alison, so forth. You can pick up the second book and read that before the first book and still get plenty of you don't lose anything per se, although I do encourage both. But Balkan Reprisal, it's not about the private military company as much as it is about countries and bureaucracies and organizations, embassy, State Department, DOD, NATO, and the interplay on that level and the real military operational experience.
Some great stories that you could just see knowing you like, "Oh, this is Colonel Fischer's experience retold in fiction." Talk a little bit about what you want to accomplish in Balkan Reprisal that you couldn't, weren't able to, or decided not to do in Live Range, the first book, because it does take a different approach or different storyline to it.
Jeffrey Fischer (22:28):
Live Range was more of a personal struggle of who Curt was and how I want my kid to know that I was ethical. I did fight in combat, but I was ethical and I realized where the line was. My second book is about, okay, this is a conglomeration of my life. I have electronic warfare, I have special ops, and then I also have my diplomatic hat where I was a defense attaché. I was a senior defense attaché. I lived in Vienna. I worked in Vienna. I've seen espionage up close and personal. I don't want to give away too much, but there's a character in my book that's a honeypot. She truly does exist. I know her from my time.
She's not doing anything illegal. It's legal in Vienna. That blows some people's minds, but it is what it is. No, I did not fall for the honeypot. I just know who she is. Let's clarify that for the readers. But this was a conglomeration. You talk about the diplomatic and political stuff. To me, that was always really some of the most fascinating parts of my work, sitting in a video conference with the White House on some issue that was going on and listening to how diplomats were making decisions. I'm not talking good or bad decisions, this isn't being critical of them, but it was something that the public never got to see. How did that come about and what was the discussion?
If I could peek under the tent, or if I could show people what it was like inside diplomatic and political discussions, what does that truly look like? Why are decisions being made? When we find out publicly it doesn't seem to make sense, well, you don't have the whole story. There's a whole backstory there that you just don't have.
Ken Miller (24:08):
A lot of times you hear from the outside, "Oh, well, State Department is fighting against DOD, or the agencies are not seeing eye to eye." That has some truth, but it's really not the major truth that's going on. You have a lot of cooks in the kitchen, but there's a reason for it. It was great to see how those processes played out both in terms of the long lead decisions that took months to come to, but also the quick decisions that needed to be made and how those agencies came together to make those decisions and give the go on certain operations or so forth.
It did give you an inside look that was very not just realistic, but you knew that it was tied to someone's, yours, direct experience of how things worked inside.
Jeffrey Fischer (24:50):
Sure. I'd be foolish not to point out that there's a vast corporate culture difference between State Department and DOD. That shouldn't surprise anybody. We are just different people, but we all want what's best for the United States. If you try and remember that, even if you're a DOD guy working at an embassy, everyone gets along. I'm very proud to say that in Balkan Reprisal, the forward for that one, was written by my ambassador in Kosovo. I don't poo-poo on State Department. I think State Department plays a very valuable role in our government.
I also think that, yeah, I do have highlights in there where State Department and DOD do butt heads, but they're approaching things through different lenses and that's okay. Trying to find the best way forward is the most important aspect. Greg Delawie, my old ambassador, still a good friend of mine. We have very different political views, we have very different views on use of hard power, but I call him a friend and he's a really, really good guy. He's way smarter than I am. He graduated from Harvard.
Ken Miller (25:52):
But havingthat bureaucratic process in place where those difference of opinions and perspectives can be aired and worked through and taken into account to come up with a solution I think is very important. And that comes out where not everyone does see eye eye in this book. It's not monolithic in that regard. It was an interesting inside look. I do want to touch on the EW stuff real quickly. But before I do that, NATO plays a role obviously in Balkan Reprisal, and I wanted to get your thoughts on... Obviously this was written before the current conflict invasion of Russia into Ukraine.
How NATO has responded in real world with the invasion of Ukraine and how NATO responds in Balkan Reprisal? Could you talk a little bit about that dynamic of NATO as an entity, how it goes about its mission, what do you think is different today than maybe what you thought when you wrote the book?
Jeffrey Fischer (26:50):
Sure. I was the executive officer for NATO Special Operations as my last assignment, and my boss was working directly for the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Tod Wolters, who is a great guy, my boss, Vice Admiral Kilrain, a great guy. But I got to see NATO at a very high level. It's full of really, really good people that want to do great things. Remember, I was on the military side of NATO, not necessarily the diplomatic side. I wasn't up in Brussels. I was down in Mons. NATO was a coalition of the willing. When the coalition speaks, it speaks loudly. I think what military people would often argue is though it doesn't speak enough.
It's the lowest common denominator. It's a consensus-based organization. If everyone's not in line and everyone's not supporting, then NATO doesn't respond. You've got back channel diplomacy going on trying to convince nations to do certain things, and it's a patchwork of volunteerism. As my time in Kosovo, the K4 brigades and assignments were negotiated every year in Brussels. Who is going to send this many people for this part? Which nation's going to send this? And they would all volunteer. This is an all volunteer commitment effort to include the United States' part, and that happens every year.
Thank God, there's enough people to fill the missions. Kosovo and others might argue that there's not enough and that's dwindled down and the numbers are too little right now. That's all a political argument. The military doesn't have a say in that, right? If it wasn't a great organization, Russia and Putin wouldn't have been... He made one of their largest strategic efforts to be to drive fissures and wedges between NATO and break it apart. If he didn't think NATO was important, that wouldn't have been one of his primary targets. It's an important organization. If Putin doesn't like it, it's good.
Ken Miller (28:43):
In the book, one of the more enjoyable sections was the operation that you wrote about with the EC-130H Compass Call and the Commando Solo. For fear of giving too much away, I'll leave an open-ended question, tell us about that as much, but very interesting character because the captain was, of course, Captain Bacon, obviously drawn off of Congressman Don Bacon and even same call sign. It lets you sit back and think about real people in that position, even though it's a made up story. Could you talk a little bit about the EW operation in there? I'll leave that because I don't want to give too much away, but I'll leave that to you.
Jeffrey Fischer (29:24):
Sure. To go into the scenario of the operation, the senior leaders, I won't say which, have levied a requirement onto the planners to say that there can be no hard power. A very dear friend of mine, Lieutenant Colonel Monk Baylis, who is one of the smartest intelligence officers I've ever met in my life, unfortunately passed away of a heart attack two years ago, he's the guy who builds the plan and comes up with the plan. What was funny is it's always hard to teach people who've engaged in hard power all their life. It's hard to tell a soft guy who's kicked down doors and killed people that there is soft power.
One of my favorite quotes that Monk puts in there, and I believe it's from Sun Tzu, is a warrior never truly understands soft power until a mosquito lands on his testicles. It's at that point that you understand that soft power does exist. You don't have to kill everything. The way in which that can happen is through electromagnetic spectrum. Monk creates, without mentioning, he creates a scenario where the electromagnetic becomes the supported domain and everything else is out there trying to support that Special Operations activities. I'll stop right there so I don't spoil it.
It's fascinating because I ran the book by a bunch of editors and a bunch of smart people and they're like, "This is plausible. This really could work." They're like, "Did DOD really approve this book?" I'm like, "Yes, it is approved. It did go through DOD security review. All of my writing goes through them. It was approved and it's cool. It's really cool." Now, F-16 pilots and F-15 pilots are like, "Yeah, I just want to drop off." Okay, you can do that.
Ken Miller (31:05):
That's a good point. These books do go through review. A lot of your military fiction out there doesn't because it doesn't need to, but this is so close to fact in a lot of ways that it does have to go through a review. I think that that speaks highly of the content and the carefulness of you as an author to get that story out there in a near factual way, but also having fun with writing the story. You have two books out now. Dr. Curt Nover is in both. He continues. You have another one coming out soon, Afghan Ghosts, and then I think one or two others are in the hopper in the future. Talk a little bit about where you see this series going and what readers and listeners can expect.
Jeffrey Fischer (31:51):
Afghan Ghosts, Curt and the gang decided to take a vacation into Afghanistan. I don't want to spoil too much of the plot, but.
Ken Miller (31:57):
Of course, a vacation in Afghanistan always ends well.
Jeffrey Fischer (32:00):
Yeah, exactly. Some more things progress into Curt and Alison's life. And because of that, Curt has to go. There's something longing calling him back to Afghanistan and Alison's not too happy about that. And then after that one, the fourth book, which is in heavy edit right now, it's called Russian Puppeteer. And in this one, Curt is hired by a company to work in a nefarious way for the greater good of the United States as Russia attempts to put the United States at the end of a puppet string and basically make the United States dance the way Russia or Moscow wants the United States to react to certain international aspects. Curt's front and center in basically cutting those strings.
Ken Miller (32:48):
I think it's important, to wrap it back up to the first book, when you talk about war fighters, retired warfares who are battling PTSD, it is a process. It doesn't have an end point. You can see this through the life of Curt Nover in these books. The storyline, the plot line is creative and interesting, but there is a process that he goes through. Just when you think that there is positive progress and he's reaching a point, something else can happen and take you back a few steps. It's that continual process. I think it's a really good look into the psychology of a war fighter, what they might struggle with and understand that process.
Jeffrey Fischer (33:30):
It's funny, people who read it that are close to me, that have the ability to reach out to me, it's funny, I get some that say, "Yep, I get it." I get some that go, and forget my language, they're like, "God damn it, Curt Nover. You have Alison. You have everything. You're throwing it away. Stop." And then I have others who just really can't grasp PTSD and they're like, "I don't understand that." All are valid, because it's how people look at the book through their own lens.
The book, it's trying to explain it in a certain way. And to a degree, it's trying to normalize the people who have PTSD, normalize them in society. The stigmatisms, I would love to see them go away. People who have PTSD struggle every day, but they're still people. 90% of the time they're going to be on the good side of life. But unfortunately, when they're on the bad side, it can get pretty bad.
Ken Miller (34:22):
Last question, bringing it back into current events a little bit, with your writing, you're dealing with real world scenarios from the US perspective. Obviously we're engaged through NATO, Russian innovation of Ukraine, there's the China competition, so forth. What are some of your closing thoughts in terms of lessons that we need to learn as a country, US military, from your writing as you were able to dig into scenarios and complexities? What are some of the things that we can learn in the real world in terms of how to approach some of these complex global security challenges?
Jeffrey Fischer (34:56):
My first one would be that the United States is a very powerful country, but it's not the only country. We sometimes fail to realize that alliances are truly important and how our allies see or perceive things is at least important to try and understand. We don't have to agree, but we have to understand why. For example, right now, Chancellor Scholz in Germany, he's waffling very hard on sending heavy tanks and heavy armor into Ukraine. We might be mad about that and we have a right to be upset about that. But if we truly want to be upset, we should probably try and understand why he's doing that, because he's under a lot of pressure and understanding that is important.
If wars are going to be fought in Europe, it's really important to understand Europe. And then the last thing is the interagency... Ambassador Delawie said it really nice when he put a PS in his forward and he said, "Look," he goes, "I realize the movies and the books always say that we don't get along. The truth is we get along far more than we don't get along." I'm really appreciative of his DOD friends. Hollywood makes for good movies, so that this friction that exists between the general and the undersecretary and they're yelling or all the guys sitting around the executive briefing room for the National Security Council and they're fighting, it's not really like that.
They all want what's best. There is political posturing, don't get me wrong. They all want their time in the sun with the president. But at the end of the day, it's about trying to do what's best.
Ken Miller (36:32):
Thank you for taking time. Again, for our listeners, the two books are Live Range and then Balkan Reprisal. Colonel Fischer, it's great to have you on the show. Encourage everyone to pick up a book and hopefully maybe we'll see this in a movie sometime. That would be a nice cap to the experience. But really appreciate you taking time to join us and I'm sure we'll have you back on again in the near future to keep us up to speed on what you're hearing around particularly in the region of Eastern Europe and Russian invasion of Ukraine. Thank you for joining me here on From the Crows' Nest.
Jeffrey Fischer (37:04):
Absolutely. Thanks a lot, Ken. I appreciate you having me. Take care.
Ken Miller (37:07):
That will conclude this episode of From the Crows' Nest. I want to thank my guest, retired US Air Force Colonel and author Jeffrey Fischer. Also, don't forget to review, share, and subscribe to this podcast. We always enjoy hearing from our listeners, so please take some time to let us know how we're doing. That's it for today. Again, you can follow me and the show on Twitter at @ftcnhost. Thank you for listening.


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