Walt Gragg Turns Realities of War into a Work of Fiction in ‘The Red Line’

Photo courtesy of Kyle Hunt Archives

One of the questions I’m frequently asked about my World War III epic The Red Line, a novel about a major conflict between Russia and the United States, is – Why a war novel and why Russia?

The answer is not a simple one. First let me say my hope is you find this is a story unlike any you have experienced. The Red Line is not just another techno-thriller intent on glorifying war and reveling over the latest military technology. The intent of the book is to focus on the only thing that matters in war – the people who find themselves facing it. This is an edge-of-your-seat story about ordinary people caught in extraordinary circumstances. There are no superheroes. What there is, is an attempt to show the best, and sometimes the worse, of humanity in a true-to-life light. It was written to be read, and hopefully enjoyed, by a wide-ranging audience of women and men. Major reviewers have found the characters compelling, and all too real. While every novel has its critics, we are pleased to have had many readers tell us it is the best book they have read in years. When you open its pages you will become a part of it. It is all but guaranteed that as you read you will find yourself standing with the Americans in the bitter cold and blowing snows as the Russian tanks approach. This is a book whose purpose is to cause you to pause, reflect, and discuss. Hopefully, it will touch both your heart and mind.

The story is based upon personal experience on just how such a war would look. While not all who write these types of thrillers previously served, I am an Army veteran. After three years spent in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, I found myself in the middle of the first Cold War, serving at United States European Command Headquarters in Germany. While there I was able to observe a great deal of the American plan for the defense of Europe and experience through multiple war games how we viewed such actions would unfold. I knew our weaknesses, concerns, fears, and what we anticipated the Russians would do. From those elements, the story appeared. At that moment, however, I had neither the time, nor the ability, to write it. So I filed it away and went on with my life. I carried the idea for The Red Line around for nearly twenty years before putting the first word on paper.

 

What triggered the need to present it is the casual attitude toward war that has steadily developed. War is being celebrated and glorified by far too many. Much of our citizenry has grown detached and almost enthusiastic in their view of the horrors of such occurrences. That, most certainly, hadn’t always been the case. Just decades earlier, during the Vietnam War, everyone knew someone in the military. We all had a neighbor, classmate, friend, or relative involved in the fighting. And that heightened our understanding of these hideous events. Such, however, has changed. In present day, few of us know anyone in the military. That has greatly increased the average person’s tolerance for these nightmarish developments. War has quickly become little more than a video game or macabre form of home entertainment. My intent, more than anything, was that The Red Line be able to change at least a few of those perspectives. If we insist upon blindly reveling in the senseless slaughter of others, the result will be something none of us will want to see. If we continue to view war as a first response, rather than a last resort, we will suffer in the end.

To answer the second part of the question, given recent events Russia was a logical choice, both from what I’d experienced firsthand and from today’s, and quite likely tomorrow’s, headlines. There are clear signs that the threat to the United States and the world is growing. Putin desperately wants to return his country to its rightful place on the world stage. To do so, he is strengthening his conventional weapons and nuclear arsenal. In 2017, Russia is building 700 new tanks and armored vehicles and 170 additional military aircraft.

We survived a first Cold War, but there is no guarantee we will survive a second one. Although the threat of thermonuclear war had been dormant, the capacity for such an event has always been present. The world has developed weapons so powerful that should the unthinkable happen all of mankind could be destroyed in a few swift minutes. More than ever, if we wish our children to have long, happy lives, we need to find the wisdom to prevent such a world-ending holocaust from occurring. The Red Line is just a small piece of what we hope is a ever-growing movement to do just that.

 

 

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