John Gilstrap: Fifteen-year volunteer fireman and EMT, explosives safety and hazardous waste expert, earned a master’s of science degree in safety engineering and a bachelor's degree in history, business consultant, director of safety for a Washington, D.C., trade association, screenplay writer, devoted husband and father, master of the thriller novel. Translated and published in 20 countries, Gilstrap's stories have seen more of the world than many of us ever will.

John Gilstrap: Fifteen-year volunteer fireman and EMT, explosives safety and hazardous waste expert, earned a master’s of science degree in safety engineering and a bachelor's degree in history, business consultant, director of safety for a Washington, D.C., trade association, screenplay writer, devoted husband and father, master of the thriller novel. Translated and published in 20 countries, Gilstrap's stories have seen more of the world than many of us ever will.


A collaborative effort with Kurt Muse resulted in the nonfiction book "Six Minutes to Freedom," and a turn in Gilstrap's writing. “Six Minutes” is the true story of Muse's rescue by Delta Force from Panamanian thugs ordered to execute him.


From meetings with a number of the men directly involved in the rescue and Gilstrap's imagination came the uniquely heroic Jonathon Grave, a freelance covert rescue specialist. First appearing in "No Mercy," Grave's popularity continues to grow and now finds the no-nonsense hero in his third novel, "Threat Warning," the tale of a secret society of killers and the power mongers issuing their orders.


John Gilstrap's prose is superb, his plots mesmerizing and every character wonderfully crafted.


Q. To what do you attribute your abiding faith that right will conquer wrong?


A. Right doesn’t conquer wrong on its own — it takes a lot of hard work, and the dedication of people who will accept nothing less. It’s a personal adage of mine that failure cannot be inflicted on a person; that it has to be declared by the individual. If you detect injustice, you must confront an important choice: do you accept it, or do you fight back? The bad guys win occasional battles, sometimes inflicting enormous damage in the process, but if the good guys are willing to do what it takes to prevail, I believe that in the end, they always will. It’s about not giving up.


Q. How did you and Kurt Muse come to collaborate on "Six Minutes to Freedom"?


A. This is a story of pure serendipity. If we’d met just a few weeks before we did, the collaboration would never have happened. My writing career had hit a pretty severe slump. After having been repeatedly orphaned by my editors at Atria Books, my novels “Even Steven” and “Scott Free” were pretty much ignored by my publisher, with the result being really awful sales numbers. I was on the brink of not being able to find an outlet for my next books.


Then a dear friend named Patrick Barney told me about a speech he’d just attended by a guy named Kurt Muse, who was the only civilian of record ever rescued by Delta Force. Kurt, he told me, had run an illegal radio station with some Rotarian friends in Panama who were committed to bringing down the murderous dictator Manuel Noriega. For nearly two years, using amateur radio equipment purchased from Radio Shack, they controlled the airwaves, running anti-Noriega propaganda at will. They rose to the status of public enemy number one, and in the process had a blast dispatching Noriega henchmen to nonexistent incidents one day, and interrupting drive time radio in the mornings and afternoons.


When he was betrayed and arrested, Kurt’s 15-year-old daughter had to flee the country alone with her 12-year-old brother. When he was ultimately liberated in the opening moments of Operation Just Cause, he was reunited with his family just in time for one of Washington, D.C.’s very few white Christmases. I was shocked that his story had not yet been written.


This was exactly the kind of thriller that I write as fiction, but it was entirely factual. He and his wife met with me and my wife, and we realized that we were a perfect team. We even have the same birthdays.


Q. You wrote the original script for the movie "Red Dragon," of Hannibal Lecter fame, but received none of the credit. What did you gain from that experience?


A. OK, let’s be clear here: Film credit is awarded by an arbitration process, and through that process, the single screenwriter for the film “Red Dragon” is Ted Tally.


That said, I did write an earlier version of that film — the first version — and in my opinion much of what was in my script is in fact in the movie. Please read nothing into that beyond what it is. My version stuck very close to the book as did Ted Tally’s. I’ve been told that he maintains that he never saw my script, and because we both stuck so closely to the original material, I have no reason to disbelieve him.


As for what I learned through the experience, it’s that Hollywood is a tough town. You can’t take stuff personally in the entertainment business. Through my screen work, I met some extraordinarily talented people — among them the legendary Dino DeLaurentiis, who invited my family and me to his 80th birthday party on the Isle of Capri in Italy. Credit schmedit. That alone was worth it.


Q. Any parting thoughts for your readers?


A. Only to express undying gratitude to them for reading. Without you, none of the rest of this would matter a lick.


http://johngilstrap.com/


DA Kentner is an author and journalist. www.kevad.net.