The Mullah’s Storm
Published by: Putnam Adult
Release Date: September 7, 2010
A U.S. Air Force transport plane takes off from Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, carrying a high-value Taliban detainee bound for prison and interrogation. Insurgents shoot down the plane with a shoulder-launched missile, and it crash lands in the Hindu Kush mountains. A strong winter storm makes a rescue impossible. A surviving crew member, navigator Michael Parson, along with a female Army interpreter, must now evade capture in hostile territory with a prisoner who would like very much for them to get caught. A battle for survival begins across some of the most forbidding terrain on earth.
So opens The Mullah’s Storm, an epic tale of endurance, a novel of relentless pace and constant surprise, and a story of hard choices between commitment to mission and loyalty to comrades.
Author’s note: A number of people have been intrigued by the novel’s strong female character, Sergeant Gold. For a few thoughts on her, click here.
“This engrossing thriller moves along at about a zillion miles an hour.”
–Alan Cheuse, novelist and NPR commentator, in a review for The Dallas Morning News
“In this impressive first novel by a decorated former flight engineer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the Air National Guard, the conflict in Afghanistan is reduced in gripping personal terms to its basics: Man against man, man against nature, hope against despair, fear against itself….Young is an excellent storyteller, creating memorable characters with Hemingway-like understatement and precision. His descriptions of the terrain, the sound different weapons make, the feeling of fingers and toes succumbing to frostbite, the way thinks look through night vision goggles, are superb. A smart, unsettling, timely novel that puts a human face on the Afghanistan conflict while conveying the immense challenges the United States faces there.”
“Young draws on his own war experiences for verisimilitude, which, along with believable characters and an exciting plot, makes this one of the better thrillers to come out of the Afghan theater.”
“Explosive! A gutsy, gritty thriller told only as one who’s been there and done that could write it. You will long remember this terrifying, timely tale – and its terrific new writer.”
–W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV, authors, The Corps series, The Brotherhood of War series, Badge of Honor series, Men at War series
“One of the most exciting new thriller talents in years!”
–Vince Flynn, author, American Assassin, Pursuit of Honor, Extreme Measures, Protect and Defend
“Courage and honor in the face of the enemy have not been so brilliantly portrayed since the great novels of the Second World War. I would recommend Thomas Young’s magnificent novel to anybody.”
–Jack Higgins, author, The Eagle Has Landed, A Prayer for the Dying, First Strike
“Gripping and impressively authentic.”
–Frederick Forsyth, author, The Day of the Jackal, The Dogs of War, The Odessa File, The Fourth Protocol
“The Mullah’s Storm digs in its hooks from the first chapter and never lets go. There are writers, and there are fighters – readers are lucky that Thomas Young is both.”
–Alex Berenson, Author, The Faithful Spy, The Ghost War, The Silent Man, The Midnight House
“Thomas W. Young is an airman, and a natural-born novelist. If you want to know and to feel what it’s like to serve in Afghanistan, this novel is for you. If you are a fan of Patrick O’Brian or C.S. Forester, this novel is for you.”
–John Casey, National Book Award-winning author of Spartina
“Thomas Young has written an exciting, creative, and heart-pounding story set in the complex war zone of Afghanistan that he knows well. The polished style and surprising plot turns rivet you to each page. This is a great read for anyone who loves a great survival story superbly told.”
–General Anthony C. Zinni, USMC (Ret.), Former Commander in Chief, U. S. Central Command
“The Mullah’s Storm tears along with the terror and immediacy of a nightmare. Thomas Young takes us on the trip every soldier dreads: alone, injured, and being chased through enemy territory. I couldn’t put it down.”
–Nathaniel Fick, CEO, Center for a New American Security; author, One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer
“I found The Mullah’s Storm captivating. Like Tom Clancy, Young has an eye for detail about military equipment, operations and thinking that will ring true with any veteran – something that is not often achieved by other authors – and his portrayal of Afghanistan is not only accurate but most relevant to current events and worth the read alone. Most of all, the story’s suspense holds the reader in its grip. The extreme chase from hope to despair and back makes it impossible to put down.”
–General Chuck Horner, USAF (Ret.), Former Commander, U.S. Central Command Air Forces
“The Mullah’s Storm is a riveting, gale-force tale impossible to put down. Thomas Young air-drops the reader into the Hindu Kush, surrounded by razor-sharp ridges and miles of unbroken silence, always blurring the line between hunter or hunted. Combining a sniper’s precision with a poet’s economy of language, Young’s debut makes you grateful to be reading safely indoors, but just a little nervous about who might be watching you.”
–Craig Mullaney, Department of Defense, Principal Director for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia; author, The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier’s Education
“At last, an Air Force action hero! A C-130 navigator struggles to survive in winter in the Hindu Kush. The plot and the action move with the speed and power of a B-1 bomber.”
–Bing West, author of No True Glory and The Strongest Tribe
“Thomas W. Young writes with the authority of a man who has lived to tell the tale, and he tells it at breakneck pace. He has written a page-turner that might’ve been torn from today’s headlines. The prose crackles with grit and gunfire. The Mullah’s Storm is an engrossing, enlightening, and extremely entertaining debut.”
–Doug Stanton, author of Horse Soldiers and In Harm’s Way
“The Mullah’s Storm is the most realistic and compelling novel that I have ever read. It is suspenseful and electrifying from beginning to end, and as close to reality as it could possibly be. The knowledge, experience, and insights of the author and his ability in writing this book is amazing. It is a ‘must read’ – and once you start, you will not want to put it down. The Mullah’s Storm will surely be a best seller.”
–General Carl Stiner, U.S. Army (Ret.), Former Commander in Chief, U.S. Special Operations Command
1. Is The Mullah’s Storm based on an actual event?
The novel isn’t based on any one particular event in the Afghanistan war. However, its scenes and settings mirror real-world conditions in Afghanistan. You might say The Mullah’s Storm is an imagining of my worst fears. As an Air National Guard flight engineer flying missions into Iraq and Afghanistan, what worried me most wasn’t the thought of getting shot down and killed. It was the thought of getting shot down and not killed. My main character, Major Parson, lives that nightmare.
2. Do you need a military background to understand the book?
Oh, no. Practically everybody has had a dream about being chased and not being able to move fast enough. That’s something that strikes a chord for all of us on a primal level. Our most fundamental instinct is the fight-or-flight impulse, the will to live.
3. What are the novel’s themes?
Loyalty. Commitment to the mission, commitment to comrades. And what decisions do you make when those commitments conflict?
4. What do you hope people will get from The Mullah’s Storm?
When a novel works well, it transports the reader to a different world, a different set of experiences. Major Parson’s experiences, in somewhat different forms, are really happening to people, right now. If you read enough news about the war in Afghanistan, you’ll begin to understand with your head. If you read a well-crafted novel about it, you’ll begin to understand with your heart.
5. Is The Mullah’s Storm an antiwar novel?
I hope it is free of politics. The novel explores, among other things, the motivations and mindsets of those who serve in the present-day, all-volunteer military. We do not make policy. Civilians do that. We merely carry it out.
6. Is there another novel in the works?
Indeed there is. Some of the characters in The Mullah’s Storm still have time left on their enlistments.
7. Your nonfiction book, The Speed of Heat: An Airlift Wing at War in Iraq and Afghanistan, came out in 2008. What’s the story behind that book?
The Speed of Heat was a labor of love. It’s an oral history of my unit’s missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. It documents what my comrades in arms have done in service of our country. I called on old skills as a former Associated Press reporter as I interviewed about seventy of my squadron mates in the 167th Airlift Wing, West Virginia Air National Guard. The result is a book that tells their stories in their own words. If you want to know about the work we do — and how airlift serves the nation —this is your book.
8. How long have you been in the military?
About eighteen years and counting. I spent most of my career as a C-130 flight engineer, first with the Maryland Air National Guard, and then with the West Virginia Air National Guard. I continue to fly with West Virginia, as a Senior Master Sergeant and an instructor flight engineer on the C-5 Galaxy. (And in my next novel, the C-5 plays a starring role.)
9. You dedicated The Mullah’s Storm to the memory of Chief Master Sergeant Fred Williams. Tell us about him.
Chief Williams was my mentor and instructor when I began flying in the military. He was the flight engineer section supervisor at my first unit, the 135th Tactical Airlift Squadron, Maryland Air National Guard. A consummate professional, Fred knew as much about the C-130 Hercules as the people at Lockheed. I learned from him the value of constant study and training: the emergency procedure you reviewed last week could be the thing that saves your life tomorrow. My main character, Major Parson, shares that value.
Sadly, Fred lost his battle with cancer shortly after he retired. Fred taught a lot of flight engineers during his career. Even now, the skies are a little safer and the nation is a little more secure because of him.
Backstory: The Story Behind The Mullah’s Storm
When writing fiction, your best work may come from what scares you the most: you take pen in hand and imagine the worst. When I first flew into Afghanistan, what scared me the most wasn’t the thought of getting shot down and killed. It was the thought of getting shot down and not killed.
For most aviators, an encounter with the enemy usually happens in the form of lights streaming up from the earth. It has an air of unreality about it, almost like a video game. If those lights don’t hit you, they don’t hurt you. But what if you had an airplane blown out from under you and you met the enemy on his terms, in his territory? What would you face on the ground? What would your buddies need you to do? Under conditions of extreme duress and hardship, would you make decisions you could live with later on?
A leaden overcast covered the sky above Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, hanging so thick and low that the afternoon became a long twilight. Peaks of mountains surrounding the Shomali Plain disappeared into the cold, gray mist.
Inside the C-130 Hercules transport plane, Major Michael Parson blew into his cupped hands to warm them, then pulled on his Nomex gloves. He donned his flight helmet and turned up the interphone volume at the navigator’s panel.