SUGAR GROVE – The international thriller plots penned by George Larson of Sugar Grove spring from decades spent working in security for the U.S. Department of Defense and State Department.
He writes under the pen name Richard Avery and the novels' protagonist is agent Dick Avery. Tell-Tale Publishing is releasing the series of eight adventure novels, most recently "Dick Rousts the Russkie."
Calling them quirky, Larson imbues the books with humor and warns they are not always politically correct. The retired special agent of the U.S. State Department's Diplomatic Security Service began writing while semi-retired, focusing on fast-paced tales of intrigue, betrayal and murder that blend fact and fiction.
"I found working in places other than Paris and the U.K – the Third World countries – more interesting, more fun and laid back than formal embassy settings," he told Kane Weekend Editor Renee Tomell. The following is an edited version of the rest of their conversation.
Renee Tomell: How did you find your career?
George Larson: Like most things in life, by happenstance. I had no interest in teaching. What do you do with an English degree and a minor in history? I worked one summer at the university as a security guard. The security manager [said,] 'You might consider making this a career.' It turned out to be excellent advice.
Tomell: How did you get to the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service?
Larson: I was a private investigator at the tender age of 21 for two national detective agencies in the Chicago area for about a year. Then a trainee [with] the Department of Defense in the Chicago area [in] industrial security …Then I applied to the State Department. After officially retiring, I was vice president of corporate security for FINRA [Financial Industry Regulatory Authority] … in Washington, D.C. … [also working with] the World Bank as a consultant.
Tomell: How would you describe your expertise in the security field?
Larson: I would consider myself as a solid generalist at various security disciplines and investigations, with the exception of computer crimes. I have no particular expertise in that. What I enjoy doing and I did [was] developing security programs for international corporations – personnel, physical, counterterrorism, threat assessments.
Tomell: Where have you been stationed over the years?
Larson: [Whether] assigned or traveling, [I've] been to 80 percent of the countries at least once. [I've had] tours at postings in Kenya, Thailand, Panama – [from] Kenya covering up to 12 countries out of Nairobi. [I] oversaw security for Latin America.
Tomell: Are there historical moments you were part of?
Larson: Beirut in April 1983. [I was] sent out to help with cleanup with the terrible bombing of our embassy. The place looked like it was a building out of Dresden (Germany) in World War II. The Marine barracks bombing [was] down the road a few months the same year.
[And there was the] Norfolk Hotel in downtown Nairobi. I'd just gotten back from Mombasa. I lived about 5 or 7 miles from the Norfolk. I heard a tremendous explosion at about 9, 10 o'clock at night. I could see the flames from the hotel and I went down there. A terrorist bomber had left a suitcase bomb timed to go off New Year's Eve 1980. [It was] payback against Kenya and Israel. [The] hotel … was owned by … a Jewish family [and] the Kenyans permitted the Israelis to refuel [for the] Entebbe [rescue in Uganda].
Tomell: What have you learned in your new career as writer?
Larson: [It's] tough being green and small in this business. It's kind of a hobby. I think they're funny books. I think there's a following for the sort of stuff I write: humor, [the] settings … interesting reads, good plots and characters.
Tomell: Talk about the Dick Avery character.
Larson: He's the protagonist. He takes on bad characters overseas at the bidding of his former masters in the Diplomatic Security Service. He's retired. Cases that no one else in their right mind would like to touch. Not career enhancing. … [He's] having a hard time in his retirement. He needs the money.
Tomell: Tell me about the first book in the series, which will be released later.
Larson: 'Dick Hounds the Afghans.' [It's set] during Karzai's regime. Dick is sent to Afghanistan [as an investigator. There's] massive fraud by our own contractors and government officials. Much of this is true. He finds the fraud [as] just the first step [to a] massive scheme – drug smuggling and currency laundering.
On Larson's website, he shares the following plot snippet for "Dick Rousts the Russkie." "I team up with Russia's Federal Intelligence Service to stop a madman bent on carrying out the most devastating terrorist attack in modern history. Our hunt takes us from Moscow to East Africa and onto the Middle East to neutralize the ex-KGB officer nicknamed Vlad the Impaler."
The books can be found in e-book and paperback. Larson's website at dickavery.net has links to Amazon, or one may visit Amazon and Barnes & Noble or local bookstores.