Editor’s note: On June 26, 2005 — 16 years after it became a hit on Netflix — “Homefront” was a book by Chuck Logan, our former colleague here at the Pioneer Press. Here’s what he told Mary Ann Grossmann back then.
Stillwater author Chuck Logan turned 63 this month, and he has a lot to celebrate.
Logan’s new thriller, “Homefront,” is getting great reviews. He’s one of four mystery/thriller writers whose work HarperCollins considers serious fiction worthy of promotional tours and reduced rates of $16.99 on their books. And Logan has learned that his novel “After the Rain” has been nominated by Private Eye Writers of America for a Shamus award as best p.i. novel of 2004. (Those awards will be presented in Chicago on Sept. 2 during the national Bouchercon world mystery convention.)
“Homefront” is the sixth in Logan’s series featuring former undercover cop and Vietnam vet Phil Broker and his wife, former U.S. Army Maj. Nina Pryce.
Set in a remote northern Minnesota town, this is the first Broker-Pryce story in which the couple is together for any length of time. Although there’s no lack of fast-paced action, it is the most relationship-driven story in this series. There’s less emphasis on military operations and more on how Broker and Pryce are going to heal their marriage and raise their daughter, Kit.
“The fact that I am married and have a 9-year-old daughter is reflected in what I am writing about,” says Logan, whose wife is photographer Jean Pieri. Their daughter, Sophie, is a competitive swimmer who’ll be in fourth grade.
The jacket art for “Homefront” gives a hint of what’s inside. It shows the slightly blurred image of a woman’s back, and Logan says he pushed hard for this “moody, evocative” image.
“I wanted it to suggest more than shoot-’em-up,” he says. “You have to face the fact that most fiction readers are women. You don’t want a cover that drips testosterone.”
Broker and Pryce met in “The Price of Blood” (1997). Pryce was on assignment with the Army in “The Big Law.” In “Absolute Zero,” Nina has taken Kit to Europe, and in “Vapor Trail,” Nina’s doing something so secret Broker doesn’t even know where she and Kit are living.
In “After the Rain,” Broker, Nina and Kit are entangled with a secret Army Delta Force team that’s trying to stop a terrorist nuclear attack in the United States. In the end, strong, capable Nina is badly hurt, and three of her team members are killed.
“I was really interested in Nina from the beginning of the series,” Logan says. “I was fascinated by the fact there are so many women in the military. That was culture shock to a guy like me, who’d been away from the military since the 1960s. At first, I wanted to talk about a woman struggling in the contemporary military. Now, there are Nina Pryces in Iraq, performing battlefield leadership.”
Logan’s ability to look to the future by creating a strong character like Pryce was validated earlier this month when 23-year-old Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester became the first female soldier to receive the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest medal for valor. Hester, who serves with the Kentucky National Guard, earned the award for gallantry during a March 20 insurgent ambush on a convoy in Iraq.
When “Homefront” begins, Nina is in deep depression, blaming herself for the deaths of her friends. Trying to ease her emotional pain, Broker moves her and Kit to a town on the edge of a forest, where wolves howl every night.
Before the boxes are even unpacked, Kit is challenged by the school bully and decks him with a hard punch. The kid’s family is well known for vendettas. Among family members are his mother, Cassie, and Cassie’s creepy brother, Gator, who lives far out in the woods and restores tractors. Gator has a big plan that involves the tanks and barrels in his workshop, and when he finds out Broker was a cop who sent big-time drug dealers to prison, he’s ready to call on his former prison buddies to help put his plan into action.
As Broker begins to suspect his problems go deeper than a schoolyard fight, he worries about Kit. The child is a loner who, the school psychologist says, exhibits all the traits of someone in an abusive household.
“One of the themes of this book is what the heck is going to happen to Kit. She’s been through a lot and is, in a way, tougher than she should be,” Logan says.
Logan knows something about toughness. He was born in Chicago and lived with an aunt in Detroit after his mother was killed in an auto accident when he was 11. After being kicked out of two colleges for drinking, he worked in Detroit’s auto factories until he volunteered for the paratroopers in 1968.
After 13 months in Vietnam, Logan had earned a Combat Infantry Badge and a Bronze Star for Valor and was honorably discharged. He went back to a much-changed Detroit, where there were too many drugs and guns. Heading to Minnesota, he helped organize Vietnam Veterans Against the War and was eventually hired as a staff artist at the Pioneer Press.
When Logan was 33, his bosses ordered him to quit drinking or get fired. He went into treatment for a second time and has been sober for 29 years.
After two unsuccessful attempts to write sweeping literary novels, Logan took the advice of his friend John Camp (who writes as John Sandford) and began working on “Hunter’s Moon.” That first novel came out in 1996.
Logan’s books have consistently been praised by critics, with four of them earning starred reviews from Publishers Weekly.
This week, Logan starts a cross-country book tour, which he’ll share at three stops with Reed Arvin, a writer from Nashville, Tenn. Arvin’s thriller, “Blood of Angels,” received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.
Logan isn’t sure what’s next in his career. His editor has just left for another publishing house, and he has completed a two-book contract. He’s toying with writing a stand-alone book, or he might bring back Phil and Nina.
“Nina is not going back in the Army,” he says. “They are set up to be the perfect kind of husband-wife p.i. couple, or they could be involved in even more serious stuff because of their connections. They can have lots of adventures.”
Author: Chuck Logan
WHAT THE CRITICS ARE SAYING
— “Logan’s solid pacing, strong narrative drive, and expert rendering of two complex characters whose unusual relationship is as fascinating as they are make this sixth title in an excellent series a standout guaranteed to keep the reader’s attention riveted until the last page.” — Amazon.com
— “Logan is terrific on the particular ex-Army, ex-cop tension between Pryce and Broker, and gives his bleak rural setting real menace … should easily cool numerous beachgoers with icy thrills.” — Publishers Weekly
— “Taut, terrific storytelling, with a methamphetamine angle that gives the small-town showdown headline-like currency.” — Kirkus Reviews