We kick off our celebration the release of HUNT THE WOLF by Don Mann with Ralph Pezzullo, a Seal Team Six novel now in bookstores across the country, with an article by Pezzullo on the fascinating origin story of the novel. Check back again later as our week-long coverage continues!
In early 2010, I received a call from a fellow mystery-thriller writer named Tom Sawyer. (No joke, it’s his real name.) He said that he wanted to recommend me to a former Navy SEAL who was interested in collaborating with a writer on a series of high-octane thrillers. The guy, he said, claimed to have lots of stories. I said, “Sure, give him my number and ask him to contact me.”
Ten minutes later I got a call from Don Mann. He told me his remarkable story – how he’d transformed himself from a wild hell-raising teenager into a hard-ass Navy SEAL, spent eight years with SEAL Team Six, was deployed on countless covert ops all over the globe, served as a platoon member, assault team member, boat crew leader and advanced training officer. My jawed dropped as I listened. The crazy part was that as he described his tales of combat and other mayhem – firefights, raid, knife fights, decapitations – he did so in a calm, dare-I-say, gentle voice.
The one caveat is that since most of the ops he’d been on as a SEAL were top secret, the only way we could write about them without raising the ire of government censors was as fiction.
I was fascinated. Beyond fascinated. More like totally pumped. It seemed to me that he had enough material for a whole series of exciting SEAL thrillers. Not chest-beating, unbelievable stuff, but interesting stories with fleshed out characters from the perspective of someone who has actually lived them.
I asked Don to send me more about himself – brief descriptions of missions he’d been on, stories from his life, some of the more memorable SEALs he’d served with, his favorite color (only kidding!).
Over the next week and a half my e-mail server was bombarded with material. It’s as though the guy literally turned himself inside out. He told me about his family, his wives, the songs he listened to when he worked out, the mountains he’d climbed, the ultra-marathons he’d competed in, etc. It was a literal (or literary) goldmine of stories, characters and impressions.
Now it was up to me to mold it into something. Inspired by what he’d told me, I wrote a brief treatment about a team of SEALs who enter Pakistan under the cover of mountain climbers on a mission to takeout an al-Qaeda leader. Don said he’d been deployed on several similar missions to Pakistan. We were off to the races!
To say that working with Don is a pleasure is an understatement. He’s amazing! In fact, the nicest, most considerate, appreciative and thoughtful guy you’d ever want to meet. Also, he’s a genuine hero. I’m proud to call him my friend.
Ralph Pezzullo is a New York Times bestselling author and award-winning playwright, screenwriter and journalist. He is also the author of Jawbreaker (with CIA operative Gary Berntsen).
Don Mann (CWO3, USN) is the author of Inside SEAL Team Six and has for the last thirty years been associated with the Navy SEALS as a platoon member, assault team member, boat crew leader, or advanced training officer; and more recently program director preparing civilians to go to BUD/s (SEAL Training). Up until 1998 he was on active duty with SEAL Team 6. Since his retirement, he has deployed to the Middle East on numerous occasions in support of the war on terror. Many of the active duty members of SEAL Team 6 are the same guys he taught how to shoot and conduct ship and aircraft takedowns, and trained in urban, arctic, desert, river, and jungle warfare, as well as Close Quarters Battle and Military Operations in Urban Terrain. He has suffered two broken backs, two pulmonary embolisms, and multiple other broken bones, in training or service. He has twice survived being captured during operations.
HUNT THE WOLF is now available in bookstores everywhere.