Garrett Kohl is a DEA special agent serving in Afghanistan when he is ordered by the CIA to return to the U.S. with the survivor and potential witness of a deadly attack on an Afghan village.
Mr. Kohl brings the survivor, a traumatized young boy, to his former home in the High Plains of northwest Texas. He discovers that his hometown is besieged by drug smugglers that threaten his brother and father.
Undercover, Mr. Kohl and the child stay at his father’s ranch as he investigates the violent criminals. The bad guys have no idea that they are up against a former combat Green Beret and a DEA special agent who has hunted terrorists and criminals.
I reached out to Taylor Moore, a former CIA officer, and Defense Department consultant, and asked him why he wrote the book.
“When I decided to try my hand at writing as a career, I wanted to come up with a story that drew upon my experiences in the CIA and contract military work that would allow the reader to walk a mile in the shoes of intelligence officers and law enforcement,” Mr. Moore replied. “I want people to get the feel of what it’s like to tackle some of the toughest security issues facing our country.”
I asked Taylor Moore why his protagonist is a DEA special agent rather than a CIA officer.
“Garrett Kohl was originally a secondary character in an earlier novel that was more of a traditional spy thriller. But he ultimately stole the show and edged out the previous main character, a CIA intelligence officer operating primarily in South Asia,” Mr. Moore said. “The switch from spy to cop, a move prompted by my literary agent, took me out of my comfort zone and required a little more research. It was definitely the right call, and now I can’t imagine anyone else in the lead role.”
Is Mr. Kohl autobiographical in any way?
“I think there’s a lot of me in Garrett, which is probably because of our Texas upbringing. We’re both country boys at heart who sought adventure out in the world but ultimately felt the call to get back to our roots. Garrett’s transition was in many ways like my own,” Mr. Moore explained. “I loved my CIA career and traveling abroad, but that life is not without some personal drawbacks, particularly in maintaining a healthy home life. Like me, Garrett felt the pull to be close to family, friends, and the land that he loves, which ultimately led to a move back to the Lone Star State.”
How would you describe Garrett Kohl?
“Garrett is a black and white kind of guy, which makes his entrance into the CIA’s grey world especially fun to watch. He’s also a survivor, managing to stay alive in the underground realm of drug smugglers, human traffickers, and cartel assassins,” Mr. Moore said. “But operating in the arena of espionage and covert action, which is usually a function of high-level policymakers in Washington, brings out Garrett’s distrustful nature, preferring enemies he can confront head-on to the puppet masters plotting against him from the shadows.”
How would you describe the bad guys in the novel?
“There are several types of bad guys in Down Range, some of which fall into the mercenary category, those doing what they do purely for the money, while others have drifted into that world due to some poor life choices. But the most interesting among my bad guys are the ones who are trying to get out of that life, to rectify what they’ve done and make amends. While these characters may have differing reasons for breaking the law, they all have one thing they in common—you wouldn’t want to meet any of them in a dark alley.”
How would you describe the Northwest Texas area you write about in the novel?
“I’ve often described living on the Texas High Plains as having access to a time machine. So much of this vast area is still wide open and virtually untouched, which gives one the feeling of traveling back a couple of centuries into the old Wild West.” Mr. Moore said. “It’s a perfect setting for a thriller series because it’s as dangerous and deadly as it is beautiful and mesmerizing. Because this area is so sparsely populated, a lot can happen without the rest of the world knowing about it. It’s not until I really started doing some deeper research that I found out that Northwest Texas isn’t as quiet and peaceful as one might think. I’m uncovering dark secrets about it all the time.”
“Down Range” is a well-written and fast-paced thriller that crime aficionados will enjoy.
• Paul Davis’ On Crime column covers true crime, crime fiction, and thrillers.
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By Taylor Moore
William Morrow, $27.99, 352 pages