This all started in the mid-90s when I mentioned to an editor during lunch that even though the first Gulf War had been over for years, there was a special forces airplane that was still considered missing in action. It’s true – one of these AC-130 gunships carrying a bunch of special forces guys took off early in the war and never came back. One reporter used to ask the same question every day at the daily briefing what happened to it, and each time the military spokesmen would just say they had no further information on the airplane. The war ended (sort of) and the whole thing kind of faded way.
I’d always had this vision, though, of this ghost plane, flying around up there somewhere, unable to land, almost like a Twilight Zone episode. Anyway, the editor (from Berkley Books) liked the story. He knew Berkley was looking to start a new military series – and that’s how Chopper Ops was born.
I’d always written about jet fighters and fighter pilots, so writing about helicopters was going to be something different. I created this unlikely collection of pilots who, when put together, formed this top secret helicopter unit that was sent on missions no one else wanted. The whole idea, at least in my mind, was that even though they were driving choppers, they would actually be flying them like jet fighters. In fact, most of the group were supposed to be fixed wing pilots somehow slotted into rotary aircraft.
The first story has the newly-formed unit going after this mysterious AC-130 gunship that had been missing for ten years. The plane had been making these ghostly appearances over the Persian Gulf region, had fired at US forces, had killed innocent civilians and so on. No one at the Pentagon knows what’s going on of course, so the Chopper Ops guys are sent to Iraq to straighten things out.
I liked the first book a lot, because in my mind it was a big departure from the Wingman books and other things I’d done. It was a bit difficult writing about helicopters because they don’t go as fast, as far, as high as jet fighters, and they’re not as sexy. But the book is more about the characters anyway, and not so much as what they are driving.
The cover is very cool. In this case, Berkley just went ahead and did the cover with very little input from me, which was good. A writer doesn’t have to stick his nose into everything, and its always interesting to see how someone else visualizes your vision, if you know what I mean.
At the time, I had both a literary agent and a screen writing agent -and the screen writing agent loved this idea for a movie. A few Hollywood types liked it too, but what I’ve found out about the movie biz is that if you hear “they liked it,” that means they’d already moved on to other things. If they really want it, to make a movie, they’ll be on the phone to you immediately and you’ll suddenly have more money than you did when you woke up.