Exclusive interview with author "Brian Morra"
Brian Morra has spent his career in intelligence and national security beginning with his time as a decorated Air Force Intelligence officer and through his many years as a senior executive in the aerospace and defense industry. Brian was encouraged to write the story of The Able Archers by many friends who convinced him that his unique, personal insight could bring the story to life of how humanity narrowly avoided extinction in the fall of 1983. His writing is based on first-hand experience and the stories of the many intriguing people he’s encountered over the years
Brian grew up in Virginia and is married to Tracy, who is an outstanding story editor. They split their time between homes in Virginia and Florida. When Brian isn’t writing, he is a corporate board member, enjoys cycling, playing guitar and piano, and visiting with his two grandchildren.
Can you tell us about your background - you've led a very interesting career.
I wanted to be an intelligence officer since my teenage years and I studied Russian and East Asian history in college during the 1970s when the Cold War was in full swing. Not long after graduating from William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA, I joined the US Air Force and became an intelligence officer. I served on active duty for almost nine years and spent another five years in the Air Force Reserve. I had assignments in Tokyo, Japan, and in Washington, D.C., including the Air Staff at the Pentagon. As a contractor and a Reserve officer I worked in the Pentagon during the Persian Gulf War (Desert Storm), providing intelligence support to the air campaign planning staff. I spent the rest of my career as a senior aerospace executive. I managed large teams that worked on some of the most important intelligence and defense systems over the course of my career. I also worked closely with international companies and allied governments in Europe, the Middle East, India, Australia, and East Asia.
Tell us about your new book, The Able Archers.
This story is one I’ve wanted to tell for decades but the facts remained highly classified by the US government until just a few years ago. I wanted to bring my personal perspective to the extremely dangerous events of the nuclear war crisis of 1983 and The Able Archers enables me to do that. I also wanted to illustrate the importance of human judgment in perilous times and to humanize both the American and Russian players in this dramatic set of events.
This book covers the perils of nuclear war. Why did you feel now was the right time to get this important story told?
Vladimir Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons in the Ukraine War have renewed the world’s attention to the potential for nuclear conflict. Most people believe - wrongly - that the potential for global nuclear war disappeared along with the Cold War. The Able Archers offers important lessons for today’s policymakers and military officials to contemplate.
What lessons can we learn from The Able Archers?
It’s critically important to understand your adversary and to communicate with them. Individual judgment is crucial to creating a way out of dangerous situations. And one must provide your adversary ‘off ramps’, ways for them to escape a fraught situation without triggering the ultimate option to use nuclear weapons.
The story is told through the perspective of two main characters, can you tell us a little about them both?
The young American intelligence officer, Captain Kevin Cattani, is based on my own experience. He’s somewhat impetuous but insightful. The older Soviet officer is a career GRU (Military Intelligence) officer, who has already had a successful career. Colonel Ivan Levchenko is very sophisticated, well-educated, and multi-lingual. He’s Russian but be grew up in Ukraine and went to the Soviet Air Force Academy in Kiev. His wife is a beautiful Ukrainian he met while he was a cadet in Kiev.
You've mentioned this book was the first in a series - can you tell us a bit about what the other books look like?
I have written a total of four books so far. All of them feature Kevin Cattani and Ivan Levchenko and other colorful characters. The reader follows the careers of Kevin and Ivan as they age and develop. Each book pivots around a major historical event. For example, the second book - The Righteous Arrows - begins a few months after The Able Archers concludes, but the main action is in set in the Afghanistan and Pakistan during the Soviet War of the 1980s. The third book deals with the events surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall. The fourth book focuses on the Persian Gulf War and the fall of the Soviet Union, which both occurred in 1991. I plan to write a total of seven books in the series.
This sounds like it would make a great film! What Hollywood actors can you see portraying Captain Kevin Cattani and Colonel Ivan Levchenko?
Cattani would be played by Lucas Hedges, he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in the movie “Manchester by the Sea,” or Evan Peters. Levchenko - top choices include Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Wlaschiha, who has appeared in “Stranger Things” as a Russian and in “Game of Thrones” as the mysterious man who trains the youngest Stark girl to be a stealthy warrior.
What can we expect from you next?
I am hoping we get The Righteous Arrows published in 2023. And we hope that Legendary Entertainment, which holds the rights to The Able Archers makes a feature film or a TV series in the next fifteen months or so.
For more information, please visit: https://brianjmorra.com/