Saturday, April 29, 2023

Q&A with Don Bentley




Don Bentley is the author of the new novel Forgotten War, the fourth in his Matt Drake series. He spent a decade as an Army Apache helicopter pilot, and also was an FBI special agent and a SWAT team member. He lives in Austin, Texas.


Q: Forgotten War is the latest in your series featuring your character Matt Drake--did you know from the beginning that you'd be writing a series about him, and do you think he's changed at all since book one?


A: My debut novel, Without Sanction, was purchased as part of a two-book deal, so I knew that Matt would be around for at least one more book.


Forgotten War is the fourth book in the series, and I have tried to allow Matt room to grow because I believe that allowing your characters to continue to develop as the series progresses keeps the subsequent novels from feeling episodic. At the same time, this can be a delicate balance in that you want your characters to deepen while at the same time you don’t want to lose what attracted readers to those characters in the first place.


From Matt’s perspective, his world is changing. In Hostile Intent, book three in the series, he found out that his wife was pregnant. In Forgotten War, his world changes even more as he watches, Afghanistan, the country to which he’s devoted the majority of his adult life, fall into chaos.


I think it would be disingenuous if events of this magnitude didn’t have some effect on the way Matt views the world and himself. I think it’s fair to say that the Matt Drake we see at the end of Forgotten War is a very different person than the man we meet at the beginning of Without Sanction.  


Q: What inspired the plot of Forgotten War?


A: I was in the middle of brainstorming what I wanted to do for the fourth Matt Drake book when the withdrawal from Afghanistan took place. I’m an Afghanistan veteran, so watching the 20 years of blood and treasure we poured into that country collapse seemingly overnight had a profound effect on me. I couldn’t work for about two weeks, and when I came back to writing, I knew that Afghanistan and the botched withdrawal would play central roles in my new book.


I’d also received a ton of reader feedback on the characters Matt and Frodo. Folks love their relationship, but many expressed a desire to see their origin story, or at the very least, a storyline that showed the two of them together in the days before an IED crippled Frodo. Forgotten War allowed me to do just that.

Q: The writer Nelson DeMille said of the book, “There’s a lot going on in this fast-paced and well-plotted tale, and the bonus is the sharply drawn characters who you may—or may not—want to meet in a bar or on the battlefield.” What do you think of that description, and how do you create your characters?


A: I was so humbled when Nelson agreed to blurb my book. He has been a huge influence on my writing. Reading his John Corey character gave me the courage to try something similar with my protagonist, Matt Drake. Nelson’s kind words really validated what I was trying to do with the characters in Forgotten War.


I love movies, so dialogue is very important to me. In fact, sometimes I’ll write only the dialogue in the first draft of a scene. For me, dialogue showcases the relationships between characters both in what they say and what they choose to omit. Oftentimes, I don’t have a bead on a character when I start writing them and it’s through the conversations this character has with others that I begin to understand them.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: First and foremost, I hope Forgotten War keeps readers turning pages long after they should have gone to bed. As a writer of commercial fiction, I think my primary job is to always, always tell an entertaining story and hopefully Forgotten War succeeds in that regard.


That said, as an Afghanistan veteran, what happened during our tragic withdrawal was devastating to me and to others who served there. I hope readers come away from Forgotten War thoroughly entertained, but also with perhaps a better understanding of the men and women who voluntarily shouldered the burden of combat on their behalf.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I just turned in edits for Weapons Grade, my fourth Tom Clancy book and eighth published novel. Earlier this year, I was selected to continue the late Vince Flynn’s legacy by taking over the Mitch Rapp series from Kyle Mills. This means that as soon as my book tour for Forgotten War is over, I’ll be diving into my first Mitch Rapp novel and I couldn’t be more excited.


Q: Anything else we should know?

A: I love hearing from readers. The best way to get in contact with me is through my email at or via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @bentleydonb. If you want to stay up on all my projects and be the first one to know about giveaways and other exciting news, head over to my website at and sign up for my free newsletter. Thanks!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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