Kurt Schlichter once threw a famous author’s spy novel across the room, bored by its contents.
The trial lawyer, Townhall columnist and occasional stand-up could have let his frustration end there. Instead, the devoutly conservative scribe decided to do something about it.
Schlichter penned his first action adventure, “People’s Republic,” in 2016. The story followed America’s literal split into red and blue state countries, and the ensuing Civil War-sized fallout.
Now, that saga’s story continues with “Inferno,” the seventh adventure featuring his rugged hero, Kelly Turnbull. It’s an unabashedly red meat narrative, one that celebrates “Sen. Nick Searcy,” toasts conservative radio stars and doesn’t clutch a single pearl as our hero takes down the enemy.
He calls it “fan service” for conservative readers, and he has no regrets about the approach. What’s wrong with connecting with one’s fan base, he says, decrying the oh, so serious sentiment many bring to pop culture.
“Anything you like has to be somehow bad in our culture. Everything has to be a painful death march,” he explains.
Best of all, Schlichter used a mega-company famous for its censorial ways to make it happen.
“Amazon allowed me a way to get past the gatekeepers. There’s nobody to tell me, ‘you can’t say that,’” Schlichter says of his popular, self-published series.
The retired Army infantry colonel had always planned to become a novelist, but he says the “law and military and stand-up comedy and family” got in the way. He refused to let the dream go, though, inspired by the bond he shared with late media mogul Andrew Breitbart.
“We have to make our own culture,” Breitbart told him. The Kelly Turnbull series arrived at just the right time, as he sees it.
The novels check off more than a few boxes for Schlichter. He fulfilled a dream he began nurturing in elementary school, gave the conservative movement a literary hero they could call their own and embraced the technology that streamlined self-publishing.
“Suddenly as a conservative I can have a voice,” he says, adding delivering the goods matters just as much. “You have to be good first before you deliver a message. My books are fun and entertaining, if I say so myself, but I have to do that long before I start making any message.”
His secret to success?
“I wanted to write a book that was all ‘good parts,’” he says. And “Inferno” fits that description, brimming with taut action scenes, betrayals and more. Those seeking soulful self-examination from their macho heroes should look elsewhere, he says.
“I wanted a protagonist who can drive the action,” says Schlichter of Turnbull, whose knowledge of firearms alone sets him apart from his literary peers.
His legal training helped Schlichter write lean, mean adventure yarns.
“In law, your reply brief is 10 pages. Make your point,” he says. “That’s where I came out of … everything is gonna amuse you or make a point I wanna make.”
“Inferno” still brings shadings to the rock ‘em, sock ‘em action beats. The story is set after the Civil War 2.0 wrapped, and while the blue cities remain pinned by their socialist mores, the red state denizens are hardly angels.
Human nature, the author says, brings out the flaws in everyone. That means the saga’s cynical hero has his hands full while trying to do the right thing.
“Inferno,” like recent Kelly Turnbull tales, depicts a worst-case scenario for a deeply divided nation. The saga’s author sounds more optimistic that his dystopian tales will stay on the page and not spring to life all around us.
“I’m always optimistic. I think we’re gonna get better … the American people will do the right thing,” he says.
He still sees some troubling trends where Americans are self-isolating based on political beliefs, like conservatives flocking to freer states like Florida and Texas.
“We’re segregating ourselves,” says Schlichter, a life-long California resident.
Schlichter laughs at some attacks on his book series, like a critic who dubbed a Turnbull novel “racist.”
“I have bad news honey, I sold 2,000 books that day,” says Schlichter, noting his wife is an Hispanic legal immigrant. He’s not done, though.
“What color is Kelly Turnbull? He’s a big guy, tall and proficient in weapons. Why couldn’t [black actor] Idris Elba play him?” he asks. “There’s no point to making Kelly Turnbull some specific race. He could be any [race]. He’s a marine.”
The author says his book series does more than engage in the culture in the grand Breitbart tradition.
“It’s a way for normal people to realize, ‘you’re not alone and you’re not hallucinating,’” he says. His 2016 debut novel, “People’s Republic,” might have seemed extreme at the time. Now, in Biden’s America, he says he may have been too conservative in his imaginative settings.
Schlichter brings considerable military chops to the Turnbull series. He served in both the Persian Gulf War and Kosovo and helped his country stateside during the Los Angeles riots and the 2007 San Diego fires mobilizations.
That background comes in handy with “Inferno,” a saga steeped in military expertise and maneuvers.
Schlichter is hardly the only conservative penning addictive thrillers. Brad Thor stands as one of the literary world’s most populist writers, penning hits like “The Last Patriot” and “Rising Tiger.” National Review senior correspondent Jim Geraghty’s “Dangerous Clique” series brims with action and intrigue.
Those authors lean right but pen tales for red and blue state readers alike. Schlichter’s work is unapologetically conservative, and that’s by design. He’s no longer on the battlefield, but the culture wars need all hands on deck, as he sees it.
“This is a life and death fight, and I don’t intend to lose it,” he says.
Christian Toto is an award-winning journalist, movie critic and editor of HollywoodInToto.com. He previously served as associate editor with Breitbart News’ Big Hollywood. Follow him at @HollywoodInToto.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.