Interview conducted May 29, 2016 with Rod McKay.
Rod and I first discussed collaboration in February of 2014. At the time I wanted only to do three thousand words on anything – his latest trip to Laos and Cambodia or the water projects he takes on in Thailand. I’d heard, and overheard, things about him while sitting on a stool at the Perfect Ash cigar bar. He has active projects in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. Pretty amazing content I thought, and interesting.
At first he regarded the request with suspicion, but three weeks later, he came back with questions. Why, for example, would I want to write about him? Who was I to ask?
Honestly, I was and am, nobody special. I write. Even worse, I practice at being a writer. I was not published except for short stories. So I was pleased when he agreed to give me an interview. That three-thousand-word article I wanted to compose became, in time, Trade Bangkok, an intriguing tale, if I say so myself, about a team of operatives and technicians tasked with enhancing the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities (ISR) of Thai authorities. Characters in the novel are inspired by real people in Rod’s life.
The reader should know that I thought about writing in the style of creative non-fiction. Because some of the stories cannot be told outright, I chose fiction. Sometimes it is the best way to get at the sum and character of a subject matter expert because I can include sections on what really happened along with sections on what that individual might do in the context of world events.
Through Rod I’ve met exceptional top-tier operatives with experience behind them they cannot convey to me, or anyone. Among them, former Delta Force logistics experts and operatives for the IDF. I’ve been corrected in my assumptions about drones by a test pilot of UAVs for the US Air Force. I’ve interviewed a man who served in special forces deployments for the US Navy and was, for a time, a guard at Guantanamo. How is it that I am so lucky? To this day I can’t answer that question. Amazing.