Moss’s second thriller starring U.S. diplomat Judd Ryker, Minute Zero, focuses on unrest in Zimbabwe.
What led you to embark on the Judd Ryker series?
I was lucky to have the chance to serve as the top diplomat for West Africa under Condoleezza Rice. That experience deep inside the sausage machine of U.S. foreign policy was exhilarating. But it also revealed the bitter infighting and dysfunction inside our government. After I left, I thought it would be more accessible to regular Americans (and more fun for me to write) as a thriller. So I created Judd Ryker as the State Department’s special crisis manager.
What are a few of the public’s misconceptions about diplomacy?
With the CIA and all our drones and satellites, I suspect most Americans believe our government knows what’s going on. In my experience, diplomats are usually forced to make important decisions with only a fraction of the information they need.
What were a few highlights of your career in the State Department?
Working to help rebuild Liberia after their civil war is probably what I’m most proud of. What most sticks in my mind, however, was a failure. After a coup d’état in Mauritania, I was the envoy sent to try to talk General Aziz into reinstating the deposed president. He didn’t. But this episode was the core inspiration for my first novel, The Golden Hour.
Ryker is an unusual hero, more of a data nerd than a man of action. Might he evolve in future thrillers?
Ryker’s a fish out of water, an academic who accidentally finds himself in the middle of a national security emergency. It’s discomfiting and a bit frightening, so he has to find his way by using his wits and a network of unlikely friends and allies. He definitely gets into the action as the series proceeds. But deep down, Ryker will always be more comfortable with numbers than with a gun. The series will also continue to explore the tension of solving problems by diplomacy instead of war.
After her minor role in The Golden Hour, Ryker’s wife emerges in a surprising way in Minute Zero. Will her character be broadened in future books?
Jessica is probably my favorite character. Without giving anything away, she becomes increasingly significant. Each book in the series has Judd and Jessica each struggling in parallel with both an international crisis and their relationship.
Where is your third book set and what can you say about it?
In book three, tentatively titled Shadow Man, four middle-aged dads are captured by the Cuban navy while fishing in Florida. Judd Ryker’s assignment is to get them back safely. But first he must figure out what they were really up to.