New Books Network

Matthew Quirk

Cold Barrel Zero

Mulholland Books 2016

New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in LiteratureNew Books Network April 8, 2016 Eric LeMay

The next time you head to the beach or settle in for a long plane ride, you may not want your imagination filling with...

The next time you head to the beach or settle in for a long plane ride, you may not want your imagination filling with images of rogue operatives planting traps or terrorist organizations plotting against unsuspecting victims. You wouldn’t want to imagine explosions, assassinations, or .50 caliber rounds ripping through steel. No way. We get enough of those worries from the news. And yet there is an experience where these things go from worrisome to worry-free, where watching men and women fight for their lives is—yes—fraught and nail-biting, but also a lot of fun. And that experience happens when you’re reading a good military thriller.

Today I chat with Matthew Quirk, who’s written a great one. It’s entitled Cold Barrel Zero (Mulholland Books, 2016), and I’m afraid I can share with you much of its plot. It’s so full of twists and turns, reversals and surprises, that just about any description of it will result in a spoiler, so I’ll just ask Quirk to take on that descriptive challenge himself. What I can say is that Quirk takes us inside the genre and shares with us how a writer goes about mixing cutting-edge military technology, political intrigue, and haunted characters to create a plot with all velocity of an Apache Assault helicopter and all the intelligence of a Black Ops mission behind enemy lines.

One quick thing: about a fourth of the way into the interview, there’s some low-level background noise that goes on for a few minutes. Given Matthew’s book, I’d like to say it’s the result of NSA surveillance or a drone hovering nearby, but I’m afraid it’s not that glamorous. However, please don’t let an unwelcome and unexpected lawnmower throw you off. It’s over soon enough, and, odds are, you’ll be too engaged with Quirk’s insights for it to bother you. My apologies. One of the many things I learned from Quirk’s thriller is that I certainly don’t possess the techno-prowess to make it as a military operative. Nope, I’ll stick to reading about them on the beach.

Eric LeMay is on the creative writing faculty at Ohio University. His work ranges from food writing to electronic literature. He is the author of three books, most recently In Praise of Nothing: Essay, Memoir, and Experiments (Emergency Press, 2014). He can be reached at