What's in a Page: Mark Greaney previews the latest book in the Gray Man series
The first installment in Mark Greaney's heart-pounding Gray Man book series is in the middle of its big-screen glow-up. The thriller, about a mysterious assassin who's been betrayed by his own team, is getting the Russo Brothers treatment, with the directing duo currently filming a Netflix adaptation starring Chris Evans and Ryan Gosling. But the author isn't letting that cinematic success slow him down.
The latest Gray Man novel, Sierra Six (on shelves now), follows the eponymous killer after he sees a ghost from his past. Below, Greaney answers EW's burning book questions about his literary beginnings and how he crafted his newest page-turner.
What is the first thing — ever — that you remember writing?
I remember writing a detailed plan to rescue the hostages held captive in the U.S. Embassy in Iran back in the late '70s. I added maps and graphs, specified the type of helicopters to use, wrote out how the military would secure the staging areas, even which aircraft carriers the rescue force would fly from. I was about 11 at the time, so it's no surprise the Department of Defense never stopped by to look over my rescue mission, but I had it ready for them, just in case.
What is the last book that made you cry?
My War Gone By, I Miss it So, by Anthony Lloyd. It's an incredibly personal account of a young heroin-addicted war correspondent reporting in Bosnia during the civil war there in the '90s. I've read it twice and it's so powerful — but completely heartbreaking.
Which book is at the top of your current to-read list?
Berlin Noir, by Phillip Kerr. My agent sent me this book, telling me he knows I'll love it. I trust him, and I look forward to having enough time to pick it up and read it.
Where do you write?
I have a small pool house behind our main house that serves as both a guest bedroom and an office. It's only 30 steps out my back door, but it feels like leaving home and going to work in the morning and I need that to keep me focused.
Which book made you a forever reader?
I read a lot of nonfiction, but it wasn't until I bought a copy of my first thriller, Patriot Games, by Tom Clancy, that I developed an unquenchable thirst for reading. I devoured everything Tom wrote in his lifetime, and worked with him on his last three Jack Ryan novels nearly 25 years after I bought my first Clancy tome.
What is a snack you couldn't write without?
Is coffee a snack? Foodwise, it doesn't hurt to have some mixed nuts or popcorn nearby while I'm working.
If you could change one thing about any of your books, what would it be?
The length. After writing books with Tom Clancy, my own novels have gotten much longer. I like the books as they are and don't want to change any part of the stories, but I wish they didn't take so long to write!
What is your favorite part of Sierra Six?
The dual timelines in Sierra Six show my hero, Court Gentry, both as a self-assured 25-year-old CIA officer, and then, 12 years later, as an older, wiser, and more world-weary freelance assassin. Bouncing back between past and present versions of my hero as I wove the timelines together was probably the most rewarding part of the novel.
What was the hardest plot point or character to write?
Setting a novel in Mumbai during COVID made things difficult. I've been to over 30 countries researching my books, and I like to visit as many locations as I can. Tourist visas to India, and then business visas, were disallowed during the time I was writing Sierra Six, so I had to get creative. A friend who is an Indian author living in Mumbai scouted locations for me, sent pictures and other tips about the area, and read an early draft to make sure I depicted the essence of the city correctly.
Write a movie poster tagline for the book:
The Gray Man hunts down a ghost from his past.
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