There are moments in life when I get the privilege to speak to some great human beings.
Lt. Col. (R) John Mangan is an inspirational ambition junkie. Yes, ambition is one of the adjectives. Emphasis on inspirational- that is why it is first. Junkie is the noun. It’s a compliment. Inspirational. Ambition. Junkie. Say that fast three times or three times fast, whichever way your words crank.
I can tell this about him just by listening to the intensity and conviction in his voice. I also think he is a genuinely kind person who is very public service oriented. I do not believe he will ever slow down with his goals and achievements.
Recently, I had the honor to chat with him about his book, Into A Dark Frontier. You can imagine I felt very excited to speak with a great American hero who fought for our freedoms every day. Additionally, his book is so refreshing and different from anything I have read.
And then I got stage fright or something. Just when I thought I was on top of my interviewing game and prepared, I jumbled up my words like a moron. That part of the story will come later in the interview.
Wait for it.
Mangan is a decorated combat rescue pilot with an extraordinary career spanning over 25 years. He is very humble about that part. He also gives back his experience and wisdom to those up and coming by being involved in the service as a civilian instructor. He really enjoys it. I can tell he has a lot of pride and beams most about his family and is super excited about writing.
Our conversation was very interesting and included book details, future works, some self-reflecting after the career path has changed directions. Oh, and right off we both agreed AND chuckled if conversation went silent, we could talk about guns. Like forever. John Mangan was a breeze at chatter and I could have talked for a lot longer. Needless to say, we never got around to weaponry.
Maybe you want to know more about this masterpiece?
Slade is a complex character. Mangan carefully constructed Slade’s story. You experience much of its detailed narrative and dialogue as if you were right there. Imagine the landscape. Smell the smells. Anticipate the next move. Who is chasing who, for what, and where are they getting to? You will have to read to find out where it all ends up.
But back to Slade.
In order for him to be genuine and steer readers through the plot line, Mangan said he had to have a dramatic central tragedy which drove him to extremes before he circled back around.
There are hints of moral points in this book. Slade reveals what is driving him and as you coast along, you feel all those emotions. Certain things had to be played “sleight of hand” and others were planted right in front of your face. It’s all very believable.
Some things are metaphoric and strategically created by Mangan. I would blame that part on his military experience and instructing talents. It’s dazzling.
Lessons and revelations come about for Slade and some of the unlikely ones who come and go in the book. You visualize and feel the anguish, the grit, fortitude, and spirit.
As an example, there are times Slade is his own mental roadblock and works through things just as you would expect with struggles and triumphs. He calculates moves as well. Slade roars up from the ashes. You will be surprised.
Mangan brings Slade through the African experience in raw form for a reason. He is running from something. He has owned his perception of failed responsibility and obligations to loved ones but he is torn about all of it while searching to find resolution. He is carrying a large amount of guilt which is a catalyst for his way of coping. Besides the mental baggage, he picks up precious cargo along the way. You get to figure that out. It might be a who rather than a what.
That isn’t the entire gist of the authorship. Moral code and political contexts are the undertones of the great story evolving with Slade and the characters he runs into while they all try to establish their place in a harsh environment. Scary enough, all this could be a possible scenario with life.
The conflicts and faction building are real world possibilities where allies might be enemies and enemies might become allies. People could be friend or foe, or just someone you use to move forward. Maybe you trade to gain something.
Things are not as they seem.
Slade must wade through the maze of chaos and evaluate choices and allegiances.
Scenes represent real, imagined, and future episodes of a time and place. Mangan said he felt the current issue in Syria was a prime example of what he tried to portray. If you think about all the players involved indirectly or directly influencing the direction of a country, well, then you have Into A Dark Frontier right. There is a religious insert by way of faction which if we think about it- battles over religion, land, and political power is popular throughout history.
What is Mangan passionate about? He wants to get it all right. His readers must experience excellent creativity and an intelligent work of a detail oriented author. But not overdone. It has just the right amount of everything.
Not only that, Mangan wants to create something new that isn’t just the same overly done apocalyptic piece. This is not the end of the world. It’s the rebuilding of an area which has been floundering as a failed state. The rest of the world is still out there functioning as it does.
Throughout this journey, decisions matter.
Police work and combat have some crossovers. We both discussed missing some of the frontier moments and work independenc. They can really define things not only for the decision maker but all those affected by the results. His reflection on those times gave me a sense of his responsibility to humanity and doing things right. When he described what he meant, I could place myself in a similar world. Good or bad outcomes can occur from those split second commands and both can be eternal marks.
We talked about “best parts” of Into A Dark Frontier. One of Mangan’s most enjoyable scenes to write was a bar scenario. “It was a fun scene.” He put “government contractors” and “man bun journalists” along with Slade and company all in one room. All these dynamic differences and cultures are congregated into a small area filled with conversation and cheer.
It’s kind of like an American western bar scene where the cowboy toasts one before blasting them all up and getting the girl. Into A Dark Frontier bar scene is much different, obviously, and the bar scene has a stark contrast to any other.
The strong personalities are still there in a typical “boozery” fashion. But is that really the main service a bar provides in a politically collapsed land? Maybe it resembles an “oasis of peace” combined with “the office.” Bars are funny like that. Is it the last safe place to negotiate? I happen to think Mangan makes it brilliant.
Then there is Elizabeth. Sometimes I am not fond of men writing the female lead character because they really don’t get us. It usually consists of one of two extremes: they exaggerate or underplay things. The worst thing a book can have, in my opinion, is a poorly written or off-putting female lead unless it has a horror plot. We are complicated creatures.
You can imagine the topic of a man writing a female character came up in our conversation. I wonder if John Mangan waited with a little bit of hesitation for my thoughts on Elizabeth from a woman’s perspective. Brace yourself!
Elizabeth has been developed very well. She checks Slade at the right times and prods him along in just the right ways. She stands on her own merit. What happens to her is a very sensitive thing to write but when some gun powder and lead get around, you feel the vigilante in you rise up. She isn’t done yet. Wait until book two. I hope she plays a bigger role.
Yes, he is working on the next one. I can’t tell you about it. From his descriptions and enthusiasm, it will be a fun adventure and not a continuance of the same old thing. You have to expect some secret squirrel. I am excited. He is excited.
We will just have to wait.
Some days you are the eagle. Some days you are the poop.
And that leads us to the Fargo Fumble. So, as I am a multitasker, I also fidget and focus on several things at once. I purposely housed myself in my Dodge Charger to talk to John so I would not be interrupted. It is pretty close to sound proof from the college bustle. It would afford the opportunity for me to focus on my notes and have a great conversation with proper attention. That’s all well and good in theory.
Except for the fact I went to Lowe’s at lunch and had to get this Halloween crow thingy. And in continuation of the problem, I would have to play with it and watch the wings flap and so forth. I should have contained myself.
Where does this fit into a huge world fumble and a conversation with Lt. Col. John Mangan?
Mangan has received the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor twice. That’s huge. In fact, that is bigger than huge. Those are two of his many distinguished awards. I was in the presence of greatness, for Pete’s sake.
My uncle was in Vietnam serving in the Air Force. I am very proud of his service as well and gave a little background to John. In short, for all his efforts, Uncle Paul received a Distinguished Flying Cross.
So… while I was trying to make a correlation to the honor and the pride of the award bestowed upon a person, I was playing with that damned crow. Why? I don’t know. It was there. Staring at me.
During mid-conversation I said, “Flying…Distinguished Cross.” I didn’t even finish a good sentence or ask the question I had intended because midway I realized I had fubar-ed that up and tried to do a “passover.” Not in the religious fashion. Like a fly by.
What a moron. I know what it is! I know what it is called! I know what it takes to get the honor! It’s a big deal! Oy.
That pretty much killed the momentum of the conversation. I am pretty certain John Mangan thought then and there I was a complete buffoon. Yeah. I just skipped over it like it didn’t happen and worked on. I wanted to ask so much more about family perspectives and some inside scoop, but alas, I was a complete boob.
The moral of that little lesson is “Crows are really evil just like the movie The Birds.’ OR. “Don’t piddle diddle with battery operated toys in your car during an interview.”
Lt. Col. John Mangan, I am so sorry.
The good thing is I should be in his short term memory so he will forget that someday.
In the meantime, you can read Into A Dark Frontier and directly correspond to John Mangan through his website. He conveyed to me he welcomes feedback from readers because it helps him and he wants to know what a reader liked or what was missed.
John Mangan really is an extraordinary person. The intelligence he has in that mind of his is astounding. I have a lot of respect for him and his service to our country. Link to his bio and hook yourself up with his book on Amazon.
Go live vicariously through Slade. You won’t want to miss it.