Filling Vince Flynn's Shoes

| Alexandra Viers
Kyle Mills
Author, The Survivor

With his mentor diagnosed with cancer and his former colleague blackmailing the CIA from the grave, counterterrorism operative Mitch Rapp was left in yet another onerous state. Rapp is the creation of Vince Flynn, and the ending of his novel, The Last Man, set in motion a new captivating adventure, as has been the case in Flynn’s previous 12 thrillers. But having written just three pages of his next novel, The Survivor, Flynn lost his own battle with cancer, leaving the fate of Rapp uncertain.  As Vince’s fans mourned the loss of their beloved author, so too did they mourn the possibility of losing Mitch Rapp.

And so the search for Mitch Rapp’s new storyteller began. The new author would not only be taking on the daunting task of navigating Rapp through complex international political crisis, but also filling the shoes of Vince Flynn, a New York Times Best Selling author fourteen times over and the massive following he had developed through Mitch Rapp’s various adventures.

The search finally ended with Kyle Mills—a Wyoming-based author with his own proven success and experience as a ghostwriter. Mills wrote for a series started by Robert Ludlum, creator of the Bourne series, but taking over for Flynn would be completely different. Whereas Ludlum’s series allowed Mills to have a free hand, “Vince was a writer who died at the top of his game,” Mills told The Cipher Brief.  “He had millions of devoted fans. The idea was to create a book that they wouldn’t be able to tell from one he’d written.”

Mills took great care in making sure his books were done in a way that would carry on Flynn’s legacy. According to Mills, “Vince’s stuff wasn’t broken, so I wouldn’t want to try to fix it. So many people, including me, loved his books. There are specific things that make them fun to read. You don’t want to turn them into something they’re not.” Still, Mills admitted to altering a few aspects. “There’s more humor in my books, which I tend to like because it breaks up the tension,” explained Mills.  “I toned it way down for The Survivor, but there is still a little, whereas there really wasn’t in Vince’s.”

But taking over a character with as many thrilling adventures as Mitch Rapp would require more than stylistic mirroring of Flynn’s writing. Most of Rapp’s intelligence operations occur in the Middle East, which meant Flynn’s successor would need a well-developed understanding of the complex security situation there. Mills says his diverse background is likely the reason he got the job to take over for Flynn. As for writing specifically about the Middle East, Mills says, “the biggest challenge is that it’s such a complicated situation that if you ever tried to fully describe it, the book probably wouldn’t be much fun. So you have to make it much more linear.”

But this doesn’t mean Mills doesn’t do extensive research. “My father was the legal attaché to the UK and later went on to be the Director of Interpol, so I traveled a fair amount, and he had a lot of contacts in the intelligence and foreign intelligence community, which was helpful.”  As far as Pakistan, which has been a frequent location for Mitch’s missions, “I tend to keep up on all these things just because I have been writing about them for almost 20 years. I read and watch a lot of news and talk to people in the intelligence community about what’s going on in different places.   That’s how I think about where the potential threats there are around the world and pick an interesting one.”

The plausibility of Rapp’s adventures is what makes them so exciting, and Mills makes a point to keep it realistic, telling The Cipher Brief, “I want it to feel like its something that could absolutely happen tomorrow, so I try to make everything as real world as possible—right down to describing an action sequence somewhere in Pakistan. I will have examined all of the streets, how they connect, and what they look like.  If I tell you you’re going to turn left on one street, you’re going to turn left.”

And as the world changes, readers should expect Rapp’s missions to follow suit. “Vince stuck pretty closely to Islamic terrorism, but because Russia is getting more involved in the Middle East and with the emergence of ISIS, it seemed reasonable to send Mitch into situations he hasn’t seen before.  Situations Vince wouldn’t have known about,” Mills said.

But fans shouldn’t expect too many changes as Kyle Mills continues to lead Rapp on his journey. For instance, Mills says he considers Irene Kennedy, Director of the CIA and Rapp’s closest thing to family, “fundamental to the series,” so he won’t be getting rid of her anytime soon.

Rapp and Mills have at least two more missions together, and Mills has finished the draft of the next book in the series. But it won’t be until October before we hear from Mitch again. Until then, you can find Kyle Mills mountain biking in Wyoming, and should he ever be kidnapped, he would trust Josey Wales from The Rebel Outlaw, to negotiate his release—but only if he couldn’t have Mitch Rapp, of course. 

The Author is Kyle Mills

Kyle Mills is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Survivor, Rising Phoenix, Fade, and The Second Horseman.

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