Peter Ash #3
by Nick Petrie
& Interview by Elise Cooper
It Up by Nick Petrie is the third installment
of the Peter Ash series. It is a fascinating story,
but what makes this book special are the many layers.
It has an action-packed plot intertwining guns, drugs,
and money. But it also probes the subject of returning
soldiers. People might think of Peter Ash as a clone
of Lee Child’s character Jack Reacher, but in
actuality the only similarity is that both are wandering
characters. Ash’s military life and his current
status as a veteran with PTSD are thoughtfully explored
and unlike Reacher Petrie’s character has formed
bonds with his girlfriend June and a good buddy Lewis.
will not have a chance to get settled in because almost
from the first page the action begins. Peter decides
to take a job riding shotgun to protect an enormous
amount of cash being transferred. His friend, Henry,
whose daughter runs a Denver security company that
protects cash-rich cannabis entrepreneurs from modern-day
highwaymen, Peter, and two others are in an armed
truck in the mountains of Colorado. The $300,000 cargo
comes under attack by Highway hijackers. Of the four,
Ash is the lone survivor of the melee. He is determined
to get to the bottom of what happened and will use
all his skills learnt while in the military, including
being a hunter, tracker, and if necessary a killer.
He enlists the help of his girlfriend June Cassidy
and his good friend Lewis to find the culprits.
Cooper: In many ways this is a story of a veteran?
Petrie: I am not a veteran so I am not writing
from personal experience. However, I did speak with
many who have returned from active duty. They told
of the challenges they have faced and my hero, Peter
Ash, is based on those conversations. I enjoy talking
with vets when they reach out to me.
How would you describe Peter?
is reserved, ambitious, loyal, tough, resourceful,
and able to use the skills he learned in the military.
I wanted to make sure he is morally driven, and is
very capable of solving a mystery. But as with many
returning veterans he has PTSD, something he calls
‘white static,’ where he has extreme claustrophobia.
The June character compliments Peter?
love writing her character. She is Ash minus the military.
I would describe her as ingenious, intelligent, no-nonsense,
and strong. She and Peter relate well together. I
put in the scene of her locked in the trunk of a car
to show how she did not think of herself, but how
Peter feels being in enclosed places. I based her
on the women in my life.
In what way?
woman in my life are pretty ferocious people. My mom
is someone who wakes up very day raring to go and
has an office nickname of ‘the hammer.’
My sister is super smart and super strategic. My wife
Margaret doesn’t take anything from anybody
and has no patience for people who are incompetent,
lazy, and will not get the job done. They all push
me to be a better person.
How would you describe June’s and Peter’s
have found something in each other. I think they profoundly
understand one another and are rescuing each other
all the time. They also help each other feel safe.
I put in the scenes with the letter writing to each
other, the Pony Express mail, because each can put
down in words their feelings. Peter is a romantic
and wanted to woo June.
How would you describe Lewis?
think he is bright, curious, and self-taught. He is
a career criminal who has decided to go straight.
Peter and Lewis have an unconditional friendship similar
to the connection those in the military have who served
in combat together. A woman who was Lewis’ childhood
sweetheart became reconnected to him through Peter
since her late husband was his best friend while in
Do you think Peter compares to Jack Reacher?
am a great fan of Lee Child and think he is a superstar
of crime fiction. I think the world surrounding Peter
is a bit different from Reacher’s world. I am
very frank that I stole from Lee this character who
sticks his nose into another person’s business.
You know what they say, ‘bad artists borrow
and great artists steal.’ I do see my character
as more vulnerable both physically and emotionally.
Do you think PTSD is a character in the book?
‘White Static’ is a voice in Peter’s
head. I wrote in the previous book that it is his
‘Spidey sense.’ It is not quite his conscience,
but a voice of his warrior self. Speaking with veterans
who have this, they say it is a profound piece of
their life. At its worse it takes out their relationships
and friendships. As in many true cases, I had June
push Peter to get help. I put in the quote, ‘Even
after months of therapy, part of him still felt like
it was his fault, something personally wrong with
him. Not just his brain chemistry altered by eight
years of war, locked into a fight-or-flight zone.’
Many veterans noted that they feel it is a silent
wound and that reintegration is a major problem?
the military characters in this book have some trouble.
Peter had PTSD and feels embarrassed and has panic
attacks. He does not want pity, but just for others
to understand what he is going through. This is why
I put in the quote, ‘A lot of guys had trouble
figuring out how they fit back into their old life,
or imagining the new one.’
It is interesting that you have bad guys and good
guys that were former military?
course Peter is the good guy. Marine Colonel Daniel
Clay Dixon is somewhere in between in that he did
some bad things, but when it counted did what was
right. Then there was Leonard Wallis, pure evil, a
psychopath who basically enjoys doing bad things and
killing people. I wanted to humanize those in the
military because sometimes we forget they are people.
A veteran told me he hates stories where everyone
in the military are heroes because he served with
some real jerks. I wanted to show the full spectrum.
Can you explain this quote, “That restless urge
toward the fight, like some clattering windup mechanism
whose coiled spring never rewound”?
is that adrenaline rush. I heard this often from those
who were in combat. The intensity of the experience
is hard to give up. The deployment overseas in a combat
zone has every moment with a heightened feeling. I
think that is why some have so many deployments. I
spoke with this guy who told me after waking up the
first thing he did is reach for his gun. It took him
six months to lose that reflex. I had this feeling
stay with Peter, even now, that tension and alertness.
The thread is that war never leaves those who were
Why the Robert Frost poem in the beginning of the
am a big fan of his. The theme of this book is obligation
and what we owe to those we care about. This book
is about how they are rescuing each other all the
time. It feeds into the veterans I spoke with. They
had the attitude of debt and obligation, and how they
owed their country and their peers. It is about empathy
and connecting with the other person by putting themselves
in their shoes.
Do you think the weather plays a role in the plot?
is a variable. I found it to be very dramatic when
I was there. In Denver lighting is a big deal so much
so that there are lighting shelters. If you noticed
I started and ended in the mountains to bring in the
weather as a prop. One of the most vivid scenes in
when the gurney was rolling down the mountainside
and Peter used it as an escape vehicle. My goal was
to put people in the middle of this action sequence
as if they were actually there.
What do you want readers to get out of the book?
course an entertaining story. But I also wanted to
explore some issues in a substantive way. I hope the
novel resonates with people. I wrote the Ash character
because I think that we as Americans see the war as
an abstract concept. Many have not discussed with
those who have come back their emotional and physical
scars. I want to show people that there are actually
human beings who went to protect us. We should try
to understand them as well as thanking them for their
Can you give a heads up about your next book?
and Peter start their life together but since he is
not an indoor domesticated creature he is having some
problems. It is metaphorical for his life and having
to live within society’s norms. She will be
in the book, but less of a character. June sends him
to Memphis to help a good friend of hers who is a
war photographer and is being harassed.
and Elise want to thank Nick Petrie for
taking the time to do this interview.
Books of the Month
in Mystery, Thriller
Suspense @ AMAZON