Hagberg, David 1942–

views updated

Hagberg, David 1942–

(David Bannerman, Sean Flannery, David James Hagberg, David James, Gary Kriss, Robert Pell, Eric Ramsey)


Born October 9, 1942, in Duluth, MN; son of Conrad D. (a meat cutter) and Katherine Hagberg; married Stephanie Bullock (a legal secretary), April, 1960 (divorced, 1960); married Janet Zimmer, September, 1962 (divorced, April, 1967); married Laurie Morgan (a writer, librarian, and development director), May, 1968; children: (second marriage) Travis Peyton; (third marriage) Tammy Kraus, Kevin, Justin, Gina. Education: Attended University of Maryland, 1962-65, and University of Wisconsin—Madison, 1965-66. Politics: Republican. Religion: Agnostic. Hobbies and other interests: Sailing, flying, scuba diving.


Home—Vero Beach, FL. Agent—Susan Gleason Literary Agency, 325 Riverside Dr., Unit 41, New York, NY 10025.


Writer and journalist. Duluth Herald and News-Tribune, Duluth, MN, reporter, 1968-70; Associated Press, New York, NY, news desk editor in Sioux Falls, SD, 1970-72; worked as janitor, bricklayer, factory worker, and tree trimmer, 1972-74; freelance writer. Founder of Editorial Services Enterprises in Wisconsin, 1972-73. Municipal court judge in Oakland Township, WI, 1981-82. Military service: U.S. Air Force, 1960-67; in electronics.


Mystery Writers of America, Raconteurs.


Bronze Porgy from West Coast Review of Books, 1978, for The Kummersdorf Connection; nomination for American Book Award and for Edgar Allan Poe Award, Mystery Writers of America, both 1979, both for The Kremlin Conspiracy.



Twister, Dell (New York, NY), 1975.

The Capsule, Dell (New York, NY), 1976.

Last Come the Children, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1982.

Heartland, Pinnacle Books (New York, NY), 1983.

Desert Fire, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1993.

Eden's Gate, Tor Books (New York, NY), 2001.

(With Stephen Coonts) Combat: Breaking Point (novella), Forge (New York, NY), 2001.

(With Stephen Coonts) Victory: V5 (novella), Forge (New York, NY), 2003.

By Dawn's Early Light, Tor Books (New York, NY), 2003.

Terminator 3 (novelization of movie by the same title), Tor Books (New York, NY), 2003.

(With Boris Gindin) Mutiny! The True Story that Inspired the Hunt for Red October (nonfiction), Forge (New York, NY), 2008.


The Sign of the Prayer Shawl, Award Books (New York, NY), 1976.

Race of Death, Charter Books (New York, NY), 1978.

The Ouster Conspiracy, Charter Books (New York, NY), 1981.

The Strontium Code, Charter Books (New York, NY), 1981.

The Puppet Master, Charter Books (New York, NY), 1982.

The Damocles Threat, Charter Books (New York, NY), 1982.

The Hunter, Charter Books (New York, NY), 1982.

Operation: McMurdo Sound, Charter Books (New York, NY), 1982.

Appointment in Haiphong, Charter Books (New York, NY), 1982.

Retreat for Death, Charter Books (New York, NY), 1982.

The Istanbul Decision, Charter Books (New York, NY), 1983.

Earthfire North, Charter Books (New York, NY), 1983.

Zero Hour Strike Force, Charter Books (New York, NY), 1984.

Death Island, Charter Books (New York, NY), 1984.

Death Hand Play, Charter Books (New York, NY), 1984.

The Vengeance Game, Charter Books (New York, NY), 1985.

The Killing Ground, Charter Books (New York, NY), 1986.

Death Orbit, Charter Books (New York, NY), 1986.

Operation Petrograd, Charter Books (New York, NY), 1986.

Dragonfire, Charter Books (New York, NY), 1988.


Heroes, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1985.

Without Honor, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1989.

Countdown, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1990.

Crossfire, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1991.

Critical Mass, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1992.

High Flight, Forge (New York, NY), 1995.

Assassin, Forge (New York, NY), 1997.

White House, Forge (New York, NY), 1999.

Joshua's Hammer, Forge (New York, NY), 2000.

The Kill Zone, Forge (New York, NY), 2002.

Soldier of God, Forge Books (New York, NY), 2005.

Dance with the Dragon, Forge (New York, NY), 2007.

Allah's Scorpion, Forge Books (New York, NY), 2007.


Massacre in the 22nd Century, Tempo Books (New York, NY), 1980.

War of the Citadels, Tempo Books (New York, NY), 1980.

Crisis on Citadel II, Tempo Books (New York, NY), 1980.

Forces from the Federation, Tempo Books (New York, NY), 1981.

Citadels under Attack, Tempo Books (New York, NY), 1981.

Citadels on Earth, Tempo Books (New York, NY), 1981.


The Magic Man, Zebra (New York, NY), 1983.

The Gamov Factor, Zebra (New York, NY), 1983.

Pipeline from Hell, Zebra (New York, NY), 1984.

Call of Honor, Zebra (New York, NY), 1985.


The Kremlin Conspiracy, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1979.

Eagles Fly, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1980.

The Trinity Factor, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1981.

The Hollow Men, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1982.

False Prophets, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1983.

Broken Idols, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1985.

Gulag, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1985.

Moscow Crossing, Berkley Books (New York, NY), 1988.

The Zebra Network, Morrow (New York, NY), 1989.

Crossed Swords, Jove (New York, NY), 1989.

Counterstrike, Morrow (New York, NY), 1990.

Moving Targets, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1992.

Winner Take All, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1994.

Kilo Option, Forge (New York, NY), 1996.

Achilles Heel, Forge (New York, NY), 1998.


Blizzard, Belmont-Tower (New York, NY), 1975.

Forest Fire, Tower (New York, NY), 1975.

Croc', Tower (New York, NY), 1976.


That Winslow Woman, Playboy Press (Chicago, IL), 1977.


The Kummersdorf Connection, Playboy Press (Chicago, IL), 1978.


First Loyalty, Lynx (New York, NY), 1988.

First Option, Lynx (New York, NY), 1988.

Author's papers are archived at the University of South Florida, Tampa, FL.


Without Honor has been recorded as an audiobook called Without Honor: When All Men Are without Honor Which Man Do You Trust, Sunset Productions, 1997.


David Hagberg's fiction is based on high adventure and political intrigue, often including real-life political figures, such as Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Many of his books feature Kirk McGarvey, an assassin affiliated with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In Countdown, McGarvey counters rogue KGB agents who want to destroy nuclear facilities in Israel and cause Mikhail Gorbachev to fall from power in the Soviet Union. Reviewing the book for Publishers Weekly, Sybil Steinberg noted the influence of Ian Fleming, John le Carré, and Tom Clancy on Hagberg's work. She found that while Countdown offers "few surprises," it is nevertheless "a well-crafted secre-tagent thriller that will not disappoint."

Crossfire begins as the U.S. finally returns a wealth of previously frozen assets to Iran, and at the same time, the CIA's Paris station is bombed. A series of other factors, such as evidence pointing toward Kirk McGarvey, the KGB's serious need for funds, and KGB assassin Arkady Kurshin's vendetta against McGarvey, all indicate that these two events are linked. In addition, a subplot involves McGarvey in a search for a stockpile of Nazi gold, and the two woven together make for a somewhat incredible, if jet-setting story. However, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly concluded that "Hagberg is a master of the action scene, and readers will cheerfully follow him from episode to episode."

Critical Mass finds McGarvey attempting to foil a plot to detonate nuclear devices in Los Angeles. This terrorist scheme was hatched by Isowa Makkamura, a survivor of the 1945 U.S. atomic-bomb attack on Japan. When Makkamura's henchmen use a Stinger missile to bring down a plane and in so doing kill McGarvey's lover, his mission becomes personal. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "tension never lags in this certified page-turner."

In High Flight, a high-powered cabal in Japan, with both a political and an economic agenda, provides the major threat. Japan is on the verge of war with Russia due to a confrontation between a Russian ship and a Japanese sub. Meanwhile, the Japanese cabal has managed to rig the planes of a major U.S. airline with a device that will enable the cabal to destroy them midair with a single signal to a satellite. The question of how to handle the Japanese threat to the U.S. economy is raised by a major U.S. newsletter publisher, who also learns of the threat to the airplanes. In an effort to make Japan a more immediate enemy, he plans to initiate the destruction of the planes himself, but link the event to Japan's government rather than the private organization. To accomplish this, he puts together his own terrorist team. Kirk McGarvey finds himself up against all of these disparate entities, and charged by the airline to protect them. McGarvey eventually unravels the web of threats, but the resulting answers are so fantastical that he cannot convince anyone of their veracity. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly found the book a bit long, but remarked that "by the final pages, with planes falling from the skies and WW III seemingly inevitable, readers will be so engrossed they won't want to blink."

Assassin has McGarvey pitted against a Russian evildoer named Tarankov. He hopes to bring down the Russian government and revive the Soviet Union with a brutal dictatorship. When his men succeed in assassinating Boris Yeltsin, moderate forces in Russia hire McGarvey to come out of his retirement in Paris. His mission is to assassinate Tarankov. Library Journal contributor Elsa Pendleton called Assassin "a cut above the competition," thanks to Hagberg's "gift for description, the rapid-fire plot, and the complex nature of his hero."

White House begins with Kirk McGarvey nearly dying in a Georgetown restaurant when a terrorist bomb detonates. Though he escapes with his life, his former girlfriend is killed and his daughter injured in the blast. McGarvey turns out to have been the target of the bomb; someone was anxious to make sure that he did not accept his new post as the head of CIA operations. Of course, he takes the job. Just as he is settling into the new position, a situation develops between China, Japan, and North Korea following a nuclear explosion underground near the coast of Korea. The United States attempts to keep the three countries from starting a war by situating an American nuclear sub at a focal point between their national waters. Meanwhile, McGarvey begins to suspect the Korean incident is in part a diversionary tactic to take the attention away from another situation developing in Japan. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly wrote that "Hagberg's premise of a potential nuclear meltdown is frighteningly plausible, and he deftly juggles several well-researched subplots." Budd Arthur, writing for Booklist, found the book "a nifty nonstop-action tale that deserves comparison with … the other lords of technological mayhem."

In Joshua's Hammer, McGarvey has become the CIA's deputy director of operations. In this capacity, he learns that the CIA chief in Saudi Arabia has had an audience with Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden has stated that he has a portable nuclear bomb and demands to speak with someone higher up in the CIA. McGarvey is soon en route to the caves of Afghanistan, with a homing device implanted in his side. A U.S. missile strike on one of bin Laden's hideouts takes the life of the terrorist's daughter, and he vows to exact revenge by killing the daughters of McGarvey and the U.S. president. "For those who like high-action thrillers on a global scale, this one delivers the goods," praised Budd Arthur in Booklist.

McGarvey's repeated attempts to retire from the spy game are again frustrated in The Kill Zone. In this thriller, the fifty-year-old protagonist is reunited with his wife and expecting a grandchild, but he is asked to take over as interim director of the CIA. His appointment to that post activates a long-buried plot to assassinate several key figures in the U.S. government. McGarvey is also subjected to a confirmation hearing that uncovers sordid details about his past. A Publishers Weekly contributor remarked: "In reliably meaty prose, Hagberg once again delivers compelling characters, animated political intrigue and a plot that speeds along at a steady clip."

Hagberg continues his series about CIA agent McGarvey with his books Soldier of God and Allah's Scorpion. In Soldier of God, McGarvey, now CIA director, and his wife are on a cruise ship with the secretary of defense and his wife. When the ship is attacked by an Osama bin Laden associate named Khalil, a notorious terrorist, McGarvey swings into action. Then McGarvey learns that four separate terrorists have entered the United States and are poised to attack. As McGarvey once again goes into action, he is hindered by the fact that some think he is secretly an agent for Osama bin Laden. Bob Pike, writing on the Armchair Interviews Web site, called Soldier of God "fast-paced, well-written, with twists that will truly surprise you." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "this is a thrilling page-turner, from its violent beginning to its violent end."

Allah's Scorpion finds McGarvey no longer director of the CIA but coming out of retirement to foil another Osama bin Laden plan, with the projected target being a western seacoast port. For this assignment, McGarvey enlists the aid of Cuban-born CIA agent Gloria Ibenez. In a review of Allah's Scorpion in Publishers Weekly, a contributor wrote that the author "once again displays his wide and deep inside knowledge of intelligence and military tradecraft." David Pitt, writing in Booklist, noted the novel's "sheer, breathless enthusiasm."

In his standalone novel By Dawn's Early Light, Hagberg presents a thriller involving a U.S. nuclear submarine's encounter with another hostile sub. It is up to U.S. Commander Frank Dillon, Jr., of the Seawolf to stop the enemy sub from disabling a spy satellite that is essential for the U.S. government's surveillance of Pakistan, which government officials believe is about to launch a nuclear attack on India. Referring to the novel as "gripping," a Publishers Weekly contributor wrote: "Superb pacing moves well-drawn characters toward nuclear brinkmanship."

Dance with the Dragon is the next installment in the Kirk McGarvey series and finds McGarvey in semiretirement as he teaches at the University of Florida. The slower pace has him bored, however, so when the body of a CIA agent is dropped off at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, McGarvey is more than happy to investigate his death and determine what exactly he was up to that got him killed. The trail leads him to General Liu Hung, an important Chinese agent known for throwing lavish parties at the embassy compound in Mexico and assisting both Mexican and U.S. officials in their illicit indulgences. Booklist reviewer David Pitt remarked of the book that "the action is nonstop, and McGarvey gets what he was craving: a chance to get back out in the field."

Hagberg once told CA: "Elegance in writing is not so dependent upon the fine turn of phrase or accomplished use of the language as beginning writers often suspect. Instead, elegance (which is what most of us are after) depends in a large measure on the elegance of the idea. Anne Frank's poetic diary and Ernest Hemingway's old fisherman in dire battle with the sea are perfect examples. But when that rare artist comes along who can combine elegant ideas with a supreme mastery of the craft, well then, that writer is a definite winner.

"I guess from the beginning I've struggled to do nothing more than write the very best I could. I've worked for the truest sentences, the most nearly real characters and the most believable situations, so that my readers could have the vicarious experience of living my story.

"It's not easy. It's never been easy. John Steinbeck said that a writer is like a donkey with the carrot dangling in front of his nose. We know what we want to do. We know that somewhere out there is the perfect sentence, the perfect paragraph. And every now and then, we hit one. The goal, of course, is to write a complete novel containing nothing but perfection. In the end, however, that is impossible. So, like the donkey with the carrot, we may be getting somewhere, but we are bound to fail. (It's why many writers have problems with booze. After beating our brains out at the typewriter, we often seek solace in oblivion.)

"When I started writing, I often dreamed of the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize and all the accolades that are commonly associated with success in this business. In fact I dreamed so hard and so often about these things that my writing suffered. One day, however, I woke up to the fact that here I was, an honest-to-God novelist. I was making my living doing what I loved most: writing books—good books—to the best of my abilities at that moment. What else is there?

"I woke up to another fact about that same time. For years I had been paying lip service to the phrase: Write for your readers. Finally I understood what it was to be a novelist. I was an entertainer. After all, we're doing nothing more than taking our readers away from their daily cares for a few hours at a time. If, slipped between lines, there is a message or an education, then so be it. But primarily we are entertainers who take life as we see it, pass it through our own particular set of experiences, and spit it out the other side.

"If all that seems complicated, or perhaps artificial, it is. A writer (contrary to what many instructors of writing may say) does nothing more or less than sit down and write about what moves him or her most. Simple. I've been trying to do nothing more than that.

"Speaking strictly for myself, I cannot work in a vacuum. My life must provide the impetus for my novels. I write adventure novels, so I must adventure. When I was a newspaper reporter in Minnesota, I interviewed a medical doctor who had gone on an expedition to the North Pole, and who had spent a lifetime of adventure. ‘Do it,’ he told me, as I listened wide-eyed. ‘Do it now if it's in your blood, because if you don't, you'll wake up one day to the fact that your life has passed, and now it's too late.’

"My wife and I have learned to sail. It's our goal to circumnavigate the globe aboard a thirty-three foot cutter-rigged sailboat. Just the two of us. Free. Going wherever the wind may blow. Settling in for a week or a month or a year in each port, however the mood strikes, being cold or hot and frightened and worried, but most of all being alive! Isn't that what life is all about? Novelists, I think, should not play it safe. We should live at the edge. Those who survive write about it.

"I was asked, at a recent mystery fan convention, where I came up with my ideas. I gave some flip answer, I think, but in truth the answer is: It beats the hell out of me. Imagination is nothing more than a muscle. Not used, it atrophies. Exercised, however, it grows strong. J.R.R. Tolkien spent a life of imagination. So did, I think, William Shakespeare, who had the gratification of seeing his musings up on a stage in front of a live audience."



Booklist, May 15, 1992, Elliott Swanson, review of Critical Mass, p. 1665; July, 1993, Emily Melton, review of Desert Fire, p. 1947; September 1, 1995, Gilbert Taylor, review of High Flight, p. 45; May 1, 1997, George Cohen, review of Assassin, p. 1478; August, 1999, Budd Arthur, review of White House, p. 2033; August, 2000, Budd Arthur, review of Joshua's Hammer, p. 2119; May 15, 2001, David Pitt, review of Eden's Gate, p. 1736; November 15, 2002, George Cohen, review of The Kill Zone, p. 580; December 1, 2006, David Pitt, review of Allah's Scorpion, p. 24; September 15, 2007, David Pitt, review of Dance with the Dragon, p. 38.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2003, review of By Dawn's Early Light, p. 993; September 1, 2005, review of Soldier of God, p. 935; November 15, 2006, review of Allah's Scorpion, p. 1146.

Library Journal, June 1, 1990, Jo Ann Vicarel, review of Countdown, p. 178; September 15, 1992, Roxanna Herrick, review of Critical Mass, p. 108; June 19, 1995, review of High Flight, p. 48; May 1, 1996, Cliff Glaviano, review of Critical Mass, p. 149; May 1, 1997, Elsa Pendleton, review of Assassin, p. 139.

New York Times Book Review, July 22, 1990, Newgate Callendar, review of Countdown, p. 22; July 25, 1993, Newgate Callendar, review of Desert Fire, p. 19; September 24, 1995, Newgate Callendar, review of High Flight, p. 27.

Publishers Weekly, January 20, 1989, Penny Kaganoff, review of Without Honor, p. 143; April 20, 1990, Sybil Steinberg, review of Countdown, p. 59; May 3, 1991, review of Crossfire, p. 63; May 4, 1992, review of Critical Mass, p. 42; June 14, 1993, review of Desert Fire, p. 62; June 19, 1995, review of High Flight, p. 48; May 12, 1997, review of Assassin, p. 59; July 19, 1999, review of White House, p. 184; August 21, 2000, review of Joshua's Hammer, p. 50; June 4, 2001, review of Eden's Gate, p. 56; November 4, 2002, review of The Kill Zone, p. 60; July 14, 2003, review of By Dawn's Early Light, p. 56; September 5, 2005, review of Soldier of God, p. 32; October 30, 2006, review of Allah's Scorpion, p. 37.

Sarasota Herald Tribune, December 28, 2006, Emily Morris, "Palm-Aire Novelist to Share Some Writing Tips," p. 1.


Armchair Interviews,http://reviews.armchairinterviews.com/ (July 11, 2007), Bob Pike, review of Soldier of God.

David Hagberg Home Page,http://www.david-hagberg.com (July 11, 2007).