Peters, Ralph 1952-(Owen Parry)
PETERS, Ralph 1952-(Owen Parry)
PERSONAL: Born April 19, 1952, in Pottsville, PA; son of Ralph Heinrich and Alice Catherine (maiden name, Parfitt) Peters; married Marion Ann Martin, 1982 (marriage ended); married Katherine McIntire, June 4, 1994. Ethnicity: "Welsh and German." Education: St. Mary's University, M.A. (international relations), 1988; attended U. S. Army Command and General Staff College, U.S. Army Russian Institute, and other military schools and institutions. Politics: Independent. Hobbies and other interests: Adventure travel, languages, hiking, Shakespeare.
CAREER: U.S. Army, 1976-98, commissioned, 1980, reached rank of lieutenant colonel. Writer, 1981—.
MEMBER: Army and Navy Club
AWARDS, HONORS: Legion of Merit, U.S. Army, 1998; Herodotus Award for Best First U.S. Historical Mystery, 2000, for Faded Coat of Blue; Dashiell Hammett Award, 2003, for Honor's Kingdom.
Brave Romeo, Richard Marek (New York, NY), 1981.
Red Army, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1989.
The War in 2020, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1991.
Flames of Heaven, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1993.
The Perfect Soldier, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Devil's Garden, Avon Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Traitor, Avon Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Twilight of Heroes, Stackpole Books (Mechanicsburg, PA), 2003.
UNDER PSEUDONYM OWEN PARRY
Faded Coat of Blue, Avon Books (New York, NY), 1999.
Shadows of Glory, W. Morrow (New York, NY), 2000.
Call Each River Jordan, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2001.
Our Simple Gifts: Civil War Christmas Tales, Harper-Collins (New York, NY), 2002.
Honor's Kingdom, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2002.
Bold Sons of Erin, W. Morrow (New York, NY), 2003.
Fighting for the Future: Will America Triumph?, Stackpole Books (Mechanicsburg, PA), 1999.
Beyond Terror: Strategy in a Changing World, Stackpole Books (Mechanicsburg, PA), 2002.
Beyond Baghdad: Postmodern War and Peace, Stackpole Books (Mechanicsburg, PA), 2003.
Also author of articles and essays on military subjects and contributor to New York Post, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and other newspapers.
ADAPTATIONS: A Faded Coat of Blue was made into a sound recording by Books on Tape, 2001.
WORK IN PROGRESS: More novels, including Abel Jones mysteries.
SIDELIGHTS: Ralph Peters, a former U.S. Army military intelligence officer, has achieved success as a writer of contemporary political thrillers and books on policy analysis. He has also written several historical novels about the Civil War under the pseudonym Owen Parry. Growing up in Pennsylvania's Schuylkill Haven, Peters said that his exposure to the Pennsylvania German and other accents common in the area has been an important part of his training as a writer. "When I was growing up in the Fifties and Sixties, you could usually tell what town in the county people were from by their accent," Peters told Washington Post contributor Ken Ringle. Peters, who learned Russian and German during his military career, went on to note, "It wasn't a highly literate culture, but they were all great storytellers, so I grew up mesmerized by the magic and power of language."
The author's first novel, Brave Romeo, concerns Jack Thorne, a poetry-writing guerrilla fighter who becomes an intelligence officer and uncovers evidence of a right-wing conspiracy in Germany. Unable to convince his superiors of the terrorist operation's grave threat to Western security, the hero teams instead with a left-wing student who personally challenges the conspirators after having been accused of masterminding an act of aggression that they conducted. Alan Cheuse, writing in the New York Times Book Review, deemed Brave Romeo "worth reading."
Peters followed up with Red Army, a story set during World War III in which Soviet forces in Central Europe overwhelm North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops. But unlike similar works in the genre, the perspective in Red Army is that of the Soviet fighters: an infantryman, fearing separation from his fellow soldiers, charges into the darkness where the enemy, presumably, awaits; a tank commander, motivated by cowardice, commits a heroic act; and an accomplished general ponders the significance of his Jewish background. Newsweek reviewer Harry Anderson hailed Red Army as "a very engaging read" and added that "it is hard to imagine a better portrayal of modern war."
His third novel, The War in 2020, was described by Donovan Fitzpatrick in the New York Times Book Review as "a terrifying vision of global conflict in the Twenty-first century." In this novel Peters presents a chaotic, high-technology conflict in which Israel is destroyed by nuclear and chemical bombs, American forces are undone in Africa, and Moslems armed with Japanese weapons threaten to overwhelm the Soviet Union, which is already teetering towards civil war. Washington Post reviewer David Morrell, while objecting that The War in 2020 "tends to reinforce national stereotypes," conceded that it serves as "a diverting action novel."
Peters went on to write Flames of Heaven, about the crumbling empire of the Soviet Union, and The Perfect Soldier, which tells the story of a counterintelligence expert assigned to help prove that the Russians were involved in the execution of American prisoners during the Korean War. In his novel Twilight of Heroes, the protagonist, Colonel John Church, assumes the blame for the massacre of a U.S. military team on a mission in Bolivia and then goes on to complete the mission. According to a reviewer in Publishers Weekly, the story "captivates even as it infuriates with its depiction of men betrayed."
After writing two more superpower thrillers, The Devil's Garden and Traitor, under his own name, Peters switched gears as he published his first Civil War novel under the pseudonym Owen Parry. In Faded Coat of Blue, winner of the Herodotus Award, the author introduces the character of Abel Jones, a clerk in the Union supply office who ends up solving the murder of a young abolitionist in Washington, DC, at the beginning of the Civil War. Calling the book a "solid historical thriller," a contributor to Publishers Weekly noted that the character of Jones incorporates "the best qualities of such famous detectives as Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes—with a little Miss Marple thrown in."
Having found a winning character in Jones, the author continued to tell of the Welshman's exploits in a series of books that includes Shadows of Glory, Call Each River Jordan, and Honor's Kingdom, which received the Dashiell Hammett Award for literary excellence. As a a loyal confidant of President Abraham Lincoln, Jones sets out in Shadows of Glory to investigate the rumors of an Irish insurrection in New York and the murder of two federal undercover agents. "Parry has created a thoroughly likable and believable character and engages him here in a riveting adventure," wrote a reviewer in Publishers Weekly. Tom and Enid Schantz, writing in the Denver Post, noted that "what really sets this novel apart is the author's mastery of the language and his adroit characterizations." In Call Each River Jordan, Jones teams up with a Southern soldier to investigate the butchering of runaway slaves. In a review for Publishers Weekly, a commentator said, "It's a gripping story, told in the deceptively easygoing style that has become Parry's hallmark, a style that is if anything stronger and more assured than his previous two outings." Jones's next adventure in Honor's Kingdom takes place in London, where Jones is trying to prevent Great Britain from becoming involved in the Confederate cause while looking for the murderer of his predecessor, a federal agent whose body is found chewed up in a basket of eels.
"I had never wanted to write a series because I had never had a character I wanted to live with for that long," Peters told Ringle. "But Abel and the idea for the series came to me fully realized. I didn't know how many books there'd be—I think now maybe twelve—but I knew instantly that he was the one to tell the story of the war the way I wanted it told."
Using his expertise as a former intelligence and foreign service officer, Peters has also written about the future of America's military efforts and terrorism. In Fighting for the Future: Will America Triumph?, Peters discusses the future of military conflicts that are likely to involve social and political battles as well as the standard military confrontations. In the Washington Monthly, contributor Ernest Blazar noted that Peters comes to some "hasty conclusions" but that his "entertaining predictions and prescriptions serve as useful signs of how maddening it is for the world's sole remaining economic, cultural and military superpower to peer into the twenty-first century with little clue as to what's to come." Robert B. Adolph, Jr. of Special Warfare called Peters "the most gifted military theorist of his generation" and noted that he writes "with conviction, integrity and unusual artistry." Beyond Terror: Strategy in a Changing World addresses the development and future of international terrorism. Roland Green, writing in Booklist, called the book "useful and occasionally abrasive... this is good, intelligent stuff."
Peters once told CA, "Those who are unwilling to risk their lives usually don't have lives worth risking."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Armed Forces and Society: An Interdisciplinary Journal, fall, 2000, Volker Franke, review of Fighting for the Future: Will America Triumph?, p.157.
Booklist, April 1, 1999, Joe Collins, review of Traitor, p. 1386; July, 2002, Roland Green, review of Beyond Terror: Strategy in a Changing World, p. 1804; July, 2002, Roland Green, review of Fighting for the Future, p. 1804.
Denver Post, September 3, 2000, Tom and Enid Schantz, "Union Officer's Probe of Revolt Rich with Dialect, Fact," review of Shadows of Glory, p. H-02.
Library Journal, January, 1998, review of The Devil's Garden, p. 144; January, 1999, Mark E. Ellis, review of Fighting for the Future, p. 129.
Naval War College Review, spring, 2001, Jan Van Tol, review of Fighting for the Future, p. 142.
New Republic, June 23, 1982.
Newsweek, May 22, 1989, pp. 88-89.
New York Times Book Review, March 22, 1981; June 18, 1989, p. 20; May 5, 1991, p. 25.
Publishers Weekly, February 22, 1993, review of Flames of Heaven, p. 80; July 3, 1995, review of A Perfect Soldier, p. 50; December 9, 1996, review of Twilight of Heroes, p. 65; December 22, 1997, review of The Devil's Garden, p. 38; August 16, 1999, review of Faded Coat of Blue, p. 59; July 31, 2000, review of Shadows of Glory, p. 70; September 24, 2001, review of Call Each River Jordan, p. 66; June 24, 2002, review of Honor's Kingdom, p. 40; November 4, 2002, review of Our Simple Gifts: Civil War Christmas Tales, p. 64.
Record (Bergen County, NJ), August 29, 2002, Ken Ringle (special from the Washington Post,), "An Immigrant's Civil War: Owen Parry's Mystery Novels Retell History from a Rare and Vivid Angle," p. F07.
Special Warfare, spring, 2000, Robert B. Adolph, Jr., review of Fighting for the Future, p. 48.
Washington Monthly, April, 1999, Ernest Blazar, review of Fighting for the Future, p. 53.
Washington Post, April 11, 1991, p. D3.