Former Navy SEAL Don Mann considers himself “the least likely author you’d ever probably know.” The 21-year veteran who served two tours with SEAL Team Six, though, is now releasing his eighth novel – co-written with Ralph Pezullo – Hunt the Leopard, the latest in a series of novels featuring Chief Warrant Officer Thomas Crocker.
Indeed, the path from retired SEAL to New York Times bestselling author was indirect.
In the Navy, Mann preferred adventure races to reading stacks of books. These races involve teams — about two to five people in a team — that involve courses across unmarked wilderness that can last up to two weeks and involve anything from using pack animals to zip lining.
In addition to competing at the highest level of adventure racing (including an appearance on “The Brigade: Race to the Hudson,” a reality show that aired on the Outdoor Channel) Mann also was teaching people how to safely take part in that sport. A friend later suggested the SEAL write a book on how to take part in the sport.
Mann eventually relented. A similar sequence of events took place when Mann became a weapons instructor for the government after his retirement.
Even though he had enjoyed the process of writing those two books, Mann did not have a burning ambition to write any more. However, he began to re-think his position after his mother’s death, especially after they both recalled their enjoyment of the movie “Forrest Gump” and how it gave us a 20-year history lesson through the eyes of a fictional character.
Mann also realized that by using a fictional character, he would not have to deal with publication review boards. So, after he talked with a writer, he put together the first adventure of Chief Crocker, “Hunt the Wolf.”
It did well enough that the publisher wanted a sequel, resulting in Hunt the Scorpion, and it has gone on to the present novel, the eighth in the series.
Mann explained that in his novels, just as SEAL Team Six picks SEALs from other teams, his fictional Black Cell consists of SEALs selected from the members of SEAL Team Six. Black Cell is actually run by the Central Intelligence Agency, carrying out missions that even the elite SEALs assigned to DEVGRU do not know about.
This puts these SEALs in hot spots around the world, from Colombia to North Korea to Syria to the latest in Nigeria.
For this, Mann credits co-author Pezullo, an ex-boyfriend of Madonna’s, for the accuracy of the books, saying, “his research is incredible.”
“The books are accurate as far as what’s going on in the countries, but we’re not giving away any information on the tactics or techniques the SEALs use, we won’t do that,” Mann said.
How did Hunt the Leopard end up being set in Nigeria? Mann gives most of the credit to Pezullo, saying he “stays so current, his father’s State Department. He stays very, very very current on the state of world affairs, political affairs."
“Nigeria’s been a hot spot for many many years,” Mann adds. "And it’s not unlikely that SEALs or anybody else would be there doing other types of missions just to get in the country and gather intelligence and get the lay of the land.”
In the midst of writing novels centered in global hot spots, Mann has also written non-fiction books, including “The U.S. Navy SEAL Survival Handbook,” “How to Become a Navy SEAL,” “Inside SEAL Team Six,” and “Navy SEALs: The Combat History of the Deadliest Warriors on the Planet.”
A motivational non-fiction book, “Reaching Beyond Boundaries,” came out this past February.