I started writing The Lazarus Covenant after my first deployment to Bosnia in 1997. At the time, I was commanding a Special Forces company in Sarajevo. My fellow soldiers and I were involved in many situations throughout Bosnia and the Balkans that made an enduring impression on me—our Special Forces teams were frequently being attacked with car bombs, satchel charges, RPGs, knives and clubs. When we weren't being attacked, we were often under the threat of an attack.

In the midst of this turbulence, at the invitation of a good friend who was then a prosecutor for the war crimes tribunal (Clint Williamson--now the U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues), I drove to Vukovar, Croatia and saw the destruction from the war there.  At the time, I recall thinking that it looked like Dresden after the fire bombings during WWII. I returned from that visit with a new outlook on  humanity, having seen the worst of what we are capable of doing to one another-- and it reinforced for me the moral imperative we all have to stop ethnic cleansing, genocide and war crimes wherever they occur. That notion was underscored again as we assisted in uncovering the mass graves from the Srebrenica massacre. In these war zones, Special Forces teams must deal with everyone--the good, the bad and the ugly, and Bosnia was certainly no exception. On more than several occasions, I would find myself in the same room, drinking coffee with officials who I suspected were responsible for these atrocities!  To arrest them, however, the grave exhumations and investigations had to be completed.

Returning from Bosnia, I was often asked by friends and family to describe what it was like there. I found it difficult to adequately explain. How do you explain what it’s like to pull bodies out of a mass grave in 100 degree heat? Or to be under attack by people you're there to help? Or to be searching for information and intelligence that could save one, or perhaps, hundreds of lives? Needless to say, all of those experiences defy easy explanation.

I chose a fictional venue to relate how a crisis can unfold in an area like the Balkans. Nearly a decade and a great deal of research later, this novel is the result. Many of the situations described mirror what I witnessed in Eastern and Central Europe. My goal in telling this story was to convey an intriguing plot with realism, fidelity and a host of interesting characters to help readers better understand these crisis spots and the people who inhabit them. My hope is that in some way this novel conveys the need to erase the terrible scourge of hatred and religious extremism, and to work for enduring, long-term solutions to these problems.

A decade and a half after the last war in Bosnia, the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, is reporting that tensions in Bosnia have reached the “highest level in years.”  Blair recently warned Congress that Bosnia’s ability to survive as a single, multi-ethnic state is in grave danger.  As truth appears to be closely paralleling the fictional scenario outlined in The Lazarus Covenant, Bosnia's breaking point could indeed become a global faultline....

John with CW3 Mike Gaglione on a Destroyed Bridge Separating Bosnia and Croatia

John (left) with Nasir Oric (center) the Muslim "Defender of Srebrenica" in Srebrenica
John (right) at Ilidza Base in Sarajevo, Bosnia
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