Interview with Ralph Sanborn, author of China Red


Title: China Red
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Author: Ralph Sanborn
Publisher: iUniverse
EBook: 292 pages
Release Date: April 8, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-47598-293-0

Heroin, called “China Red” on the street, is being smuggled into the United States. Zhou Jing—who fancies himself a fifteenth-century Chinese warlord, is using Muslim Uighers in western China to produce the heroin. In exchange, Zhou arms, trains, and provides security from the Chinese government for the Uighers. Caleb Frost is a professional assassin in a deep cover, black operations team that specializes in wet work. His team includes two ex-Navy SEALs and a Greek beauty and former New York City escort. Funded by the US government, the team operates autonomously in total secrecy. China hires Caleb’s team to destroy, with prejudice, the smuggling operation in the US. Zhou’s partner is a brilliant, psychopathic killer—a Harvard Business School graduate named Wrath. He founded the Visigoths MC, a hard riding, vicious motorcycle gang which protects, delivers, and collects payment for the heroin shipments. When matters become personal and Caleb’s sister Rebecca is kidnapped, the team’s task gets messier. It becomes more than an “assassination engagement” for Caleb—it becomes a bloodthirsty vendetta. “This tornado of a thriller drags the reader into a world of guns, bombs, swords and death and won’t let go.” -Rob Swigart, Author of The Delphi Agenda “China Red plunges the reader into a world of evil intrigue and high adventure. You won’t be able to put it down." -Antoinette May, author of The Sacred Well, Pilate’s Wife, and Haunted Houses of California


Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

Caleb Frost’s parents were murdered by an assassin, the Swordsman, using a Samurai katana. He becomes an assassin and pursues the Swordsman through the dark world he has chosen to inhabit. He and his team of assassins are hired by China to track down and terminate the distribution end of a suspected drug smuggling operation.

The Chinese want to have a reason to bring major military force against the drug manufacturing operation. The poppies are grown and processed by Uighers, a Muslim sect which settled in western China one thousand years ago. If the trail can be traced to the United States, the Chinese can attack the mountain production facility as a favor to the drug ridden friend, the United States.

The action takes Caleb from San Francisco to New Orleans chasing the truck suspected of carrying the heroin which has the street name of “China Red”. A motorcycle gang, the Visigoths, led by a fellow named Wrath, provides security, transportation, delivery, and collection services for the shipments.

Caleb is successful in uncovering the smuggling method and destroying the inventory along with a fashionable restaurant, Le Couteau Bleu, in the French Quarter.

Meanwhile, a member of the Visigoths who skimmed and sold China Red to addicts in San Francisco kidnaps Caleb’s sister, Rebecca, so that she won’t identify her source to her rehab doctor.

The conflict escalates into a full blown war centering on the Visigoths’ club house in Alameda. Wrath escapes during the firefight and Caleb chases him down in Big Sur. In a battle on motorcycles in a dense sea fog, Wrath drives off a three hundred foot cliff onto the surf and rocks below.

My reason for writing it was to tell an exciting take, but also to talk about the drug business and its adverse effects on addicts. I also wanted to address the persecution of the Uighers by China. This is news today. The slaughter of thirty-three shoppers in a mall in China was the work of Uighers. Both sides have something to atone for.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing it?

Maintaining Point of View. POV, the three letters I hate in writing. Not that I don’t use POV it’s just that I like the freedom of being in whoever’s mind I feel offers me the greatest opportunities at a moment in a chapter, a paragraph, or a sentence to move the story. Then the POV-Nazis, the editors (generally I really appreciate them), jump on me. So that’s it. I like to be free.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Yes. China Red is the first of the Caleb Frost series.  I have finished the second book, The Assassins’ Game, and am well into the third, The Falcon’s Talon. The fourth book is a standalone, a mystery titled Shay Martin’s Runway. The fifth will be back to the series.

When and why did you begin writing?

I have always written from my earliest years. My mother was a poet and essayist and encouraged me. The decision to become a writer in the sense that I defined myself as a writer when people inquired only came about eight years ago, back in 2006. Fortunately, I was fired in 2008 during the recession and could separate myself from the suit and tie job and focus on writing.

What is your greatest strength as an author?

The ability to create a diverse, memorable cast of characters to carry the plot and its messages. Caleb, Wrath, Irini (her back story alone would make a book), the Brown Man, Rebecca known as Reb and Jake and Frank the former SEALs.

Did writing this book teach you anything?

The introspection required to write the innermost thoughts of a killer, regardless of the justifications for his acts, continues to be a learning experience. Caleb Frost is not me, at least not consciously. Am I delving into my own subconscious? Perhaps. We all have a dark side. The moment of the actual kill fascinates me and I use both Caleb and Irini, who is a cold blooded killer herself, to explore those dark, festering corners of the human psyche.

I learned patience with a sentence, even a word. Each word is “just another brick in the wall”, but those bricks have to contribute. My writing is a work in progress.


Ralph Sanborn was raised in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, and earned a degree in psychology from St. Lawrence University. He has lived in several different countries and worked in a variety of manufacturing and software enterprise marketing capacities. He currently lives in Northern California with his wife, Susan, and their two dogs.  
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