Andy has been working with the USO Operation Thriller tour since its inception several years ago. Below is an overview of Operation Thriller as written for American University by Andrew Peterson.
As the C-130J “Super Hercules” began its final approach into Iraq, a platoon of Marines was accompanied by five civilians. This 2010 landing heralded Operation Thriller, a USO tour conceived by alumnus Andy Harp, SPA/BA ’73.
Harp recognized a connection between US service members and their love of reading, especially thrillers, and he conceptualized the idea of authors going on a USO overseas tour. So for the first time in its 70 year history, the USO sent an elite group of novelists to an active war zone.
As a retired Marine officer and novelist, Harp was an ideal chairman of the first tour, serving as the liaison between International Thriller Writers (ITW) and the USO to make the idea become a reality. Operation Thriller crisscrossed Iraq and Kuwait. During a whirlwind tour, the authors met thousands of troops and thanked them for their service.
During his military career, Harp could look to his experiences as the lead runner for AU’s 1971 cross country team, which finished 19th in the nation. He recalls competing against Steve Prefontaine and other Olympians at the NCAA national championships in cross country. As a novelist, Harp recalls, “I believe my writing career probably began at American. Writing involves observation, and American, being in the heart of it all, gave me many opportunities to do just that.”
In 2007, A Northern Thunder, Harp’s novel, debuted and was described by Booklist as a “heart-pounding” fast paced, “bold thriller” involving the North Korean threat. “North Korea represents a bigger threat than most Americans realize,” he says. Because his thriller carries such interest and accuracy, Harp has appeared on the BBC’s “5 Live” radio show, has been interviewed by Voice of America, and has written for CNN’s Larry King Live.
Operation Thriller paved the way for a second USO tour, supporting the USO’s mission to lift the spirits of America’s troops and their families. Harp’s vision of sharing his passion for thrillers with service members overseas reflects an ongoing commitment to serve reflected by his time at AU and in the military.