October 26, 2021
By James Tarr, Handguns Editor
If the name Kurt Schlichter sounds familiar to you, that is because he is a very active conservative pundit, writing for TownHall.com (among other conservative websites) and often appearing on Fox News. While currently his day job is lawyer, in his past life he was in the U.S. Army, getting out as a Colonel.
Schlichter has written numerous well-received non-fiction political books, but 2016’s People’s Republic was his first novel. He’s since followed it up with five novels featuring the same protagonist, Kelly Turnbull. They’re all available through Amazon in trade paperback or digital (Kindle) form. There is also a dedicated website, KellyTurnbull.com.
Schlichter’s novels are set in the near-future, after America pushed itself right up to the edge of civil war and halfway over before it split into two separate countries—the People’s Republic of North America, which occupies the east and west coast and some of the Midwest, and the reduced-in-size United States of America, with its capital now in Dallas.
Schlichter’s novels explore just what might happen if the political left got everything it was hoping for, and the results are both hilarious and terrifying. There's a great line in the first book, “The People's Republic is what happens when you let movie stars and college professors pick the government.”
Kelly Turnbull is a former Special Forces soldier who now pays the bills by smuggling people out from behind enemy lines, as it were, because socialism is failing in the PR as it has everywhere else it’s been tried. However, as you usually see in socialist and commie countries, the elites don't have it nearly as bad. Some of them are more equal than others, to borrow a line from George Orwell's Animal Farm.
I like Turnbull. His preferred method of conflict resolution is to shoot people in the face. Twice. But before we dive into the various novels, a bit of housekeeping:
In the order in which they were written, the Turnbull novels are as follows: People’s Republic (2016), Indian Country (2017), Wildfire (2018), Collapse (2019), Crisis (2020), The Split (2021). With the last three novels, Schlichter has started numbering the books on the spines
However, the novels bounce all around on Schlichter’s timeline, some being prequels to People’s Republic, others sequels. The order in which they take place in Turnbull’s universe are: Crisis, The Split, Indian Country, People’s Republic, Wildfire, Collapse.
Personally, I recommend reading them in the order in which they were written. With People’s Republic, the debut novel, Schlichter throws you right into the middle of this insane mess, and you’ll see that this is exactly where California, and America, are headed unless saner heads prevail. It might be my favorite novel of the series simply due to the plot, although it’s not his best writing. Schlichter is a solid writer and entertainer, but he’s not a professional novelist; if you read them in order you’ll see his writing skills improve as he goes, although the difference will probably be lost on most people.
Schlichter has bona fide conservative credentials, and is an Army veteran. He’s also a gun guy, as shown by Turnbull’s preferred sidearm, a Wilson Combat X-TAC. The books are not free of technical errors, but they are very minor and only a self-professed gun nerd would even spot them—there’s no such thing a Winchester 700 for example, and 8-round 1911 magazines aren’t extended. He’s confused the S&W M&P Shield with the standard full-size M&P2.0. HK 417s (sub-10-lb .308s) aren’t nearly as controllable on full-auto as he seems to think. But it’s fiction, so….
In People’s Republic Turnbull is asked to head back into the PR and retrieve a misguided college-age daughter of a very rich man and also do a side job for our intelligence services, retrieving a hard drive with classified data. He’s assisted by the Mormon underground/freedom fighters on the ground in bordering Utah. Through the book he uses a Glock 19, random M4s, Kimber and Wilson Combat 1911s. The main problem he has while inside the PR is having a conversation using normal English without being accused of racism, sexism, misgendering, or microaggressions.
The left in this country has gotten so crazy that parody and satire are almost impossible, but Schlichter does a great job. Still, what had been crazy satire in 2016 is now edging closer to reality:
Travel passes with carbon offsets, ration coupons and long lines for food, rainbow flags, prison terms for hate speech and climate change deniers, rotating power outages, hyperinflation, “responsible coffee” (reusing the grounds until there's nothing left), a $55 minimum wage, reparations assessments, preferred gender pronouns, the Food Justice Commission, six different recycling bins, LGBTQ!MCX* and, of course, the more inclusive LGBTQN3#@FZ.
Schlichter’s descriptions of life behind the lines of the People’s Republic of North America will get you laughing and spitting angry all at the same time. Just like watching the news.
Wildfire is a sequel to People’s Republic. A deadly virus has been manufactured and Kelly Turnbull has to go behind enemy lines in the People’s Republic to keep it from getting out. While this is more of a traditional espionage thriller, with scenes set in Siberia, Mexico City and Germany (which is collapsing under the weight of Fundamentalist Islamist immigrants), the People’s Republic is still just as messed up as ever. In fact, it’s worse as the residents begin to seriously reap the benefits of their socialist policies.
Turnbull follows the “When in Rome…” adage when using firearms. In Siberia, he and his team use AK-12s and SVDs. In Germany they used Heckler and Koch FP6 shotguns, which I’d never heard of and had to look up. Behind the lines of the People’s Republic he uses a sterile Gen 6 Glock.
Perhaps my favorite part of Wildfire is Schlichter’s homage to the classic movie Escape From New York. Turnbull is armed with a custom suppressed Mac-10, topped with an Aimpoint and red laser sight, but instead of Manhattan he is searching for someone in the largest office building in the world, the former Pentagon, which now is a no-man's land of cannibals.
Schlichter throws in references to a huge number of classic action movies. In his latest novel The Split there is a huge Boston bank robbery scene which is a direct homage to the great movie The Town (2010) about Boston bank robbers (and that movie itself is a love letter to Heat). Turnbull and his crew are outfitted with the best gear, including HK417A5s (HK currently is only up to the A2 version of this rifle).
Indian Country is a prequel to People’s Republic detailing Turnbull’s involvement in the brief but intense guerrilla conflict that didn’t flare into outright civil war but instead resulted in the Treaty of St. Louis and the People’s Republic of North America splitting off from the United States. Most of the fighting in Indian Country is set (where else) in southern Indiana. Turnbull starts off concealed carrying a Wilson Combat XTAC Elite Compact loaded with Federal HSTs and ends up in the middle of a small war running an M4A1 alongside guerrillas and engaging National Guard armor with Javelin missiles.
If all of this sounds unbelievable, you’re just not paying attention. Turn on the news. Real life seems to have become satire.
Collapse features an all-out war between the armed forces of the United States (with a bit of civilian militia) and the People’s Republic to reunite the split country, with most of the combat taking place in southern California. Turnbull (armed with a suppressed HK USP .45) is sent behind enemy lines to rescue a Chinese defector, and (as he always tends to) end up in the middle of the war, running a Springfield Armory M1A SOCOM 16.
I first read People’s Republic when it came out. It was entertaining satire, but I knew there was no way it could happen. After the past six years, especially in the last two when truth has become stranger and less believable than fiction, I no longer believe that to be the case.
If the left gets their way it will become inconceivably worse and that’s what Schlichter is trying to point out with his novels in a very entertaining and fun way. As Schlichter writes at the end of Wildfire, “Naturally, most of this is fiction. Except the parts that are coming true. Don’t let any of it come true.”
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About the Author:
James Tarr is a former police officer and private investigator, and is a nationally ranked competitive shooter. He has been writing professionally for 20 years, both magazine articles and books.