Read an exclusive guest post from J. Leon Pridgen II, and make sure to sign in and comment below for a chance to win Unit 416!
Allow me to introduce myself: My name is J. Leon Pridgen II. I am the person who had the distinct privilege to pen the novel Unit 416; it is the brainchild of A. John Vinci. I am honored that he, the folks at Macmillian, and St. Martin’s Press found the words I put to paper worthy of this project.
Unit 416 is a work of fiction that, I must confess, has beaten me, challenged me, and given me moments of reflection and introspection. Above all else, this work has inspired me and rewarded me. I dare say that there are rewards that have not revealed themselves to me as yet. I say that because I know the men and women that you will find in the pages of Unit 416. They have spoken to me throughout this process. They dance in my head, eagerly anticipating their opportunity to speak to you again.
Speaking to you specifically about the men who make up the core of Unit 416, they are the unlikeliest of heroes. A group of men whom little was expected of by many around them, there were times when each of them expected very little of themselves. Their lives began in different places. Whether they were thrust onto the roughest streets of America, challenged with personal tragedies, or caught in a downward spiral of unfortunate circumstance, their trajectory in life was on a collision course with jails, institutions, or death. The military provided them a way of altering their course. Their past is the foundation they built on, and Unit 416 gave them the purpose and platform to discover the heroes they are destined to become.
By now, I trust you are curious about the men that make up this unit. They include:
- Mike Winston: A man who has no respect or regard for authority but is a natural leader.
- Levern Smith “Big Lev”: A behemoth of a man who is capable of bringing death with his hands.
- Darrell Jones: A crafty and quick-witted computer geek who has the ability to find trouble even quicker.
- Tyrin Turner: A man struggling with his allegiance to the gang that he bangs with and his faith that bangs with him.
- Jack Daisy: A withdrawn, stuttering individual with an uncanny ability and an affinity for firearms.
We witness the evolution of these men from a rag-tag, eclectic group into a finely tuned, well-oiled, elite fighting unit. There is a man who leads this transformation named Miles Keeble—he is a decorated but damaged Army veteran fighting fiercely to hang onto the career that has given his life true purpose.
When they are assigned a mission infiltrating arms and drug cartels that carries them through Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, they quickly discover the only ones they can trust and rely on are themselves. I truly hope you enjoy the ride that these characters take with the Unit 416.
I believe that every one of us has a destiny to fulfill. It is one of greatness. The only thing that stops us from the pursuit of greatness that is our destiny is us.
If you will indulge me, I would like to share with you a little bit about myself. I was born into a military family in Aberdeen, Md. I served proudly in the military myself with the 82nd Airborne Division, where my older brother and I had the opportunity to make our father’s retirement jump with him. It still remains one of the highlights of my life.
I have been on a journey—a series of adventures that are still getting started. I have acted on stage, television, and film. I have penned two other novels, worked in different industries, and above all else, I have been blessed with a beautiful wife and two children that are amazing in their own right.
I am also a proud supporter and advocate for public education. It is the bedrock of our democracy! It is up to us to inspire and uplift.
I believe that every one of us has a destiny to fulfill. It is one of greatness. The only thing that stops us from the pursuit of greatness that is our destiny is us. Unit 416, for me, is an affirmation of that. It is a project that I did not intend to undertake, but we have found each other; it was our destiny. This work of fiction speaks to the hero that lays within us all, no matter how we start.
Every day, seek out that great person you are destined to be!
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J. Leon Pridgen II is originally from Aberdeen, Maryland, grew up at Ft. Bragg, NC, and resides in Mooresville, NC. Leon’s journey in life so far has taken him from the jungles of Panama with the 82nd Airborne Division to Hollywood film sets co-starring in movies like The Program and Careful What You Wish For. Along the way, he has authored the novels Color of Justice and Your Past Catches You.