Former adventurer and cop begins new chapter as novelist


He climbed the mountains of Alaska, chased its bears and fished its game; he tackled and cuffed criminals in Ohio; and now, in the swelter of a Starbucks in Guadalajara, Mexico, drawing inspiration from a suntanned barista, he writes novels about Navy SEALS and cannibals. 

Thomas Koloniar

Thomas Koloniar

If art imitates life, then it had better take notes on Thomas Koloniar.

Since graduating from The University of Akron with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1992, Koloniar adventured in Alaska, returned to Ohio to become a police officer, moved to Mexico, and penned a couple of action-packed novels that are luring major television and film producers.

And were it not for a certain UA English professor and his “Intro to Fiction Writing Course,” Koloniar says, none of it would have happened.

Credits professor for career

“In fact, were it not for Robert Pope, I would likely have died on the vine as a writer,” Koloniar says. “You won’t find a finer fiction writing professor anywhere. He has long since become my friend and mentor, and I could not hope for better of either.”

Koloniar recalls that, in college, his “ego as a writer was bigger than it had any business being,” and that after graduating he went to Alaska to “fuel that ego, looking for adventure and recklessly pursuing danger” wherever he could—including on snowy mountains, in pursuit of bears, in rickety boats, and on the Yukon tundra, where, he adds, he was once stranded in minus 50-degree weather.

“It’s a miracle I wasn’t killed in Alaska,” he says.

After defying death in Alaska, Koloniar decided to court danger in less frigid environs, returning to the Akron area to become a police officer for 10 years.

Always restless, he quit law enforcement—which he despised—and, on a road trip from Akron to Atlanta to Los Angeles, and back again, he composed his first published novel with nothing more than the pen strokes of the imagination.

“I wrote Cannibal Reign in my head during a drive from Akron to Los Angeles and back, via Atlanta,” he said. “It’s the only novel I’ve ever written knowing ahead of time exactly where I wanted it to go and how I wanted it to get there. So it takes about 2,500 miles to write a novel.”

Cannibal Reign, published in 2012 by HarperCollins, is a post-apocalyptic thriller about a small band of survivors, huddled in a bomb shelter, who emerge to find the world wrecked by an asteroid, its denizens turned to corpses and flesh-eating savages.

Television takes interest

Thomas Koloniar bookKoloniar says he is working with an FX Productions company to develop ideas for adapting Cannibal Reign to television, and he adds that he is “warming up to the idea of writing the sequel.”

In 2013, he joined Scott McEwen to co-author Sniper Elite: One-Way Trip, the story of a daring Navy SEALS rescue mission, which has attracted Ridley Scott and other film and television producers.

He is currently putting the final touches on the sequel to Sniper Elite, titled Target America: A Sniper Elite Novel, also co-authored with McEwan, which is due summer 2014.

Koloniar’s next project, though, is to relax at home with his girlfriend in Guadalajara, writing “only when [he] feels the impulse,” he says, occasionally taking inspiration from where he can—including from that Starbucks barista, whom he describes as one of his many “muses.”

But he warns aspiring writers against waiting for the lightning stroke of inspiration: “Sit down, do the work, and the process will find you.”

Inspired by Hemingway, McCarthy

Koloniar says he learned from Ernest Hemingway and Cormac McCarthy (whose novel All the Pretty Horses persuaded him to move to Mexico) that a would-be novelist must first “have a story to tell” in addition to “at least a little bit of luck.”

It is clear that Koloniar, whose fiction, at times, seems an imitation of his life, has plenty of stories to tell; and given the perils of his past—including bears no less bestial than cannibals—it is lucky for him, and his readers, that he lives to tell them.


icon Story by Nick Nussen

Media contact: Denise Henry, 330-972-6477 or