HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

Sean McFate

Expert in Foreign Policy & Novelist


  • U.S. National Security: What are the Threats and What are our Responses?
  • The Future of War: It's Not What You Think
  • Defeating Putin’s Shadow Wars
  • The Return of Mercenaries and World Disorder
  • Defeating Global Jihad
  • Opera and War


District of Columbia
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Dr. Sean McFate is an expert on national security, foreign policy and terrorism, and is a novelist. He is a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, a think tank, and a professor of strategy at the National Defense University and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. In May 2016, McFate’s most recent title Shadow War: A Tom Locke Novel (William Morrow) debuted.

McFate’s career spans across the public, private and non-profit sectors. He began as a paratrooper and officer in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. He served under Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus, and attended elite training programs, such as the US Army’s jungle warfare school in Panama. Following this, he was a private military contractor in Africa. In Liberia, he demobilized warlords and spearheaded efforts to raise a new army following the country’s long civil war and Charles Taylor’s exile. In Burundi, he trained the Presidential Guard to fight off a genocidal threat in 2004. In South Sudan, he supported the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. He also worked across the Sahara and Sahel regions, and transacted arms deals in Eastern Europe.

In the private sector, McFate held management positions in firms that work in international affairs. He was a Vice President at TD International, a boutique political risk consulting firm with offices in Washington, Houston, Singapore and Zurich. Additionally, he was a manager at DynCorp International, a consultant at BearingPoint (now Deloitte Consulting) and an associate at Booz Allen Hamilton. In the non-profit sector, McFate was an advisor to Amnesty International USA on armed conflict and human rights, and studied the causes of genocide at Harvard University’s Carr Center for Human Rights. He was a Bernard L. Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation, and a social scientist at the RAND Corporation, both think tanks. His research focused on the future of war.

McFate co-wrote the novel Shadow War: A Tom Locke Novel (William Morrow), the first in a series and based on his military experiences. Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, called it “an American James Bond meets the twists and turns of ‘Homeland.’” He also authored the non-fiction book The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order which details the changing character of war in the 21st century. The Economist called it a “fascinating and disturbing book.”

A coveted speaker, he has spoken at the British House of Commons, top universities and popular audiences. He has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, BBC, The Economist, Vice/HBO, The Discovery Channel, Fox News and other outlets. He has published articles in Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, The New Republic, African Affairs, Military Review, Daily Beast, Vice, Salon and War on the Rocks. As a scholar, he has authored eight book chapters in edited academic volumes, and published a monograph with the U.S. Army War College on how to raise foreign armies.

McFate holds a BA from Brown University, a MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a PhD in international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Praise for Shadow War:

“[A] smart, exciting first novel and series launch…. Readers will look forward to seeing a lot more of Locke.”
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Shadow War has pace like a catapult, sudden and fierce, and it will hit readers straight between the eyes.”
--Ted Bell, New York Times Bestselling author of Patriot

“Wars produce warriors. Some, like special operator-turned mercenary Tom Locke, find it a curious calling that pulls them into the darkest of nights and most dangerous of places. Shadow War brings all of it to life in fascinating detail.”
--General Stanley A. McChrystal

“For Black Ops and lots of military action, join Tom Locke for an exciting, wild ride.”
--Catherine Coulter, author of Nemesis

“Step aside, faux thriller writers and armchair warrior storytellers. Ex-mercenary Sean McFate has produced a first novel that’s assured, authentic, timely, gritty, and most of all real... I enjoyed the hell out of it.”
--C.J. Box, New York Times Best-selling Author of BADLANDS and OFF THE GRID

“With well-drawn and fascinating characters and ground level espionage and combat sure to please fans of Brad Thor, Tom Clancy, and Daniel Silva, Shadow War is simply one of the most entertaining and intriguing books I’ve read in quite some time.”
--Mark Greaney, #1 NYT Bestselling author of BACK BLAST

“Intelligent, funny, gritty, Ferrari-paced - at times even electric. Shadow War is in the running for best debut of 2016!”
--Ben Coes, New York Times Bestselling author of Eye for an Eye

“An American James Bond meets the twists and turns of “Homeland.”
--Adm James Stavridis, USN (Ret), Supreme Allied Commander at NATO

“A gripping journey inside the world of modern warfare and espionage, and those who enjoy a good military thriller will be hoping that more Tom Locke adventures will follow quickly.”

“McFate knows the world of his first thriller intimately… The novel provides plenty of drama and a realistic view of political intrigue, and McFate really shines with lines that ring with authenticity. . . . A promising debut from an author who clearly knows the realities of the mercenary’s trade.”
--Kirkus Reviews

“[A] terrific debut… Resonance and depth [are] certain to make Shadow War the book others… seek to replicate. A tour de force of form and function for a new geopolitical reality.”
--Providence Journal