Why Readers Love Mitch Rapp: Exploring the Enduring Popularity of Vince Flynn’s Beloved Hero


Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles dedicated to exploring why readers love certain authors and their characters. You can see part one, Why Readers Love Craig Johnson’s Longmire, here.


With the passing of the torch from Kyle Mills to Don Bentley complete and readers everywhere waiting anxiously for forthcoming details about Don’s first Mitch Rapp book (due out later this fall, and available for pre-order here), I thought now was a good time to explore why readers love Mitch Rapp so much.

But first, a bit of history . . .

Originally, Vince Flynn, born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, on April 6, 1966, introduced the world to Mitch Rapp, a CIA counter-terrorism operative, in his 1999 novel, Transfer of Power. That was Flynn’s second book, and though his first—Term Limits (1997)—didn’t feature Rapp, it did establish the universe that Mitch would ultimately be dropped into. Fan-favorite characters like Irene Kennedy, Thomas Stansfield, and even Scott Coleman all got their start in ’97. But two years later, Rapp stole the show and the hearts of readers around the world on his way to becoming one of the greatest and most beloved characters the thriller genre has ever known. Tragically, Flynn passed away in 2013 at the age of 47, having published fourteen books in total. His final novel, The Last Man, was released in 2012.

(Note: you know a book is good when Hollywood rips it off, but in the case of Transfer of Power, a book where the White House is overrun by terrorists and the president is being held in an underground bunker, it was so great, so era-defining in the post 9/11 world, that Hollywood actually ripped it off twice. Yeah, we’re looking at you, Olympus Has Fallen, and the much worse, cheeseball-ish White House Down. You ain’t fooling anybody!)

A year after Vince’s passing, it was announced that New York Times bestselling author Kyle Mills would be taking over Flynn’s iconic series, similar to how other writers had continued characters created by authors such as Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy. Though the shoes he’d signed on to fill were massive, Mills stepped right into them and took off running, delivering nine books, most of them #1 New York Times bestsellers, all featuring Rapp, in less than a decade. It was a perfect match.

Flynn was America’s author, and Mitch Rapp was the American Assassin. Having created a character who would ultimately transcend him, Flynn’s legacy still grows today, and Mills’ role in that shouldn’t be overlooked. Not many writers could pull off what he did, and in a lot of ways, fans may not have realized just how lucky they were to have Kyle onboard. Replacing an iconic author is no small feat, and yet, somehow, lightning had, indeed, stuck twice. Now, every indication is that another storm is brewing, and lightening is again flashing in the sky, signaling a second hand-off to yet another capable writer, this time, Don Bentley, who is best known for his own Matt Drake books and his work in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Universe. Details are slowly trickling out about Bentley’s first Rapp book, and obviously, we’ll have full coverage of that and then some when the time comes, but for now . . . let’s talk about why readers love Mitch Rapp and Vince Flynn.

Realistic Depiction of the Espionage World

In the world of espionage and political thrillers, a genre that was shaped in many ways by names like Ludlum and Clancy, but also le Carre and, more recently, Daniel Silva and Brad Thor, few characters have captured the hearts and minds of readers quite like Mitch Rapp, the indomitable protagonist of Vince Flynn’s novels. Flynn’s ability to weave intricate plots, create compelling characters, and deliver pulse-pounding action was second to none and helped establish him as a master storyteller and someone who could beat headlines with his well-researched threat scenarios. At the core of Vince Flynn’s success was his remarkable ability to tell a gripping and engaging story, involving characters that readers would grow to love. That’s where the magic happened.

If you ask anyone who’d read them, Flynn’s novels are a rollercoaster of suspense, action, and even political intrigue that keeps readers on the edge of their seats. From the very first page, you can’t help but be drawn into a world where the stakes are notoriously high, and the action and gunplay are relentless. Not to mention, the stories themselves are fast-paced, making it difficult to put down his books, with most readers opting to instead sprint to the finish line, where Rapp, inevitably, will meet up with the villain and dish out a cold, hard plate of justice.

They’re violent, yes, but the gore is never excessive. Well, almost never excessive. But that’s true for many books in the genre, starring any of the few dozen heroes floating around today. So what makes Mitch different? Or even the rest of the cast? A few things.

One of the key elements that, in my opinion, has endeared readers to Flynn’s work was his creation of complex and multidimensional characters, with Mitch Rapp, of course, at the forefront. Rapp is not your typical hero; he is a flawed and, at times, morally ambiguous character with a relentless dedication to his mission. That’s the key. Once Mitch is locked in, that’s it. Game over. He will win and save the day, or die trying. And in the event that he cannot save the day, well, let’s just say he’ll stop at nothing to make sure that everyone and anyone who had a hand in whatever attack succeeded pay for their transgressions. Moreover, because of Rapp’s depth, internal conflicts, and personal struggles, there’s a side of him that’s relatable to readers—a true testament to Flynn’s ability to humanize his characters, even in the midst of intense action, adding a layer of authenticity that resonates with fans and keeps them invested in the story.

Themes of Patriotism and Justice

Then there’s Flynn’s meticulous research and attention to detail, both of which contributed to the noted realistic depiction of the espionage world he became known for. Though Flynn himself had no background in counter-terrorism or spy work, like, say, John le Carre, his books still dripped with authenticity, nailing the nuances of the then-current political landscape, covert operations, and intelligence agencies depicted in his books. Readers quickly grew to appreciate the level of realism and accuracy in Flynn’s portrayal of the intricacies of the spy game, which enhanced the overall reading experience because, in a strange way, the books never really felt like fiction. Instead, it feels more like Rapp is real but set in an alternate universe. Coupled with that, Flynn’s novels often explored themes of patriotism and justice, which also struck a chord with many readers. Mitch Rapp embodies a sense of duty and loyalty to his country. The man would bleed on the flag to keep it red, white, and blue, and his unwavering pursuit of justice, even through unconventional and (sometimes) morally questionable means (as mentioned above), has made him easy to root for because of his willingness to sacrifice and lay it all on the line to protect his country. Flynn’s exploration of those personal themes, including Rapp’s love of America and her citizens, added depth to the narrative and elevated his novels beyond mere brainless, popcorn, action-movie-like thrillers. There’s no question that prior to 9/11, Jack Ryan ruled the genre. But as the world slowly turned its attention away from Russia, it was Flynn and Rapp who dominated—and after 9/11, it became clear that most Americans not only loved and appreciated a character like Rapp, but on a more honest level, we all hoped someone like him really existed.

And finally, another reason readers loved Vince Flynn so much, is that he never missed. Not once. Fourteen books. Fourteen hits. The man delivered every single time, demonstrating a level of consistency that’s gone unmatched since. If you’re not already reading this series, start. Trust me, you will not regret it.

We’ll have a lot more coverage of Don Bentley’s first Mitch Rapp book in the coming months, and we also have some fun things lined up to celebrate Mitch Rapp and Vince Flynn’s legacy later on this year. So stay tuned and make sure to check back for more details soon.





Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and is building a growing community on Twitch. His debut thriller, FIELDS OF FIRE, which #1 New York Times bestselling author Jack Carr says “will leave you speechless and begging for more,” is now available. His second novel, LETHAL RANGE, is also in bookstores, and his third book, OUT FOR BLOOD, comes out on June 4th. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. To interact with other readers and talk about your favorite books and authors, join The Real Book Spy’s Discord server.


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