By Gary Kriss
What follows reveals the “who done it” for Joseph Badal’s THE LONE WOLF AGENDA, so you have a few seconds to click on to another piece. Starting to count: three . . . two . . . one. OK, that’s it. You had your chance. Here goes.
Whitey did it.
No, not Whitey Bulger. Geez! We’re talking Joseph Badal here, not Dennis Lehane! And, THE LONE WOLF AGENDA is the fourth book in Badal’s Danforth Saga, a series featuring Bob Danforth, his wife Liz and their son, Michael. This latest installment pairs Bob, who’s been called out of retirement by The Company—his old company—with Michael, a senior DELTA Force officer, and pits them against an OPEC-supported terrorist group allied with a Mexican drug cartel.
“This story is an epic adventure that will chill readers as they discover that nothing, no matter how diabolical, is impossible,” Badal predicts. And he knows what he’s talking about, having lived his words, although in his case diabolical refers to product not person.
For thirty eight of his sixty eight years, Badal was a prominent and highly successful figure in the banking and financial services industries. But he had another calling, one that was instilled in him while growing up in Philadelphia.
“Storytelling was an integral part of growing up, where much of family history was passed down from grandparents and parents to children,” he’ recalls. “Our parents told us stories that were high on adventure and heroism, and each of us, in turn, was the hero of a story our parents related. I loved hearing these stories, being a part of them, reading adventure stories and now writing them.”
Although he sparked his son’s love of writing, Badal’s father was the one who steered him into a business. However, after earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in international finance, Badal spent six years as a decorated army officer, serving in critical, highly classified positions while seeing duty in both Greece and Vietnam. The lure of a military career was strong. But the demands of a young family proved more compelling.
“I loved serving in the military, and serving my country,” Badal says. “I chose to resign my commission in 1972 because I wanted to provide more stability to my wife and sons than was possible in the Army.”
So he set up stakes in New Mexico, where he still lives, and became a banker, quickly climbing in the financial world, but at the expense of writing. He had ideas, but lacked the time to put them on paper until the early 2000s. Then, at the end of 2007, he left the world of business (well, almost—he still does some consulting) to “follow [his] passion.”
Today, in retrospect, Badal admits, “I wish I had become a writer right out of college, so, yes, I have regrets.” But, looking at the other side of the ledger sheet, he notes that he “garnered years of worldly experience in the military and in the finance world that has contributed to my becoming a better story teller.”
“As with any career, I have been exposed to hundreds of ‘characters’ over the years who form the basis for many of the characters in my books,” he explains. “I have also been confronted with myriad experiences in the finance industry that have been the foundation for plots and sub-plots in some of my books.” He cites THE SHELL GAME, his 2012 novel dealing with the negative impact of heavy-handed federal regulations, as “a classic example.”
That book, like THE LONE WOLF AGENDA, his newest one, may seem a far cry from other pieces of his canon such as “The Advantages of Portfolio Lender Relationships” and “Using Common Sense to Enrich Alt-A Lending Success,” Badal offers that, in one respect, they have quite a bit in common. “From a technical sense, writing in the finance arena must be clear, concise, and economical,” he explains. “The same goes for writing fiction.”
However, something non-technical that Badal experienced while in the Army, that gave rise to the Danforth Saga, something that easily could have been tragic rather than inspirational. “While stationed with the U.S. Army in Greece in 1969-1971, our 2-1/2-year-old son was kidnapped from our back yard,” Badal says. “A stray dog that had been hanging around our house for weeks attacked the kidnapper and saved our son.”
Ah, yes—the dog! The mongrel that a grateful Badal family named Whitey, adopted and brought back to the States where he lived out a long and happy life.
So, thanks to Whitey, an incident that might have been the basis for grief became an incident that became the basis of EVIL DEEDS, the first Danforth book, which spans thirty years and gives the full Danforth backstory including how Bob and Liz search for and finally find their son, Michael, how Bob is forced out of the Army and recruited into the CIA and how Michael is commissioned into the Army and marries the daughter of the Gypsy who kidnapped him as a child. (You have to read the book.)
EVIL DEEDS was followed by TERROR CELL, THE NOSTRADAMUS SECRET and now THE LONE WOLF AGENDA. And the Danforth happenings, which have attracted a solid following, won’t stop there.
“I can’t throw out a number as to how many books will be in this series,” Badal states, showing a financial consultant’s caution. “I am considering moving away from Bob and Liz Danforth as active characters in the next book, with greater emphasis on Michael Danforth and Carlos Garcia (a New Mexico State Police Lieutenant). Michael and Carlos play large roles in THE LONE WOLF AGENDA. I want to see what sort of response I get from readers about their larger roles, at Bob and Liz’s expense before I craft the next book.”
“I really enjoy writing about Bob Danforth because I see him as an everyday hero, a guy who does not leap tall buildings in a single bound,” Badal continues, mentioning a factor that could weight into any decision about the series’ future direction. “He is one of those people who are confronted with a challenge and always strives to do the right thing to protect his country and its people.”
But readers will have to wait to see how the Danforth Saga will ultimately unfold. “My next book is UTLIMATE BETRAYAL, a thriller about a corrupt CIA official who hires assassins to murder men he served with in Iraq while in the Army,” Badal says. “He believes one or more of these men might have been aware of his criminal activities involving drugs and might divulge that knowledge now that he has been appointed by the President to a senior post at CIA.”
Badal is no stranger to stand-alone novels. Besides SHELL GAME, he also wrote THE PYTHAGOREAN SOLUTION, complete with a cryptic map, a buried treasure, Nazis and Swiss banks. So, does he favor writing series books or stand-alones? “I really don’t have a preference,” he insists. “I have enjoyed writing my two stand-alones as much as I enjoyed writing the Danforth Saga. If you read all of the books in the Danforth Saga you will find that each can be read as a stand-alone.”
However, when it comes to the age-old question of character versus plot, Badal has no hesitancy in proclaiming where his heart lies. “Plot guides my writing,” he says “I use characters to move the plot along. Stories come to me first. I then produce characters based on amalgams of people I have known, or read about, or who I conjure up.”
Once he conjures up the characters, Badal still has to contend with them, and the fine-tuning can lead to fights. “This often happens, especially when dealing with my bad guys,” he says. “I frequently have internal battles over just how bad a character should be. I usually opt to have the antagonist do enough to shock and anger the reader, without having them sicken the reader.”
Satisfy, rather than sicken is a better word to apply to Badal’s readership who, like Badal himself, gravitate to a well-constructed thriller. There are other personal reasons why, Badal chose his genre. “I write thrillers because my background has given me a lot of material to write about,” he says. “Writing a thriller based on personal experience makes the writing process easier and more enjoyable.”
So just what constitutes this strange animal :”thriller” that Badal—all six feet, one hundred eighty-eight pounds of him—spends “six days a week, four to eight hours per day, depending upon how long [his] back and eyes hold out” creating on a “slightly messy” desk, which holds a computer, a thesaurus, a dictionary, an atlas and a copy of Christopher Vogler’s, THE WRITERS JOURNEY, the one book he says he wishes he had written, calling it “a must reference book for every writer’s library?”
“At its simplest level, a thriller is a suspense book in which the antagonist and his motivations are known to the reader early in the story, and the protagonist spends the rest of the book trying to confirm the antagonist’s identity and his/her motivation(s),” he explains. “Another aspect of a thriller is that the story should be gut-wrenching for the reader. A thriller should not be a namby-pamby reading experience.”
No, instead Badal would likely hold that a thriller—at least his—should be an Argentine Malbec, the drink that he, himself would like to be, “because it is international, it is rich in character, and brings great pleasure to all who experience it.”
No doubt his readers would hoist a glass to that!
Joseph Badal worked for thirty-eight years in the banking and financial services industries. Prior to his finance career, Joe served for six years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army in critical, highly classified positions in the U.S. and overseas, including tours of duty in Greece and Vietnam. He earned numerous military decorations. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in International Finance (Temple University) and Business Administration (University of New Mexico). He graduated from the Defense Language Institute, West Coast, and from Stanford University Law School’s Director College.
Joe has had five suspense novels published, including SHELL GAME, which was released in 2012. His next novel, THE LONE WOLF AGENDA, will be released on June 25, 2013. He writes a blog titled Everyday Heroes. His first short story, FIRE & ICE, was included in an anthology titled UNCOMMON ASSASSINS, in 2012. Joe has written dozens of articles that have been published in various business and trade journals, and is a frequent speaker at national business and writers’ events.
To learn more about Joe, please visit his website.