Unlikely Duo Pen Explosive Thriller
By Dawn Ius
Gary Grossman is no stranger to fiction—he’s a multiple Emmy Award-winning producer and author of bestselling international thrillers including Executive Actions, Executive Treason, and Executive Command. Ed Fuller, on the other hand, comes to thriller writing from a slightly different background.
As a hospitality industry leader, educator, and bestselling author of business books, Fuller might not seem the most logical writing partner for someone with both feet firmly planted in fiction. But the dynamic duo have paired up for RED HOTEL, the explosive first novel in a planned series starring Dan Reilly, a former army intelligence officer turned hotel executive with high-level access to the CIA.
The novel begins with a terrorist attack on a Tokyo hotel, killing dozens of innocents, and producing one suspect—a man Reilly will stop at nothing to track down. The plot moves at breakneck pace and that proves a somewhat unorthodox duo can absolutely produce a riveting commercial thriller.
“When I decided to write a novel, I knew I needed expertise and did not want a ghostwriter, but a partner,” Fuller says. “A friend, Bruce Feirstein, who has been an author and written numerous screenplays, introduced me to Gary.”
Together, Fuller and Grossman worked to create the kinds of characters that would live in Fuller’s corporate world, and then peppered in some fictional villains, such as the evil spymaster. The partners fleshed out the strategy, the twists and turns—and in the end, navigated their way to a fantastic friendship.
“Often we would meet in hotels and coffee houses, getting so engrossed in the story that we had to remind ourselves that people may be listening while we’re planning a murder or mayhem,” he says.
But even readers not privy to eavesdropping on those conversations might have some questions about the safety of their next hotel stay given the depth of detail the authors wove into the story, much of which is gleaned from Fuller’s “other” career in the hospitality industry.
RED HOTEL addresses security and safety systems, crisis management, bombings, hurricanes, and other threats—a lot of which Fuller personally dealt with during his impressive 40-year position with Marriott. Scary stuff indeed, but that doesn’t mean you should start cancelling your travel plans.
“Hotels are one of many locations which are ‘soft targets,’ such as malls, theaters, historic buildings, restaurants, etc., which are frequented by the public,” Fuller says. “The systems and staff of the fictional hotel have increased the security which have made them safer. And in real life, hotels are safer today than ever before.”
Good news for travelers, but it was those past experiences Grossman says the writing team relied on for the book’s explosive action. In fact, Fuller’s extensive career provided the inspiration for the novel itself—and subsequently, the series.
“The basic threats come from Ed’s real-life experience as former president of Marriott International,” Grossman says. “He’s dealt first hand with kidnappers, mercenaries, and enemies at the door. He’s had to act in the moment to get people to safety and to evacuate properties in Cairo and Tripoli.”
Fuller’s in-field experience also served an important role in coming up with the book’s title.
“The term ‘red’ on RED HOTEL refers to the highest threat level, which requires elevated protection and defenses. It’s a four-tiered system that Ed actually came up with,” Grossman says. “Hotels evaluated as ‘red’ actually have proven to be much less attractive to terrorists because of the anti-terrorism measures in place—from armed guards to bomb-sniffing dogs, limited access to delivery vehicles, to close observation of guests in the lobby and on every floor and hallway.”
For the conflict, the team leaned more on Grossman’s success in the worlds of political thriller writing and as a television executive. RED HOTEL has a distinct voice primed for the big screen, and the novel’s underlying plot—the very real and present danger Russia poses with its goal to rebuild the former Soviet bloc nations to the west of Russia—lend the story a kind of “ripped from the headlines” appeal.
“I write cinematically,” Grossman says. “Action moves around the globe, with different elements developing and rising simultaneously.”
The story does some impressive globetrotting as well. While much of the locational research stems from Fuller’s “boots on the ground” experience, Grossman says they recreated scenes from actual hotel bombings from video footage to round out the authenticity.
“We worked with a military hardware and munitions expert, Marriott’s head of security, and members of the law enforcement community,” Grossman says. “But there’s not a day, or probably even an hour that I’m not researching a destination, a meal, a tradition, characters, sayings, and history. Readers demand that characters behave realistically no matter what world we create for them. That means we researched constantly.”
Research that has no option but to continue as the writers are 80 percent finished with the second book in the series, a yet-to-be titled thriller featuring an even more complex world of intrigue. The pair are also in the pitching stages of a potential movie or TV spin-off, which Grossman admits is a bit of a long-shot.
“Nothing comes without trying,” he says. “As we say in TV, ‘Stay Tuned.’”