I didn’t tell anyone I was writing a novel. Not my wife; not my business partner and friends. I really wanted to see how it would all develop.
That went well for a few months while I wrote at the computer after the kids went down for the night. It went well until my wife discovered some printouts from the Internet I had left out. She came to me with the papers in hand and a very serious question.
“Gary, do we have a problem?”
“Problem? What problem?” I saw the papers he was holding, but I didn’t know what she was talking about.
“These!” She put them right on the desk where she’d found them. What were they? Some detailed research on fast acting toxins that dissolve in the body and will go undetected by most coroners. More research on sniper rifles that are pretty damned accurate for hundreds of yards.
“Oh those,” I said.
“Yes, those.” Poisons, rifles. She was deadly serious.
“Those?” I smiled and looked up at her. She held the high ground. “I’m….I’m writing a novel. A thriller.”
With an expression that only said Sure you are in a Show me kind of way, I did just that. I opened up the file and there were the scenes that exonerated me and completely relieved her.
Helene lived and of EXECUTIVE ACTIONS was born, with the sequel, of EXECUTIVE TREASON already in my head.
Now with their release as e-books from Scott Waxman’s Diversion Books in New York, I balance my work day between producing and writing television documentaries and reality shows and writing thrillers in a genre I personally describe as “political reality.”
I like using that phrase as I discuss the books on radio and TV interviews and in print. My plots are news-inspired with an added twist. I think the unthinkable, then I root the stories in deep research and astounding history.
Specifically, EXECUTIVE ACTIONS centers on a long incubating Russian sleeper spy cell operating in the U.S. The target is the highest office in land – the presidency itself. I delve into the history of how the Soviet Union had trained spies to not only pass as Americans, but literally to become Americans. Their special education was held at the KGB’s famed Andropov Institute. In those days, they had to train spies to think like Americans – that is to say not haggle when buying items, successfully apply for a house loan without be suspicious of the banks, work proper idiomatic expressions into their language and deal with the wide range of choices Americans have had over everything – from toothpaste to sneakers. The spies had to be inserted into life here and wait for either activation, or with the plot of EXECUTIVE ACTIONS, maturation.
EXECUTIVE ACTIONS moves with lightning speed through a presidential campaign, doors that open and lives that end (the poisons and sniper rifles come into play with great relief from my wife). I jump around the globe and through history giving readers a sense of Middle East folklore and the laws that govern presidential succession here today. Scenarios require collaboration among the characters (good or bad). To my mind, unraveling global plots often take team work more than super heroes (though I am a big Superman fan).
Key to the story is Vermont Senator Teddy Lodge, Secret Service Agent Scott Roarke, President Morgan Taylor, Boston attorney Katie Kessler, Middle Eastern businessman Ibrahim Haddad and a mysterious assassin cut from the mold of the Jackal.
I discovered what many others experience. The characters just enter our lives as writers and tell us to move over and take dictation. In fact, I didn’t really know the assassin’s name or backstory until EXECUTIVE TREASON. That’s when he revealed it to me.
EXECUTIVE ACTIONS begins with an assassination on the campaign trail in Hudson, New York (my hometown) and concludes on the steps of the Capitol. EXECUTIVE TREASON picks up just days later with global intrigue and domestic turmoil, once again relating again to real world news and the presidency.
The story weaves in an immensely powerful talk radio host who shapes national public opinion on a grand scale. The premise actually goes back to the days of Father Charles Coughlin, a 1930’s radio priest considered “The Father of Hate.” He attacked Democrats and Republicans alike, New Dealers, Jews and Catholics, Wall Street and America’s allies. …And President Franklin Roosevelt. In the burgeoning age of radio, he exerted incredible influence over public opinion.
I drew on Coughlin’s rage for the character of Elliott Strong in EXECUTIVE TREASON. Of course it’s set in our time and readers will undoubtedly relate Strong to on-air personalities. Progressives might see Limbaugh, Savage or Beck, while Conservatives will argue that Strong is a combination of Schultz, Olbermann or Rhodes. In truth, Elliott Strong is fictional attack dog with a profoundly real agenda. He uses his program, “Strong Nation Radio,” as a means to create a White House coup. This premise is based in an actual plan to bring down FDR’s presidency in 1933 by a group of Wall Street industrialists fronted by World War I General Smedley Butler. Once again, this is where history leaps forward into the pages of EXECUTIVE TREASON, reinforcing why the “political reality” of the plot.
To get a better sense of who Elliott Strong is, I created a character website where readers can hear his rants and get the full measure of his power. Additional links can be found on my website. As added fun, I even have Strong attack me, the author of EXECUTIVE TREASON!
As a writer, I believe when a butterfly flaps its wings in Asia it does have an effect here. In fact, with the Internet and social media so important to our lives, it’s truer than ever.
The world is now only a few computer key strokes away. Regime change can come with combination of twitter postings and bullets. And so EXECUTIVE TREASON constantly intercuts from the Maluku Islands in Indonesia, to Australia, Washington, D.C., Tel Aviv, Boston, Lebanon, Kansas and Italy’s Amalfi Coast. It’s all inter-related, whether the plot is tracking the president, the crew of Air Force One, the master assassin, CIA and Mossad agents, or my principal hero, Secret Service Agent Scott Roarke.
There’s more coming later this year. Scott Roarke will return in a third EXECUTIVE installment from Diversion Books. For that matter, so will Katie Kessler. She’s a strong female character and an important part of Roarke’s growth. In fact, a dedicated fan recently wrote, “Please don’t kill her. So many thriller writers kill-off their great female characters. If you need to, put her in a coma, let her win the lottery and travel around the world, but please don’t kill her! She’s terrific.”
Well, not to give too much away, I promised not to get rid of Katie. The rest will be a surprise.
Gary Grossman is also the author of two non-fiction books on television history, SUPERMAN: SERIAL TO CEREAL and SATURDAY MORNING TV. He is an Emmy Award winning television producer, having produced more than 9,000 shows for 36 networks, a member of the Emerson College Board of Trustees, Boston University Metropolitan Advisory Board, The Caucus for Producers, Writers and Directors, and the International Thriller Writers Association.
To learn more about Gary, please visit his website.