by Gary Grossman
on Tour June 1 - July 31, 2017
I had the pleasure of interviewing Gary Grossman for his re-release of Executive Actions. I had a blast with the interview just as much as I had with reading Executive Actions, of which I will share my review next monday. But I can share with you already that if you enjoy political thrillers you are going to want to read Executive Actions.
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m holding up a mirror and I see a man wearing multiple hats. A lot of them!
I started as a rock DJ on my local Hudson, NY radio station while I was in high school student. In and after college, I moved into television and documentary production in Boston. Then teaching college, writing non-fiction books on TV history, then becoming a freelance film writer for The Boston Globe, and then onto a TV and media critic at The Boston Herald American. In the 1980s I moved to Los Angeles to produce and write TV shows, teach more college, and now… (Here’s the tada moment) I’ve added novel thriller writing.
All the hats fit. Some of them are actually interchangeable. The documentaries I’ve written and produced have figured into my novels. My media research always works its way into my teaching. And my radio years still give me the ability to be comfortable on the air promoting my work.
All the experience comes together in EXECUTIVE ACTIONS, a thriller with a good deal of me and a great deal of the world.
Could you tell us in short what Executive Actions is about?
EXECUTIVE ACTIONS is a timely and ever-green International political thriller that takes a Cold War-era Soviet Union plot decades forward, all the way to the White House. It begins with an assassin who changes the course of a presidential election. The plot deviously weaves through, and well-past, a long-incubating Russian sleeper spy cell into a greater global conspiracy.
Secret Service agent Scott Roarke is the protagonist, trying to figure out (along with readers) who’s good and who’s bad, while tracking the assassin city-by- city. He enlists the aid of a strong woman character (very strong and very good), Boston attorney Katie Kessler, and a coterie of associates in Army intelligence, the FBI, the CIA, and the president himself.
It’s a whirlwind race against time, laced with history. I also believe that EXECUTIVE ACTIONS reads like it’s written from above the fold, front page breaking news stories.
I hope you’ll get hooked, and as James Bond screenwriter Bruce Feirstein wrote about my thriller,
“Prepare to stay up all night. Once you start reading EXECUTIVE ACTIONS, you won’t be able to put it down.”
At least I hope that’ll happen to you, too!
Which character was the easiest to write and which one was the hardest to write. Also which character do you identify with the most, and are your characters based on people you know?
Great, great questions.
Since my dad worked as a law enforcement investigator and my mom ran political campaigns and had New York State Senate and Assembly jobs, I probably had the easiest time with Scott Roarke and President Morgan Taylor.
Writing Katie Kessler was also fun. She’s a great character and so much like the strong, wonderful women who have influenced me – my mother, my teachers, my wife, my friends, and even my daughter.
I honestly didn’t really have a hard character to write. But I did have a great deal of research to do on the Russian side of the story and then Middle East figure who emerges. The character who absolutely astounds me, however, is the assassin. I knew nothing about him as I began to shape his personality. He revealed himself to me only as necessary. Considering he has so many personas in EXECUTIVE ACTIONS, he also surprised me with the way he looked and what he did.
Oh, the things he did! Creatively, imaginatively, and with deadly intent.
Who is he? It’ll take more than EXECUTIVE ACTIONS to figure that out. There’s EXECUTIVE TREASON and EXECUTIVE COMMAND that follow.
Truth be told, I don’t really write my characters. Once they start developing, they take over and literally write themselves. Scott and Katie took me places I never expected to explore as they dove headlong into the EXECUTIVE ACTIONS exploits. President Morgan Taylor became the president I believe we all wish we had, no matter your politics.
The characters ultimately take form on their own, telling me who they are, instructing me to write their story. It’s totally weird and totally true. And I think that’s ultimately what makes EXECUTIVE ACTIONS so compelling.
Where did the inspiration for Executive Actions come from?
I was in New York City on September 11, 2001. The plot to bring down the World Trade Center Towers took years to develop. I began thinking about a plot that would actually require decades to come to fruition. But the goal? The moral or physical prize?
I realized it had to be the ultimate political prize, something work waiting for, something that required preparation, incubation, immense patience, and political maneuvering. It was the American presidency itself.
My own interest in politics helped. My experience as a journalist and documentarian gave me a strong foundation. My love of political thrillers in print and on screen led me to try to write. Once I began thinking what I thought was the unthinkable, I came up with what is plausible. It’s all in the pages of EXECUTIVE ACTIONS.
What research did you do for this book?
Research is key. I relied on people in the know: A Navy commander for background on President Morgan Taylor, a former Navy F-18 flier. FBI forensic experts for knowledge about Facial Recognition Technology. A former Army intelligence officer for all of the military hardware, strategy, and mission planning. Washington legal eagles for advice and counsel on the 25th Amendment and presidential succession.
About the only expert advice I didn’t seek out was from an assassin. I figured that was a call I didn’t want to make!
Are there any other projects you are working on at the moment?
True story. Years ago, I taught myself how to juggle. I mean, really juggle.
Why? Because I needed to understand spatially, what I did in life.
I juggled jobs. I juggled time and deadlines. I juggled developing and planning with execution and delivery. I juggled family and work.
It’s all about keeping the balls in the air!
Oh, to that point, I don’t do knifes, saws, or fire. It’s hard enough with something soft. But it’s a tool I’d recommend for anyone who does a lot of things.
Do you have any writing quirks?
I like to listen to music that will inspire me (and the characters) through a scene. Action movie scores for something exciting. Some Dave Koz cool jazz for a romantic dinner scene. Tension tones as I’m building drama. I can’t write with music that has lyrics. Too distracting. And I usually can’t write in my home office on the desktop computer. Email is too much of a distraction. So I write on my laptop in the living room, or anywhere I want including between teaching classes, on a plane, and even some restaurants.
To that point, I just learned yesterday while writing at El Coyote, a classic neighborhood Los Angeles Mexican restaurant, that Rod Serling also used to write there during lunch breaks from CBS. It was long before computers, and I’m sure he didn’t bring a typewriter into the bar or restaurant. But I can imagine the notebooks he must have filled with “Twilight Zone” episodes or maybe even a draft of “Planet of the Apes!”
What do you do when you’re not writing?
When I’m not writing, I pitch, write, and produce TV shows. My wife is a restaurant reviewer for a local newspaper, so we’re often eating out (though we pay the tab!). I teach graduate college courses in film and television and binge watch favorite shows. I loved “The Night Manager.” I’m back into “Bosch.” “Burn Notice” was a favorite that I’ve just run through again, and I catch up with my favorite writers.
Are you a reader? What are you reading at the moment?
As a member of ITW, The International Thriller Writers Association, and a panel master at the annual ThrillerFest conference, I have books stacked up that I’m getting through one-by- one. Always there are the latest Dale Brown, Brad Meltzer, Steve Berry, and Lee Child thrillers. Also in line right now, new exciting books from KJ Howe and DG Wood. Check them out!
Could you tell us in one sentence why we should read Executive Actions?
One sentence? This feels like the answer to the ultimate question in Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” I’ll give it a try, but it may take more than one sentence. More than ever, I believe we need to think the unthinkable to be prepared for the unspeakable in a world full of clear and present dangers. (Second necessary sentence) EXECUTIVE ACTIONS is an exciting contemporary thriller with an open window into that world; a window we vigilantly need to keep looking through. (Third sentence if you’re in a giving mood.) I sure hope you’ll give it a read!
In the midst of a heated presidential campaign, Secret Service Agent Scott Roarke gets an assignment that turns his world upside down. His investigation uncovers a plot so monstrous it can change the course of America's future and world politics. Roarke discovers that presidency is about to fall into the hands of a hostile foreign power. The power play is so well-conceived that even the U.S. Constitution itself is a tool designed to guarantee the plot's success. With the election clock ticking, Roarke and Boston attorney Katie Kessler race at breakneck speed to prevent the unthinkable. But they also know that it will take a miracle to stop the takeover from happening.
Praise for the Executive Series:“Executive Actions is the best political thriller I have read in a long, long time. Right up there with the very best of David Baldacci. [A] masterpiece of suspense; powerfully written and filled with wildly imaginative twists. Get ready to lose yourself in a hell of a story.”
Michael Palmer, New York Times bestselling author
“Break out the flashlight, and prepare to stay up all night … Once you start reading Executive Actions you won’t be able to put it down.”
Bruce Feirstein, James Bond screenwriter, and Vanity Fair Contributing Editor
“Executive Command mixes terrorists, politics, drug gangs and technology in nonstop action! Gary Grossman creates a … horribly plausible plot to attack the United States. So real it’s scary!”
Larry Bond, New York Times bestselling author of Exit Plan, Cold Choices, Red Dragon Rising
“Moving at break-neck speed, Executive Command is nothing short of sensational … Executive Command is not just a great book, it’s a riveting experience.”
W.G. Griffiths, award-winning, bestselling author of Methuselah’s Pillar, Malchus
“Executive Command ramps up the excitement … A truly bravura performance from a master of the political thriller!”
Dwight Jon Zimmerman, New York Times bestselling co-author of Lincoln’s Last Days, Uncommon Valor
“Intricate, taut, and completely mesmerizing. Grossman expertly blends together globe-spanning locations, well-researched technology, finely crafted narrative, and intriguing characters to create a virtuoso tale. Highly recommended.”
Dale Brown, New York Times bestselling author
“Executive Treason is more chilling than science fiction … You’ll never listen to talk radio again without a shiver going down your spine.”
Gary Goldman, Executive Producer, Minority Report; Screenwriter, Navy SEALs & Total Recall
Book Details:Genre: Political Thriller, Mystery
Published by: Diversion Books
Publication Date: 13 January 2012
Number of Pages: 556
ISBN: 1626811059 (ISBN13: 9781626811058)
Series: Executive #1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
Read an excerpt:
by Gary Grossman
Washington, D.C. Sunday 22 June
“Topic one. Theodore Wilson Lodge. Presidential material?” bellowed the host at the top of his Sunday morning television show. He directed his question to the political pundit to his left. “Victor Monihan, syndicated columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, is Teddy ready, yes or no?”
“Yes,” Monihan shot back. You had to speak up quickly on the lively program. There was no air between questions and answers. “If the cameras could vote, he’d be a shoo-in.”
“But they don’t. So again, will it be Mr. Lodge goes to Washington?” quizzed the host of the revamped McLaughlin Group. The reference to the Frank Capra movie was lost on most of the audience. Even AMC and Turner Classics weren’t running very many black and white movies anymore.
“Absolutely.” Monihan didn’t take a breath between thoughts. The host hated dead air. Pause and you’re dead. Someone else will jump in. “He’s totally informed, he’s had great committee assignments and he can do the job. Congressman Lodge comes off as a highly capable leader. Trustworthy. The all-American boy grown up. And he positively looks like a president should look … presidential.”
“So a tan and a good build gets you to the White House?” the host argued.
“It means I don’t have to worry about him taking my job.” The overweight columnist laughed, which made his belly spread his shirt to a point just shy of popping the buttons. The joke was good, but he lost his platform with it.
“Roger Deutsch, freelance writer for Vanity Fair, right now Lodge is trailing Governor Lamden. Can Teddy make it up?”
“No. With only two days before the New York primary, there’s no way Lodge can do it. He doesn’t have the votes. And there’s not enough time to get them. Henry Lamden will be addressing the Democratic Party at the August convention in Denver. But even when he gets the nomination, he’ll have a hard time against Taylor.”
The discussion expanded to include the other members of the panel. They talked about Montana Governor Henry Lamden’s qualities. About President Morgan Taylor’s rigid persona. About the voters’ appetite. And back again to the possibilities. “Is there any way Lodge can do what fellow Vermont favorite son Calvin Coolidge did: go all the way to the White House?” the venerable host rhetorically asked. The panel knew this was not the time to reply. Turning to the camera the host said, “Not according to my watch.”
This was the throw to the video package from the campaign trail.
Teddy Lodge smiled as he sat on the edge of his hotel bed to get closer to the TV set. He was half-packed. The rest would wait until the videotape report concluded. Lodge pressed the volume louder on his remote.
“It’s on,” he called to his wife, Jenny.
“Be right out,” she answered from the bathroom. Lodge tightened the knot on the hand-painted tie he’d been given the day before. The gift, from a home crafter in Albany, would go into his collection and eventually into his Presidential Library. But first he’d wear it for the cameras. She’d see it and tell everyone she knew. More votes.
Mrs. Lodge leaned over her husband and hugged him as he watched himself on TV. “You look great, sweetheart.” He agreed. The footage was perfect: Lodge in the thick of an adoring Manhattan crowd, the wind playing with his wavy brown hair, his Armani suit jacket draped over his arm. He came off relaxed and in charge; less like a politician than an everyday guy. An everyday guy who saw himself as President of the United States. And at 6’2” he stood above most of the crowd.
Lodge knew the unusual statistical edge his height provided. Historically, the taller of the two major presidential candidates almost always wins the election. And he was considerably taller than President Morgan Taylor.
The host obviously wasn’t a supporter. But the coverage counted. He hit the bullet points of Lodge’s career.
“Teddy’s been fast-tracking since college. He graduated Yale Law School and has a graduate degree in Physics at Stanford. The man speaks three languages. He worked on various government contracts until he decided to return to his country home in Burlington, Vermont, and run for State Assembly. Two years later, so long Burlington, hello Washington. Mr. Lodge went to Capitol Hill as a young, energetic first-term congressman. He distinguished himself in international politics and now serves as Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security. He’s as close to a rocket scientist as they come in Washington. He heads the House Committee on Energy and understands the complexities of the issues. But is he going to the White House?” the moderator asked in his feature videotape. “New Yorkers will decide Tuesday.”
And with that set up came the obligatory sound bite. It couldn’t have been better if Teddy Lodge had picked it himself. It was declarative and persuasive. The producer of the video package must have been in his camp.
“Tomorrow the world will be different. More dangerous. More hateful. Different times need different leaders. Make no mistake, there are no more safe harbors or promised lands. Unless … unless we make better choices today than yesterday. Better friends tomorrow than today.”
As he watched, Lodge remembered the clincher was yet to come. Things like that just didn’t get cut. He was right.
“So come with me and discover a new America. Come with me and discover a new world.”
Thunderous applause followed; applause from the audience at a Madison Square Garden rally.
Eighteen seconds total screen time. Unbelievable on McLaughlin. But Lodge was not an easy edit. He’d learned to break the sound bite barrier by constantly modulating his voice for impact, issuing phrases in related couplets and triplets, and punching them with an almost religious zeal.
Like everything else in his life, he worked hard at communicating effectively. He punctuated every word with a moderately-affected New England accent. Whether or not they agreed with his politics, columnists called him the best orator in years. Increasing numbers of them bestowed almost Kennedy like reverence. And through the camera lens, baby boomers saw an old friend while younger voters found a new voice.
The video story ended and the host brought the debate back to his panel. “Peter Weisel, Washington Bureau Chief of The Chicago Tribune, What sayest thou? Can Teddy un-lodge Lamden?”
“Unlikely.” Weisel, a young, black reporter, was the outspoken liberal of the panel and a realist. “But he’ll help the ticket. He’s a strong Number Two. A junior pairing with Governor Lamden can work. The flip side of Kennedy-Johnson. Let the Democrats make him VP. Besides, his good looks won’t go away in four or eight years. TV will still like him.”
Theodore Wilson Lodge, 46 years old and strikingly handsome, definitely could pull in the camera lens. He had the same effect on women and they held far more votes in America than men. The fact was not lost on the show’s only female contributor of the week. “Debra Redding of The Boston Globe, is Lodge your man?”
Without missing a beat she volunteered, “There are only two problems that I see. One, I’m married. The other – so is he.”
What a wonderful way to start the morning, the congressman said to himself.
Excerpt from Executive Actions by Gary Grossman. Copyright © 2017 by Gary Grossman. Reproduced with permission from Gary Grossman. All rights reserved.
Gary Grossman is a multiple Emmy Award-winning network television producer, a print and television journalist, and novelist. He has produced more than 10,000 television shows for 40 broadcast and cable networks including primetime specials, reality and competition series, and live event telecasts.
Grossman has worked for NBC, written for the Boston Globe, Boston Herald American, and the New York Times. He is the author of four bestselling international award-winning thrillers available in print, eBooks, and Audible editions: EXECUTIVE ACTIONS, EXECUTIVE TREASON, EXECUTIVE COMMAND and OLD EARTH. (Diversion Books, NYC) and two acclaimed non-fiction books covering pop culture and television history – SUPERMAN: SERIAL TO CEREAL and SATURDAY MORNING TV.
Grossman taught journalism, film and television at Emerson College, Boston University, and USC and has guest lectured at colleges and universities around the United States. He currently serves as an Adjunct Professor of Film and Television at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He is a member of the Board of Trustees at Emerson College in Boston and he serves on the Boston University Metropolitan College Advisory Board. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers Association and The Military Writers Society of America.
What a great interview! He surely does wear many hats! I have this book on my TBR list after seeing so many rave reviews on it!BeantwoordenVerwijderen