President’s Day

How many presidents can you name? The diner I go to, and for years, sit and write in, has place-mats with all the presidents on them, and the lobby wall has all pictures of all the former commanders in chiefs in frames that go up to the ceiling. The owner is a man who immigrated from Greece way back when. As a naturalized citizen, he became enamored with the notion and the idea of a president. A citizen, not royalty or a theocrat being elected by the governed. Tom liked me because I pointed to two presidents on the mat and said, “I talked to him and him.”

Those brushes with history started a trend in all but one of my books to have my heroes directly working for the President. As thrillers and action-adventure go, it’s a pretty decent point of ignition to get the heat of a story going.

The origin of my fascination with the presidency goes back to when I was 12 years old and Lyndon Banes Johnson’s air force one flew right over my head as it was landing at Stewart AFB in upstate New York. Three years later, as an intern, I would talk to LBJ, albeit briefly, when I answered the phone at NBC News Headquarters one night, near midnight. It went like this:

            “NBC News.”

            “Who’s this?”

            “Desk assistant Tom Avitabile. How…”

            “Is your boss there, son?”

            “No, but I can get him, who’s calling?”

            “You tell your boss the president of the United States is on the phone.”  

I thought it was a prank, but I called my boss. He asked, “Tom this is very important, what line is he on?”

We had one of those like hundred glass button phones on the news manager’s desk back then in 1967. I read out the letters that were next to the blinking light on hold. “P-O-T..” I never got to U-S. As he hung up, ran upstairs, and took the call. I later found out it was a line to the White House labeled, POTUS, for President of the United States. He was using his power to persuade NBC to not run a story critical of the Vietnam War at that time.  I was impressed with that notion of POWER.

Also, before the release of my 2nd book, the Hammer of God, I had a ten-minute conversation with President Bill Clinton on Global Thermal Nuclear War. I was afraid some of the nasty things in the book, which only a sitting President would know, could be catastrophic if revealed in a novel. He assured me that they weren’t, so I published the book, and since we are all still here, I guess he was right.

Here’s the after leaf from that novel:

Here’s the unit patch of the group that reports only to the Commander and Chief in my novels:

By the way, Tom makes a fabulous Moussaka and always has a table for me to sit at for hours on end.

Did Bin Laden read my book?

Let me start out by saying there is absolutely no proof supporting the rumor that a dog-eared copy of my book, “The Eighth Day”, was found in the Bin Laden compound. (hat tip, Lawyer Robert Rosenblatt) Yet, rumors can be persistently pesky little gnats always buzzing around.  Like the one that I got an $8 million dollar advance for the film rights to “The Eighth Day.” Let me categorically state for all you who are reading this, and any IRS agents, that I have not received that check yet.

But as someone once said, “Why let the facts get in the way of a good story?” of course his name is a fact that never came with the story so he will remain “someone.” As an author, some rumors are cool, “I have Alec Baldwin on speed dial”,  “I used to hang with Raquel Welch”, “Tom Clancy liked my book.”  “Bill Clinton gave me the final green light to write, “The Hammer of God.”

Now, here’s the thing, that last one, about Clinton, was True! Yet, with all these other tall tales out there, who’s going to believe it? For years I hesitated to publish “Hammer” the sequel to “The Eighth Day” because I didn’t know if the “secrets” revealed within would hurt America’s National Security.  After a generous, and in-depth discussion with the former president, he assured me that as far as global thermo nuclear war was concerned, those “secrets” were, at best, theories, but ones that never the less, ever crossed his desk or was part of the SIOP (Single Integrated Operational Plan, which was the secret playbook for American Nuclear response).  So, here I sit cut by the double-edged sword of the rumor mill. While any unfounded item, at minimum, gets your name out there, they also create a fog that makes it hard to see the truth underlying the main plot point to my second novel in Bill Hiccock’s Quarterback Operations Group, Thrillogy.

I have to tell you, it’s enough to push me to spend the entire 8 million on an ad campaign to set the record straight.