Brad Thor for President?

Fox News
Brad Thor appeared on Glenn Beck last year disparaging Trump, declaring that he was running himself as a third party candidate. He then withdrew his candidacy, but has since said he is “not a fan” of Trump, and called his first 100 days “a failure.” Should he try pushing a third party again? His new book is USE OF FORCE.

TOWER REVIEW: Your Last Patriot novel was part covert ops political thriller and part DaVinci Code mystery. How did it click for you to combine the two?
BRAD THOR: My thrillers have always centered around covert/black ops and the domestic political landscape. They are subjects I love to write about. Through my writing, I have gotten to know lots of the players in these two arenas. The more time I spend shadowing them and seeing what their lives are like, the more I fall in love with this subject matter and the more I want to write about it.
Q: Do you have any fears of becoming the next exiled Salman Rushdie for postulating such a volatile story line?
A: What a lot of people don’t know about me is that I have spent the last 20 years of my life learning about Islam. It is a fascinating subject, especially in how it promotes violence. What’s also fascinating is that whenever early copies of the Quran are discovered in Muslim nations, they are quickly secreted away. Researchers who have attempted to study them have wound up dying in very mysterious accidents. Now I have come out with a thriller that suggests the Quran is missing a very key text and I am being threatened with death. My book is fiction, but it is based on a handful of fascinating facts and the death threats only seem to support my theory that Islam is hiding a very big secret. Am I afraid of becoming the next Salman Rushdie? Honestly, I don’t relish the idea. Rushdie at one point had a $5 million bounty on his head and supposedly hundreds of Muslim assassins had traveled to London to kill him. Will I change what I have written or somehow recant and beg forgiveness for what is contained within The Last Patriot? Absolutely not. In fact, I find the hypocrisy here fascinating: Islam is a religion of peace and if you say that it isn’t, we’ll kill you.
Q: What kind of research was involved in writing The Last Patriot?
A: The idea for this novel was born in part from an Atlantic Monthly cover article by Toby Lester entitled What is the Koran? I had discovered the piece, several years after its January 1999 publication, while doing research on another novel and had tucked it away for future use. Then I came across an article written by Gerard W. Gawalt, formerly of the Library of Congress, entitled America and the Barbary Pirates: An International Battle Against an Unconventional Foe. I started wondering if there was a way I could combine the historical relevance of the Quran and Thomas Jefferson’s experience with the Barbary pirates to create a thriller that would be relevant today.
Q: Jefferson and Islam. There’s a connection?
A: Yes. Thomas Jefferson was the first American president to go to war against radical Islam. The problems Jefferson and America faced over two hundred years ago are incredibly similar to what we as a nation face today and there is much to be learned from them.
Q: I wrote a short story whose fictional premise was that someone in the Bush administration suggested bombing Mecca. An absurd and wild idea for a story, I thought.  Then I learned that someone actually had suggested it. Have you had any surprises in your research that affected plotting?
A: I have surprises like this happen to me all the time. There are certain suggestions and possibilities that just make sense. The key is in beating other writers to it. As I wrapped up the first draft of my manuscript, I received a call from my editor. She had just read a story in The Wall Street Journal about a mysterious archive of ancient Quranic texts in Germany that was believed to have been destroyed in 1944. It contained 450 rolls of films that supposedly chronicled the evolution of the Quran, the Muslim holy book which all Muslims believe was revealed complete, perfect, and inviolate to Islam’s founder Mohammed in the 7th century. The archive, and its subsequent study, had only been handled by three men. The first died in a strange climbing accident in 1933. The second died in a mysterious plane crash in 1941. The third man, wanting to be rid of the entire collection, pretended it had been destroyed and never spoke of it for over sixty years. He died recently at age 93. It seems there is much here worth investigating, and for which men are still willing, even in the case of The Last Patriot, to kill to keep secret.

Thor Ragnarok

Looking for Christmas with Len Cassamas

Len Cassamas

Actor Len Cassamas is author of a short book of Christmas stories titled Looking for Christmas, which on audio includes a full cast, and Michael Drayton, Detective Guy. He has also written and performed in audio dramas and short films. He is at work on a short comic film in Atlanta, and recording a suspense thriller for release in January. 

Tower Review) It was a surprise to see that you’re also an author, and that one of your titles is Looking for Christmas. Cassamas and Christmas go together, don’t they. Start with C and end with “mas.” And multi-cast on audio, with sound effects and music! How did that title come about? 

Len Cassamas) That’s funny because my father used to say, when he was explaining to people how to pronounce the name, that it was “Cassamas, like Christmas.” The title came about because, when I was writing the plays, I wanted to connect them all in the manner of one of those anthology movies they used to make in the 1940s and ‘50s–such as “Tales of Manhattan”— where one device would be used to connect a series of otherwise unrelated stories.  The device I chose was based on a holiday activity that I’ve indulged in–first with friends and now with my wife and son) for many years in which we drive through neighborhoods near and far seeking out outdoor Christmas display.  Each display gets discussed, evaluated, and rated.  We call it “Christmas light looking.” So, I came up with a storyline in which three characters from another project drive around their town looking at Christmas display.  I was then able to segue into stories that took place in houses and other locations that came with their notice.  Given the themes that emerged in the stories I was writing, naming it “Looking for Christmas” just happened naturally.

TR) Then there’s Michael Drayton, Detective Guy. What’s that about?

LC) “Michael Drayton, Detective Guy” is a noir mystery with a literary flavor.  It features Michael Drayton, an offbeat, nonviolent, Rhode Island-based private detective, and the adventure he finds himself in after his wealthiest client is murdered on the same afternoon he is doing routine work for the man’s daughter and son-in-law.  He has run-ins and interactions with mobsters and politicians and, of course, the police and has to balance a variety of interests and loyalties while trying to act with honor—at least according to his ideas about honor.  And, on top of all that, he’s trying to quit smoking.

As with all of my work, humor may be involved.  I have also adapted this for full production audio, but, since the script features over 60 speaking roles, haven’t had the time to organize such a massive project.  Someday, though.

TR) How did you come to acting for film? Any commercials, games, or other media?

LC) I actually started, in the olden days of my youth, doing theater, but my heart was always in film and TV.  I got burnt out doing theater and my father passed away, and I made a series of silly decisions, including deciding to retire from acting to concentrate on writing.  Thirty years later, fortunately, I came to my senses just at a time when Atlanta and Georgia in general—where I happen to live—was becoming something of a mecca for film and television production.  After getting myself back in shape by doing a series of videos I put up on YouTube as “The Car Monologues,” I contacted seven agents and got a response from one, who signed me.  Within three months, I had been cast in a web series and in a SAG/AFTRA independent film.  That was three years ago.  Almost two years ago, I left my regular job to pursue acting full time.  It helps to have a wife who makes a nice living. As a professional actor, I take whatever roles I can get and have appeared on a cable crime reenactment show, several web series, and a couple of short films. 

TR) What did you read as a teen that may have influenced you to act and write?

LC) My favorite writers when I was a teen and in college were John Steinbeck, Hermann Hesse, and Raymond Chandler, along with several humorists, including Woody Allen, SJ Perelman, and Robert Benchley.  I also devoured Fred Allen’s memoir concerning his years in radio, which was called “Treadmill to Oblivion.”  Another one of my interests was the playwright and wit, George S. Kaufman, and there are roles in his plays that I still hope to have a shot at. I fell into performing as a sophomore in high school when my best friend convinced me to try out for that year’s production, which was the stage version of the book “M*A*S*H,” a book I read and enjoyed.  During our first performance, I came out on stage and had some business before I needed to speak.  During that time, despite a warning from the director not to do so, I snuck a peek at the audience.  In that moment, all my nervousness disappeared, and I thought, “Ah!  I’m home.” As a writer, I came to my vocation in the cafeteria of the junior high school I attended.  I was in study hall there, and our English teacher had assigned us to write a short story.  No one had ever asked us for fiction before, and, as I worked on the story, I had a quasi-religious experience and knew that I would be writing stories for the rest of my days.

TR) I can relate. Favorite writers or genres?  

LC) I am most likely to read history and biography, although I have been playing catch-up with classics and serious lit.  I just read “Jane Eyre” for the first time a few months ago, and enjoyed it immensely.  I’m in the middle of “Ethan Frome” now.

TR) What’s next for you?

LC) My son Sam is actually directing a short film from a script of mine, starring me and a cast including Becky Boyd and Phil Proctor, called “Bill Johnson’s Adventure Through the Watching Glass” which should be ready to submit to festivals early in the new year.

TR) That’s interesting. Look forward to seeing it. How is recording a book is different or daunting, compared other kinds of acting?

LC) I do find it more daunting.  It’s similar and related, but not quite the same thing. Part of the fun with acting is in interacting with the other actors.  When you’re in a scene with someone that you work well with, you build on one another’s work, and unexpected things happen.  You can go with the gestalt of the moment and ride the flow and energy of the scene.  This doesn’t mean that you change the dialogue; rather, it means that the dialogue comes out in unplanned ways. Recording a book is a much more controlled experience as a type of storytelling I’ve not done before.  That makes book narration a challenge.  An interesting challenge, a not insurmountable challenge, but a challenge nonetheless.

Tasty Mysteries

Boo Walker

After picking the five-string banjo in Charleston and Nashville and then a few years toying with Wall Street, Boo chased a wine dream across the country to Red Mountain in eastern Washington with his dog, Tully Mars. They landed in a double-wide trailer on five acres of vines, where Boo grew out a handlebar mustache, bought a horse, and took a job working for the Hedges family, who taught him the art of farming and the old world philosophies of wine. Recently leaving his farm on Red Mountain, Boo and his family are back on the east coast in what’s called the Portland of Florida, St. Pete. As he wraps up the second book of the Red Mountain series, he’s got his eyes and ears open, building his next cast of characters. No doubt the Sunshine City will be host to the next few novels. The author of Lowcountry Punch, Off You Go, Turn or Burn, and Red Mountain, Boo’s novels are instilled with the culture of the places he’s lived, the characters he’s encountered, and a passion for unexpected adventure.

Tower Review) You’ve always wanted to write, but you’re involved in the winery business. Did you start with articles or fiction?

Boo Walker) I used to play music in Nashville for a living with a band called the Biscuit Boys. My first taste of the creative process and putting words together was writing songs. When I left that career, I had to fill the void. Being a voracious reader, I always wanted to try my hand writing fiction. So I went from songs to full-length fiction.

TR) Anything happen at the winery itself that could be described as “mysterious” or “suspenseful?”

BW) There’s always things that happen at the winery with a sense of suspense or mystery. Our winemaker was nearly killed by the press one year. A year before that, someone stole our neighbor’s grapes, picking them at midnight during harvest. I’ve seen wars waged between humans that may not resolve themselves for generations. Eastern Washington is desert country, the wild west. We have coyotes that will track you, we have badgers that will maul you, and we have rattlesnakes that linger in the grass. Even though Red Mountain is a tiny blip on the map, the potential stories are endless!

TR) Drinking a bit helped me with live interviews, and many writers have been aided by wine in loosening up the free flow of ideas. Red or white for this?

BW) Ha! The best interviews always begin with a glass of white. But I have a steadfast rule… no drinking while writing. Even Hemingway stuck to that.

TR) Favorite authors? Influences?

BW) My favorite author for many years has been Pat Conroy. We share pasts in Charleston together. If I could emulate one writer, it would be him. But I read Plum Island by Nelson Demille while traveling through Ireland after high school, and it gave me the thirst. I was in Waterville on the west coast, and I remember thinking that I had to write a book. Not that I could or should, but that I had to. So I owe him a lot. My favorite book right now though, one that has utterly blown me away, is A Gentleman in Moscow. I’ve never felt so motivated as a writer. Amor Towles puts words together in ways that make my eyes water. The way his mind works is pure art and genius. And most importantly, he’s reminded me to be free in my writing. I don’t need to subscribe to any particular way of doing things. I need to write from the heart and let my voice shine.

TR) Your wine is carried at Whole Foods, bought by Amazon. Some of your characters are in wineries, too. Ever thought about sending a case to Jeff Bezos? He might buy movie rights.

BW) I love the idea of sending wine to Bezos! I sent him an email one time; he never responded. Perhaps a box of wine would do the trick!

TR) Hobbies? What’s next for you?

BW) I’m halfway way through the sequel to Red Mountain. Once that’s wrapped up, I’ll be writing a few books from my new home in St. Pete, Florida. After many years in Washington, my wife and I decided to take a new adventure. So I’m getting out and about in St. Pete, learning the history, the culture, the people. And then I’m going to throw it all in a blender and see what kind of fiction comes out. I always tell my new friends that they better be careful what they tell me, because I’m always looking for new material. Other than writing, I still play some music and absolutely thrilled to be buying my son his first guitar this Christmas. My newest hobby will be teaching him everything I know!

Red Mountain

Best Audio Books of the Year

Furman

The following are chosen by Tower Review as the Best Audio Books of the Year. They are also available at up to 75% off as audiobooks from Audiobooks Today and TR during Cyber Monday week, which began with Black Friday. Ebook versions also available.  

Hillbilly Elegy written and read by J.D. Vance

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann, read by Anne Marie Lee, Will Patton, and Danny Campbell

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson, narrated by Alfred Molina

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wells, read by the author

The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman, read by Michael Sheen

Things That Can and Cannot Be Said by Arundhati Roy and John Cusack, read by Sneha Mathan and Jim Meskimen

The Best of Richard Matheson, edited by Victor LaValle, read by a full cast 

The Lost Get-Back Boogie by James Lee Burke, read by Will Patton

Dear World by Bana Alabed, read by the author

Popular by Mitch Prinstein, read by the author

Was privileged to be one of the judges in the VoiceArts awards this year in the Science Fiction category, held in New York City at Lincoln Center. All areas of voiceover are judged, but a few of the winners related to books this year include: Scott Brick in Crime & Thriller and Fiction categories for Dead City and The Last Tribe, respectively. Sneha Mathan and Jeff Wilburn for Classics, The God of Small Things and Moonlight, respectively. Simon Vance for Fantasy, The Wolf of the North. Lisa Flanagan for Mystery, The Unseen World. John Malone for Science Fiction, Dredging Up Memories. Ed Asner and cast for Storytelling, Powder Burns. Adam Verner for Teens, York: The Shadow Cipher. Neil deGrasse Tyson for Author Performance, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. Andi Arndt & Zachary Webber for Romance, The Hot One. Brian Blessed for Inspirational, The Cat of Bubastes. R.C. Bray for Short Story Anthology, Diary of an Asscan. January LaVoy for Non-Fiction, Bette & Joan: The Devine Feud. Nicholas Guy Smith for Biography, Notes on Blindness. Malcolm Hillgartner for History, Dunkirk: The Complete Story of the First Step in the Defeat of Hitler. Zak George for Self Help, Dog Training Revolution. Will Damron, Metaphysical, Satan’s Harvest. Joe Barrett, Humor, A Really Big Lunch.   

VoiceArts awards

A Dickens Christmas

Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol has constantly been in print since its original publication in 1849, and has been adapted for stage, television, film, and opera. It has often been credited with returning the jovial and festive atmosphere to the holiday season in Britain and North America, following the somber period that emerged during the Industrial Revolution. The story opens on a bleak and cold Christmas Eve as Ebenezer Scrooge is closing up his office for the day. As the story progresses and Christmas morning approaches, Scrooge encounters the unforgettable characters that make this story a classic: Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, and, of course, the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. In audiobook format, you have the option of hearing the story performed by a number of narrators (with or without added effects and music.) Some of these include Patrick Stewart, Simon Prebble, Paul Scofield, Jonathan Winters, Martin Jarvis, Anton Lesser, Simon Vance, Tim Curry (the original IT clown), or a full cast. But one you may not know about is above: the great grandson of Charles Dickens himself. Gerald Dickens is a gifted actor with a touring one-man show. He recently performed in Tennessee at a bed and breakfast, but travels extensively in American and England. His audiobook can be found HERE, along with other Black Friday bargains.

Books
Do you know what movie this is? The title is the same as the book on which it is based.

Annie ProulxRegarding the National Book Awards, the winners for 2017 are Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward; The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen; Half-Light: Collected Poems by Frank Bidart; and Far From the Tree by Robin Benway. Annie Proulx was given a lifetime achievement medal, and gave a controversial yet stunning speech about the political divide in America, and how hubris and violence, along with the new policies of the Trump administration, is allowing the degradation of the environment for the purpose of short term gains. (Unobtainium?) Actress Anne Hathaway (The Devil Wears Prada) also gave an emotional speech, introducing her. Proulx won the Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award for The Shipping News. She stated that had only begun writing at age 58, and got applause for giving a twist to the “lifetime achievement.”

 

Desperate Voyage

PalmIslandSVG

Treasure comes at great cost: hard work, mental exhaustion, love, vision, and never giving up. Such was the life of John Caldwell, author of the sailing classic Desperate Voyage, about his sailing alone from Panama after WW2 into bad weather to get to his bride in Australia. He then had given up the normal, quiet life in LA, and set off on sailing advertures, his heart with the ocean tides. It was never an easy life, but he was never mesmerized by other dreams: money, cars, or a gold watch after a long stint at the factory or in a cubical. His dream was travel on the open ocean, in small boats, his hand on the wheel. No flash in the pan, his life was about force of will, fitness of spirit—a life spent fighting storms, invaders, his dogs at his side, his sons and wife Mary sharing his vision. Digging for treasure? No. Planting palm trees. On his island, a mosquito infested place which he bought for a song and transformed into a paradise. Over decades. Still at it, he died at 80, walking his “Highway 90,” which he told me meant “I hope for 90 years, and the devil take the rest.” The island is now an upscale resort, one of the best in the Caribbean. They say every paradise has a backstory, whoever “they” are. And not just in the Grenadines. Now imagine a Powerball winner who disappears, then discovers he has a son, and hires the tabloid writer who finds him, to fight off pirates just as John did. To buy an island. Palm Island. The Powerball winner in the shadows, out of danger, paying others to risk everything, so he can emerge rich and famous, not JUST for 15 minutes. Fame Island. Based on John’s true story. Johnny Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean was partly filmed nearby. Both books DESPERATE VOYAGE and FAME ISLAND links at TowerReview.com/Travel.html.

Processed with MOLDIV

Nelson DeMille on Florida

Nelson Demille

Nelson Richard DeMille, a #1 New York Times bestselling author, was born in New York City. He was a first lieutenant in the United States Army (1966–69) and saw action as an infantry platoon leader with the First Cavalry Division in Vietnam. His first major novel, By the Rivers of Babylon, is still in print, as are all his succeeding novels. He attended Hofstra University, where he received a degree in political science and history. He is the author of By the Rivers of Babylon, Cathedral, The Talbot Odyssey, Word of Honor, The Charm School, The Gold Coast, The General’s Daughter, Spencerville, Plum Island, The Lion’s Game, Up Country, The Gate House, Night Fall, Wild Fire, and The Lion. He also coauthored Mayday with Thomas Block and has contributed short stories, book reviews, and articles to magazines and newspapers. A member of the Authors Guild, the Mystery Writers of America, and American Mensa, he holds honorary doctorates from Hofstra University, Long Island University, and Dowling College.

We spoke to Nelson DeMille briefly about Florida and his older novel The Gate House. Several of his books became movies, notably The General’s Daughter starring John Travolta. His new book is The Cuban Affair.

JONATHAN LOWE: To what extent are Sutter and Bellarosa based on real people you’ve known living on Long Island, and what’s your attraction to them as characters of fiction?

NELSON DeMILLE: I’ve never used a single real person as a character in my novels, but I do base my characters on composites of people I know or have met, or who are public figures. John Sutter is a type that I’ve known among the old families of Long Island, but, of course, I’ve given him some quirks, and a self-awareness that is not all that common in this class of people. Frank Bellarosa as a Mafia don could have easily been a stock figure from Central Casting, but I gave him a lot of brains, a good eduation, and he, too, has a self-awareness that would be unusual in his profession. Both characters – Sutter and Bellarosa – have a good sense of humor, and together they are more than the sum of their parts.

JL: I once interviewed Ronald Kessler about his book “The Season,” which described the social undercurrent of billionaires living in Palm Beach, Florida near Trump. One of your characters makes a comment of disdain toward those “living in Florida,” so I’m wondering what are the similarities and differences between these playgrounds of the world’s super wealthy. Is there a rivalry there, as between those living in New York and Los Angeles?

ND: New Yorkers take some pleasure in looking down on other New Yorkers who move permanently to Florida. Maybe, though, it’s jealousy. In any case, it isn’t rivalry as it is with Los Angeles because these “Floridians” are, for the most part, New Yorkers who’ve chosen to leave New York. As for Palm Beach, this is a seasonal town, and becomes New York South from Christmas to Easter, then empties out.

JL: Do you listen to audiobook performances of your novels, and if so, in what ways do you think the personalities of the characters are illuminated by the actors? Any which have nailed the way you perceived a character by voicing him or her, as in films?

ND: Yes, I listen to all my audiobooks, and I think that Scott Brick has nailed down my character of John Corey in PLUM ISLAND, THE LION’S GAME, NIGHT FALL, WILD FIRE, and THE LION.

James Lee Burke

Agatha Christie