Best selling novelist, David Baldacci's new book Stone Cold came out this week, and I was privileged to read an advance copy. What fun it was to discover this new (to me, at least) author. He writes about one of my blog's favorite fascinations, the federal government. " Spooks, Spies - Eyes and Ears in the Skies," is one example. I cannot imagine where I have been all this time.
During the past ten years, 13 of Baldacci's books have been bestsellers. They should have been familiar to me, because my blogs are often written about what is behind the door of chilling government power -- spying, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, illegal domestic surveillance and threats to civil liberties, all subjects woven through the scenes in this author's books.
This novel's fascinating main characters will be familiar to dedicated Baldacci fans because Stone Cold is the third in his popular Camel Club series. Traits found in lead characters were carefully woven in moral shades of gray in several previous novels; two of the best sellers were "The Collectors" and "Simple Genius." And the new book does not disappoint; we meet people who span the warp and woof of good and bad, flawed and heroic. Baldacci uses an interesting technique; he lets his readers in on his character's thoughts via italics. For example - a CIA man trying to find his targets reflects on his experience:
. . . Gray's men had checked. Still, with Carter Gray's resources no one should be able to simply vanish. No wonder these terrorist sleeper cells were proving nearly impossible to uncover. America was too damn big and too damn free. In some ways the Soviets had had it right: Spy on everybody because you never know when a friend might turn into an enemy.
Baldacci's fiction tapestry is that of government. His is not the government you and I would know from mainstream media accounts. Baldacci's is a very recognizable shadowy universe that hides spooks, spies and assassins, the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, the Secret Service, and even the Chair of the Senate Intel committee. He introduces a new character in this book, nemesis "Harry Finn." Psychologically astute, Baldacci often lets you know what his characters think. Here is a wonderful example:
. . . And when Gray had left the government, he had also left most of his protection behind. . . but Finn was confident he would eventually get to the man.
When Finn looked at the life he had now as part of a family of five in a quite ordinary Virginia suburb complete with a lovable dog, music lessons, soccer matches, baseball games and swim meets, and compared it to the life he has as a child, the juxtaposition was close to apocalyptic in its effect on him. That's why he rarely thought of these things close together. That's why he was Harry Finn, King of Compartmentalization. He could build walls in his mind nothing could pierce.
With this novel I walked into what seem to be very complex and realistic scenes from the high powered world of governance. I now know what I have been missing -- a dynamite read, at times almost literally. Because his characters have the latest nifty gadgets and like to blow things up, a computer becomes the weapon in one of the author's intricately interwoven plot lines. To quote from the book:
Finn had been able to get his device past security because it didn't have any explosive materials in it. Instead, the device had been designed to ignite a chemical reaction inside the components in the CPU. It was a reaction that would make the otherwise harmless CPU a bomb, a possibility no one in the computer industry would want you to know.
Meet Baldacci's well known hero, "Oliver Stone." Asked in a Publishers Weekly interview why he named the lead character after a famous film director, Baldacci said, "Stone the film director has a reputation for taking on controversial subjects. Naming my character after him was an act of homage to a man who isn't afraid to take unpopular positions." To quote the author from another interview:
Oliver Stone first entered my imagination when I was a young lawyer. I walked past Lafayette Park in the mid-1980s and saw the protesters there. Fast-forward nearly twenty years and the sign, "I want the truth," is flying proudly in that same park, at least fictionally. Gray characters are the most interesting. They have flaws, divided loyalties, moral complexity, and internal debates about what to do. Do the ends always justify the means? We've seen it recently with the Bush administration where you had former Attorney General Ashcroft and his top lieutenants ready to hand in their resignations over the warrantless surveillance matter.
To quote from Stone Cold's subsequent park scene from above, Oliver Stone approaches the White House:
He would never be allowed to enter the front gates and lacked even the right to stand on that coveted side of Pennsylvania Avenue. What he could do was wait in Lafayette park across the street. He used to have a tent there until the Secret Service made him take it down. Yet freedom of speech was still alive and well in America and thus his banner had remained. Unfurled between two pieces of rebar stuck in the ground, it read, "I want the truth." So did a few other people in this town, it was rumored. To date, Stone had never heard of anyone actually finding it within the confines of the world capital of spin and deceit.
This skilled writer will introduce you to fast-paced and easy to follow threads of intrigue, mystery, complex twists and turns guaranteed to keep you turning the pages. In Washington D.C. for book signings on Wednesday, David Baldacci is scheduled to be in Richmond, VA on Saturday, Nov. 17. He plans to be at the Barnes and Noble store on Brook Road at 2:00 p.m., if you live in the area.
In conclusion -- and because I am also a reading advocate -- I learned that Baldacci and his wife are passionate about keeping families reading. In 1999 they founded the "Wish You Well Foundation." The organization's mission is to support family literacy in the U.S. by fostering and promoting the development and expansion of new and existing literacy and educational programs.
Partnering against the cold of hunger -- His foundation has recently partnered with America's Second Harvest: The Nation's Food Bank Network, the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the U.S. to donate books to families in need. The joint initiative is called "Feeding Body and Mind." Donations are coming in from all around the world, and they are now seeking corporate sponsorship to continue broadening their efforts.
My “creativity and dreaming” post today at Making Good Mondays is about Twitter.
See also Behind the Links, for further info.
Blogs: My general purpose/southwest focus blog is at Southwest Progressive. My creative website is at Making Good Mondays. And Carol Gee - Online Universe is the all-in-one home page for all my websites.