Writing a novel has been a long time ambition for me. I wrote a little bit in college, mostly short stories and poetry, but nothing significant. This past year I finally decided that if I was ever going to do it, I should do it now. It took a lot of discipline and hard work. I had the plot well developed before I started and so it took me only three months to write the initial draft. After that, I took a few more months to do revisions. The story remained basically the same, but I needed to iron out plot inconsistencies, refine the prose, make a few other changes that were suggested by people to whom I gave the book to read.
I chose the thriller genre because it is popular and fit in well with some of the political issues I had been concerned with lately, such as the whole rendition program under the Bush Administration and the violence it did to our values. I chose a lawyer as the main character because I knew a lot about the law and had lived it. It made it easier to create a believable character.
My wife, Jill did the cover design and helped me with some of the editing. She suggested several changes that I incorporated into the book. She has a good, critical sense and when she told me that she liked it, I felt more comfortable that the book was good.My Dad’s name was the same as mine. He died about five years ago. We had a little bit of a rough time when I was younger, but we resolved our problems as time went on. I dedicated the book to him because I loved him and miss him and would have been proud for him to learn about my achievement.
The plot came to me one day when I, in fact, received a telephone call from an inmate at Greystone complaining that she was being held there unjustly. I did a little investigating and found that she was already represented by the Public Advocate and that there was good reason for her involuntary commitment. I spoke to her guardian and satisfied myself that he had her interests at heart.
Afterwards, I thought, “What if she had actually been held wrongfully by some vast conspiracy?” The idea for the book took off from there and melded with my interest in the morality and legality of our rendition program. It seems to me, and is part of the theme of the book, that once you begin a course of conduct that is illegal and immoral in one part of national policy, it is easy to have it spread to other places. We learned that during the Vietnam War when the government began illegal surveillance of people and committed other civil rights violations, such as the Ellsberg break-in and leading right up to Watergate. The thing about the use of torture is that once it is accepted in one area, it can begin to be accepted in others. The taboo has been broken. For more information on the rendition program and American torture of those suspected of terrorist activities see the review of the February 2007 report of the International Committee of the Red Cross by Mark Danner in the New York Review of Books, April 30, 2009, entitled The Red Cross Torture Report: What it Means, and his article, US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites on April 9, 2009.
I decided to self publish the book after getting a number of rejections from book agents. Few if any publishers will deal with authors directly. You have to go through a book agent. Because of the state of the publishing industry, it is very hard for new authors to break in. I sent samples of the book via what are called ‘queries’ to about 25 book agents, but was turned down by most of them. The rest didn’t respond. That was enough for me. The fact that it would take a very long time for a book to get into print the usual way was also discouraging. If an agent had agreed to take on the book, it still might not have been sold to a publisher. If a publisher accepted it, it would be a year or so before it got published due to the fact that publishers set their lists out well in advance of publication. I didn’t have the patience to wait.