Title: Executive Actions
Author: Gary Grossman
Rating: ★★★★ 1/2
Executive Actions is a multi-layered plot, with a lot going on leading up to the finale or expose of the story. While everything does get tied up eventually, the way to the ending was a little bit tiring for me. I, as the reader, was able to put things together faster than the pacing of the book. Furthermore, there were times when the descriptions felt unnecessary and tedious, making the book feel longer than 384 pages. However, I marveled and appreciated the complexity of the book. It must not have been easy making all of these little actions by a lot of different characters, and making sure they all contribute to the real big secret that is slowly exposed. Each character is developed, with their own personality and brief backgrounds. Each was distinct, and yet actually complementary. I say it again, it was marvelous to read Gary Grossman's ability to craft a tale of this complicated magnitude with a satisfying ending.
The main protagonist, Scott Roarke, was different from the usual portrayal of Special Agent men. He actually showed warmth towards others, and he wasn't the macho type who thinks he can do everything on his own. It was a little different from what I'm used to, since the political thrillers I usually read are about CIA agents or spies, but I actually enjoyed the different perspective.
The story takes place also in an interesting choice of country: Libya. It's not the usual antagonist country for political thrillers, which just added to the excitement. Gary Grossman's portrayal of the inner workings of the antagonistic country was also multi-layered: one country divided by two brothers, both spying on each other, with one pro-Western and the other brilliant enough to get this long-brewed complicated plan into action.
One of the most interesting, and very important, character in the story is the secret assassin. He was able to create a different persona depending on the job or situation at hand. It was also intriguing to see his cunning and planning into every move he makes, which makes him such a challenging adversary. I am looking forward to reading his further encounters with Special Agent Scott Roarke in the next books in the trilogy.
Executive Actions has a lot of twists and turns, and it was great following one theory then finding your train of thought blocked. You have to go back again and think about it differently just so you can continue on to the next piece of the puzzle. I especially liked the twist about Jenny Lodge, which was one of the things that got me guessing right up to the characters' hypothesis and grand presentation of the whole political agenda.
The plot is unusual. While most books or even TV shows depict the villains as creating a body double for certain political characters and trying to get control of America illegitimately, Executive Actions takes it even further and enters the American political system legitimately, as aided by majority of the Americans. You can't get any more legit than a valid electoral process, after all.
I enjoyed getting to know all the characters, and I look forward to their further development in Gary's other books. Executive Action hits just the right note in the political thriller genre, and I'm glad I gave it a chance.
Okay, here's the good news: It's currently on SALE!!! You can buy direct from Diversion Books website, Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and an audiobook is also available Audible. But here's an even better news: On his Goodreads page, there's an ongoing giveaway for a signed copy of the entire Executive trilogy (available for US readers only).
Greetings from a very happy participant ready to share my musings and my honest thoughts with you through My Book Musings. It’s my pleasure to respond to some of the sharpest, most focused questions I’ve been asked about my thriller writing and the work that went into my premiere novel, EXECUTIVE ACTIONS from Diversion Books.
1) Gary, you already have several career titles under your belt. What made you decide to write a book?
Great question. First and foremost, I write every day. My day job is a TV producer/writer, principally over the years in the documentary genre for History, National Geographic, Discovery, CNN among other networks. I’ve also been a newspaper columnist, a non-fiction author for books on TV history (Superman: Serial to Cereal and Saturday Morning TV), and I am a Contributing Editor to Media Ethics Magazine. But it was the reality of 9/11 that propelled me into fiction. Given the years that horrific plot took to come to fruition, I wondered what else might be possible with even more to incubate? What targets, brick and mortar, human, institutional or symbolic might be possible? Soon I considered what it would take to seize the presidency itself. That was the genesis of EXECUTIVE ACTIONS. The consideration of such relevant and timely “What If?” scenarios carries over to my sequels, EXECUTIVE TREASON and EXECUTIVE COMMAND.
2) Why did you decide to launch your book into the e-book industry?
We live in an era of extraordinary change occurring at seemingly light speed. I’ve seen it in television and music, in newspapers and of course online. Now it’s hit publishing in full force. These days, I recognize two professional credos as being absolutely true. Change and survive, or to put it another way, You’re either on the train or under it. Working with Diversion Books, a truly forward-thinking ePublisher, not only gets me a great seat on today’s train, it’s taking me right into tomorrow. Extending the train metaphor, I’m also have a good place on other important platforms thanks to Diversion – POD (print on demand) through all the major online retailers and Audible books. To the point, I was recently on a panel at ThrillerFest, the annual conference run by the International Thrillers Writers Association. Our topic, “The New Rules of Digital Publishing.” Suffice it to say, there were never old rules. And whatever rules we have this year will be largely out of date next year. So from here on out, we must all be adaptable. The belief was echoed by virtually the entire conference. Even former diehard print authors now recognize they’d surely die hard and fast if they only held to yesterday’s publishing industry.
3) Who, if any, are your influences in writing a political thriller? Do you have any favorite authors?
Full disclosure on the first question. My parents. My father was in law enforcement in New York State and my mother was in politics, serving as campaign manager for a local mayor and a Congressional candidate. I was aware of the world that loomed thousands of miles away because they gave me their old Westinghouse shortwave radio. I listened to both sides of the Cold War from Voice of American and Radio Moscow. I followed the Cuban Missile Crisis from our broadcasts and the BBC and heard propaganda from Radio Havana Cuba. When the conditions were right I pulled in East Germany, Hungary, Romania and even China. It far away stations brought the world closer to me. I then reached out myself as a ham radio operator talking to people across oceans. As for favorite authors, I’d go back to the same period when I read Seven Days in May, the suspenseful masterpiece co-written by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey. It was a seminal book, pointing me to the possibilities of what a realistic thriller could deliver. Today, I enjoy the great works of Dale Brown, Tom Clancy, WG Griffiths, Michael Palmer, Larry Bond, and of course Baldacci, Child and so many others who populate our exciting world.
4) Did you base the character of Scott Roarke on any real-life person that you came across your career as a journalist?
A dynamic question. I hope my answer lives up to it. In one word, no, there was no one real-life person who was my model for Secret Service agent Scott Roarke. However, I hope he does read like he’s real, authentic, and relatable. But let me discuss the world I put Roarke in. It harkens back to my dad’s work in law enforcement. While I love those bigger than life iconic characters that enliven thrillers, I don’t really believe that a Bond or a Batman exist in a vacuum. In real life, people need collaborators who each bring elements of an investigation together. They are more likely to succeed if and when they work together. That’s how I develop my characters. Roarke is key, but he needs attorney Katie Kessler, his FBI and CIA buddies Davis and D’Angelo. He relies on FBI facial recognition expert Duane “Touch” Parsons and Army Intelligence officer Penny Walker. Together, they make Roarke succeed as a character, and I hope, as a believable figure.
5) I find EXECUTIVE ACTIONS to be a multi-layered plot, although all the sub-plots do come together in the end. But what was it like keeping track of all the characters and plots during the writing process? Was it hard creating a different voice or personality for every character?
You’re sure a great reader. You got everything I wanted people to get out of the experience. Not only was I juggling multiple plots, but also one of the characters, an assassin with more disguises than the notorious Jackal, must convincingly portray many different people on the outside, but maintain his true personality through his inner thoughts. That was a challenge for certain. I also didn’t want individual characters replicating one another. They had to have distinct back-stories and experiences. But I did employ a device which helped me. Every major character had a unique pairing with Roarke, my principal protagonist. Secret Service agent Roarke is as different from attorney Katie Kessler as any two people could be, but they complete each other. Roarke is also connected to President Morgan Taylor through a set of circumstances established before either of them assumed their present duty. Roarke shares skills with CIA agent Vinnie D’Angelo, but never overshadows the spy. There’s Roarke and “Touch” Parsons and Roarke and CPT. Penny Walker, always working in pairs. The assassin lines up with both the terrorist, Haddad. But he also has an almost psychic connection with Roarke, and vice versa. They anticipate one another. This approach helped me keep the voices clear, the plot moving and the action always heading forward. It’s nothing I planned from the start, yet I found that it absolutely worked through the very end and into the sequels.
6) Libya, while not unusual, is not the commonly used villain country in espionage thrillers. What made you decide to use that country? Did you have other choices?
Libya was my second choice. I wrote it well before Gadhafi’s fall. (Or should I say, Qaddafi, Kaddafi, or Al-Gaddafi?) Actually my first choice was Iraq, but I couldn’t’ project a believable military dictatorship and an authoritarian regime far enough into Iraq’s future to be believable. However, as models of feuding brothers I relied on the historic record of the actual sons of Hussein and Gadhafi. They were dangerous, vindictive and jealous siblings. I imbued their traits on Fadi and Abahar Kharrazi. They vied for their father’s vaulted position as Supreme Leader in a Libyan regime that eventually settled in after Gadhafi’s fall. For more realism, some of the human rights violations I depicted were actually drawn from reports of the Gadhafi and Hussein offspring. They were deadly and brutal. I didn’t have to make things up.
7) What is in store for Secret Service Agent Scott Roarke and Ms. Kessler?
After meeting (and hooking up) in EXECUTIVE ACTIONS, Scott and Katie move right into EXECUTIVE TREASON and then take a running leap into the action of EXECUTIVE COMMAND. You can read them in eBook and print editions or hear their exploits in Audible book editions (which is also fun for me!). EXECUTIVE TREASON re-introduces readers to hate talk radio host Elliott Strong. (If you want a taste of him, log onto his character website at www.elliottstrong.com or www.strongnationradio.com. There’s audio of his broadcasts and content that feels real, but isn’t.) In EXECUTIVE TREASON Roarke and Katie counter another attack on the presidency with some major twists and turns. They return in EXECUTIVE COMMAND with a truly frightening, real-life scenario: America’s most valuable and vulnerable natural resource – water – is the target of terrorist attacks. If you don’t think this threat is achievable to some degree, just type into Google or any search engine some key search words. Your head will be spinning. As for their life beyond my third thriller in the Diversion Book trilogy, we’ll all just have to wait and see.
8) Do you plan to write any other political thrillers, aside from the other two books, EXECUTIVE TREASON and EXECUTIVE COMMAND?
Yes! However, I think in-between EXECUTIVE COMMAND and the next Scott Roarke thriller, I’ll have a standalone novel. I’m working on a plot that combines the best elements of political thrillers with ancient history and fundamental beliefs. I’ll have new characters, but I won’t rule out a visit from some of the principals from my trilogy. That can provide a touch point for fans and a way for me to keep the EXECUTIVE characters close at hand. I’ll let you know as it develops. In the meantime, I hope readers will write me through my website at www.garygrossman.com or www.DiversionBooks.com and share their opinions.
About the Author
Gary Grossman, author of EXECUTIVE ACTIONS and the sequel, EXECUTIVE TREASON, is a print and television journalist, an Emmy Award-winning network television producer, and a film and TV historian.
His career has included stints producing for NBC News, ABC, CBS NBC, Fox, PBS, and more than 27 cable networks.
Grossman is partner with Robb Weller in Weller/Grossman Productions, a prolific documentary and service and information television production company. Together, they have produced more than 6,000 programs and earned numerous awards including the prestigious Governor's Emmy Award for their 1996 USA Network special, "Healing the Hate," and an Emmy for Best Informational series with the 2002 production of "Wolfgang Puck" for Food Network.
The company's widely recognized series and specials have aired on NBC, Fox News, CNBC, History Channel, A&E, Discovery Channel, Food Network, Discovery Health, National Geographic Channel, HGTV, Fine Living, Do It Yourself, The Learning Channel, USA Network, and Sci Fi Channel, among other channels.
Grossman earned a Bachelors Degree in Communications from Emerson College in Boston and a Master's Degree in Urban Affairs from Boston University.
He began his career at 15 as a disc jockey at WHUC, his local radio station in Hudson, New York. He went on to work at Boston television station, WBZ; joined The Boston Globe as a special contributor, and then became a full-time television critic and columnist at The Boston Herald American, before moving to Los Angeles. His articles have also appeared in The New York Times and numerous magazines. He has taught journalism and media classes at Emerson College, Boston University, and USC. Grossman's two previous acclaimed non-fiction books, Superman: Serial to Cereal and Saturday Morning TV, cover television history.
Grossman lives in Los Angeles with his wife, writer Helene Seifer, and their children Sasha, Zachary, and Jacob. He serves on the Emerson College Board of Trustees and the Boston University Metropolitan Advisory Board.