2020 Reading Challenge

2020 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 6 books toward her goal of 240 books.
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Interview: Norman Brewer, Author of Killer Politics

Today I’m pleased to introduce you to Norman Brewer, a long-time D.C. journalist and former TSA official, whose new novel Killer Politics: A Satirical Tale of Homegrown Terrorism details the slippery slope from democracy to demagoguery and the dangerous power of ideology… Enjoy!

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About the Book
Killer Politics: A Satirical Tale of Homegrown Terrorism is laced with razor-edged political satire aimed at a thinly veiled Trump-like president. Inspired by President Tower’s divisive rhetoric, Hoss, a white supremacist and terrorist, launches a bid to incite martial law and defend the “American way of life.” Feeling threatened by increasing diversity, he teams up with a “Most Wanted” terrorist. They ruthlessly employ off-the-shelf products like drones, computers, and guns in attacks on “soft targets”—a rock concert, the food supply, the electrical grid, an aging reservoir with people living downstream. People die, and pressure builds to bring the terrorists to justice, with a rogue FBI agent in relentless pursuit.

The Interview

Did you incorporate any of your real-life experiences into your book?

Nothing dramatic, sad to say. After a career in journalism, I did employee communications for some years at the Transportation Security Administration. That experience did involve communicating with employees about incidents of terrorism both domestic and international, and helped inform Killer Politics.

Growing up on a farm did, too. I worked with equipment and tools at a young age, and our recreation centered on hunting and fishing and whatever mischief we could get into roaming the outdoors. The white supremacist in Killer Politics is hunkered down in rural Pennsylvania. He’s a blue-collar guy and his weapons are adapted from easy-to-obtain, off-the-shelf products like drones and contaminants.

As a reporter in D.C., I covered politics and all branches of government, including the White House. That experience was invaluable in creating situations realistically satirizing a Trump-like president who inspires the white supremacist and other terrorists to violence in a bid for civil war or martial law. The satire, I trust, also provides comedic relief in what otherwise is a grim but far too real tale.

How did you approach writing a satirical thriller?

In retirement, my to-do list shrunk to cleaning the basement. Desperation for a project set in about the time three people were killed at Jewish centers in Overland Park, Kansas in 2014. That tragedy prompted the thought that most mass killers are social misfits – poorly trained, acting without an escape plan, perhaps willing to be martyrs.

But suppose the killers were well-trained, organized, and even willing to abort a horrendous mission to avoid capture. They would be much more effective, and deadly. That’s the makeup of the terrorists in Killer Politics, as well as my first book, Blending In: A Tale of Homegrown Terrorism.

Is Killer Politics: A Satirical Tale of Homegrown Terrorism a sequel?

Yes, but it also is a stand-alone novel. Also, thinly veiled President Tower is only briefly introduced in Blending In. He is a fully developed character in Killer Politics, with political buffoonery making up a significant part of the book.

Did you plan the plotline of your book out before you wrote it?

Roughly, yes. Open source research readily identified targets within the capabilities of the terrorists in Killer Politics – a high-hazard dam with people living downstream, the food supply, the electrical grid, a rock concert. Between attacks, I mixed in political satire and law enforcement efforts to track down the terrorists, as well as a bit of the #MeToo movement. Those elements were not in the original plotline but developed on their own as I wondered: What should or could come next?

What have you been reading during the pandemic?

I haven’t consciously changed reading choices during the pandemic, but as I think about it, there may be less history and biography in favor of lighter fare.

Anyway, my selections include books by old friends. The World Remade by G.J. Meyer is a terrific look at the U.S. role in WWI. Gilded Suffragists by Johanna Neuman captures the role New York high society played in pressing the 19th Amendment.

Rick Atkinson’s The British Are Coming, first in a trilogy, is a great, detailed read. On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, by Timothy Snyder is slim but carries ominous warnings in these troubled times. Hamilton, The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter is a great help before watching the movie.

And from the lighter side: Out of Range by C.J. Box; Neon Prey by John Sandford; Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens; and currently, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, and On Cussing by Katherine Dunn.

About the Author/Interviewee
Norman Brewer is an award-winning reporter and editor who worked for The Des Moines Register and Tribune and for Gannett News Service in Washington, D.C. He was also Director of Employee Communications at the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, where exposure to terrorism issues helped shape his books. Blending In A Tale of Homegrown Terrorism, a novel, is Brewer’s first book. Killer Politics is a sequel but also a stand-alone book.

*A special thanks to Ellen Whitfield of Books Forward for arranging this interview.

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