Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Author Spotlight: Dan Fesperman

This edition of the Author Spotlight features a well-traveled globetrotter whose latest international spy thriller was released just yesterday. Titled The Double Game, it’s author Dan Fesperman’s eighth novel. His previous seven tales of gripping global intrigue have racked up legions of ardent fans in eleven languages around the world, not to mention scoring a Dashiell Hammet Award in the USA and two Dagger Awards in the United Kingdom. So it’s no surprise trumpets The Double Game as one of the Best Books of the Month for August, 2012. Those of you hungering for an intelligent and tightly plotted spy story ought to know Bookseller calls Fesperman "the closest thing America has to John le Carre." Surely there’s no higher praise in the genre.

In writing his novels, Fesperman draws from the deep well of experience collected in his journalism work for six different newspapers since graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His reporting duties took him to 30 countries and three active war zones. Covering the Gulf War, the Yugoslav civil wars in Bosnia and Croatia, and the fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan were among the adventures serving as his tuition in the school of crafting authentic contemporary spy capers.

The Double Game is the tale of disgraced former reporter and current public relations huckster Bill Cage uncovering whether Edwin Lemaster, a retired intelligence operative who shed his CIA skin to transform himself into a famous author, was in fact a double-agent at the Cold War’s height. Cage’s decision in 1984 to publish Lemaster’s off-hand (and off-the-record) equivocal remark about snooping for the Soviets ended Cage’s journalism career and made his life miserable. Events at a funeral decades later propel Cage to take a leave from his PR job and travel Europe hunting the truth about Lemaster. His quest is squired from a distance by unsolicited guidance from a mysterious adviser who aims Cage’s trek via cryptic hints found between the covers of classic spy novels written by some of the genre’s giants.

Leading Fesperman to the Spotlight’s bleak wooden chair engulfed by banks of blinding klieg lights, we can’t help thinking of those old spy movies where the bad guys hiss at fearless heroes, "Ve haff vays uff making you talk." Fortunately, Fesperman is glad to talk to us, so our resort to such vays are unnecessary. Especially, as you’ll soon see, because Fesperman comes armed with a dictionary, and he’s not afraid to use it. Without further ado, let’s get this Gazalapalooza Author Spotlight underway.

Gazala:    In my omnipotence, I've sentenced you to be stranded alone on a desert island for offenses best left unnamed. In my beneficence, I've decided to allow you a limited amount of reading material to make your stay a little less bleak than it would otherwise be. I'll spot you your religious text of preference, and the collected works of William Shakespeare. In addition to those, name the one fiction book, and the one nonfiction book, you'd choose to take with you, and why you choose them.

Fesperman:    All the Kings Men, By Robert Penn Warren, for the sheer power and beauty of its prose, and because I haven’t re-read it in at least twenty years, so it would feel nice and fresh, practically new. It’s also long, which doesn’t hurt. And The Oxford English Dictionary, because if you’re going to slowly starve to death then you might as well feed your vocabulary along the way. And just think of how many memories all those different words would trigger. Enough to keep you entertained for days on end, years even. Plus, once you’d memorized the words there would be a thousand and one uses for all those pages – starting fires, wiping sand off your feet, you name it. Although your rescuers might be a little freaked out when you greet them with something like, “Apologies for looking like such a tatterdemalion in my current state of labefactation, but you scrofulous laggards were certainly a bit dilatory in arriving.”

Gazala:    Your latest novel is an excellent and gripping thriller titled The Double Game. I've read it. I enjoyed it immensely, and recommend it highly. Shockingly enough, however, from time to time my bare recommendation doesn't always motivate a book's potential reader to become a book's actual reader. Tell us something about The Double Game, and why its potential reader should make the leap and become its actual reader.

Fesperman:    Because I’ve never enjoyed writing a book as much as I enjoyed writing this one, and I think that the passion and enthusiasm I experienced along the way have to be at least a little bit contagious. As the Brits would say, it’s a cracking good read. It’s also a deeply affectionate homage to the classics of the spy genre.

Gazala:    What are books for?

Fesperman:    They’re for visiting worlds upon worlds, populated by some of the most interesting, enjoyable, vile, lovable, loathsome, endearing and terrifying people we’ll ever meet. And we also get to travel in time. One helluva good deal.

Gazala:    W. Somerset Maugham said, "There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." Do you agree, or disagree, and why?

Fesperman:    There’s only one rule, really, a very unhelpful one, and it’s this: Once you start writing a novel, you’re never really finished. Even when you think you’re finished, even when your editors and proofreaders are finished, you’ll still find yourself tinkering with words, syntax, characters, settings. I’ve even made small editing changes on the fly while delivering bookstore readings, while of course hoping that no one in the audience was following along in his own copy, line by line. When I die, my last words will probably be a minor correction of whatever book I’ve most recently completed. And, yes, I do know the old saw that says, “The best writing is rewriting,” but, truthfully, at some point you just have to put the damn thing down. Yet, all I have to do is open a copy to any page at random, and I’ll inevitably see things that, if given the choice, I might still change. And, no, I am most certainly not a perfectionist. But I am an inveterate rewriter. And, by the way, that soggy island copy of The Oxford English Dictionary will tell you that the adjective “inveterate” means “firmly established by long continuance.”

Gazala:    Time for the meds again. Ask yourself a question, and answer it.

Fesperman:    Okay, here you go: Q: The Oxford English Dictionary? Your one choice for a nonfiction book? Really? A: Oh, go get your own damn island and call the Coast Guard, or I shall give you a wherret!

The Double Game isn’t only a cool read. It’s tasty brain candy, too, especially for fans of classic spy novels. If you’d like your own piece of that candy, just click here to find it at Amazon.

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