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Nola is dead. Zig knows Nola since she was little. She was friends with his daughter and remembers a campfire accident where Nola lost the top part of her ear.
But as Zig examines this body, he sees that her ear is intact. Confused, he runs fingerprints. And as he opens up the body, he finds a note inside: "Nola, you were right. Keep running. Zig knows the real Nola is alive. And out there. And also, when people see who Nola really is…and what her character is… You got blurbs galore. Michael Connelly. David Baldacci. Brad Thor. Like Lisbeth in Dragon Tattoo. And I appreciate your boasting. But in my head, Nola is Nola. They go, they see, and paint, and catalogue victories and mistakes, from the dead on D-Day, to the injured at Mogadishu, to the sandbag pilers who were at Hurricane Katrina.
From there, Nola came to life in my head. The Escape Artist started right there. Dover Air Force Base is a place I never thought the government would let me into. So were the victims of the attack on the USS Cole, the astronauts from the space shuttle Columbia, and the remains of well over fifty thousand soldiers and CIA operatives who fought in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and every secret location in between. In their building, as you see in the book, they make sure our most honorable soldiers are shown the dignity and respect they deserve.
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In addition, the people there know details about hidden missions that almost no one in the world will ever hear about. Dover is a place full of mysteries…and surprises…and more secrets than you can imagine. As someone who writes thrillers, it was the perfect setting for a mystery. The people here are the real deal.
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They are all real people. I believe the most authentic story you will ever tell is your own story. Fortunately, their lives are far more devastating than mine. We all need to love and be loved. We do the I am Gandhi graphic novel in May. Then I am Neil Armstrong comes out in September. They talk to me every day. Just wait till you meet Hazel.
Years later, Hazel wakes up in the hospital and remembers nothing, not even her own name. Then a man from the FBI shows up, asking questions about her dad—and about his connection to the corpse of a man found with an object stuffed into his chest: a priceless book that belonged to Benedict Arnold. So only by solving the murder can Hazel learn the truth about her father—and who she really is. Indeed, for Hazel, the greatest mystery is herself.
Still, the one thought I was never able to shake was: what a creative way for the government to get information from its citizens. Over the next year or so, the government continued to use me to do their own private research. It still works. They send it to me and Jesse Ventura. If you liked Decoded and never tried one of my thrillers, try this one. And I thought, I have a great story to build around that. Lucky for me, I found the brilliant Tod Goldberg. I mean it. Instead, I found the Tod Goldberg. Tod is a master of character. I love twisting the plot.
In my head, I envisioned us as a literary Peanut Butter Cup. Now that I think about it, I took the same approach in finding my wife. We each wrote an entire book. From the start, I always had the plot of the book. So Tod flew to Florida and we locked ourselves in my kitchen for a long weekend. From there, we talked it through, and of course, changed much of it. Then Tod wrote a first draft, giving us this book with an incredible, fully realized character. And then I took that draft and rewrote the plot. The last moments between Benedict Arnold and George Washington are among the most heartbreaking in U.
It starts when Benedict Arnold is revealed as a traitor.
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Arnold races out of the house. He leaves his wife and child behind, jumps on his horse, and rides away, toward the British. But the craziest part is what happens next: Alexander Hamilton shows up and delivers a handwritten letter from Benedict Arnold to George Washington. And 3 , in one of the oddest requests a person could make in such a moment, Benedict Arnold asks that his clothes and baggage be sent to him.
Think about it. Benedict Arnold has just put a knife in the back of his best friend, become one of the most hated men since Judas, has basically abandoned his life, and his wife is in danger of being murdered—and what does he ask for? He wants his luggage. And for some reason, Washington obliges. He spends the rest of the war hunting him and calling for his death. To this day, no one knows the answer. Usually I can pinpoint the moment where an idea comes from.
How did the hand get there? That was the mystery I wanted to solve. So from there, I gave the plot to experts in the Secret Service and other places, and I asked them: What would you do first? The answers will surprise you. Beyond John Wilkes Booth, there were eight other co-conspirators who plotted to kill Abraham Lincoln. Four were hung. Four others, including Dr. I live in Miami and had no idea this island even existed.
So I did what any other history nerd would do: I went to visit. I love this. That opening scene is a slow little character piece that reveals, over the course of this intimate moment, a severed arm in the Rose Garden. It just cycles. When the Lewinsky scandal broke, the Washington Post did this big story on how the White House thriller was dead and that only a fool would be trying to do one now, since the Lewinsky story was so insane. That was the story I wanted to tell. Then a month before it came out, a little show called The West Wing came on the air.
It was amazing for me. I looked like a genius. But really, I just got lucky. In the end, power is endlessly fascinating. When I met my first archivist. They just had all the nerdy goodness I wanted to give Beecher. And the real goal was: can I build this hero whose superpower was just his brain? But he was smarter than all of us. I respect what they do so much. As for recent news, listen, no one wants to see a security lapse. Especially them. In my mind, these holes in security were always there throughout history.
Agents in every agency will always screw up somewhere, all of us will. Those places remind me to never forget where I came from. Every day when I sit down to write, the one thing I do is I remember when my true first novel was out there trying to be sold. Blame my daughter. A few years back, I was looking for clothing for her and all I could find were shirts with princesses on them. So I asked a friend to draw me a cartoon picture of Amelia Earhart. Then my wife wanted one. And her friends wanted one.
And the more I told her about Amelia Earhart, the more she fell in love. It made me realize: Once our kids hear about these real American heroes, they react the same way we all do. They dream bigger. They work harder. Right there, these books were born. But what I love most is that we start with their childhoods. You see Amelia Earhart as a little girl, building a homemade roller coaster in her backyard; you see Lincoln as a boy, standing up to local bullies. I always loved Jim Henson and Mr. Plus my grandfather, who used to make up stories for me.
They all taught me the power of kindness — and the power of a well told story. Those lessons were never forgotten. We all love to complain that there are no current heroes today. But the truth is there are heroes everywhere. Look around. Heroes are far more local than you think. You dream with them, fail with them, and smile with them. Then Martin Luther King, Jr. But the list gets longer every day.
The real goal is to help you build a library of real heroes for your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews. So I always start with the real history. In this case, it began with a government employee who told me that I needed to come to a secret museum that almost no one knew about. Naturally, I was suspicious, so I asked him what they had at this so-called museum.
Of course I saw them. The guy offered to show me the bullet that killed Abraham Lincoln! I got there as quick as I could. And once there, they let me hold the bones of John Wilkes Booth…and the bones of President Garfield…and even the brain of his killer, which yes, they had in a jar. I held these items in my hand. The museum is run by the Army — it used to be the Army Medical Museum — and was dedicated to studying the effects of war on the human body.
So if you got shot in the arm, the Army would cut open your arm and look inside, trying to figure out what killed you. So once germ theory was developed, they became the official Museum to document the history of medicine, and since they had all the human body parts, they got the pieces of Abraham Lincoln after he was killed.
And the shirt with his blood on it. And the bullet. The government has all of it. I wish. No, finding the historical artifacts that led to the death of one of our greatest Presidents is a definitely one of those moments where you stop and wonder what message the universe is sending you. But as I started looking at the items, I could feel my brain working out the plot of the thriller. What if, over the course of a hundred years, the four assassins, from John Wilkes Booth to Lee Harvey Oswald, were secretly working together?
What was their purpose? Who do they really work for? And why are they planning to kill the President today? Then I had the book. But when someone shares a brain with you, you start paying attention. Needless to say, sometimes you plot the book, but sometimes, the book takes you for the ride. In the case of playing cards, we see hearts, diamonds, clubs, and spades. They represented the four facets of society.
Or at least where the rumors come from. Readers will think I made this plot up. These assassins have never been forgotten. To be clear, my parents came from nothing and gave me everything, making me the first in my immediate family to attend college. Burying them, I had no choice but to write about growing up. I owe them way more than that. Six years ago, on the night my daughter was born, I began writing this book for her.
And as I wrote this book, I was forced to look to the world for women and men who, like my own parents, could serve as ideals for my daughter. To be honest, I really thought both books would be the same — as a dad, I wanted to treat my daughter and sons exactly the same. She noticed that I kept overusing one word throughout the manuscript.
That word? The Dalai Lama! Even in the pacifist, I sought a fighter. And yes, that probably highlights my lack of descriptive ability. And how overprotective I am. When you believe in something, fight for it. My readers know the best heroes. So many of the ones they sent me — through Facebook, or Twitter, via email or on book tour — so many of those heroes made it into the book. The Three Stooges. Oh yes — I put them in there. My wife hates them. These three subversives.
Gotta share that with my daughter. I included women like Mother Teresa and Anne Sullivan in the book for my son. Would I really be doing any justice for my daughter if I told her only women could be heroes? Plus, I gave her really good ones. Like Ben Franklin. Few men are as cool as Ben Franklin. I did 50 brand new heroes for my daughter. Plus I again included my Mom. Indeed, no one is born a hero. And thanks to the research for my novels — and for Decoded — we have great friends at the National Archives and the Library of Congress who were willing to dig for ones few people have seen before.
But I already had my own grandmother and mother in there — plus my wife. Sheila Spicer — my ninth grade English teacher. The first person who told me I could write.
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I owe her forever for that. It all came from a private conversation I had with a former President of the United States. And when a real President whispers something like that to you, you pay attention. But as I looked back through history, I realized the problem dated back to George Washington himself, who devised a secret group that would serve just the President. They were regular citizens. Just like us. Washington called them The Culper Ring — and they were the secret weapon of the Revolutionary War, even though they were never in most history books.
And as I talked to my National Security folks, we kept coming back to one idea: who says this secret group was ever disbanded? I came to visit and fell in love. Lost history…secret documents…long-forgotten letters from Presidents and other big shots—all of which tell the true history of our nation. How could a history nut not fall in love?
Plus, they let me hold the Declaration of Independence. And they know I have good sources, so they invited me in. I was honored to be a part of the Red Cell program. You go home terrified, because you see how easy it is to kill us. But once I saw the Archives, I knew I had a place to tell that tale. Blame my parents. My Mom especially.
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But she was the most amazing person I ever knew. She hated snobs, she hated phonies, she hated rich obnoxious jerks who can only talk about what kind of car they drive. And then one day, I got the best fan letter ever, from former President George H. Bush, saying he liked my novel, The Millionaires, and could I sign one for him.
Where does that come from? Again, blame my family. My grandfather spent his whole life wanting to be a policeman. It was his dream. But he was the toughest, strongest, most amazing tough guy around. It also publishes academic books and conference proceedings. SCIRP currently has more than open access journals in the areas of science, technology and medicine. Readers can download papers for free and enjoy reuse rights based on a Creative Commons license. Authors hold copyright with no restrictions.
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