Interview with Mark Spivak, author of American Crusade
Welcome to the tour for American Crusade by Mark Spivak! Today you’ get some insight into him and his writing. Please enjoy what he has to say and ask more questions in the comments section. Plus there’s an excerpt and a great giveaway for you!
Describe your book in one sentence or fewer than 25 words.
The American Crusade is a political thriller set during the invasion of Iraq, with flashbacks to the historical Fourth Crusade (1200-1202).
What was the inspiration behind this book?
I was doing some reading about the Crusades, and it suddenly dawned on me that the Iraq invasion was the instant replay of the Fourth Crusade—the similarity was uncanny, down to some very small details. My imagination did the rest.
What kind of research did you have to do for it?
A great deal of research was involved, in both of the time periods covered in the book. I lived through the Iraq invasion, as many of us did, but I had to go back and verify the background and historical events. With the Fourth Crusade, the challenge was to understand that quest and how it related to the present day. In the course of researching I stumbled on an eyewitness account written by one of the Crusaders, and I ended up using excerpts from that work to make the scene come alive for readers.
Which character was your favorite to write?
Most of the book is told through the eyes of Robert Barton Hornsby, the vice president and former CIA director (“the spy who refused to come in from the cold”). He’s a fascinating character, and not an unusual one in Washington: a large-scale power broker who sits on the sidelines and pulls all the strings that result in the reality most of us experience.
What was one of your favorite scenes?
Toward the end of the book, when Hornsby’s war plan has started to unravel, he uses intelligence to pinpoint the location of four terrorist camps. The U.S. launches a nighttime bombing raid to destroy the camps. It turns out that the installations were fakes, filled with lifelike dummies dressed up as terrorists. The aftermath of the raid—both in the American media and the terrorist propaganda—is hilarious.
Will we see these characters again?
I’m currently working on the sequel to The American Crusade, tentatively titled Impeachment. Some of the same characters will appear in the second book.
Why should we read your book?
You frequently hear it said that history repeats itself. The truth is that people repeat it, over and over again. The American Crusade is a meditation on the follies of history. Does it contain clues on how to avoid that pointless repetition? I’d like to think so.
Tell us about your other published works.
I originally started as a wine and spirits writer, and I’m the author of two non-fiction books on distilled spirits and cocktails (Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History and Moonshine Nation). My first novel, Friend of the Devil, tells the story of America’s most celebrated chef, who has cut a deal with Satan for fame and fortune (I know: which one didn’t?).
What is your writing routine?
I get up very early, around 4 or 4:30am. That’s when most of the worthwhile work gets done, because there are no distractions. I still do a fair amount of journalism, so the emails and phone calls start around 10am. After that, I write intermittently throughout the day.
What is the best writing advice you ever received?
I was mentored by professional novelists who did not handle me gently. They made me understand that becoming a writer was a constant, unending struggle in which very few people succeeded, and that nothing short of complete dedication would give me a chance of getting there. I was taught not to be lazy, not to reach for the accessible phrase, and never to be happy with my results—not a recipe for a well-balanced life, but very good writing advice.
Many, many books changed my life, but the ones that had the most profound impact were those that created an entire alternative universe: lifelike, believable, and one that answered some questions about the real work in which we live. Nabokov did that for me, as did Vonnegut and Jorge Luis Borges.
What would you do if you won the lottery?
Exactly what I’m doing now.
What is something readers may be surprised to learn about you?
I love animals, and prefer them to many people.
A power-hungry vice president, a bad batch of shady intelligence, and a sinister plot to destroy Western civilization.
Just another day in America.
On May 1, 2001, a group of radical Islamic terrorists crash a Boeing 737 jet airliner into the Mall of America—and Vice President Robert Hornsby knows his moment is coming.
The attack kills three thousand American citizens and throws an entire nation into a panic, but all Hornsby sees is an opportunity, a chance to imprint his fanatical values on the soul of the country he loves and become the most powerful vice president in American history.
With the aid of his affable but ineffectual president; the reluctant, conscience-stricken secretary of defense; and a preening, foppish faith leader with more than a few skeletons in his closet; Hornsby declares war on terror—and anyone who stands in his way. But as media scrutiny of the administration’s actions overseas intensifies, Hornby’s one-man campaign against evil begins to unravel—with striking parallels to the thirteenth century’s doomed Fourth Crusade—and sends the nation spiraling toward another deadly tragedy.
The American Crusade paints a grim and often cynical picture of America’s recent past, reflecting the attitudes, politics, and fears that shaped our nation in the new millennium. By sampling the contemporaneous French text on the Fourth Crusade, On the Conquest of Constantinople, author Mark Spivak reminds us of that ever-vital adage: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Fans of The Castle by Jack Pinter, The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson, House of Cards by Michael Dobbs, The Whistler by John Grisham, and the Aaron Sorkin–penned TV drama The West Wing will love this book.
Read an excerpt:
To President George Cane, the assembled group represented “the full force and moral authority of the United States of America.” To the Reverend Sanford J. Bayer, head of the White House Office of Faith and Reconciliation (known internally as the Woofers), they symbolized “the lawful arm of God’s righteous Kingdom … preparing to strike at the heart of our enemy.” To Salman Al-Akbar, leader of the worldwide terrorist organization Husam al Din and the reason the dignitaries were gathered at this press conference, they were “the cancerous core of modern civilization, bleeding like an ulcer that must be removed.” They included the heads of both houses of Congress, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Directors of the FBI and CIA, most of the Cabinet, and the Chief Justice of the United States. And to the Vice President, who had assembled this improbable group, they were the usual suspects.
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In the realm of non-fiction, award-winning author Mark Spivak focuses on wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. His first book, Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, was published by Lyons Press in 2012. He followed this with Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014), hailed as the definitive book on illegal corn whiskey in America. From 1994-1999 he was the wine writer for the Palm Beach Post, and was honored for excellence in wine criticism “in a graceful and approachable style.” Since 2001 he has been the Wine & Spirits Editor for the Palm Beach Media Group, and contributes to a number of national magazines. He is also the holder of the Certificate and Advanced Diplomas from the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Mark’s first novel, Friend of the Devil, was published by Black Opal Books in May 2016. Set in Palm Beach in 1990, it tells the story of America’s most famous chef, who has sold his soul to the Devil for fame and fortune.
Mark also has an endless fascination with the American political system and is an avid follower of Washington politics. His second novel, The American Crusade (a gripping political thriller set during the invasion of Iraq, which dips into the shadowy world of government conspiracy and political sabotage), will be released by TCK Publishing on April 4. He is currently at work on Impeachment, the sequel to The American Crusade.
Visit Mark’s website at www.markspivakbooks.com, and sign up for his free newsletter and political blog:www.markspivakbooks.com/free