Westporter's novel weaves thrilling yarn from hometown to Iraq
Published 4:10 pm, Thursday, May 12, 2011
Westport, Washington, D.C., and the streets of war-torn Baghdad. Westporter Tom Seligson, a prep school classmate of former President George W. Bush, finds a way to weave all three into his new 412-page thriller, "King of Hearts."
Known more for his work in television, the three-time Emmy Award winner was bitten by the writing bug years after his last book. When the fifth book made its debut, Bill Clinton was still about four years away from the presidency. A former executive producer at CBS News Productions responsible for supervising productions for A&E, The History Channel, Discovery, Discovery Health, TLC, Showtime, MTV and other cable channels, Seligson will admit as great as that job was, "when you're working for TV, you're just one of the performers."
But when you work on a book, he said, "You're every member of the orchestra as well as the conductor."
It took him a little over a year to write "King of Hearts," which hit store shelves in January. Most of it was written on the train while commuting back and forth to his job at CBS. He noted that when an author works on a novel, "the focus is like a laser beam, the whole world is that book."
It's perhaps not surprising then that Seligson left CBS while tackling the literary work. He is now an independent producer. Seligson knows how to secure an assignment. He'll soon be traversing the globe overseeing the production of a wildlife adventure series for ABC. But before he's off to exotic locale after exotic locale, he's scheduled to make a Monday stop where the inhabitants are a little tamer, the Westport Public Library.
The "King of Hearts" plot is based on two unresolved mysteries from the Iraq war -- the whereabouts of one of Saddam Hussein's most feared associates, the so-called King of Hearts on the U.S. military's "most wanted" cards who has never been found; and also one of the biggest bank robberies of all-time, the $1.5 billion stolen from the Iraq Central Bank.
The heist took place hours before the first U.S. strikes on Iraq.
"The challenging part of this was creating an explanation, creating a story that would link these unsolved mysteries of the Iraqi war, link them together in a way that made sense and that was thrilling to unravel and that was filled with characters that were believable," Seligson said.
"King of Hearts" basically provides a fictional answer as to what the at-large Hussein cohort is up to, as well as what happened to the stolen $1.5 billion.
"I imagine what happened," said Seligson. "Where did that money go? And is there any relationship between this historic bank robbery and the fact that two of Hussein's most notorious henchmen are still at large?"
The man who makes a connection is, surprisingly, a Westport detective subsequent to the murder of a woman in Soundview, a fictional, relatively quiet town that is based on Westport.
The female loses her life at a nature center, much like the real-life environmental center, Earthplace, while she is out for a jog. Compo Beach also gets referenced, but in print is called Bradley Beach. Bobby Q's also gets a veiled plug, as a "downtown BBQ restaurant." The Westport detective is also a former New York City cop and former Iraq war vet. He finds there's more to the woman's murder than the possibility she was cut down by an angry real estate investor.
"He realizes there's a lot more at stake," said Seligson, "and the war is something that propels him to try to get to the bottom of this."
Reviews on Amazon.com for Seligson's novel are positive. One person wrote, "This new novel by renowned author, Tom Seligson, grips the reader from the first page. Starting with a seemingly random murder in a quiet suburb it quickly escalates into an international thriller with every element you could want. A new take on the bad guys, a unique love story, and fast paced action. I highly recommend you put this book at the top of your reading list."
Another wrote: "It has suspense, intrigue, mystery and characters that will become like your frriends, and enemies. I think one of my favorite aspects of this novel were the characters. There were no `small' characters. The author developed them all. The novel starts out with an Iraqi war veteran and a small town murder and it expands into an international thriller. You will love being along for this ride."
Seligson said writing a book can be more challenging than producing a television show or series.
"Planning, plotting, figuring out your characters, it's the planning of all that that's the hard part," he said. "The challenge with writing a novel is every line must propel the reader forward. There's nothing else to fall back on. You can't rely on music or special effects or dynamic editing to grab someone and hold onto them. Every sentence gives the reader an opportunity to close the book, so the story has to hold them, the character development has to hold them."
Seligson's May 16 talk at the Westport Public Library will begin at 7:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public, and books will be available for purchase and signing by the author afterwards. A portion of the proceeds benefit the library.