As a young man, Michael Pocalyko (pronounced “poe-calico”) had literary aspirations and apprenticed to legendary publisher James Laughlin at New Directions. His career path after that was varied: combat aviator, Navy commander, political candidate, venture capitalist. Now, at 58, he makes his first appearance on the publishing scene with The Navigator (Forge, June), a thriller billed as “Wall Street comes to Washington in a story of greed, modern politics, and international intrigue.”
“I was a literary person years ago,” Pocalyko says. “I am glad to be back to it.”
Currently the CEO of Monticello Capital, a boutique investment bank in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, Pocalyko says the novel form is a perfect vehicle for expressing the big ideas of the day. “The next big thing is big data, the interplay of government and business. What’s important in serious fiction is a nonfiction hook or an issue that is high in public consciousness, and I’m convinced the confluence of big government and big business is what people have anxieties about today.”
Though narrative nonfiction is his favorite type of reading, he tips his hat to all of the best thriller writers, mentioning Scott Turow and Harlan Coben as particular influences. “No one does quick staccato chapters better than Coben,” he says. Also Stephen Frye, Kurt Vonnegut, Sloan Wilson, and Joseph Heller—“his narrative style, not his absurdist style.” He adds, “I’m interested in how authors take you into an environment you don’t live in.”
The toughest thing about writing The Navigator was crafting the way it all comes together at the end, he says: “If you do it right it’s transparent. You never see the agony or the moves of all the chess pieces or which is the red herring. I did a lot of diagramming and rewriting. It took 10 months for the principle composition; 25%–35% took 11 days—I just wrote and reoutlined and rewrotethe final manuscript. It was really hard to get everything bolted together right.”
Pocalyko describes himself as “talkative, one of the extroverts,” and is very keen on marketing for the novel. He is blogging, making appearances, and writing for newspapers. “This is the way you express big ideas and bring them to the consciousness of the public.”
Pocalyko is signing The Navigator today at the Forge booth (1557), 11:30 a.m.–noon.