As a Washington insider, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich knows whereof he speaks when it comes to international terrorists. In his newest offering, Duplicity (Center Street, Oct.), he and cowriter Pete Early create a situation reminiscent of news headlines about an embassy hostage crisis in Somalia and an American president running for re-election.
Interestingly, he has chosen a female president as the nation's leader in this time of crisis. Asked whether she's a Democrat or a Republican, Gingrich coyly notes, "Since it's a woman president elected in '16, you can decide if it's Carly Fiorina, Hillary Clinton, or Elizabeth Warren. We thought it would be interesting and fun to have a woman president, just as our most effective protagonist on the American side in Somalia is an African-American Marine female who ends up playing a very leading role."
Gingrich did a lot of research in Minneapolis where he talked to members of the Somali community (about 125,000 live there) and learned some of their deep concerns about children being recruited by radical groups. "One person said to me, ‘It's a little bit like gang recruitments in Los Angeles except there's a much greater danger attached to it.'" In Duplicity, the author posits what would happen if in one family one brother is the #2 leader in Al-Shabaab in Mogadishu, and the other is running for Congress in Minneapolis.
The former congressman and bestselling author, who's been in the public eye for so long, says that a few things in his latest novel will be unexpected by his fans. "Since I'm an Army brat, readers will be a little surprised that we picked a Marine as the hero. We also have a very tough segment involving Congress, and as somebody who spent his career in the House and loves the institution, I think some people will be surprised at how tough I am on some of the behaviors and the nature of the place. Finally, we really show an intense competition between the needs of re-election and the needs of national security. I happen to think this is real—and I think it's real for every president."
Asked what he would like readers to take away from his book, Gingrich says, "I'd like them to understand that large bureaucracies have their own goals and momentum, and in a free society it's really hard to get them under control because they can just bulldoze their way toward the world they want. I also want readers to understand how many humans are engaged in these issues. These aren't stick figures, these are real people with real passions and values. They have real weaknesses and strengths, and that's part of the drama that we're all caught up in now."
The former congressman signs galleys of Duplicity today at the Hachette booth (3019), 11 a.m.–noon.
This article appeared in the May 28, 2015 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.