Blog Funkhauser is delighted to welcome versatile author Howard Gleichenhaus to Day Five of a ten day extravaganza that spotlights writers of various genres and formats. Howard’s latest THE SUBTERFUGE CONSPIRACY takes the reader on a wild ride from the shores of Lake Ontario to the backstreets of Paris and beyond with protagonist Ted Lansing who is currently evolving in an as yet untitled follow up to Subterfuge. Welcome Howard!
THE SUBTERFUGE CONSPIRACY
The murder of a young prostitute followed by a police shootout on a cold, deserted beach on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario draws FBI Special Agent Ted Lansing into the most deadly case of his career,
Lansing and his partner, Jennifer Fallana, have three months to lay bare the Subterfuge Conspiracy, recover a shipment of stolen radioactive cesium pellets smuggled into the country across Lake Ontario and thwart the detonation of a dirty bomb set for New Year’s Eve on the National Mall in Washington D.C.
From New York to Paris, to Yemen, and back to Washington D.C., Fargo Blake, ex military, cold and deadly, is tasked by the true conspirators to eliminate their Arab coconspirators and lay blame for the attack squarely their shoulders —The perfect subterfuge terrorist plot.
Backed by a cabal of politically powerful men tied to the highest echelons of the United States government, the conspiracy reaches all the way into the halls of the U.S. Senate. The plotter’s endgame: discredit the first elected Hispanic president’s credibility on global terrorism, bring down his administration, deny him a second term and elect their hand picked successor, a radical, right wing United States Senator.
- The Subterfuge Conspiracy reminds me very fondly of Frederick Forsyth’s Day of the Jackal: international locales, multiple POVs and high stakes intrigue. What is the genesis of Subterfuge?
First, allow me to say thank-you for the Forsyth comparison. It is always flattering (and hopefully deserved) to have a novel you’ve written fondly compared to one of the literary giants of the genre.
Some writers plot out their story before hand and stick to the outline. For me that just doesn’t work. I prefer to allow my characters to react to the situations I place them into and ask myself what would he/she do. I dope out at least two scenarios and write them both. Subterfuge began as a standard terrorist plot with a hard-boiled FBI agent in pursuit. During one particular meeting of my weekly critiquing group The Delray Beach Public Library Writer’s Studio (I am the group moderator) an off hand comment was made by one member of the group. I doubt he even remembers making it now. “What if the plotters weren’t who the reader thinks they are?”
I made a note in the margin of my manuscript. At some point I was struck by the usual temporary writer’s block that happens every so often. Going back through early drafts I saw the margin notes I’d made weeks before. Not a bad way to go, I thought. I knew I couldn’t just drop that bomb from out of nowhere so I went back into what I had already written and began to plant foreshadows. Once the co conspirators were firm in my mind the story began to flow again.
- As a Canadian, my interest piques at the mention of Lake Ontario. What dictated your choice of location for the jump-start of the plot?
That is an interesting question. My youngest son went to college at SUNY Oswego, which is on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario. Over the years I visited Oswego many times. I was familiar with the lakeshore beachfront and how desolate it looked in winter. Researching Canadian nuclear facilities I discovered that Canada had a facility close to the lake, a short boat ride from the US side. It made the perfect route to smuggle nuclear materials. What started as a rather short narrative, “telling” the reader about smuggled material I rewrote the novel’s beginning to “show” rather than tell and draw the reader in with a non stop thrilling police confrontation, totally misunderstood as a simple drug interdiction. I now had my “usual” suspects in country. I then allowed by protagonist (Ted Lansing) to uncover the plot one slow page at a time, always ending a chapter with a cliffhanger to bring the reader along.
- Let’s backtrack for the readers: Can you give us your elevator pitch?
Hours, moments and seconds tick away, with millions of lives hanging in the balance. Could the unthinkable really happen, a dirty bomb, armed with stolen cesium from a Canadian Reactor site, is set to detonate on New Year’s Eve on the National Mall in Washington DC. FBI Special Agent Ted Lansing tries to make sense of who the real enemy is in one of the most diabolical plots ever conceived to subvert the United States government.
Who can Lansing trust? Are Middle Eastern Jihadists really behind the plot, or is it far more sinister. Could his one time friend, CIA Paris section chief, Colin Mills. be involved? Is Mills tied to a white supremacist army led by a disgraced ex military man, an avowed racist, Lt. Colonel Kyle Nugent and his right hand, Fargo Blake? Also ex military, Blake is a stone-cold killer who strikes without conscience, until a beautiful Parisian flight attendant makes him believe that a different life is possible — But Blake is trapped, he cannot get out. High-ranking members of the United States Senate are plotting to overthrow a duly elected president. Unthinkable, that is until small inconsistencies appear sending Lansing on a nonstop coaster ride from New York City to the Adirondack wilderness in upstate New York to the National Mall in Washington on New Year’s Eve. Lansing pursues Blake, and Mills into snow covered Virginia’s countryside to a clandestine CIA training facility. Two old friends facing off in one last confrontation from which only one will emerge alive.
- Espionage (is there a better descriptor?) fiction is a favorite of mine though I lack the mental courage to ever tackle such a genre. As a writer, what goes into a work like The Subterfuge Conspiracy? What is your method?
I don’t know if it’s mental courage, but I certainly wasn’t sure when I began to write Subterfuge if I could pull it off. There were so many unanswered questions. I knew I was going to take my readers to locations I had never visited. Sure I’d been to Paris, for example, but tourist Paris. What was a typical Paris street like, not the Champs-Élysées visitors see. No more typical than portraying Times Square as a typical New Yorker’s day of fun I need to “be” in the Paris of working Parisians. For my writer colleagues, here is a secret. A Google search of Paris neighborhoods followed by Google Earth puts you on the street in front of your location and the ability to move up and down the street. You can see cars parked in front; does the bistro have a window facing the street? What is on the menu and how are the tables arranged? It may all sound like unnecessary minutia but in my writing I create authenticity in my visuals. Readers who may have been there say “Yes, exactly how I remember it.” I believe these details enhance the plot and breathe life into the characters.
- Chicken or egg? What came first: plot or character(s)?
For me it is the plot, at least in this book. My latest project, almost 100,000 words (now in first draft) will be the other way around because Ted Lansing is my protagonist, but the book is not a sequel. Since his character qualities, warts and all, were developed in Subterfuge, I have a better framework to get him in and out of situations. That being said, I always keep in mind the fact that most readers are meeting him for the first time and I cannot assume facts not in evidence. Admittedly, my first drafts lack much foreshadowing of plot line because I tend to write a linear story in that first draft. In second draft copies, knowing where I am going, I move entire chapters, add foreshadowing, and clean up plot holes my critique group uncovered. Once plot and character are finalized (reconciled?) a third rewrite readies the manuscript for the editor. A side note for my fellow writers still trying to get published: Do not skimp on professional editing. Editors are worth their weight in gold. They can take a good manuscript and transform it into a smooth professional book.
- Care to share a publishing anecdote?
I have one that is a cautionary tale for would be writers. My first attempt at getting published, back when I knew nothing about it, was to scour the Internet for an agent. I found an intriguing ad from an agency, since discredited, that made it sound so easy. I sent my query and waited. In a month came the response that I was so good they wanted me as a client and thought my book would sell. New to writing and gullible I thought them reasonable when they asked for a moderate sum ($65) to send email blasts to publishers. A month later they told me I was “this” close and another $65 would do it. Only then did I search the web for other authors who used that agency. If I had done it sooner I might have saved the $65. Fellow writers, if they ask for money, be skeptical.
- What was the first thing you thought of after typing “THE END”?
That’s an easy question. What did I leave out and how can I fix it. There is always doubt. Even now when I reread portions of Subterfuge I ask myself why I did it that way when I could have improved on it by doing it another way. There is an adage from the Pennsylvanian Dutch, Too soon old…too late smart.
- What’s next?
My third novel, still untitled, has Ted Lansing with a new partner, an African American, Washington DC Metro detective named Arlen Drew. Lansing now lives in Washington and has remarried his ex wife, FBI Assistant Director, Felicia Albreda. In what begins as the murder of a Russian forensic archeologist at the Smithsonian, Lansing is drawn into a case of international intrigue taking him to Israel and the Sinai Peninsula in search of the Ten Commandments. Readers, who have read Subterfuge, will recognize the changes in Lansing, the developing new relationship with his wife and the renewed relationship with his son, now a junior at MIT and there in Israel to receive a prestigious award for a paper he wrote on drone technology.
- Do you ever think outside your genre? Do you have the courage to tackle romance? (This question is very tongue and cheek)
Maybe not so tongue and cheek. My first published novel, Whisper in the Pines-Secrets of the Heart is so different from Subterfuge that a reader may not recognize it as my work until they see my name on the cover. It is an unabashed love story/mystery set in 1938, in Moultrie Georgia, about a once wealthy southern aristocrat, Reggie Laverneaux, who is trying to rebuild his life after losing everything in the Great Depression. His errant wife has returned to town followed by a sociopath she ripped off while on the run from her old life. Whispering Pines, Reggie’s decaying antebellum house in Moultrie is the setting. Long forgotten family secrets are unearthed when a stranger, an elderly Jewish businessman from New York, arrives in Moultrie with answers and a promise, hope for Reggie to rebuild his life
- Your favorite all time spy (again, is there a better descriptor) movie is….?
If I had to name one character (spy) (counterspy) from literature and film it would be Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. Sometimes I write traits I admire in Jack Ryan into Ted Lansing’s character. Ryan is fiercely loyal with a tenacity that will not quit even under extreme duress. Lansing is often down and counted out, only to prevail in the end through sheer guts. Like Ryan, Lansing can go from dealing with violence to tenderness in a heartbeat. Unlike jack Ryan, Lansing does all of this while dealing with the demon that neatly destroyed his life.
Howard Gleichenhaus was born in Philadelphia, PA and grew up in the Bronx, NYC and Spring Valley, New York. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Southern Connecticut State College, and a pair of Master’s degrees from Fairleigh Dickinson University; one in Biology and a second in Psychology.
After a short career in neuro-biochemical research at Rockland
Psychiatric Institute, he taught high school biology for thirty-four years in the Clarkstown Central School District, Rockland County NY. During that time, he also operated his own portrait/wedding photography business. Self-taught in Photoshop, he keeps his hand in the portrait business and still does restoration of heirloom photographs and portrait retouching. Now retired from teaching, he and his wife Fredda now live in Delray Beach, Florida. They have two married sons, and three grandchildren.
He is currently Chairman of the Board of the Institute for Learning in Retirement in Boca Raton and moderator of the Writer’s Studio of the Delray Beach Library.
Writing fiction began after his retirement from teaching in 2001, with a couple of successful short stories published before he turned his full attention to writing novels.
AUTHOR’S PHOTO GALLERY
When he isn’t writing, author Howard Gleichenhaus captures memories…and escapes run-ins with the guarded and famous!
Thank you so much for sharing your means and methods, Howard. There’s a lot of great advice here. Be sure and pay us a visit again when Ted Lansing’s next exploit hits the presses.
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