Friday, November 1, 2013

Mike Maden

Mike Maden's lifelong fascination with history and politics ultimately led to a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Davis, focusing on the areas of conflict, technology and international relations. After brief stints as a campus lecturer, political consultant and media commentator, Maden turned to studies in theology and a decade of work with a Dallas-based non-profit where he eventually discovered screenwriting.

Drone, the first book in Maden's new thriller series, is the result of a challenge by two published friends to try his hand at novel writing.

Last month I asked Maden about what he was reading. His reply:
I write in the techno-thriller genre and I enjoy it immensely because that is the world we live in but I enjoy reading outside of my genre. I recently finished Alan Furst’s Mission to Paris. Anyone familiar with Mr. Furst’s writing know that he comfortably inhabits the world of espionage immediately proceeding and during the years of World War II. I read Furst because he writes about the occasionally violent “cloak-and-dagger” universe with an effortless, literary grace seldom found in this kind of writing. Of course, I’m swept up in the intrigues and dangers of his plot, but he also transports me to a bygone world I can never visit and yet which now, thanks to him, seems hauntingly familiar. No doubt, that’s partly due to his brilliant choice of subject matter. We all think we know something about World War II and when we hear the word “Nazi” we know immediately who the bad guys are so all of his material is, in fact, vaguely familiar. But Mr. Furst brings an imaginary specificity to that world that is endlessly satisfying.

What I particularly enjoyed about Mission to Paris is that the protagonist is an American actor working on a film in Europe who is asked to take on the role of a casual spy. That alone is intriguing enough. But we soon discover that the American actor was originally born in Europe, emigrated to the United States, then was cast in a film to be shot in Europe which is when he is recruited by the American embassy to spy on the Germans around him in France. That’s really quite a playful but also a thoughtful construction: What does citizenship actually mean? Where do loyalties lay? What are my responsibilities to my government as opposed to my own safety and well-being? Mission to Paris was a great read and dovetailed nicely with the same subjects I wrestle with in my own series but Mr. Furst stands head and shoulders above most of us laboring in this particular vineyard when it comes to sheer literary skill.

I also just picked up a copy of Mark Levin’s The Liberty Amendments and am only half way through it. It’s a non-fiction work that rocketed to bestseller status and has remained there for some time which is rather surprising given its subject matter and dense prose. It’s easy to imagine that his status as a national radio host helps explain his success in getting on the bestseller list but it wouldn’t have remained there if the content didn’t pass muster—but it does. Levin offers a specific agenda: return political power to the people by stripping it away from our ruling oligarchs through a series of constitutional amendments. Strange as it may sound, this is a wonderfully non-partisan appeal. Any Democrat or Republican who argues for the status quo can only be a sitting member of Congress or a K Street lobbyist, and the changes proposed would only threaten those who most benefit from the current system and its gross inequities.

The reason I picked up Levin’s book in the first place is that my novel Drone and the sequel I’m currently working on both touch on the issue of political leadership—and the lack thereof. Thanks to the dismal failure of both parties in power, more and more Americans finds themselves still in love with their country but “mad as hell” at their ineffectual government which is the emotional place where we first meet my series protagonist, Troy Pearce.

I write fiction because fiction is “true” in the best sense—serious fiction always comes out of a true place in the writer and says something true about the world we live in. Levin’s non-fiction book reads like a constitutional law lecture. If you like that sort of thing (as I do), then you’re in tall cotton. It’s definitely worth the read because it’s a serious book that attempts to provide thoughtful solutions to the problems that endanger our republic. If you’re “mad as hell” and can’t take it anymore but don’t live in a bunker (and have no intention of doing so) Levin gives you plenty to think about even if you don’t fully agree with him.
Read more about Drone, and follow Mike Maden on Facebook and Twitter.

My Book, The Movie: Drone by Mike Maden.

The Page 69 Test: Drone.

--Marshal Zeringue