When I first got an agent in 1982 I wanted to write a novel, but the agent, London-based June Hall, recommended starting with nonfiction because it was easier to sell. So my first book was Debt Shock: The Full Story of the World Credit Crisis, chronicling the debt crises in Latin American and Eastern Europe in the early 1980s.
Several people said, wow, it reads like a novel -- you should have written a novel. So I wrote a financial thriller, Gold, using a fraud in the gold market as the catalyst for a financial meltdown (a scenario that is remarkably relevant today!). The hero was a financial journalist who tries to save the world. Why not?
I went back to nonfiction for my next book. I was quite taken with Joel Garreau's The Nine Nations of North America, where he describes the U.S., Canada and Mexico not as three countries, or 50 states, but as nine big regions with their own cultural and economic trends. I wanted to apply this to Europe, though obviously it couldn't be called the Nine Nations of Europe, since there are 32 nations in Europe. So this book became The New Superregions of Europe.
It was a labor of love and a lot of fun to research. The thesis was that the fall of the Iron Curtain, removing an artificial ideological divide of Europe, and economic integration through the European Union together were allowing large historic regions, often determined by geography, to reemerge across national borders. There was a Baltic region, a Western Mediterranean region, an Alpine region, and so on.
The same questions of territory, nationhood and culture were behind a new political thriller I started. It was a novel that would include German ambitions to reclaim East Prussia and other areas that became part of Poland after World War II. The hero once again was a journalist who figures out what's afoot and tries to stop it.
The working title was Reich and I got a good third of the way through it. But then came 9/11 and because the plot entailed a terrorist threat against Washington, I decided to put it aside. That's when I embarked on the historical thriller that became The Grand Mirage, which has just been published.
It was frustrating not to find a publisher for Mirage in such a difficult market for fiction. Several friends were having success with their nonfiction book projects, but this time I was determined to stick with fiction. Then came the miracle of digital publishing and The Grand Mirage has seen the light of day. Now I can go back to Reich and finish it, and return to a number of other false starts from my lost decade.