The contract that Mr. Lira makes with the reader at the start of this novel is this: fasten your seatbelt. He then proceeds to deliver on this contract throughout the narrative. The early relentless action, however, is connected by a plot that is believable, intimate, and yet somehow fantastical. To my mind, this is one of the greatest achievements of the novel.
One of the more interesting aspects of the novel is just how real all of the details feel. Phrases like “zipping mushrooms,” “Skunkworks,” and “poop” significantly enhance the narrative. The plot revolves around a covert operations work-group called “Acrobat,” which takes the reader inside the walls of the CIA as this workgroup prepares for and executes covert ops. I don’t know if the details are actually realistic or not, but they certainly feel that way.
A very fun novel. Highly recommended.
Gonzalo Lira has a new novel coming out in February about a band of underground historians who are persecuted as “Information Terrorists” by the DHS and the Clinton Administration. Click here to find out more about it.
Gonzalo was nice enough to take time from his busy schedule to answer some of my questions. Here’s the result:
1) Gonzalo, You’re widely known as a financial expert. So, how is it that you were able to also develop into an excellent fiction writer? Are you some kind of Renaissance Man Super-Genius?
“Super-genius”? Hardly. I just like exploring new horizons. I got into writing novels after college because it was fun. Then I went into writing, producing and directing movies because that was fun too. Looking for money to make movies led me into the world of private equity and venture capital; it helped that I had a family background in finance and economics. Then when the 2008 Global Financial Crisis hit, I started researching things in order to understand them better, then writing about it—and suddenly, I found an audience who was interested in what I had to say. So from the outside, my different stages might seem random, but from where I’m sitting, they were each a natural evolution from previous stages. Now, with my new novel, A Secret History of The American Crash, I’m combining two things I love: Action writing, and macro-economics.
2) “Acrobat” is a high-speed thriller about a covert CIA workgroup. How much research did you do in order to get the details right in this novel?
Research helps, but imagination is the key—and writing believable characters.
3) Do you have personal experiences with the CIA that helped inform that narrative?
Personal CIA experience? If I say yes, I sound like a jerk, if I say no, I sound like I’m lying. So …
4) The book reads like a fast-paced, big budget action movie. Have you gotten any interest from Hollywood?
Yes, Acrobat sold to Miramax, bought for Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack’s propduction company. But as those two gentlemen have died, I think the project is in infamous “turnaround”. Meaning Disney (which currently owns the movie rights) wants someone to take it off their hands. I actually wrote a script for the book. It would be fun to make that project happen. We’ll see.
5) One of the things I enjoyed most about the book was the amazing specificity of the details you used. How much emphasis did you put on getting all those details right, and how important do you think they are in how the book “feels” as the reader takes in the narrative?
Interestingly, details in a book are like spices in a meal: Too much is overwhelming, you have to put in just enough to tantalize and spark the imagination, but not so much that it smothers everything.
6) What were you trying to accomplish with the novel, and do you feel it was successful?
In the novel, I wanted to write something fast, fun and surprising—which I think the book does quite well. But in a movie, I’d like to explore the theme of betrayal more. It was only after finishing the novel that I realized that the Acrobat work-group feel that their principles were betrayed by the CIA. That’s something I think i didn’t emphasize enough, didn’t realize that clearly when I wrote the book. Now, with some maturity and distance, I realize what the book is about: Betrayal. Betrayal of principles, betrayal by the organization towards its members.
If a movie ever gets made of the book, and I write and direct it, I’d emphasize the aspect of betrayal. And of course, cool action sequences. (Of course!)
7) What’s next for you? Any plans for new novels?
Like I said, my next project is A Secret History of The American Crash. I’m very excited about it, I think it’s something people will enjoy, and which will make them think. I expect to have that done in a couple of months, and then release it as an ebook before looking for a print publisher. If people want to check out excerpts from it, they should go to my blog.