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Interview: Gary Grossman, Author of Executive Command

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Gary Grossman earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications from Emerson College in Boston and a Master’s Degree in Urban Affairs from Boston University.

Mr. Grossman was a teacher of journalism and media at Emerson College, Boston University, and USC and guest lectured at colleges and universities across the country.  He serves on the Emerson College Board of Trustees and chairs the Academic Affairs Committee.  He is also a member of the Boston University Metropolitan College Advisory Board and part of the Government Affairs Committee for the Caucus for Television Producers, Directors & Writers, a Hollywood-based media activist group and a member of The International Thriller Writers Association.

Gary Grossman began his broadcasting career as a rock disc jockey at WHUC, in Hudson, New York.  Mr. Grossman also worked at the Boston television station, WBZ; joined The Boston Globe as a special contributor, and then became the television critic and media columnist at The Boston Herald American.  His freelance articles have appeared in The New York Times as well as numerous magazines. 

Mr. Grossman helped formulate, program and launch several television cable networks including HGTV, Fit TV, National Geographic Channel, and The Africa Channel.

Partnered with Robb Weller in the Los Angeles-based Weller/Grossman Productions, which is a prolific television production company, Gary Grossman has produced more than 9,000 programs and earned numerous awards including the prestigious Governor’s Emmy Award for their USA Network special, “Healing the Hate,” as well as an Emmy for Best Informational series with the production of “Wolfgang Puck” for the Food Network.  Their documentary “Beyond the Da Vinci Code” (History Channel) earned two national Emmy nominations.  In all, Gary Grossman has received a total of 14 Emmy nominations.

He is now a principal in World Media Strategies, a new International branded entertainment marketing content company with offices in Los Angeles and Miami.  WMS produces television specials and series for a variety of travel destinations, corporate clients and government entities.

Gary Grossman is an Emmy Award-winning network television producer, a print and television journalist, a novelist and a film and TV historian.  His career has included stints producing for the big networks:  NBC News, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS in addition to 36 cable networks. Mr. Grossman is also the  author of three celebrated International “political reality thrillers,” Executive CommandExecutive Actions and Executive Treason as well as two acclaimed non-fiction books covering pop culture and television history titled:  Superman: Serial to Cereal and Saturday Morning TV.

Readers can learn more about Gary Grossman and his work by visiting the following links:

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Amazon ~ Goodreads

If you had to describe your book in two sentences, what would they be?

Executive Command is a political thriller that deals with a terrorist plot aimed at destroying our nation’s infrastructure by targeting our most valuable natural resource: WATER. As a “political reality thriller” author Gary Grossman dares to think the unthinkable, with a plot that we better hope doesn’t come true.

Do you have a favorite line or excerpt from your current work?

From the Introduction to Executive Command:

In sixth century B.C., during the siege of Krissa, Solon of Athens contaminated water with herbs. The Romans used arsenic, a popular and readily available poison. Toward the end of the Civil War, Union General William T. Sherman tainted confederate drinking supplies during his march to the ocean. Poisons continued to be dispensed during World War I, and in 1939, the Japanese reportedly poisoned water supplies in Mongolia.

In the 1970s, wells in Bangladesh were contaminated with arsenic.

The FBI derailed a plan in the mid 1980’s to introduce cyanide into the water supplies of major U.S. cities. Four Moroccans were arrested in 2002 just before lacing water in Rome with powdered potassium ferric cyanide.

In 1996, America’s Safe Drinking Water Act identified contaminants and poisons, which, in the hands of terrorists, would pose one of the greatest risks to the infrastructure of American life. Since then, law enforcement has investigated tampering at hundreds of U.S. water sheds, reservoirs and water supply tanks.

But the worst is yet to come.

What are five important things that you take into consideration while writing your story?

Most important to me are research, character development, relating the story to real-world news, creating an exceptional pace and delivering surprises.

Why should readers pick up your book?

I like to write what I describe as “political reality thrillers;” fiction that reads like current events, with plots we never want to come to fruition. Executive Command is the third novel in a trilogy and brings all of the principal characters forward from Executive Actions and Executive Treason. Readers have seen old Cold War sleeper spies awakened, the power of hate radio used in a “Seven Days in May”-type coup. Now it’s all about an attack on our most vulnerable natural resource–water, and what impact such an attack would have on America, its leaders and its ability to function.

What was the turning point when you realized you wanted to write and share your voice with the world?

The day before September 11, 2001, I was in New York for a meeting with the History Channel. Someone in the room wondered aloud, “Do you think we’re running out of History?” This was at a network that was founded on telling historical stories through documentaries. My company, Weller/Grossman Productions, had already produced 50 or more docs and the question brought some light laughter.

“We’re always going to be making history. The question for me,” I asked, “is whether we’re ever going to really learn from it.”

The world changed the next day. Two days later I began to drive back to Los Angeles with Robb Weller, my business partner. Along the way, we convinced the History Channel to let us produce a history on Civil Defense in America. But, I also began thinking about the plot to bring down the World Trade Center, which had been years in the making. I figured, quite rightly, that more sleeper spies were living and working in the United States. My reasoning then went to other plots that were surely in play.

Clearly we are a very impatient citizenry, making and breaking movies or TV shows over a weekend or a few weeks of airing. We turn nobody’s into celebrities, and then dismiss them as easily. And we pay very little attention to the news, preferring to be caught up in the noise. But to the Middle East, patience is another thing–centuries long. To many, the invasion of the Crusaders remains recent history.

With that in mind, I eventually focused creating on a plot that had been incubating for 30 or 40 years, rather than just a few. What would be important enough to wait that long? My answer: The American presidency itself.
Executive Actions was born.

I researched Russian sleeper cell spies operating in the U.S and considered who would run them after the fall of the Soviet Union? I transferred the chain of command to a Middle East terrorist bent on revenge.

For the sequel, Executive Treason, I dug deeper into history, bringing two explosive stories from the 1930s forward to present day. The first was an actual plot to overthrow President Franklin Roosevelt, conspired by Wall Street. The second was the power of hate speech as broadcast by Father Charles Coughlin, the influential radio minister who railed against the president, liberals and others, encouraging rage and distrust.

I’m a big believer that history repeats itself, and because we rarely learn from mistakes, we keep facing avoidable conflicts and their consequences. Here were perfect examples that I could write about that clearly drew from yesterday’s events and today’s headlines and created, for me and for readers, a frightening “political reality” which culminates in Executive Command.

What genres do you prefer to read? Which do you enjoy writing in?

I love reading political thrillers. Two novels that clearly influenced me were the award winning It Can’t Happen Here (1935) by Sinclair Lewis, which suggests what life in America would be like under a Fascist regime and Seven Days in May (1962), by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II, which deals with a military coup in the U.S. Both provide a through line to my own development with warnings worth heeding today. While my day job is writing and producing television documentaries, I love the freedom that fiction writing provides. Here, there is more reality than in reality TV.

What five things would you have with you at all times if you had to be prepared to take a trip at the drop of a hat?

Five essentials I would take with me for an instant trip would always be my cell phone, my laptop and the ability to connect with WiFi, a GPS, my iPad and pencils and paper. Surprisingly, the only old technology on the list–the pencils and paper. That says a great deal about how fast the world is changing.

If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?

Coincidently, the first book I wrote chronicles “The Adventures of Superman,” the 1950s TV series starring George Reeves. As I worked on Superman: Serial to Cereal, I thought a great deal about the question raised here. Given all the powers (possible or impossible)–super strength and hearing, X-ray vision, and flying, I believe that flying is the power we come closest to already and the one that would be thrilling to experience even more. That said, I’m not going to skydive, though my son has. I’m perfectly content to jet across the country at sub-sonic speed.

What footprint do you want to leave behind in this world?

I often talk to students, network executives and readers about the footprints we need to leave behind. However, I’m sad to say that for many of us in the media, we’re not able to make as worthwhile an impression as our creativity businesses allowed years ago. Reality TV has reduced civility to a base level and raised bad behavior to sport status. All the more reason why finding ways to tell stories with meaning, characters who ring true, and situations that can even protect us from ourselves are important to me. That’s why I write; that’s why I care about what I write.

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