You may not recognize immediately the name Howard Gordon — I know I did not — but you will probably recognize some of his work on television.
This work ranges from working for Joss Wheedon on the Buffy The Vampire Slayer series to the Beauty and the Beast series and the X-Files, writing scripts for each, as well as working as a producer on the latter series. After working on Buffy spin-off Angel for two years, he left to work on 24.
He wrote many scripts and story arcs for the 24, and for its final few seasons he was the show’s executive producer and show runner.
With Gideon’s War, Gordon is trying something new. The novel is the start of a series about a protagonist named Gideon, who is sort of the anti-Jack Bauer (the protagonist of 24). Incidentally, the book’s blurbs include Keifer Sutherland, who played Jack Bauer.
We conducted this interview via email.
How did this book come about? You started it during the TV writer’s strike? And there’s sequel in the works or already written?
I’d held onto the dream of writing a novel, but because of my work in television, I really didn’t have the chance to pursue it until we went on strike in 2007. Yes, there’s a sequel in the works — though not as far I’d like it to be.
Why did you decide to write a book with two very different brothers, one violent, one a pacifist? Do you consider Gideon, the pacifist, to be as one article has suggested, the anti-Jack Bauer?
The idea of telling a story about two brothers has been with me for a long time; it was the subject of a short novel I wrote as my college thesis (Joyce Carol Oates graded it, in fact). The brother relationship is an emotionally charged one and I thought it might be a way to dramatize opposing points of view on how we conduct our foreign policy.
Who are you most like, Jack, Gideon, or Gideon’s brother, Tillman? Also, maybe it was just me but when I first came across the name Tillman I thought of Pat Tillman, the football start killed by friendly fire in the war. Was that a conscious connection or just a coincidence?
Tillman was not intentionally named for Pat Tillman — so it was really a coincidence. But I suspect there was something unconscious at work. Once it was pointed out to me by someone, I chose to keep the name. As for who I’m most like — I guess I aspire to be like both of them.
With the success of the fast-paced thriller 24, were you under pressure to have your novel top the action in the show?
I definitely think there was an expectation in terms of what I would deliver, but that part of it didn’t fill me with pressure. Simply finishing the book, and then doing it well, created the most pressure.
What is the status of the movie version of 24 and what will your role with it be?
The movie is currently on hold — although I remain hopeful that Fox will eventually make a 24 movie.
Do you think a show like 24 could translate to a book?
I fear that between the covers of a single book, some of the more tortured twists of the story might become more transparently absurd than they did over the course of 20-plus weeks. But trimming the more absurd ones might help — so I think it would ultimately be a format that would work as a book.
How did writing this thriller compare to writing television shows? In what ways was writing a novel harder than writing television script and what ways was it harder?
Although both are equally challenging, this was certainly a new experience — and as such, it was harder to get right.
Who do you yourself like to read for thrillers?
I like to read Vince Flynn, Brad Thor, Alex Berenson, and John Le Carre.
I have heard — well, read on Wikipedia — that you are working on a television show about the Mossad, the Israeli Secret Service. Is that true and what’s the status of that?
It’s not about the Mossad, it is adapted from an Israeli television series. Our show is about a CIA agent played by Claire Danes. We’re currently shooting it in Charlotte, NC.
I’m a big Joss Wheedon fan and noted that you wrote, temporarily, for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Do you have any interest in working with him again?
Joss is brilliant and I’m a fan. I would do anything with him any time.
What question do you wish interviewers would ask you that they don’t ask? This is your chance to ask yourself that question
The question I would ask me (and that I am seldom asked) is: what’s the most important characteristic for becoming a writer? I would answer that being a rigorous critic of one’s own writing is the most important thing; being open enough to listen to people’s notes when they are good and discarding them when they aren’t.