After his graduation from Harvard Law School, Michael Bowen worked as a trial lawyer for thirty-nine years before retiring in 2015.  He focused on franchise and distribution disputes, but found time to assist in representing the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team in complex litigation over a proposal to put a maximum security prison across the street from County Stadium, and to represent numerous pro bono clients, including one who had been sentenced to death.  His career in fiction began with the publication in 1987 of Can’t Miss, a “gently feminist” (St. Louis Post Dispatch) novel about the first woman to play major league baseball.  It continued through publication of one political satire and nineteen mysteries, culminating in 2019 with False Flag in Autumn, a follow-up to 2016’s Damage Control ( “ . . . consistently delightful . . . . Bowen’s ebullient antidote to election season blues . . . . ” Kirkus Reviews).  He has also written numerous published articles on legal and political matters, and co-authored the Wisconsin State Bar’s treatise on the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law (paperback and movie rights still available).  He lives in Fox Point, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, with his wife, Sara, who is also a Harvard Law School graduate and a published lecturer on Jane Austen and Angela Thirkel. Visit his website at www.michaelbownmysteries.com

INTERVIEW:

Tell us a bit about your latest book and what inspired you to write it:

A:      False Flag in Autumn asks why there wasn’t an “October surprise” before the 2018 mid-term elections, and whether there will be one before the presidential election in 2020.  Josie Kendall, a charming, free-spirited, ambitious and manipulative Washington apparatchik, was unwisely tabbed by a rogue White House aide for the role of unwitting pawn in the 2018 scheme.  After outhustling the hustlers in 2018, however, she finds herself enmeshed in a much more nefarious plot for 2020 – one that could produce a high body count and leave flags at half-staff at the end.  She will have to decide whether to keep her head down and pray that the victims die quickly and without too much pain, or to venture outside the Beltway cocoon, where the weapons are spin, winks, and leaks, into a darker world where the weapons are actual weapons.  As she herself puts it, she is not possessed of “an overly delicate conscience”, but Josie ends up on the side of the angels – although, Josie being Josie, these angels play a little dirty.  I got the idea for this book because, as a political junkie, I remember October surprises from elections past, and in early 2017, when I began reading about a slow-motion crisis at our southern border, I thought, “You know what?  I’ve seen this movie before.

Who is the target audience?

A:      Fans of thrillers; fans of plucky couple puzzle mysteries (I put them both in the same story – neat trick, right?); people who think reading fiction should be fun rather than a painful duty; and last, but not least, political junkies (like me).

What will the reader learn after reading your book?

A:      How the media and politicians interact for their mutual benefit while pretending to treat each other as mortal enemies; how to use an “issue ad” (i.e., a smear) effectively without ever airing it; how to ace an interview for a position on the White House staff and still not get the job; how to “paper a file”; the date of the Feast of the Assumption; what “VIMNAPA” means; what “DINAR” means; how to bring off a double-cut-out leak of a highly classified document; the origin of the axiom “there’s no harm in asking”; and how to make a deal on a country road in the middle of the night when the guy you’re negotiating with has a gun and you don’t.

Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?

A:      I edit as I progress on each chapter until the chapter is finished.  Then I go on to the next chapter and repeat the process.  I don’t go back and edit chapters that I’ve finished until I’ve completed the first draft, or unless I’ve had to stay away from the story for so long that I need to review prior chapters to get back into the flow.  (Hey, it happens.)

They say authors have immensely fragile egos . .  . How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?

A:      Egotistically.  Where the criticism is pure snark, I shrug it off with the reflection that the critic couldn’t write his way out of jury duty, that he resents published authors because he can’t get his own book-length stuff published and envies those who can, and that such sneers are inevitable because envy is the defining sin of the mediocre, and the two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and mediocrity.  Sometimes, of course, a criticism is well taken and then I make a determined effort to learn something useful from it.  Finally, I have to say that my ego has never gotten in the way of working constructively with talented and highly critical editors.  All of the editors I’ve worked with have been highly critical, and rightly so, and they’ve made me a better writer.

What is your favorite book?  Why?

A:      My single favorite novel is Unconditional Surrender by Evelyn Waugh (published in the United States as Sword of Honor).  It presents a moving and compelling portrait of a man striving to find a moral way to confront a radically immoral world, and ultimately succeeding in doing so.

As an author, what is your greatest reward?

A:      Printing out a hard copy of a story after I’ve finished it, and reading it purely for my own enjoyment rather than with any editorial purpose.  If I ever got to the point where I didn’t get deep pleasure from that, I’d stop writing.

 

 

 

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