Michael Walsh, who for years was the classical-music critic at Time magazine, began writing fiction in the waning days of the Cold War. His new novel, Hostile Intent, deals with issues that will be familiar to viewers of 24 — and to all those who realize we’re at war. He is the author of seven other books, including As Time Goes By (the authorized sequel to the movie Casablanca), and And All the Saints, winner of a 2004 American Book Award for fiction. Earlier this week, Walsh took questions from National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: How does it feel to be a Kindle bestseller?
MICHAEL WALSH: It’s very gratifying that a book about cutting-edge technology should wind up on the Kindle charts in its first week. It also means I’d better get a Kindle.
LOPEZ: Does it matter to you at all that some of your readers won’t have the cover-to-cover experience of a physical book?
WALSH: Not really. Books like Hostile Intent are meant to be read, not admired on the shelf. If you can read it easily and smoothly on a Kindle, it means I’ve done my job.
LOPEZ: Do you envision a day when we won’t be reading on paper and it’s all in our computer eyeglasses or whatever small device we wind up comfortable with?
WALSH: Yes. In fact, I’m working on a script about it right now: implants inside your head.
LOPEZ: That’s giving me a headache.
You’ve got some pretty intense terrorist-attack scenes. Graphic, too. Where does this all come from?
WALSH: A knowledge of history and a vivid imagination born of an Irish-Catholic, Marine Corps childhood.
LOPEZ: You have some incredibly un-P.C. dialogue. How do you get away with it? No editor said along the way, “Walsh, you cannot”?
WALSH: No. Gary Goldstein, my terrific editor at Pinnacle, let me run with the ball. Anyway, if you think Hostile Intent is un-P.C., you should go back and read Exchange Alley, written and published in the days before the P.C. plague was fully upon us. I gave a lecture about the role of the arts in American life and the evils of political correctness at the Chautauqua Institution in 2005. (You can listen to it here.)
LOPEZ: You manage to get in honor killings. Do you feel like it’s your duty to do a little educating in your novels?
WALSH: Absolutely. No matter how imaginative, the best popular fiction has to be grounded in reality. You want the reader to say, “Yes, this really could be happening” — and then look over his shoulder.
LOPEZ: Is this a wartime novel? Or would you be writing similar things at any time?
WALSH: It’s definitely inspired by current events. But I’ve always been interested in this stuff. I spent many years as a journalist working behind the Iron Curtain. I was in Berlin when the Wall came down, and I left the Soviet Union two weeks before the coup against Gorbachev in 1991.