If you go
What: Friends of South County Regional Library author luncheon featuring author James Grippando
When: 11:30 a.m. Thursday, March 29
Where: Pelican Sound Golf and River Club, 61 Pelican South Blvd., Estero
Cost: $29 nonmembers, $26 members
Tickets, information: 239-948-8880 or www.friendsofscrl.org.
When New York Times bestselling novelist James Grippando wrote his latest novel, "Need You Now," he asked readers to consider a frightening possibility. What if the U.S. government knew about the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, but had a secret agenda?
That question is on everyone's mind throughout the book as readers follow a search for the billions of dollars lost in the aftermath of a gargantuan Ponzi scheme. The story pulls back the veil to expose volatile information — including that the government may have had advance knowledge of the crimes.
On Thursday Grippando will be in Estero for a luncheon presented by Friends of the South County Regional Library. Grippando will speak about his new book and sign copies after the event. The Friends of the South County Regional Library organization hosts author luncheons two or three times a year.
Grippando was a trial lawyer for twelve years in Miami before becoming a novelist, and for the past nine years, Grippando has served as counsel for Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP. Three years ago it filed one of the first-class action suits on behalf of Bernie Madoff's victims and Grippando was able to observe the efforts of Boies' firm and others who endeavored to recover billions in losses for Madoff's victims. His perspective on where the money went was the inspiration for "Need You Now." In a phone interview on Monday, Grippando shared his thoughts on the book's premise, and why it's striking a chord with new readers, as well as his Jack Swyteck series fans.
Naples Daily News: How did you build the background for "Need You Now" and birth the complex character profiles of evil genius Abe Cushman, the young Patrick Lloyd and Lilly?
James Grippando: I love research basically and that is one thing that young readers don't understand — to create a character, you have to be the fly on the wall at meetings. For "Need You Now" I lived in the Wall Street area for six weeks and a lot of it wasn't just interviewing people — a lot of it was just being an observer.
That is the key to creating great characters without the sense that they are being observed when they are just themselves. Sometimes that pointed interview such as how you would Medivac a heart attack victim is necessary, but to find out how to create this character, how they think and act means you just have to be a great observer. You can't do that with a list of 15 questions.
NDN: What is special to you about "Need You Now" and do you find you miss Jack Swyteck when writing outside of that series?
Grippando: I like to stretch myself anytime I write a novel and this book is all set in New York and Wall Street. This is new territory and a new setting, and for me it is very gratifying for financial people and New Yorkers to say I nailed it and captured the setting. I really tried to dig in and have my character go places and have that real-life connection to what happened with Madoff and address where the victims' money went in a fictional context.
There were times when I was thinking up ideas for Jack, but it keeps the series fresh for me to step out of the series, one year on and one year off. That keeps it fresh rather than rushing into the next episode. But I do miss Jack when I am writing outside the series.
NDN: A stowaway from your Jack Swyteck series makes her own way in "Need You Now" in undercover FBI agent Andie Henning. Is this something Jack Swyteck fans have embraced?
Grippando: Anyone who has read any of my stuff in the past will recognize the recurring character of Andie Henning in the story. While I didn't see a role in "Need You Now" for Miami criminal defense attorney Jack Swyteck, there was a perfect role for her as an FBI agent, giving her a bit of a life on her own, and people like to see the connection, between the stand-alones and the series.
NDN: You have written a number of New York Times-list bestsellers. How does it feel to see your name in that list so many times?
Grippando: It's incredibly exciting — you never get tired of seeing your new book in a book store, and that thrill alone never goes away. To know that people around the country are reading it makes it all the more gratifying.
NDN: How has electronic publishing affected you and in your opinion, affected the industry?
Grippando: When "Need you Now" came out in January, it made its biggest impact, but the biggest thing to me is while there is this big burst in hardcover sales which puts you on the list, then the electronic sales keep going while the book may not be on the shelves.
I have mixed feelings because electronic publishing has had a negative on bookstores as a place to gather, browse and hold reading discussions, but the positive is that people don't have to rely on that chain of distribution and can discover books that might otherwise drift out of print. I am sorry to see a lot of bookstores go and every time I go on tour, yet another great bookstore in a town somewhere has closed and that's a sad thing. Bookstores have always been the best source of word-of-mouth and that's what we're losing.
NDN: What are some of your most important relationships that fueled your rise to writing?
Grippando: First and foremost is my wife, as she was my first editor, and when it came time to make a decision in 1996 when I quit my law firm she told me, "Follow your dream." It's just taken off from there.
The other is my mother, a nurse who worked nights at the hospital and spent her days getting her doctoral degree. She wrote a nursing textbook which was an inspiration to me because I saw that people can write something and it could be published.
Also, in 19 novels I've had one publisher, HarperCollins, the same editor for the last 16 novels and I have the same agent who I've had since 1992. In the field of entertainment where people jump around from publishing house to agent to agent, I am pretty monogamous. They are friends of mine as much as they are business associates.
NDN: You are working on your next Jack Swyteck book, your 20th novel and the 10th in that series. What could you say to college students about persevering when it comes to writing?
Grippando: People may think this comes easy but it doesn't. After completing my first novel, when no one bought it my agent had to pick me up off the floor and say no one wants it — but he also said, "Try again," which I took to heart. I wrote the next one in seven months, called "The Pardon" — the first Jack Swyteck novel.