“Climb Mount Nitaka!”
I spent the fall semester of my senior year at Texas A&M finishing up the first draft of a novel called The Lazarus Heart, working at a pretty furious pace. Somehow, I managed to get in fifty pages a week, all while carrying an eighteen hour course load so I would graduate on time. In spite of that, I don’t recall that period of time as especially busy. I had already finished my core classes, and was pretty much cruising on electives at that point. Hell, I even fixed it so I had Fridays off–which, for a college student, was manic and nirvana all rolled up into one.
It was also the year I convinced my buddies Steve and J.D. to move off campus, and join me in the frivolous binge lifestyle that is apartment living. The place we rented was near the edge of town, part of a fourplex that had two floors, huge rooms and a trio of cowgirl hotties next door. The day we moved in, one of the ladies stopped by to welcome us to the neighborhood, and it was then all of us knew we’d made the right choice.
Our apartment was also just up the road from Double Dave’s Pizza Works, where we spent many a wild and wooly Wednesday night scarfing down pizza rolls and putting away pitchers of Shiner Bock. Since we were nearing the end of our undergraduate careers, we spent a lot of time talking about what was next. For J.D. it was medical school. Steve, meanwhile, was going to do a summer session and then go after a master’s in mechanical engineering. Yours truly wasn’t so sure, and as the year came to a close, I faced some daunting challenges–like finding a job with a liberal arts degree.
Luckily, fate intervened. Over Christmas, my dad and I got to talking about World War II. An avid history buff, he had an encyclopedic knowledge of the subject–especially when it came to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In the days before “intelligence failure” became a familiar phrase, Dad kept wondering how Great Britain–which had a formidable code-breaking apparatus in the Pacific arena–could have possibly missed the Japanese fleet setting sail for Hawaii, particularly when everyone agreed that war was inevitable.
Dad believed that Winston Churchill had to have known about the attack ahead of time–and deliberately misled Franklin Roosevelt because he was desperate to draw the United States into the conflict. A couple of books had explored this theory, but none really tied all of the evidence together in a comprehensive way. I suggested that maybe we could do it as a historical novel. That way, we could explore the subject and infuse it with the drama and punch of a technical thriller.
And so went the next four months of my life. I worked as a freelance video photographer to make some cash, while the rest of my time went toward researching and writing Deliberate Silence. The pace was brutal. At the high point, I was doing about 140 pages a week, and by the time it was over the novel topped 1,200 pages.
I shopped the book around to a couple of different places, but didn’t find much interest. As a long shot, I sent it off to the Naval Institute Press, figuring they might be interested since the U.S. Navy figured prominently in the story. Alas, they informed me that Deliberate Silence was much too long and in need of serious editing–which was a pretty fair criticism, all things considered.
By that time, however, the real world was seriously knocking on my door. A television job awaited me back in Texas, and the lure of other projects beckoned. I’d read somewhere that a certain science-fiction series was open to submissions, which got me thinking about Hollywood–and set me off in a direction that would soon change everything.