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Book Review - Exclusive Interview with W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV

First, I had the honor of receiving an advance copy of Hazardous Duty and thought it was the most different but interesting W.E.B. Griffin book that I've read...and I have read them all...yes, all of them (the first one, The LTs, I bought at the Airborne School shopette at Benning in the mid 80s).  I think two whole shelves of my small library 

While reading Hazardous Duty, I kept thinking this book was written like an Elmore Leonard or Joseph Heller. Turns out, Griffin wrote the M*A*S*H books in the 70s, and knowing this will help you enjoy his work even more. Fan of Griffin books or not, I believe that you will find the latest note from Elise Cooper very interesting.

9780399160677_p0_v1_s260x420Hazardous Duty by W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV is the latest book in the Presidential Agent Series.  Unfortunately for those who enjoyed these adventures this will be the last installment.  The plot is a satirical look on how the US President handles national security from the Mexican Drug Cartels to Somali pirates holding three tankers for ransom.  The President calls upon members of his cabinet, and Lieutenant Colonel Carlos “Charley” G. Castillo to resolve these problems.  The rest of the story is how Castillo and the Secretary of State, Natalie Cohen, deals with a President gone crazy that leaves readers with an amusing storyline. 

Elise Cooper had the privilege of interviewing Griffin and his son Butterworth IV for Blackfive.net. You can read all of our book reviews by clicking on the Books category on the far right sidebar.

EC:  Why did you write a satire about US politicians?

Griffin:  I felt I had to write it as a satire.  I am really outraged how people have changed.  What ever happened to duty and country?  I turned this book into a sort of M*A*S*H type story involving the White House and Langley so readers could possibly forget for a minute or so the mess we have in Washington D.C. I had a lot of fun in writing it and hope that people will see some parts are very funny, especially the parts with the porn queen.  I wrote it because I was at a low point and was disgusted at what was happening here in the US. 

Butterworth IV:  The reason dad could not write this as a serious book is because of the moral indignation coming out of Washington D.C.  Just look at the outrageous decision to reduce the military retirement as part of the budget.  It is one more thing being jammed down our throat.  Many of the politicians today have never served so they don’t understand what someone in the military has to go through. 

EC:  So what will you replace this series with?

Griffin:  A new series about the Cold War and the formation of the OSS, the prelude to the CIA. The first book in the Clandestine Operations series, published next year, will be called Top Secret and the main character will be Second Lieutenant James D. Cronley JR. It is already written and I am currently writing the second novel.  The initial book is about how those in the clandestine service had to fight the FBI, the Russians, and a lot of others.  I think it is interesting because of the details of the people involved like Reinhard Gehlen, who wound up as chief of the West German intelligence in the 1950s. Of course I had to change the names but kept some similarities so people will know what I am talking about. I made sure to put all those “nice charming Russians” in it like Stalin.

EC:  In Hazardous Duty and in the new book Top Secret you do not hide your feelings about the Russians.  For example in this latest book a character throws darts at Putin’s face.  Please comment.

Griffin:  I wanted to show how Putin is a very dangerous man.  He is a merciless, tough guy who, in my opinion, is smarter than our President.  He will do whatever is necessary for Russia, which is not in our interests.  In the new book I hope to show how Russia has always been an imperialistic power that wanted to control the world. 

EC:  You also continue to write about the drug cartels.  What do you want the readers to get out of this type of subject?

Butterworth IV:  This money is driving corruption to all levels of politicians.  It’s an ongoing job to fight the Cartels.  As in Laredo and El Paso, which we describe in this book, there is a spill over of drug violence from Mexico.  All the major crossroads have it.  For example, I-35 in Dallas is a major stepping off point for the drugs to travel across the country from Miami to Houston.  It’s being distributed like regular commerce and is not a pleasant picture. 

EC:  At the beginning of the book there was a very nice dedication, “Our nation owes these Patriots a debt beyond payment.”  Please comment

Griffin:  I did it because I admire these guys and gals.  They are the heavy hitters who have done a lot for our country.  Today I am afraid that those serving in the military and CIA are being taken for granted.  They are not in it for the glory, but for G-d, country, and family.

EC:  Did you base the characters on anyone in particular?

Griffin: Not the President whose character was designed to entertain.  Regarding the Secretary of State Natalie Cohen I liked her and made sure she is a good person and an interesting character.  She is very honorable, soft spoken, the voice of reason, and could see into a problem.  I am a great admirer of Condoleezza Rice who I possibly based Natalie on.  Rice is bright as a button and a very delicate lady.

EC:  What is it like working together?

Griffin:  We are two strong willed people.  (Jokingly) William never pays the proper respect to me as his father and an old man.  Seriously, Billie is a great editor and a writer. 

Butterworth IV: Since dad is the master if he says this is a good way to do it I do it.  We know how the other thinks and we attempt to write stuff knowing that the other will not object to it.  There is always a positive to our questioning each other.  We write by Skyping, emailing, and talking to each other. We are able to do it because we can easily go back and forth with emails. 

EC:  Can you give a heads up about your next book?

Butterworth IV:  It will be a Matt Payne novel. The plot has Matt being haunted by some of what he did in the past.  He has the bad guys after him and some unfounded accusations from the good guys.  He has to survive both.  It was grounded in that all the various good guys, whether spooks, the military, or cops have to deal with the revenge factor.  Some of the guys who do their job very quietly get thrown under the bus and get burned with no one ever hearing about it.  They are all from the same breed and are the same kind of guy who protects all of us. There is a great cross over between all these groups.