Author Gary A. Keel will appear at the Raleigh Court branch of Roanoke Public Libraries on Saturday. We got a couple of questions in as a preview. His book is Executive Order 14900.
In the fictional tale, the careful balance of a democracy is tipped. Are the founding documents enough to defend the nation against an executive power grab? Executive Order 14900 is an action-based tale of a near future – a future so close, in fact, that readers will try to parse out who’s who among figures from the nightly news and election ballots.
BOOK CITY Roanoke: What can attendees expect on Saturday, Feb 1?
Gary A. Keel: The American public is worried and frightened about what is happening in our country. Monumental problems like the opioid epidemic, a potential worldwide pandemic from the coronavirus, hostility and divisiveness in our political discourse, homelessness in our cities, corruption, deteriorating infrastructure, and burgeoning deficits cannot, and are not, being addressed by our increasingly dysfunctional government. Violent confrontations over ideological differences are becoming commonplace as topics like health care, abortion rights, gun control, and immigration are now so volatile they have become political red lines between opposing camps. I hope the discussion on Saturday is a chance to come together to discuss why all of this is happening within the framework of my story and outside the usual talking points and speculation of those with an agenda. I have a lot of faith in the American public. Most people on main street view the world more realistically and more responsibly than those in Washington. There is an old saying that distance creates indifference. Our representatives prove every day that they do not represent the views of common Americans. Our government is broken and, like all governments, is incapable of fixing itself, the sad reality that drove me to write the book. I hope the discussion on Saturday is a lively, open discussion about the reasons we are where we are, so that people can formulate their own ideas about what needs to be done to improve things for our children and our grandchildren.
BCR: Have you done many conversations in this format?
GAK: Yes. During my career, it was my job to sell programs related to economic development and foreign aid. Ask any teacher how difficult it is to sell a concept. A lot of my appearances in the past were on radio and television, but most consisted of open forums with diverse audiences. I enjoy these dialogues because the audience drives the conversation based on topics they want to cover versus talking points. It’s always more exciting because you never know what someone is going to ask.
BCR: How many communities have you visited on your book touring so far?
GAK: Executive Order 14900 has only been out a little over a year, but we have done nearly a dozen events, with most being in my home state of North Carolina, and a couple as far away as Montana. The majority have been book signings at Barnes & Noble, but we have met with book clubs at libraries in a home or an art gallery, and most recently met with one hundred members of the American Association of University Women to support scholarships for women studying under the STEM program. It’s been a delicate balancing act to promote this book while editing and rewriting the other three. I just sent the manuscript for number two, called Mystery at Star Mountain, to my agent who is working to place it with a publisher.
BCR: I bet there have been some memorable interactions, can you tell us about one or two?
GAK: I met two very interesting people during a book signing at the base exchange on Fort Bragg, the home of the 82nd Airborne Division. One person was a physicist whose job was to collect nuclear weapons from former member countries of the Soviet Union after its fall. Those countries voluntarily surrendered their nukes under a United Nations sponsored recovery program. He would travel to each country to verify that it was safe to transport each weapon to a disarmament and disassembly center in the U.S. He expressed concern that so many suitcase weapons existed without anyone’s knowledge, and they were loosely controlled after the Soviet authorities pulled out of the countries. Another person who bought the book and read it in the two days we were there, explained that his job was to train special units of the military to deal with civilian insurrections, scenarios like the Convention of States in my story. The fact that my story was so realistic frightened him, and the fact that he existed frightened me. Fortunately, he gave me a great review on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
BCR: Local students are getting involved with your book. How’s that work?
GAK: The interest of the Roanoke Public Schools in the book is flattering. I received strong grounding in government and civic responsibility during my public education and it has served me well my entire life. The concentration in my undergraduate degree is comparative political systems, and I believe at a time when the acceptance of socialism is on the rise, it is critically important for young people to understand that socialism has never worked in history anywhere in the world. People with a favorable view of socialism also need to understand that tens of millions of people were murdered under totalitarian socialist regimes, forty million under Stalin and fifty million under Mao. The appeal of “free stuff” is a slippery slope that leads to unacceptable tradeoffs over time.
BCR: What has your response been from younger readers?
GAK: Admittedly, the book is a hard read in terms of the complexity of the plot and the issues related to the constitution. For that reason, I am delighted that civics, government, and advanced placement students in the Roanoke School System are reading it. As a young reader several millenia ago, I sought escapism through Marvel comic books and science fiction, so I understand that motivation and accept the fact that young people who are interested in politics and social activism tend to be less inclined to read a book like mine until they experience more life lessons. For that reason, I have a lot to learn myself through this encounter. I couldn’t be more excited about meeting these students on the 31st and can’t wait to get their take on the issues pointed out in the book.
BCR: What do you hope readers are taking from the book?
GAK: First and foremost, I am a story teller. I’m not a political or constitutional expert, and I’m not trying to advocate a partisan political viewpoint. My objective is to entertain readers with a compelling story, and if it triggers provocative thought, that’s a bonus. I hope people embrace the populist view that the strength of this country lies in ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary things. Our neighbors, our relatives, our policemen, our firemen, are the true heroes in America, not celebrities, sports stars, or politicians. Our problems are not between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, men and women, blacks and whites, it’s between those of us who have inalienable rights under the Constitution and those who would shamelessly violate those rights to increase their own power. There is a power struggle playing out in America that has been roiling since before the Romans conquered the known world. As long as we are devoting all of our energies to fighting amongst ourselves, those in power can easily control us. Identity politics is destroying our ability to work together and the sooner we learn that, the sooner we can begin working for the common good.
Gary A. Keel will appear at the Raleigh Court Branch of Roanoke Public Libraries on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020 at 2 PM. Light refreshments will be served.