Nobody has ever told me not to quit my day job. In fact, I was expecting some of my friends who didn't run away fast enough, to suggest just that after I pinned them down with politically incorrect questions: "Have you read my thrillers yet?" The odd reality is, that instead of retiring, or slowing down at 66, I now have two jobs. I'm a trial lawyer, mostly for the U.S. government's civil litigation cases in Israel, and a writer of intelligence thrillers. Somehow, the jobs have intertwined, and now I can't let go of either.
For two decades, I conducted a double life. In one, I appeared in Israeli courts on behalf of the U.S. government and other mega clients, and in the other, I was hovering around the world, conducting sensitive undercover investigations and intelligence gathering for several U.S. government agencies, mostly by trailing absconding white-collar criminals. My writing during that period was limited to legal briefs in Hebrew and reports in English to David Epstein, my supervisor.
Then, in the early 2000s, David Epstein, the sharp-minded Director of the Office of Foreign Litigation at the Justice Department at the time, told me something that changed my life forever. He said, "I'm always looking forward to reading your foreign investigation reports." Why? I asked him, and he responded, "Because they read like thrillers."
Shortly thereafter, I went on a U.S. government assignment to a former Soviet Republic to snoop on a particularly vile organized crime group that had started extending its tentacles to the U.S. My local contact, an INTERPOL liaison officer, came to my hotel two days after my arrival with some bad news. "Your cover has been exposed by the bad guys, we must pull you out. Don't leave your room. We'll bring you to the airport tomorrow morning." It was 4:00 p.m. and I was stuck in a small hotel room with a black and white TV that spoke only Russian. But there was also a small desk, and I had my laptop. I started writing, and the words flowed from an untouched and obscure section of my subconscious, through my hand and into the word processor, as if my consciousness had nothing to do with it, and my hand -- typing with two fingers -- was just the medium. At 4:00 a.m., when my INTERPOL contact came to pick me up, I was already on page 100. This is how "Triple Identity," my first thriller, was born.
Like any aspiring writer, I thought that publishers would soon line up to get me to sign up with them. I quickly found out that publishers don't talk to writers, only to God, the Grishams and literary agents. So, I started looking for a literary agent. Dark reality soon dawned on me. Nobody answered my letters, and those few righteous that did, declined representation. One of them even wrote that he "didn't fall in love with the thriller." Another one suggested I buy his book on how to write and sell novels. I soon found out that his book wasn't selling.
In the end, self-help, persistence and a little old-fashioned ingenuity did the trick, and I found not one but three publishers to commercially publish my four intelligence thrillers in hardcover, trade paperback, mass-market pocket book, audio and electronic editions.
Much to the chagrin of my wife, some of my friends said in envy that soon I would start to receive fan mail from young females. They were wrong of course. The reader mail I get is typically from members of the law enforcement and intelligence communities, telling me that reading my thrillers makes them feel like they are participating in the action. I also get mail from very eloquent retired librarians who amaze me with their deep insights and critical reading.
I no longer chase the absconding criminals, but in 20 years, I've had enough adventures to fill 10 thrillers, and those are just the adventures I can write about, albeit with changed names, locations and events. My earlier estimate that I would die by the bullets of some criminal I was chasing in hot pursuit did not materialize. I continue writing, and I continue litigating; therefore, quitting my jobs would also mean quitting on life.