It was a typical afternoon in the CNN makeup room. The room was full of people. Chaos, pandemonium and bedlam were all having a pre-production meeting. Writers were running in and out making changes in the scripts, asking for anchor input. Guests were quaking in the makeup chairs, hyper-anxious about going on live television. Personal entourages stood around offering guests words of encouragement, and useless last-minute tips.
As a CNN anchor, I was seated in my usual spot with my makeup artist Kim Wayman. We always stayed in the corner, in an effort to create a bubble of calm. Sitting next to me, waiting for a dusting of powder, was a serious, handsome man. I watched his expression in the mirror for a moment. He was taking in the media circus with a slightly bemused look and I was struck by his zen-like poise.
"Are you a guest?" I asked. "What is your subject?"
"I write books... thrillers."
Vince Flynn introduced himself modestly, without embellishment.
"Do you write?" he asked me.
"I only write news," I explained.
"You should try fiction. It's fun. I enjoy it a lot."
We talked about writing a bit, and terrorism and world affairs. He immediately turned the subject away from himself to larger, more important world events.
Talking about the big picture in the green room is another rare quality in a television guest -- usually, wracked with nerves, many succumb to pre-interview megalomania and compulsively tell their story over and over to anyone who will listen, including the production assistants. Not Vince Flynn; he wanted to talk about the world.
A few days after my brief conversation with him I realized he was a mega-star in publishing world -- a stratospheric talent who had been on the best-seller charts for years. How could I have not known? I immediately became a Vince Flynn fan.
I read him exclusively in paperback. On my assignments just before boarding a plane, I always sought out his books in the racks. The quiet intelligence he displayed in person came through in the novels. Unlike many thrillers, his plots were grounded in the real world, with just the right amount of fictional dash to get the heart racing. And his heroes were epic.
It wasn't until I tried writing thrillers myself that I gained even more appreciation for the effortless grace of his pen. He is absolutely one of the best.
With the announcement of his death, I am deeply saddened. I only met him for a moment in person, but his writing kept me company though some of the longest, most tedious flights in the world; Vince Flynn and his wonderful books were my travel companions. He may have written fiction, but I know he crafted the quiet, decent strength of his heroes from real life.