'Bookwatch': Britton Is This Week's Guest
With a mix of his own military knowledge and vivid creativity, Andrew Britton sets his new novel, "The American," in contemporary times -- introducing readers to 33-year-old Ryan Kealy, a man who has achieved more in his military and CIA career than most men can dream of in a lifetime.
He has also seen the worst life has to offer and is lucky to have survived it. Now, living on the coast of Maine, Ryan wants nothing more than to be left to his sporadic teaching and his demons.
However, he is soon brought out of retirement when a complicated terrorist plot to assassinate the U.S., French, and Italian presidents by al-Qaida, Iranian terrorists, and even Americans out to destroy their own country, is uncovered.
In this episode of UNC-TV's local literary series, "North Carolina Bookwatch," premiering Friday, Aug. 25, at 9:30 p.m., Britton discusses his exciting debut, written at age 21 and crafted in the tradition of the masters -- Ludlum, Forsyth, Clancy, Higgins, le Carre -- but with a completely contemporary, post-9/11 sensibility.
In fact, Britton's fiction, written years ago, opens on the backdrop of conflicts between American and Iranian alliances that today exist in everyday headlines -- giving the novel a largely prophetic feel. "I'm no prophet -- it was more educated guesswork combined with dumb luck," says Britton. "[The Middle East] is such a volatile region that it's hard to write about in a way -- in the year it takes to publish a manuscript, so much can change. This happens a lot to writers that fall into that trap of trying to write about a present-day situation."
With his first novel published at age 24, this University of North Carolina graduate shares how he hopes to make his mark over the coming decades -- shaping the future of contemporary thrillers. One way is Britton's construction of deceptively complex characters within what he calls his "terrorist thriller" -- including "The American" principal villain Jason March, a former U.S. soldier, and now, al-Qaida operative, with a ferocious grudge against America.
"Like anyone in this country, I am against terrorist regimes and want them to be defeated soundly. On the other hand, I wanted to create a character that is evil -- with nothing but the worst intentions -- but still a character that the reader can identify with on certain points," admits Britton. "I want the reader to say, 'I don't agree with you, but I see what led to this behavior.' I wanted [Jason March] to be a real character and not just a cardboard cut-out, stamped in a similar vein we've come to expect from fictional terrorists."
Born in England, Andrew Britton moved to the United States when he was seven. Britton joined the Army at age 18, spent two years as a combat engineer, and then enrolled at the University of North Carolina, pursuing a double major in economics and psychology. It was at UNC that Britton began writing "The American," while taking a full load of courses and holding down a job. It wasn't until he sold it that he told family and friends that he had written a book.
An encore episode will air Sunday, Aug. 27, at 5 p.m.
During this season of North Carolina Bookwatch, upcoming guests also include: Will Blythe Allan Gurganus ("New Stories from the South"), Tom Carlson ("Hatteras Blues"), Bill Smith ("Seasoned in the South"), William Leuchtenburg ("The White House Looks South"), Dot Jackson ("Refuge"), Art Chansky ("Blue Blood"), Mark Ethridge ("Grievances"), Paul Leonard ("Music of a Thousand Hammers"), and Angela Davis-Gardner ("Plum Wine").
For more information about additional series guests and airdates, plus the all-new Bookwatch blog and online book club, visit www.unctv.org/ncbookwatch.
Funding for North Carolina Bookwatch is provided by UNC-TV members and by Quail Ridge Books and Music, Raleigh's independent, full service bookstore, bringing readers and writers together since 1984.
North Carolina Bookwatch is part of UNC-TV's ongoing commitment to producing programs for and about North Carolina. UNC-TV is the statewide 11-station broadcast network of the University of North Carolina.
For more information, visit www.unctv.org/ncbookwatch.
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