"The Candidate," by Author Lis Wiehl -- her 16th book -- is fiction, though you'd never know it from the parallels to the 2016 election.
The novel, out earlier this month, centers on Mike Ortiz, a dynamic war hero favored to win the White House. Standing by his side is his glamorous and adoring wife, Celeste. But something about this seemingly perfect couple troubles news reporter, Erica Sparks whose relentless search for the truth puts the life of her pre-teen daughter, Jenny, in danger—even as Erica’s own dark past threatens to overtake her.
Wiehl, who lives in Larchmont and is a prominent trial lawyer frequently featured on Fox News, said she and her collaborator, Sebastian Stuart, planned the book's release for this time, choosing the election and locales Westchester residents will recognize.
"We settled on one of the candidates not being who he seems," she said. "A man who has some dark and dangerous secrets and who was maybe being unduly influenced by another world power."
Her inspiration came from a hunch on what she had a feeling was coming -- as well as from “The Manchurian Candidate." "We live in very different times, but psychopaths with a lust for power remain," she said.
A legal analyst who grew up in a law enforcement family -- her paternal grandfather was a federal prosecutor, and her father was an FBI agent who became a federal prosecutor when he left the Bureau -- Wiehl said she's always been fascinated by presidential elections as they have many of the same elements as suspense novels.
"There’s a ticking clock, a lot at stake and there’s only going to be one winner," she said. "The fight for power generates some seriously twisted behavior.
"Sometimes campaigns are run by compelling, devious, hard-driving folks. And of course, the candidates themselves are some combination of intriguing, alarming, inspiring and appalling. What better setting for 'The Candidate?'"
That said, she admits she's fascinated -- and dismayed -- by some of the parallels between what happens in her story and what is happening in the actual campaign re: the control of one of the candidates by a foreign power.
"At the third presidential debate, Hillary Clinton stated, 'We have 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyberattacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin, and they are designed to influence our election.'
"Clinton’s assertion was judged correct by the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking site Politifacts. This is really happening – the Kremlin is actively interfering in an American election. It’s chilling. And it mirrors our novel in ways I never could have imagined when I was writing the book. Any concerns about the believability of the novel have faded in the wake of this and other revelations."
Wiehl, who has more than a decade of books under her belt, is already hard at work on a third Erica Sparks story about a secessionist movement in the Western United States.
"With Brexit in the European Union and increasing talk of secession in our own country, it feels very prescient," she said. "The title is 'The Separatists' and it will be out next summer."
"The Candidate" is available in hardcover and digital additions for e-readers. She will be signing books at The Voracious Reader, on Thursday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m.
Go to www.liswiehlbooks.com for more information.
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