I read 2-3 books simultaneously—fiction and non-fiction. It’s my way of multi-tasking. You never know what story ideas you might pick up doing this. One of those gems caught my eye while reading Robert Kaplan’s Imperial Grunts: The American Military On The Ground. I wrote McFadden’s Warbecause of something I discovered in Kaplan’s book. Erik Larson, author of Devil In the White City says his library wanderings often turn up interesting leads. I just finished David Nasaw’s biography of Andrew Carnegie and John Lewis Gaddis’s 2012 Pulitzer Prize bio of American diplomat, George Kennan. On top of that was Brilliant Disaster, by Jim Rasenberger: a look at the Bay of Pigs fiasco. I learn a lot by reading such well-researched works by contemporary scholars. I don’t read these histories expecting to unearth story ideas—it’s the unexpected that catches my eye. As I wrote earlier: it’s the “What If?” that leads to something. Percolating somewhere in the back of my brain is the wartime tale of The Monuments Men, by Robert Edsel. The idea that there may yet be artwork stolen by the Nazis hanging on some collector’s wall is an intriguing one—a theme that might lend itself to a story. Yes, it’s been done before, but the challenge is to create a new mystery with new villains. Remember, not all rabbit trails result in dead-ends.
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