Changing the Names: An Inside Look into Political Fiction

My desire in my novels is to take the reader into the world of what is and what might be.

By Joel C. Rosenberg, author of The Persian Gamble

This past week I watched with great pleasure the meeting between United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the monarch of Jordan, King Abdullah II. The Hashemite king is a strong and faithful ally of the United States, and a man who truly desires peace in the Middle East. I’m encouraged by the close relationship between these two nations.

I very much like King Abdullah II as a person. In fact, he is one of the few political figures that I chose not to fictionalize in my books. Part of the reason for my decision not to “change him up a bit” was that he is such an intriguing figure as is—sovereign, scholar, and military man. In The First Hostage, when J. B. Collins jumps in a helicopter as gunfire and explosions surround him, it’s not a stretch at all to find King Abdullah II behind the controls. Also, I thought it was important for people to get a good feel for this unique figure. He is a reformer who is at the center of a dangerous region of the world.

King Abdullah II, however, is a rare exception to my fictionalizing rule. Most political characters in my books are my own creations, even though they may at times resemble real men and women. People have occasionally asked me why I do this. “Wouldn’t it be far less confusing?” they ask. “We already know who you mean.”

There are three primary reasons I prefer to write fictional characters, not real-world figures. First, I can’t read people’s hearts. Someone who seems to be a real bad guy from my distant vantage point could actually be a decent person when you get to know him. I also like to get into the minds of my characters, and it would be disingenuous of me to assume I could get into the mind of a world leader and tell you their heart and their motives. If I fictionalize a character, then I can dig around all I want into the sometimes altruistic and sometimes grimy hearts of these men and women.

Second, people have biases toward world leaders. There are few people in the United States who are ambivalent toward Donald Trump. Many love him and many hate him. If, in The Kremlin Conspiracy and the soon-to-be-released The Persian Gamble, I had President Donald Trump do something really wonderful, all those anti-Trump readers would be upset. On the other hand, if I had the president do something really dumb, then all the pro-Trump folk would be angry. So instead we find in the Oval Office President Andrew Clarke, who admittedly has some Trumpian qualities. However, there is enough of a distance from the genuine article for everyone to be able to relax and enjoy the book.

Finally, using a real name for a character means I am locked into their real biography, their real timeline, and their real personality. However, by changing the name, it doesn’t matter how similar to the real deal I write the character, I still have complete freedom to have them do whatever I want them to do and say whatever I want them to say. Someone might say, “Vladimir Putin would never do that.” Maybe not, but Aleksandr Ivanovich Luganov certainly would. “Ayatollah Khameini would never say something like that.” You may be right, but I just read those words coming right out of Ayatollah Hussein Ansari’s mouth.

My desire in my novels is to take the reader into the world of what is and what might be. This is how the Middle East looks now; this is how it might look soon if situations don’t change. This is what Russia, North Korea, and Iran are doing now; this is what could be the unfortunate consequences if no nation steps in to slow them down. One of the great and surprising joys of writing has been seeing how often the stories I invent, through whatever meager wisdom and creativity God has given me, somehow find their way into the news two or three years later.

The Persian Gamble by Joel C. Rosenberg

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Kremlin Conspiracycomes this latest international thriller about a terrifying nuclear alliance among three world powers—Russia, Iran, and North Korea—and the man who must halt their deadly strategy.

Shot out of the air in enemy territory in the middle of the greatest international crisis since the end of the Cold War, former U.S. Secret Service agent Marcus Ryker finds himself facing an impossible task. Not only does he have to somehow elude detection and capture by Russian special forces, but he must convince his own government to grant safe harbor to the one man responsible for the global mayhem—Russian double agent and assassin Oleg Kraskin. While frantically negotiating with his contacts in the White House, Marcus learns that the unstable North Korean regime plans to use the international chaos as a smokescreen to sell nuclear weapons to Iran. With the fate of the entire free world on the line, Marcus makes a deal with the U.S. government—he will go back to work as an international operative and track down the WMDs before they end up in the hands of those with the determination and the means to use them. Marcus and Oleg worked together once before to avert a world war. Can they now find a way to stop world destruction?

Learn More HERE>>

Save up to 50% on Joel C. Rosenberg titles until 3/3/2019! SHOP NOW!

Leela is the Media and Marketing Project Coordinator at Tyndale House Publishers. She was raised in Kansas City and has called Chicago home for the past five years. Leela works on the team to help coordinate advertising and media traffic. In her free time, she enjoys coffee shops, running and traveling with her husband.

Write a comment