Friday, May 9, 2014

MY WRITING LIFE: Guest post by Allan Topol

Today I welcome Allan Topol, the author of ten novels of international intrigue. Two of them, SPY DANCE and ENEMY MY ENEMY, were national best sellers. One was optioned and three are in development for movies. His new novel, THE ARGENTINE TRIANGLE, is the next in the Craig Page series, following the successful THE RUSSIAN ENDGAME, SPANISH REVENGE and CHINA GAMBIT.

In addition to his fiction writing, Allan Topol co-authored a two-volume legal treatise entitled SUPERFUND LAW AND PROCEDURE. He is a partner in a major Washington law firm, and an avid wine collector, he has traveled extensively, researching dramatic locations for his novels. He wrote a weekly column for and has published articles in numerous periodicals including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Yale Law Journal. He is currently a blogger for Huffington Post. For more information, visit

Allan Topol: My Writing Life

My goal in writing fiction is to have the reader learn something and be informed as well as turning pages.  This is also true for The Argentine Triangle, my tenth novel, which was published on April 15.  While this represents a milestone, I have decided to pick up the pace.  My next novel, The Washington Lawyer, will be out in March, and I am now putting the final edits on a novel about contemporary Italy.

I always wanted to write fiction from the time I was in college at Carnegie Institute of Technology (now Carnegie Mellon).  That school did not have a creative writing class so I persuaded an English professor who had taught creative writing elsewhere to give me a private tutorial. I was also interested in history and geopolitical affairs. Once I finished law school and began working as a Washington lawyer, I also wrote nonfiction articles on world events. Some of them appeared in periodicals, like the NY Times and Washington Post. However, I realized that fiction could be a better vehicle for getting across an idea while engaging the reader in a story. So I began writing fiction.  The first of my 10 novels, The Fourth of July War, was published in 1978. It is a novel that deals with the U.S. energy crisis as a background issue.

I have frequently been asked why I picked the thriller genre. For me, that was a logical choice. The thriller is a very effective vehicle for dealing with a geopolitical issue while telling an exciting story.  I also think it permits me to live a secret, exciting life taking on challenges, solving problems, and dealing with major issues affecting the United States. Often, I feel as if I am living vicariously through one of my heroes. I have not been in the CIA, but I know many people in the intelligence community. Writing thrillers is my way of becoming a part of their world. Graham Greene is one of my favorite writers and he has served as a model for me because his novels dealt with different parts of the world and international geopolitical issues. In doing this, it is critical that the international issue not interfere with the flow of the story.  My objective is to write a fast moving page turner.

In my first nine novels, I dealt with various foreign locales: China, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Israel, and Russia.  lso Washington, which is my home which some Americans regard as a foreign country.
My new novel deals with Argentina, and that was an accidental choice. Several years ago, my wife and I traveled to Argentina for vacation. I was so excited and inspired by this exotic country and its history that I visited several more times to do research for a novel. At the same time, I researched its history in books and on the internet. The diversity of the people and their political struggles became the basis for  my new novel, The Argentine Triangle.

The country has an amazing history. A hundred years ago, it was the fourth largest economy in the world.  Now it is only third in Latin America. I became intrigued by what has happened to this country and its wonderful people who have so much potential. I also became interested in the Dirty War and wanted to include that in my novel.

The Argentine Triangle is the fourth novel in which Craig Page is the lead character.  Craig was formerly in the CIA. He is courageous and patriotic, but refused to accept the layers of bureaucracy in the agency. He refused to take orders from people who failed to appreciate the true dangers facing the United States. He managed to prevent a terrorist attack in Madison Square Garden, but was reprimanded for not following orders so he resigned from the agency.  Craig is not based on anyone specific whom I now in real life. On the other hand, all of my characters are composites to some extent of people I have known.

Utilizing the same character in multiple novels poses a challenge. He has to develop with each novel, but still I worked hard to ensure that the reader can pick up The Argentine Triangle without having read one of the earlier Craig Page novels. Like all my other novels, The Argentine Triangle is a stand-alone. In this novel, Craig is in a different place and different situations than in any of my prior novels.

I also wanted to write a novel focused on South America, and The Argentine Triangle involves Brazil as well as Argentina. I believe that what happens in South America is critical to the United States. This is our backyard and much closer in many respects than Ukraine, Iraq, or Southeast Asia.
Gina and Nicole, the two Argentine women, who, along with Craig, dominate the action, are both products of Argentina’s history. I want the reader to understand and to feel their pain, desires, and aspirations, just as Craig does.

As a secondary matter, The Argentine Triangle deals with an important Washington issue. All of our presidents have had informal advisors with whom they are very close, like Edward Bryce in The Argentine Triangle. These advisers, usually lawyers, are not elected and not confirmed by the Senate. There is a great risk that these advisors will use their relationships with the president for their own personal gain as Edward Bryce does. I want to draw attention to this fact of Washington political life.

If you read The Argentine Triangle, I hope you will forward comments to me on the reader mail of my website, Writing is often a lonely activity and reader feedback is always very much appreciated.

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