Novelist Andrew Klavan wanted a break after penning his 2010 thriller “Empire of Lies,” a grueling expose on liberal media bias in the Age of Terror.
“I had to do something different. I needed a change,” Klavan says.
What Klavan got instead was a phone call imploring him to get back to work.
“Have you ever thought of writing a young adult novel?” his publisher asked during an out of the blue cell phone conversation. The only other time Klavan had dabbled in the genre was while living in England. He recalled coming home every day from that gig telling his wife, “it was the most fun I ever had [writing].”
“I instantly said, ‘yes,'” Klavan told his publisher, and the Homelanders series was born.
“The Final Hour,” the fourth and final book in the series following “The Last Thing I Remember,” “The Long Way Home” and “The Truth of the Matter,” finds young Charlie West trying to halt an impending terrorist attack. He’ll have to escape from prison, risk his life reclaiming lost memories and find enough people to believe he holds the key to stopping a jihadist assault on a major city.
Writing for a youthful audience required a different approach, but Klavan says that helped him broaden his range as a writer.
“It changed the vocabulary I used, and a lot of my attitudes … it limited the number of tools I had,” he says. “It’s always an exhilarating experience as an artist. You have these limitations and you have to make them work.”
Klavan, who grew up in Great Neck, Long Island, says he wanted to write for as long as he can remember.
“In those days, the novelist was the culture hero. They had names like Hemingway and Faulkner … I don’t think there’s anybody like that now,” says Klavan, who dreamed of making a living as a mystery crime novelist.
Klavan published his first novel, “Face of the Earth,” in 1977 and found work in print and on the radio. His novelist career eventually took off with titles like “True Crime,” “The Animal Hour” and “Don’t Say a Word.”
The two-time winner of the Mystery Writer’s of America Edgar Award still loves the genre, but his writing career evolved when he had an epiphany not unlike famed playwright David Mamet.
“I grew up in such a left-wing household,” he says, adding his father considered conservatives “one step” away from the Nazis.
“He literally thought that,” he says. “It didn’t occur to me you could be a conservative.”
At the time, his liberal chums had derided President Ronald Reagan as “a greedy fool and a war monger,” but the president’s check list started filling up with major accomplishments.
“Slowly, it dawned on me everything he was doing was working, while [President] Carter was really a disaster,” he says.
“When the Berlin Wall came down, I thought, ‘this is what [Reagan] said would happen. The guy couldn’t have been that stupid,'” he says. “It really opened up all kinds of possibilities … not only was this left wing idea wrong, they were all wrong. It took me years to catch up with that.”
Klavan’s novelist career has attracted Hollywood’s attention, resulting in several movies borne from his imagination including “Don’t Say a Word” and “True Crime” starring Clint Eastwood (“he was too old for the part,” Klavan notes).
“I never meant to [work in Hollywood]. I almost got dragged into it,” he says. “I don’t know any happy screenwriters. You have so little power.”
Now, Summit Entertainment has gobbled up the rights to the Homelanders series. But he suspects the stories’ radical Islamic elements might not make the final cut. He recalls a recent article in The Hollywood Reporter saying the studio planned to introduce a science fiction element into the narrative.
“My guess is, they’re removing the Islamo-fascist thing,” he says, something he notes with little emotion. “It’s always good for you when a film gets made of your book. I’m still a novelist first and foremost.”
Besides, Klavan can still shape hearts and minds through his other media outlets, from his perch at PJTV (“Klavan on the Culture”) to his commentary at The City Journal.
It took some time before he was able to share his new conservative beliefs.
“As my political opinions changed, I lost the ability to speak. I wasn’t sure what I thought. It made it difficult to write non fiction. Only as my ideas crystallized could I do that again,” he says. And he doesn’t mind working as hard as he did during his 20s today as a result.
“I love the country, and I love standing up for what I think is right,” he says.