Without pomp and circumstance, without outrageous language and literary machinations, you led me simply, skillfully and calmly into a cache of information that slowly became overwhelming in its scope and uncomfortably realistic. It is a profound book. One I won't forget for a long while. --Senior Military Officer, Pentagon, on The Right Guard by Alexandra HamletAnyone who enjoys tales of espionage must not miss the debut novel of Alexandra Hamlet, The Right Guard. Based upon dozens of news stories which reported the theft of weapons from national guard and federal arsenals in the late 1970's, Ms. Hamlet weaves a story of political intrigue and treason taking place at the highest levels of the United States government. The author also draws upon her own experience as both a journalist and a defense anthropologist to create a realistic setting in frightening detail. For those who lived through the era in question, reading the book is like journeying back in time, as Ms. Hamlet captures the late '70's without any noticeable anachronisms. Yet the story is as relevant to our own decade as it is to the past, as many readers have already discovered.
The protagonist of The Right Guard is veteran CIA operative Eric Brent, to whom we are introduced in a brutal and heartrending scene in the first chapter. Born in Nazi Germany, Eric, the son of a German officer and scion of an aristocratic family, relocates to America with his family after the war. Eric is dedicated to serving his new country and by the time the novel opens has suffered multiple injuries in the course of his duties. Eric is summoned by his superiors to infiltrate a paramilitary group called "The Right Guard" who have been stealing weapons in order to overthrow the U.S. Government, which they believe has strayed from the Constitution. They plan to restore America to the values and principles of the Founding Fathers. As Eric befriends the leaders of the Right Guard, he is moved by their patriotism and idealism, and finds himself agreeing with most of their views. However, his past experiences and professionalism lead him to be wary, as he uncovers hidden agendas.
Now Eric has already suffered a measure of personal loss due to his career, which naturally entails secrecy and being away months at a time. One of the losses was the charming and clever young political activist Jill Warren, who nevertheless comes back into his life through a series of coincidences. In the meantime, secrets are revealed, and Eric finds that not only his life is at stake but also everything he holds dear. The Right Guard is a must-read for those who enjoy political thrillers, especially a thriller that is not only historically accurate but also searches the enigmas of the human heart.
EMV: Thank you, Alexandra, for making time for this interview. First of all, let me offer my congratulations on the success of your first novel, The Right Guard, which has won several prizes and garnered a great deal of critical acclaim. Could you tell us a little about your writer's journey? How long did it take for such an amazing novel to come together?
AH: Thank you for the opportunity. It’s my pleasure. The Right Guard has won 9 awards and it is being considered for film. It has been an incredible journey. I actually began The Right Guard in 1978, the same year the story begins in the book.
I wrote it in six months and then worked with it on and off for many years, but it went back into the closet a number of times. Late in 2010 after being in a motorcycle accident and being put into a body cast, I was miserable. I pulled it out again and worked on it to keep me busy - and also sane. This time I finished it
EMV: The research that went into The Right Guard is obviously thorough and expansive. Why did you choose the novel as the medium by which to tell the story you wanted to tell?
AH: I think the medium picks you. I was writing stories since I was eleven. I had always wanted to write a novel but wasn’t sure how. In the beginning, I just sat down and started page one. Little did I know how it would end. Once I started to put together the story, it took off on a life of its own.
EMV: Some people do not think historical novels require as much research as works of non-fiction. Do you agree or disagree?
AH: Historical novels require a huge amount of research. Not only do you have your story to prepare and your characters, you must place them in time and in an historical setting where they will play their parts. It’s a huge undertaking. The author takes on not only creating the genre but researching for facts placed in another world in time. Giving your characters life to work out the story in the ‘given time’ takes a lot of effort.
EMV: The Right Guard may challenge how some readers view our country. Do you agree with the old adage that those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it?
AH: Absolutely, I agree. I kept this in mind quite often as I wrote the story. We only have to view the recent past, just before World War II, to see how quickly a nation can forget that appeasement or lack of resolve can lead to disaster. The book is based on real events and I think that is what shakes readers. Many people have contacted me saying they weren’t sure they were reading fiction.
EMV: Although The Right Guard is a work of fiction it contains documentation chronicling the theft of weapons from the National Guard and Reserve armories. Are such thefts still happening today?
AH: No. There was a significant alteration on how those assets are protected today.
EMV: Can you tell us about your next project? Is there a sequel planned for The Right Guard? And is there a movie is the works?
AH: I am working on another suspense thriller now, set in Washington, D.C. and Virginia. It has a female lead and involves the spy world and how a young woman innocently gets caught up in that world. However, The Right Guard is a series of three books and I will be back working on RG 2 in the near future.
As far as film, my husband and I flew out to Los Angeles to talk with a director and producer at their request. Seems like there is a lot of interest in the book and a contract was floated about. I now have a film agent as well as a literary agent. I guess now, we wait. I am as anxious as the readers to see what happens next.
EMV: Thank you so much for answering my questions, Alexandra, and I look forward to the film and to your upcoming novels!
(*NOTE: This book was given to me by the author in exchange for my honest opinion.)