Naked Ambition……

Naked Ambition……

Photo credit: Courtesy of the author

“Rick Pullen wanted to be Perry Mason when he was a kid. He carried the dream to college where he quickly learned clients of defense lawyers weren’t always innocent and lawyers didn’t always win their cases.” He is the author of Naked Ambition, a political thriller – which you might have assumed from the title. “Pullen has written a solid, descriptive thriller that shows that he is well-informed and savvy about the newspaper business and the political world.” Kirkus Reviews

“I was a reporter for I don’t know how many years – newspapers, news services, magazines. Since 1999, actually before then, I have been a full time  magazine editor for business publications,” Pullen told Hollywood on the Potomac. “I started my own magazine called City Limits when I lived in Fredricksburg, Virginia. Then I worked for Best Review, which is a business magazine. Then I was hired as Editor in Chief of a magazine called Independent Agent, which is insurance. Then I started a magazine called Leader’s Edge, which is about insurance brokerage. It’s been business magazines since 1999.”

Hofstra University will host the first presidential debate on September 26, 2016.  The irony is that Pullen had been working on his novel for at least 5 years, with some thoughts going back ten years. Are there similarities between this election and the scenarios in Naked Ambition? Fortunately only a few.

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About the book: “When newspaper reporter Beck Rikki receives an unsolicited call from a high-ranking government official sending him off to investigate a candidate for President of the United States, he doesn’t realize he’s stumbled onto the story of a lifetime. As he digs deeper, he follows a trail of murder, bribery, infidelity and deceit that runs from Canada to the Caribbean–but all signs point to the White House. Beck finds nothing is quite as it appears–not his sources, not his curious new love interest and especially not the story he’s pursuing. In the confusion, he suspects the motives of everyone–including his new love. He must figure out the truth or forces quietly waiting in the wings will covertly grab the reins of power and takeover the government. For the first time in his career, Beck may have stumbled onto a story too dangerous to handle–but too important to walk away from. And with only days before the election, just when he thinks he’s solved the puzzle, he realizes he hasn’t.” Publisher

Rick Pullen

Rick Pullen

“It started with a court scene, which I’ve had in my head for at least 10 years,” he told us. “I would sit down with friends over a beer and say, ‘how do I make this scene work?’ Basically what it was was that a federal prosecutor leaks a story to a newspaper reporter and then the newspaper reporter eventually writes the story and then because of circumstances the Justice Department decides they’re going to prosecute the reporter because he won’t reveal his source. It’s been this federal prosecutor who leaked it. They’re all set to go to trial and at the last minute, because of circumstances, they appoint the guy who leaked the story to prosecute the reporter. Basically, he’s prosecuting his own leak. The question was, how do I make that scene work. I couldn’t figure it out. Then, I’m sitting at the sports tavern over on Indiana Avenue with a colleague across the street at lunch one day. We’re sitting outside on a beautiful August day, believe it or not an August day that was beautiful when you could actually sit outside. About 5 years ago, there were a couple days like that and over a couple of beers we’re talking about my plot. I’d talked to her before about it, and I came up with an idea. That night I went home and started writing and I had the first draft of the novel done by January.”

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We noticed a segment in the book that wonders what if the Republican candidate for the White House is suddenly opposed by his own party.  “Yes. That is part of the plot, long before Donald Trump ran for office. Oh yeah, long before.” Q:  “Why did you come up with a Republican and why did you think that was a possibility?”  A: “It could be a Democrat or Republican. It didn’t matter. It’s just the way it came out. There are no clean hands anywhere in my book. The Republicans are dirty, the Democrats are dirty, the reporter is dirty. All the characters have ethical issues. It paints Washington the way it really is. It’s a lot of dirty dealing and a lot of underhanded stuff. People still come to Washington wanting to do the right thing and they have the enthusiasm or morals, they have idealism when they come to Washington; then it’s basically thwarted after a while because of the [system].  Although Putin is not in this one, he’s going to be in my third novel. This is a series, so he’ll be in a novel called Naked Aggression, which I’m plotting at the moment. I’m writing my second novel now, Naked Truth. This is about the Citizens United thing. Basically, it’s the Citizens United case. It explains how money can be anonymously put into any campaign they want, spent on any candidate they want. In this case, I sort of take the Citizens United case to the ultimate, which is dirty money going and funding the presidential campaign.” But he reminds us: “It’s a novel. This is all fiction. The characters are not me or anything like that. The’re combinations of lots of people I’ve known.  But as an investigative reporter, I’ve had a few touchy situations where I thought my phone might be bugged or I might be put in a dangerous situation, but it really didn’t turn out to be that way. In the process, it’s a little scary sometimes.”

RIck Pullen

Photo credit:  noelstjohn.smugmug.com

Q: “Who are the main characters in the novel?” A: “The investigative reporter is a guy named Beck Rikki. He’s an investigative reporter, sort of the Bob Woodward of Washington, I guess. He gets involved with a female lobbyist named Geneva Kemper. She’s somewhat of a closet nudist, which is a double meaning to the title of the book. At the end, lots of twists and turns in the plot and everything just falls into place at the very end. What happens is the reporter, Beck Rikki has an affair with Geneva Kemper and unknown to him, Geneva has a conflict of interest in the story that he’s uncovering. Later in the book, that becomes a huge piece of the plot. It’s that kind of thing that everybody’s in bed with everybody. Everything in the book is possible. If you go on Amazon and read some of the reviews and look up my book on Amazon, there’s 150 reviews, people are like, ‘Oh my God, this could really happen.’ Everything in there is possible. There’s a constitutional crisis, just the way the media works. Having been a member of the media for more than 30 years, I get it, I understand. I’ve got a degree in broadcasting and I’ve worked in print my whole life. I know them all. It explains some of the things behind newspaper publishing. It also explains some of the things how television broadcasting cable news networks work. It never takes sides of one or the other. Even on a Republican versus Democrat, it doesn’t take sides. I did have one critic say, ‘You’re stepping on Fox News‘, but it’s just the opposite. Fox News turns out to be the ethical news organization in the book. Some people, I guess, just get confused when they read a book. There’s nothing I can do about that.”

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We asked Rick to bring this conversation to the current election and talk about things that can happen, like the possibility of rigged ballot boxes.  Q: “Do you think that the ballot boxes are going to be manipulated? Do you think that any international interference will occur and who do you think is going to win?”  A: “I think there’s a real possibility that on election day when the polls are closing or maybe early in the morning or midday, we will discover in 2 or 3 key states, that someone has hacked into their voting system. I think that’s a real possibility. It’s so easy to do. How does one know that? How do you know even that? Lots of times you don’t know it until you actually start to use the program. I’m not a computer expert. I have IT people work for me. You can set it on a timer, you can do all types of stuff. You might notice it. A lot of states have early voting, they might notice it early and be able to capture it. Not capture it, but fix it.  It might just be noticed on the day of the election. Think about that for a minute. We had chaos with Gore versus Bush. Think of the chaos … and we knew what the vote count was pretty much. That became a Supreme Court thing. Would the Supreme Court step in if in 2 or 3 states we can’t count the votes? Do we have to re vote in all those states? Are these states like the Washington Post said, maybe they have paper backup. If they have paper backup, it’s just a matter of recounting the votes. Who knows? You don’t know what it’s like. Who do I think will win? I think Hillary will pull it out. I think it’s hers to lose. I think in the end people will look at the seriousness of the candidates and think that she’s the more serious candidate. The vote tally, maybe not, but I think in the electoral college, I think she’ll win easily as Barack Obama did his second time around and, well, he didn’t do too bad on his first time. The reason for that is the battlefield states. She’s going to win all but maybe 2 of them. Also the way the system is right now where the voting population has moved to in the last 20, 25 years, all the coastal states, all the blue states will remain blue. Some of the red states have gone blue, like Virginia. There’s no way that she’s going to lose Virginia.”

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“I say that not knowing if some major scandal will happen between now and election day,” he added, “but if Clinton doesn’t mess up or anything, she should easily win the election. I won’t say she’ll win by a landslide, but she should do very well in the electoral college. She starts off with 242 electoral votes, he starts of with 144. Who has the most that they have to make up? He does – the Republicans. Here’s the thing: No matter who was the nominee, even if it was someone stronger than Trump, they would have had that same margin to start with. The difference is that anybody else, well not anybody else, but say Kasich or somebody would have had a very good chance of making up that margin and winning that election and beating Hillary, because she’s the most unpopular Democrat there is. It’s just, basically, you picked a very unpopular Republican, a very unpopular Democrat and people are holding their noses and voting for the lesser of 2 evils is what most people are saying they’re doing. Obviously they both have strong supporters on both sides.”

Ok, we couldn’t help it.  Since Pullen is a long time newspaper man, we asked him to comment on a few things about this election.  Ohio: “Would have been in the bag for Republicans. Anybody else but Trump. Trump is the weakest candidate that they could have put up. Basically what happened is, you have a fringe in the party that voted for him, but enough of them came out that, like 20% of the party gave him the nomination. Bernie: “Sanders would have annihilated him in a debate.” Clinton: “Here’s the problem: I’ve met Hillary before and she seems perfectly nice. Hillary is, everybody says she is, one of the smartest people to ever run for office. I’m not sure I believe it totally, but okay, I’ll take it on face value she is. The problem with that is that if she’s so smart, why is she such a terrible campaigner? Why is she such a terrible speaker? What goes with that? If she’s so smarts she should be able to accomplish something as simple as giving a speech or being able to debate someone.” Trump: “The problem with Trump is that you ask him a question and he answers another. I know every politician does that, but you can’t even follow him. He doesn’t even follow along with where the conversation is going.”

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“Look at it this way: You’ve read all about Matt Lauer and how he treated Hillary? The emails, okay, they’re an issue, but to spend half of an interview that’s supposed to be on national defense on emails is crazy. He did what every journalist does. He treats Hillary seriously. He dogs her with questions. Then when he interviews Trump, he treats Trump like a lightweight because that’s what he is and doesn’t ask him really tough questions. If anyone ever asked a question Trump doesn’t like, Trump either insults the reporter or he says something else. He attacks Obama or whatever it was. Look what he did to Meghan Kelly originally. She asked him a tough question, he didn’t like it, so he blames the person, you know, the messenger. It’s kind of crazy that I write a book and it parallels with the current election.”

 

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