'24' Exec Howard Gordon Turns Novelist With 'Gideon's War'
In the mid-'80s, New Yorker Howard Gordon came to Los Angeles with writing partner Alex Gansa to pursue a career in screenwriting -- which he has had, most recently as the executive producer and show-runner of the long-running Fox series "24."
But that wasn't always the plan.
"I aspired to be a novelist early," he says. "That's what I thought I would be. I wanted to be a literary novelist, and I was accepted to a couple of MFA (Master of Fine Arts) programs, and I decided to try my luck out in Hollywood before I did that.
"I was lucky to find work early, which kept me from that, but that might have been a path that I could quite easily have taken -- I don't know with what success. Many of our most talented writers still supplement their incomes as teachers, and that might have been a wonderful way to live."
But when he was idled during the Writers Guild strike in 2007-'08, Gordon started to think about the road not taken.
Recently, Gordon brought his writing career full circle with the publishing of "Gideon's War," his first novel (click here for an excerpt). U.S. President Diggs has sent Gideon Davis, his best peace negotiator, to the Sultanate of Mohan, which under threat from an Islamist insurgency. Just to keep things interesting, Gideon winds up pitted against his estranged brother, Tillman, a rogue Special Forces agent who appears to have taken a multimillion-dollar oil rig hostage.
Fans of "24" may remember that the show often featured characters at odds with a sibling. This also applied to the series' main character, anti-terrorist agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), who was at odds with brother Graem (Paul McCrane) during seasons five and six.
"I wouldn't call it an idiosyncratic thing," says Gordon (the oldest of three brothers), "It's a staple of storytelling, going back to Cain and Abel. Shakespeare had his share, and certainly, from 'The Godfather' to 'The Fighter,' 'Raging Bull,' brothers are fascinating.
"It's like every relationship, only more so. It's charged with love and with competition, with loyalty. So it's a very charged relationship, maybe especially in the estrangement between brothers. There's a kind of latent energy that's always there.
"You know me as someone who is painfully trying to see all sides of all issues, so I really related to this peacemaker character. I enjoyed the attempt to personify these two different points of view in these two different characters."
Asked if he thinks these sort of super-negotiators exist in the real world, Gordon says, "When you look at a guy like Richard Holbrooke, there are people who are lifetime diplomats, who are talkers, who are negotiators, who are peacemakers, certainly.
"What we need is a vibrant and vital country that needs to protect our interests, and, for the sake of the world, project our power. We need both. We need great soldiers and great military technology and capability, but we also need great diplomatic capability as well.
"That's the other side of the equation, and it's a very valid one. You can't have one without the other."
Gordon has even gotten kudos from fellow authors of political thrillers. Vince Flynn ( "American Assassin") did a blurb for the book, saying, "A thrill every clock-ticking minute! From racing through the jungles of Southeast Asia to outsmarting terrorists on a high tech oil rig in a typhoon, Howard Gordon's new international peacemaker Gideon Davis takes saving the world to a new level. Move over Jack Bauer--there's a new sheriff in town."
But he's not the only novelist to praise "Gideon's War."
"Brad Thor wrote me a great review on Amazon," says Gordon. "He wrote a guest review. It was really so nice. I sent him a bottle of scotch. I don't know him from Adam, and when I read it, I got very ... I'm a fan of his, too, big fan of his."
As for the question of screenwriting vs. novel writing, Gordon says, "I'd advise people to write what they want, and sometimes what things become depends on the story. People have asked me about 'Gideon's War' as a movie, and I'm always telling people, 'If I wanted to write a movie, I'd have written a novel.
"So to me, this was a wonderful experience that was appropriately a novel. And if someone adapts it into a movie, however it turns out, I'll always have the novel."
Click here for Gordon's thoughts on History channel's cancellation of "The Kennedys," a miniseries from "24" creator Joel Surnow; click here to learn about his trio of TV pilots; and click here to see what he has to say about a possible "24" movie (he'll always have the TV series ...).