Monday, August 5, 2019

Straight Chatting from the Library: Mark Spivak

Mark Spivak will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.


What is the favorite book you remember as a child?

The first “real” book I read (other than children’s books) was Treasure Island. I’m not sure if it was my favorite, but it made me realize you could create an alternate universe, populate it with characters from your imagination, and control the outcome. That was a compelling thought, and it still is.

Tell us about your current book in 10 words.

It’s a meditation on the follies of history.

What are you reading right now?

I just finished reading The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle. It was a fascinating study of many different corporate cultures—organizations as diverse as Johnson & Johnson and the Navy Seals—and what made them successful. The common thread, as it turned out, was an environment where people could speak out, speak the truth and be brutally honest. They all had different strategies for implementing that feedback, of course.

E-Reader or print? and why?

I’m reading more and more on my Kindle, because (quite honestly) it’s cheaper. You frequently hear people of my generation say that they’re addicted to the feeling of holding the book in their hand. I understand that, but it really doesn’t matter to me. I don’t think it matters if you get your news from a print newspaper or a phone: it’s the quality of the reporting that’s important. Same thing with books.

One book at a time or multiples?

I tend to read a book all the way through and finish it before starting another. If it’s any good, I’ll read it more than once. That’s probably a writer’s thing: we know how much hidden detail goes into the building of plot, and we’re aware of how many things need to add up to create a certain effect in a reader. So we want to understand the technique and notice all the details that others might not consider important.

Dog-ear or bookmark? (don't worry—Librarian Judith won't hold it against you—much)

Sorry, Judith: I’m still afraid to dog-ear, and I cringe when my wife does it. She’ll tell me it’s her book, so it doesn’t matter. But I still feel that stern librarian staring at me.

When do you do most of your reading?

At the end of my work day, when I’m looking to relax. Unless the book is really horrible, it’s going to be more enlightening than TV.

Re-reader or not?

As I mentioned earlier, I’ll read a book at least twice if it’s any good. The second time around, I’m not reading for plot but for technique. I want to figure out exactly what the author did to create the effects in the book. I’m interested in the language, but also character development: all the mannerisms, ticks and peculiarities that make the characters come alive.

What would make you not finish a book?

Prose that is lazy or poorly constructed, because I immediately know I’m not going to learn anything from the writer. You can tell that from page one. Usually it’s a sign that the characters and plot will be hackneyed as well. If that’s the case, I’d probably give up early on.

Keep books or give them away?

I’ve given away tons of print books. If you’re an avid reader and you don’t live in a mansion, you won’t have enough space to store everything you read. And if you like the book, why not spread the joy and pleasure around?


A power-hungry vice president, a bad batch of shady intelligence, and a sinister plot to destroy Western civilization.

Just another day in America.

On May 1, 2001, a group of radical Islamic terrorists crash a Boeing 737 jet airliner into the Mall of America—and Vice President Robert Hornsby knows his moment is coming.

The attack kills three thousand American citizens and throws an entire nation into a panic, but all Hornsby sees is an opportunity, a chance to imprint his fanatical values on the soul of the country he loves and become the most powerful vice president in American history.

With the aid of his affable but ineffectual president; the reluctant, conscience-stricken secretary of defense; and a preening, foppish faith leader with more than a few skeletons in his closet; Hornsby declares war on terror—and anyone who stands in his way. But as media scrutiny of the administration’s actions overseas intensifies, Hornby’s one-man campaign against evil begins to unravel—with striking parallels to the thirteenth century’s doomed Fourth Crusade—and sends the nation spiraling toward another deadly tragedy.

The American Crusade paints a grim and often cynical picture of America’s recent past, reflecting the attitudes, politics, and fears that shaped our nation in the new millennium. By sampling the contemporaneous French text on the Fourth Crusade, On the Conquest of Constantinople, author Mark Spivak reminds us of that ever-vital adage: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Fans of The Castle by Jack Pinter, The President Is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson, House of Cards by Michael Dobbs, The Whistler by John Grisham, and the Aaron Sorkin–penned TV drama The West Wing will love this book.


Sitting in the White House Situation Room that day, Vice President Hornsby thought he was witnessing the perfect storm. All those years we thought it would end with a nuclear launch from the Soviets, he thought bitterly. Now I have to watch a bunch of jokers in turbans destroy the world.

FBI Director Edward Gambelli entered the room and approached the head of the table.

“Most of the planes are out of the sky, sir. The airspace is almost secure.”

“What do you mean, almost? For shit’s sake.” The Vice President gesture toward the electronic map on the wall, where aircraft were represented by red dots. “That’s a lot of dots, Eddie.”

“They’re mostly private planes, sir. Joyriders out for a spin. We’re contacting the ones that have radar. The fighters will intercept the others and escort them down.”

“What about the other plane?”

“It’s still heading for Washington, sir. Just passed Wilmington.”

“How long before it gets into rural airspace?”

“Five minutes, sir. Ten at the most.”

“What’s happening on board?”

“We’ve received radio and cell phone communications. The passengers are still fighting. They’ve overcome two of the hijackers, and they’re trying to get into the cockpit.”

Hornsby glanced to his right, to the chair occupied by his protégé, CIA Director Admiral Mike McCardle. McCardle nodded.

“When it gets over unoccupied land, I want you to shoot it down.”


“Eddie, we have the tapes, correct?”

“Yes, but—”

“These people are dead already. None of them can fly the plane. It’s the least we can do to bring comfort to their loved ones. The public will eat it up. The passengers will be heroes.”


“Eddie, that’s an order. Shoot it down once it gets over unoccupied land. I’ve got your back.”

“Yes, sir.”


In the realm of non-fiction, award-winning author Mark Spivak focuses on wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. His first book, Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, was published by Lyons Press in 2012. He followed this with Moonshine Nation (Lyons Press, 2014), hailed as the definitive book on illegal corn whiskey in America. From 1994-1999 he was the wine writer for the Palm Beach Post, and was honored for excellence in wine criticism “in a graceful and approachable style.” Since 2001 he has been the Wine & Spirits Editor for the Palm Beach Media Group, and contributes to a number of national magazines. He is also the holder of the Certificate and Advanced Diplomas from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

 Mark’s first novel, Friend of the Devil, was published by Black Opal Books in May 2016. Set in Palm Beach in 1990, it tells the story of America’s most famous chef, who has sold his soul to the Devil for fame and fortune. 

Mark also has an endless fascination with the American political system and is an avid follower of Washington politics. His second novel, The American Crusade (a gripping political thriller set during the invasion of Iraq, which dips into the shadowy world of government conspiracy and political sabotage), was released by TCK Publishing on April 4. He is currently at work on Impeachment, the sequel to The American Crusade.

Visit Mark's website at, and sign up for his free newsletter and political blog:

Amazon buy link:


a Rafflecopter giveaway This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions.


  1. Thank you for hosting me today. I look forward to meeting your readers and answering any questions they might have.

  2. Another great book to discover. Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

  3. Who is your favorite character in the book?

  4. I'm not sure if he's my favorite in the traditional sense, but the most important character in the book is Robert Hornsby, the vice president and former CIA director ("the spy who refused to come in from the cold"). His philosophy, sensibilities and actions dominate most of the novel and shape the events of the plot.

  5. Great interview, I enjoyed reading it!

  6. Are any of the places in the book based off of real places that you visited?

  7. If you're referring to the Middle Eastern countries, no. But I did spend 15 years in D.C., which was an eye-opening experience. What goes on there is far worse than people think.