By Danny Schrafel
Steve Israel, the Congressman from Huntington, has in the past credited a vociferous reading habit to help him keep his sanity in the often-dysfunctional surroundings of Washington D.C. Turns out, putting pen to paper has played a role, too.
Those efforts have produced Israel’s first novel, “The Global War On Morris,” a political satire on the Simon & Schuster imprint which, in many cases, is not ripped from the headlines per se, but a bird’s eye view of a Congressman, formed into a novel that’s due out Jan. 6.
Writing has always been a release, Israel said.
“I would sit in these meetings and hear the most absurd things,” he said. “Rather than agonize over them, I decided to write about them.”
That started as blog entries and as essays for The New Yorker and the Huffington Post; those works set the foundation for his third book and first novel.
Instead of using his insider view of policy formation to pen “a very boring policy book,” he said, he instead decided to deploy them as the underpinning for what he hopes is a “very entertaining parody,” using milquetoast Morris Feldstein, a pharmaceutical salesman from Great Neck, as his vessel for a story set amidst the war on terror, circa 2004.
“Everything in this book was driven by reality, which, in itself, was comedy. We just blended the two together,” Israel said.
The spark for the novel, he said, came from a House Armed Services Committee hearing in 2004, at which a general revealed that the Pentagon had accidentally spied on a group of elderly Quakers in Florida who were planning a peaceful anti-war rally, mistakenly believing they were terrorists.
That turned out to be the first acknowledgment of the NSA’s infamous wiretap program. Two years later, Israel started writing.
“I came out of that hearing with the story – an innocent guy, who just tries to lay low his entire life, whose biggest agony is the Mets’ pitching rotation, is suddenly accidentally identified by the federal government as Public Enemy No. 1,” Israel said.
In this case, Morris’ life was torn asunder by NICK, a government supercomputer which chains together all the strands of Morris’ life and deems him America’s newest super-villain.
Look for appearances – and actual statements from – former President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and others, since much of the book is inspired by actual places and events.
Already, a second novel by Israel, tentatively titled “Big Guns,” a satire of the gun lobby, is also in the works. Simon & Schuster has green-lighted it; the Congressional Ethics committee has to clear his contract with the publisher.
In the meantime, Israel will speak about and sign copies of “The Global War on Morris” at the Book Revue Jan. 5 starting at 7 p.m.