When former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham talks about his new book, he always gets the same question. Having written two nonfiction books the senator describes as "serious and dull," suddenly delving into a spy thriller catches some readers off guard.
They ask, "Why?"
His answer is almost as short:
Anger, censorship and a commencement speech.
Graham said he wrote "Keys to the Kingdom," a spy thriller that plays off facts from his time on the Central Intelligence Agency's advisory board, out of anger at the American government hiding Saudi Arabia's involvement in the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Anger, he said, at the censorship in the final 800-page report on the attacks, of which most names and locations were redacted, including an entire chapter about Saudi Arabia. And he wrote it to live up to the commencement speech he's given for years, advising graduates to do something challenging with their lives.
That, for him, was this novel.
On Tuesday, Graham spoke about his novel to a crowd of 180 politicians, businessmen and lawyers at the Lunch with an Author event put on by the Friends of the Library of Tampa-Hillsborough County.
Because of how closely the novel deals with real issues concerning U.S. decisions involving Hezbollah and Lebanon, Graham had to submit each chapter for the CIA to comb through.
One of the book's characters, retired Sen. John Billington, whose death the plot is based around, shares a similar background to Graham's.
He joked with the crowd when he was asked about the character, saying he's completely different from the character because Billington has five daughters. Graham has four.
Otherwise, the novel comes so close to fact, he said, that real-time events influenced its plot.
Asked whether he'll write a sequel, Graham told the crowd, "Well, that depends on whether anybody buys the first novel."