Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Writers Wednesday: Angier enters fictional realm with ‘Political Animal’

PANAMA CITY — A beautiful but ambitious wife, a delusional blogger, a police detective and a newspaper reporter are among the characters vying to understand lawyer Peter Madden. He’s running for State Attorney in the Florida Panhandle, and he’s pleading self-defense for having shot a client to death in his own law office.

This is the situation readers face in David L. Angier’s debut novel, “Political Animal,” the opening salvo of a trilogy that will explore Florida politics, courtroom drama and wacky characters. (Book two, which is not yet complete, is currently titled “Strange Bedfellows.”)

For Madden, a claim of self defense just might make him the ideal candidate for an ultra-conservative political group with a gun rights agenda. With the help of a savvy campaign manager and a mysterious “dirty deeds” man, Madden turns the election process on its ear, molds the killing into a political statement and runs as “the candidate who isn’t afraid to do what needs to be done.”

“Political Animal” is Angier’s first novel after publishing two nonfiction books, “The Madness of Joe Francis” (2013) and “Salvaged Santa” (2011, with Greg Wilson). He has two more nonfiction books on his schedule, but unlike his other work — which has focused on telling the true stories behind the headlines, and which is written with the audience in mind — this novel was about having fun.

David L. Angier
“I didn’t write this one for anyone else but me,” Angier said during a recent conversation at Amavida Coffee & Tea in St. Andrews. “I decided right off I was just going to have fun with this project, and I enjoyed writing it. I used to say I didn’t think I’d ever write a novel, but now I don’t want to write nonfiction again.”

Angier, 50, was raised in the Clearwater area near Tampa. He earned a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Florida,  where he “suffered along with my classmates through a spree of murders by a serial killer that terrorized the campus.” After graduation, he worked as a courts and crime reporter with several newspapers in Florida, Missouri and Illinois, before landing at The News Herald, where he covered courts and crime for the next 12 years.

“Florida is a great place to grow up, especially if you have an appreciation for tropical weather, string bikinis and warm Gulf of Mexico waters,” he says in a biographical note. “Panama City has turned out to be the richest area for news I’ve ever encountered, and my first two (and next two) nonfiction books are from events in that area.”

As a reporter, Angier said he often would find himself composing an article in his head as he drove back to the office from court or the scene of a crime. Now, he does the same thing with fiction, as an inspiration strikes and he begins letting a scenario play out in his head.

“Then I go back to my home office and start writing,” he said. “I try to follow the flow and let the story dictate itself. ... Dialogue moves things along. I do a lot of character development through dialogue.”

Real people are complex collections of sometimes contradictory personality traits. Angier said he builds characters by focusing on just a few traits, which allows him to divide aspects of “a normal human being” into several characters. Readers fill in the gaps, but the traits make the characters memorable.

“I find characters I want to write about and put them in completely fictional settings,” he said.

Angier doesn’t plan to hold formal book signing events, but he said you’re liable to catch him hanging out at The Wine Dog off 23rd Street any given Friday evening, having a cigar and a beer; he’ll have some books with him that he’s selling for only $5 each (they cost about twice that online).

“Like I said, I’m not trying to make a ton of money with this book,” he said. “It’s about having fun. If people read it and enjoy it, then I’ve succeeded.”
 
  • ‘Political Animal’
  • What: Debut novel by David L. Angier (242 pages, paperback)
  • Where: Available on Amazon.com or via DavidLAngier.com
  • Price: $8.99 online or $5 in person
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