White House Thrillers

by | May 23, 2016 | Karna Small Bodman | 10 comments

Madam SecretaryWhite House DownHouse of CardsWest Wing— TV shows, movies and novels about the White House have all been popular.  Are you fascinated with political intrigue, motives involving power, influence, money as well as world dominance and terror? These are many of the themes reflected in my thrillers as well as those by my fellow “Rogue Women Writers” on this new website.

But have you ever wondered just how accurate the portrayals are of the White House itself and how the men and women who serve there try to handle the many crises that hit any administration? I had the incredible experience of serving six years in the White House, first as Deputy Press Secretary, later as Senior Director of the National Security Council where we had our morning staff meetings in the Situation Room at 7:30 AM.  I am often amazed at Hollywood’s portrayal of the “Sit Room,” as we call it, with banks of computers, maps and flashing lights.  It is actually a conference room with a long table and yes, audio and video capabilities. But if you were to step inside, you might think you were in a corporate boardroom rather than the center of national security decision-making. 

When I decided to write novels, a question often asked on book tours was, “Where do you get your ideas?” All of us can pick up any newspaper and see a veritable petri dish of plot points. But I figured out that “being there” and talking to my government colleagues could be even better.  So I set out to write a series of novels, each focused on a different national security threat to our country, and stories that also described the actual White House, Oval Office, Cabinet and Roosevelt Rooms, along with characters patterned after many of the courageous people I worked with.

My first novel, Checkmate, involves missile defense — a subject that fascinated me as I saw it play out, first hand, when President Reagan announced his “Strategic Defense Initiative” and watched the Soviets throw a hissy-fit over it when I attended Arms Control Talks.  I carried that theme into my fourth and latest book, Castle Bravo, when I heard a warning from the Major General in charge of our Missile Defense Forces world-wide.  In explaining why we need an expanded system he said, “Let me paint a scenario for you. Let’s say it’s a few years down the road and some militant group or country that doesn’t like us somehow gets hold of a small nuclear device (we know they’re all trying — Pakistan has over 100 of them). And they also acquire a “delivery vehicle” — a simple missile like a SCUD. Say they have these components on a disguised ship off one of our coasts.

“And let’s say they don’t aim it at New York or Los Angeles – devastating as that would be. No, they aim it straight up in the air and detonate it 50-100 miles up.  This creates an “Electro Magnetic Pulse” (or “EMP) that “fries” all the electronics on the ground. We would have no computers, cell phones, communication, transportation, sanitation, refrigeration.” He went on to say, “Karna, it would set us back to the year 1910 — and don’t think our enemies aren’t looking at this because we  know they are.”

Wow – what a plot line! And that’s the theme of Castle Bravo.  All my stories contain a real (as I see
it) threat and thus a warning, not in a “preachy” way, but in a story people will enjoy reading while also understanding what is at stake.  I’m reminded of a quote by George Bernard Shaw, “The best way to get your point across is to entertain.” And that is exactly what all of us “Rogue Women Writers” are trying to do here.  Please visit my website: www.karnabodman.com and check in with this “Rogue” website for more stories, inspiration and challenge.

But first, fellow espionage fanatics, how would you like to see the White House portrayed? What questions has Hollywood failed to answer for you?

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  1. S. Lee Manning

    Wow. Scary scenario indeed. I do love White House thrillers, and you have the background to write them. I just bought Castle Bravo and it's on my next to-read list.

  2. Francine Mathews

    Love the disparity between the Situation Room as it was, and as it seems to be on film. I always have the same sense of disorientation when I see the Central Intelligence Agency's Ops Center portrayed!

  3. KJ Howe

    Fantastic blog, Karna. I respect how you research these fascinating doomsday possibilities and bring them to the page. The White House offers such mystique and grandeur to stories. I'm a huge fan of your work!

  4. Sonja Stone

    My dad convinced me to watch West Wing, and now my youngest teenager is doing the West Wing Netflix binge. My favorite episodes were the thrillers–a kidnapped Zoey, shots fired at POTUS, an intruder scaling The White House fence. It's so interesting to hear about the Sit Room from an insider! Thanks, Karna!

  5. Kerryn Reid

    What a great idea for a site, Karna! All the posts up so far are fascinating. I'm afraid my TBR pile is in for another growth spurt… Sigh.

  6. LynnetteAustin

    I love reading these stories from the POV of someone like you, Karna, who's been there, done that! Excellent–and scary–storylines!

  7. Unknown

    Wow ~ great background both for your story and your life. You've lived your inspiration and are using it well. Can't wait to read Castle Bravo.

  8. Chris Goff

    I love the quote by George Bernard Shaw!

  9. Jamie Freveletti

    Love the description of the real White House Sit.

  10. Gayle Lynds

    What a terrific insider look at, Karna. I love your books and writing!