Featured Thriller Author
by Joyce Dixon
If you are well-read in current events and
trends, you may be able to map out the course of the Country. It is a
fine talent for a writer to have, and Brewster Robertson is so blessed.
His latest thriller, A Grail Mystique hits with the impact of headlines that reflect current political, economic and industrial trends. His novel shows the changes in a multi-invested, family mega-corporation, when the family bloodline is weakened and less involved. The Grahams of North Carolina emulate many Southern industrial dynasties.
Born in Roanoke, Virginia, Robertson has been a commercial artist, Army Medical Service officer, a pharmaceutical salesman, marketing consultant, Marketing Director for various hospitals and medically oriented companies, teacher, photographer’s model and film actor, ghost writer and consulting editor.
A member of Southern Book Critics Circle, Robertson regularly writes about the arts, writers and writing for Publisher’s Weekly and many other well-known periodicals.
Was the stock name GRAIL intentional or did it just happen as you worked out a stock for Graham International, Ltd.?
the early drafts of the novel the corporate name was Graham/unLimited and
the stock symbol was G/uL. Eventually this evolved into Graham
International, Ltd. and Grail.
Norris Wrenn is haunted by the guilt that he sold out his lofty dreams in
exchange for wealth and power. For Norris, the Holy Grail is his struggle to
find that noble part of himself that he betrayed when he married the
daughter of Senator Dabney Thoroughgood Farnsworth and went to work for his
father-in-law’s powerful Washington law firm.
Social class is one of the novel’s overriding themes. From middle-class roots, Norris realized early that he had the intelligence and charisma to rise above his humble beginnings and compromised his ideals when he saw the opportunity to impose his strength over the weakness of his ineffectual roommate, Trip Graham.
Trip Graham has a lost weekend and wakes linked to a movie actress found dead from a drug overdose. How common are lost weekends in the world of alcoholics?
Blackouts (alcoholic amnesia) are quite common among alcoholics.
What is the difference in withdrawal for alcoholics and drug addicts? Should the country be more concerned with legal alcohol than illegal drugs? What about the abuse of prescription drugs to glamour drugs (cocaine)?
Withdrawal from chronic and acute alcohol (and barbiturates) abuse can be life threatening. It is quite common that chronic alcoholics experience DTs, which are characterized by extremely high fevers and hallucinations and can end in death. We truly are a society that believes in “Better living through chemistry.” At least 10% of the population are alcoholic abusers (because denial is so powerful, probably much higher). We tried controlling alcohol once and Prohibition didn’t work. The addiction to mood-altering prescription drugs among our society is rampant. A frightening percentage of the population cannot make it through the day without tranquilizers (the new buzz word is: anti-depressant).
Trip's grandfather died from hemorrhaging resulting from alcohol abuse. Trip has a near fatal hemorrhage. Is there a trait in "old money" where those of inherited wealth are ill-equipped to develop a sense of work ethic and social responsibility in light of having every whim supplied?
The moral and physical degeneration among the heirs to old money is a classic theme among writers like Erskine Caldwell, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John O’Hara, Tennessee Williams and Faulkner. I have seen it up close…it has fascinated me all my life.
What would you like the reader to learn from Trip's experience?
The primary reason
that people read fiction is to be entertained and it is always my goal to
grab the readers with the very first line and seduce them line-by-line all
the way to the very last page. If the novelist does that well, then he can
weave in that storytelling tapestry all sorts of worthwhile insights into
the human condition. I purposefully set out in The Grail Mystique to
write the most graphic and true to life description of late stage alcoholism
that I could. All of Trip’s experiences were based on my own late stages of
the disease. I particularly wanted to expose the overpowering sense of
“denial” that is pervasive among not only the alcoholic, but also the
co-dependents, i.e. Clayton, Mabel and Marilee.
Actually, I had just finished a complete rewrite of the novel before 9/11, which brought all the political elements of the new presidency up to date. When the smoke from the terrorist attacks cleared up and patterns of a national mindset began to emerge, nothing had really changed that would effect my plot in any significant way. It was actually quite simple to add a few touches here and there to acknowledge a terrorized post-9/11 America.
GRAIL is like ENRON in that Norris was projecting unrealistic futures. What does The Grail Mystique say about Wall Street and the Fortune 500 CEO's?
I am beginning to feel like something of a prophet…first, depicting a pro-life President in Rainy Days and Sundays and, now, the secret inner-workings of things above the 40th floor. Of course, all of the obscenity of overpaid CEOs has been out there for a long time…it took the Enron et al scandal of “cooking the books” to bring it to public attention. One of the things that fascinates me is how the ordinary working stiff really doesn’t care about what goes on as long as he can make his house and car payment and pay the grocery bill.
Colonial Hall, NC is a company town, where GRAIL is law and the Grahams are the ruling class. There is a hinted comparison to the Reynolds, Dukes and other southern families of great wealth. How is the power of wealth in a small southern town different from a resort town (Palm Beach, Hilton Head)?
Palm Beach and Hilton Head Island are the playgrounds of people like the Grahams.
One thing that northerners have never really understood is that the South is a truly agrarian feudal society. Colonial Hall with the Grail Tower (and the gated enclave along Club Drive) is symbolic of a feudal castle and the Graham’s seat of power. The passages on pages 34-35 describe how the Graham dynasty rules the working population like a benevolent feudal lord. While there are certain of the upwardly mobile young executives and local tradesmen and professionals who are granted membership in The Country Club, most of the rest of the town will be born and live and die without ever catching a glimpse inside the gates.
This power is summed up in the title The Grail Mystique, and is taken directly from page 317:
Your characters are complex and
flawed. Each has their own past secrets to hide or protect from enemies. How
do you see the hero in the modern world?
© 2003, Joyce Dixon, All Rights Reserved