How to Run Congress and Write Sexy Thrillers - Get a Coauthor

Article excerpt

Science-fiction novelist Bill Forstchen has published 17 books, including a few genre best-sellers, in a writing career that has made his Catholic mother, Dorothy, proud. But she worried about book No. 18 - a military thriller titled 1945 that her son cowrote with House Speaker Newt Gingrich - when the New York Times got hold of the galleys.

The paper, trumpeting Gingrich's novelistic debut, reprinted a scene in which a Nazi spy - a "shameless" Swedish blonde the authors describe as a slice of "delicious doom" - seduces the White House chief of staff. "I had to tell my mother,`No, Mom, I'm not writing dirty books,'" Forstchen recalled on a recent visit to Washington.

Dirty prose is not the only rumor Forstchen and Gingrich have tried to scuttle regarding their still-unreleased book. 1945, scheduled for publication in August by Baen Books, has received gobs of advance publicity, thanks to its politically famous coauthor. But it also has inspired a mixture of curiosity, controversy and occasional ridicule that seems to be preventing Forstchen - a friend and political ally of Gingrich - from savoring all the prepublication buzz.

"I'm really angry at some of the press," says the, New Jersey native, who teaches history at a college in North Carolina, where he lives with his wife and daughter. But Forstchen sounds resigned to what he calls "deliberate distortions" by critics who view 1945 as an opportunity to mock Gingrich.

"We knew while we were writing the book that every word was going to be hyperanalyzed," says Forstchen, who looks boyish enough, even at age 44, to cringe convincingly at his mother's disapproval. First came the steamy excerpt, which he felt was misleading enough. Then came a front-page story disclosing a cameo by one Lt. George Bush, a young naval aviator who is described in the narrative as "goofy." The authors swore that the apparent nudge at the former president was a stray comment penciled in by an editor and picked up in galleys.

Finally, there was a story suggesting that Gingrich, who dreamed up the plot and gets top billing on its jacket, was author only in name. Forstchen fumes at the notion: "He was a full participant in this book from beginning to end," The two split a $30,000 advance from the publisher.

The project got under way two years ago when Gingrich, then House minority whip, approach publisher Jim Baen with a World War II scenario in which the Nazis win Europe and head for the United States. …