“I knew Terry could write hard news. ‘Courier’ shows he can write a damn good thriller...”
– Aaron Brown, former CNN anchor
EMMY AWARD-WINNING WRITER AND LONG-TIME JOURNALISTTERRY IRVING REVISITS WATERGATE-ERA D.C. IN ‘COURIER’
Historical suspense novel releases in 40th anniversary year of Nixon’s resignation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The motorcycle that Vietnam vet Rick Putnam rides around Washington D.C.is fast, but is it fast enough to escape his destructive memories of the war and the hired guns who are trying to kill him?
In his debut novel “Courier” (May 1, 2014, Exhibit A Books), Emmy award-winning journalist andwriter Terry Irving paints a gritty picture of a Washington DC that today has completely disappeared under new parks and high-rise office buildings. In the middle of the scandal and drama of Watergate,Rick, a motorcycle courier, unsuspectingly picks up a roll of news film and—after the correspondent and crew are killed—finds that he is next on the killer’s to-do list. With the help of friends—and a woman who threatens to crack the shell he's built to defend his heart—Rick must discover what's on the film and why officials are willing to kill to keep it from the front pages.
Legendary broadcast news anchor Ted Koppel notes how Irving’s first-hand experience brings the novel to life, “If the phrase 'a crackling good yarn' evokes an era before Twitter, Facebook, cell phones, videotape, DVDs or cable television, welcome to Terry Irving’s fast-paced thriller from a bygone age. The Vietnam War is winding down, a wounded vet takes a job as a motorcycle courier at a network's Washington news bureau, and finds himself caught up in the backwash of a harrowing conspiracy.Terry Irving knows the landscape. I was there. So was he.”
In a hat tip to Paul Fussell’s classic “The Boy’s Crusade,” Irving’s story unveils the bonds between men who fight together and the distance between those that order the attacks and those who carry them out.
Irving is a television producer and writer who lives near Washington D.C. He moved to the nation’s capital in 1973 when he – much like the protagonist in his new book – became a motorcycle courier for the ABC Washington Bureau. He has worked in newsrooms at CNN, Fox, ABC and MSNBC. He has won four National Emmy Awards along with multiple Peabody, DuPont and Telly awards.
“Courier” is the first book in The Freelancer Series, with “Warrior” to follow several other stories planned.
Meet “Courier” Author Terry Irving
In the nation’s capital, Irving started out riding a classic BMW R60/2 for ABC News during Watergate. Carrying that news film was the beginning of a 40-year career that has included producing Emmy Award-winning television news, writing everything from magazine articles to standup comedy and developing earlyforms of online media. He has traveled and worked in all 50 states plus parts of Europe, Africa and Asia.
Irving is the winner of four National Emmy Awards, multiple Peabody, DuPont and Telly awards, plus an honor at the Columbus Film Festival. He has produced stories around the world from the fall of the Berlin Wall to Tiananmen Square. He worked as a senior live control room producer at CNN, Fox, ABC and MSNBC. He wrote and edited copy for some of the top anchors and journalists in television news including Ted Koppel, Diane Sawyer, Wolf Blitzer, and Aaron Brown.
Irving is an active member of the International Thriller Writers and the Mystery Writers of America, and serves as a board member of the Foundation for Moral Courage.
Irving is the author of the on-going memoir “On the Road” and the self-help book “The Unemployed Guy’s Guide to Unemployment,” both published in 2012 by Rock CreekConsulting LLC. His debut novel “Courier” releases May 1, 2014 from Exhibit A Books, the crime fiction imprint of Angry Robot Books. It’s the first of several books planned for The Freelancer Series.
Irving and his wife live just outside Washington D.C. because their dog simply refuses to live anywhere else.
Critical Acclaim for “Courier”
"Terry was one of the most imaginative and enterprising television producers I ever worked with. It's not surprising then that ‘Courier’ is a terrific page-turner with a clever backdrop and compelling characters."
– Erik Sorenson, former president of MSNBC
"I knew Terry could write hard news. ‘Courier’ shows he can write a damn good thriller..."
– Aaron Brown, former CNN anchor
"If the phrase 'a crackling good yarn' evokes an era before Twitter, Facebook, cell phones, videotape, DVDs or cable television, welcome to Terry Irving's fast-paced thriller from a bygone age. The Vietnam War is winding down, a wounded vet takes a job as a motorcycle courier at a network's Washington news bureau, and finds himself caught up in the backwash of a harrowing conspiracy. Terry Irving knows the landscape. I was there. So was he."
– Ted Koppel, former Nightline anchor
"The year is 1972, mix the White House, the Watergate burglary, the war in Vietnam and murder in Washington and you've got a terrific story...Kudos to one of television's best producers for writing the thriller of the year!"
– Sam Donaldson, former White House reporter
“If you can remember the ‘60s, you never lived through them. If you lived through the ‘70s, you'll never forget. Irving masterfully brings back the cold-eyed conspiracy lurking behind the smiley face.”
– Marshall Arbitman, senior writer for Anderson Cooper
"Finished the book on the flight that day...loved it."
– David Bohrman, former president Current TV
"In ‘Courier,’ Terry Irving has a page-turner of a first novel. I picked it up – in draft form, on a tablet, yet – and couldn't put it down. Buy it, and start reading early enough in the day that you don't stay up all night finishing it."
– Martin Heller, author, entrepreneur and chairman of Tubifi
“Rick is one of those great characters that guys want to be and woman, well, just want... And, boy, do those pages turn fast. This is an incredibly cinematic read, with a fine cast of minor characters also, and fascinating too on the politics and counter-culture surrounding this resonant and rich period of recent U.S. history.”
– Emlyn Rees, author of the best-selling thriller "Hunted"
Book Details for “Courier” by Terry Irving
In his daily rounds as a Washington motorcycle courier, Vietnam veteran Rick Putnam has found that the only way to blast the demons from his soul is with the sheer speed of his beloved BMW. However, the race turns very real when he suddenly becomes the target in a lethal pursuit and Rick must find out just who is trying to kill him – and why. “Courier” is the high-velocity thriller by long-time Washington journalist Terry Irving that slashes through the darkness at the heart of our nation’s capital. It’s a fast-paced, finely crafted foray into high-level intrigue, political corruption, and the invisible wounds of war that will keep readers hanging on as the danger threatens to spin out of control.
The year is 1972 in Washington, D.C., a hotbed of government secrets and fractured souls, with the Watergate Scandal heating up and the Vietnam War slowing down. One day during his courier gig, Rick unknowingly picks up a roll of news film that proves the President is guilty of a transgression that would mean not only impeachment and conviction but lifelong disgrace. A rogue CIA agent backed by a Korean assassin and two Saigon cowboys is sent to recover the film and silence Rick – permanently. Rick fights back with the assistance of some of the world’s first computer hackers, two brave congressional staffers, and a motorcycle gang leader who fought by his side in Vietnam’s toughest battle. In the middle of it all, Rick falls in love with a Native American law student who may just be able to bring some peace to his tortured soul.
With its white-knuckle pace and absorbing intrigue, “Courier” is a heart-pumping, riveting read full of high menace, hot motorcycles, and Washington’s own brand of mayhem - the kind you never read about on the front page. It’s a must for anyone who likes their thrillers real and their motorcycles very, very fast.
Q&A with Author and Journalist Terry Irving
How did your experience as a motorcycle courier in Washington D.C. help shape Rick Putnam’s character in “Courier?”
Interestingly, when I began to write "Courier," it felt as if I was writing a historical thriller set in Victorian London or Renaissance Italy. The world of television news that I entered in 1973, with almost no women, blacks, or gays allowed, film and crude graphics the medium, and cigarettes everywhere…I honestly didn't realize how much things had changed. I spent a good deal of the next decades inside dark rooms in the middle of the night but being a courier meant I went everywhere and saw everything. Washington was a smaller, more relaxed city; politics was a game of relationships more than ideology, and agencies like the FBI and the CIA had a free hand to do what they thought was right for the nation.
Is it true that you based Rick Putnam on a photo of actor Nicholas Cage and incorporated memories of friends who were in Vietnam in the ‘70s?
Yes. When I began to write, I based Rick on myself but I was bored to tears by the second chapter. I always try to find pictures—any pictures—to look at while I'm writing so that I can keep the action and dialog true to the character. Nick Cage on that bike was simply perfect—young, crazy, and willing to take on anything. He was also a lot cuter and I could tell just from the photo that he was a LOT better at handling a motorcycle.Some of the characters are made of bits and pieces of people I knew back then—none is completely based on a single person—but a lot of the feeling of battle came from reading an article that ABC Correspondent Jack Smith wrote only weeks after he'd survived the Battle of Ia Drang. It's unlike any other war reporting I've read before or since. Rick is not Jack, I think Jack would have been horrified at the very thought, but that's a part.Another reporter was told he'd never have the use of his right arm again after taking shrapnel in Vietnam. He lifted weights and squeezed a pink ball until he recovered from sheer strength. I do a lot of reading but most of it is original sources, I actually try not to read books like All the President's Men or the novels of George Pelecanos so I don't accidently lift material from them.
Are you anything like your protagonist in “Courier?”
I should be so lucky.
How did you get a job as a courier for ABC’s Washington Bureau?
I had hitchhiked to Alaska after college and ended up back in Washington without a job. A friend of my brother—who had two birth certificates and two drivers' licenses—knew of a job at a courier company. My attitude was, they're going to PAY me to drive a BMW all day? Does life get any better? Sadly, the couriers were all paid on commission so the faster they went, the more they made. After two days following another rider, I'd decided that I didn't want to die trying to deliver a legal brief. Before I could quit, the dispatcher called me up and told me to report to ABC News. ABC paid the courier company by the hour so it didn't matter that I was slow and the White House required that anyone entering have no drug or weapons arrests. I think I was the only courier on staff that had a clean record—my predecessor was robbed managing the night shift at a 7/11 and it turned out that the .45 he was using to defend himself was unregistered. I worked there for six months and quit after I almost died at a traffic light—oddly enough, in a very similar situation to what happens to Rick near the beginning of Courier.
You’ve worked on news stories all over the world from the tragedy at Tiananmen Square to Hurricane Katrina. What made you choose the Watergate era for your first novel?
This story has been kicking around in the back of my head since 1976 when I read an article by Renata Adler in the Atlantic—I didn't keep it so I had to wait until they invented the Internet to find it again. That was where the substance came from but the atmospherics, the locations, the kinds of people are from memory. There are times in your life when everything is new and exciting and the images just stick in your head—1973 was one of those times for me. I can still see the streets, smell the ashtrays, hear the television shows. Courier isn't about me, but it's set in a time that I remember very, very well.
Q&A PAGE 2
This August marks the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation from the White House. What was it like to be working in a newsroom on that historic day?
Well, by August of 1974, I was working as a Desk Assistant for the Morning News. I would have arrived at work at 3 am and left around noon. My time would have been spent collecting anchor scripts for a very young Peter Jennings, ripping apart the scripts to eliminate the ten pages of carbon paper, and distributing them to the control room. By the time the President resigned, I was probably trying to get some sleep. Vice President Agnew's resignation and the Saturday Night Massacre are still very vivid in my memory but that's because those events happened while I was still a courier so I was there and it was my job to get the film back as fast as possible. I think the newsroom would have been insane—one of my best friends has a picture of him handing Howard K. Smith the resignation copy—but, still, everyone was wondering why Nixon was resigning. Worse things had happened to him and he'd survived. People need to remember that the tapes, Howard Dean's "cancer on the presidency" remark, and the firing of his top aides had happened long before. So why was he resigning now? Courier is an attempt to answer that question and while Courier is fiction, I repeat, fiction, the evidence that the central concept may be correct is actually getting stronger.
“Courier” goes deeper than the typical thriller. How does it address the effects of war on veterans returning to everyday life?
I hate to sound like some dweeb from a creative-writing course (and I've never taken one) but I'm never quite sure what my characters are going to do or say until I write it. I never served in Vietnam but it felt like Rick would have. Eve grew from a minor character to a central one, the whole gay nightlife angle happened because of the location of the next exit from the Metro tunnels. I didn't have the entire book broken out before I wrote it—I think I had the first few paragraphs in my head and a general idea of where things were going to go.Now, I'm not saying that I take material like the Vietnam experience casually; I've been covering the effects of war on those who fight it for a long time, and I've spent more time in military camps than any Quaker boy would have ever expected. I've gained a tremendous respect for the men and women of the military. It's like any other story I've done; I do an immense amount of research, and then, well, put my fingers on the keys and see what happens.
“Courier” seems like it would translate great to film. And surely as an Emmy-award winning writer you’ve thought about that?
Think it would? Gosh, I hope so. In fact, I've already written a first draft of a screenplay just in case someone asks for it. (Call me.) Part of that was to learn how to write a movie—and I'm still learning—but, I'm used to writing to pictures and every page in Courier was written to a very specific location and the action was in my head before I put it on the page. Now, I can't do what Rick does on a motorcycle and I don't advise that anyone try these tricks at home, but when I was writing, I was in a very vivid dream state with balance, tire adhesion, and counter-steering all running around in my head.
Without spoilers of course, what can readers expect in “Courier’s” sequel, “Warrior?”
The book begins at the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana and grows from there to involve a cult outside Washington and the legal and political infighting that was going on over the largest surface coal deposits in the world—the Fort Union Coal Formation. This is strip-mined coal and it happens to be under most of the Indian reservations in the upper Midwest. Of course, there are some truly cool motorcycles and a very fast recreational vehicle.