Bob Graham, a former Democratic Senator from Florida, is promoting his new book, a work of fiction that draws heavily from his years in government service.
The second half of the novel — as they answer the questions from 9/11 and in the course of that find out about this much more dangerous threat to the U.S. than even 9/11 — I was chair[man] in 2008 and 2009 of the Congressional commission on [weapons of mass destruction], and much of the facts in that second part of the book are a result of the experience of trying to evaluate how well America was protecting itself against the worst weapons falling into the worst hands.
Did you enjoy writing fiction? There were two inspirations — one was the anger that some important information that was not national security sensitive had been withheld from the American people, and second, the idea of telling a story you can’t tell as nonfiction in the form of a novel. The third was I have given several commencement addresses in which I recommend to the graduates that in order to maintain their intellectual vitality and curiosity, that they should periodically challenge themselves to do something that is different from what they’ve done.
When I retired from the Senate in 2005, I thought I should eat my own cooking, and I decided that the thing that was different from what I had done — I had written three books — and something that was hard would be to write a novel. Five years later, this is the result of that.
Do you miss the Senate? What’s next for you? I had 18 very gratifying years there and eight years before that as governor of Florida. I’m very pleased to have had those opportunities and proud of some of the things they gave me the opportunity to do. I was ready to retire in 2004.
It was not a quick decision, but one that I’d been thinking of for some time and realizing that there were things I wanted to do, writing a novel was not frankly one of those things, but doing some more nonfiction was, as well as establishing a policy center at the University of Florida and spending more time with my 11 grandchildren.
I’m glad I made the decision that I did when I did and pleased that I’ve been able to use the time since the Senate in a constructive way.