Ben Coes used to write speeches. Now he writes thrillers.
A former campaign manager for Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Coes decided to move into the world of fiction, using his political experience as a backdrop.
Coes’ career in politics began when he was an intern in the Reagan administration. Later he was speechwriter to the secretary of Energy in the George H.W. Bush administration. For the past decade, Coes has been a partner at a private equity firm in Boston. He divides his time between the firm and writing. His new book, “Coup d’État,” is a political thriller that involves a dispute between Pakistan and India, with former Army Ranger Dewey Andreas as the central character. With a radical Islamist president in charge of Pakistan, the American government ends up staging a coup there. Coes talked with Roll Call about his novel and its political message.
Why fiction over a nonfiction premise? The only reason my books are fiction is because it hasn’t happened yet. In other words, I wanted them to be very authentic. I worked at the White House and I worked in politics, so I understand that world. I think I have the capability to write a very authentic story, but at the same time, you know, to me, fiction is fun and you can create scenarios and have endings and characters that don’t really exist in the real world.
What things translated from your experience in politics? In “Coup d’État,” you see the intelligence and political infrastructure present in the national security team dealing with a threat that could draw America into a near nuclear war.
I remember when I was an intern at the White House under President Ronald Reagan and Colin Powell was the national security adviser. I was standing there one day, and as he walks over to me, I look down on his suit and he had this big stain on his pants. I was 18 or 19 years old and was like ‘oh my god’ and I realized wow he’s just like anybody else.
I think that a lot of people who are my fans, of course they love the action and the hero duty, but I think they also like the authenticity around the characters — especially the characters that are in politics and government.
Tell me a little about your main character. He’s a former Delta. His name is Dewey, he’s from Maine, grew up on a farm, went to Boston College. He joined the Army and then was recruited into the Rangers, and as a very select few Rangers are, he was recruited into Delta.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.