State Politics Is at the Heart of ‘Sine Die’

Posted April 1, 2003 at 1:29pm

Legislative sessions. State government. Term limits. Not exactly the best foundation for a page-turner, you might say.

Matthew Levin would disagree.

Levin, legislative director for Michigan state Sen. Gilda Jacobs (D), published “Sine Die” last month. The novel, a self-proclaimed “political thriller” based on his experience in state and Capitol politics, pokes fun at the power struggles between eccentric personalities in Michigan’s state Legislature. It’s a quirky narrative with a political punchline.

A former regional staffer for Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the 33-year-old Levin (no relation to the Senator) self-published the book through Trafford, an on-demand publishing company.

Levin has sold 500 copies since the novel’s release party in Chicago on March 1. He has targeted the Chicago and Lansing, Mich., areas in a one-man marketing operation, selling his book primarily from his Web site (www.matthewjlevin.com) for $19.99.

Levin plans to promote his book in Washington, D.C., and Sacramento, Calif., next. He has begun advertising in Roll Call and next looks to advance his book in D.C. publications such as the Washington Blade.

Using colorful description and extreme characters based on Michigan’s 148 state Representatives, Levin hopes to entice his target audience of political junkies, gays and lesbians to read his book.

The book, which gets its title from the common Latin term in politics meaning adjournment, focuses on the tense period before the legislative session ends.

Levin said he takes “bits and pieces of real life” to create his fictional politicians, who include colorful characters like Josh Briscow, a police detective who loses by four votes in a Grand Rapids state Representative race and struggles to secure his self-identity while re-evaluating his sexuality. Another character is Gloria Manson, a disgruntled state Representative whose once relied on her good looks to get by but who now wants to be taken more seriously.

This is Levin’s first published book, but not his first attempt to get published.

“I’ve always been a writer,” he said.

That is not an exaggeration. In third grade Levin wrote a short story based on Dracula and sent it off to get published. Although he was unsuccessful, Levin continued writing until a summer internship at the Michigan Capitol while an undergraduate at Michigan State University piqued his interest in politics.

“I met my mentor, Legislative Director Lucy Foster,” Levin said. “She showed me the ropes and gave me a taste of how fulfilling and exciting working in the Legislature could be.”

Today, Levin has traveled from his early intern years into the same shoes as Foster at his “dream job” as legislative director in the state Senate. He works in communications drafting press releases, speeches and legislative materials.

“Politics is my full-time job now with writing part-time,” Levin said. “But, it could possibly be different depending on what happens” with “Sine Die.”

His boss, for one, gives the book a thumbs up.

“It was a lot of fun to read,” Jacobs said. “It was great fun to feel personally part of the story line, although it is somewhat an exaggeration.”

Levin said he combined his passion for politics and writing in “Sine Die,” and maintains that political junkies will be able to relate: “Anyone in politics would get a kick out of it.”