'Sandstorm'

Fox 2 anchor pens first thriller novel

By Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

Despite the success of his first novel, “Sandstorm,” Fox 2 News Morning anchor Alan Lee isn’t planning on quitting his day job any time soon.

“If this turns out like ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ (the 2011 erotic romance that has topped sales charts and best-seller lists worldwide), I don’t think I’d have an option. Until we get to that territory, I’m definitely gonna have to keep my day job,” said Lee, 54, with a laugh.

He lives with his wife — Sean Lee of WWJ Newsradio 950 — and two sons in Metro Detroit.

The Purdue University alumnus wanted to be a novelist ever since he was a kid growing up in Chicago.

“We read a lot in our household. We all gravitated towards detective stories — spy stories particularly — so I’d read the Ian Fleming books and all things spy-related that I could get my hands on,” said Lee. “Just one day I promised myself if I ever had the opportunity to write a novel, I would pursue it. One day, I decided to sit down and actually do it and here we are.”

However, before that “one day” came, Lee spent more than 30 years as journalist — 17 in Detroit — where he interviewed numerous politicos, including former President Jimmy Carter. Lee also got to interview the late Robert Ludlum, author of the Jason Bourne novels (which have since been adapted into four blockbuster movies), when he worked in the Virgin Islands in 1983. He stated meeting Ludlum was “an amazing experience.”

“I heard Ludlum often came to the islands; he’d vacation down there,” recalled Lee. “We were doing this interview and he went to get me something to drink. He left his notepad out there. It was upside-down and I’m straightening my neck to see what his next book was about. He was just a great guy to get to know and he was very gracious with his time. To have that experience meeting him and talking to him was just another one of those things that you keep in the back of your mind and say, ‘Gee, this is what I’d really love to do one day.’”

Lee’s insider’s knowledge of the intelligence community served him well when writing “Sandstorm.”

“When I (worked) in Washington D.C., I did get to meet a number of people in the intelligence community. Those were the stories I really enjoyed covering. I covered the CIA a number of times, I covered the White House. I met enough people who made it interesting enough that I could trust them and they trusted me,” explained Lee. “You’d hear some details about some things and they would tell me how to look for things that were important on stories that would sometimes get leaked.”

He continued: “This one story caught my eye… It was about a program that Israel and the United States have brokered into together against Iran’s nuclear ambitions without having to go to war, without having to exercise that option. You were hoping to frustrate them as much as possible and spend a ton of money.”

That inspired him to write “Sandstorm.”

“I took that idea from what was going on — it was a real operation — and ran with it,” said Lee. “I turned it over to my imagination.”

In “Sandstorm,” a secret government partnership has been formed between an Israeli spymaster manipulating the Mossad’s master assassin and a billionaire boys’ club, which would result in the deaths of thousands in the Middle East. Among their number is a U.S. senator aspiring to the presidency. This partnership will stop at nothing to succeed in its mad ambitions. The first to die is CIA operative Erica Janway, who’s assassinated in her Maryland home.

Standing against this partnership and bent on avenging Erica’s death is CIA operative Nora Mossa. However, everyone in the CIA is suspect and Nora trusts no one. Consequently, she turned to the only person who can keep her alive — ex-CIA agent Alex Koves, who’s also her ex-lover. The question is: Will he?

Lee conceived Alex during his Purdue days.

“I always wanted to write, but life just got in the way. He’s been around since college. It was the name I made up — it sounded cool at the time — and always kept it with me,” explained Lee. “I’ve had some people who’ve contacted me out of the blue. One person asked me, ‘Do you know someone like Alex? How did you create that character?’ I said, ‘I don’t know anyone like that. He’s mostly made up.’ He goes, ‘That’s funny because I do know somebody like that. In fact, I used to work with him. I’m gonna get this book for him because he’s gonna enjoy it and get a big kick out of it.’ ‘So what you’re telling me is you know someone who used to be a football player who’s a spy?’ And he goes, ‘That’s pretty much it.’”

Nora, however, was a recent creation.

“She came out of the blue. I wanted to create a love interest for Alex and build the backstory around him — who was important in his life and why. She just sort of popped up,” he said.

Lee’s hard at work on the sequel, which doesn’t have a title at the moment. However, he stated this much: Alex is seeking revenge for something haunting him for a long time, based in part of what happens in “Sandstorm.” 

“It’s a tremendous accomplishment just to finish a novel. People say, ‘I’ve always wanted to write a book, I’ve always wanted to do this’ — but to actually finish it and see it to the point where it is now on store shelves sort of makes you feel giddy, like a little kid. Growing up, do you remember those days and you’d spend hours in a bookstore thumbing through titles and things of that nature… it takes me back to those days.

Lee always wanted to give a shout-out to two best-selling thriller novelists: Brad Meltzer and Vince Flynn. Meltzer, an alumnus of the University of Michigan and Columbia Law School, has penned nine political thrillers and several comic book series. Flynn was the author of 14 political thrillers — 13 of which featuring his hero Mitch Rapp — and a story consultant for the fifth season of the TV series “24.”
Flynn died June 19 after a 3-year battle with prostate cancer.

“Vince was just an incredible friend to me in helping me along and giving me support and constantly encouraging me to get this done,” said Lee. “He wrote a nice blurb for my book, which even makes my book to be more special. I will always have that.”