Publisher Minstrel’s Alley is tying a new marketing campaign for its novel, The Guys Who Spied for China into a CBS Sixty Minutes Special, detailing the pervasiveness of Chinese Espionage within the United States. In addition to the much publicized cyber-espionage, the Sixty Minute segment interviews experts in the field who reveal the depth and degree of damage Chinese Espionage has caused a variety of industries. The investigative segment has renewed interest in The Guys Who Spied for China. The novel was written by Gordon Basichis and was originally published by Minstrel’s Alley in 2009. It was a Quarter-Finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition.
The Guys Who Spied for China by Gordon Basichis
“The Guys Who Spied for China is a fictionalized version depicting the origins of Chinese espionage in America,” said M.J. Hammond, Minstrel’s Alley publisher. “Spies for China began operating in the United States shortly after the Korean War. The first spies were American traitors and European communists with a Maoist bent.
The novel is based on Gordon Basichis’ own experience assisting a very senior spook in uncovering the espionage networks in California and other parts of the country. Much of it is set in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, the Silicon Valley and San Francisco. It is a character driven story that captures the heart and soul of the shadow world. Gordon writes so you get to feel on a visceral level what that world is all about. People know him for the bestselling Beautiful Bad Girl, The Vicki Morgan Story.”
Hammond points out that the book chronicles the early days of Chinese espionage when most of the operatives were both ideological and in it for the money. She noted that after President Nixon opened China and immigration was relaxed, Chinese Nationals gradually began to take over the espionage networks that were operating in every major American city. There was some conflict among the old network of domestic and European spies and the agents sent over from China.
“The Sixty Minute Segment is an excellent platform from which to build a marketing campaign,” said Hammond. “People interviewed for Sixty Minutes describe how much of our national security has been compromised by the persistence of Chinese espionage. Military and technological advancements have been stolen with relative impunity. It has cost this country hundreds of billions of dollars.
“The Guys Who Spied for China is a must read to learn how it all began and what was done, and what was not done, to stop it,” said Hammond. “Gordon Basichis’ novel is very cinematic, a great read. Not your typical spy book. It’s often funny, filled with dark humor. It’s some scary stuff.”
Interview with Gordon Basichis
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Philadelphia. Philly was a great music town. And music was a major influence to my writing. The combined mix of rock, folk, jazz and rhythm and blues helped me develop a musical sensibility to my own literary voice. Blues music, especially, taught me how to capture great human moments with a simple turn of a couple of lines. Philly was a town known for its sarcasm and its irony. This helped me see world and human events through the prism of humor. The City of Brotherly Love offered a mix of high and low culture. I’ve always been attracted to those two extremes. As a young journalist for a Philadelphia newspaper, I started to see the world at large, and how civilization and sophistication were but a thin veneer concealing the primal impulses that rest beneath the surface. Peace and love better wear a bullet proof vest.
When did you first start writing?
I wanted to be a writer from the time I was twelve years old. My first professional writing gig was at eighteen, writing for Nightlife Magazine, a weekly newspaper that was distributed largely to the bars and nightclubs in North Philadelphia. The paper was owned by two brothers, who wanted to tell of the black entertainment and social experience in the urban center. As I was not black, the club owners used to get a kick out of me when I delivered the papers as that was part of my job along with writing the stories inside. At nineteen I started working for the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin as an editorial clerk. I moved up to doing the Vietnam casualty beat, where I interviewed the survivors of the soldiers killed in action. I was promoted, covering the fire and crime beat. At twenty I experienced the surreal extravaganza of the city at night, replete with gory crime scenes and six alarm testimonials to the destructive consequences of a hot plate left on too long in a faulty electric socket. It was edifying to say the least.
Who are your favorite authors?
I have been influenced by many authors. Gabriel Garcia Marquez is beyond a doubt one of my absolute favorites. His books demonstrate a mix of passion and violence with the metaphysical and the gloriously absurd. Tom Pynchon is another of my favorite writers, an author who doesn’t slide easily into any genre but picks his themes and subjects as they inspire him. I also enjoy Joyce Carol Oates. Her book, On Boxing, is arguably one of the greatest books on boxing ever written. There is Tom Wolfe, of course, and Norman Mailer’s non-fiction novels. These writers can capture the tone and feel of the times in which we live.
My favorite writers are modernists, mostly. Charles Dickens is an exception, and there are others, but I have always gravitated more toward the writers of the twentieth century. It was rich period for literature. William Faulkner is inspirational, as is Kurt Vonnegut in his wonderful ability to capture the humor in some of the more dire scenarios of modern times. Samuel Beckett is remarkable, as is the much underrated poet, Kenneth Patchen and his poetic novel, Journal of Albion Moonlight.
The list goes on. As a teenager I was lucky enough to avail myself of the remainder bin at the old Marlboro Books, in New York. There for a buck a piece, one could find great modern works published by the iconic Grove Press and New Directions. It was no nonsense literature, more to the point, but beautifully written and in the modern context.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Life inspires me to get out of bed each day. Not only is it my own will to create and to build, but to see what others have created and built that has substance and texture. We are in a largely disposable world, so it is the things you remember that have richness and value. After all, life as grim as it can be, as absurd and as stupid, is still the greatest show on earth. Who’d want to miss it or not take as much of it in as possible, before you reach your expiration date?
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I am Co-Founder of Corra Group. We conduct background checks and corporate research. My business partner and I built our business from a spare bedroom and a few bucks into a small but significant concern that provides its services throughout the United States and around the world. We are living examples of how you can still make it happen if you are willing to learn and persistent. A bit of luck doesn’t hurt, either.
The business of Corra Group enables me to interface with people from all walks of life from all parts of the world. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to talk to all sorts in all businesses and learn from the trenches what is truly going on in the world. It’s a great spot to be, and I never take it for granted. The revenue from Corra Group allows me to write what I want and when I feel like it. Rather than succumb to someone else’s demands, it keeps the creative juices going. And this keeps me young and vital.
What is your writing process?
My writing process, frankly, is erratic. I would love to say it is regimented and that I am up at four in the morning and write X amount a day, so many pages in so much time. But I would be lying. For one thing, my business keeps me working at all hours, and providing information to the various and sundry is more than a perfunctory gesture. I think about what I want to write for quite some time. I sit with it, play with it, let it gestate. I mess around with it, some trial out of the gate pages to see what I like what I don’t like. I listen for the voice of the piece. Oh, the voice. The voice is the GPS, a true guidance. And then I sit and write pretty feverishly. I get absorbed and don’t think about much else. I finish a first draft, which is like hacking through the jungle weeds to find the highway. Once I finish the first draft I realize, okay, I can now see the story I really want to tell. And then I tell it. Many revisions later, I have something that looks like a book.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I read a biography of the writer, Jack London. I thought how wonderful, rather than pursue the white picket fence and the house with the wall to wall carpet, you can make a living being an adventurer. I read it when I was young and naturally it was all so romantic. Here was a guy who was an oyster pirate, and when he got tired of that he worked for the other side as an oyster marshal. Now there is some flexibility. But then, when one sifts through the romance, there is some credence. You experience life and then write about it. Get paid for it…maybe. Either way, you are living it out and taking it down. It keeps the brain cells working.
What do you read for pleasure?
I re-read some of my favorite authors and then I read a fair amount of non-fiction these days. I read books on the challenges of the global economy. One book I have been reading recently is The Metropolitan Revolution. It was published by the Brookings Institution. Its theme, mainly, is that as federal government is moribund in gridlock and is largely dysfunctional, the metropolitan and local regions are reaching concord and by forming unions among the academic, corporate, political, and technological worlds, they are working it out for themselves. It’s fascinating, really. And hopeful.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I am an extroverted writer. There are some, but not all that many. Most writers I know are happy daydreaming by themselves or sitting alone in a coffee shop working out their chapters. Introverts, mostly. For me, I have an outgoing personality which allows me to do well in interviews. As a former public relations and marketing executive, I have honed my skills over the years. I know what people are looking for in interviews. I can anticipate and satisfy. I am naturally funny and that goes a long way to liven up what can otherwise be a dull and unproductive session. I also blog and write different articles. That draws a crowd. With a Hollywood background I know one has to stay out there, engage and indulge while bringing some life to the party. Because in interview sessions, it ain’t always easy staring at someone with bad taste in fashion, no mouthwash, and a deep rooted desire to right all wrongs in the universe by flexing their agenda in the middle of a question-answer session. But then, with many, if they didn’t have an ax to grind, they would be having some fun. We can’t have that now, can we?
Describe your desk
I have two desks, actually. At home I have a long narrow desk, a furniture side piece. A table more than a desk. It has modern legs and a thick, crackled glass surface that throws the light in such a lovely manner. At night the computer lights dance in blues and reds, making my desk look like a futuristic city. Of course, I’m its only citizen, but then in this brain of mine there are those character’s voices to keep my company. And since they don’t eat very much, the setup is most cost effective.
At the office, I have one of those rising desks with the electric motor. It has a large surface. I believe you can fit the State of Delaware on top. It has an electric motor so I can raise and lower it at will. Stand up. Sit down. Just like going to Church or Temple. People say it’s good for your health. If nothing else, it helps release your underwear from indecent places.
What’s the story behind your latest book?
My latest book is always the book I am working on. As with the other books I have written, it comes directly from my own experience. I’ve been around the block a bit, so friends and maybe those who don’t like me as much as they claim, say it is time for me to do some form of autobiography. Well now. Are we there yet? Geez Louise, I have long discovered that situations that seem fairly matter of fact to me appear scandalous to others. Do I get embraced? Or do they come with shovels and pitchforks? And what is the statute of limitations on creative impulse and ironic indiscretion? Tough to say anymore.
But then, thanks to Facebook, I have reconvened with women I knew back when in high school. They have grown, established careers, have become successful. They read my books. But when we meet up, they overlook the violence, the sexuality, and the general insanity. Why? Because with me, their home boy and rare man of letters, they want to know…what will they do with the rest of their lives? And somewhere, that’s pretty fascinating.
Books by This Author
The Blood Orange by Gordon Basichis
Price: $1.99 USD. Approx. 58,270 words. Language: English. Published on June 8, 2011. Category: Fiction.
The Blood Orange, a romantic mystery set in modern day Los Angeles, is a quest for a treasure and a search for the soul. Former cop, Max Brodie, returns as a grisly murder ignites a deadly conflict. Bandit’s treasure and the romance of Old California are inextricably woven into a grand scheme of duplicity and intrigue where Max must uncover a vast puzzle. Nothing is what it seems to be.
The Constant Travellers by Gordon Basichis
Price: $4.99 USD. Approx. 101,490 words. Language: English. Published on August 5, 2010. Category: Fiction.
Sex, drugs, and the West that never was. In this funny and philosophical tale, young Shelby Lopez encounters Thunderbird Hawkins in post Civil War America. The Indian shaman teaches Shelby of the Great Necklace and the Great Book. Their journey leads them to wisdom and an understanding of man’s destiny. While set in the Old West, the novel’s modern idiom is as contemporary as if it were today.
Beautiful Bad Girl, The Vicki Morgan Story by Gordon Basichis
Price: $4.99 USD. Approx. 93,150 words. Language: English. Published on March 9, 2010. Category: Nonfiction.
Vicki Morgan, mistress to department store heir and Ronald Reagan confidant, Alfred Bloomingdale, lived beyond her years and died before her time, the victim of a brutal murder. Seething with power, intrigue, sex and obsession, it’s a ringside seat into the darker habits of the world’s rich and powerful.
The Guys Who Spied for China by Gordon Basichis
Price: $4.99 USD. Approx. 66,990 words. Language: English. Published on March 9, 2010. Category: Fiction.
The Guys Who Spied for China, a roman a clef exposing Chinese espionage networks in the United States, is a quirky tale of how two disparate men uncovered a network of homegrown spies that had operated in California and across the country for decades. A new twist on the spy drama, this personal and darkly humorous tale captures what it feels like to be thrust into the shadowy world of espionage.
Author Gordon Basichis
Los Angeles, CA July 24, 2012
Minstrel’s Alley announced it was reducing the prices of its eBooks through the end of the summer in order to encourage readers to try a book from this quirky,independent publisher. Prices will be reduced on the bestselling “Beautiful Bad Girl, The Vicki Morgan Story,” “The Guys Who Spied For China,” “The Blood Orange,” and “The Constant Travellers.”
“We especially would like new readers to introduce themselves to ‘Beautiful Bad Girl, The Vicki Morgan Story,’” said M.J. Hammond, president of independent publisher and media company, Minstrel’s Alley. “’Beautiful Bad Girl’ has been regarded by some as the true-life ‘Fifty Shades of Gray.’
“’Beautiful Bad Girl,’ is wonderfully written,” said Hammond. “It is a compelling non-fiction novel that documents the tempestuous affair during the Ronald Reagan Presidential Administration between department store scion, Alfred Bloomingdale, and his longtime mistress, Vicki Morgan. Their torrid relationship made international headlines, as the two lovers engaged in an obsessive-compulsive, sado-masochistic relationship at the highest levels of society. It ended up killing them both. The non-fiction novel is told as a first person narrative through the eyes of author, Gordon Basichis, who worked on the book with Morgan until she was murdered.”
Hammond noted that “Beautiful Bad Girl, The Vicki Morgan Story” was first published in 1985 by Santa Barbara Press. She pointed out at that time the political and social climate was such that any book depicting a politically charged sado-masochistic love affair unsettled the gatekeepers and the powers that be.
“People loved ‘Beautiful Bad Girl,’ and wherever it was released it sold out in a matter of days,” said Hammond. “President Reagan was at the top of the hill and even though the book wasn’t about him, but about a member of his kitchen cabinet, certain people worked hard to suppress its release. Let’s face it, it was embarrassing.
“However, as the smoke cleared and people started to look at that period in the eighties with a much more critical eye, book sales for ‘Beautiful Bad Girl’ began to take off. The book achieved a cult status. For a dozen years the audio version was distributed by Books on Tape, where it was one of their featured books.”
Hammond pointed out that “Fifty Shades of Gray,” if nothing else, demonstrates the tremendous demand for novels that depict a woman’s sexual fantasies. “’Fifty Shades of Gray’ is a major success because it goes right to the heart of the sexual fantasies women like to think about, what they like to play with in their minds,” said Hammond.
“Only with ‘Beautiful Bad Girl,’ these were not sexual fantasies,” she said. “These were sexual realities. ‘Beautiful Bad Girl, the Vicki Morgan Story’ is a wild, wild ride depicting the sexual demons of the rich and powerful. Nobody would ever believe it. But truth is often stranger than fiction. And this story is true.”
Hammond noted how another Minstrel’s Alley novel, “The Guys Who Spied for China”, is a roman a clef, detailing the origins of the Chinese espionage networks that were established in this country and the attempt to destroy them.
“With all the talk in the headlines about Chinese spy rings and how they are engaged in industrial espionage and going after American military and technological trade secrets, this book should be an eye opener,” said Hammond. “At $5.99 in eBook format, all of the Minstrel’s Alley books make for something different in your summer reading.”
M.J. Hammond is a former entertainment industry executive who founded Minstrel’s Alley to publish popular books not found in mainstream publishing.
“Mainstream publishing has its purpose,” said Hammond. “But the industry’s focus on celebrity and genre based books has left readers wanting. We hope to help bring a sense of adventure back to books and publishing.”
Background: Minstrel’s Alley is a Los Angeles based independent publisher that seeks to bring adventure back into the publishing industry by publishing books that have popular appeal but with more complexity than the standard mainstream fare. The new publishing group distributes its books through Amazon, Kindle, and assorted Internet outlets as well as through bookstores around the country. You can view Minstrel’s Alley at http://www.minstrelsalley.com