Monday, February 8, 2010

Q and A with Dr. Jack Gresham
Author of 18 Billion

Tell us about your new book, 18 Billion.

18 Billion is the story of a nuclear threat against the United States by Afghan immigrants, who are Muslim. They plan to use the threat to rob the New York Federal Reserve Bank of its cash reserves and send that money to a Mohammed of Babylon, whom they believe to be the Mahdi. Mohammed, who is a proclaimed “man of peace” wants no part of terrorist activity and after receiving the money, seeks to return it to the United States without betraying the trust of his fellow Muslims. There is also the underlying plot of an international terrorist group that requires interdiction at multiple sites around the world, involving agencies of the United States government. At the end, Mohammed finds that he has used means of terror to combat terror. It leaves him in a quandary that he must somehow resolve by choosing one of two doors before him in the fulfilling of his life’s purpose.

What inspired you to write 18 Billion?

Islamic jihadists are a fact of life now as never before in American history. The book brings that home with a driving force. Yet, I am convinced that there are Muslims of noble character who are torn between allegiance to their faith and wanting to hold on to certain moral convictions not espoused by their kindred. This, among other things became a phenomenon to explore.

What sort of research went into writing this international thriller?

Primarily internet research of the banking industry, branches of government (both domestic and foreign), and media reports of terrorist incidents.

What is your process for planning out characters and events in your novels?

I primarily plan and document action scenes that will flow with the story; I then create characters that fit into these scenes. Many characters come from my own imagination; some characters are inspired (not portrayed) by people I have known and worked with over my lifetime. Into this flow, I often interject ancillary events and statements that are not necessarily associated with the story, but elaborate on a theme projected by the story.

Why did you choose 18 billion as the amount of money to be stolen from the United States Federal Reserve?

It is a sizeable, yet not astronomical amount. Also, there was the need to immediately transfer that physical cash accumulation overseas by air. It seemed reasonable. It was only after the book was published that a wise Jewish lady asked me the same question. My explanation did not satisfy her. She took a sheet of paper and wrote “18” and next to it wrote the two Hebrew characters that designated that number. She then told me that those two characters together could be literally translated as “life” with the parting remark, “I was sure that you knew.”

You mentioned that writing is your third life career, after being a pilot in the United States Air Force and an orthopedic surgeon. Was writing always an interest of yours or did it only come about after retirement?
I have, for as long as I can remember, been one to write down thoughts and experiences. I never thought of writing as a career or even for publication until recently, although the germinal seeds for this book surfaced in my life during my five-year stay in Saudi Arabia, 1980-85.

What tips can you give aspiring writers looking to create compelling fiction using real events?

Be careful to not portray a character of fiction as you might actually know someone to be. Do not be in a hurry to abandon a character in the heights of success or the throes of despair. Do not lose sight of the fact that what you are portraying must lie within the realm of possibilities.

Dr. Jack Gresham started his career as a jet pilot in the United States Air Force, before earning his degree at the University of Miami School of Medicine in 1961. He established a specialization in orthopedic surgery and spent five years in Saudi Arabia developing an orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation department in a local hospital. Before his retirement in 2004, Gresham went on numerous medical mission trips abroad to places such as the Ukraine, Brazil and Africa. He also recently completed a tour on the board of directors for the Learning Institute for Elders (LIFE) at the University of Central Florida. Gresham currently lives with his wife, Moena, in Orlando, Fla. For more information, please visit

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