When we heard about the connection between New York writer, Gray Basnight, and Phoenix Books owner, Mike DeSanto, we thought it would be fun to ask Gray to write a guest blog for us. Thanks Gray! If you’re looking for a gift for someone on your list who enjoys political thrillers, do check out Basnight’s latest, Flight of the Fox, out now from Down & Out Books.
Books Brought Us Back Together in Vermont
40 Years After Pursuing Theatre in DC and NYC
by Gray Basnight
In my latest novel, a thriller called Flight of the Fox, my central character is a mathematician who frequently wonders about the mysterious impact of numbers upon human life. That’s no accident. I’ve been wondering about numbers since receiving my first AARP mailing, which seemed to happen five seconds after I turned 50. That was 15 years ago.
Scientists define a year as “365 solar days required for one revolution of the earth around the sun.” Scientists are wrong. As a 65-year-old, I know for a fact that each year goes faster than the previous one. The older I get, the faster they go. Last year, for example, sped past in about a week-and-a-half. Thus, all scientists must revisit this solar revolution thing ASAP (not to be confused with AARP).
Which brings me to my recent reunion in September 2018 with old friend Mike DeSanto who owns five bookstores in Vermont along with his partner Renee Reiner. My novel and his bookstores brought us back together after nearly 40 years of being AWOL from each other’s lives.
Mike and I were buddies in graduate school at George Washington University in the late 1970s. We studied theatre. My plan was to receive an MFA and become a college theatre professor. After finishing school, I moved to New York City to live the actor’s life for a brief sojourn, which I thought was key to my overall education as a well-rounded sage of theatre. Mike did the same. We even lived in the same apartment building way uptown near the George Washington Bridge. Unfortunately for me, to pay the rent, I waited tables and tended bar. Meanwhile, Mike developed a budding movie career with a series of union film jobs. I was impressed and glad for him.
What happened next is a bit foggy. All I remember is that after a couple of years, Mike vacated the city to rejoin his family in Maryland and pursue better salaried opportunities. I, too, thought of doing the same. For me, it would have meant going back to Richmond, Virginia, to be a high school English teacher. Ultimately, I didn’t because I couldn’t abide the feeling of retreating from the biggest challenge of my young life with my tail tightly tucked under. Then I got lucky. I fell into a radio job at WOR-AM, loved it, and eventually became a news writer, producer, and reporter. Thirty years later I was laid off during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Instead of hustling to get another radio gig, I sat down and began my third career—this time as a novelist.
Now back to Mike DeSanto.
Little did I know that along the way Mike had moved to Vermont and began running bookstores— he now has five, one each in Burlington, Essex, Rutland, Chester, and Woodstock. Last year, he saw my name listed as an attendee at a writer’s conference in Toronto and he figured … um … could there be more than one Gray Basnight in this world? With a name like mine—hardly. Thus, two old acting buddies we were reunited through books: his life as a book retailer and my life as a book writer.
Consequently, it was a privilege to appear at Mike’s Phoenix Books in Burlington for Flight of the Fox in September.
As a bonus, we had dinner together, relived old stories from our grad school days and our struggle as actors in NYC. It was a wonderful reunion that made those decades of absence seem like … well, like they went by in a flash.
Which brings me back to numbers. I remember being about 12 years old when I heard my Aunt Bebe ponder her age, which at the time was about 65, and which, also at the time, I thought to be rather elderly. Speaking to me in all seriousness, she asked me: “How did it happen?”
My answer: “Gee, Aunt Bebe, I guess the years just kind of added up.”
She didn’t appreciate my mathematic answer. Now I know why, which is AISB (As It Should Be).
Flight of the Fox is a political thriller in which high-tech surveillance, predatory drones, a government gone wild, and an everyman hero converge. An innocent math professor tries to decode a mystery file that lands in his in-box while a team of hit men chase him from the Catskills to NYC and down the East Coast. Their goal is to suppress dark government crimes from decades past. His goal is for the truth to be told. The action switches between the J. Edgar Hoover era and Professor Sam Teagarden’s decoding of the mystery file in 2019, against the 50th Anniversary of the Woodstock Festival. As the professor runs for his life, armed only with his wits and intellect, he worries whether the truth will be told, and if he’ll be seen as a hero whistle blower or a pariah. Or worse, will he end up dead?
“An electrifying, propulsive and timely thriller… that, by all rights, should shoot to the top of every bestseller list in the country…”
—Mysterious Book Review (July 16)
Gray Basnight is deeply immersed in fiction writing, after almost three decades in broadcast news as a writer, editor, producer, and reporter; preceded by a few years pursuing an acting career. His latest book is the political thriller Flight of the Fox (Down & Out Books).
Gray lives in New York with his wife and their Golden Retriever Tinta.