We are happy to have with us today Ed Fuller who has written one of the most important books that I have read in years, “Red Chaos.” It is a cautionary tale of geopolitics and oil as well as the effects of terrorism.
Mr. Fuller, welcome to ViewsonBooks.com. I’m very excited to get this opportunity to talk to you about your book, “Red Chaos”, which was Co-written with Gary Grossman. This is a cautionary tale for all of us and reminds me in so many ways of the book “One Second After” which also set forth an issue that is all too relevant and overlooked by so many people.
Before we get into the book itself, could you give us a brief history of your business career and what motivated you to write the “Red Hotel” series?
After returning from Vietnam, I started with Marriott Hotels in sales and marketing working in several positions, becoming Chief Sales and Marketing Officer. I transitioned into operations in the mid-1980’s and became President of the international lodging group for 22 years, then retired in 2012 after a 40-year career with Marriott. Subsequently, I have been consulting, working with Destination Marketing Organizations (DMO) in California. I have served on several boards including the FBI National Academy Association Foundation (FBINAA).
Other areas of focus upon retiring include writing a business book published by Wiley, You Can’t Lead with Your Feet on the Desk. It’s been published in Japan and China. The book emphasizes the importance of relationships. My next step was to take real stories I experienced from my earliest job to my most recent and incorporate them into a series of thriller books which began with Red Hotel (Beaufort Books, 2019).
How did you end up co-writing this with Gary Grossman?
I met Gary through a friend, Bruce Feirstein. Bruce and I served as trustees at Boston University. We often had time to talk between meetings and over meals. Bruce is an author, producer, and screenwriter with such significant credits as the first three Pierce Brosnan James Bond movies and his bestselling book, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche. Bruce encouraged me to think about converting my first book into a movie. He encouraged me to write a thriller which would support the possibility of a movie. He explained that I needed a very hard-core example of what the movie could be about and strongly suggested I do at least one or two books in the thriller category. My experience in the military and Marrott had created numerous stories but I needed help to put them together in an exciting narrative form. Bruce then introduced me to Gary Grossman who is also a BU graduate and we hit it off instantly. Gary has produced more than 10,000 television shows. He’s a multiple Emmy Award winner, as well as author of the Executive Actions book series. Considering Bruce, Gary and I are all in the Los Angeles area, it was a perfect association.
How were you able to collaborate? Did one write, another have plot and character ideas? I am really interested in the co-writing process.
Both Gary and I used stories that have been a reality for me in the military and in Marriott, but we worked together to design the primary story and include the characters. It took many lunches, a few dinners, a significantly amount of phone calls and zoom calls including interviews to collaborate on character development and the themes of the books. The thrillers include several incidents that occurred during my 22 years working internationally and leading our international division. Our security and safely organization worldwide had an extremely important role in my day-to-day agenda. Those first-person experiences have truly helped us plot the stories through the first three books in the Red Hotel series. I describe Gary as the sous-chef who is constantly improving the bouillabaisse and I am often adding additional contributions and the spices. I also worked with Gary on trying to keep the Red Hotel series focused on global agendas and add as much action as we can get in. There are many examples of where my real-life experience has generated stories in our books. In several cases with the books, we relocated the incidents to help us with the story theme.
This is the 3rd book in the Red Hotel series, for our followers could you please give us an overview of the series in general, and the specifically about Book 3, Red Chaos.
The series is about an executive, Dan Riley who is running the international division of a fictitious hotel company which, in fact, includes a great deal of my background. Dan Riley has opportunities to meet and deal with a number of challenges in all three books that impact his hotels. Dan has been recognized not only by his boss as the person to replace him as CEO of the Kensington Hotel Company, but also recognized by the Secretary of State for his many accomplishments and his relationships with the CIA and FBI. The Secretary of State would also like to have more of Dan’s time working for her, and because of her relationship with the hotel CEO, Dan ends up spending more and more time working the State Department leading to the inevitable intrigue and global disasters. The other major character that is in the series is our fictional stand-in for Russia’s president. Nicolas Gorshkov is a puppet master and he is diabolically ensuring that he is never totally blamed for any of the incidents up through Red Chaos.
Now how did the idea of this series come to you? I know you have major hotel experience, was that the impetus for this?
The idea for the series came from the encouragement of screenwriter/author Bruce Fierstein along with encouragement from my own Marriott staff, as well as a great number of friends. Obviously, Gary and I found a common bond in the development of the Red Hotel series and the opportunity to provide an exciting read for our potential audience.
Is your protagonist, Dan Reilly, based on your or someone that you know?
My middle name is Daniel and Dan is based on the role I served in at Marriott International for 22 years. I must admit though, we have enhanced Dan’s role with the government, but it is still based it on relationships and dealings with government agencies. For the record, Gary and I invented my several affairs, none of which were real. My wife Michela approved the naming of these romantic relationships in the book.
Dan is head of Global Security for the hotel chain. Is his position and job a realistic portrayal of someone in that position? And it almost seems as if he is either #2 or #3 in the management of the hotel, is this also how many hotel chains operate?
The book is fiction, bending reality. It reads real, so readers can gather what they’d like. Kensington is a fictional hotel chain, but again, there’s a lot of me and my experiences in Dan’s relationship to his company.
Dan reports to the Kensington CEO and supervises all the international hotels. There is another president for all the United States domestic hotels who also reports to the CEO. Below them are various regional leaders, general managers, and specialty areas like security and safety. The role of Dan Riley in the book and in reality, supervised security and safety with team members who were required to create a global security system organization which did not exists previously and invested their time into starting from a couple international hotels to a company that today operates hotels in over one hundred countries. In reality, when I retired in 2012, the new CEO replaced me with four presidents throughout the world as well as two in the U.S. Up to that point, the book clearly portrays the organization that I operated in while enhancing the time working with the government. Most hotel companies today have regional operations rather than a centralized system.
This book deals with many topics, and the hotel plot is almost secondary for me to all the geopolitical issues you present, along with terrorism and oil weaponry. Is that intentional on your part?
Absolutely. Both Gary and I spend a lot of time exchanging ideas from various news articles and information we had access to and then we work those plot points into our stories. We started writing Red Chaos in 2021 and finished in 2022. Our focus on oil was already being touched on in smaller news items and our concerns with terrorist have been on-going for a long time. This made it easier for us to create a story line for the future. History often repeats itself, so we have blended that into the various story lines as well as my personal experiences. While writing about our character’s challenges we were also studying Russia’s nearly 40- to-2 lead in ice breakers through the Northern Sea Route along the Arctic Circle. Another real-life example is that for many years, one of my key hotels in Europe was the headquarters for OPEC. We regularly faced the challenge that almost every country’s delegation employed some level of spying and eavesdropping.
I see numerous accolades from senior military officials about this book, and in the book, Dan works closely with many governmental agencies, is this something that is regular for the large multinational hotel chains?
We are pleased to have added our positive support from good friends who have worked in both military and police organizations. In many incidents in the books, these were based on real-life situations.
To answer your question specifically, some of the multi-national hotel brands are taking similar steps but not all. However, during my time with Marriott which has continued, there is a council meeting of the various security heads where ideas are exchanged.
Could you explain the importance of the Northern Sea Route and how that will affect global oil issues and military problems?
To opine on your question could take a great deal of time but let me give you a few summary points. Russia controls the Northern Sea Route and has an expanded fleet of ice breakers and has stationed a large amount of military alongside the sea routes that border their country. The Northern Sea Route is an excellent transit of oil and an ideal route from Russia to Europe. It’s all the more important now because of warming temperatures and melting ice. The control of many sea routes, several we touched on in Red Chaos, can, at any given time, impact the global oil availability and the availability to traditional pipelines and transportation routes, not limited to oil but oil and its byproducts. In other words, whoever controls them could cut flow off. That would impact the global economy. This is the strategy we developed through the pages of Red Chaos.
Your book seems to make the case that our military has not kept up to date with our weapons and naval superiority. Do you believe this is true today? I know we were shocked by the hypersonic weaponry of Russia, China, and North Korea, have we caught up?
I do believe as a country we need to increase our weapons and naval superiority. It is hard to evaluate military in a major conflict until you get them on the battlefield as demonstrated in Ukraine. Russia does not have what we thought they did, but they do have nuclear weapons. One of the major changes on the battlefield are drones. More and more we will see the use of creative equipment to conduct the fight between two competing countries and less people on the battlefield itself. When you look at Taiwan, Ukraine, the Balkin states and Americas depletion of our new technology in supporting Ukraine, we have a long way to go to get our technology weaponry re supplied and more up to date like “hypersonic.” Delivery systems (ships vs tanks, planes vs drones) need to be rethought both in strategy and ability due to the significant changes in fire power. I do not believe we are keeping up. But it all comes back to nuclear war, and I am most concerned with China and Russia. Equally challenging are Iran, Pakistan, India, North Korea, and other small nations who can be the catalyst for a large war. We need to improve our CIA/FBI and intelligence organizations as badly as we need weapons.
The Ukraine also plays a part in this book, along with the possible threats to other former Russian satellite countries. Had this book been finished prior to the actual Russian invasion of the Ukraine? And how did you come to zero in on the Ukraine as the country Russia would invade?
Most of Red Chaos was written before the invasion of Ukraine, but we certainly worked to bring it up to date just prior to publication.
Ukraine historically is part of Russia. Leaders have come from Ukraine to run the previous Soviet Union and Ukraine’s prosperity in agriculture and other industries was raising the economic standard. Of course, the internal battle regarding Ukraine joining NATO was the primary catalyst. We looked at Ukraine and the Balkin states as the perfect targets and you will find in Red Deception the answer to your questions which does not follow current realities of today but clearly, we knew that Ukraine and the Balkin states would be part of Putin’s intention to expand.
Has the Russian military actions surprised you and how does their military ineptness lessen or increase our concerns?
Yes, it has surprised me because of their inept skills in the field. I am hoping that a temporary solution can be established and some opportunity in a peace agreement would enable some NATO countries to put troops into Ukraine similar to the “tripwire” between South and North Korea.
Supply chain issues have also been a huge issue and your book deals with three blockage points: Suez Canal, Straits of Hormuz and the Panama Canal. We are all aware of the Suez Canal situation, but have these other two areas also been targets of attack? And how devastating would 3 simultaneous blockages be to world oil markets?
The Strait of Hormuz has seen the most action but there is not a complete blockade in place today. Panama Canal is a real potential because of the involvement of China as well as Panama and the U.S. The Suez Canal which I have travelled on is one of the most vulnerable in the world today. There are obviously other locations that could be used to reduce transit of oil or other products which would be devastating to the world economy. Today, Turkey is building a canal between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara and thus to the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. One of Turkey’s major objectives is the potential funds from the transit. As for other locations you could see Russia block the Northern Passage based on their military placement and because they are aligned next to the passage. In Asia, there is currently in the South China Sea, several countries including N. Korea, Japan and the Philippines who are concerned about who has the rights to travel in the South China Sea. We use the three major waterways in our books.
I know you are not an oil official, a military expert, or a foreign affair official, so how did you research this book, because I do believe that your book is spot on when it comes to all these geopolitical issues and worries?
I believe the interest I have in the international arena and the understanding of cultures as well as history have given me an opportunity to deep dive into potential and deadly disasters. But also, seemingly insignificant situations can escalate. Suffice it to say, Gary and I do a great deal of reading and researching to make our Red Hotel series as exciting as it is relevant.
Is there a Book 4 in this series, and if so when is it due out? And do you see an ending to the Red Hotel series in the near future?
Yes, it is called Red Ultimatum. At this point we’re aiming for publication in 2024. It depends on the world and the opportunities to give the characters a great story to tell.
How concerned are the major hotel firms in the issues you address, since Dan Reilly is in the middle of everything even though it appears certain issues do not directly influence his hotel?
Keep in mind that Dan is going through a transition of a 100% hotel executive in Red Hotel who focused on security and safety and in Red Chaos Dan is not working 50/50 for the hotel and the state department which you picked up on in your question. All the major hotel brand companies have a reason to protect their brand and should have plans in place. The question is how well they execute them.
How has Covid affected your life and writing schedule?
Covid had little impact on me but extreme impact on the world around me. In my case, I was diagnosed with leukemia in December of 2019 while the world around me fell apart. In 2022, I had a bone marrow transplant and things are truly looking up for me as we enter spring. Through this period, our story conferences were held on zoom, with me in the hospital and I appreciated Gary’s patience with my situation.
Lastly, of all the issues you present in the book, what is the most worrisome and why?
Number 1 is the ease that exists to create a very dangerous situation in our homeland. For example, in Red Hotel the attempt to contaminate the water system. Also, the blowing up of the bridges around Washington DC would certainly cut off the ability for government to operate to deal with this situation.
Number 2 would be the small country dictators creating total war by using their nuclear forces. This would be countries like Iran and N. Korea. This would result in the major countries to use nuclear weapons as well.
Number 3 is to have an unstable leader in one of our major countries like China, Russia, or the U.S. who starts a war.
Number 4 In reality I think that we need peace more today than ever before. I thought it might be coming when the Berlin wall came down, but the reality is that we are returning to our normal selves and history and our directions are often clouded by leaders who are only in for their own selfish reasons.
After visiting 151 countries, many which I visited more than once, I’ve learned to enjoy the people, their culture and I have the most respect for those people today. We just need to get along.
Thanks for taking time from your schedule to answer these questions. I find your book fascinating and worrisome for all Americans and our security. Thank you for writing this book as it stands as both a very interesting thriller, as well as a very educational and informative book about today’s volatile world.