Michael McMenamin is the co-author with his son Patrick of the award winning 1930s era historical novels featuring Winston Churchill and his fictional Scottish goddaughter, the adventure-seeking Hearst photojournalist Mattie McGary. The first five novels in the series—The DeValera Deception, The Parsifal Pursuit, The Gemini Agenda, The Berghof Betrayal and The Silver Mosaic—received a total of 15 literary awards. He is currently at work with his daughter Kathleen McMenamin on the sixth Winston and Mattie historical adventure, The Liebold Protocol.
Michael is the author of the critically acclaimed Becoming Winston Churchill, The Untold Story of Young Winston and His American Mentor [Hardcover, Greenwood 2007; Paperback, Enigma 2009] and the co-author of Milking the Public, Political Scandals of the Dairy Lobby from LBJ to Jimmy Carter [Nelson Hall, 1980]. He is an editorial board member of Finest Hour, the quarterly journal of the International Churchill Society and a contributing editor for the libertarian magazine Reason. His work also has appeared in The Churchills in Ireland, 1660-1965, Corrections and Controversies [Irish Academic Press, 2012] as well as two Reason anthologies, Free Minds & Free Markets, Twenty Five Years of Reason [Pacific Research Institute, 1993] and Choice, the Best of Reason [BenBella Books, 2004]. A full-time writer, he was formerly a first amendment and media defense lawyer and a U.S. Army Counterintelligence Agent.
Kathleen, the other half of the father-daughter writing team, has been editing her father’s writing for longer than she cares to remember. She is the co-author with her sister Kelly of the critically acclaimed Organize Your Way: Simple Strategies for Every Personality [Sterling, 2017]. The two sisters are professional organizers, personality-type experts and the founders of PixiesDidIt, a home and life organization business. Kathleen is an honors graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and has an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University. The novella Appointment in Prague is her second joint writing project with her father. Their first was “Bringing Home the First Amendment”, a review in the August 1984 Reason magazine of Nat Hentoff’s The Day They Came to Arrest the Book. While a teen-ager, she and her father would often take runs together, creating plots for adventure stories as they ran.
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About the Book:
APPOINTMENT IN PRAGUE: A MATTIE MCGARY + WINSTON CHURCHILL WORLD WAR II
Author: Michael McMenamin & Kathleen McMenamin
Publisher: First Edition Design Publishing
Genre: Historical Thriller
In the novella, Appointment in Prague, one woman, a British secret agent, sets out in May 1942 to single-handedly send to hell the most evil Nazi alive—SS General Reinhard Heydrich, the head of the SD, the domestic and foreign counter-intelligence wing of the SS; second in rank only to the head of the SS himself, Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler; and the architect of “The Final Solution” that will send millions of European Jews to their doom.
When British Prime Minister Winston Churchill authorizes the SOE—the ‘Special Operations Executive’— in October 1941 to assassinate Heydrich, he is unaware that the entire operation has been conceived and is being run by his Scottish goddaughter, the former Pulitzer Prize-winning Hearst photojournalist Mattie McGary. The SOE is Churchill’s own creation, one he informally describes as the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare and, at his suggestion, Mattie becomes one of its Deputy Directors.
Mattie has a history with Heydrich dating back to 1933 and a personal score to settle. In September 1941, when the man known variously as ‘The Blond Beast’ and ‘The Man With the Iron Heart’—that last coming from Adolf Hitler himself—is appointed Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia, the remnants left of Czechoslovakia after the Germans had dismembered it in 1939, Mattie is determined—now that he is no longer safely within Germany’s borders—to have him killed. She recruits and trains several Czech partisans for the task and has them parachuted into Czechoslovakia in December 1941.
An increasingly impatient Mattie waits in London for word that her agents have killed the Blond Beast. By May 1942, Heydrich still lives and Mattie is furious. The mother of six-year-old twins, Mattie decides—without telling her godfather or her American husband, the #2 man in the London office of the OSS—to parachute into Czechoslovakia herself and “light a fire under their timid Czech bums”. Which she does, but her agents botch the job and Heydrich is only wounded in the attempt. The doctors sent from Berlin to care for him believe he will recover.
On the fly, Mattie conceives a new plan to kill Heydrich herself. With forged papers and other help from the highest-placed SOE asset in Nazi Germany—a former lover—Mattie determines to covertly enter Prague’s Bulovka Hospital and finish the job. After that, all she has to do is flee Prague into Germany and from there to neutral Switzerland. What Mattie doesn’t know is that Walter Schellenberg, Heydrich’s protégé and the head of Foreign Intelligence for the SD, is watching her every move.
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Thank you for your time in answering our questions about getting published. Let’s begin by having you explain to us why you decided to become an author and pen this book?
Michael: I became someone who was paid as a writer a long time ago. My first article for which I was paid was a cover story in the March 1975 Reason magazine, “Milk, Money & Monopoly”, based on my then book-in-progress Milking the Public, Political Scandals of the Dairy Lobby From LBJ to Jimmy Carter published in 1980 by Nelson-Hall. Since then, I’ve had well over 200 articles published in Reason magazine where I am a Contributing Editor; the Cato Institute’s now defunct Inquiry magazine where I was also a Contributing Editor; and Finest Hour, the quarterly journal of the International Churchill Society where I was an Editorial Board member and Contributing Editor.
As for why I decided to write Appointment in Prague? The book is a novella that began life as the Epilogue (set in 1942 Prague) to our novel The Berghof Betrayal written with my son Patrick. That novel was set in 1933 Germany where the evil Nazi, Reinhard Heydrich, gives our heroine Mattie McGary more than enough reason to want him dead. But, in a historical novel, you can’t kill actual historical characters before their time. Hence the Epilogue in 1942 when Heydrich was actually killed. We eventually cut the Epilogue from that novel after we found a more immediate way for Mattie to put the fear of God into Heydrich.
I hate to waste good writing, however, and I really liked that Epilogue. When, earlier this year, I finished The Liebold Protocol (written with my daughter Kathleen), the 6th novel about the adventures of Mattie McGary, the intrepid Hearst photojournalist who is Winston Churchill’s goddaughter, I was inspired to expand the Epilogue into its present novella form in order to provide a platform for a six-chapter preview of the new novel. I did so by adding additional scenes after Mattie poisons Heydrich in Prague, including her subsequent capture by SS Counterintelligence as she attempts to flee to Switzerland.
Is this your first book?
Michael: Eighth actually; eleven if you count the anthologies.
Milking the Public, Political Scandals of the Dairy Lobby From LBJ to Jimmy Carter [Nelson Hall, 1980]
Becoming Winston Churchill, The Untold Story of Young Winston and His American Mentor [Hardcover: Greenwood, 2007; Trade Paperback: Enigma, 2009]
Free Minds & Free Markets, Twenty-Five Years of Reason [Pacific Research Institute, 1993]
Choice: The Best of Reason [Benbella, 2003]
The Churchills in Ireland 1660-1965: Connections & Controversies [Irish Academic Press, 2012]
The DeValera Deception, A Winston Churchill Thriller [Enigma, 2010]
The Parsifal Pursuit, A Winston Churchill Thriller [Enigma, 2011]
The Gemini Agenda, A Winston Churchill Thriller [Enigma, 2012]
The Berghof Betrayal, A Winston Churchill 1930s Thriller [First Edition Design, 2016]
The Silver Mosaic, A Winston Churchill 1930s Thriller [First Edition Design, 2017]
Appointment in Prague, a Mattie McGary + Winston Churchill World War II Adventure [First Edition Design, 2018]
With this particular book, how did you publish – traditional, small press, Indie, etc. – and why did you choose this method?
Michael: It’s really the last three books, all by First Edition Design. The publisher of our first three 1930s thrillers, Enigma Books in New York, was a traditional independent publisher. It went out of business when its editor Robert Miller died. Since I had done almost all the marketing on our first three novels, I wanted a new publisher who could give us what Enigma had done, i.e., great cover design, world-wide distribution and e-book formats, without sharing profits. First Edition, a hybrid POD publisher did that. For example, when Enigma closed its doors, they stopped supporting an e-book version of the first three novels. Having previously re-acquired the rights from Enigma to those novels, First Edition quickly produced e-book versions that are now back on the market.
As for this particular book, even Enigma might not have indulged my desire to produce a novella lifted from the cutting room floor as a way of introducing a rebranded series written with my daughter Kathleen rather than my son Patrick.
Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey? The pros and cons?
Michael: I’ve found my publishers in a variety of ways. It’s a complicated journey, but since you asked… My first book arose out of the Senate Watergate Committee hearings in the 1970s and was published in 1980 by Nelson Hall—Milking the Public, Political Scandals of the Dairy Lobby From LBJ to Jimmy Carter. The only thing that surprised me was how easy it was to find a publisher, as Nelson-Hall was one of the first three publishers to whom I had simultaneously submitted a book proposal. Maybe I should have had an agent. The advance was only $300.
Anyway, finding a publisher for my first and subsequent novels is a more complicated story that begins with Martha Stewart. No, really. I am a Contributing Editor for the libertarian magazine Reason. My article “St. Martha: Why Martha Stewart Should Go to Heaven and the SEC Should Go to Hell” was the cover story in its September 2003 issue. It was a spirited defense of the still-undefined ‘crime’ of insider trading generally and Martha’s actions specifically. I wrote it with my other daughter who has an MBA from Dartmouth and was, at the time, a hedge fund analyst on Wall Street. Her name does not appear as a co-author because we thought it was not a wise career move for a Wall Street financial analyst to publicly defend insider trading.
Shortly after that, I received a call from an editor at Praeger, which was owned at the time by Harcourt. He wanted me to submit a proposal to make the cover story into a book that would include Martha’s criminal trial. Wow! Never happened before and I’ve had a lot of Reason cover stories. I submitted the proposal and even hired a researcher to cover the trial for us. Alas, the proposal was not accepted. Still, I now knew an editor at a publisher like Praeger and my story on how I became a published novelist continues.
In 2004, I prepared and delivered a paper at the 2004 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Becoming Winston Churchill: How the Political Thought and Oratory of Winston Churchill Were Shaped by His Irish-American Mentor, Bourke Cockran. Based on my research into the Churchill-Cockran correspondence, I decided I could expanded it into a into a joint biography of young Winston and Cockran who was really a fascinating guy who did a hell of a lot more for Winston than his distant father, Lord Randolph, ever did. The fact that Churchill met Cockran at his mother’s suggestion after Cockran and Chuchill’s mother had an affair in Paris shortly following Lord Randolph’s death made it perfect. Sex!
And I now knew an editor to whom I could submit a proposal for what eventually became my 2nd book, Becoming Winston Churchill, the Untold Story of Young Winston and His American Mentor, whose Foreword was written by Churchill’s granddaughter Celia Sandys. Churchill’s official biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert, called it “Fascinating: a tour de force that brings life and light to one of the great early influences on Winston Churchill” and Allen Packwood, Director of the Churchill Archives Center at Cambridge wrote that it was “A magnificent achievement and an illuminating study of a largely forgotten relationship.” So, my editor friend at Praeger whose name, sadly, I can’t recall, sent my proposal to Greenwood World Publishing in the UK, another affiliate of Harcourt, where Simon Mason, the Senior Acquisitions Editor, bought the book and Greenwood published it in 2007 in both the UK and US.
OK, we’re almost up to how I found a publisher for our Mattie + Winston novels. I said it was complicated. In 2009, Enigma Books in New York bought the trade paperback rights to Becoming Winston Churchill. Enigma specialized in non-fiction books on 20th century European and US history. I got to know Enigma’s editor, Robert Miller, quite well when I would come to New York at my expense whenever he could arrange a new venue for me to talk about my book because all three of my children lived in the city and their mother and I could visit and stay with them.
At that time, I had written with my son Patrick two unpublished historical thrillers set in the 1930s featuring Winston Churchill as a catalyst for our main characters like his goddaughter Mattie McGary and we were in the middle of writing a third. Our agents [different ones for each of the first two books] had secured quite a few rejection letters from well-known publishers praising our work, but alas no sale. I noticed in the backlist for Enigma that, while almost all of its 50+ books were non-fiction, it had also published 3 historical thrillers. I told Robert Miller that we had written two Churchill historical thrillers and asked him if he would like to read them. He did and, after he read them as well as a synopsis of the third novel, we signed a three-book deal for them shortly thereafter and became published—and literary award winning—novelists.
What lessons do you feel you learned about your particular publishing journey and about the publishing industry as a whole?
Michael: Well, publishing has changed a lot since 1980, but my experience with all my books is that you are going to have to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to marketing your books.
Would you recommend this method of publishing to other authors?
Michael: I’m not sure. All I can say is First Edition Design works for me and is a very writer-friendly publisher to deal with.
What’s the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Michael: To repeat what this old guy said who once received the Nobel Prize for Literature:
“Never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” [Winston Churchill, October 1941]
Rejections, however many and occasionally kind they are, can be discouraging to a writer. Just remember Churchill and never give in. You never know when something will turn up.