Q: If someone were to ask you to briefly sum up what The 500 is about, how would you describe it?
A: The 500 is about Henry Davies, a political powerhouse who has spent decades collecting the secrets of the 500 most influential men and women in Washington, and his protégé, Michael Ford, who must choose whether or not he’s willing to make a deal with the devil to earn the respectable life he’s always wanted.
Q: While writing The 500, did the plot ever take a turn even you didn’t expect?
A: I let the characters and fate pull most of their surprises while I’m laying out the plot. That way, by the time I sit down to write it out, I can keep the pace up and craft the twists for maximum effect. The characters are cagey, so even with all my planning, I was never one hundred percent sure what temptations Mike would resist, and who would stay alive to the end.
Q: How closely do you think The 500 reflects on the way politics are played in Washington today?
A: It’s a thriller, so things are taken to extremes. Murder is not part of the domestic political playbook (though it plays a role in international intelligence). The first two-thirds of the book hews closely to real life, and even when I go beyond that, I stay true to the everyday grit and personalities of contemporary Washington.
What’s most surprising about politics is how much graft is perfectly legal. No one man has the sort of sway Henry Davies does, though there are individuals who, over decades, have deliberately plotted out and built movements, put like-minded people in key positions of power, and dramatically changed the shape of American democracy.
Q: Movie rights have been sold. Who would you like to see cast as Mike Ford, Annie and Henry Davies?
A: I try to keep my head down and not to get ahead of myself with the movie, but for your members, I’ll play along. Maybe Tom Hardy or Ryan Gosling for Mike Ford. Gary Oldman for Henry Davies, or Dustin Hoffman—the novel Marathon Man was an influence, so that would be a fun choice. And Rachel McAdams or Scarlett Johansson for Annie.
Q: How did your journalistic background influence the idea for this book?
A: Almost all of the material in the book comes from being a reporter, either actual stories I researched or the experience of living and working among journalists in DC. It’s a very cool job for a young man because you’re given access it would take decades to earn as a political player. The whole whiplash experience of being plucked up from Harvard and initiated into DC politics I took from my early days at The Atlantic. The “underbelly of DC” material comes, unfortunately enough, from paying attention to the papers and staying on top of political scandals and dirty tricks (there are plenty of real-life stories from Washington that are just as outrageous as what happens in the book). The cocktail parties, the intense dynamics of protégés and mentors, the elaborate game spies play to turn human assets, the politician who used vetting dossiers to blackmail his peers: it’s all material I came across as a reporter.
Q: What can you tell us about your future plans for Mike Ford?
A: I’m deep into the sequel right now. A conspiracy draws Mike into the world of private security firms. He has to venture into the criminal underground and face his past in order to save his brother. I’m having a blast with it, and I can’t wait to get it out to readers.
The card security code is an added safeguard for your credit/debit card purchases. Depending on the type of card you use, it is either a three- or four-digit number printed on the back or front of your credit/debit card, separate from your credit/debit card number. To make shopping at Book-of-the-Month Club®
even more secure, we require that you enter this number each time you make a credit/debit card purchase. Please note that your security code will not be stored with us even if you have saved your credit/debit card information.