Author Archives: Keith Thomson

My Terrorist Plot

Last summer, I needed get aboard an oil tanker, because the terrorist in the story I was working on does. The biggest boat I’d ever been on was a 250-foot ferry. Oil tankers run five or six times that long. I contacted five oil companies whose tankers docked within a four-hour drive of my home in Birmingham, Alabama. Four said no, citing variations of “security reasons.” At number five, Phillips-Conoco, I had better luck. A high-ranking executive there happened to have liked one of my Continue reading →

Stories’ Backstories

An English professor once told me never to ask writers where they get their ideas. I heard one author said that he considers the question an occupational hazard that’s analogous to requests for free medical advice doctors get. Still I’ve always liked to hear the story behind the story. So please post yours. For now, here’s mine. My new book, 7 Grams of Lead, is about a reporter who learns that a subminiature electronic eavesdropping device—i.e., a bug—has been implanted in his head. It’s based Continue reading →

How I Snuck into the Secret Manhattan Project Tunnels

The eighteen-year-old who would become known in Columbia lore as Poughkeepsie Pete enrolled at the university’s School of Engineering in 1990. From his first day on campus, wherever he went, he marveled at the possibility that the hallowed Manhattan Project tunnels might be beneath his feet. Little was known about the complex beyond its role in the Allied victory. Nothing about the offices and laboratories had been declassified. Entry was forbidden. The facility became Poughkeepsie Pete’s Holy Grail. He learned that in years past, likeminded Continue reading →

A Definitive Answer to “How Can I Get My Novel Published?”

“When I was eighteen and read Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler, the desire to write a private eye novel was firmly planted in my soul,” says Thomas Kaufman. Kaufman went on to USC, studying writing as well as film. After his 1981 graduation, camera work not only sustained him, it won him an Emmy and a slew of other awards. But in between gigs, he would pack up his laptop and head for the nearest coffee shop to work on his novel. Once, he Continue reading →