For author Lee Kessler, the mark of a true artist is one whose work challenges the mind and can lead to the discovery of a different point of view.
“That’s what an artist should be able to do,” Kessler said. “We’re usually out in front, leading people, if we’re doing it right.”
Bringing a new perspective and sense of current political rumblings through the entertainment of a novel is exactly how Kessler is going about the artist’s ideal these days.
Her second book, “White King Rising,” progresses the story of her inaugural tome, “White King and the Doctor.” The books tackle the issues of terrorism, media influence and the American psyche in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks through the adventures of ex-CIA analyst James Mikolas and the young, grandmaster chess champion partner, Andrew Weir.
Kessler, who lives in Eureka, will have a book signing at the Borders Bookstore in Kalispell on June 5 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., with an author’s talk at 1:30 p.m.
Though they are works of fiction, Kessler said many of the events in her first book, published in 2005, started coming true a few years later. In that story, Kessler focused on getting into the mind of Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the point man for Al Qaeda.
After coming up with what she thought was his motivation for the attacks on America, Kessler took the story from there, adding fictional American heroes. The first book is an explanation of what happened; “White King Rising” is the story of how America wins, Kessler said.
“I know there are people in the military community looking at it,” Kessler said.
Kessler, already an accomplished television and film actress, began her recent journey as an author out of a sense of sad, frustrated curiosity. The events of 9/11 produced a divisive ripple effect throughout the country, and not just within political parties.
“I was watching (the division) with individuals and families and friends,” Kessler said. “Something was dividing us when we should have been united.”
An actress for 35 years, Kessler decided to use the same method of character study on Al-Zawahiri that she would have on any other historical figure she might portray. This technique, complemented by a background in marketing and study of the human mind, gave her the basis for her books, Kessler said.
She intended “White King Rising” to be the end of the story, but Kessler now says she intends to finish the series with a third novel to answer one more question.
Throughout her career as an actress, Kessler said she pursued jobs and parts that would have some sort of social impact. She performed in the series “Roots” and “Collision Course,” with Henry Fonda.
Kessler said her work will never “degrade you and your family,” and instead hopes to create art that leaves a person better off than they were before. With her novels, she hopes to accomplish this goal by taking the reader’s thought process and forcing it in a new direction – one with plenty of page-turning suspense, Kessler said.
“It’s a puzzle being put together,” Kessler said.
Steve Luckey, an international counter-terrorist specialist and security consultant, will introduce Kessler at her June 5 book signing. Other military and intelligence personnel provide reviews on Kessler’s books on the book jackets.
Even with these reviews, Kessler said her credibility stems from the fact that she has no connection with the intelligence community. She just figured out the plots and themes on her own.
“Don’t let the talking heads give it all to you,” Kessler said. “Don’t reduce your own ability to work through a problem.”
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