That’s the short answer as to how I came to write a book on the very secretive Federal Reserve. The 13th Target explores a conspiracy aimed at the heart of the U.S. financial system and the shadowy workings of the Federal Reserve System. From its founding to the present day headlines, the Fed has always generated whispers and outcries of secret agendas and clandestine power.
The genesis of my story arose from the economic meltdown of 2008 and the rash of finger pointing and controversy created during the aftermath. Two events sparked my imagination. I was struck by the Academy Award Winning documentary Inside Job that demonstrated how greed coupled with “self-regulation” basically went undisclosed and unaccountable to the American public. Then I had lunch with a man who laid out his concerns about the Federal Reserve: how it wasn’t really a federal agency, how there was no real oversight, how money was printed and debt incurred at the Fed’s command, and how member banks could lend out 90% of their assets, leaving the whole system vulnerable as banks sought maximum loan profits.
Further research led to the fringes of the conspiracy theorists. Some of them are way out there, blaming the powers behind the Fed’s establishment for everything from the assassination of President Lincoln (nearly fifty years before its founding) to the assassination of President Kennedy (nearly fifty years after its founding). And the anti-Fed movement was entering mainstream politics through the energy of Ron Paul’s campaign and the youth who were burning Federal Reserve Notes at his rallies in protest of Fed policies.
So, I started with the fiction writer’s first question: What if? What if there were people and groups who benefited from the secrecy of the Fed and others hell bent on its destruction, and both would go to any lengths to achieve their goals? I thought such extreme views were the makings of a good thriller, and, to my knowledge, no one had yet mined that storyline.
The title, The 13th Target, came very early, even before I had a main character and a plot direction. Because the heart of the Federal Reserve consists of the twelve regional banks, my “what if?” premise postulated that the ultimate target of a terrorist plot was something else. I didn’t know what the thirteenth target was. I had to discover it along with my main characters.
Writing the book required a change of setting from my two mystery series, both located in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina. Fortunately, I’m no stranger to Washington, D.C. I worked in television there during the Watergate scandal, and so I witnessed how conspiracies create a frenzy. That culminated for me when I directed TV news coverage from the front of the White House the night Nixon resigned.
In the book, the ability to uncover the conspirators depends upon secrecy and trust, extremely rare commodities in Washington. I needed an honorable hero. Rusty Mullins is an ex-Secret Service agent who knows his way around D.C. He’s the antithesis of the current Secret Service scandal, a man who lost his wife to ovarian cancer, cared for her till the end, and is now devoted to his daughter and grandson.
When the Federal Reserve executive whom Rusty is guarding commits suicide, Rusty doesn’t believe it. He uncovers a plot against the Federal Reserve, but finds the evidence pointing to him. Someone is setting him up and he doesn’t know whether the enemy is from without or within.
Once I had my main character and his dilemma, I made several trips to D.C., interviewed a former secret service agent and had discussions with an executive in the Public Information Office of the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors. The hardest part was keeping up with current events. During the course of writing the book, news reports revealed stimulus money from the Fed going to foreign-based institutions, mammoth amounts of money beyond the TARP fund being lent by the Reserve during the meltdown, the rise of Occupy Wall Street, and the multiple crises sweeping the European Union.
I’m grateful that my publisher allowed a relatively short time between completing the manuscript and publication (approximately six months) so that the story is a valid reflection of its time. Could something I create in the novel happen in the real world? I’ll leave that for the reader to decide.
Now that you know how I came to write a story about the secretive Federal Reserve, am I going to have to kill you? Not if you buy the book. Remember, just because we’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get us. There’s safety in numbers, and the more copies sold, the less chance we’ll all disappear.
About Mark de Castrique
A native of North Carolina, Mark de Castrique is an award-winning film and video producer whose work has been broadcast on PBS, HBO, and network-affiliate stations. He is the author of the Sam Blackman mystery series, the Buryin’ Barry series, and two mysteries for young adults. His books have garnered starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal. The 13th Target is de Castrique’s first standalone thriller. He lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. Visit Mark de Castrique online at markdecastrique.com.