Monday, July 2, 2012

Project Moses: An Interview with Mystery Thriller Author Robert B. Lowe

From Pulitzer Prize winning reporter to novelist, please welcome Robert B. Lowe on tour now with his mystery thriller, Project Moses. Welcome Robert!

Please start by telling us a little about yourself.

I’ve been an investigative reporter, lawyer, high-tech software exec., and now a novelist.  I used all three of my earlier careers in Project Moses, but particularly the reporting and legal experiences.  The main character is a reporter and his partner/love interest is a lawyer.  On the personal side, I’m married with two daughters – one in college and the other in middle school.

Did you plan to be a writer or did it just happen?

It took me a while to get here.  I’ve always been a fan of mysteries and thrillers and often thought I could at least correct some of the flaws, if not write a better book.  In my 12 years as a newspaper reporter, I always knew a few co-workers working on books.   So, it seemed possible.  And, writing for a living, even as a reporter, builds confidence for a book project.

If you had to sum up Project Moses in 30 or less words, what would you say?

It’s a summer read.  It’s a Grisham-type suspense mystery with a protagonist and his love interest forced to flee agents of a global conspiracy while at the same time exposing the conspiracy.

I'm always up for a good thriller! What inspired the idea behind your book?

Many other writers inspired me, including Michael Crichton, Dick Francis John Grisham and others.  The bio-terrorism theme stemmed from my interest in the evolution of genetic technology, both the power and the fears.

Do you have a favorite character in Project Moses? Who and why?

The main character, Enzo Lee, is a reporter at mid-career who has been burned doing the hard, investigative work, and withdrawn to a safe niche writing fluffy features.  He gets pulled unwillingly into getting to the truth of the conspiracy.  He’s a little crotchety but basically good hearted.  He’s always a little ambivalent about taking on the hard stuff, angry at the bad guys but missing the comfort of his safe routine.  I think he’s easy to relate to.  He can take people through different worlds in his reporting travels, different ethical dilemmas and his own personal journey as he matures and gathers life’s experiences.   

Without giving it all away, please tell us a little something about how Enzo is going to get through their biggest challenge.

Enzo Lee uses intelligence, courage and his knowledge of gathering information and manipulating the worlds of journalism, business and politics to win his battle.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

Many of the scenes, from those in the newsroom and interviewing people, to courtroom to boardroom/conference room scenes, are very much based on real life experiences – or at least the settings and the nature of conversations that take place.

What kind of research was involved for Project Moses?

I had to learn about genetic technology and I also visited a couple of labs involved in gene splicing to write convincingly about those areas.  Some parts involve international conflicts in the 90s when this story is based.  I had to do some historical research on that.

Do you have plans for a new book?  Is this book part of a series?

I am working on a second book that centers on the same main character.  They will be the start of the Enzo Lee series.

What has been your greatest pleasure or personal success as an author?  

I’ve been pleasantly surprised and very grateful that the response to Project Moses has been as supportive as it has been.  Even in the worst reviews, people seem to say they wound up being fairly compelled to keep reading and finishing it. 

Which authors and books have most influenced your writing style?

I like John Grisham and Lee Child from the standpoint of their ability to keep suspense and pacing.  I like Michael Crichton’s ability to use science or an interesting societal sea change as the major plot element.  I appreciate Dick Francis’ ability to bring in information about various fields so you learn something new. 

Does where you live or have places you’ve been influenced your work?

I mainly set the story in places where I’ve been so I can describe them more accurately.  I plan to have San Francisco as “home base” since I’ve lived here for a number of years.

Laptop, desktop or notebook and pen for writing?

I use a laptop which I move around from several different places around my house where I might be writing.  Sometimes I’ll make notes in a  notebook to remind me to return to fix something, research a particular topic, etc.  If I start to lose my way in the book, I’ll use the notebook to redefine what I’m doing.  Usually, that process is enough and I don’t need to refer back – just have the tracks in my head.  I’m finding now that keeping a chapter summary refreshes my memory of the story flow so I know where to go next in terms of plot development and having some variety. 

What do you have in store next for your readers?

I expect to have the next Enzo Lee novel ready in the Fall.  I expect to continue writing more.  I’m not sure if and when I would go outside the series.  But, I can see that certain types of stories – more of a thriller nature – might have to be outside the series.

The Book
After several years of zealous investigative reporting on the East Coast, reporter Enzo Lee is enjoying his new, quiet life in San Francisco, churning out light, fluffy features for the local paper. Lee adores his North Beach apartment and days filled with running, tai chi, great food, and women. Life is good.

So when Lee’s boss orders him to cover the mysterious deaths of a local judge and prosecutor, he is flushed out of his comfort zone and thrust into a story that is both exhilarating and dangerous.

With help from the judge’s attractive niece Sarah Armstrong, Lee begins to uncover a bioterrorism scandal. The perpetrators will kill to conceal and Lee and Sarah soon become their prime targets. Will the pair evade their hunters and piece together the story before time runs out?

Or will the government agents and Silicon Valley titans who are the masterminds behind the scandal stop the pair and add them to the list of victims?
From Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Robert B Lowe.

Kirkus Reviews describes Project Moses as “a thriller with an ideal fusion of wile and wit”. 

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Excerpt from Chapter 1

TALL AND SLENDER with well-coiffed silver hair that touched her shoulders, Judge Miriam Gilbert was a handsome woman with sparkling blue eyes who still attracted admiring looks from men, even if the looks were somewhat less carnal than in the past.
At the age of 52, after a decade as a San Francisco Municipal Court Judge, Miriam Gilbert had long ago developed the most important quality required for a jurist charged with resolving the petty crimes and minor civil disputes that filled her courtroom – infinite patience.
But, she was struggling today to remain stoic behind the particle board and formica bench at the front of the courtroom. She watched the middle-aged juror twist her fat hands until the knuckles were red and swollen. The woman shifted uncomfortably in her seat as she scanned the people sitting around her in the jury box.
The juror was about Judge Gilbert’s age but the resemblance ended there. She wore a blue, vaguely nautical dress at least two sizes and 15 years too young for her. Her face was loose and malleable, shifting back and forth between fear and disdain as she looked at her fellow jurors.
Raising her hand like a child in class, the woman fought her sobs as she spoke through lips painted blood red.
“I am not crazy!” she said. She took two deep breaths. “They kept yelling and yelling at me. And I am not going to change my mind.”
“He is innocent! That one did not prove his case.” Her face trembling, the juror jabbed a lethal-looking fingernail at the prosecutor just beyond the jury box.
Orson Adams stared back at his accuser, removed his tortoise shell-rimmed glasses and frowned.
The muscles around Judge Gilbert’s left eye twitched slightly. She didn’t mind so much that the hung jury was going to waste four days of trial time devoted to a minor case. That was par for the course. What bothered her was a headache that had started about the time the bailiff knocked on the door to Judge Gilbert’s chambers and said: “They want to come out. I think they’ve run out of names to call each other.”
The judge cleared her throat, a signal that the histrionics and squabbling that had emanated from the jury box for the past ten minutes were over. She stared at the empty notepad in front of her for a few seconds before looking up.
“It is apparent to me that this jury will not reach a unanimous verdict,” she said. “They have deliberated for two days - as much time as it took for the state and the defense to present their cases. Therefore, I declare a mistrial.”
“The prosecution will inform the Court within one week whether the state intends to retry this case. I thank the jury for its efforts. I know it has taken much of your time to be here and that the last two days have not been easy.” Judge Gilbert made it a point to nod in the jury’s direction.
Then, she looked over at the defendant, an almost emaciated young man with dirty blond hair tied in a ponytail. He sat beside his attorney, a corpulent man wearing dark-blue pinstripes, pink tie and a forced smile that looked more like a snarl.
“Mr. Warrington will remain free on bond,” she said.
An hour later, the lawyers, jurors and courthouse staff had joined the evening traffic jam. With her black robe now hanging in the closet of her chambers, Judge Gilbert wore a long-sleeved white blouse and a pleated beige skirt as she settled behind her large desk stained yellow to bring out the wood grain through the heavily polished sheen. Behind her were volumes of California cases, bound in blue leather. A cup of Misty Mint tea sat on her right, hot and steaming. Next to it lay two capsules of Darvon painkiller. The headache was worse. It now seemed to fan outward from the center of her brain to her scalp.
Judge Gilbert looked over the assorted papers laying on her desk. She picked up a large envelope that she had opened in the morning. It was teal blue and embossed with a logo in darker blue along the left side that she had never seen before. It was a rising spiral with flowers and bunches of grapes hanging from it.
Judge Gilbert reached into the envelope and pulled out a yellow rose that had been pressed flat. She held it to her nose, inhaled and was rewarded with the aroma of cinnamon. She was reminded of hot apple cider and sweet potato pie.
She set the rose on the desk and grabbed her letter opener, a gift from a former law clerk. She inserted it under the flap of another envelope and tore it open with a satisfying rip. She skimmed the letter inside. Then, Judge Gilbert turned to the next envelope sitting in the tray on the corner of her desk.
The next morning the body of Judge Miriam Gilbert was still at her desk when her law clerk went into her chambers. Her head lay on the desktop, eyes staring at a blank wall. Her silver hair was stained brown where it lay in a puddle of cold tea.


  1. Thanks for having me on the blog today.

  2. Thank you for being here Robert. I enjoyed the interview and just the excerpt is a page-turner!