'Spy': A Nuclear Caper, With A Nod From Clinton

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In author Thomas Caplan's new novel, The Spy Who Jumped Off The Screen, the president asks movie star Ty Hunter to return to action as a secret agent.

Caplan himself is personally acquainted with a former commander in chief. President Clinton and he were once roommates.

"I was a student at Georgetown University. When we arrived as heady freshmen in 1964, because of the alphabet, I was assigned a room next to Bill Clinton," Caplan tells Morning Edition host Linda Wertheimer. "And we've remained friends ever since."

Such good friends, in fact, that Clinton not only helped edit an earlier draft of Caplan's novel but also wrote an introduction for it.

"I know he's a great fan of thrillers and reads them sort of one after the other and knows an awful lot about them, and when I'd done this, which was my first thriller, I asked him to read it and he made some wonderful comments," Caplan says.

The book is about the world of loose nukes — people trying to negotiate a sale of supposedly decommissioned nuclear weapons to the highest bidder.

"When I showed President Clinton the early draft, the first thing he said to me was, 'Who told you all this about nuclear weapons?' " Caplan recalls, laughing. "I said no one really. I just read all the available books and chatted to people, but obviously I have no access to such things.

"And he said, 'Well, it's completely right,' and including interestingly, which satisfied me in a way, the motivations of the people who might be trying to do this and the rationalizations they have for their own behavior."

The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen is Caplan's third work of fiction. As the title suggests, he attempts to flip conventions. His hero, Ty Hunter, is a movie star. Movies are his second career, however. His first in fictional "real life" was top-secret, Delta Force, Navy Seal sorts of adventures. Caplan says he is almost done with a sequel to the book.

"I very much like the character," he says. "There may be a bit of fantasy involved because I'm not either a movie star or a covert operative.

"But it's fine to sit down every day and write about not yourself but your character as though you were putting yourself in the mind of the world's No. 1 film star who has to fight off every beautiful woman and is staggeringly lucky in his work."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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