Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Jimmy, Jimmy

New York City is certainly on my mind, as I travel this week to the Big Apple for the second-annual ThrillerFest. Any mention of New York--no matter how minor--catches my eye.

Which is why I couldn’t help but notice that one of my favorite thriller writers, American James Siegel, is helping former U.S. first lady and present Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York) in her campaign to become the 44th president of the United States. I almost spat out my granola when I came across that news. Not because of anything having to do with Mrs. Clinton, but because it seems like only yesterday that Siegel didn’t even register on my radar, and here he is mixing with the mighty.

It was on a tip from Lee Child (Bad Luck and Trouble) that I checked out Siegel’s second novel, Derailed (2003). The book had languished on my to-be-read pile for quite some time, until one day when I had to go to the hospital for some investigations of severe stomach pains (the legacy of my previously dormant stomach ulcer, which I have I nicknamed Pompeii). In preparation, I packed a few books for my stay, one of which was Derailed. I didn’t know what to expect, really. But I found out soon enough. After two hours of waiting with Siegel’s novel at the hospital, I was so captivated by the story that the anesthetist had almost to surgically remove Derailed from my hands in order to get me into the operating room. And after I finally came out of the O.R., my first thought was to finish Siegel’s damn novel!

(I should note at this point that, while I enjoyed the print version of Derailed, I was very disappointed in the 2005 film version of that tale, which featured Clive Owen and Jennifer Anniston. The movie missed the whole point of Siegel’s terrifying morality tale.)

Since then, I have enjoyed reading and reviewing Detour (2005) and Siegel’s latest novel, Deceit (2006). I’ve even gone back to read his remarkable debut work, Epitaph. I got to know more about the author through a piece he penned for Shots about his writing of Detour, and because he was one of my fellow book judges in preparation for the International Thriller Writers’ (ITW) inaugural Thriller Awards presentations back in 2006. Together with Anne Frasier and James Rollins, and under the guidance of committee chair Alex Kava, we clawed our way through a massive stack of thrillers novels until we finally settled on Christopher Reich’s The Patriots Club as Best Novel of the Year. It was a tight vote.

(Speaking of awards, Siegel’s story “Empathy,” which was featured in the 2006 ITW/Mira collection Thriller, is on the shortlist of contenders for the British Crime Writers’ Association’s 2007 Short Story Dagger Award. A winner in that category will be announced at a date later this year.)

It’s remarkable that James Siegel has done so well in the thriller-writing game, when you consider that he’s already busy with his day job as vice chairman, senior executive creative director, and member of the Board of Directors of BBDO New York, a high-powered advertising agency, and is “one of the agency’s top creative talents,” according to his publisher’s write-up. Wikipedia recalls that Siegel was responsible for the “Yo, Yao” ad that so many people saw during the broadcast of Super Bowl XXXVII, and was behind a number of advertisements for former state attorney general Eliot Spitzer’s successful 2006 gubernatorial campaign in New York.

Perhaps, because of that Spitzer connection, I shouldn’t have been surprised to read that Siegel was lending a hand to Hillary Clinton in the upcoming U.S. presidential race. But I was surprised. As the London Times remarks:
Electioneers, take note. Hillary Clinton has some seriously imaginative help on her ad campaign.

The brains behind it belong to Jimmy Siegel, a former creative director at one of New York’s leading agencies, who is also a successful thriller writer.

Siegel’s election films, which have so far included Hillary and Bill as the Sopranos, are apparently designed to show that Hillary has a sense of humour, especially about herself.

Siegel was head-hunted after helping the Democrat Eliot Spitzer become governor of New York last year. One ad that caused a sense of humour failure (and was never used) featured Spitzer, who is known for being hot-headed, yelling at his daughter for not doing her homework. She retorted: “You know, Dad, the Republicans are right--you do have a temper.”

Siegel has recently set up the first political ad-production company, A-Political. Could he be of help over here? I can think of at least one preeminent grumpy British politician who, come the election, might be able to use his services.
We can only hope that Siegel finds at least some spare time between now and the Democratic National Convention next summer (during which Mrs. Clinton’s future will be decided) to work on his own fiction. But we won’t be betting on it.

By the way, if you’re wondering about the source of the headline “Jimmy, Jimmy,” let me introduce you to a 1980s Northern Irish band called The Undertones. Click here to join in the chorus.

1 comment:

Ali Karim said...

And guess what?

I had dinner with Jimmy Siegel - which was an excellent evening

More on TF later