Douglas Brunt The Means: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9781476772578

The Means: A Novel

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9781476772578: The Means: A Novel
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Part Primary Colors, part House of Cards, The Means takes you deep into high-stakes politics where everyone has something to hide.

Tom Pauley is a conservative trial attorney in Durham, NC, who is tapped by GOP leaders to campaign for the Governor's mansion. His bold style makes him a favorite for a run at the White House.

Mitchell Mason is the president-elect of the United States, pushed into politics by a father determined to create a political dynasty. Mason manages the White House with a personal touch that makes both friends and enemies.

Samantha Davis is a child actor-turned-lawyer-turned-journalist, working her way up from the bottom in a competitive industry. She is determined and brilliant, and her dogged pursuit of a decade-old story could trigger a scandal that would upend the political landscape.

New York Times bestselling author Douglas Brunt's “savage” (Publishers Weekly) prose creates an incisive portrait of ambition, power, and what it takes to win in the ruthless world of politics today.

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About the Author:

Until 2011, Douglas Brunt was CEO of Authentium, Inc., a security company. His first novel, Ghosts of Manhattan, was a New York Times bestseller. A Philadelphia native, he lives in New York with his wife and three children. Visit DouglasBrunt.com.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The Means

1

“There’s been a plane crash.”

Samantha had expected the receptionist to ask her to wait a moment or to offer her coffee. People are running in all directions around them but the receptionist sits in place, redirecting phone calls.

“Where?” Samantha asks.

“In the ocean, just beyond Staten Island. About five minutes ago.”

“Passenger jet?”

“Yes, I think it was one of the big kind. International.”

“Oh, no.”

“I’m sorry, but Mr. Mueller is not going to be able to conduct your interview today. He’s heading to the newsroom now. I can try to reschedule you.”

“Of course, I’ll just call you later. I’m sure you’re all busy,” says Samantha.

“Erica, cancel everything for the rest of the day.” A man has come around the corner from behind the receptionist at the speed of an Olympic power walker. He looks about fifty and has extra weight around his middle and face. He has a cell phone and his jacket is flapping behind him from the other hand. His tie is on but loose with the top button of his shirt undone and his hair is brown and full and looks like it hasn’t been cut for some time.

“Yes, Mr. Mueller.”

“Make sure Paul Becker gets in Control Four and tell him no commercial breaks until he hears from me. Send only emergency calls for me to Control Four.”

“Yes, sir,” says the receptionist.

David Mueller stops next to them but his manner keeps a hurried pace. “You Samantha Davis?” Gorgeous brunette with green eyes. He remembers hearing the deep voice with gravitas. He sees in person that she has kind of a big head with a little body and he knows from experience that translates well to TV.

“Yes.”

He looks at her for two seconds, making a decision. “Come with me.”

He moves from reception to the elevators without looking at her or thinking about her again, like she’s something he tucked into his pocket for later. Samantha follows behind.

Mueller continues yelling into his phone. “Is Ken Grant in the studio yet? Good. I want Jeffries and a crew out on Staten Island now. How far offshore did this thing go down? No? See if you can get any of our guys on a police or rescue craft. And charter our own boat. Divert our traffic helicopters out to the scene and get some visuals on it. Get a crew to South Street Seaport, and put a crew on Ellis Island. We can get some coverage of the rescue boats coming and going. I’m stepping into the elevator, I’m going to lose you. Reach me in Control Four.”

Mueller lowers the phone and they step inside the elevator. He pushes 1 and looks at Samantha. “You’re going to see a newsroom in high gear. Stay next to me and observe.”

“This is the best interview I’ve ever had.” She worries this sounds insensitive but sees that Mueller, for the moment, is not as concerned with what happened as he is with covering what happened.

“Ken Grant is great on breaking news. He’s also a pilot for Chrissake. He’s perfect for this.” Mueller is a general content with his battle plan. “It’s Rolling Thunder now. News rundowns are in the trash and it’s breaking news, live as it comes. This is what reporters live for. It’s going to be nuts in there.”

Samantha nods. They step out of the elevator and walk thirty paces to an escalator that takes them a level below ground. The security guards recognize Mueller and he and Samantha pass by into the newsroom.

The room is the size of a football field. The ceiling is about ten feet, which feels low in a room that stretches so far. Plain, square columns that are drywall around load-bearing beams look skeletal. They mark the perimeter of different pods of news teams.

The room is full of people sitting, standing, and running, holding up printed computer paper and yelling for each other’s attention. Phones are ringing, everyone has one or two small TVs at their desk. Unlike usual, today the volumes are up. News people develop the ability to talk and listen at the same time.

To Samantha’s left is a twelve-by-twelve-foot stage raised one foot off the ground, under studio lighting that hangs from tracks in the ceiling. It’s an island of glowing TV lights in the darker newsroom. In a chair on the stage is a blond reporter in a red dress. She’s reading notes and getting her makeup retouched.

Samantha has gone from the stark white lighting and quiet of the hallway to the newsroom full of spotlights and accent lights, desk lamps, and in any direction the glow of more than a hundred television and computer screens competes for her eyes. She’s dazed and her senses work to catch up.

Mueller keeps power walking and she chases him. He cuts through the aisles that are created by the kind of desk furniture that connects to make rows and corners so the workers can have their own space for computer and phone but are crowded together.

A younger version of Mueller with no tie runs up to them. “CNN is reporting no survivors.”

“Do we have that?”

“Jeffries is calling all his contacts at Port Authority.”

“Tell him to move faster.”

Thirty yards farther is another twelve-by-twelve-foot space, this one enclosed in glass walls. Standing inside under more tracked studio lighting is Ken Grant. His suit and hair are perfect. Samantha recognizes the evening news anchor for UBS-24. His makeup is more obvious in person.

They’re taking a reporter hit from outside the studio and Ken Grant and Mueller exchange a nod. Mueller gives a thumbs-up and keeps walking through the pods of newsmen and women who are chasing information. In thirty yards more they reach the back wall of the newsroom and a set of doors. Mueller turns left then opens the door marked Control 4.

The hypnotic mix of the thousand noises in the newsroom behind her is cut by a single, violent voice from inside the control room. “Get that feed back now! We’re taking her remote in thirty seconds!”

Samantha and Mueller enter and close the door behind them. Everyone senses Mueller has come in but goes about their work. The far wall is covered by a grid of 10" television screens, many showing live footage they can pull into the broadcast, others showing the broadcasts of competing networks. One screen is larger than the others and shows Ken Grant in the live chest-up shot that the rest of the world can see. In front of the wall of screens are three rows of six people each, seated elbow to elbow in front of computers and phones. Standing behind them all is the man who screamed and Mueller moves beside him.

The man leans down into the desk in front of him, presses a button then speaks into his headset. “Ken, in thirty we’re going to Pam Roberts in Staten Island with an eyewitness to the splashdown.” He uses an unnatural voice of forced calm.

He turns to Mueller and Samantha and nods. He looks about forty with short hair and ears so tight to the side of his head you can’t see them when he looks straight at you.

Everyone talks in a hushed voice except this man. The room is lit only by screens. It is dim and closed like a submarine.

Mueller steps forward to a seated woman who just put down her phone. He taps her shoulder. “Get someone from Airbus and someone from Air France to come on with Ken. If Airbus won’t come on, then get someone from Boeing and tell Airbus that’s what we’re going to do if they don’t give us someone. It was an Airbus craft that went down so this is their chance to get their narrative out. May not go as well for them if it’s Boeing doing the talking. And get someone from Homeland Security to cover the terrorist angle.”

The woman has the phone back to her ear and nods yes.

“Where is Pam Roberts?” yells the man.

“Trouble with the feed. We need another minute,” says a small but efficient voice.

“Shit!” Bodies shift in front of the voice as though shoved. He leans down to the same button then says, “Ken, I need a minute. Stretch.”

The only screen with audio on in the room is Ken’s and he starts a new thread that appears a natural transition.

“Typically in this sort of craft, the pilots will transfer control to the autopilot at four hundred feet, so at the altitude and distance traveled at the time of failure, the plane could easily have been on autopilot. Boeing and Airbus differ in philosophies regarding piloting and aircraft controls design. Boeing favors more pilot involvement. When the ­autopilot ­adjusts engine thrust, or speed, the manual controls on a Boeing craft will move while Airbus bypasses all manual controls.” Ken Grant ­continues about cockpit design.

“Jesus Christ, get me Roberts. Grant can only do so much. We’re losing eyeballs.”

“Pam’s good.” The TV monitor marked REM 3 beneath it now shows an attractive black woman with a middle-aged white man in a flannel shirt by the Staten Island coast.

He leans in. “Ken, we have Pam.”

Less than a second later. “Right now we’re going to our own Pam Roberts in Staten Island, who is with an eyewitness to this tragedy. Pam?”

“Thank you, Ken. I’m here with Al Moses, who is a roofer in Staten Island.” The broadcast TV that had shown Ken now shows the picture from REM 3. One of the smaller screens on the wall shows the same image of Ken Grant, who is now reading papers and glancing at a live screen shot of Pam Roberts in front of him. “Mr. Moses, you were on a roof when Air France Flight 477 flew overhead.”

“That’s right. I’ve been doing the roof of this oceanfront home the last week. Three-story home and beautiful vistas. Beautiful.” Every viewer has their first experience with the word vistas in a Staten Island accent. “Sometimes I take a moment up here to watch things like birds and planes. Just for a moment, you know, but this one I watched the whole way ’cause I noticed it was at this funny angle, like.” He raises his forearm with his fingers straight and pointed up. “The nose of the plane was up the whole way, like it wanted to climb but wasn’t climbing much, just sort of plowing through the air.”

“Did you see it hit the water?”

“Oh my God, I did. It slammed right down in the water, right out there.”

“What did you see?”

“It wasn’t much of a landing. No disrespect. It just fell out of the sky. Normally, you land a plane, you’re moving forward faster than down. This thing was moving down more than forward.”

“Could you hear the impact?”

“Nah. Probably too much noise around here what with the beach and waves breaking and all. I could make out the white water kick up when it landed.”

“Could you see anything else? Flotation devices that released?”

“Nah. Once the white water settled down, it was just flat horizon from this far away. Couldn’t see nothing more then.”

She turns back to the camera. “Ken, back to you.”

“Pam Roberts in Staten Island. Thank you, Pam.”

While Pam and the eyewitness had been speaking, someone in the control room had started screaming about a statement from Homeland Security. People had gotten into the ear of both Ken and Pam to wrap the interview. Ken reads the written statement for the broadcast that says there is no evidence of terrorism as yet, that the department is investigating and, along with the FBI and NTSB, are headed to the scene to assist local law enforcement.

“Where’s Airbus? Where’s Air France?” yells the man. Samantha has learned his name is Paul and he is the executive producer for this news hour.

“Paul, I’ve got a call from the husband of a flight attendant who was on the Air France flight.” It’s a male voice from one of the rows in the darkness in front of them. “He has a voicemail recording from the flight attendant, recorded as it was going down.”

People in the room shout hows and wheres and expletives.

“Verify it,” says Paul.

“He says he played it for authorities who are coming to his house. He wants it out to the media to make sure nothing gets buried in the investigation.”

“He called us? We need to verify this guy first,” says Paul. “Get the roster of the attendants on the flight, see if this guy can match the names. Have the Research Room get a phone listing for the flight attendant. Call the number back and see if the guy answers.”

Mueller steps to an available landline on the desk in front of him. “I can get you the roster. Give me three minutes.”

“Thank you, Dave. If we put that guy on the air and he starts yelling Ba Ba Booey, I’m going to kill somebody.”

Samantha looks around the control room. Half the people are on phones in low voices, lining up experts and eyewitnesses to come on the newscast. The rest are preparing graphics and data for the show, researching information, typing editorial into the prompter to be read by Ken, after Paul has read it over first, though it is mostly just the names of the upcoming guests on the show. There are no scripts for breaking news and the anchor is ad-libbing.

The door behind her is solid metal with no window, so she can’t see the newsroom where Ken is seated in the glass box but she can hear him talking about Saint Elmo’s fire. “A luminous glow appears in the cockpit. It is generated by an electric field, often due to a thunderstorm or volcanic eruption. Sailors through the centuries have talked about it as an omen of bad luck as it would throw off compass headings.”

“Jesus Christ,” says Paul. “Get me somebody from Airbus.”

All of Samantha’s senses are devoted to the absorption of events and none to calculating the passage of time. Then she remembers to tap a text message to the associate lawyer assisting her on the two cases she’s currently working. She’s a litigator and new partner at Davis Polk. She had budgeted ninety minutes for the interview at UBS and now clears more room on her schedule.

A faxed page is handed to Mueller who hands it to the woman who is speaking with the husband of the attendant. Mueller turns to Paul. “You better screen this guy yourself.”

Paul walks around the desk and down the aisle to the woman and takes her phone. He crouches over the paper with the phone to his ear.

Three seconds later he drops the paper from his left hand and raises that arm, clenched fist with extended thumb.

Mueller is standing with arms folded in front of him as though he’s surveying it all from a much greater distance, a faraway hill over a battle fought in preindustrial times when no weapon can reach him. “Jesus, this is TV gold.” Only Samantha hears him. She looks at him, then back to the room.

The room has a heartbeat. The newspeople are having a different experience than the people to whom they are speaking. Under pressure, there’s a shorthand between them, everyone must perform and no mistakes can be made, and it’s when they’re at their best and love their job the most.

Paul sprints up the short aisle, around the corner, and back to his place. He presses the same button in front of him. “Ken, we have a voicemail recording from a flight attendant to her husband in the last seconds of the flight while it was going down. Tease the recording, we’ll have it in one minute.”

Ken responds on air like a nickel in a jukebox. Samantha can’t believe how smooth. He emphasizes the husband-wife relationship and their last words on earth.

The production reminds her of the image of a duck on water. On the surface, calm and beautiful while beneath the surface the bony, orange legs are thrashing like mad.

The pace, intensity, the spoken and unspoken teamwork to make a product with instant gratifica...

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Book Description Touchstone Books, 2014. Hardback. Condition: New. New.. Language: English . Brand New Book. Part Primary Colors, part House of Cards, The Means takes you deep into high-stakes politics where everyone has something to hide. Tom Pauley is a conservative trial attorney in Durham, NC, who is tapped by GOP leaders to campaign for the Governor s mansion. His bold style makes him a favorite for a run at the White House. Mitchell Mason is the president-elect of the United States, pushed into politics by a father determined to create a political dynasty. Mason manages the White House with a personal touch that makes both friends and enemies. Samantha Davis is a child actor-turned-lawyer-turned-journalist, working her way up from the bottom in a competitive industry. She is determined and brilliant, and her dogged pursuit of a decade-old story could trigger a scandal that would upend the political landscape. New York Times bestselling author Douglas Brunt s savage (Publishers Weekly) prose creates an incisive portrait of ambition, power, and what it takes to win in the ruthless world of politics today. Seller Inventory # BZV9781476772578

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Book Description Touchstone Books, 2014. Hardback. Condition: New. New.. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. Part Primary Colors, part House of Cards, The Means takes you deep into high-stakes politics where everyone has something to hide. Tom Pauley is a conservative trial attorney in Durham, NC, who is tapped by GOP leaders to campaign for the Governor s mansion. His bold style makes him a favorite for a run at the White House. Mitchell Mason is the president-elect of the United States, pushed into politics by a father determined to create a political dynasty. Mason manages the White House with a personal touch that makes both friends and enemies. Samantha Davis is a child actor-turned-lawyer-turned-journalist, working her way up from the bottom in a competitive industry. She is determined and brilliant, and her dogged pursuit of a decade-old story could trigger a scandal that would upend the political landscape. New York Times bestselling author Douglas Brunt s savage (Publishers Weekly) prose creates an incisive portrait of ambition, power, and what it takes to win in the ruthless world of politics today. Seller Inventory # BZV9781476772578

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