After a small-time crook winds up involved in a big-time blunder that gets someone killed, he goes on the run and is approached to have his old identity erased and a new one created for him. The issue of identity in America is exactly what award-winning author Andrew Klavan is trying to get at in his new book, The Identity Man.
After a trip to New Orleans, Klavan was inspired to craft a new story that asks questions about country and culture.
“I feel that because of identity politics, the old idea of America that you can become anybody you want to be, that old idea has kind of gone by the boards,” he said. “I wanted to ask the question, how possible is that? How free are you to chose who you are and what does constitute your identity? It just seems like a very American question to ask, and an important one.”
Klavan, who lives in Montecito with his wife, Ellen, and their family, said he has wanted to be a writer ever since he got over wanting to be an astronaut as a boy.
“I had always wanted to write novels. I was dragged into writing movies against my will,” Klavan joked. “One day I got a phone call and a Hollywood agent I didn’t even know I had said he had sold the book to the movies.”
Two of Klavan’s novels were adapted for the silver screen, and he has several other screenwriting credits to his name. True Crime was filmed by Clint Eastwood and Don’t Say a Word starred former Montecito resident Michael Douglas.
Besides writing novels and screenplays, Klavan has been a political commentator on TV, in print and on the Web. He is a self-described conservative and has taken a greater interest in politics since the late 1980s.
“I went through a political change after the fall of the Soviet Union,” he said. “I began to realize that everything (Ronald) Reagan had said was true, and everything his opponents had said was not.”
More recently Klavan has been dolling out his political commentaries online as a part of PJTV. He started his segment remotely via Web cam in a segment called Klavan on the Culture, and it has grown to a regular production as a venue for conservative perspectives on media, culture and politics.
”(Klavan on the Culture) fills a need,” he said. “It’s very hard to find mainstream comedy and satire from the right, and I think it’s just a wide-open field. It’s so wide open that they make it easy on me.
“I’m not politically correct, I say what I mean. There really are people getting shot at in defense of liberty.”
Klavan is also a frequent contributor to National Review Online, often commenting on arts, entertainment and the culture.
If there is an issue in the news, Klavan is quick to point out its implications for the country and its impact on freedoms and liberties. With the recent introduction of body scanners and enhanced pat-downs at the airports, Klavan said he will drive as far as he can to get somewhere to avoid the Transportation Security Administration.
“I think it’s abusive nonsense,” he said.
As for a better alternative, Klavan suggests profiling people in every way.
“You can’t have police pretending a young Islamic man is not more likely to be a terrorist than a 90-year-old Christian woman,” he said. “It’s not that I think the majority of Muslims are terrorists; that would be absurd. But right now I think the majority of terrorists are Muslims.
“You can’t stick your hand in someone’s crotch and find an explosive,” he added. “We have a news media who are laughingly disassociated with the people. The ordinary person in this country is pretty decent and pretty smart.”
As a storyteller, Klavan takes the political and cultural aspects of life and layers them to create stories with meaning.
People around the world are addicted to a good story, and here in the United States, the storytelling business of film appears to be recession-proof. According to Box Office Mojo, movie ticket sales are up almost 12 percent since the recession started in 2007. As it turns out, Klavan knows a thing or two about the power of suspense and a good story.
“Partly I think that suspense in real life is one of the most difficult emotions to manage, and I think we gravitate toward suspense in stories as a way to manage it,” Klavan said.
“I also especially like ticking-clock thrillers where you have to find out the truth before time runs out because it is a great metaphor for life.”