Seattle author’s political thriller may touch a few nerves

For more than 30 years, Mike Lawson was an engineer at the Bremerton Naval Shipyard, working his way up to the highest civilian rank in the nuclear engineering program. Now, he writes books at Tully’s.

For more than 30 years, Mike Lawson was an engineer at the Bremerton Naval Shipyard, working his way up to the highest civilian rank in the nuclear engineering program.

Now, he writes books at Tully’s.

Even though he’s retired from the shipyard and writes books for a living, writing at the coffee shop down the street still gives him that sense of ‘going’ to work. He’ll take his laptop and rap on the keyboard for a few hours amongst the buzz, putting a novel together page by page, cup by cup.

About five years earlier, he wrote his first book —  “The Inside Ring,” one of the Seattle Times’ top 10 thrillers of 2005, now published in 10 countries — amidst the hum of ferryboats, hour-long commute by hour-long commute.

Writing in those type of real-world environments, or perhaps more so just the real world itself, helps give Lawson’s political thrillers a very real feel. In fact, many of the author’s ideas for novels come from the pages of the daily newspaper fostered by a very realist imagination.

“The stories have to be plausible,” Lawson said, noting that of the plot in his newest book “House Rules.” “I think it’s important that people can pick it up and think … ‘this could happen.’ ”

That’s what grips readers, he says, a raw connection with real life. But through that same connection, “House Rules” has the potential to strike a few raw nerves.

The story opens with the FBI foiling an attempted terrorist attack on a raid at a suburban American home, finding two young Muslim Americans with a massive car bomb in the garage.

The police suspect a third, but find no one else in the house.

The culprits are silent throughout the ensuing investigation, until the authorities take the gloves off and try to “conduce” a change in heart — first physically and then by forcing solitary confinement and extreme sleep deprivation, mixed with a constant flow of coffee to keep the suspects’ nerves jangled.

When that doesn’t work, the chief investigator threatens to transfer the prisoners to a secret island detention center, similar to Guantanamo Bay; only this one, no one knows about. He says the site was formerly used by the U.S. Army for testing biological weapons, and alludes to the detainees that they will be kept there, in the same confined cages that used to hold test monkeys.

That does the trick.

The authorities find that these two kids were just pawns of a traveling-preacher-type of radically Islamic, terrorist mastermind, who is still out there.

Meanwhile, in Congress in the wake of the foiled attack, a passionate, though somewhat half-baked legislator sponsors a bill that would effectively close U.S. borders to all Muslims while deporting all Muslim immigrants and mandating background checks on all Muslim-Americans.

Soon thereafter, three more terrorist attacks are carried out in the U.S. capitol, all officially carried out by Muslim Americans and linked to the same mastermind — an al Qaeda operative inside the United States.

“I picked the topic because it was timely, but it’s kind of nerve-wracking because you’re not sure how the real world might affect it,” Lawson noted. “When you start writing about something that current, things that either haven’t happened or haven’t been announced yet could really affect the book.”

For example, Lawson’s first book begins with the assassination of the president. His second, “The Second Perimeter,” follows a secret investigation into what seems like low-stakes government swindle but turns out to be an espionage ring that’s infiltrated the Bremerton Naval Base.

Of course, all real names of officials and politicians have been changed in Lawson’s work, but in each book the shrewd Speaker of the House John Mahoney sends his under-the-table “personal troubleshooter” — a stealthy cat named Joe DeMarco — to find the truth in a world where nothing is as it seems to be.

This time around, Mahoney suspects these terrorist attacks might actually have been a government ploy.

Political thriller author/ former shipyard engineer Mike Lawson is coming to Kitsap for the release of his third book “House Rules” out on Grove/Atlantic this month. He’ll be speaking from 3-5 p.m. June 14 at the Kitsap Mall Barnes and Noble in Silverdale, followed by an appearance from noon-2 p.m. June 21 at the Bethel Ave. Book Company at 1037 Bethel Ave. in Port Orchard. And he’ll also be back through the Belfair public library at 7 p.m. Sept. 16.

Info: or call Barnes and Noble at (360) 698-0945, Bethel Ave. Books at (360) 876-7500.