The personal story of Gene Westmoreland, the protagonist of Secretocracy, is, like the rest of the book, firmly based on my own experiences. When Gene’s marriage fails, he lives in an attic in a shared house in northwest Washington, D.C. After some years of solitude, he begins tentative exploration of relations with women. Lots of problems follow.
When my own marriage collapsed, I lived in the attic of a ramshackle mansion on the edge of Rock Creek Park in northwest Washington. I worked hard to maintain my relationship with my children who went on living with their mother. I was severely constrained by lack of money and had no interest in entanglements with women. Those years gave me plentiful of experiences to use in my writing.
One facet of Gene’s character fascinates me, even today. That is his uneasiness about a relationship with a woman because he was so deeply hurt by the end of his marriage. His fear of committing himself almost drives away the woman he comes to love.
Gene’s dealings with his wiseacre son was perhaps the most enjoyable feature in the book for me. I drew upon my relations with all four of my children in portraying the father-son bond.
But the heart of the story is Gene’s work and his persecution by the Trump administration. I know all too well what it feels like to suffer through an administration’s harassment. Gene handles it as I did—by hanging on, hoping he can outlast his tormentors.