Thursday, July 2, 2020

Just the Truth by Gen LaGreca: Q&A with author, Review, & Excerpt

Just the Truth by Gen LaGreca

About the Book
Just the Truth is a political thriller set in Washington, DC, in the near future. It's the story of Laura Taninger, a journalist who suspects foul play by President Ken Martin in his bid for reelection. Laura is determined to find the truth, while the president's administration is determined to silence her. The story reveals the many covert ways in which unscrupulous public officials can stifle a free press, and how one journalist risks her career, her reputation—and ultimately her life— to uncover a plot to subvert free elections in America.
Laura Taninger is president of Taninger News, the organization started by her grandfather, newspaper mogul Julius Taninger (“JT”). Find the truth, wherever it hides was JT’s slogan in the mid-20th century. Then, politicians feared his scathing editorials. Now, 70 years later, with JT deceased and his four heirs running the company, have the tables turned? Does today’s press still have the freedom to criticize elected officials, or do those officials have the power to silence their opponents?
The signature program of President Ken Martin’s first term is called SafeVote, which puts control of national elections in the hands of the federal government, rather than letting the states manage the voting in their own jurisdictions. With claims that a federal voting system will better insure fair, unbiased elections, as well as avoid fraud and voter discrimination, SafeVote was passed and is scheduled to launch with the upcoming presidential election in which Martin hopes to win a second term.
When SafeVote pays $400 million to an undisclosed contractor for work it won't reveal, other journalists aren't concerned, but Laura is suspicious. When she starts to investigate, Laura is faced with the crushing retaliation of her political enemies and their media supporters against her, her family, and their companies.
Laura has a source, James Spenser, who's a high-level person within the administration. He has vital information for her, but just as he meets her outside a restaurant to reveal it, he's gunned down before he can speak and the killer gets away.
As Spenser lay dying in Laura's arms, he whispers a curious, final word: “Fox…”
Laura can't let Spenser die in vain. While the police and the media attribute Spenser's death to a random street crime, Laura is convinced it's connected to SafeVote.
As Laura gets closer to uncovering the meaning of Spenser's dying word, the identity of his killer, and the mystery surrounding the new voting system, she realizes that the facts point to shocking revelations about someone unforgettable in her life, a man who was her greatest business competitor and her most passionate lover—until he betrayed her and the ideals they shared. With Election Day looming and the country at a crossroads, and with intense pressure from her family to give up her investigation, Laura is determined to pursue the truth wherever it leads.
As our actual presidential election of 2020 approaches and as questions mount about the integrity of today’s journalism and our election process, Just the Truth couldn't be more timely.

About the Author

Genevieve (Gen) LaGreca writes novels with innovative plots, strong romance, and themes that glorify individual freedom and independence. She has written novels of all different genres including historical, mystery and romance fiction as well as short stories. She is one of the successful new indie authors whose novels have topped the charts in the popular ebook format. Her three previously published novels, Noble Vision, A Dream of Daring, and Fugitive From Asteron have been Amazon Kindle Best Sellers and won 11 book awards.
How Voting-Machine Lobbyists Undermine the Democratic Process | The New Yorker
Q & A with Gen LaGreca

Tell us about your main character, Laura Taninger.  Who is she and what makes her special?
Laura Taninger is a journalist who sees her profession as a calling. She runs Taninger News by the motto of her deceased grandfather, the company’s founder: Find the truth, wherever it hides. She's forthright, quietly self-confident, passionate about her work, and true to her ideals. When people try to smear, shame, humiliate, and destroy her, she doesn’t buckle. At twenty-nine, she’s intelligent and beautiful. There’s an honesty and openness in her expression that gives others the sense that they’re seeing the real person without pretensions.
Laura has one great hurt in her life. She loved Reed Miller, the self-made man who built a corporate media empire that includes Miller News Network, her biggest competitor. She and Reed once shared the same ideals about speaking truth to power, but Reed betrayed them and walked out on Laura. Reed is the most enigmatic character in the story, and we don't discover the truth about him, his motives, and his feelings for Laura until the end.
Laura Taninger represents the essence of women's independence. She thinks for herself. She stands up to everybody. Her judgment matters to her above other people's views. She has incredible integrity to the truth and trust in herself to see it. She's the role model of a strong woman, who doesn't cave to the mainstream, to pressures, or to the mob. Laura is an especially important heroine this year, which marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote throughout the United States.
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What are some of the themes that weave through the story?  And how do the characters conflict with each other on these themes?
One theme is: The importance of a responsible and independent press.
Laura's friend is fellow-journalist Sean Browne. Unlike Laura, Sean is an opportunistic journalist who’s obsequious and overly trusting of the people in power in order to advance his career. In return for his softball reporting on the president, he’s offered a prestigious post in the Martin administration. Sean illustrates the danger of losing objectivity when a newscaster has too cozy a relationship with the people he reports on. Because Sean craves recognition and advancement, he fears taking stands that conflict with the mainstream. Yet he’s drawn to Laura. He admires her passion and integrity—and deep down he knows he’s betrayed his own ideals. When Laura challenges him, he rationalizes his way of practicing journalism by saying that idealism is an adolescent carryover from college, which can’t succeed in the adult world.
So the theme interweaving Laura and Sean's friendship is: Do ideals matter? Do truth and moral principles matter? Do they carry weight in our lives, or is everything just pragmatic and expedient? As a journalist, Laura considers it her duty to be a watchdog on the government and to have a healthy skepticism about those in power. But Sean, on the other hand, wants to keep in step with what his peers are reporting and not be an outlier and risk disapproval. Sean cozies up to powerful politicians who can advance his career. So the story raises the question: If journalists have incentives to ignore abuses of power, then who's left to safeguard our freedoms?
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A second theme is: Does the end justify the means?
We hear this expression all the time. The villains of the story—the president and his two top aides—claim that the reelection of Ken Martin is so vital to the country that it justifies employing any means necessary to achieve that end.
President Ken Martin is unprincipled, power-hungry, and without a moral compass. He condones lying, smearing, cheating, and using federal agencies to destroy his political enemies. After all, it's for a good cause (his own reelection). He fears an investigative journalist like Laura, who can shine a harsh light of truth on his hidden activities and cause his downfall.
Darcy Egan is the chief advisor to President Martin and the most evil character in the story. She pushes Martin to cross lines of corruption never before crossed in the American presidency. Her own lust for power will stop at nothing to ensure her place in history alongside the president's. She's so drunk on power that she thinks she can manipulate people into believing anything—and thereby create her own “truth.” She says, “The truth is like clay, and we’re the sculptors. We knead it, we work it, we mold it, we massage it to suit our ends." How many actual politicians think this way? I'm afraid to say, quite a few. Darcy, of course, fears Laura's investigation and will stop at nothing to destroy her.
“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.” - Thomas Jefferson (Note that Jefferson doesn’t reference the elimination of the free press, merely placing limitations on it, which is precisely what Trump is doing, and he has made himself the sole arbiter of whether he can be challenged or not if he evades, equivocates, contradicts himself, spouts falsehoods and fallacies, or uses any number of tactics designed to dodge, distract, deflect  or deceive.)
 Zack Walker is the chief strategist to President Martin. He's part of the scheme to, shall we say, "adjust" the voting in the president's favor. Zack's job is to destroy Martin’s opponents through smear campaigns, so he constantly lies, engages in character assassination, and plants false stories which his media friends spread through the news cycles. But can Zack be pushed to do even greater evil acts under the notion that the end justify the means? Darcy will test him. She tells him, “Remember, the means are just the mechanics. We mustn’t dwell on them because the end is so important, so great, so right. Just stay fixed on our goal of getting Ken reelected!” Zack's main task is to eviscerate Laura Taninger.
 So an important theme in Just the Truth is a moral issue: Can the end ever justify lying, cheating, destroying good people, violating the rights of others, and losing your own character?
A third theme is: The intimidation of private citizens by public officials.
Just the Truth examines the danger of public officials using their power to silence political opponents. This is what Laura and her family experience.
Laura is in business with her father, older sister, and brother. The children each run different companies within the Taninger Enterprises corporate umbrella, with Laura running the news operation. Each company faces retribution from the president's administration to pressure the family to fire Laura. Irene's company loses a lucrative contract, Billie's company is found to be in violation of an environmental regulation and forced to incur substantial costs and a public relations nightmare to correct the situation, and the parent corporation is threatened with a federal lawsuit accusing it of being a monopoly that must be broken up.
Cartoon of the Week - American Promise
Clark Taninger, Laura’s father, has long-ago abandoned the dedication to truth of his father, the company's founder. Clark is pragmatic, conciliatory, and compromising toward those in power in order to avoid confrontations with them. He sees himself as a modern, effective businessman who doesn’t stand on principles, which he views as rigid and outdated, but who instead adjusts to changing times. As Taninger Enterprises’ CEO, Clark orders Laura to end the investigation that's rattling the Martin administration. Laura's brother and older sister side with their father. What will happen if Laura defies his order?
 Laura's only ally in the family is her younger sister, Kate, a college student. Kate passionately supports Laura’s investigation into corruption at the highest levels, and she calls out her family for their timidity and cowardice. But even Kate gets embroiled in Laura's controversy when her campus newspaper viciously attacks Laura, claiming that she's racist, bigoted, and elitist for being a critic of the new voting system. The attacks are launched by a partisan campus group that backs the president. When Kate writes an editorial defending Laura, she becomes the target of a squad of activist students, unstopped by an ineffective dean, who try to force Kate to recant or be expelled. Will Kate give in? What will happen if she defies the mob?
"Corrupt politicians make the other ten percent look bad." (Henry Kissinger)
 Just the Truth shows how the Martin administration is covertly behind all of the attacks on Laura and her family. The novel is a cautionary tale about how the tentacles of government, if left untrimmed, can spread to reach all of us and strangle our freedoms.
 The themes in this novel hit on real issues occurring in America today. There are reams of news stories questioning the integrity of today's journalists, the veracity of the news we're getting, the flagrant overstepping of federal agencies to stifle political opposition. There are also reports questioning the accuracy of our elections with calls for the federal government to exert more control over the states’ voting programs. Just the Truth is a shocking, eye-opening tale that everyone should read in order to understand better the times in which we live and the threats we face.
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Does Just the Truth contain an underlying message?  What do you hope your readers will take away from it?
The broad message of all of my novels is that good people, who have courage and passion, and who want to live to the fullest, can fight for their world and win. I want to entertain people and leave them with hope. Although grim things happen and there are villains in my novels to be sure, my focus is on the heroes and the great potential of people in the exciting adventure of life. I want to inspire and enlighten people.
Just the Truth is an entertaining murder mystery that weaves wider social and moral issues into the story. Without mentioning any actual political parties, persons, agencies, or events, this nonpartisan drama is addressed to everyone concerned with these issues.
The underlying message of Just the Truth is: Independent thinking can't exist when the government gets too big. There's always a new tax, or a regulation, or an investigation that public officials can use to threaten anyone who speaks out against them. It's the job of journalism to maintain objectivity and expose corruption. If journalists are lured into favoring the bad players, as Sean Browne is, then we’re doomed. Journalists must speak truth to power, and Laura Taninger shows us the way.
Freedom of the press in America has become as much an economic as a political issue. This is problematic, because no democracy can survive when most of the media has a sole commitment to profit with little consideration for the public good. The Trump presidency is virtually entirely a product of our modern for-profit, highly-consolidated media.
What are you working on right now?
I wrote a stage play adaptation of Just the Truth. I hope to have it produced and to start a new trend, a theater of ideas, which entertains the audience with suspenseful, well-crafted plays while shining a spotlight on important issues that we need to be discussing.
Advance all the way to state in theatre UIL.
Author Links
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My Thoughts

Just the Truth by Gen LaGreca has Laura Taninger investigating a story that will cause trouble for her individually, for her family members, and for Taninger Enterprises.  Laura was taught by her grandfather that fighting for the truth is worth it.  The motto for Taninger Enterprises is “Find the Truth wherever it hides.”  I thought Just the Truth was well-written with developed characters.  Laura Taninger is an intelligent woman with a nose for news and a determination to uncover the truth.  Laura has discovered a discrepancy in the Bureau of Elections budget regarding the new SafeVote system.  Ken Martin, the current United States President, is behind the new voter system and he does not appreciate Laura’s digging for information.  Laura searches for the truth which is what all journalist should do.  The role of a journalist is to report the truth in an unbiased fashion.  I thought the author captured the scene in Washington, D.C. with the politicians and the journalists.  The story moves along at a good pace and it kept my interest.  Just the Truth has lying, cheating, intimidation, sabotage, and murder.  I loved the twist at the end and how the story played out.  I stayed up very late to finish Just the Truth.  I thought Just the Truth was a timely novel as it reflects the what is currently happening in politics.  You will find yourself cheering for Laura as she risks her career, her reputations, and her life in her quest to uncover the truth and report it.  Just the Truth is an intriguing novel with a powerful politician, a caring cohort, an unfeeling family, and a justified journalist.
The Gilded Age to House of Cards: A History of the Crazy Woman Journalist

His teacher had told him to stop asking so many questions. They disrupted the class, she’d said. Although he asked them in earnest, and she tried her best to reply, his questions too often pushed the bounds of her knowledge. She squirmed, and the children laughed. The little schoolhouse he attended in rural Virginia eventually became like a shoe that no longer fit the growing footprint of Julius Taninger’s intellectual curiosity. At age ten, he’d decided he’d had enough of the place. Instead of going to school, he worked on his family’s small farm. 

On days when his chores were light, he walked the four miles of dirt road to town, where he borrowed books from the library of a local lawyer who took kindly to him. Julius devoured the titles he’d selected and returned them promptly, without so much as a smudge on any page, never wearing out the books—or his welcome. In 1948, with the country still recovering from the Second World War and his family nearly destitute, he read the histories of nations, the tomes of philosophers, and the classics in literature. These books lured him away from the dull landscape in which he chopped wood, fed hogs, and planted crops, toward a fresh canvas on which to paint his future.
Setting type by hand. Newspaper office. San Augustine, Texas
At age fifteen, his fascination with the printed word drew him to the office of the town’s newspaper. He made himself useful by sweeping floors, emptying trash, filing papers, and doing other odd jobs without asking for or receiving any pay. The boss noticed his initiative and taught him how to set type and operate the press, which earned him a small salary. Soon he was contributing articles and making more money. After a hurricane struck the town, he set off another storm with his investigative reporting into a no-bid contract approved by the mayor for debris removal. He discovered that the contractor had a checkered past and the mayor was getting a kickback to ignore it. He also found that the mayor’s real talent lay in smearing anyone he perceived as an enemy. After the mayor and his friends launched a campaign to discredit the young reporter—“He’s a fool kid,” “He’s looking for attention,” “He just wants to make trouble,” “He lies”—no one believed Julius’s story. When the town turned against Julius, the editor pressured him to retract his accusations. When he refused, the editor fired him. 

Vindication came a year later when more evidence was uncovered, and the mayor and others involved in the scheme were tried and sent to jail. This experience spurred Julius’s drive to have his own paper—one that would never compromise the truth.  At age twenty, Julius Taninger’s footprint grew larger. He moved to Washington, DC, where he obtained a loan to buy his first newspaper, a struggling broadsheet named The Pulse of the People. He changed the name to Taninger News. The owner had a motto, which he never stated to his readers but shared with the young buyer: Capture the crowd at any price. Remembering how his former community had formed a gang of sorts that tried to crush him when he was a young reporter, he realized that his passions lay in capturing something else. He changed the motto to: Find the truth wherever it hides. 
Politics And News Journalist Interviews
Instead of keeping his slogan to himself as a marketing scheme, he printed it on the front page as a declaration. Within a decade, he had increased the paper’s circulation to a national readership of millions, transforming his modest local daily into one of the highest-ranking newspapers in the country. He broadened the newspaper’s scope by adding top-notch reporters and correspondents in key cities around the country and the world. 

When he acquired thousands of acres of timberland in Canada, along with paper mills, power plants, and a fleet of ships to transport megatons of newsprint to his giant, never-still printing presses in Washington, DC, he developed a corporate empire spanning two countries. In subsequent years, he ventured into sports and entertainment and had a building erected to house his growing company’s headquarters. His holdings expanded to include television stations and a professional football team. Taninger News became part of a larger corporation, Taninger Enterprises.
Just the Truth: A Political Thriller by [Gen LaGreca]
Are you ready to read Just the Truth?  Just the Truth can be obtained from Amazon*.  You can find Gen LaGreca's other novels here. Thank you for joining me today.  I am featuring Still Knife Painting by Cheryl Hollon tomorrow.  It is the debut of A Paint & Shine Mystery series.  I wanted to give you an update on my face mask project.  I have multiple sewing machine in my house (despite my poor sewing skills) and I have encountered problems with all but one.  I have yet to figure out how the presser foot disappeared off one machine.  The one working machine is the oldest (of course).  I have not given up yet!  I hope you have a fascinating day.  Take care, stay safe, and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader
Women reading a paper in the Congressional Library's Reading Room, Washington, DC, 1941
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