Friday, November 22, 2013

Special Interview: Alice Germond

Good day, fellow castaways.

This week I'm posting a day early because no one in their right mind would pass up this interview. It's gonna be a long post, but I hope you all read through to the end, because I couldn't stand to cut any of the real meat in the story.

Jack Germond was one of Washington Journalism's heavy hitters, writing columns that appeared in 140 newspapers over the years. He was also an outspoken panel member on Meet the Press, The McLaughlin Group, and other public affairs shows.

His first work of fiction released recently through MuseItUp Publishing, the same House through which I have my own work published, which makes him my House brother. Sadly, however, we lost Jack to a respiratory illness the very day his book released. He said in a 2008 interview, "I want to see if I can do it, but I don't want to write a bad book." Yeah, right. The man wrote through ten presidential elections, gained national notoriety for his Mad Skillz (yes, I said it. Suck it up!), and still doubted whether he could pull off a decent work of fiction. I haven't read his book yet, but rest assured I'm going to.

To get to the point: This week, my guest is none other than Alice Germond, Jack's wife of twenty-five years, and before we get done, you'll get a great picture of Jack and his book, A Small Story For Page Three.

Alice is herself no shrinking wallflower. She met Jack in 1984 while he was covering that presidential campaign, and she's been active in politics for some time, sitting in positions of leadership on the national level. I'm honored and blessed to host her this week.

So without further ado, Here's my interview with Alice:

Cy: First off, Alice, my deepest condolences for your loss. Those of us who don’t know Jack will never know what we missed out on. That is, until now. Because we all want to be able to say “Don’t tell me I don’t know Jack!”

Alice: Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words.  Knowing Jack was an extraordinary experience and a great joy.  He was lots of fun, smart, caring and complicated.  He enjoyed many things and we had a great time together.  I am fortunate indeed.

Cy: Jack Germond was known as one of Washington’s heavy-hitters in political journalism for many years. Why was A Small Story for Page 3 Jack’s first foray into Fiction?
Alice: While Jack pondered this novel for at least 20 years, he loved writing for good newspapers and covering great stories – so much so that he often said he would have done it for free.  But the newspaper business was changing, the campaigns he covered less real, and though he was worried about writing “a bad novel” with a little encouragement, he was ready to go for it.

Cy: Give me one memory that sums up “Jack” in his essence.

Alice: One is too hard, he lived life very completely burning the candle at both ends.  But I like to picture him both in those quiet moments sitting on our deck in the morning sipping coffee and watching the bluebirds nest, and in the evening with a glass of wine as the sun reflected the day and we shared ours; and in those collegial moments with friends enjoying great conversation, good food and wine, and extending the evening, often at the bar at the end of a long campaign day on the road;  and covering a story, writing fast, getting it right, and beating the competition.

Cy: Why fiction? Why now? (Not that we’re complaining, mind you!)

Alice: After he retired from the newspaper business – a bit fed up with the alarming way both politics and the media have changed – he wrote a memoir (Fat Man in A Middle Seat) and then an opinion book (Fat Man Fed Up).  So he was kinda’ evolving from “just the facts” to writing about himself, to writing his thoughts.  Writing fiction, making up people and situations and a story line was the next challenge and he had played with the idea over a number of years on the road and at home.   Finally he had the time and the courage.

Cy: Did he have any other hobbies or interests?

Alice: Oh yes, Jack loved the race track.  He judged horses almost like they were candidates:  closer, trainer, come from behind, condition of the track, the rest of the field, etc.  He also loved good food and wine and would pore over various catalogues imagining his next order.  He loved sports, particularly the Red Skins and the Orioles.  He was fascinated by and knew the names of most birds, and enjoyed the change of seasons noting when various flowers bloomed in my garden, and which vegetables were ripe.  He read the newspaper every day, of course.  We certainly liked to travel together and go on road trips, and he liked seeing me dressed up, sexy, smart and exuberant celebrating something/anything.  He loved our place in the country about 1 ½ hours outside of DC.  He was a very complete man.

Cy: What was your favorite meal to share?

Alice: Well, I loved that he made me breakfast almost every day while I would go running with our dog and pick up the newspaper.  But, dinner with Jack Germond, what a treat.  We ate by candlelight even if it was just pizza.  Dinner was always an event, first a drink and “being sociable” as he called it; then cooking together or whatever; eating and talking with occasional hand waving and much discussion, and extending the meal, or the evening, with more talk and good wine.

Cy: How did you two meet?

Alice: On the campaign trail.  I was working as a senior staff person in Gary Hart’s campaigns in 84 and 88 .  The 88 campaign was long and messy and after Hart folded I was hired as the Deputy Political Director for Michael Dukakis.  It was a long year and a half of traveling and we sorta’ found each other, regularly…  We called it “schedule check”; i.e.; where were we each going next and could it be the same state?
Cy: Was there ever a story Jack really didn’t want to write?

Alice: I think Jack was often troubled by the obsession with personal issues that have nothing to do with the real stories these days, but Jack would not write a story if he didn’t think it should be written – and he would fight to write the story if it should be.  That’s partially what “A Small Story for Page 3” is about.

Cy: It just so happens I "sit" on the other side of the political aisle, but from what I'm hearing so far, Jack and I would have seen a lot of the same things from the same side, with the way politics have changed in the last forty or so years. A journalist with ethics: Now, that I can respect, regardless of whether we agree on specific issues.

Was there any particular subject that got just got his goat more than any other? 

Alice: When so called journalists are not really reporting the story, just pontificating without doing the job -- not talking to both sides or to voters and not appreciating nuance.  And the “moral” certitude of some who pretend they are in the news business.

Cy: The New York Times described Jack as “old-school, irascible and opinionated.” Would he have taken those as compliments, or as insults?

Alice: “Old school and irascible” I think he would have smiled at, and he was, among many things.   But while Jack held strong opinions, I’m not sure opinionated captures him as well since Jack was seldom judgmental.  He certainly was sought after company both on the road and on TV.

Cy: Lastly, how are you doing?
Alice: Oh, how nice of you.  Pretty well I like to think…  Jack and I had a wonderful time, mustn’t be greedy.  But I miss him.

Cy: I can understand. I've lost people whom I've loved deeply as well, and I want to thank you for giving us this insight into Jack. I feel like I know him a little, and I feel privileged that you've allowed us to see him in a light away from what we may have seen in his columns or on TV.

So now, my friends. with that tone still ringing in your minds' ears, let's take a peek at Jack's only work of fiction, A Small Story For Page Three:

Blurb: Harry Fletcher can’t for the life of him figure out what exactly the ‘nugget’ of information his colleague, Eddie Concannon, uncovered prior to his death is. Picking his way along the threads of information, Harry soon finds himself at odds with government officials and his own newspaper seems to be involved in the collusion. Join Harry as he deciphers the clues and enjoy a journey into the world of investigative reporting set against a colorful back drop of characters and locations.

Check out more of Jack's book at:

Barnes and Noble

Check out these reviews:

Congratulations to MuseItUp Publishing for publishing this first novel by the legendary newspaper reporter and television commentator Jack Germond.  I was privileged to know Jack, who died at age 85 the day A Small Story for Page 3 was published.  Like the author himself, his novel is knowledgeable without being the least bit pretentious, insightful and often funny.  You’ll cheer newspaper reporter Harry Fletcher as he doggedly pursues a scandal involving a politician who hopes to be governor. Despite threats from both the politician and his own publisher—not to mention marital problems at home—Harry perseveres as he confronts his own ethical standards of journalism.  This is a well-written story with plenty of food for thought.  K.P. Robbins

Inside a major D.C. newspaper hub, Jack W. Germond has created a tense, boilerpot of a story. He shows the glamour we all think the news media possess is coated with many layers of tarnish, some obvious, some concealed, seedy, and spreading like dry rot through the limbs of a towering old tree.

Upon the death of his friend, our hero Harry Fletcher, top political reporter is given what the business calls a nugget of a story his buddy was following. Find the story, Harry's bosses bid of him...quietly!

This is a gripping book I read from beginning to end in one sitting. I was captivated and cheering Harry on as he came up against obstacle after obstacle while ferreting out the story behind the nugget.

When I reached the end though, I wanted more, but sadly, there will be no more, Mr. Germond passed before this book was due for release, but I will read and re-read this book, as I often do with books that are keepers. This IS a keeper. Well done Mr. Germond, and thank you for leaving this final gift behind for us to enjoy.

Lin Holmes


  1. Good morning Cyrus, from this side of the pond. Thank you for such a beautiful post. I appreciate your interest and wit. And I look forward to your readers' comments and questions.

    Jack was a tremendous influence on many of the next generation of reporters, and on this, the 50th commemoration of the assassination of JFK, I would like to thank all those professionals who get the story out so that we can be an informed public.


  2. Morning Cyrus and Alice. What a lovely interview! It really lets the reader get to know the man behind the story a little bit better. I'm sure Jack is smiling right now.


  3. Ms. Germond, I was very fortunate to be the first Muse author to read and yes review Jack's book the very day it was released. I, like Cy, did not know your husband, until I read his book and discovered a story rich in integrity, dedication, and true journalistic grit. I deeply regret not having the chance to hear his reaction to my very modest, Ladybug Lin, review.

    I do not often want to follow the course of those who've made Washington, D.C., the core of their lives, and I'll be honest, I was prepared to walk away from reading Jack's book with a respectful shrug, a nod, and little more...for that I ask your forgiveness. I truly wish I had known the man, but am so glad I had the opportunity, and the honor to meet the fiction author even though I will always regret we only have ONE Jack Germond story.

    You, your family, and those closest to Jack's heart, have my deepest condolences for your loss, but also my deepest thanks for your continuing journey in revealing the man, and all his many nuances beyond the author's quill I briefly had the opportunity to enjoy.

    And always Well Done.