Elliot Mason: History is Always Relevant to Our Future.
As Elliot Mason and I both sit quarantined separately in our homes in Southern California, one of the locations in the country with the highest amount of COVID cases, it’s hard not to think about how this year will go down in the history books.
As we ponder how we might look back on this strange and difficult time, his new book The Arlington Orders, is timely as it explores how history is always relevant to our future.
Can you tell me about yourself and how you came to be a writer?
I’ve always been interested in writing. When I was in high school people used to compliment me on my writing, but I ignored it. My writing was always private because I was embarrassed, but later on in college people started taking notice of it. I did go into other fields though. I was in athletics for a long time as a college coach. At the time, writing was always something I did on the side. I wrote for a lot of trade magazines and I wrote a lot of blogs.
After being a college coach for about twenty years at that point, I decided to make a career change. I’ve always had a love for history and at the suggestion of family who thought I should write a book; I took that idea and ran with it. I started jotting down scenes and I did a ton of research and that led to my publishing the book in March of this year.
Let’s dive into that more. The book you published is a historical fiction/ thriller mystery novel called The Arlington Orders. Can you tell me about the book?
The impetus for the book, from a historical context, is from a real-life event called the Dahlgren affair. It was named after a young union colonel, Dahlgren, who gathered troops to attack the Confederate capital in Richmond, Virginia, and free prisoners, which took place during the American Civil War (1861–1865). Dahlgren was killed by confederate troops and when they searched his body, they found a set of orders on him. The orders said he was to kill President Jefferson Davis and burn the city.
My book explores the decision to evacuate the Southern capital of Richmond, Virginia, including the Confederacy's substantial gold and silver reserves, which must be kept out of Union hands. However, the treasure vanishes during the move. One hundred and fifty years later, two historians, Des Cook and Madison Callum, stumble upon clues that could solve one of the war's greatest mysteries while leading them to the richest and most significant find in American history.
What’s the overall message of the book and how is it relevant to today’s climate?
The overall message of the book is that we’re still fighting the civil war to this day. We’ve never really come to terms with that and all of the issues that we’re dealing with today (federal government power, states’ rights, race relations) all these things are left over that we’re still fighting.
The other message is: history is always a matter of perspective. How we view our history varies from person to person. No one is right and no one is wrong. Not in terms of morality, but in terms of where history has led us. History is always relevant to our future.
Who was your favorite character to write and why?
The Judge. I wrote myself into the villain. Writing villains is always much more fun. I put more of myself into him than any other character. Even his background for instance, I give background to tell you what their motivation is, the thing that motivates the judge is actually based on an event that occurred back when he was in high school. He has his heart broken and is humiliated in the process; this incites the creation of a maniacal drive in him. I was inspired to write this into the character’s backstory as the same thing happened to me when I was in high school.
Another side character I loved writing was Osiris. I love him because he’s basically the antithesis of James Bond.
Are you working on anything else at the moment?
My second book is coming out in Spring 2021. It’s a suspense thriller and an examination of the federal justice system through the pursuit of a serial killer.
The writing process for my second book required me to get a lot more emotionally involved. It was a very different experience because of the research. People were scared to talk to me. The big difference was this time I was dealing with things that are still currently happening, versus in The Arlington Orders it was dealing with things that happened hundreds of years ago
For more information about Elliot, you can visit his website and sign up for his newsletter here.
You can also enter for a chance to win a copy of The Arlington Orders through GoodReads here.