David Perlstein always wanted to be a storyteller. “I feel most alive when I’m creating characters and their actions,” he explains, and he does it extremely well in his 2012 novel, Slick!, a book full of vibrant characters and intriguing plotlines that was awarded a Kirkus star and named as one of Kirkus’ Best Indie Books of 2012.
Slick! tells the story of Bobby Gatling—a retired U.S. soldier hired by a private security firm to train security forces in the fictional Persian Gulf country of Moq’Tar—and the deadlocked election for the country’s new sultanate which takes place while he’s there. Slick! tackles many socially and politically relevant issues, including Persian Gulf politics, the tenuous relationship between America and the Middle East, anti-Semitism and the results of extreme capitalism. And while the topics may sound heavy, the novel never fails to entertain or captivate; Perlstein shows a deftness at satire and engaging storytelling. As the book’s Kirkus review explains, “The plot is packed full of car chases and plot twists….Those looking for subtle humor will find plenty, but those interested in action and intrigue alone won’t be disappointed either.”
Slick! isn’t Perlstein’s first published book; he successfully released two works of nonfiction: Solo Success: 100 Tips for Becoming a $100,000-a-Year Freelancer, published by Three Rivers Press in 1998, and God’s Others: Non-Israelites’ Encounters With God in the Hebrew Bible, which he self-published in 2010. However, it is his first successful foray into novel writing, despite previous attempts to get a novel traditionally published. “I did write several novels in my thirties and early forties,” Perlstein, 68, says. “I even had an agent in New York. But nothing sold.” Eventually, after several years of failed attempts to publish a novel, Perlstein turned his focus to his career in advertising and production, and he ended up putting fiction writing on the back burner. But he never stopped telling stories.
In fact, Slick! began as a story that Perlstein told to friends over coffee. “The American occupation of Iraq was on everyone’s mind,” he explains. “I started spinning a yarn about a Persian Gulf sultanate….My tale, supported by enough facts and logic, sounded real. Then it got more and more far-fetched. And they bought it.”
After seeing how his story captivated his friends in the coffee shop, Perlstein decided to craft it into a novel, and he drew on his own experience in the military; he attended Infantry Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Ga., in 1967 and spent the next two years at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. Slick! was the result, which he self-published last year.
Despite positive reception from critics and readers, Perlstein’s book has met only a limited amount of commercial success—mostly due to a lack of exposure. Still, Perlstein says he’s “thoroughly satisfied” with its results; he cares more about sharing a story than selling a book. “While I would love to build a thriving career in writing, I don’t have to,” he says. “I write carefully crafted books combining satire and dark material for intelligent, knowledgeable readers.”
Perlstein has several new works in the pipeline, and while he’s open to having them published by a well-known house, he would be perfectly happy to self-publish again. “If a publisher determines that our interests coincide, that’s wonderful. If not, nothing changes,” Perlstein says. “My goal remains unchanged: To write entertaining, thought-provoking novels that induce readers to exhibit knowing smiles and the occasional belly laugh—occasionally hold their breath, as well….I’ll keep adding books to my bookshelf and be proud that my family and friends will be able to say with complete confidence, ‘Wow, he could really write!’ ”