With a college degree in music composition and a decades-long career in the financial services/insurance industry, it seems like a left turn for Steve Gerdel, Washington, to have launched a second career as a fiction writer, but with the release of his third and final book in an action-adventure trilogy, he’s done just that.
“Agent Mike Trapper has charge of security for President Harriet Marshall when she is assassinated in St. Louis. He is then assigned the task of solving the murder by the new president Al Makin.
“As the evidence unfolds, a multi-layered plot in international deception is uncovered. Shadow governments working in secret have hatched a plan to destroy the United States.
“ . . . the investigation uncovers traitorous players at the highest levels of government who will do anything to accomplish their goal. Anything and anyone is disposable to them and no one is outside their reach.
“When Agent Trapper discovers a genuine threat to his family, and that the investigation he leads has been sabotaged from within, he teams up with his closest friend Steven Granger to combat this heinous enemy.”
So reads the jacket of “Oak Mountain,” the first book in the trilogy.
Gerdel, who self-published his books through a company in Colorado, said he had imagined himself writing these kind of adventure books during a span of six to eight years when he did a lot of traveling and driving, putting in 60- to 80-hour work weeks.
“When I was able to stop traveling, I thought, ‘Now I have the time . . . Let’s do this.’ ”
It was about this time of year back in 2007 that he started writing “Oak Mountain.” He had about 70 pages of the story complete when his idea changed. So he “backed up” and began rewriting.
“I knew where to start and where I wanted ultimately to end,” said Gerdel, but the story he wrote in between, he “never would have imagined.
“It’s a process of the story revealing itself as you write through it,” he explained.
Using Google Earth to gather details on locations he uses in the books, Gerdel describes his books as “marrying fiction with real places.
“You can put in coordinates and actually go where the bad guys hide out,” he remarked.
From the beginning, Gerdel wasn’t sure he would be able to complete his story in one book, and thought it might spill over into a second. In the end, it required three books — “Oak Mountain,” “Eagle Pass” and “Dragon’s Breath.”
The three-book series spans just five days following the course of a single event.
Gerdel found time to write his books as work with his insurance business was being cut back due to the economic downturn. It was perfect timing, though, Gerdel said, noting he was tired of all the travel.
He said his writing process has always been to write down a complete story and then go back to edit it. His wife, Jan, and other relatives and friends — living in other parts of the country and on the other side of the world — help with the editing process.
“Friends of mine (a husband and wife) who live in Germany and France . . . do Christian relief work in Kenya, and they said if I would donate a percentage of the book sales to the mission, she would help with editing and publishing,” Gerdel said.
So he wrote the stories and sent them electronically to her in the south of France. Once the final edit was approved, the stories were sent to the publishing company in Colorado, where Gerdel’s daughter also had sent the cover art she designed.
Copies of all three books have been donated to the Washington Public Library, and they also are available to purchase online at Amazon.com (where they also are available to download on a Kindle) or through Gerdel’s own website, www.thestrategicpub.com, where copies are printed on demand.
Gerdel also has made copies available for sale at various book signings he’s held. He said the best part of these events is getting to meet his readers face to face.
“A lot of them have identified with different characters and want to know how they’re doing,” said Gerdel.
Still, he’s been amazed at how popular the series has become. The reach and response of the Oak Mountain Trilogy has extended to more than 20 American cities and 14 nations on five continents in four languages.
Although his career in financial services didn’t give Gerdel many opportunities to show his creative side, he’s always had one.
In high school and college, he participated in plays, musicals, operas and concerts. And as an adult he wrote skits and plays for his church and wrote articles for various publications related to his work.
Gerdel and his wife moved to Franklin County 28 years ago from Wichita, Kan., after a friend of theirs became pastor at Abundant Life Church in Union. Both music majors in college, the couple came to visit and “fell in love with the community.”
They made the move and began providing music for the church services.
Gerdel has continued his work in financial services while writing his novels. He’s currently about one-third of the way through his next book.
For more information on Gerdel and his books, people can visit the series’ Facebook page at www.facebook.com/oakmountaintrilogy. He shares photos and more information on some of the technical details included in the books to show that they are real, not science fiction.