EXCLUSIVE: Otto Penzler on Charles McCarry's latest book, 'Ark'

Do you want to know who scares me? Charles McCarry, inarguably the greatest espionage writer that America ever produced.

Now, I should quickly say there is no nicer or more brilliant man on the planet—which may be the problem. His gift of prophecy, or anticipating things yet to come, is chilling.

In his 1979 novel The Better Angels, he wrote about a terrorist actually sewing a bomb into his body. Wild fiction then, but a recent plan carried out by an al Qaeda operative.

Until the George W. Bush administration, the world knew the word “torture,” not the smoother, less ominous phrase “enhanced interrogation.” Yet there, as cool as you please, on page 12 of McCarry’s 1991 novel, Second Sight, one of the characters says to Paul Christopher, “We’ve tried everything—our own drugs, hypnotism, something called ‘enhanced debriefing’.”

But now it’s getting almost personal. In Ark, his futuristic thriller, cataclysmic events occur that appear to be the stuff of science fiction. Unfortunately, though I don’t want to make you feel too uncomfortable, they are based on scientific facts as reported by a Columbia University study less than twenty years ago. Because the inner core of the Earth is spinning faster than the outer skin, energy is building up and needs to be released. The occasional eruption of a volcano isn’t going to do it and, in Ark, the prediction of the genius protagonist is that the planet will literally explode.

Leading up to that moment of Armageddon, Earth is victimized by horrific weather–related events.

Earthquakes are predicted in Ark. I live in New York. This summer, we had an earthquake—the first in this area in my very long life. Okay, it wasn’t massive, but it was an earthquake.

Here in the Northeast, we had a tropical storm this summer.

Heavy snow in September and October is predicted in Ark. I’ve never lived through anything like the chaos caused by the October blizzard, which hit when trees still had their leaves and couldn’t support the weight of the accumulating snow. Big branches broke and huge trees fell across highways and power lines, wreaking havoc.

In recent months, we have experienced tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes of enormous power in the Midwest at an unprecedented time of year, and a spectacular snowstorm in Santa Barbara.

Ark predicts many more unnatural natural disasters. I’m a nervous wreck. Thanks a lot, Mr. McCarry.


Otto Penzler is the publisher behind MysteriousPress.com and the owner of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City. Ark is the first eBook original from MysteriousPress.com. 

Tags: Otto Penzler, Charles McCarry