Clutching a stack of photos in one hand, Martinez resident Cheryl Cook patiently stood among the several hundred who lined the outside of the Barnes & Noble bookstore at Augusta Mall waiting for their chance to meet war veteran-turned-novelist Oliver North on Sunday.
The photos were of North’s visit to Evans High School in the 1990s, and Cook hoped to have at least one signed. She expected to be a little starstruck when she stood in front of the combat-decorated Marine, who gained notoriety in the Iran-Contra scandal in the late 1980s but was hailed by President Reagan as “an American hero.”
“It’s probably all going to leave my head,” Cook said. “But I think he’s a great guy … I really think him and Chuck Norris could rid the world of evil.”
North was in town to promote his latest novel, Counterfeit Lies, which he co-wrote with former Marine and FBI agent Bob Hamer. The book, he said, details the next big government scandal.
“American diplomats are secretly meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, closing a deal with Iran on how they’re going to build nuclear weapons,” he said. “What this book is about is how the Iranians avoid the consequences of the agreement they’re about to sign, and the international community is going to turn a blind eye to it.”
North said writing is something he has grown to enjoy because of the advantages he has over his colleagues. While some authors have to consult with military experts to craft elaborate works of fiction, North said, he need only look to his own experiences for inspiration.
“I’m grateful for the kinds of opportunities I’ve had, and by writing these kinds of books I get to tell those stories,” he said. “I don’t have to make up what it’s like to get shot at or to shoot back. I know there are a lot of folks out there that have to ask somebody else what that’s like. But I don’t have to.”
Terry Waller said reading novels by those who know what it’s like to be on the front lines during a conflict brings him a great deal of joy.
Having retired from the Marines in 1969, Waller said, he feels a connection with authors like North. Waller took his spot at the front of the line at about 12:30 p.m. – more than three hours before the start of the event – with two copies of North’s books tucked under his arm.
“I’m interested in anyone who has served,” he said. “If I’m here for nothing else, I’m here to pay respect for his service to our country.”
No matter where he stops, North said, he can never get used to seeing the lines of people waiting to meet him.
“Listen, I don’t like standing in line more than anybody,” he said. “I’m grateful for the fact that people line up to buy this book and to get it signed, but they don’t have to.”