Alan Lee, the genial, avuncular morning anchor on Detroit’s Fox 2, recently discovered he’s had a nickname for some time. “My wife says she knows people — some of whom [have even] been interns at the station — who call me ‘School Closer,’ ” he says. “They grew up watching me, hoping I would announce their schools [were] closed in the winter.”
This month, however, Lee can boast a new title — one that he undoubtedly prefers: published author.
Sandstorm, the debut novel from “Alan L. Lee” (he’s all literary now), is set for release on June 4 by Forge Books, an imprint of renowned publishing house Macmillan. An international tale of espionage, corruption, and political intrigue — with no mention of Detroit anywhere in its 320 pages — the spy thriller took a full five years of research and writing. That’s especially daunting for someone whose regular workday begins at 3 a.m., but Lee suspects he’d been working on this project far longer than that.
“Back when I was a little kid, I was reading books I probably shouldn’t have been reading at [that] age,” says Lee, who’s been at Fox 2 since 1996. “I had two older brothers, so I read all the James Bond books, a series called Nick Carter-Killmaster, [fictional CIA agent] Sam Durell. I was reading all that stuff growing up, just fascinated by it all.”
After completing his manuscript, it took Lee another year to land an agent before finding a champion for his work in Washington-based literary manager Sharlene Martin. “Sandstorm is a stunning piece of writing,” Martin says. “I look forward to working with Alan on the sequels. He’s got a great future as an author.”
Set against the backdrop of a real-life operation in which the United States and Israel conspired to thwart Iran from building up its nuclear capabilities, Sandstorm weaves in an Israeli spymaster who controls the Mossad’s most lethal assassin, partnered with a cabal of ruthless billionaires who view the scheme as an opportunity to shift the New World Order in their favor. To hedge their bet, the big-money boys have a powerful U.S. senator with ambitions to occupy the White House deep in their well-lined pockets.
On the good-guys side, we have Nora Mossa, a deadly efficient CIA operative whose self-assurance is shaken when her mentor is found murdered at home. Unable to trust anyone at the agency, Mossa turns to the only person she feels she can trust — her ex-lover and former CIA agent Alex Koves, who wants nothing to do with her. Soon the hunt for her mentor’s killer and the billionaire boys club stratagem with the Mossad mauler eventually meld into a single storyline.
Koves, a debonair former spy who’s also a retired NFL player (think Pat Tillman), is the novel’s protagonist. So does Lee see himself in Sandstorm’s leading man? “Only in my fantasy world,” he says, laughing. “This guy’s good-looking, in shape, got hair, so, no. I wish.”