Jake Tapper is writing another novel, inspired by everything from The Tempest to Evel Knievel
News cycle aside, Jake Tapper has his next two years planned out. The host of CNN's The Lead With Jake Tapper moonlights as a novelist, and on Monday his publisher, Little, Brown and Company, announced a new two-book deal.
Both Tapper's forthcoming books will be part of his current series following the Marder family; The Hellfire Club covered congressman Charlie Marder's discovery of a secret society conspiracy in Washington, D.C., and The Devil May Dance followed his (and his wife Margaret's) journey west to investigate Frank Sinatra's alleged ties to the mob. All the Demons Are Here (a working title) is set for a February 2023 release, picking up in the late 1970s with the Marder children: Ike, a U.S. Marine who joins Evel Knievel's pit crew, and Lucy, an aspiring journalist who gets caught up in a Murdoch-like media family. The still-untitled sequel will hit shelves in February 2024.
Ahead of the big announcement, Tapper spoke to EW exclusively to tease what's to come.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The news of another two-book deal is a signal of success, but how do you feel reflecting on The Devil May Dance?
JAKE TAPPER: I feel good about the book, that it received support from people. I feel pretty good about the reception too — it was on the best-seller list for a few weeks. One of the great things about publishing a book is meeting readers and autographing books, and while of course the pandemic is serious for a host of reasons, on a lesser level it's frustrating for authors to not be able to meet people. But now, hopefully, the third will come out and we'll get to do a normal book tour and readings and the like.
How did the idea for the next book come to you?
I originally said I was going to write my next book in the '80s, but someone — and I forget who it was, whether it was on social media or elsewhere — kind of harangued me, in a lovely way, that I shouldn't ignore the '70s. I was born in 1969 and my impression of the '70s is that they were kind of awful [laughs], but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was really compelling as a setting. I did the math on how old Charlie and Margaret's kids would be in 1977, right after Carter took office, and Ike would be 20 and Lucy would be 22. So that seemed kind of fun.
Did you know right away you wanted Ike and Lucy to take center stage?
Being somebody in his 50s, I thought that instead of writing about Charlie and Margaret in their fifties sitting at home complaining about how creaky their bones are — which is all I do — it would be more fun to have a young protagonist.
Who did you channel as inspiration for these characters — are they based off your younger self?
Well Ike is a Marine, and I know a lot of veterans, so I took little pieces of them. And Lucy is a journalist, so I took little pieces of, most especially, women journalists that I know.
What was it about the '70s as a setting that intrigued you most?
Well this was an era in which cults were big, Watergate obviously happened, the Republican Party was trying to figure out which direction to go after an impeachment and very divisive president. There was a new Democratic president, and people were raiding questions about his competence. It just seemed ripe for fiction to me.
There's so much to mine from all that, but can you tease a few elements that will make it into the book?
The '70s were an interesting time for journalism because of both the renaissance of journalism inspired by Woodward and Bernstein, by the Pentagon Papers and the like, and it was a huge decade for tabloids. One of the conceits of the book is: What if a media magnate family, in this case the Wolffs, came from the U.K. to fill the void they saw for a Republican newspaper? The Republican Party in the late '70s definitely thought that The Washington Post and The New York Times were liberal rags — to be clear, I don't think they are or were — but what would happen if a new paper started?
Remember, Charlie Marder is a Republican. I have a backstory worked out for him, since we last left him in '62, of what his previous 15 years have been. He's a senator now, so I was thinking about, how would he react to the Watergate tapes? While there's all this infighting going on inside his party, where is he and what is he doing? So that political element is a really enjoyable element for me.
And how did the Evel Knievel element come in?
After I decided on the '70s and Charlie and Margaret's kids, from there I didn't really know what to do. But a couple friends of mine are really into Evel Knievel, so I watched the documentary that Johnny Knoxville produced [Being Evel] and started reading and realized that he was an amazing character and is relatively untapped. He's a P.T. Barnum-like showman, and he found a way to tap into the celebrity nature of our culture. He wasn't even particularly gifted as a motorcyclist, he was just willing to do crazy things more than most people.
Your previous book titles have been ripped from the plot; right now, what is the significance of All the Demons Are Here?
It's a line from The Tempest. The line is actually "Hell is empty and all the devils are here," but because I had "devil" in the last title I changed it to "demons." It's based on the climax of the book so I'm not going to tell you that [laughs], but I'll say it's the idea that there are so many bad guys around and we're looking at all them. That's what it alludes to.
The last time we spoke you said you make yourself a rule that you have to write every single day. Are you still adhering to that?
Well, I always work on the outline first and then get some feedback. And once I do that and the publisher signs off, that's when the at-least-15-minutes-a-day thing starts. So yes, I've been doing it every day. Some days I have an hour or two free, sometimes it really is just 15 minutes. My son turned 12 over the weekend, so that was barely 15 minutes. But I think I'm going to get there in the end.