Charlie Spillers’ novels are the product of a life of fieldwork as an undercover cop and also time spent teaching classes at Ole Miss. Spillers will return to Oxford on Tuesday night to present and sign his latest book, “Whirlwind: A Frank Marsh Novel.”
The novel, which debuted last month, follows the story of FBI agent Frank Marsh, who, after discovering that a terrorist entered the country without notification, follows a long trail of clues in an attempt to prevent a terror attack. Facing personal issues, bureaucratic obstructions and disagreements between agencies, Frank and his colleague Kathy have a hard time stopping the potentially tragic event.
“Whirlwind” is Spillers’ second book. His first book, a memoir titled “Confessions of an Undercover Agent: Adventures, Close Calls and the Toll of a Double Life,” includes accounts of his experiences as an undercover cop, federal prosecutor and Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics officer who worked closely with the FBI.
“I had always thought about writing about my undercover experiences – a period of about 10 years, which was much longer than people who work undercover normally do,” Spillers said.
Spillers was inspired to write more because of the positive reception of his first book, so he used his experiences in the Middle East to help him write “Whirlwind.”
Writing the novel only took Spillers 2 1/2 months because he could relate the story to his own life as a prosecutor and Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agent.
“You write what you know about,” Spillers said. “I was able to take the things I know about and weave them into the plot and subplots of ‘Whirlwind.’ When I began writing, the story flowed out very quickly. It was a story that just needed to be told.”
Spillers’ biggest goal when writing was to create a realistic picture so that readers could understand the nuances of an investigation, including conflicts within governmental agencies and extensive bureaucratic procedures.
Spillers is no stranger to Oxford or Off Square Books; he graduated from the University of Mississippi with a law degree. His previous book was previewed at Off Square Books, and Spillers said he is excited to return there to present “Whirlwind.”
“To me, the joy of being an author is getting to meet so many people, make new friends and visit old friends,” Spillers said.
Spillers also spent several years as a part-time professor at the university, where he taught courses on criminal justice. He used his personal experiences to encourage student involvement in class and to make class engaging for students.
“When I would teach about investigating, I would use personal experiences as an investigator – an interesting or dramatic experience,” Spillers said. “We always had a good time, I think.”
Spillers is aware that his writing is still evolving and said that his books are becoming more complex as their characters develop stronger identities. He is currently writing the next book in the Frank Marsh series.