Red Hotel (Kensington Hotel Book 1)

Gary Grossman and Ed Fuller

 Beaufort Books; New edition edition

March 19th, 2019

Red Hotel by Gary Grossman and Ed Fuller brings to life, in a thrilling novel, the dangers of soft targets.  Using his past experiences as an overseer of Marriott International’s Global Security Strategy, and now President of the Irvine, California-based Laguna Strategic Advisors, a global consortium that provides business consulting services to corporations and governments, Fuller is able to help create a realistic plot with political thriller writer Grossman.

The books opens with Dan Reilly, the Vice President of the international division of a major hotel conglomerate called Kensington Royal, testifying before Congress stressing the necessity of shared information between the intelligence community and hotel chains for the safety of their customers. He understands the threat level through his travels to assess the hotel’s properties. As he is testifying, a terrorist bombing attack occurs at the Kensington Tokyo Hotel. After viewing the devastation and the number of fatalities, Reilly submits a plan to the home office to deter future attacks. A panel of security experts, including a former CIA official, a former FBI official, a military strategist, and the owner of a company of mercenaries, is consulted. They outline security upgrades for the hotels based on threat levels. A “red” hotel label means an imminent attack: a bombing, a weather event, an assassination attempt, anything deemed dangerous.

Through the investigation, Reilly discovers that the perpetrator is not who he expects. His sources in the CIA and State Department point not to random acts of terror, but calculated acts of war facilitated by a global power. The Tokyo attack is tied to Russia’s plan to return to its’ former greatness under the rule of President Nikolai Gorshkov. This story weaves the last days of the Cold War with present-day current events.

As a young KGB officer during the re-unification of Germany, Gorshkov felt betrayed by his superiors and is now in a position to not only exact revenge, but to also test NATO’s ability to defend its’ members borders. Now, Gorshkov plans to reassert Russian dominance by reclaiming former strategic territory that was part of the Soviet Union. To accomplish this, the President of Russia creates unrest and violence in unexpected places, placing the cause and responsibility for it elsewhere. The tension ratchets up as the Russians try to put their plan into motion.

The novel is a thriller within a hotel setting that has suspense and international intrigue.  The plot involves a world adventure that is both realistic and believable, given the experiences of one of the authors, Ed Fuller. As the conflict intensifies readers will be on the edge of their seats.

Elise Cooper: Did your experiences help to write this thriller?

Ed Fuller:  I was President of the Marriott International Group for twenty-two years.  I had to deal with a series of challenges from kidnappings, evacuations, dealing with drug cartels, and foreign governments.  I knew it was necessary to build a crisis management organization.

EC:  Why a novel?

EF:  While I was still working with Marriott, I wrote a book, You Can’t Lead with your Feet on the Desk. It was a business book that reflected my experiences and philosophies. One of my friends in public relations suggested I make it into a movie.  I sought the advice of another friend, Bruce Feirstein, who sat on a board with me and wrote three James Bond screenplays.  He suggested I write a novel.  Since I had trouble with pulling the characters together, I sought out a co-writer.  I was impressed with Gary Grossman, a political thriller writer. So, the way it works is I contribute stories and strategy and Gary applies the glue, creativity, and through-line that binds our stories, characters.

EC:  Gary, how did you find out about this project?

Gary Grossman:  I bumped into a neighbor, Bruce Feirstein, who told me he knows of someone that wants to collaborate on a novel.  I met with Ed and realized he was as much in the anti-terrorism business as the hotel business.  I think it came down to a James Bond connection that put us together. I saw Ed as the real deal that has made the hotel experience safer for people.  He had information that could protect guests around the globe.

EC:  Your main character, Reilly, has a CIA connection-do you?

EF:  I dealt with agencies that had three letters in their names.  They had relationships with different companies.  Since retiring I serve on the board of the FBI Academy Foundation. 

GG:  Knowing some of whom Ed has on speed dial I understood that we’re safer when critical information is shared between intelligence agencies and hotel businesses.  Moreover, with active, open relationships comes increased speed in communicating potential dangers.  Speed and information allow potential targets advance time to bolster security measures.  In the case of Red Hotel, these measures are based on Ed Fuller’s actual work in the field.

EC:  What does “red” mean?

GG: The term “red” refers to the highest threat level for a hotel regarding protection and defenses. It is a system Ed came up with. These are less attractive to the bad guys since there are measures in place, such as armed guards, bomb-sniffing dogs, reinforced glass, metal detectors as guests go in/out, and security blockers.

EF:  A Red Hotel team looks inside and outside for people who do not seem to do what normal guests would do.  For example, taking pictures of ball room entrances, taking pictures of the front entrance, and/or measuring distances with their feet.

EC:  What comes to mind are the hotel attacks in Mumbai?

EF:  One of the terrorists who was caught was interviewed. He said they chose to pass on the Marriott Hotels because it would be to difficult to tackle.  They ended up choosing two other hotels they thought would be easier.

EC:  What about the Jakarta bombings?

EF:  We have a scene in the book about this actual event.  Professional bombings have an actual planning time that can takes months to years.  The Jakarta bombings talked about in the book actually took seven years of planning.  The individual who assembled and distributed the bombs was a vendor who owned a flower shop in the hotel.  He gave the bombs to the terrorists who checked in the night before. 

GG: Ed’s system was developed after these bombings. If there is more security at the hotels you will probably be in a safer place.  The harder targets are less attractive than the softer targets.  Ed was also involved in helping get American visitors out of the Cairo hotels during the fall of Egypt’s President Mubarak. He did it with connections, cash, and speed dialing phone numbers.  It came down to the loyalty of the staff to help protect the guests.

EC:  I heard about that and it sounds like a scene from the Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast” where the inhabitants tried to defend the castle?

EF:  People were trying to get inside.  Marriott had 1200 rooms and over 600 guests with three entrances. The Ministry of Interior pulled the police protection from the hotels.  As the rioters were trying to get through the gates, the hotel chef and culinarians picked up cleavers and knifes, standing behind the security team.  Individuals in housekeeping also helped protect with their brooms, and the engineering staff had shovels.  They held the gates for five hours, until the military came.  These employees were not paid to get shot at, but felt it was their hotel and needed to protect it. 

EC: The main character, Reilly, appears to be resourceful, analytical and a capable adversary to the Russian President, Gorshkov?

GG:  Yes. He is solution oriented, smart, intuitive, and a business man. He knows how to ask questions. He has military experience, state department experience, and private sector experience.  While fighting in Afghanistan he rescued a peer who now works for the CIA. This enabled him to have a bond between the intelligence and business communities.

EC:  Can you give any tips for security?

GG:  I learned these from Ed.  Do not stay above the 7/8th floors, don’t open your door unless you know who is on the other side, before traveling abroad, check out the U.S. State Department website about travel risks, know where your Embassy is located and their phone number, a small flashlight always comes in handy, be aware of your surroundings instead of on a cell phone, and sit facing out at tables in order to better scan the surroundings. As the saying goes, “If you see something, say something.” It’s an ever-present theme in Red Hotel.

EC: Is there going to be a book two in the series?

GG:  It is a continuation of this book.  The Russian president tries to finish what he started and failed to accomplish. The threats come here to the US as well as on the global scale.