Nothing is as it seems in James Renner's new novel, a story with enough conspiracy theories to send Oliver Stone into therapy. The former Cleveland Scene writer and author takes readers on a wild ride in The Great Forgetting ($26, Sarah Crichton Books), a mind-bending tale about a small-town Ohio native who embarks on a search for his missing best friend and unravels mysteries spanning from 9/11 to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. "I really like a good twist, getting the reader comfortable, then pulling the rug from under them," says Renner. "That's just the way my mind works." We chat with Renner about The X-Files, revisionist history and his shot at the big leagues.
ON CONSPIRACIES: I've always loved conspiracies, and I wanted to play in that sandbox. Growing up, I was a fan of The X-Files. I like experimenting with our notions of time and history. What if things like fluoride, chem trails and phantom time were all little pieces of a grand conspiracy? Every conspiracy theory begins with a kernel of truth.
ON HIS STYLE: Two-thirds of the way through, this book gets really weird and gets into revisionist history and it messes with our concepts of 9/11. You're either going to love it or hate it. I'm nervous about this one because it's so political. I'm very anxious to see how people respond to it.
ON INCLUDING 9/11 IN THE BOOK: On 9/11 everyone became an eyewitness to history, but we're never going to convince everyone of what truly happened that day. We all have subjective viewpoints. And we seem to lose the absolute truth as time goes by.
ON HIS NEXT BOOK, TRUE CRIME ADDICT: It's very personal. It's about why I became addicted to true crime. It's about the disappearance of a girl named Maura Murray, but Amy Mihaljevic is mentioned a lot. It should cause a little shake-up in the Mihaljevic case.
ON HIS BRUSH WITH HOLLYWOOD: The Man From Primrose Lane was optioned by Warner Bros. for Bradley Cooper, but the rights came back to me late last year. I secretly wrote a pilot adapting it for TV, and I just closed a deal to develop the pilot.