HALF A SECOND TO DECIDE
Anne Wingate, Ph.D.
Half a Second to Decide: Will a Secret Service Agent Assassinate the President?
Published by Live Oak House through Amazon (Kindle*, 2016; paperback, 2017)
*former title: One of Us
Authors: Anne Wingate and Paul Albergine (deceased)
We wrote this book forty years ago, between the time Jimmy Carter was elected and the time he was inaugurated. It is just now being published because the Secret Service told Paul he could publish or keep his job. He chose the job. By the time he retired I was working on my Ph.D., and before I got that accomplished I developed both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome and wasn’t up to dealing with a manuscript thirteen years old by then.
All the details about the Secret Service and most of the plot come from Paul. I did about 99% of the writing, and the information about the Vietnam War came largely from the experiences of my close friends and from the book The President’s War.
It was new to have Secret Service agents stationed in Carter’s part of Georgia: in Albany, where I lived, and in Americus, which was the closest town of any size to Plains. There was literally no place in Plains to put them.
After the book had been completely finished we got together in a small apartment in Americus, rented by the Secret Service, for one final go-through of the entire manuscript. Over and over one of us would say, “But Steve wouldn’t do that,” and the other would say, “Yes, he would, because ...”
Another agent was lying on the couch trying to watch a football game on TV as Paul and I, at the table in the same room, talked and talked. Finally the other agent snarled, “You two talk about this Steve as if he were a real person!”
In absolute unison, Paul and I shouted: “He is!”
The other agent got up and stalked off to watch TV in another apartment.
I was in my twenties then and an unpublished writer. Paul was in his thirties and was seriously concerned about the Service’s hiring practices. There were changes he wanted to see made.
Every agent in Albany and Plains read the book. I remember once an agent came into my office bringing a prisoner to be processed and reading as he walked. He said, “You gotta hear this!” and read me a couple of paragraphs.
I said, “I wrote it.”
He answered, “Yeah, but listen to this...” At that point he walked straight into a wall and hit his head on the cinder blocks.
The manuscript was kicked upstairs. The hiring practices Paul was concerned about were changed. But my purpose was to write a novel that everyone would enjoy. Rereading it, I came to the startling conclusion that of all the twenty-odd novels I ever wrote, this one was the best.
Paul is dead now. I talked with his widow and told her that Paul and I had signed a contract to the effect that when the book was published we would split the proceeds 50-50, but I couldn’t find the contract after a divorce and several moves, two to different states. She told me to do what Paul wanted me to do.
Please read and REVIEW this in memory of a very fine man I was privileged to know, and for his wife, who didn’t blink an eyelash at the idea of her husband and a woman she never met writing a book together. In fact, when we weren’t writing, Paul and I had nothing whatsoever to say to each other unless we were on a case together. But Lee (his wife) and I could talk on the phone for hours. I believe that Paul exemplified what the Secret Service stood for, and that is one of the things we put in this book.