The Coastal Star

Books: Alzheimer’s-afflicted spy still has a few tricks up his sleeve

Memory Road By Dick Schmidt. Landslide Publishing, 294 pp., $15.95

By Steve Pike

A lot of movies and TV shows are inspired by books. But for his second book, Boca Raton author Richard Schmidt has flipped the script, so to speak. Schmidt’s hero in Memory Road, Stewart Masterson, was inspired by the Saul Berenson character in the popular TV series Homeland.

In the show, Berenson is fired by the CIA; in Schmidt’s book, Masterson is a retired CIA senior agent in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

“While I was watching the show, I wondered what (the CIA) would do with Saul. They can’t just let him run around loose because of all he knows,’’ said Schmidt, whose first book, The Boy and The Dolphin, was published in 2016.  “I thought, what happens if he got Alzheimer’s? Then he would be a real problem.’’

That’s where Memory Road begins, as directors of various U.S. intelligence agencies try to figure out what to do with Masterson, whom they consider a clear and present danger. “We don’t know who he might be talking to,’’ one director says.

Their solution is to clandestinely obtain guardianship of Masterson and stash him in an assisted living facility in Pompano Beach where he can be supervised day and night.

But Masterson escapes the facility and steals a Mercedes — and thus the adventure begins on the back roads of U.S. Highway 1 from Pompano Beach to Silver Spring, Md.

Published by Schmidt’s Boca Raton-based Landslide Publishing, Memory Road is a fast-paced thriller with well-written characters who are easy to root for and root against. The book’s main rooting interest, of course, is Masterson, whom Schmidt created as a simple man who did his duty and wanted to retire in peace with his daughter and grandchildren.

The Alzheimer’s and the government’s threats to him and his loved ones, however, make him use every bit of training to reach the inevitable standoff with his former bosses.

Schmidt studied the organizational charts of the different U.S. intelligence agencies to gain a better understanding and help the book’s structure. He and his son, David, a playwright in Manhattan, also took the exact route along U.S. Highway 1 that Masterson uses.

“One thing we learned was that Masterson probably could not have made that trip,’’ said Schmidt, CEO of Schmidt Companies Inc. in Boca Raton. “It’s hard to get on U.S. 1 and stay there. The roads aren’t marked very well when you get into some of the cities. We were armed with Google Maps and GPS and still got lost.’’

Does Masterson triumph over the bad guys? You’ll have to read Memory Road to find out. For Schmidt, Memory Road isn’t about good versus evil as much as it is about how much one’s life is worth — even if that life is stricken with Alzheimer’s.

“When I read books about Alzheimer’s, they were all about the things that were taken away from people who suffer from the disease,’’ Schmidt said. “It just kind of made me write a book about someone’s abilities, and I think that’s what sets this book apart.

“I tried to put a positive spin on someone with Alzheimer’s and at same time show that people who are afflicted with Alzheimer’s are still human beings and have the same needs as those around them.’’

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