New book

This week will be nothing like calm before the storm for Marlin Fitzwater.

“Look out, Abilene, here we come,” Fitzwater said in an interview last week.

He has a full slate of activities lined up.

“Calm Before the Storm: Desert Storm Diaries & Other Stories” is the title of Fitzwater’s book, released a month ago.

He will discuss the book and sign copies at noon Wednesday, part of the Lunch & Learn program at the Eisenhower Presidential Library Visitors Center Auditorium.

Free and open to the public, a light lunch is included on a first come, first serve basis.

A sign-language interpreter will be available for this program.

Excellence Award

On Thursday, Fitzwater travels to Manhattan to be honored as the 2019 recipient of the Alumni Excellence Award from Kansas State University.

The Alumni Excellence Award is an annual award recognizing an alumna or alumnus of K-State whose career, service and achievements exemplify the spirit, values and excellence of the university, according to a K-State media release.

Then Friday is the premiere of his play, “Empires Fall,” at Great Plains Theatre. The play has been presented as stage readings before, but this will be the first fully staged production.

Fitzwater, a native of Abilene, will try to squeeze in meetings with family and friends while here, in between his other activities.

The first section of “Calm Before the Storm” is about growing up in Abilene.

Inspiration

The book was inspired, Fitzwater said, when he read Dwight Eisenhower’s memoir, “At Ease: Stories I Tell My Friends” in 1976, which starts with Eisenhower talking about growing up in Abilene. That book also includes anecdotes and essays about his career.

“That’s want I want to tell people about!” Fitzwater said he thought at the time.

Not that he’s been a sluggard since then. He served as press secretary for presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. He served for 10 years, from 1983 to 1993, one of the longest serving press secretaries.

His book about that time, “Call the Briefing!” is considered the “textbook” for White House press relationships.

“I loved my time there, I loved the people,” Fitzwater said who sees Washington, D.C. now as an “unfriendly place.”

Personal papers

He started writing “Calm Before the Storm” about the same time he donated 85 boxes of his personal papers to the library at K-State. Fitzwater graduated from K-State in 1965 with a degree in journalism and was awarded an honorary doctorate from there in 2015.

The second section of “Calm Before the Storm” contains stories about the White House that he’s told friends.

The third part of the book is what Fitzwater calls the “backbone of the book,” 250 pages or so about the Desert Storm War and President Bush’s principles, he said.

“We came out after the war with pride in the military,” he said.

Some of that section comes directly from the diaries he kept at the time.

The White House

The next two sections deal with tales about his stories and memories after the war and after the White House.

“Some people turn to gardening in retirement; I turned to fiction,” Fitzwater wrote in the introduction of Part VI, three of his short stories.

The end of November 2018, Bush died about the time “Calm Before the Storm” was finished. Some of the top diplomats had written remembrances about Bush, a friend Fitzwater still reveres. He asked for permission to include some of the essays in memoriam and is meant as a tribute to Bush at the time of his death, he said.

The book is dedicated to Fitzwater’s family and friends and to the memory of George and Barbara Bush.

Not all of Fitzwater’s writings have been nonfiction. He’s published two novels and several short stories. He was a consultant and writer on the television series “The West Wing.”

And in 2001 he wrote a play with Robert Lawson at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire, home of the Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication.

The play is about the relationship between Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev, first president of the Soviet Union until 1991.

The play covers their political and personal friendship from 1989 to about 1991, Fitzwater said.

The play has had stage readings a couple of times, but this is the first time it will be fully produced, with costumes and sets.

The play starts Friday with an opening gala and runs through Oct. 27.

Contact Jean Bowers at reporter2@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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