Middle east expert Joel C. Rosenberg explains the challenges of writing political thrillers that keep one step ahead of real events.

Best-selling author Joel C. Rosenberg
didn’t find out he was Jewish until he
was in fifth grade. His father, who apprenticed
with architect John Lloyd
Wright (son of Frank Lloyd Wright) and
lived with the Wright family for several
years, had abandoned his Jewish faith
and never mentioned it. “Many Orthodox
Jewish families are wonderful, warm
and friendly,” Rosenberg says. “I’ve met
plenty through the years, but my father’s
experience was deeply negative. He was
not interested in reliving family memories.
So when I was growing up, no one
told me I was Jewish. When I found out,
I was surprised!” he says with a laugh.

His parents came to faith in Christ,
and Joel now embraces his Christian and
Jewish heritage with vigor, traveling the
world encouraging other Christians to
bless Israel through his and wife Lynn’s
Joshua Fund organization, as well as their
Epicenter conferences. Despite his crazy
schedule, Joel hasn’t abandoned his novel
writing. In fact, he believes his fiction is
where the magic is happening. “Fiction
has a way of unlocking people’s imagination
in a way nonfiction doesn’t. I have
found the reaction to my fiction so interesting.
The novels have gotten a discussion
going, and I’m intrigued with that.”

His latest thriller, Damascus Countdown
(Tyndale House), once again continues
in the Rosenberg tradition of uncannily
colliding with current events. “The most
dangerous corridor on the planet right
now is the corridor between Tel Aviv and
Tehran,” Joel says. “It runs right through
Damascus. Even if you set aside the Bible
prophecy about the future of Syria and
Damascus, just looking at what’s happening
right now, it makes Damascus
a book that people—I hope—will
find interesting, and perhaps illuminating,
because it sheds a different light
from a biblical perspective.”

In the novel, Israel has just launched a
strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, which of
course isn’t something the Twelfth Imam
(the Muslim false messiah introduced in
the previous novels of the trilogy) will
take lying down. It’s up to CIA operative
David Shirazi and his team to save
the day before it’s too late. “I am absolutely
fascinated with Bible prophecy,”
Rosenberg says, “and I’m fascinated with
other prophecy, too, namely Shia Islamic
eschatology. I don’t believe it, but I am
fascinated with how the leaders of Iran
do. Until a number of years ago, as is the
case with most Americans, I hadn’t heard
about the Muslims having their own endtimes
beliefs, and I certainly couldn’t
have anticipated the leaders of Iran
would be so driven by it. Writing these
novels about how it would be if some of
their thinking played out has been interesting.
I asked myself, “According to the
Bible, is it possible for a Muslim so-called
messiah to emerge?” The Bible doesn’t
speak to Muslim faith, but Jesus Himself
said in the last days false messiahs would
come, and some of them would be able
to do great signs and wonders, trying to
mislead people, including the elect.”

Joel admits tying all the pieces of the
series together in an explosive finale
was the most challenging part of the
process. “I opened up a lot of doors,” he
says. “I needed to start closing them
or blowing them up.” Pleased with the
result, Rosenberg believes Damascus
is a “high-speed, riveting, end
to the series.”

With one eye constantly on the Middle
East, Rosenberg is also hard at work on
his next project, a historical novel about
the Holocaust inspired by a trip he made
to Auschwitz in 2011. “It’s a significant
break from what I’ve been doing in the
past,” he says. “I’m very excited about it,
but sobered by it, too.”

This article originally appeared in the April/May 2013 issue of FamilyFiction Edge digital magazine. Subscribe for free today!

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About The Author

Joel C. Rosenberg is a New York Times bestselling author of some 20 fiction and nonfiction titles with nearly 5 million copies in print. He has marked his place among today's top fact-based fiction authors, and U.S. News and World Report hailed him as a "modern-day Nostradamus." Joel regularly speaks with leaders around the world about geopolitical and religious freedom issues. He has met face-to-face with heads of state around the world, and his novels have been read by national and world leaders, generals, and intelligence officials.