- Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became a writer.
I spent my first career as a news correspondent, editor and manager at the Voice of America, focusing mostly on international news and U.S. national security. While covering the Pentagon about ten years ago, I got the idea for what became my first novel “Sandblast.” When I retired from that job and moved to Delray Beach, I sat down and got to work on it – with help from the Writers’ Colony at Old School Square and the Palm Beach Community Educator program.
- Your play “Murder at the Butcher’s” will premiere this November at the Willow Theatre in Boca. Tell us about the play and what you are looking forward to about its debut.
The play is a farce. Brooklyn butcher Benny Benjamin finds a body in his shop’s walk-in fridge. The scandal could ruin him. But before he can remove it, the body disappears. Benny launches a cover up to conceal the truth, even though he doesn’t know what the truth is. As the saying goes, mayhem ensues. I came up with the idea for “Murder at the Butcher’s” when I got to know many of the wonderful folks at the Mystery Writers of America South Florida chapter. But rather than write a mystery, I decided to write a murder mystery spoof. Around that time, I got connected with The Playgroup, LLC, a professional theater company that produces original plays at the Willow Theatre in Boca. I’m very excited that The Playgroup decided to produce “Murder at the Butcher’s.” We have a hugely talented cast, with four young actors fresh from the FIU theater program playing the twentysomethings, and six Playgroup regulars playing the older characters. Playgroup board member Teresa Biber LoMonte will direct. She promises, “It’s going to bring the house down every night.” I’m looking forward to the first of those moments on opening night, November 22!
- You also have a book coming out in 2020. What is “Sandblast” about?
“Sandblast” is the story of an Afghan-American U.S. Army soldier who goes undercover in Afghanistan and joins the Taliban. His mission is to find the new terrorist mastermind. Covering the Pentagon, I saw firsthand the tremendous commitment and broad diversity of the U.S. military. I wanted to write a story in which we use that diversity against our enemies. I made a commitment early on that “Sandblast” would be a cliché-free zone that depicts war and the people who fight it in a realistic way, including three-dimensional portraits of our enemies. Many of my journalist and military friends read early drafts to help me achieve that. I also wanted to include a strong female character, in tribute to the many American military and civilian women I encountered in the war zones and at the Pentagon. It was a long process, nearly five years by the time the book comes out on March 31, 2020. I’m very happy that the editors at Kensington Publishing decided to bring this story to print. By the way, “Sandblast” is already available for pre-order online and at your local book store. And I’m working on a sequel for 2021. More info at www.alpessin.com.
- Your play and book are totally different styles. How did you go from writing comedy to writing a thriller?
The truth is, I’m a frustrated comedian. I always dreamed of writing for Johnny Carson or SNL. So, having satisfied my serious side with “Sandblast,” I indulged my comic side with “Murder at the Butcher’s.”
- In 2015, you moved to Delray Beach. What is your ideal day in Delray?
Any day in Delray is an ideal day! I really mean that. But, my particularly ideal day would start with a tough but fun group workout at Hard Exercise Works, followed by a light lunch at home. I would write for a few hours, or play hooky and go to the beach. By three, my dog Rory insists on his walk. And any ideal day in Delray must include Happy Hour on Atlantic Avenue (Olio is my favorite spot), followed by binge watching something on TV with my wife Audrey.