DEWEY BEACH — Joe Rothstein’s career began with the idea of giving people good information.
He always wanted to be a journalist, seeing the profession as a noble one and describing it as “the bridge between a people’s government and how the people determine who is in government.”
Born in Wilmington, Mr. Rothstein’s family moved to the West Coast when he was 12. Later, he received his master’s degree in journalism from UCLA and went on to become the editor of the Anchorage Daily News.
However, he became disenchanted with the business of government and the people of newspapers. So when a friend running for the U.S. Senate asked him to manage his campaign, Mr. Rothstein — who now spends his summers in Dewey Beach and the rest of the year in Washington, D.C. — decided to switch tracks.
“It appealed to me to become someone who would elect people to office,” he explained. He stayed on the campaign trails for 30 years.
Mr. Rothstein was a strategist and media producer for campaigns that brought several U.S. senators to their positions. He also developed projects and produced media campaigns for people at all levels of politics, earning national awards for his TV commercials.
In addition, he has been a featured political analyst on network television and radio and is currently chairman and editor of the international news aggregator and distribution service EIN News.
Although he is no longer active as a political strategist, Mr. Rothstein’s experience has taught him enough to fill the pages of a trilogy of fictional political thrillers.
The debut, “The Latina President and the Conspiracy to Destroy Her,” introduces the first female U.S. president, who is impeached in an international plot. A Mexican American whose family background is both historic and criminal, she is what Kirkus Reviews calls “an enthralling protagonist at the heart of a gripping tale.”
In the sequel, “The Salvation Project,” the charismatic heroine is running for reelection, unaware that a ruthless international conspiracy with a killer agenda is prepared to do anything to defeat her. Published in 2019, the novel was named Best Political Thriller of 2020 by Pacific Reviews’ award panel, who likened it to classics like “The Manchurian Candidate” and Stephen King’s “The Dead Zone.”
Through his narratives, Mr. Rothstein gives his readers a firsthand look into the lives of politicians.
“In most people’s lives, there is an occasion to prepare a speech — a wedding perhaps,” but for career politicians, he said, these are everyday occurrences.
Speaking of those challenges, he continued, “You have a position. You’re out there for everyone to see, and you represent people who have put their heart and soul into getting you there. You can’t just say anything you want to say. Marriages break up, and people go broke. These are huge dramatic events.
“There are not many political thrillers (written) by people who have been as deeply involved in politics. My stories represent real issues in a thriller context,” he said. “I’ve been in the middle of it all.”
Mr. Rothstein added that he believes there are few in elected office or in the voting populace who truly understand what is at stake in the world and why informed voting is so important.
“We are seeing the effects of not responding well, not managing the dangers of what science is producing,” he said. “Genetic editing, artificial intelligence, quantum computing — these are real game changers that have an effect on humanity.
“Politics underlies everything we consider important: the economy, jobs, how we care for those in need, how we relate to other countries. It is the bedrock of this country, and only those people who really understand that, and are not in it for their own glory, should succeed at running for office,” Mr. Rothstein said.
His third novel is nearing completion. How it ends and what it will be called remain a mystery.
One thing is clear, though: Joe Rothstein is doing everything he can to make sure his own life’s story is about informing people, so they can cast a reasonable vote. He sees his political novels as a way to achieve this. It’s how he started, and he intends to finish it that way.
“It’s all been part of the same arc,” he explained, “to close the gap between the people who represent the voters and the voters themselves.”
Mr. Rothstein’s book can be purchased at Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach and online retailers.
Dee Emeigh is a freelance writer living in Milford.