SECRETS BEHIND THE BIG PENCIL by Helen Dunn Frame
A scandal that began in the 1970s and lasted ten years inspired me to write Secrets Behind the Big Pencil. Investigators indicted more than one hundred employees of an international organization that resulted in about thirty-five convictions. As my ex-husband worked for the actual organization although he was not involved in anything illegal, I knew many of the players. I collected newspaper clippings and made notes as I interviewed several people. Back then, the Internet was merely a glimmer in some nerds’ eyes.
While I had written many articles and columns and edited newsletters books, and more, I had never written a novel. Originally, I wrote the book using the real entity, sticking to the facts like a journalist, including far too many characters. No one wanted to publish it. Over the years, it laid dormant as I honed the genre. I shipped my files when I decided to spend most of my time in Costa Rica.
Over the years, I painstakingly combined several actual people into one character to protect the guilty and make it simpler for the reader to follow the fictionalized story. I created an imagined back story. While in reality, several organizations serve the arm forces, I consolidated them into one.
If you could meet imposing Ralph Carter, my protagonist, you would not guess that sordid events from his youth including his brother’s unsolved murder haunted him. Marrying Cynthia, and having two daughters he adores, getting a long-delayed promotion to Assistant Buyer, and a transfer to Germany by his employer, the Military Support System (MSS), tricks him into believing for a while that he has overcome his past.
As the story unfolds, the reader realizes Ralph’s life changes dramatically when his wife shares an unexpected reason for wanting a divorce, and a scandal explodes in Europe involving buyers accepting kickbacks, gifts, and sexual favors from vendors. As he watches his associates indicted for these crimes, he vows never to give into such temptations. Like New Years’ resolutions, his good intentions fade when he becomes a buyer with a big pencil in the San Francisco region.
Dealing with an ogre for a boss, and sabotage by an alcoholic associate, learning to love again, and striving to become a team player in order to provide a good life for his family, he vacillates between moving to the MSS headquarters in Dallas, and finding another job. Before he can decide his future, a major world-wide scandal erupts.
In case you have never heard of a “big pencil,” that refers to the power a buyer has when he controls spending millions of dollars for merchandise for military stores throughout the world. Although the organization had rules, temptation caused many employees in certain positions to break them. Throughout the story, Ralph evolves and I believe in the end that readers root for him to overcome his .adversities.
Secrets Behind the Big Pencil, Inspired by an Actual Scandal, has been reviewed on Amazon as “a very well written book by a non-psychiatrist author.” Although fictionalized, it features elements of reality. If you met imposing Ralph Carter, you would not realize that events from his youth including his brother’s unsolved murder haunt him and affect decisions in his career and personal life. He deals with an ogre of a boss and sabotage by an alcoholic associate. He strives to achieve a Big Pencil of at least twenty million dollars as a buyer for a military organization, and to learn to love again while raising two daughters alone. He finds himself sucked into a corrupt system of kickbacks and much more as a major scandal erupts. ISBN 9780692263846
Helen Dunn Frame, an accomplished businesswoman (formerly a commercial real estate broker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex specializing in retail and restaurants), developed professional writing skills. Plus, living in England, Germany, and Costa Rica; and her love of travel (in 50 countries where she gained an appreciation of the value of diverse cultures) have provided background for several books.
Helen wove many threads of her experiences into the fabric of GREEK GHOSTS followed by the second in the mystery series, WETUMPKA WIDOW. Living in Dallas during a major scandal resulted in SECRETS BEHIND THE BIG PENCIL. In a third edition this year, Helen advises Baby Boomers in her book about RETIRING IN COSTA RICA or Doctors, Dogs and Pura Vida. It features a new chapter, Retirement 101, which is also a booklet available on Kindle.
A graduate of Syracuse University (Journalism School), and New York University (Master’s Degree in Sociology/Anthropology), major newspapers and magazines as well as trade publications in the United States, Costa Rica, England, and Germany have published her writing. She has edited newsletters, a newspaper, and other author's books, created business proposals for clients, and spoken to groups.