Strong Characters

I write about politics and institutions a great deal on this blog. I worry that my posts have made it seem that the Faithless Elector books are only political treatises. To be sure they are well researched and offer a chilling, insider take on Washington and our dismayingly enduring democratic deficit.

But they’re thillers.

As thrillers, they’re about characters in action. And a good many readers and reviewers have found the characters compelling and intriguing (see a sampling, below). My protagonist, FBI Agent Imogen Trager is a complex, driven character, a by-the-numbers (if rarely by-the-book) investigator who leads a strong, memorable cast. Taken together, the books weave high stakes, low politics, intricate motives and tense emotions into compelling, fast-paced stories that can be read individually or in order.

Imogen grew out of the first book, Faithless Elector, and during the re-writing/editing process, I realized she was a star. And like a star, she was stealing scenes and making others look bad! I deleted one character, and gave her his lines and discoveries, and switched a few other things around to make her more central. When I came to write the second book, Dark Network, I was excited because it would be wholly her book. In Emergency Powers, all the chickens come home to roost. And the whole cast—Imogen in particular—must confront their choices and their allegiances. (No chickens were actually harmed in the writing of this book 🙂

Here’s some of what reviewers and readers have said about the characters in the Faithless Elector series:

“McCrone’s ability to portray a heroine who makes both good and bad decisions is well-done, providing many action-packed and unexpected moments throughout.” — DIANE DONOVAN, Sr. Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

“Three tough female characters that steal the show: FBI agents Vega, Sartain, and Trager…shoulder much of the burden in this novel and deserve a large credit for why it succeeds.” -T. LIEBERMAN, Independent Book Review

Imogen Trager “wrangles with her demotion from golden girl to the FBI’s problem child while still trying to uncover the truth…It beautifully combines the bureaucracy of a spy thriller with the tantalising chase that’s usually seen in detective novels. -HANNAH STEVENSON, Dorset Book Detective

“A dynamic mix of political intrigue and high-stakes personal drama, offering keen portraits of true patriotism—its weight, its costs, and the courage that drives it.
ART TAYLOR, Edgar Award-winning author of The Boy Detective & The Summer of ’74

“Couldn’t put it down. The tension just builds and builds. The book just sucked me in….and now I’m looking forward to the next!” radiostax (Amazon)

“Wonderful characters! But the key to the book is Imogen Trager – a dedicated FBI agent who’s willing to risk whatever it takes to save the country. You’ll love her. Highly recommended!” R. G. Belsky (Amazon)

Links to all the books are available in the bio below.

You can catch me online this Sunday, Aug. 1 at 3pm in conversation with Matty Dalrymple and Lisa Regan, hosted by the Mechanicsburg Mystery Bookshop;

AND I’ll be in New York City on Wednesday, Aug. 4, at KGB Bar (85 E 4th St) IN-PERSON and online for the MWA Reading Series, beginning at 7pm.

For a full list of appearances and readings, make sure to check out my Events/About page.

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James McCrone is the author of the Imogen Trager political suspense-thrillers Faithless Elector , Dark Network and Emergency Powers–noir tales about a stolen presidency, a conspiracy, and a nation on edge. All books are available on BookShop.org, IndyBound.org, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. eBooks are available in multiple formats including Apple, Kobo, Nook and Kindle.

His work, “Numbers Don’t Lie” also recently appeared in the 2020 short-story anthology Low Down Dirty Vote, vol. 2, and his short story “Ultimatum Games” will appear in Rock and a Hard Place in issue #7 this fall. His next book, w/t Bastard Verdict, is a noir political thriller set in Scotland.


A Seattle native (mostly), James now lives in South Philadelphia with his wife and three children. He’s a member of the The Mystery Writers of America, Int’l Assoc. of Crime Writers, Int’l Thriller Writers, Philadelphia Dramatists Center and is the newly elected vice-president of the Delaware Valley chapter of the Sisters in Crime network. James has an MFA from the University of Washington in Seattle.

Better Next Time…

The Atlantic published an article this week, “The Unraveling of the Trump Era,” by Olga Khazan, who notes: “Trump’s team fell short because it often made mistakes in the nitty-gritty work of rule-making… That might come as a relief to Democrats, but it’s actually a warning: All it will take is someone with the same priorities as Trump, but better discipline, to reshape the way the government works.”

The comedian and host of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver, referred to the Trump administration’s all-thumbs approach to governing as “Stupid Watergate,” which he described as “a scandal with all the potential ramifications of Watergate, but where everyone involved is stupid and bad at everything.”

The Faithless Elector series (while not about Trump) mines and articulates the very real dangers of what could happen if a group of ruthless, disciplined and canny political operators were to try to seize control of government—and then cement their grip.

We’ve seen the lock (goose) step of the vast majority of the GOP. If such a president had majorities in both houses of Congress, he could enact what he wanted. If he had a pliant Att’y General and had successfully remade the Office of Personnel Management to be under the aegis of the White House as he tried to do (thus a return to the spoils system of patronage government), the few things such an administration enacted that were contested might easily be upheld by a craven Supreme Court, bent on returning the nation to the 19th century. And the DOJ could become solely the tool of the president.

Also from Khazan’s article: “The rule process is specific, technical, and tedious, which did not exactly fit Trump’s style. Some experts say Trump’s agencies wrote their rules carelessly…”

The genesis of Faithless Elector books and the conspiracy bent on seizing control and remaking the nation in their own bloodless image was not Trump, but the W Bush administration–and the work of Cheney, Rumsfeld and Carl Rove. Cheney and Rumsfeld cut their teeth under Nixon, and they were aggrieved by the rejection of their candidate and the repudiation of the so-called Imperial Presidency. They were savvy, cunning, and understood intimately how government works. They set about bending it to their oligarchic will. It was Rove’s job to ensure a “permanent Republican majority.”

It’s touching that fewer than 20 years ago the GOP still cared about elections.

Beginning with the first book, Faithless Elector (published in spring 2016 before Trump was even the Republican candidate), the conspirators recognize that they do not have a majority, and so they set out to manipulate the Electoral College. In Dark Network, they work on the rules and try to manipulate a Contingency Election. In the final book, Emergency Powers, the conspiracy starts working hard on eating government from the inside out.

It’s worth noting that while the Faithless Elector series was prescient in many ways, the era in which we find ourselves may not be a rebirth of freedom and democracy but–for the forces arrayed against democratic accountability and the rule of law–nothing more than an unfortunate, regrettable interlude in their dark march. And they will delay, distract and bide their time.


People like Mitch McConnell play the long game, and they’re patient. And ruthless.

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James McCrone is the author of the Imogen Trager political suspense-thrillers Faithless Elector , Dark Network and Emergency Powers–noir tales about a stolen presidency, a conspiracy, and a nation on edge. All books are available on BookShop.org, IndyBound.org, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. eBooks are available in multiple formats including Apple, Kobo, Nook and Kindle.

His work, “Numbers Don’t Lie” also recently appeared in the 2020 short-story anthology Low Down Dirty Vote, vol. 2, and his short story “Ultimatum Games” will appear in Rock and a Hard Place in issue #7 this fall. His next book, w/t Bastard Verdict, is a noir political thriller set in Scotland.


A Seattle native (mostly), James now lives in South Philadelphia with his wife and three children. He’s a member of the The Mystery Writers of America, Int’l Assoc. of Crime Writers, Int’l Thriller Writers, Philadelphia Dramatists Center and is the newly elected vice-president of the Delaware Valley chapter of the Sisters in Crime network. James has an MFA from the University of Washington in Seattle.

As American as Baseball: A Modest Proposal

New plurality rules for baseball!

The extra-innings format rule in Major League Baseball has inspired me to dust off a format change I’d blogged about years ago, but which so far hasn’t garnered the changes I envisioned. Be assured, I have forwarded this “innings-ovation” proposal to Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred. Incredibly, then-commissioner Bud Selig did not respond to my original proposal.

The Electoral College is as American as baseball—venerably, willfully idiosyncratic, hidebound and capricious. (Which is part of the fun, right?)!

Why does the similarity stop there?

The enduring use of the Electoral College should inspire those of us who love the game–as we love the Republic–to greater depths.  If winner-take-all is indeed our national spirit, why must “America’s game” cling to its outmoded scoring?

Total number of runs over nine innings is clearly too simple-minded a way of determining a winner. And likely to stir up passions.

Therefore, in order to address the unfair, and frankly un-American scoring discrepancy that baseball presents, I would like to modestly propose a new set of plurality rules for scoring a baseball game:

  • The team who scores the most runs in a particular inning will be awarded ALL of the runs scored in that inning by either team. 

To illustrate: let us say, in the first inning Team ‘A’ scored 3 runs and Team ‘B’ scored 2. Under electoral scoring, Team ‘A’ having received more runs that ‘B’ would receive all 5 runs scored in that inning.

Then, (to continue the scenario) if in the following second inning, ‘B’ scored 3 runs and ‘A’ none, the running score would be ‘A’-5 vs. ‘B’- 3, each having won an inning and been awarded all the points that inning carried. Then, in the 9th inning, the innings-won total would be calculated to determine the winner.

I’m sure we can all agree that this makes much more sense. And to those who say it would unfairly award wins and even the championship to a lesser team, I can only say that it wouldn’t happen any more frequently than the Electoral College winner loses the popular vote (5, but who’s counting?).

Indeed, a survey of the last two World Series contests shows that while the scoring would have been different, the result would have been the same. And more just.

But I hear you say, there could still be a tie.

Of course. In the new innings plurality rules, the teams would play a 10th inning. But, as the new player-in-scoring-position-to begin extra innings makes clear, to continue playing past that is pointless. If, at the end of the 10th inning, there is still a tie, the decision as to who has won the contest would be remanded to a responsible body, one with knowledge of the teams, players and their capabilities. 

There could be no better group than living members of the Baseball Hall of Fame to weigh, consider and decide which team should win, a College of Baseball Elders. Like the electoral college, there could be some simple safeguards in place, such as a restriction on not voting for a team on which an Elder had previously played.

What could be more American? 

Follow this blog for more insights.

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For a primer of past blog posts on the issues surrounding the Electoral College, click the links below: everything from the issues surrounding popular vote winners losing in the Electoral College, to Faithless Electors, to the democratic deficit inherent in the apportioning of EC votes.
And for a thrilling read, check out the whole series, beginning with Faithless Elector.

Alexander Hamilton and the first contested election

Power of Small State Voting

Chaos Theory, Electoral College Style

Faithless Electors could have tipped 5 previous elections
Structural Flaws

James McCrone

James McCrone is the author of the Imogen Trager political suspense-thrillers Faithless Elector , Dark Network and Emergency Powers–noir tales about a stolen presidency, a conspiracy, and a nation on edge. All books are available on BookShop.org, IndyBound.org, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. eBooks are available in multiple formats including Apple, Kobo, Nook and Kindle.

His work, “Numbers Don’t Lie” also recently appeared in the 2020 short-story anthology Low Down Dirty Vote, vol. 2, and his short story “Ultimatum Games” will appear in Rock and a Hard Place this fall. His next book, w/t Bastard Verdict, is a noir political thriller set in Scotland.


A Seattle native (mostly), James now lives in South Philadelphia with his wife and three children. He’s a member of the The Mystery Writers of America, Int’l Assoc. of Crime Writers, Int’l Thriller Writers, Philadelphia Dramatists Center and is the newly elected vice-president of the Delaware Valley chapter of the Sisters in Crime network. James has an MFA from the University of Washington in Seattle.

Power of the small states in the *Electoral College

Power of the Small States in the Electoral College

[previously posted on a former blog, now defunct – April, 2016]

The Electoral College process favors people living in small states. We all know that each state has the same number of electoral votes as it does members of Congress. Since congressional apportionment in the Senate favors the small states, the electoral college therefore favors small states, first by giving them the malapportioned Senate votes, and second by amplifying the voting power of those votes.

For instance, California has 38,800,000 residents, and it has 55 electoral votes, or about 705,000 people per elector; and Wyoming, with 550,000 people, has three electoral votes, or about 183,000 people per elector. Which means that a Wyoming resident has 3.8 times the voting power of a California resident. Sixty-five Wyomings could fit in California, meaning that if California were scaled in such a way it would contribute 195 votes to the electoral college.

The winner-take-all (except ME and NE) further amplifies this scenario. (For further reading, you can check out papers from Columbia Univ. and MIT.)

Many respond that ours is a Constitutional Republic, that the Electoral College and the Senate protect us from “tyranny of the majority” and/or “mobocracy.” This misses a key point:

Where and when are we prepared to say that the loser gets to win, to dictate policy? Under what circumstances?

And whereas California has 38,800,000 residents, and it has 55 electoral votes, or about 705,000 people per elector; and Wyoming, with 550,000 people, has three electoral votes, or about 183,000 people per elector. This discrepancy means that a Wyoming resident has 3.8 times the voting power of a California resident.

Sixty-five Wyomings could fit in California, meaning that if California were scaled in the same way, California would contribute 195 votes to the electoral college. The winner-take-all nature of the contest (except ME and NE) further amplifies this unbalanced scenario.

One further latent anti-democratic issue in the Electoral College is the prospect of a three-way race where no one wins a clear majority (270).

When no candidate wins 270 electoral votes, the Constitution provides that the House of Representatives elects the president in such a case. If it were the full House voting, and since, ideally, the House’s membership reflects the nation’s population, this election would be relatively fair. However, this process provides that each state receives only one vote, further diluting and diminishing the power of large states, and utterly disenfranchising the people of the United States.

Given the undemocratic nature of the EC, if an elector switched his or her vote so that the EC vote matched the popular vote, would this be a good thing?

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James McCrone

James McCrone is the author of the Imogen Trager political suspense-thrillers Faithless Elector , Dark Network and Emergency Powers–noir tales about a stolen presidency, a conspiracy, and a nation on edge. All books are available on BookShop.org, IndyBound.org, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. eBooks are available in multiple formats including Apple, Kobo, Nook and Kindle.

His work, “Numbers Don’t Lie” also recently appeared in the 2020 short-story anthology Low Down Dirty Vote, vol. 2, and his short story “Ultimatum Games” will appear in Rock and a Hard Place this fall. His next book, w/t Bastard Verdict, is a noir political thriller set in Scotland.


A Seattle native (mostly), James now lives in South Philadelphia with his wife and three children. He’s a member of the The Mystery Writers of America, Int’l Assoc. of Crime Writers, Int’l Thriller Writers, Philadelphia Dramatists Center and is the newly elected vice-president of the Delaware Valley chapter of the Sisters in Crime network. James has an MFA from the University of Washington in Seattle.

This blogpost was previously posted on a former blog, now defunct – April, 2016