by Keith Beebe
SUGAR GROVE—What does Village Board Trustee Tom Renk do in his free time? He writes novels that you can purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and several other online book retailers.
Renk published his book “Journey for Revenge” last July. The novel is a tale of 9/11 surviving family members who take justice into their own hands and embark on a quest to hunt down the terrorists responsible for the attacks. This is actually Renk’s second book to be published, following his 2006 self-help book “Getting Elected: Winning Local Elections.”
“(Writing my first book) was enjoyable to the point that I decided I wanted to try writing something else, and I decided I was going to write a novel,” Renk said. “I had an idea about a subject matter and decided I’d give it a shot. The current book, ‘Journey for Revenge,’ has been in the making now for close to five years.”
Renk, 61, will have been an elected local official for 16 years when his current term is complete. He served four of those years as an alderman in Wauwatosa, Wis.—a town with a population of 16,000—and then moved to Sugar Grove, where he ran for office in 1999. Renk also had experience with managing local campaigns for other people, which is how he accumulated the knowledge of what it took to make a successful bid for office.
“I quietly registered to run for office (in Sugar Grove), and ran a textbook campaign. And I use those terms because that’s exactly how I did it,” he said. “I not only won my election; I was the top vote getter. At that point, I decided that I do know what I am doing when it comes to managing a local political campaign. So I started making notes to myself, and before I knew it, I had written a self-help book.”
Renk said the key element to getting elected in local campaigns is the four- to five-month window of opportunity—from the point of filing to run for office, to the actual election day. Unless you know what you’re doing and use your time very well, you can’t get the kind of necessary exposure and presence in front of the public, Renk said.
“The book ‘Getting Elected’ was meant to assist the first-time person running—the average man—and give him a leg up on ‘Here’s what I need to do to accomplish my goal,’” he said. “I’ve sold a good number of books in the last four years, especially in the election cycles. Everybody that I’ve ever talked to who has bought the book has won their elections, and I am proud of that.”
Renk enjoyed the experience of writing his first book, and decided that his second book would be a thriller novel in the vein of his favorite authors: Tom Clancy, Brad Thor, James Patterson, Vince Flynn and Lee Child.
“I am an avid reader of newspapers and magazines, and I follow political venues extensively—it’s just something that I am. My background was political science and economics in school,” Renk said. “I’ve always been interested in the world’s politics, and after 9/11, I think I was affected like many people—incredulous that something like that could happen. As I kept thinking and reading about it—and I read just about everything I could, including the 9/11 Commission report—an idea came into my head, based upon the fact that if I had been one of the survivors of the victims, how would I be handling it? That got me to reading about the grief counseling sessions that thousands and thousands of people in the Tri-State area went into to try and deal with their frustration and anger. From that came an idea of what if a small group of those grief-stricken people decided they wanted to go after the terrorists themselves. That’s the basis of the story.”
Renk said the reviews for his book have been positive thus far, and several people have personally told him the level of detail in “Journey for Revenge” is not unlike what is found in a Clancy or Thor novel.
“You have to immerse yourself in the details,” Renk said. With the advent of the Internet and Google, you are able to do all sorts of research that would’ve taken tons and tons of time in the past. You can find what you need to make it plausible, believable, and immerse your reader into the storyline.”
Renk took the level of detail up a notch when he was able to include SEAL Team Six’s mission to eliminate terrorist Osama Bin Laden in “Journey for Revenge,” as he found out about Bin Laden’s death almost immediately after the book had been turned in to be published.
“I had to pull my book back from the publisher. At first, I just wanted to give up, because that was my storyline—my characters had gotten Bin Laden in the book,” Renk said. “In the next two weeks, I rewrote six different chapters to bring SEAL Team Six into the book, and I adjusted my book to fit the reality of what happened. I am proud that I rewrote the SEAL Team Six segments—their actual attack on the Islamabad compound—three days after the attack, and I got about 95 percent of it right, and I hadn’t seen all the reports yet. I had done enough research to know what (SEAL Team Six) probably did to make the attack on Bin Laden work. And that’s part of the book now.”
Renk also rewrote the book’s ending, and said he’s much more pleased with it now.
Just months after publishing his first thriller novel, Renk is already writing his next book, which will be a thriller based around the Arab Spring protests and demonstrations.
“It’ll be in the same genre with the terrorists and the Arab world,” he said. “This Arab Spring that has gone on in 20 Arab countries along the North Africa Coast and into the Middle East, and it’s affecting all of the Arab world. I am using that as the basis for the new book, because it’s (currently) happening.”