Hospitality veteran and former U.S. Army captain Ed Fuller has drawn from his corporate and military experience to co-author "Red Hotel," a fast-paced, fictional account of a hotel terrorism attack and its aftermath. Fuller collaborated with author, television producer and journalist Gary Grossman to co-write the thriller, which is on pre-order ahead of a March 19 release.

Ed Fuller
Ed Fuller

Fuller spent a total of 40 years with Marriott International, including 22 as president and managing director of the group's international lodging division. Fuller spearheaded the creation of Marriott's global security strategy, establishing companywide safety and defense policies amid the growing threat of terrorism.

In 2010, Fuller wrote the best-selling business book "You Can't Lead with Your Feet on the Desk."

Hotels editor Christina Jelski chatted with Fuller to talk about the upcoming thriller.

Q: How did you go from writing a nonfiction business book to jumping head first into the thriller genre?

A: I met with Bruce Feirstein, who wrote "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche," and he has also written three James Bond screenplays. And he looked at my business book ("You Can't Lead with Your Feet on the Desk") and he said, "You know, this has really got a story to it." And I said, "It's a business book." But he believed there could be a bigger story there. We fiddled with that idea for some time, and then one day he said, "You know, maybe we could make it a movie. But you really need a novel, a real book, not a business book, to go to Hollywood." 

So, I sat down and tried to write a novel. It was a very discouraging process. I could write a business book, but I didn't have the glue to put emotion and other stuff into it. It's a different ballgame and after three attempts, I assumed I struck out. I went back to Bruce, and he told me he had the perfect partner for me. 

He had run into Gary Grossman, who is a documentary producer and who has also written five thrillers that have done very well. So, Gary and I sat down. We kind of hit it off with no trouble and then we spent about a year and a half writing the book. We would meet in L.A. for three, four hours at a time and I would generate stories and then we'd try to put them together. He had the glue and the style that I couldn't find. I think we've got a real winner here.

Q: What does the book's title, "Red Hotel," reference?

A: At Marriott, ensuring that our hotels were safe was a major undertaking for us. In the United States, we have a series of government codes to indicate terrorism threat level. If you're at code orange, you know what level of threat you're at. But the issue is that every country does not have that system.

So, we at Marriott needed to develop a system for our hotels that set a certain standard of security for each property based on an analysis of that market and the safety in that market. And red was the highest level of security. And so that is part of the story.

The main character in this book, Dan Reilly, creates that system. Dan's an executive for a fictitious hotel company, and he does many, many things in the book I never would have dreamed of doing and that Marriott would have fired me for doing, such as running through the streets of Brussels with a gun. But it's a novel. It's fun, it's embellished.

Q: It's rare to come across a thriller that delves so deeply into the hospitality industry. How much industry-specific detail made its way onto the pages?

A: We tried to stay tied to the physicality of a hotel and the security of hotels. We spent a day at L.A. Live walking Gary through the back of the house and through the J.W. Marriott L.A. Live and the Ritz-Carlton to really understand how the security systems worked. 

Gary met with a couple of the people in the book who worked with me directly to listen to what they're dealing with today and some of the challenges. There are some parts where the business stuff is in there, but not to the level of, well, what was the RevPAR today at that hotel? Because most consumers are not hoteliers.

The main character in this book, Dan Reilly, is an executive for a fictitious hotel company, and he does many, many things in the book I never would have dreamed of doing and that Marriott would have fired me for doing, such as running through the streets of Brussels with a gun.– Ed Fuller

I had to watch myself because I had a tendency to stop all of a sudden and say to Gary, "Well, the GM would never do that." And Gary would say, "Yeah, but this is a novel." And I'd go, "You're right."

We haven't had a good hotel thriller in a long time. Hotels, in general, are full of stories. If you sit down with any general manager, there are enough stories in those hotels that they just can't tell and won't tell. But it's ripe for fiction.

Q: In today's world, terrorism remains top of mind for many hotels. How does the global hospitality industry currently rate in terms of safety?

A: I feel confident. I know Marriott was always very serious about life safety, from fire sprinklers to security procedures. And I saw our peer companies doing the same thing. And, in fact, we shared whatever procedures and knowledge we could, because there was no benefit to not sharing it. I can only speak to what we were doing in the past, but I believe the industry is still very focused on safety today. And I think we've had as few incidents as we've had because of the steps that were taken in the 1990s and 2000s.


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