A former ride-share driver and author of “Ubered” and its sequel, Evan Kail was planning to write a historical fiction screenplay about Jewish American soldiers seeking revenge on escaped Nazis.
But then he did what a screenwriting book advised and wrote a novel instead, “Wolf in the Jungle.”
“Once I started writing my first ‘Ubered’ book, I realized I liked writing books more than screenplays,” said Kail, who has written 20 screenplays. “Books are a more viable way to break into writing. I wanted to write a fiction book, and I went to my notes. I have just pages of notes of ideas — some are paragraphs, some are a sentence. I found this idea which I had buried years ago, and I took that and turned it into ‘Wolf in the Jungle.’
“I’m very inspired by Clive Cussler, an action writer. One of his book series is kind of a ‘Mission: Impossible’ thing; a team of mercenaries takes down terrorists. Mine will be about this team of ultra Jewish American soldiers, backed by the U.S. government, that goes after different Nazis. It’s the lore of ‘did Hitler get away?’ That’s a big question people have asked about World War II. I wanted to answer that.”
This is his first book of fiction after dividing stories from his time as a ride-share driver into two volumes and “Ubered” podcasts. He already has completed most of the work on his fourth book, “about my dad,” Harold Kail, who was front of store at his wife’s, and Evan’s mom’s, former 50th and France shop, Carroll Britton Cosmetics. The biography sheds light on Harold’s notorious past and guarded family secrets.
Evan, who also is a portrait artist, has turned into a more interesting, nicer adult than I could have imagined when he was an obnoxious little rugrat.
Q: How long did it take to write “Wolf in the Jungle,” and when do you write?
A: About a year. I keep vampire hours. I only write late at night. It’s when my brain works best. I know a lot of writers and creative people can attest to that. I started this book, and then Charlottesville happened and I was determined to finish it. I was already working on it but I was kind of missing a fire, something to really get me ignited, and that was it.
The idea of being an American Nazi is a terrible hypocrisy — to describe yourself as an American Nazi. Whatever racist affiliations people may feel [in] their movement for a pure white race, the Nazis were enemy combatants of the United States. They murdered American soldiers, in the time of war. So to brandish their propaganda in any way, shape or form is the equivalent of waving an ISIS flag.
Q: Have you experienced much anti-Semitism?
A: Anti-Semitism here in town hasn’t been very overt. Never got a comment from a classmate; then again, I didn’t go to high school in this current climate.
Q: Your mom converted so you would be [Jewish], right?
A: And she was treated poorly by congregants after converting, and it always bothered me.
Q: Did that contribute to you turning away from Judaism?
A: It did.
Q: You usually start a book or screenplay by doing research?
A: Indeed I do, and I did a lot of research here.
Q: Are you disappointed that none of your 20 screenplays has become a movie?
A: No. Here’s the thing; I had a manager in L.A. for a while. That guy turned out to be a bozo, but to get that far was still an accomplishment. On top of that, I’ve had scripts in major film contests. I had one in the Beverly Hills Film Festival. That said, it’s so hard and so cutthroat, and you might spend your whole life and not get further than I did.
With books you have mobility. You can publish them yourself, generate readers, reach more people and, if successful, make more money. This isn’t about the money for me, but I’m just saying. And 13 years ago, when I first started with the screenplay thing, I got a book “How to Write Screenplays.” The first page said, “Stop what you’re doing. Don’t write a screenplay. Write a book and adapt it into a screenplay.” I should have listened to that book! [Big laughter.] I think about that often.
Q: You like Clive Cussler, but I feel the influence of Quentin Tarantino because you love violent, vendetta justice movies.
A: Tarantino is my biggest creative influence, but I think Nesher Unit — my heroes — make his “[Inglourious] Basterds” look like Boy Scouts on a romantic hike through Germany. He does his own stuff for writing and directing, but I’d love for him to read it!
Q: You have a delightfully warped sense of humor. Were you able to work levity into this book?
A: One character of the team is modeled after my humor and is constantly cracking jokes. There’s a lot of dark humor, especially when these elite Jews get their hands on some of the Nazis. There’s some tongue-in-cheek humor, too.
Q: Where did you get the names for these “Wolf in the Jungle” characters?
A: I don’t know; I’m always creative with names. That has been the easiest part, coming up with exotic names and back stories. Sometimes I’ll create a movie trailer in my head, when I don’t have plot points or details and I’ll put together pieces of what I imagine the trailer will be. Little stuff like that will help me with creating plot points, character back stories, character names, etc.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.