BOOK BEAT 25 – Karna Small Bodman

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   January 3-9, 2007

by Philip K. Jason

With settings in the White House and other government offices, the suburban research facilities of defense contractors, fashionable Georgetown, remote and exotic Kashmir, and New Dehli and other locations in India, Karna Small Bodman has fashioned a fast-moving political thriller. Terrorist plots, government in-fighting, and corporate rivalries all play important, intertwining roles in this remarkable first novel – Checkmate. Bodman’s book is published by Forge imprint of Thomas Doherty Associates. The book launch is a private party at the prestigious Cosmos Club in DC on January 9.

At the center of the story is Dr. Cameron (Cammy) Talbot, an attractive scientist who has been working on a new, low-cost guided missile defense system. Her computer-based brainchild can seize upon and redirect the directional programming of incoming missiles, making the costly defensive missile concept (launch a missile to intercept a missile) obsolete. At least in theory. As the novel progresses, mounting tensions arise from a fast-approaching deadline to perfect the new system. Set against her are government skeptics, those who have a vested interests in the old technology or the companies that thrive on it, and those who would wish to thwart or steal her technology.  In the latter category is the young Islamic terrorist who makes several attempts to murder Cammy and put an end to her project.

That same terrorist, working solo in the U. S., is part of a group that has stolen three Pakistani missiles. The first missile has been successfully fired with a conventional weapon warhead, demolishing an army base on the Indian side of the Line of Control in Kashmir. This attack, quite intentionally, has set the stage for retaliation and thus for nuclear war between Pakistan and India. One of the remaining stolen missiles has a biological weapon warhead. Can further firings of the stolen missiles be checked? Can the U. S. thwart the terrorists’ plan to take over Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal? And will Cammy’s tenuous romance with arms control and strategic defense specialist Hunt Daniels bloom? You’ll have to buy the book to find out. 

Born in Wilmette, Illinois, Karna Small Bodman (then Karna Small) received her B.A. degree (with honors) from the University of Michigan and studied journalism and television news in the graduate schools at Stanford and San Francisco State Universities.

She began her career as a television reporter and later as a news anchor in the San Francisco area. She continued her career as a television journalist in other markets, most importantly in Washington, DC where she anchored the late news on Channel 5 and hosted a nationally syndicated program on business and economic issues. She also hosted a three-hour news/talk radio show.

During the Reagan administration, Bodman held several posts. She was selected in 1981 to be the deputy to Press Secretary James Brady. Soon afterward, she became Director of Media Relations and Planning for the White House Office of Communications. Later, she became Senior Director for Public Affairs at the National Security Council. In this role, she attended arms control talks, briefed the leaders of heads of state, and attended the Geneva Summit. She had a first-hand view of White House operations and security issues. Upon her departure from government service in 1986 to become Senior Vice President of a Public Affairs firm, Bodman was the highest ranking woman on the White House staff.

What should be obvious, then, is that Bodman knows national security issues and the politics that shape them inside out.

She also knows how to put a thriller together. Checkmate is built on brief chapters with shifting perspectives. Sometimes we follow Cammy, sometimes we follow the terrorist who is trying to destroy her and her work, sometimes we follow the womanizing Congressman Davis Metcher as he trades favors to advance his career and satisfy his lust. Bodman uses a sort of roving “camera-eye” technique that keeps the reader off-balance at first, but still turning the pages. It would not take much effort to turn Checkmate into a gripping movie, since the rapid scene shifts and pacing already approximate cinematic story-telling technique.  

Like many Neapolitans, Bodman began her relationship with our town by becoming a regular visitor in 1988. She purchased her first home here in 1993, and she made Naples her primary residence in 1996. Mr. and Mrs. Bodman divide non-Naples time between Washington, DC and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.


When I met with her a few weeks ago, Bodman shared the initial book tour itinerary for Checkmate, which already had about 60 appearances packed into the first three months. One of these is on January 24 at noon, when she will be speaking at the Friends of the Library of Collier County luncheon at the Hilton Naples and Towers. Call 262-8135 for details. Discover more about this fascinating media personality, government official, and novelist at her website

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy.  A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club. Send him your book news at

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