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Manipulated was a finalist for the Reader's Favorite Award for political thrillers. The review link is here:

Book review of Manipulated - Readers' Favorite: Book Reviews and Award Contest (


Manipulated was a finalist for the Montaigne Medal. 

Each year, the Eric Hoffer Award presents the Montaigne Medal to the most thought-provoking books. These are books that either illuminate, progress, or redirect thought.



You wake up, turn on the morning news, and find the usual stories. College students are staging a campus protest against a speaker they believe to be racist. The world's number-one pop star is accused of molesting two 15-year-old girls after a concert. An electorate inexplicably selects presidential candidates whom few support and even fewer trust.


But what if everything you heard was synthetic? What if it's all packaged to meet some larger objective? What if you were simply being manipulated?

Manipulated chronicles a 70-year clandestine effort to seize control of the United States at the foundational level. It's all happening right under the noses of an unsuspecting nation. The long-awaited scheme will come to fruition with the 2016 presidential election. Everything is going according to plan, but then something happens. A new voice emerges. A strangely authentic candidate captures the fascination of the American people. But is it too late? Has the machine gotten too large to overcome? The stakes are high. The survival of the nation as we know it hangs in the balance.


(Excerpts from Amazon reviews)



Talk about a timely book, "Manipulated" is it!. Makes you reconsider how all of us are influenced by today's instant information (or misinformation!) social media environment.


Loved this book! It couldn’t be a more timely subject. The characters were believable and quite human. The story line was also (unfortunately) believable. How many times have we felt manipulated by the media and others!


It was hard to put this book down. The author does a fantastic job of presenting current political issues in a fair and balanced manner. However, the “deep state” - government bureaucrats, main stream media, high-tech social media moguls, and big business can and will do whatever is necessary to circumvent the people and the democratic process. An autopsy of our current political system.


Great political thriller! Found it impossible to put down! Ties together the prevalence of social media in our lives, Big Brother, media bias, and the feeling that good people don’t run for President. The perfect book for this time in America. You will never look at a Fox or CNN news report the same - I guarantee it.


Great book! Awesome analysis of the current political climate with enough twists to keep you looking for the next answer. Highly recommended!


I loved Elijah Mustang and what he stood for, hated Victor Youngblood and what he stood for and was rooting for Jeremy Prince to make the right choices. The characters very quickly became real; the situations had me so angry at times I thought I couldn't keep reading it. But I had to; I had to find out what happened next. While a work of fiction, this book seemed to play out every day on the news or on social media; it made me think about what I was seeing, what I was hearing and that's not a bad thing. When a book can make you THINK, it's a great book.


Manipulated is a must read for anyone interested in political drama. The author Mr Clayton does a remarkable job of developing many characters leaving the reader hanging on what will happen next. The most interesting thing I found about this book is that it could very well represent many of the types of actions and responses we are seeing in our politics today--and the book was written prior to the real life antics we are seeing today.


I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a creative take on the current political/social media environment. The author developed characters that l loved, and others that l wanted to choke to death. Several twists and turns kept me on the hook.

Couldn't put this book down until I was finished! Manipulated provides a fascinating spin on current day government and media. Really made me wonder if there is more truth to this then we realize. Highly recommend to all, especially if you find elections fascinating!



When I tell people that I'm publishing a novel the most frequent question I get is, "So, what's it about?"


Manipulated is a political thriller set during the 2016 presidential election season from January 2015 through January 2017. During these two years, a fictional account of the election is chronicled. The first half of the book provides a back story illustrating an American political system soiled by political parties, a misguided media, and lots and lots of money, all orchestrated by a clandestine organization known as Mouse Trap.

The second half of the book provides a glimpse at what the 2016 election might have looked like had a different candidate been introduced into the campaign. A candidate not bound to either political party, deep-pocket investors, or Washington insiders. A candidate who had absolutely no interest in the job but is drafted by those that know him best to fix a broken system. A candidate who personifies integrity, character, and humility. A candidate whose core values are guided by his faith.


Would it work? Could it work? Would it be allowed to work?



In the course of writing fiction an author often employs his or her own life experiences when deciding where the action takes place, what characters are involved, and what things will be featured. That was certainly the case as I wrote Manipulated. Here are a few examples:


My best good buddy Clyde (pictured with me below) - Our family is blessed with two canine companions but only one of them is my best good buddy. One of the characters in the book has an Aussiedoodle (not coincidentally) named Clyde.


Bard's Ridge, Tennessee - This fictional town where several early chapters take place is the blending of the two communities where I spent most of my life. I was born and raised in the small town of Bardwell, Kentucky where I lived until I went to college. Immediately after college I moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee where I lived for 30 years until the summer of 2017. Hence, Bard's Ridge is a tribute to the two places that have been home to me the longest.


Roane County, Tennessee - My wife and I moved to Roane County this past summer {2017}. Our address is in the town of Harriman. A number of Roane locales made their way into the book including Watts Bar Lake (Watts Bar sunset pictured below}, River Road, Ten Mile, Kingston, and I-40 Exit 347. Two prominently featured fictional locations, Richfield College and the American Eagle Diner, are also sited in Roane County.



Knoxville, Tennessee - Being a 30 year resident of East Tennessee our family has spent lots of quality time in the city of Knoxville. Knoxville locations featured in the book include the World's Fair Park, Calhouns Restaurant, Neyland Stadium, and the Knoxville Convention Center. A newspaper named the Knoxville Chronicle (fictional) also plays a big part in the early chapters of the story.


Murray State University- I am a proud alumnus of Murray State University ('86) and have included my alma mater in a scene as the site of the third and final presidential debate of the 2016 election.


Stahl and Adair- The book includes characters with each of these last names, my maternal and paternal grandmothers' maiden names.


Sprinkled throughout the book there are other homages to people that I've known and places that I've been. Some are intentional, in some cases I may have just been stuck on a name for the next character, but either way the book is a mosaic of people, places, and things I've experienced during my 53 years.



Manipulated is a series of political thrillers. 

Manipulated - Published December 2017 - Now Available!

Manipulated: Book Two – Presidential Power - Available June 2021.

Manipulated: Book Three – Targeting a 2022 release



Since my book, Manipulated, involves many contemporary events, I’ve had some readers ask about discussion questions for use in book clubs and other similar groups. With the help of a few friends, I’ve developed 20 questions included below.

  1. The opening chapters chronicle a rapidly expanding protest on a college campus. When have you found yourself following the crowd only to find out later you didn't have all the facts?

  2. If you were the Richfield College president would you have handled the protest differently?

  3. Some of the protestors were paid to show up at Richfield. Do you think there are paid protestors in America today? If so, do you see anything wrong with this practice?

  4. What do you think about the national media’s coverage of the protest?

  5. Do you think organization's such as Mouse Trap really exist? If so, how much influence do you think they really have in our day to day lives? In politics? In entertainment (e.g. awards shows)? In sports (e.g. NFL protest)?

  6. Mouse Trap had control of tens of thousands of social media accounts; do you think “fake” social media account actually exist? If so, what is their purpose?

  7. Given the information Jeremy had about Mouse Trap, would you have taken the job?

  8. Elijah’s extemporaneous speeches were caught on video and posted to YouTube, where they went viral. What do you think of today’s culture where an unknown person can become instantly famous? Would you want to be famous like this?

  9. Victor told Jeremy his most important tool at Mouse Trap was trust. Are there information sources that you automatically trust without questioning?

  10. The leading donor as well as the campaign manager for the Kentucky governor both died of mysterious causes on the same night. Do you think there are really entities that carry out these types of lethal missions?

  11. Do you think there are really systems like Omnia? If so, who do you think controls these systems?

  12. Do you think there are really organizations such as Mouse Trap and The Council? If so, how much influence do you think they really have?

  13. What did you think about Elijah’s work with Promise Ministries? Do you believe individual Americans have a responsibility to serve the needy in other countries? Do you believe America as a country has that responsibility?

  14. Like most average Americans the Everman family was only privy to the information they received from their individual media source of choice. Do you think it is important to listen/read/watch news from multiple sources?

  15. During the presidential debates, one of the candidates were given questions in advance. Do you think this ever really happens?

  16. Although he insisted he had no interest in the presidency, Elijah was convinced to run by his family and friends. Would you rather have an elected official that had a very strong desire for the office or one that did not?

  17. Democrat presidential candidate Mitch McCoy went on the Moonlight Show, talked with the host, and then played bass guitar with Oscar Tangerine. What are your thoughts on the blending of entertainment and politics?

  18. Elijah gave a very large percentage of his salary to his ministry, however that was spun by his opponents as a negative because he didn’t pay very much in taxes. Do you think you are perceptive when someone tries to spin a story that you read or hear?

  19. Do you think an “average guy” candidate would every have a legitimate chance at running for president against the mainstream party candidates?

  20. Were the election results in the best interest of Elijah Mustang? Were the election results in the best interest of the country?

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