It isn’t every day that one of the creators of a political thriller gets to ask its real-life protagonist to evaluate the novel’s plot.

But that happened when the late Billy Wireman, president of Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina, handed the last Soviet Union leader a copy of “The Secret Diary of Mikhail Gorbachev.” The 1990 novel was written by journalist Frye Gaillard, based on a Wireman idea.

Terry Mattingly leads and lives in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is a senior fellow at the Overby Center at the University of Mississippi.