James Comey, right, discussed his new crime novel, “Westport” with broadcast personality Dave Briggs before a full house Thursday at the Westport Library.
Comey, in addition to talking about his latest book, touched on a wide range of topics, from Barack Obama and Donald Trump to the importance of a leader’s character and his affection for Viva Zapata’s margaritas.

By Frank Szivos

WESTPORT — There sat James Comey, the former FBI director and now novelist, on stage before a sold-out crowd Thursday at the Westport Library.

You can ‘t miss him. Even sitting down, he’s one of the tallest guys in the room at 6-foot-8. Comey returned to his former hometown to discuss his recently published second crime novel, “Westport.”

The former top lawyer for Westport-based Bridgewater Associates also reflected on his legal and law-enforcement careers with broadcast personality Dave Briggs before the audience of approximately 400.

For $30, program attendees could own an autographed copy of the novel, a “crime thriller” set in Westport, crammed with scenes and sights of the town where Comey worked and lived with his family for five years. 

The novel opens with a dead hedge fund executive lying in a canoe that has run aground on Seymour Rock, off Bluff Point. There’s also scenes and references to Angelina’s Trattoria, Compo Beach, Artisan Restaurant and the Horseshoe Café (the latter two both in Southport). 


“When I lived in Westport with my family, we loved the town. I still miss the physical beauty of the place, the great food and smart people.”


James Comey on Westport, the town

Comey said he chose Westport for the only author talk appearance during his national publicity campaign for the book because the town holds a special place in his life.

“When I lived in Westport with my family, we loved the town,” Comey said. “I still miss the physical beauty of the place, the great food and smart people.”

Dressed in an open-collar shirt, gray blazer, jeans and blue-and black striped socks, Comey sipped a margarita handed to him from one of his favorite Westport restaurants, Viva Zapata.

Prior to turning to fiction, Comey had written two works of non-fiction. The first, “A Higher Loyalty —Truth, Lies and Leadership,” focused on high points of his career in criminal prosecutions and his years as the seventh FBI director (2013-17).

His nonfiction follow-up was, “Saving Justice — Truth, Transparency and Trust,” where he explored how the federal justice system works as he prosecuted mobsters as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, anti-terrorism and his clashes with then- President Donald Trump.

So how did he morph from a high-profile prosecutor and FBI director into a novelist? 

At first, it wasn’t even his idea, Comey said. An editor suggested that he should tap into his experiences in criminal prosecution and a stint as a general counsel for Bridgewater Associates, one of the most successful hedge funds in the world. He was told it was a perfect recipe for great fiction stories.

Real-life scenes and references in the town of Westport appear throughout James Comey’s recently published novel, “Westport.”

“I really was kind of pushed into it [fiction writing] by an editor,” Comey explained. “I was told I write good narrative and dialogue, and would probably be good at making stuff up.”

And so he has. Comey’s first novel, “Central Park West,” and “Westport” have been reviewed positively. Both books feature Nora Carleton, a 6-foot attorney, who takes on organized crime in the first novel. 

In “Westport,” she has moved out of the Manhattan rat race for the quieter life of the suburbs to become the general counsel for “Saugatuck Associates,” a fictional hedge fund. This time, she becomes the prime suspect in the murder of an investment colleague and battles to clear her name.

As with all novelists, Comey draws on his background to frame his fiction, as well as the personalities of his wife and five children. Carleton is based primarily on one of his daughters, who is a prosecuting attorney in Manhattan. And, yes, she is 6 feet tall. 

She was the chief prosecutor in the conviction of Ghislaine Maxwell, a former British socialite and sex trafficker linked to Jeffrey Epstein. 

Comey recalled he prosecuted the legendary organized crime leader John Gambino in the same courtroom where his daughter served as a prosecuting attorney.

“Of course, I incorporate bits and pieces of my family into my fiction,” Comey said. “But I have four tall daughters so they’re all a part of Nora Carleton.”


“I’m thoroughly addicted to writing fiction now. Westport gave me so much that I hope readers will find it [the book] a page turner and enjoy the familiar scenes that frame this novel.”


James Comey on “Westport,” the novel

The evening also featured audience questions, submitted prior to Comey’s talk, which turned toward political issues. 

With another sip of a margarita, Comey told the audience that he cherished his time as the FBI director because he valued serving others.

“It was the greatest job, helping and protecting others,” Comey said. “I knew so many people who were willing to give their lives in service to the country. That was really cool.”

Comey added that he does not miss the power and the politics. He said he never chased fame or money, although he has had great success in his career. 

Comey never considered himself a serious candidate to become FBI director. So when President Barak Obama called him to be interviewed for the job, he resisted, at first. His wife Patrice urged him to go, but really didn’t think he had a chance because he formerly was a Republican and had contributed to the presidential campaigns of John McCain and Mitt Romney.

“My wife told me to take the interview, but she said I probably wouldn’t get the job,” Comey said. “But Obama didn’t care about my politics. He was more concerned with my character.”

Questioned about this year’s presidential election, he emphasized that this one is critical for the nation’s soul. In his opinion, a candidate’s character is as important as his policies.

As a result, he rated Biden a man of integrity and isn’t concerned with his age. Comey thought Trump — who fired him in 2017 — presents a serious threat to the rule of law and urged the audience to become informed about the candidates and the issues, and then choose.

“Go out and be informed. Watch the news and look at YouTube videos,” Comey said. “You can’t be non-informed. Then you choose.”


“To be a politician, you often have to compromise your values. I would never consider running for office. There’s too much lying involved.”


James Comey on politics

Moderator Dave Briggs asked the audience if they thought Comey should run for office, which drew a strong round of applause. However, Comey quickly shut down any speculation about political ambitions.

“I’m not comfortable in that world,” he said. “To be a politician, you often have to compromise your values. I would never consider running for office. There’s too much lying involved.”

Asked if there’s a third novel in Comey’s future, he said he had already finished a draft that his family is reviewing. He wouldn’t reveal the plot, but said he hopes that it would be a page turner with plenty of twists that focuses on the FBI up to the presidency.

But for now, he is focused on “Westport” and hopes that readers find themselves turning the pages, immersed in a story about the town that was so important to him. 

He raised his margarita as a toast to the audience.

“I’m thoroughly addicted to writing fiction now. Westport gave me so much that I hope readers will find it [the book] a page turner and enjoy the familiar scenes that frame this novel,” he said.

Frank Szivos is a freelance writer.