Presto! Author makes ‘Houdini’ appear

Born and raised in Cleveland, retiree Tom Fillinger now lives in Tiffin. Having worked at a variety of jobs, he has added one more – author.

He is to have a book signing for his first book, “Project Houdini,” 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday at Paper and Ink in downtown Tiffin.

The self-published novel is about a reporter and former Naval officer, Alan Maxwell, who is the sole survivor of a U.S. Navy investigation. A team has been trained and sent into the Bermuda Triangle, where hundreds of Navy planes and ships have disappeared.

For months, no one hears from them, but then Maxwell turns up severely injured and disoriented.

His boss, newspaper editor Harry Konenberg, reconnects with Maxwell and asks him to recall and record as much has he can remember from the investigation. As the reporter recovers, the government tries to keep the amazing information he divulges away from the public.

Fillinger chose the early 1990s as the setting for the story.

The author admits he has always been an avid reader with a special interest in science fiction and “strange mysteries” such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster. He also wrote stories of his own.

“By the age of 10, I wrote a childish science fiction story about a Martian, about 28 pages of what I thought was brilliant,” Fillinger said.

Moving into adulthood, Fillinger studied at John Carroll University and the Automation Institute of Ohio. He and his wife, Patricia, had four children to support, so Tom usually worked multiple jobs.

Writing continued but only in bits of spare time.

At one time, Fillinger worked for the The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer in circulation promotion and as a relief driver for home delivery motor routes. For about six years, the family lived in Dayton while he managed a restaurant.

“There were many times in my life where I took jobs that I didn’t like or didn’t pay enough, but they put food on the table. … You do what you have to do,” Fillinger said. “I’ve had more than 60 different jobs in my life. Many of them were part-time jobs, working along with a full-time job. I almost ruined my health. For 2 1/2 years … I was getting about six hours of sleep a night. I don’t recommend it.”

At 43, he had a heart attack. Another happened last fall while he was fighting an upper respiratory infection.

That event landed him in Cleveland Clinic.

Now living in Tiffin with a daughter and son-in-law, Fillinger said he feels his luck has changed for the better. He likes the area and the “nice people” he has met.

He also has more time for writing.

“This has been a long time coming. I started on this book maybe 15 years ago. But I’ve had a very busy life, so I haven’t really found the time to finish the book until I retired. I’m going to be 79 in July,” Fillinger said.

Last August, he contacted Xlibris, who accepted “Project Houdini” and published it Dec. 26. Now, Fillinger is marketing the book, with hopes of scheduling more book signings in Ohio.

In addition, he has completed three more novels he wants to edit before submitting them for publication. Two are science fiction and one is a spy story. All are written with inoffensive language to appeal to different age groups, he said.

“I always try to put some interesting bits of knowledge in my stories,” Fillinger said. “Any movie or book that can make you think is a good work.”

The author enjoys doing research to make his stories realistic and believable. Technology has made it easier to research, write and publish; however, Fillinger just got his computer back from the repair shop.

“I researched myself into a computer virus,” he said.

Fortunately, books are still reliable and enjoyable ways to find information. Fillinger said he admires Isaac Asimov, who wrote more than 300 books. Fillinger feels a commonality with him because many of Asimov’s books were rejected numerous times before being published.

“He never gave up. He kept pursuing,” Fillinger said. “Abraham Lincoln is one of my favorite presidents because he ran for political office 17 times and failed 16 times. But each time, he tried for a little higher office. It was a wonderful example for people.”

“Project Houdini” sells for $15 in soft cover, $22 in hard cover and $5 for e-books.

Those who miss Fillinger’s book signing can buy the book at Paper and Ink or online at, or