Thursday, July 26, 2012

When Fiction Crosses Lines

Some while ago I enjoyed reading and reviewing Russell Blake's The Voynitch Cypher (click the link for my review). When I heard he had a new book coming out, Silver Justice, I was delighted to be invited to host the author on his blog tour. The novel's about a single mom FBI agent hunting a serial killer on the East Coast--sounds intriguing doesn't it, and I hope to read it soon. But the story's much more than just another high-octane thriller with a cool protagonist, as you'll see in Russell's post below. So, over to you Russell, and thank you for visiting my blog...


When Fiction Crosses Lines



One of the things as an author I have to grapple with on a regular basis is whether to stay in one genre, or risk losing my audience by moving into others. I write action/adventure thrillers, with a strong conspiracy undercurrent, a la Robert Ludlum. That's what I like to read, so that's what I write. I currently have 14 novels out, all of which are doing well and have good reviews, so I'm fooling at least some of the people.

But occasionally I get the desire to write something more serious. A Lord of the Flies type of book. 1984. Slaughterhouse Five. Grapes of Wrath. Social commentary disguised as fiction. Books that tackle important topics in impactful ways. I've been interested in doing so for a long time, but frankly that sort of literary fiction doesn't do particularly well, so I view it as a luxury that I can't indulge in quite yet.

My latest, Silver Justice, breaks that taboo and marks an important milestone in my writing career. I've tackled a slew of topics I find important in this novel, which on the surface is a Silence of the Lambs type serial killer hunt, featuring a single mom FBI Agent - Silver Cassidy - who's forced to go to the brink to capture a brutal murderer who targets financial industry bigwigs. That sounds fairly benign, I know, but where it gets twisted is the subplot, which is based on the 2008 financial crisis and the reasons it happened.

One of the things that makes Silver an interesting character is that she's swimming upstream in a male-dominated profession and succeeding, without having to compromise her values or suck up. Simultaneously, she's balancing a slew of challenges involved in raising her kid, dealing with a crummy ex, operating a task force that's really a twenty-four/seven proposition, struggling with romantic possibilities, and grappling with the ever-present danger element that's a constant in her job. I wanted to write a truly three-dimensional character, and I think Silver is probably the most rounded and real I've ever done.

But what will polarize readers, who will either love the book or hate it, are the financial industry revelations throughout. I spent half a year researching the underlying plot hypothesis and read countless books and websites on the topics of market manipulation, monetary policy, the creation of the Federal Reserve, Keynesian economics, the causes of the Great Depression and the Crash of '29... And as I researched, I discovered a set of facts so strange, so disturbing, that I wanted to introduce them to the casual reader, ostensibly as fiction. Silver Justice is that vehicle.

The biggest challenge I had was how to synthesize all the information down to something that was both interesting and easy to follow, yet didn't sound like an economics lecture. That was a considerable hurdle, but I managed to cut 15K words out of the finished manuscript and limit the financial industry stuff to a few well-placed paragraphs throughout the book. I think it works well that way, but is still plenty disturbing. I know my editor was disturbed when he read it. The implications are profound and jarring, and will leave readers unsettled or furious.

Silver Justice is my attempt to write a novel that, in the end, makes readers think - to question what is advanced to them as reality by the mainstream media and the government. I won't say just how much of the plot is fiction and how much is fact, but I encourage one and all to research the subject. I include a list of suggested reading in the Afterward section for that reason.

There aren't that many topics I feel all that strongly about. But after spending plenty of time researching this one, you can put me in the camp that believes it is the story of our lifetime, and one that is being deliberately obfuscated and hidden by powerful interests intent upon robbing the nation of its worth. So far, they're winning by a landslide, because nobody will discuss or print the truth. It's every bit as orchestrated as the articles about happy, singing tractor workers in the former USSR - in fact, not as believable.

That's not the case with some international publications, like the Financial Times. Nations outside of the U.S. can and do recognize what happened, and comment on it regularly. You just don't read about it if you live in the U.S. Because the entire topic is verboten. It's just as managed as Nixon's Watergate hijinks were - until a pair of reporters put the Washington Post over a barrel and it had to print the truth. Until then, the media and the administration had a cozy relationship, where the press overlooked any wrongdoing in exchange for access and privilege. That's been the case for generations. Samuel Clemmons railed about it. It's nothing new. But we tend to forget, or believe that somehow this time is different.

If you enjoy suspense novels that feature a strong, realistically portrayed female protagonist, you'll like Silver Justice. If you aren't opposed to a read that poses some controversial explanations for the last four years of financial global misery, then you will probably love the book. If you prefer to dismiss any ideas that don't mesh with whatever is on the cover of USA Today, you probably won't be happy with it.

In the end, it was a book that I needed to write. I hope you'll give it a chance, and see if it lives up to my hype. I'm awfully proud of it, and think it is one of my best.

I hope you think so too.

Strong female protagonist, serious research, the role of the media in shaping perceptions... this sounds like one I'm really going to enjoy. Thank you so much for visiting my blog Russell, and I hope you'll revisit and answer any questions left by readers.

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