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When Life Imitates Art

When I began blogging I vowed to only write about politics on the rare occasions that I had something personal to contribute. This is one of those times.

ACT I: Plum Pit Throat 

 I just finished a new draft of book one of my series  and sent it to my new agent. Just as I embarked on my re-write I contracted a sore throat and fever of 103. A trip to the emergency room fixed the latter, but as I resumed work on my book the pain in my throat persisted. And persisted. A month into it I saw my doctor. She didn’t find anything. The mysterious pain persisted.

As I neared the end of my re-write the pain just went away, and hasn’t returned. Now here’s the thing: Ray, the protagonist of my novel, suffers a mysterious pain in his throat. The subject of my book is neither throat cancer nor sword eating. Without spoiling the plot, I can say that Ray’s condition is psychosomatic. Its cause is in fact related to the central conflict of the book. And that central conflict in turn stemmed from events in my own more or less real life.

So my throat ached in sympathy with my character. Happily, I will never end up felled in a hail of police bullets. But there’s still a cautionary tale here. Stephen King has addressed the blurring of lines between life and fiction in a number of his novels: Misery, Lisey’s Story, The Dark Half. If your fictional dreams tend to be nightmares (something I share with Mr. King) then be careful what you dream.

ACT II: Insane Clown Posse

 The siege of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge is over, and the score is clear: Big Government 1, sovereign citizen/patriots/terrorists/numbskulls 0. The FBI learned the lessons of Waco and Ruby Ridge well, playing their hand with finesse and even brilliance – they let the perps think they were free to roam, allowing the arrests to happen with relative non-violence. And nailed Cliven Bundy, the Moses of the Clown Posse Rebellion, at the airport in Portland. They are throwing the book at him, as well they should. It will likely discourage future idiocy.

Though arresting Cliven might not have been necessary. Because the FBI’s hands off approach allowed the spotlight to remain fully on the perps of the standoff – and in that light they looked utterly ridiculous. Public ridicule is a tough thing for any political movement to survive. (When part of your media outreach  is a video of an obese fellow in only an adult diaper challenging Chris Christie to a wrestling match, you’re doing the ridiculer’s work for them.)

Except there’s something personally embarrassing in this business. The one man who died during the whole saga was LaVoy Finicum, shot during the initial arrest.

It turns out he’s one of my own. A scribbler of thrillers. (There are those who believe he wasn’t reaching for his gun, but murdered in cold blood. It might be interesting to see the venn diagram between them and the people now believing President Obama personally stuffed a pillow over Antonin Scalia’s head.)

Following his armed involvement in the original Cliven Bundy standoff, Mr. Finicum penned Only By Blood and Suffering, which according to the 1 ½ reviews by bloggers far braver than me (Here and Here)  is a post-apocalyptic tale of gun toting patriots who battle for survival. I was willing to forgive Mr. Finicum’s use of the word “peddling” to describe his patriots riding around on bikes – we writers have all gotten screwed by spellcheck.

But I can’t forgive his execution of the attractive female mayor of a small town. Our heroes hang her slowly, for maximum pain. This is the worst sort of wingnut porn: a misogynistic, sadistic endpoint to antigovernment fantasies in which you torture everyone you disagree with to death.

In the reality of Malheur, the only person who died was Finicum himself. As a writer, I find it spooky. He penned a fantasy about violent insurrection, then ended up living it. And dying it. Write about desperados and you run the risk of becoming one. And perhaps it was fate: with a name like LaVoy Finicum maybe you’re destined to live and die an a bad novel. Growing up in the 50s we kids ran around playing Cowboys and Indians. I hope my dear grandson doesn’t end up playing Feds and Wackadoodles.

ACT III The Elephant in the Room

 This one’s a no brainer, and far too much ink has been wasted on this story. So I’ll be brief. Donald Trump perfected his entertainment skills doing reality TV. Now he’s using those chops to run for president. Whether he makes it or not, our political discourse has been forever cheapened (not that it was of great quality before he stomped onto the scene.) Even if Trump fails, his methods have been so successful that future candidates will imitate them, and with less talent. For yes, as terrible as Trump is, he’s good at what he does. Horrified as I am by the prospect of him becoming president, I admit to his entertaining me – granted these are the cheapest of cheap thrills.

What’s that wacky guy going to say next? If he gets elected and Mexico refuses to pay for his wall, will he nuke Mexico City? Will he nuke Mecca? Or liberal San Francisco? Any of these will certainly play well with the base. Since he finds Hillary’s bathroom break so “disgusting,” will he ban female urination? Mr. Trump is enthusiastic about bringing back waterboarding and “a hell of a lot worse.” Will we watch it on the Torture and Execution Channel, voting the torturers up and down? Will he put half the country in concentration camps so we can’t vote him out of office?

Ah, now I’m doing it. Penning violent fantasies. It’s why I don’t write about politics.

So back to the harmless pursuit of music and literature. But first I must ask – do we Americans really want to live in a reality TV show? I guess we’re finding out.












Inside the Castle

Late fall I recounted my quest for a new literary agent. I likened it to storming the dark castle of the publishing business, armed with only a query letter. What I sought was an “Offer of Representation” – a writer’s ticket into the first courtyard of the castle.

I sent out my first query on October 23rd. Six weeks later I got an offer. I spoke to the agent and he answered all my questions to my satisfaction. And I liked him. A few days later we signed a contract. Read more…

Demon Stagefright and the Rock-and-Roll Devil

“See the man with stagefright, just standing up there to give it all his might.” –Robbie Robertson

I wrote in my last post  about being an introverted artist who must periodically emerge from under my rock to peddle my wares. Am I’m doing it. Not only querying literary agents , but going on TV! The Kennedy Files, a ten-hour documentary, premiered on the Reelz Network November 10th. In it I discuss my father’s battle with Jackie and Bobby Kennedy over the publication of The Death of a President, as detailed in Sam Kashner’s Vanity Fair article, for which I was also interviewed. Read more…

Out From Under My Rock

Under a rock

Faint noises filter in from outside, the roar of a crowd pierced by cries of glee. They’re out there under the sun, watching their sportsball game. Marching with linked arms. Or partying down, dancing, singing out of tune. The extroverts.

The noises are faint because I’m under my rock, in my cave. It’s neither dank nor buggy, and I sit in a very comfortable chair. Best of all, I’m alone. I’m happy here. I’m an introvert. Read more…

Storming the Castle

Siege_et_prise_du_Chateau_des_Tuileries_cph.3b49398In the eleven years I’ve been writing I’ve completed a memoir and two novels, and am working on a third. I could self-publish any of them in a matter of a few days, but I’m still holding out for a traditional publisher. You can’t get one without a literary agent. I’ve parted ways with mine, so I’ve been looking for a new one. It’s been an ordeal.

Read more…

Love and Mercy

Love and Mercy, the new movie about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, is a deeply moving, often brilliant film. It makes up for all the crummy rock music biopics that have come before. Those films follow the predictable three act “Behind the Music” story arc: band gets big, gets drugged, then gets redeemed, through Jesus, Rehab, or a reunion tour. Read more…

B.B. King

Read more…