Banksters, politicians, and sinister corporations aren’t afraid of laws or regulators or voters. The only thing they fear is an uprising of the people.
That fear is about to be realized.
The man who now calls himself Thomas Paine lived his entire life by the rules. He went to college, served bravely in combat, raised a family, and paid his taxes. Then his employer went bankrupt, taking his pension and his wife’s medical insurance with it. After her death he’s decided that America needs a Second Bill of Rights, one that he is determined to bring about through an “American Insurgency.”
How many among the desperate and disaffected who see the American Dream turning into the American Nightmare will join him? Can targeted vigilante violence really inspire true political reform and save democracy, or will it just provoke massive government repression, and perhaps even widespread martial law? Is it possible that the insurgency will spawn a successful non-violent third party, or will government seek to squash that as well?
And what about FBI Special Agent Darren Medlin? How far will he go to stop Paine before he draws his own line in the sand? What role will the beautiful young talk show host Crystal Dickerson play? What important decisions will she face, and how will her relationship with Medlin evolve?
Raised in a politically active family, Jess Money majored in Political Science with a minor in Economics. He sold his first magazine article at the age of 16 and has since written everything from ad copy and political mailers to a screenplay for DreamWorks, which earned him membership in the Writers Guild of America. Along the way he had a career in professional motorsports, worked with the U.S. Women’s Olympic Volleyball program, managed two of the entertainment industry’s most acclaimed screenwriting programs, and worked as a bar bouncer when that’s what it took to keep the wolf from the door.
No longer the handsome devil he once was, he decided against posting a picture, even though using an old one might boost sales.
Thanks to Cynthia for inviting me to do this guest post, which is particularly special because, although I’ve had success at many other types of writing, PUBLIC ENEMIES is my first novel, and this is my very first chance to discuss how it came to be.
Although neither paranormal fantasy nor historical romance, PUBLIC ENEMIES shares one thing in common with many books reviewed and discussed here: a young woman caught up in an important struggle. However, Crystal Dickerson, an ambitious but principled young talk show host on a small independent radio station, isn’t struggling with zombies or vampires or paranormal elites. Instead, she’s unexpectedly caught up in an historic struggle for the future of America.
The idea for the book came out of my participation in a citizen’s group fighting overdevelopment in our local community. One night driving home from yet another city council meeting I realized that the developers and their council puppets that run our city didn’t fear anything. Our referendum and initiative petition drives kept forcing public votes, which they kept losing, yet they forged ahead, each time tweaking their plans just enough to force us into another arduous ballot fight or expensive litigation, which they also kept losing. Just as in Washington, nothing seemed to deter them, nothing pried them loose from the grip of special interests. Then I thought, “Well, everybody is afraid of getting shot.”
Of course, in a real world civilized society governed by the rule of law with a functioning judicial system, disgruntled folks can’t just go around knocking off politicians with whom they disagree. But the famous question, “What if?” is the birth mother of fiction. What if a hooker picked up in Hollywood turns out to be someone special, and the guy who did the picking up is really Prince Charming? What if a cute little extraterrestrial accidentally gets stranded in your back yard? Or, what if someone started dishing out vigilante justice to corrupt politicians?”
In a flash the idea for the novel congealed. In Hollywood movie terms it would be DEATH WISH (or DEXTER) meets NETWORK. What if a vigilante set out to administer justice to those so financially powerful and politically connected that they were exempt from the law, beyond the reach of the formal justice system?
The question, “Do the ends justify the means?” always hangs on the perceived merits of whatever the end is. Mere assassinations alone would not be enough to sustain reader interest, or make a plausible case why some portion of a fictional public might embrace this kind of vigilante justice. On the other hand, for years polls have shown that an increasing number of people feel the country is headed in the wrong direction. Naturally, folks differ about exactly what’s wrong and how to fix it, but this still prompted me to examine various reforms that have been suggested to improve our political system.
And thus was born PUBLIC ENEMIES, in which an elusive domestic terrorist using the alias Tom Paine attempts to force enactment of Constitutional amendments he calls “The Second Bill of Rights.” But unlike terrorists who aim for mass casualties, Paine carefully targets only those he considers “the real Public Enemies” — politicians, banksters, lobbyists, and the heads of sinister corporations. By selecting Crystal’s show to communicate his demands, Paine thrusts her into a spotlight she’s not yet fully prepared for, and into conflict with both FBI Agent Darren Medlin, charged with stopping Paine, and entrenched special interests who stand to lose if the proposed amendments are adopted.
Writing the book took a long time, largely because it was hard to explore these complex issues without interrupting the narrative pace or interfering with the emotional connection for the reader. Ultimately the issues shaped the characters, set the stage for crucial decisions each has to make, and provided a terrific vehicle for developing the romantic and professional relationship between Crystal and Agent Medlin. In the end, they become co-co-protagonists. Neither one can succeed or maintain their principles without help from the other.
The professional editor I hired, Hillel Black, called a late draft “fascinating and impressive.” I hope you find the premise intriguing enough to warrant reading, and agree with him when you’re done. I’m particularly interested in what female readers have to say about how Crystal is portrayed, the growth of her character, and how she deals with issues on many different levels. Hopefully I did this well. Of course, I’m also interested in response to the book as a whole.