Killer Politics: A Satirical Tale of Homegrown Terrorism is laced with razor-edged political satire aimed at a thinly veiled Trump-like president. Inspired by President Tower’s divisive rhetoric, Hoss, a white supremacist and terrorist, launches a bid to incite martial law and defend the “American way of life.” Feeling threatened by increasing diversity, he teams up with a “Most Wanted” terrorist. They ruthlessly employ off-the-shelf products like drones, computers, and guns in attacks on “soft targets”—a rock concert, the food supply, the electrical grid, an aging reservoir with people living downstream. People die, and pressure builds to bring the terrorists to justice, with a rogue FBI agent in relentless pursuit.
Tense, fast-paced, and far too realistic, one reviewer said Killer Politics mirrors the current political landscape. Thrilling and suspenseful with just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek humor. A must-read!
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
Norway, Kansas was so small that when my family of eight left, the town’s population dropped 10 percent. I was 14, the eldest offspring of a dairy farmer and a mother who proudly called herself a housewife. The 50s were a much different time, of course, much more trusting for one thing. When the polio vaccine came out, we literally cheered the news and happily lined up.
While I respect how hard dairy farmers work, milking cows by age 10 taught me this: Don’t milk cows at any age. Happenstance found me working on the student newspaper in college, and it took little time to realize that journalism was so much fun, getting paid bordered on larceny. Now, unfortunately, that essential profession is so beaten up – financially and too often ethically – that it may be about as much fun as milking cows.
I bailed out of journalism in 2002. Soon bored, I joined the Transportation Security Administration, where doing employee communications was more interesting than fun. But I did get an eye-opening exposure to the threat of domestic terrorism, which has helped inform two novels.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
Killer Politics: A Satirical Tale of Homegrown Terrorism has a Trump-like president who inspires a white supremacist to attack civilians in a bid for civil war and martial law. I self-published it in late 2019, when autocratic threats were filtering through divisive rhetoric. Now, such threats are much too real.
Killer Politics is a stand-alone book. It is also a sequel to Blending In: A Tale of Homegrown Terrorism, published in mid-2017. Briefly, the backstory there is my retirement to-do list had shrunk to cleaning the basement and I desperately needed a writing project.
You might remember when three people were killed at Jewish centers in Overland Park, Kansas in 2014. That tragedy prompted the thought that most mass killers – whether terrorists or motivated by hate – are social misfits. Seldom are they well-trained or think much about escape. So the question: How much worse would attacks be if killers – more specifically, terrorists – were well-trained, organized, and took pains to avoid capture. In Blending In, the attacks are worse than we have seen since 9/11.
In that book, I introduce a thinly veiled President Tower, in part for comic relief from the grim story line. In Killer Politics, the role of President Tower is substantially expanded, as is his influence on the terrorists.
How do you create your characters?
I’d like to include plot as well as characters and rephrase and broaden the question: How has your fiction been shaped by the inevitable blend of personal experience and imagination?
As mentioned, I was raised rural. Hunting and fishing, working with equipment and tools. Learning to dread the vagaries of the farm economy and the weather. I was about 12 when Dad, his hired man and I took refuge in the pickup and helplessly watched a summer’s work disappear in minutes as large hail stripped a cornfield down to its stalks. Seemingly, Dad immediately moved on: “Well. It’s time to go to supper.” My parents relocated to southwest Missouri a few years later. Time passed and caretaking visits grew more frequent as they lived into their 90s. In reality, then, I never totally left rural life, and have watched small towns shrink, more people struggle paycheck-to-paycheck, blue-collar anger grow.
That travel was mainly from the nation’s capital, where I reported on Congress and federal agencies, the White House and politics. Over the years, the political parties have turned into hostile camps, entrenchment has replaced compromise, and government policies and private sector practices have too often failed too many people. There’s blame enough for all, but add the unprecedented divisiveness of the past four years and the result is a nation at critical mass.
I drew on those contrasting rural and urban experiences and on those at TSA to develop the characters of Killer Politics. There is the Trump-like president, as mentioned, and a Most Wanted terrorist with urban roots, but the linchpin is the white supremacist. He’s a working man, struggling to get along, and seeing what he considers his birthright as a white American being stripped away. He cannot accept inevitable, changing demographics, the emergence of a multi-racial, multi-cultural society. He blames liberal judges and faceless bureaucrats and a feckless Congress for changes he cannot control. And he is determined to recapture how things were.
The terrorists of Killer Politics make up a small cell, the kind law enforcement hates because they are so hard to spot. And that becomes all the more difficult because they use easy-to-obtain, off-the-shelf products as weapons – drones, contaminants, computers, guns of course – against equally commonplace targets. The plot moves from attacks on a high-hazard dam with people living downstream and on the food supply to the electrical grid and a rock concert.
It is, however, a plot laced with political satire, starring a president who offers oh so much.
What do you like to read?
History and biography are my staples, and favorite authors include Walter Isaacson and Erik Larson. For lighter fare, I like C.J. Box and his Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett series, and now and again need to pick up Carl Hiaasen for a whacky fix. Traveling by Amtrak recently, Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing was a great break from passing wheat fields and pasture. And playing catch up, as usual, I’m now reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.