Monday, 21 November 2016

Dec 19 is the real election - Faithless Elector, a novel

  • In Faithless Elector I took as given the respected place voting and democratic accountability held.  Was I wrong?
Those familiar with the novel, Faithless Elector, know that its fictional conspiracy gathers steam (and bodies) beginning now in the days following the Nov. 8 general election.

When I became acquainted with the intricacies and vulnerabilities in the Electoral College system for electing the president, I saw an opportunity to write a good story, one I hoped would resonate with readers. Even as I began writing it, I was alive to the potential criticism that I was trafficking in scare-mongering, potentially trivializing something I regarded as important.  I knew I should pay attention and choose my steps carefully.

The core of what I hoped would resonate most strongly with readers, and what animated me, was the appalling nature of an attack on the election process.  I hoped the motivation of the main characters--to stop the plot and preserve our democracy (and their own lives)--would be firm ground; that readers would share the characters' incredulity, anger and disgust; that there would be verisimilitude in people risking their reputations and their lives in defense of the defining aspect of American life--voting.  So, for the premise of the thriller, I took as given the respected place voting and democratic accountability held in American life.

I find that my views on the sacredness of the franchise are not widely shared.  On the right, in approved campaign ads during the lead-up to the election, there were wide-spread claims that the vote would be rigged. Now, on the left and right, there are calls to coerce Electors to switch their supposed votes.

I find that my efforts not to trivialize the electoral process in the fictional realm have been trammeled by events in the real world, which make a mockery of what I had hoped was our collective faith and trust. Calder, Imogen Trager, Matthew Yamashita--characters in Faithless Elector--feel the injustice bone deep, not for one candidate or the other, but for the legitimacy of the government and the office of the president.

The more I read and hear these days, the more their belief seems comically pollyanna.  I find myself bewildered by what standards and norms we will abandon, what bridges we seem willing to burn.

I'm pleased that reviewers have noted the novel has no axe to grind, and indeed that the book works on a moral level.  Faithless Elector is no polemic against the Electoral College, nor a justification of it.  The defining principles are (I hope) those of good story-telling.  The villains are those who seek to exploit a weakness in the process and subvert the election process as we know it. Their goal is understandable, if evil.  I had hoped the theme of ordinary people fighting for something important while risking their lives would have been a bigger part of what people liked about the book.

In a way, I'm glad I wrote the novel long before any of what is currently happening came to pass.  I think the cynicism of the past months might have jaundiced my views, made me question the validity of some of the characters' reactions, skew their motivations.  It is certainly coloring my perceptions and writing as I finish off the sequel, Dark Network, which picks up the pieces of Faithless Elector.

I have chosen a quote from Adam Smith, as the epigram for Dark Network, one I think resonates all too well with the current myopic climate:  "Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience."

I am pleased the book is doing well with readers and reviewers; that it delivers on the taut thrill-ride; that it delivers well-rounded, believable characters.  Still, I find myself wondering if, as Calder and Imogen run in terror from the conspirators, are any readers thinking, "yeah, but they're suckers for even caring"?

For a primer on issues relating to the Electoral College and Faithless Electors, click here

 Publishers Weekly calls the novel Faithless Elector a “fast-moving topical thriller.”  Its “surprising twists add up to a highly suspenseful read.”   
For a full list of reviews, check out     
The sequel, Dark Network, is coming soon.

Faithless Elector, by James McCrone is available through Amazon.
If you live in Philadelphia, pick up a copy at Head House Books -or- Penn Book Center

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