All fiction writers would like our novels to be considered timeless, so when we incorporate historical events or trends into our stories, we often fret that although that makes a story seem more currently relevant, our books could be considered “dated” as the years pass.
However, with my Sam Westin mysteries, I have found that hasn’t been a problem. And that is, frankly, disturbing. My first book, Endangered, was published a decade ago. Its theme of the media and the public inflaming each other to the detriment of truth is still all too relevant, as we have all watched Twitter and Facebook and even television channels spread misinformation to capture the headlines and the public’s attention on a daily basis.
The second book, Bear Bait, originally published in 2012, features armed, racist, anti-government movements intent on perpetrating violent acts against government employees across the nation. Hmmm. Have we seen anything like that lately?
The third book, Undercurrents, includes two parallel stories, one in the Galapagos Islands and the other in Arizona, both with villains fueled by malice toward foreigners coming into their countries. That anti-foreigner attitude clearly hasn’t changed, as our recent leadership seemed hell bent on building a wall on our southern border and tried to prevent travelers from Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
I did manage to more or less escape the political arena for the fourth book, Backcountry, which deals with the effects of the murders of two women hikers. I say “more or less” because the story does include a lot of issues with guns in the wilderness. Sadly, murder is a recurring theme throughout human history.
Then, after a trip to the aforementioned wall along the U.S./Mexico border, I just had to write about the crimes, the environmental destruction, and the ruin of so many lives and livelihoods in that area in Borderland. And all those issues will no doubt affect Americans for decades to come.
I’ve also written the Run for Your Life trilogy (Race with Danger, Race to Truth, Race for Justice), about a champion teenage endurance racer who is living under an assumed identity because of the unsolved murders of her parents, who worked for a pharmaceutical company that supplies vaccines for a continuously evolving virus. Yeesh. I wrote those books between 2015 and 2018.
What does it all mean? That Americans, or maybe even humans, are incapable of evolving? Are we stuck in some sort of endless loop, doomed to forever repeat the cycles of hate and violence? Whether we’re discussing sports or religion or politics or wearing masks in a pandemic, we can’t seem to get beyond some sort of “us against them” attitude. It’s all a bit depressing. But it’s also good fodder for fiction.
And then, just yesterday, I watched a woman become vice president for the first time 100 years after women won the vote in this country. That milestone has been slow in coming, but it offers a spark of hope for the future. Which is also good fodder for fiction.