Fiction on the Edge

Fiction on the Edge

I wrote a novel that tests certain boundaries. The wokes hate it. Here’s the lowdown.

If you’re involved in the writing world, even the world of “edgy” crime fiction, you’re aware of certain unwritten—so to speak—rules. You can write about violence and perversion in just as much detail as your imagination and language skills can conjure; you can write about rape, assassination, torture, terrorism, “hate crimes”—name it; you can be as degenerate, cynical, and downright psychopathic as you like.

But what you can never do, if you don’t want to be met with deafening silence—or be called a racist, bigot, or whatever-phobe—is show sympathy for the folks who find themselves “on the wrong side of history.” You know the folks I mean. The MAGA-hat crowd. The “bitter clingers.” The uncultured, conservative, white working class.

Well, maybe you can show sympathy for these folks, but your overall tone had better be one of disapproval. Your MAGA-hat characters had better, by the end of your story, either have a come-to-Jesus moment, and realize they only opposed gun confiscation and reparations because of their own insecurities, or crash and burn in a manner Whoopie Goldberg would applaud.

Your MAGA-hatters can’t just exist as they actually do exist, as real people with real reasons for their passions and prejudices.

And you had better not imply that, when all is said and done, these folks may be right.

In the writing world, even the world of “edgy” crime fiction, that is a mortal sin.

My Sin

In my newly released work of noir, Roots Down to Hell, I examine modern society from the above-described, forbidden perspective. The setup for the story is that a deeply dysfunctional, fatherless young man—an “incel,” in the vernacular—found his way to an approximation of normalcy after being mentored by a hard-nosed, far-right uncle.

Eventually this young man—Kevin Chapman, by name—meets and marries a not-particularly-attractive college girl.

Everything is going great until Kevin’s wife absorbs certain attitudes from her instructors, and begins to see her husband’s maleness and whiteness as evil. A very real phenomenon.

Kevin’s wife not only learns to hate him, she secretly aborts his child and becomes a lesbian. And she unloads this on him all at once, when Kevin comes home to find her packed up and leaving him.

And, well, at this point, Kevin loses it.

And now we’re in the world of noir. A world of desperation and moral dilemmas, where right and wrong won’t come into focus, and readers find themselves rooting for the criminals and fearing the good guys.

Except in Roots Down to Hell criminals and good guys have another dimension, because we’re no longer in the social environment in which classic noir was created. We’re in a fractured, polarized society, defined by diametrically opposite moral visions.

Why the Wokes Hate It

Depending on where you’re coming from, a work like Roots Down to Hell can either be a cool drink on a parched throat, or a glass of cold water in the face.

As a somewhat humorous example of the latter case, a sweet, apparently liberal book blogger who goes by The Reading Wife just wanted to read some nice, safe crime fiction before bed. Ever so innocently, she dipped into my novel, and by the end of Chapter One her brain was in smoldering ruins. As she explains:

Roots Down to Hell is> one of the most egregiously insulting pieces of trash that I've ever read ... If you can make it through the first chapter of pure hate speech, violence, making fun of domestic abuse victims, senior citizens, liberals, and sexist insults, you’re certainly ahead of me!

But, in the course of her review, The Reading Wife gives the game away:

The disgusting part about this is we all know someone who talks and thinks exactly like our main character. Which makes this even worse in my opinion. Why is trying to glorify someone like that within this story?

Ah, so I accurately depict a particular, ostensibly evil mindset. A mindset so common that everyone knows someone like this. But what I fail to do is moralize about the mindset. I leave it to the reader to arrive at his or her own conclusions.

You know who else does this? James M. Cain in The Postman Always Rings Twice, Elliot Chaze in Black Wings Has My Angel, John D. MacDonald in Soft Touch, Scott Smith in A Simple Plan In short, every author of every proper work of noir since noir has existed.

The difference, of course, is that we are in a brave new woke world, and murder and avarice are no longer mortal sins. The only real crime, for the woke, is thought crime.

Honest Responses

There’s no denying that this novel is rude and crude. The people in the story aren’t running for city council, they’re speaking and thinking the way certain people do in real life, in the cabs of pickup trucks, in unguarded conversations over beers, or in the privacy of their own thoughts.

If you aren’t like The Reading Wife, and would like a break from neutered, corporate-approved storytelling, Roots Down to Hell might feel to you like a cool drink on a parched throat.

There are, in fact, readers who don’t think “I’m offended!” constitutes critical analysis, and their responses better reflect the quality and content of the book.

A three-star rater summarizes:

fun, darkly humorous, criminal adventure here - with our murderous anti-hero getting into more and more trouble, which he might just deserve. A fat private detective, a Christian girlfriend, a cat, some people who might be in the drug trade, a trailer-dwelling single mom, they all have questions. Quick, pretty well paced, it's sneaky as it develops sympathy for our "hero." It goes in directions I did not expect, and it might just be poking fun at everyone, including me.

Another three-star rater states:

The ‘hero’ - better label him as the lead character, given some of his actions - is an interesting construct, with a propensity to dig himself (sometimes literally - you’ll see when you read it) into more and more trouble. The author paints a believable character, a construction worker in rural U.S.A., who is both unlucky and potentially dangerous. The reader will not condone some of his actions but, at the same time, will be rooting for him … I will be seeking more from this author.

And the four- and five-star raters say things like, “The ending just blew my mind,” and, “Once I started reading it, I could not put it down,” and, “The writing of this novel is excellent from a writer's point of view as well as a reader's, and this is a joy to experience.”

And, of course, some great writers, who aren’t afraid of the perpetually offended, have said nice things. Crime fiction legend Les Edgerton compares Roots Down to Hell favorably to A Simple Plan, and New York Times bestseller Vincent Zandri says this book is “stunningly noir,” and, “one of those novels you’ll devour in one or two sittings.”

Give It a Try

I’m not saying it’s your duty to get and review Roots Down to Hell. I’m just saying that by engaging with it, and leaving your honest impressions (preferably on Amazon), you are in some small way changing the culture, broadening the scope of public discourse, and helping open up the field for others who want to disrupt neo-Marxist thought-policing.

All that, and what should be the real point—you get a unique, intense reading experience.

Go here to check it out.

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