My new novel is the quintessential Washington, DC book.
At the climax to Patchworks, hundreds of federal workers stream from their offices, urged on by the sound of a screaming alarm.
They gather on a grassy knoll near the National Mall, some of them leaning on one another, some of them sobbing, others in stony, silent shock. All of them are puzzled by the trauma they’ve just been through.
What trauma, exactly, have they just been through?
Before I answer, I have to tell you that Patchworks isn’t a dark tragedy—not just a dark tragedy. In fact much of the story moves along with an incredible lightness and sense of humor. It’s a comedy, a very human office satire about the ordinary bureaucrats who work for us in the federal government. In this case, in the Bureau of Government Intelligence and Execution: BOGIE
- It’s about the grizzled old pro teaching the interns to score a free lunch at the “Fed Buffet.”
- It’s about the mid-level boss who assigns her intern to plan her wedding, and the roguish office predator who corners her into an affair.
- It’s about the absentee office manager known best for clicking away from her duties on sharp high heels to attend high-level meetings while a tyrannical office deputy throws everyone else off balance with senseless new policies.
- It’s about the shredder guy whose name nobody knows and a security chief who stuffs his feet into dainty loafers to investigate federal employees over expired passwords and connives to join the federal bowling league when the young bucks refuse to let him in.
- It’s about the federal softball league and bowling league and the gambling that goes on there.
- And, finally, it’s about congress and the K St. lobby and the NRA, which brings us back to the point of the tragedy and the federal workers gathered there on the grassy knoll outside their building at the climax to Patchworks.
- Because the story is also about the young father Manny Teague and his twins victimized by a shooting at their school.
And about an armed intruder moving through the corridors of BOGIE, blasting the cube farm to smithereens while sirens scream overhead, federal workers cowering under desks, behind flowerpots, behind anything they can find to stay alive during yet another mad shooting spree in America.
Suddenly the fire alarm goes off. What to do?
Do you continue cowering there behind whatever flimsy cover you’ve found and risk suffocation by smoke? Being roasted alive?
Or do you risk gunfire to flee a burning building?
What to do?
So Patchworks is about retaliation by an ordinary citizen for the horrendous crime visited upon him because the government has failed to take responsible action to reduce incidents of gun violence in America.
And this quintessentially DC book, with a climax out there on the National Mall and further up in town on K St. among the lawyers and lobbyists getting lunch on a warm fall day, is also a quintessentially American book.
Because the constant threat of gun violence is a uniquely American thing. And the choices I give my characters at the climax and throughout the book are the same choices we make today.
And not just those of us here, but our children as well.
Thanks to the Patrick Henry Library in Vienna for hosting myself and seven authors to celebrate Indie Author Day earlier today. Here’s how I described my latest novel. A PDF of these remarks is at Indie Author Day Remarks.