Pius Politics

I mentioned politics in the last post, and I meant to really get on that a little more, but I sort of drifted away from politics and into my general temperament, which impacts my politics, but doesn’t spell out what the bleep they are, or how they show up in my novel, A Pius Man — which centers around Pope Pius XII as a MacGuffin.
As I said before, I lean libertarian-right. More laws just means that the government can screw you over in more and more various and sundry ways, so I’m wary on laws for the “common good.” I won’t say kill all the lawyers, but I think tort reform can do that easily enough. Unfortunately, like most people, I’m a bit schizophrenic. I dislike the premise of feeding Moloch, but there are certain people I really want to remove themselves from the gene pool. I’m a New Yorker who thinks everyone should own a handgun, a rifle and a shotgun. I think drugs a really, really bad idea, but hey, legalize them — the more people who get high, the more Darwin awards we can hand out…. except for PCP, not even drug dealers will sell that crap anymore, as a general rule.
Like libertarians, there are a lot of things I don’t personally believe in, and wouldn’t recommend, but I’m leaving the fate of your own soul between you and God. Enjoy.
I generally despise politics with the burning passion of a thousand suns. The government should leave me alone unless I need actual aid — like someone has broken into my house and I’ve run out of bullets.
So, of course, since I truly loathe politics, A Pius Man happens to be the most politically charged book I’ve ever written. With the overall topic of Pius XII, I do take a side. I believe my conclusions are obvious based on my research. For those of you who have read The Irrational Atheist, you probably have an idea about that punchline.
However, the political portions of the book are discussions, not rants. And the politics are driven more by the characters than by me.

For example…

Sean A.P. Ryan. Mercenary. Believes in the free market system, heavy weaponry, and grew up in Hollywood: therefore he has lived his entire life swimming out of a Leftist cesspool, and dove into the chlorinated waters of libertarianism. When queried on his political affiliations, he would say, “I believe people should be able to own marijuana and machine guns. I will laugh at the marijuana crowd, but if I have my guns, I’m happy.”

Scott Murphy. He’s a spy who huts down terrorists for a living. His politics: “I believe in the power of waterboarding. But I’d sooner talk terrorists to death. It’s more painful in the long run. When you can talk them into revealing everything they know, kill them, move up the chain of command. Repeat until they’re willing to be peaceful, or they are peacefully dead.” He’s an accountant by training, so his first thought is how to steal terrorist money.

Giovanni Figlia. Cop. His father was blown up by a Red Army faction in the 1980s, so he has a grudge against extreme, gun-toting Leftists. Aside from that, his politics are: “I have to protect the most powerful religious leader on the planet, and he insists on pissing off nearly one-third of the world’s population. Leave me alone and let me do my job.”

Pope Pius XIII (Born: Joshua Kutjok): Hard right-wing. Has all but declared war on the Sudan. Thoroughly dislikes tyrannies, which means North Korea and China dislike him right back. “I am against abortion, gays being married in my church, and contraceptives are against the religion. Then again, you should only have sex with the person you marry, so abortion and contraceptives shouldn’t be needed. However, my homeland of Sudan is going through thirty years of religious and ethnic warfare, I have better things to do than deal with whining hedonists!”

Father Francis Williams, S.J.: “I’m a Jesuit transfering into the Opus Dei. I speak six languages and I can kill people with my rosary beads … what was your question?”

Maureen McGrail. Interpol. “I’m too busy being shot at to have a political opinion. Leave me alone.”

Secret Service Agent Wilhelmina Goldberg: As a special adviser to anyone who wants the Secret Service to audit their security, she has been all over, and her political opinion is simple. “At the end of the day, America looks good by comparison.”

The above characters have more influence over how the political discussions go than I do. So, the topics will be… interesting.

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Alt-Pius Politics

I actually did this post once, long ago, when dinosaurs walked the Earth and I thought there was some semblance of sanity kicking around in politics, and would be back in popular fashion after Obama left office.

Nope. Sorry. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Recently, we had the meltdown of “China Mike” Glyer and File 770 after Larry Correia took him to the woodshed. We had a Bernie Sanders psycho shoot up some Republican politicians at a ball game, and democrats trying to simultaneously 1) Disavow all responsibility for it 2) Blame Trump, 3) Try to blame guns for the shooting and 4) Laugh at shooting Republicans. All in the same week.So, no, to quote Chico Marx, “everybody knows that there is a no sanity clause” … especially in politics.

Myself? Most days, I’m somewhere between small-l libertarian or conservative. Most of the time, my politics boil down to “leave me alone, and no one gets hurts.”

But I’m not really Alt-right. I’m certainly not control Left. There are days I’m almost Ctrl+A, Del. Because, good God, “kill ’em all and let God sort them out” really does sound like an action plan.
But no, I’m not a nihilist. I’m at once too Catholic and not energetic enough. Though the world continues to show me just how justified I am in my borderline misanthropic tendencies. I mean, let’s face it, the standard response to a terrorist response should be a calm, reasoned investigation, finding the people behind it — the planners, the money men, etc — and kill every last one of them in horrific ways that will make anyone who has similar ideas think three or four times about doing the same thing ever again. Heck, if I were in charge after 9-11 … well, I’m relatively certain that I wouldn’t be as calm and as collected as Tom Kratman’s response in A Desert Called Peace. And that series includes torturing journalists to death for supporting terrorists, and mining the perimeter of a city, starving them out, including the women and children.
As I’ve said elsewhere, my overwhelming sin is wrath.
But this is why I don’t write anything like that. I’m depressed enough by this insanity we call reality on a daily basis, I don’t necessarily need it in my day to day life. I’m already depressive. So I don’t write nihilistic crap, I don’t read it, and I’m easily annoyed with people who see nihilism as some sort of superior art form. I’m also Catholic, nihilism isn’t our beat.
Oddly enough, I’m probably more of a romantic than anything else. Pick … almost any of my books, sooner or later, you’ll probably trip over a Thermopylae situation of 100-1 odds, love conquering all, and righteous fury is a positive tool for going just that little bit farther as you’re being beaten to death by a 2×4.
…Hell, forget book series, you could say that summarizes several plot points in A Pius Man alone.
I guess I’m just an idealist who hates that the world wouldn’t live up to the standard of. … anything.

But, yeah. My politics don’t lend itself to nihilism, though there are days that I think “genocide” is a viable military option. Thankfully, no one ever listens to me.

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A Pius Man, Chapter 2: A Pious Mercenary

Here we go again. We now continue with your free look at the new edition of chapter 2 for A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller.

By now, you’re probably well aware my yanking this from the shelves when I signed with Silver Empire Publishing.

But right now, it’s back on Amazon.

And if you’re new here, and have no idea what A Pius Man is … It ate up ten years of my life, and the best use I have ever gotten out of my Masters in History outside of writing biographies of older vampires.

But here you go, here’s the next chapter. When you’re hooked, by all means, order it.

You’ll note this one is a little shorter than usual. Sorry about that. But a little Sean goes a long way.

Anyway, there will be more to come on A Pius Man. You have been warned.

Chapter II:

A Pious Mercenary

Even in Rome, there were not that many people conscious so early in the morning—just people awakened by the explosion, firemen, and a scattering of pedestrians.

One pedestrian was a jogger, moving along the street casually. His gray jogging suit didn’t stand out at all, and his build was unremarkable underneath all the cloth. Even his face was covered by the hood. He was short, only 5’6”. The only other detail the observant person could pinpoint would be the occasional flash of bright, electric blue eyes.

The jogger slowed as he approached the Vatican, looking over the scene of devastation. He gave a low whistle and pulled back his hood, revealing his pale skin and raven-black hair.

He gave a small, quirky smile. The scene was amusing for multiple reasons, the foremost among them was that a hotel had been wrecked, and he hadn’t been responsible for it. For once.

He murmured, in an almost unaccented voice, “Someone had fun.”

He scanned the crowd, more interested in the people around the crime scene than destruction itself. It wasn’t even all that impressive, as far as destruction went—the only thing really damaged was the hotel room window. And the car.

Well, if you don’t count the body. But body bags aren’t that expensive in Italy, are they?

One person slipped through the crowd. A figure in black, only a little taller than the jogger himself.

Well, if anyone is going to know what’s going on here…“Ahoy,” the jogger hailed, speaking only slightly above conversational volume.

Father Frank Williams heard and looked in his direction, smiling as he headed towards the jogger. “How are you, Sean?”

The jogger named Sean shrugged. “I’m doing well, though I’m wondering why you weren’t at our usual meeting. I waited twenty minutes before I started by myself. After a while, I feel ridiculous firing off all of those bullets solo.”

Father Frank nodded. “Understandable, considering your profession. What are you calling yourself this week, a prostitute?”

The jogger shook his head. “No, a mercenary. I’m not exactly a big operation like Black Lake, but I count.”

The man in black cocked his head. “Black Lake?”

Sean furrowed his brows. “It is Black Lake, isn’t it? Blackpool…? Blackthorn…?” he thought a moment, and then his bright eyes lit up and he snapped his fingers. “Blackwater! That’s the name. The mercenary company.”

The priest shrugged, and blatantly ignored that Blackwater had changed its name years ago. “Sounds better than ‘personal demolition unit’.”

Sean rolled his eyes, the electric-blue orbs looking like circular lightning. “Again, I’m not quite that bad. I’ve only killed a few… dozen … people? I think? I figure I manage to kill a few more, I win a set of steak knives.”

Father Frank was uncertain about whether or not he was joking. “In which case, I will let you get on with your day.” He turned away, then paused, and looked back to Sean. “By the way, I should probably mention, I may not be able to train with you for the next few days.”

Sean raised a brow. “Really? What’s up?”

Father Frank looked back towards the shattered car and the broken person. “Oh, just some business I’ll have to attend to, that’s all.”

Sean nodded. “Okay, then, I’ll see you around.”

The jogger watched the priest wander off, and then turned back to the devastation. He caught a whiff of something odd, and blinked. He looked up to the ruined window, studying the frame, and the faint, lingering cloud of smoke wafting away from it, like smoke at a fireworks display.

Someone used black powder on this? Wow, talk about bombs on the cheap. What did they do, dissect a box of firecrackers?

Sean shook his head. He was suddenly glad that he had left his bag full of guns at the studio; otherwise, he would probably be in even bigger trouble than usual.

He glanced down at the car, studying at the short woman Father Frank had been talking with. She wasn’t too bad-looking, even if she was a few inches short of being a dwarf—and not the kind with a beard and a battle axe. Her eyebrows hair was were a light brown, but her hair was overdone with gold highlights deliberately put in by some hairstylist who may have been holding a grudge.

Then again, what do I know? Sean thought. I’m from California, a silicon valley that has nothing to do with computer chips.

The short woman walked through the crowd with little difficulty as she followed the taller man in a dark suit. Sean quickly flipped up his hood again, hiding his features.

The last thing he wanted to do was get in the way of the head of Vatican security when he was in a bad mood—and having someone land on one’s car was more than sufficient to put anyone in a bad mood.

I wonder if I should make Gianni’s life easier, get involved.

Sean considered it, but only briefly. His resume was cluttered with inconvenient events—explosions, assaults, gunfights, and a body count that would have counted as mass murder if they weren’t all in self-defense—and offering assistance would pretty much ruin Figlia’s day.

After all, it was bad enough that the same person who had slaughtered dozens and had leveled millions of dollars in property damage was also, at that very moment, employed by the Pope.

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A Pius Man, Chapter 1: A Pious Cop

Yes, you’re reading this right. You’re about to get a look at the first, redone chapter of A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller (The Pius Trilogy) (Volume 1).

You might remember that I pulled this one from the shelves when I signed with Silver Empire Publishing.

And right now, it’s up for order from Amazon.And if you have no idea what A Pius Man is … wow, you have to be new here. It ate up ten years of my life, and the best use I have ever gotten out of my Masters in History…. okay, that, and writing the biographies of older vampires.

But here you go, here’s the first chapter. When you’re hooked, order it. Or preorder it. Or something.

Anyway, there will be more to come on A Pius Man in the coming days. You have been warned.

Chapter I:

A Pious Cop

Giovanni Figlia stood in the lobby of Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino Airport in a solid black polo shirt and a black suit jacket. The color scheme made him seem shorter than his 5’9” height. His hand ached for his Beretta to reassure himself that he was still armed, but instead he ran his fingers through his thick dark hair.

It must be something about Americans that brings out the Clint Eastwood in people.

He scanned the crowd for his target, comparing each face with the photograph he had memorized down to the dots on the color printout: hazel eyes, brown hair, Germanic cheekbones, not bad-looking. Wilhelmina Goldberg, a former member of the Americans’ National Security Agency, with degrees in esoteric languages and mathematics, had transferred into her current profession some time ago, and was supposed to be good at it.

Now all I have to do is hunt her down.

Looking for me?”

Figlia looked down. Three feet away from him stood a woman just under five feet tall. He recognized her as Goldberg; she wore black jeans and a tight-fitting, long-sleeved turtleneck. Over one shoulder she carried a duffel bag as large as she was. She also dragged a wheeled suitcase as big as Figlia.

Io ho pensato che Lei ha…supposed to be in formal attire,” he said in his own combination of Italian and English. He glanced at her. “Not attracting attention.”

She replied in crisp, formal Italian. “On the former, you thought wrong. As for the latter…” she looked down at her chest and shot him a look. “If 28B passes for attention-getting in Italy, you people need to open a Playboy, pop a Viagra, and get a life.”

Giovanni Figlia stepped to one side. “This way?”

You lead. I don’t want you stepping on my equipment. You want this job done, we’ll need this intact.”

He led. Goldberg moved forward. “You’re Gianni, right?”

Mi chiamo Figlia, si.” I’m Figlia, yes.

I’m surprised,” she told him. “You’re the head of this outfit; why would you meet me?”

Figlia shrugged. “Because I like to get out of the office every once in a while. And we’ll be working together for a while. We might as well get used to each other, starting now.”

Done. Where’s our first stop?”

The Vatican.” Figlia stepped around more passengers just getting in and made his way to the automatic doors. It was still dark outside, despite the fact that it was 6:30 in the morning.

What are you packing?” she asked.

Figlia blinked. “This is Italy. What do you think?”

Wilhelmina Goldberg rolled her eyes. “Beretta, then.” She looked around before answering. “I just got on a plane from Spain with security that’s a joke. I’m carrying a Sig and they didn’t even notice. Forgive me for wondering about Europeans.” She pronounced it Euro-peons. “We’re not exactly in a safe business.”

When Giovanni Figlia stopped at a four-door silver Jetta, Goldberg shrugged. “Not a bad little toy. You own it?”

Depends on my wife.” He smiled. “Come on, I’ll load the bags.”

Goldberg laughed. “No way in hell, buddy. I’ll manage. You just start this thing up.”

Once she loaded herself into the passenger seat, he sped away.

You know, I’m halfway surprised that you carry outside of your target area.”

Figlia glanced at her briefly. “You expected me to live on a hundred-acre leash? Check my gun at the colonnade?”

Given your line of work, I’m surprised they allow you to have a gun.”

Don’t worry, we’re allowed to shoot back. There are some situations where force is required. Mind if I ask you something?”

She shrugged. “Whatever.”

What’s your religion?”

I’m Jewish…Orthodox,” she added as an afterthought. “My parents say an Orthodox Jew is a ‘real Jew’ … you don’t want to hear what they have to say about the others.” Goldberg shrugged. “So, tell me a little bit about what you do here.”

They continued to discuss their mutual professions, the conversation punctuated long enough for her to look out at the city and take an occasional photo with her iPhone. He began to decelerate as he followed the Tiber River and hung a right onto the Via della Conciliazione, making a right in front of the colonnade, onto Via Ottaviano.

It led right to their target, the Vatican.

At that moment, one of the buildings exploded in a massive fireball, dropping glass, brick and debris down upon their car in a shower of destruction. A moment later, another object smashed into the hood of Figlia’s car, smashing the windshield, and denting the hood in front of him.

Giovanni Figlia instinctively swerved away from the explosion, and braked hard. The object on his windshield stayed there.

After a few seconds, Goldberg and Figlia got out of the car and studied the scene, wondering if it was safe to go check the damage. She bounced up on her toes to check what had killed Figlia’s car. It was the body of a young-looking, olive-skinned male…without a face.

Between 25 and 35?” Figlia asked.

…Sounds like a serial-killer profile,” she answered.

Figlia grunted and again wanted to reach for his gun. He glanced at the short, pixie-like woman and muttered, “Damn Americans. Here for fifteen minutes and Dante’s Inferno rises to surface level.”

The only carabinieri in the area ran to the scene, leaving his motorcycle behind. He let out a small string of curses, ran back to his vehicle, and immediately radioed for help.

The police were the first responders, followed immediately by the fire department. The firemen quickly moved to douse the flames with the fire hose. Giovanni Figlia tackled the main man on the hose, grabbing him before he could attach the hose to its water supply.

What are you doing?” the fireman shouted. He tried to fight back, but Figlia had already locked one arm into place, totally immobilizing him.

You’re going to wash away all evidence of the bomb,” Figlia growled. “Use a fire extinguisher or buckets.”

The other firefighters didn’t know what to make of him. He was an utterly unremarkable fellow in basic black. With the addition of a white collar, he could have been wearing a priest’s uniform … if the material were better. He wasn’t even that big, but held the burliest member of their team immobile with minimal effort.

Figlia shoved the firefighter aside, and reached into his inner jacket pocket before someone shot up. He pulled out a wallet and flashed his identification, as well as his badge. “Commandatore Giovanni Figlia, Vatican’s Central Office of Vigilance. That body over there is dead, and not only is my car a secondary crime scene, do you see that line?” He pointed to a white painted line on the cobblestone street. “Sixty years ago, the Nazis put that line down to clearly mark the territory. This side, right now, is Rome.” He sidestepped to in front of his car and pointed toward the colonnade of St. Peter’s Basilica. “Where I’m standing now is Vatican City.”

Wilhelmina Goldberg laughed. “Now you see why American cops call firemen the evidence destruction unit.”

The fireman scowled at her. She was short, so she wasn’t a member of Figlia’s security force. Her dye job was obvious and ugly, so she wasn’t working for the Vatican. Her accent sounded more like American actors trying too hard to sound like she was from New York City, and so became a self-parody. “And what are you? His puttana?”

She shook her head, unconcerned as she reached into her pocket. “First of all, you’re thinking more like a Calabrese.” She pulled out a leather wallet of her own and flipped it open. “Second, I’m a consultant: Wilhelmina Goldberg of the United States Secret Service.”

Giovanni Figlia looked around frantically, hoping no one else would try to wash away the evidence. A shiny silver object caught his attention, and he narrowed his eyes, focusing on…the cover for a hotel serving tray?

And,” he continued, “the explosion radius extends into my jurisdiction. I have a body and half a crime scene over here—you only have half a crime scene, I win. I’ll head up there myself, if you don’t mind…and if you do, too bad. Frankly, if you’d like to do something useful, secure the street!”

Figlia caught a familiar sight at the edge of his peripheral vision. The black cassock of a priest was more than enough to identify him as such from thirty yards away. It looked like the priest gave the crowd more attention than he had given the scene of the crime, which was odd—most of the time, far too many people wanted to look at the destruction. At that distance, the only other detail he could make out was the man’s silver hair.

Padre! Venga, per favore!”

The priest looked up, then left, then right, and finally, he shrugged and stepped forward cautiously, eyeing the building as though he wanted to make sure it wouldn’t collapse.

What’s with the priest?” she asked, sotto voce.

He might be able to provide a barricade between you and the polizia when they arrive. Have him standing by ready to give the corpse last rites, while you snap photos of the body. I suspect we won’t get another chance for pictures after this.”

Goldberg gave him a look as though he had sprouted three heads. “You want a murder case?”

He flashed a Casanova grin. “I’m going to check the room. Stay close to the priest.”

She raised an eyebrow. Before she could make a scathing remark, Figlia bolted into the damaged hotel and flew up the stairs.

*

Wilhelmina Goldberg looked over her shoulder at the body-covered car, absentmindedly tapping her iPhone for photos. “And I thought this would be a nice, quiet little trip—some consulting, audit security, but no, I get the one cop on the planet who makes Hoover look mildly sane,” she muttered in English.

Excuse me,” came a gentle voice from right next to her, also speaking in English.

She adjusted her line of sight to the priest, only a foot away from her, and tried not to jump. Do priests in Rome get ninja training?

The priest was … odd. He had a piercing set of violet eyes. And while his hair was solid silver, there were only a few lines on his face, so he couldn’t have been older than forty. If she were sending out an APB or a BOLO for him, she would have actually said he was only about 5’6” – maybe 5’8”, she was looking up at him, and his shoulders were slumped.

Goldberg bunched her lips, trying to figure out how to speak to a priest over a corpse. “Uh. Hello …Father … could you wait a moment while I take a few pictures of this poor schlub?”

He nodded. “Of course. Are you a friend of Gianni’s?”

She shrugged and turned to the corpse. Goldberg twisted her lip and stepped around the priest to get back into the car. She slid onto the seat and clicked at the corpse through the windshield, getting every possible angle with her phone.

Click. “I’m a consultant.”

From … New York, I presume by the accent.” Click. There was another flash from the phone flash. “I grew up there … briefly. It’s an odd story.”

Click. “I don’t doubt it.” You’ve decided to spend the rest of your life without sex, so you must be odd somehow.

So what kind of consultant work do you do?”

Click. She checked the quality of the photos, and then slid out of the car. “Security.”

I’d ask how you know Figlia, she thought. But he called you Father without using a name, so I’m guessing he only knows you because of the outfit, and you only know of him because he’s papal security.

*

Ah. Of course,” the priest answered.

Commander Figlia wouldn’t hire out some lone American gun-toting security hack, he thought. You’re Secret Service, aren’t you? Not very talkative, either.

They turned the body over once she had taken all of the photos she needed.

The priest knew exactly who this man was, and knew him well—his entire life story, in fact. He had been raised as a red-diaper baby in a family loyal to the brigate rosso, the Italian Red Army.

He performed the last rites over the body, blessing him as he went on into the next world. Rest in peace, you schmuck.

*

Giovanni Figlia walked into what was left of the hotel room, and he took it in with a sweep of his eyes. On the floor was another dead man, a hole clearly visible under his chin. This second corpse—Gerrity, according to the hotel people he passed on his way up here—was on its back, hands out like a crucified martyr. Furniture had been scattered across the room, thrown against the wall, much of it shattered.

Figlia rubbed the back of his neck. “Benone, a double cross.”

One of the hotel staff in the hall raised a brow. “Scusi, signore? Non capisco.”

Figlia waved at the room. “The spherical pattern of the bomb suggests a normal explosive, not plastique—plastique tends to be directional. Besides, you can smell the black powder, si? Maybe homemade.”

He looked into the ceiling, and saw silver forks embedded like shrapnel, surrounded by other pieces of metal. I wonder if it matches the tray lid that landed outside. Below the forks were wheels, separated by a flat metal sheet pressed into the carpet.

Serving cart,” Figlia muttered.

Che?” a bellboy asked. What?

He carefully stepped around the body and pointed at the sheet of metal. “The lower level of the serving tray, beneath the forks.” His eyes flickered across the room as though they were tracking a soccer ball. “Not to mention the silverware in the walls, the bed, the floor, as well as the plate fragments—either he had a grand celebration with an American fraternity, or they came from a full room-service cart that exploded.”

He pointed out the shattered window. “Our amico on the street wore a busboy’s white coat; assume the cart was his. The cart is in the center of the room; too far inside if he was lugging dirty place settings all over the hallway. He would have stayed outside in the hall and collected them. This person on the floor is dead from the nice neat bullet hole under his chin. Given the position of the cart, it had to have been pulled around this man’s body—the poor fool probably opened up for his killer.” He made brief eye contact with the men out in the hall. “That killer is, by the way, the one who ruined my car.” He waved at Gerrity’s corpse. “At least this man’s killer. Who killed the busboy is another quandary. He was killed with the explosion from his own cart, so it is either stupidity on the busboy’s part, or murder on someone else’s.”

Figlia walked over to the window, and shouted out, in English, “Signora Goldberg, look around for a pistol! I’ll check up here!”

He stepped back from the window, looking back as he did so. He opened up his cellular phone and hit autodial. “Veronica, bella, could you please bring the team down to the hotel?”

Veronica Fisher smiled; he could hear it in her voice. “Which hotel?”

Outside the colonnade,” Figlia told her. “Follow the smoke; we have a bomb, black powder composition.”

Some priest playing with leftover fireworks?”

A double homicide.”

Fisher paused a moment. “Gianni, isn’t the hotel outside our jurisdiction?”

The body isn’t. You’ll also have to process what’s left of our car.”

Fisher, who was Figlia’s forensics expert as well as his wife, paused a moment. “The bomb destroyed the Jetta?”

No, the corpse did it.” Figlia paused for a moment, wondering if that was a double entendre, as the corpse had done both the first murder and the destruction to the car. Perhaps in American English. “I’ll have the locals secure the crime scene.”

You sound like the FBI back home.”

Heaven forbid. A più tardi. I won’t be here when you arrive, I have a guest.”

You picked him up?” Fisher asked.

Figlia furrowed his brow. “Him?”

There was some light laughter. “You weren’t sent to pick up Hashim Abasi? Remember, the Egyptian coordinating with you about Josh’s visit … what am I, your secretary?”

Figlia felt like the dead man had it easy. “I’ll get him as soon as possible.”

*

The Secret Service agent, Goldberg, leaned against the door of the dead car, glancing at the priest. “When did he start thinking he was a homicide detective?”

The priest said, “You should ask him about it sometime.”

Commander Figlia dashed out of the hotel and waved at Goldberg to follow him. She offered the priest her hand. “It’s been nice talking with you, Father…?”

Francis Williams, of the Compania.”

Ah, a Jesuit.”

The priest smiled. “Just call me Frank.”

So, have enough fun yet? Just click here, and you can order it.

And, if you’ve done that….

The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.

The Love at First Bite series. 

Attack of the Pius Trilogy

Jon del Arroz mentioned the other day that A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller was coming soon from Silver Empire Press.

At which point, I’m certain that the first question on everyone’s mind is simple … starting with, “Why is pious spelled wrong?”

Now that the book is available from Amazon, it should probably be spelled out a little better. The really short version is that I am a history nerd. I had a dual BA, in history and Catholic philosophy, and an MA in history — mostly because history has tales more outlandish than any I could come up with while writing thrillers.

Along the way, I came across the usual BS about and around Pius XII. I had a class on the History of Total War, so I thought I would use it as an excuse to do some research. Three months, miles of microfiche, and a stronger eyeglass prescription later, I had a forty page research paper, with 7 pages of endnotes.

And boy, was I pissed. I had grown up with a ton of lies around this particular topic, and the best way to piss me off is to lie — to me, about me, it doesn’t matter. And the truth MATTERS, damn it. It’s one of the reasons why I had politics, since that worships sophistry above truth.

But I had a solution.

At this point, I had already written about a dozen novels that I hadn’t published yet. I had a universe in my head of characters, events, biographies, and how people were linked together, because doesn’t every writer? When I started this in 2004, I figured that more people had learned fake history from Dan Brown than they had in the entire duration of their existence. And Hell, I had a history degree, experience with writing shootouts and fight scenes, and my characters were already more interesting. I could do this! I can actually slip in history between the fight scenes, and wouldn’t that be awesome!

And then it spiraled.

800 pages later, I had every character I had ever written, as well as a small history of the World War II, the Cold War, modern Europe and the Middle East, a political science paper, six shootouts in and around the Vatican, a kidnapping, a trial, a full scale invasion, and a body count to rival the entire 24 TV series.

There’s a reason why my writing career can be summed up by “an then it spiraled.” Before then, I never knew that “I can do better than THAT hack,” is actually writer speak for “hold my beer.” I had apparently created a Spetsnaz Moriarty and didn’t realize it at the time. He just wouldn’t die, no matter what I did to him. Along the way, I wound up with discussions on faith, holding the line when it’s “just principles” at stake, and when it’s more important to die for what you believe in than taking the safe way out. Some of my heroes were normal, everyday folk, but would stand up and be counted, even if it meant they got killed. Some were just plain insane, but wouldn’t let that stop them. And let’s send them up against an Army of Darkness without any chainsaws or Bruce Campbell, because why not?

But this is why the first time I had heard of the Superversive moment, my first thought was, “Isn’t that called Tuesday?”

After wasting time going for a PhD at a college in the Bronx that shall remain nameless, and plenty of rewrites, I had a trilogy on my hands. I ended up with an agent at the worst possible time — when it was slowly becoming evident that Traditional Publishing was dying. Random House had literally had a a minor bloodbath only a few months before, and employees had been fired were slashed in the ten-thousand range in one month. There’s a reason I believe in the Nicene Creed and Murphy’s Law …. usually in that order.

Fast forward through six more years, self publishing, a half-dozen cover changes, five friends who will never talk to me ever again, and we come to last year. After Russell Newquist of Silver Empire held a gladiatorial competition between me and Brian Niemeier for his Dragon Award vote, he read A Pius Man. I believe I had joked if he would be interested in it –which would include reediting it. rereleasing, recovering, the whole nine yards.

And here we are.

This is the short version. The long version is … really long.

But at the end of the day, A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller is about truth, justice, and a lot of bullets.

And that’s only book one.

And it’s out for Preorder from Amazon right now.

So, sound interesting enough yet? Just click here, and you can preorder it.

 And, if you’ve done that….

The Dragon Awards are open and ready for nominations, and I have a list of suggestions you might want to take a look at. If you already  have a good idea of what you want, just click here to go and vote for them. The instructions are right there.

The Goal of the Superversive

For Throwback Thursday (a little late)–at the request of some of the other folks here–here, again, is our statement of exactly what it is that Superversiveness stands for and wishes to accomplish.

Subversive Literary Movement

Any new venture needs a mission statement. So, what are the goals of the Superversive Literary Movement?

Well…let me tell you a brief story.

As a child, I distained Cliffsnotes. I insisted on actually reading the book. I would like to instill the same virtue in my children. But recently, I made my first exception.

My daughter had to read Steinbeck’s The Pearl for class. We read it together. She read part. I read part. The writing was just gorgeous. The life of the people involved drawn so lovingly. The dreams the young man had for his baby son were so poignant, so touching.

Worried about what kind of book this  might be, I read the end first. It looked okay. So, we read the book together.

Turns out, I had missed something—the part where the baby got shot.

Not a happy story.

Next, she brought home Of Mice and Men. We started it together. What a gorgeous and beautifully writing—the descriptions of nature, the interaction between the two characters. A man named George, who could be off doing well on his own, is taking care of a big and simple man named Lennie, who accidentally kills the mice he loves because of his awkward big strength. In George, despite his gruff manner and his bad language, we see a glimpse of what is best in the human spirit, a glimpse of light in a benighted world.

The scene of the two camping out and discussing their hopes of someday owning their own little farm, where Lennie could tend rabbits, was so touching and hopeful, so filled with pathos and sorrow, and so beautifully written. Steinbeck is clearly one of the great masters of word use.

But I remembered The Pearl.  I glanced ahead, but this time, I looked more carefully.

On the next to last page, while discussing how their hoped-for little farm with rabbits is almost within their grasp, George presses a pistol against the back of Lennie’s head and shoots.

Now, in the story, he does it with a terribly heavy heart. He does it for “a good reason”—Lennie accidentally killed someone, but…

That doesn’t make it better.

I sat there holding the remains of my heart, which Steinbeck had just ripped out and stamped on. The devotion of this good man George had led to nothing. All their golden hopes turned to dross, sand.

And it wasn’t just the end. The book was full of examples of “the ends justify the means” type of thinking – such as a man killing four of nine puppies, so that the other five will have a chance.

Very realistic? Check. Very down to earth? Check. Very “the way of the world”? Check.

Why give a book like this to children to read? What are we trying to teach them? That life is difficult and meaningless? That sometimes its okay to kill something we love for a “good reason”? That life is pointless? That dreams and hopes are a sham? That no matter how you try, you cannot improve upon your circumstance, so it’s better not to even hope? (That was what The Pearl was about.)

What possible good is such a message doing our children?

Maybe if a child grew up in posh circumstances and had never seen hardship—maybe then, there would be a good reason for letting them know that “out there” it can get hard.

But this was my daughter—whose youth resembles that of Hansel and Gretel, and not the fun parts about candy houses and witches. There are many things she needs in life—but pathos-filled reminders of how harsh life can be is not one of them.

The book was also full of cursing. I’m not sure I would have noticed, but my daughter kept complaining.

I closed the book and refused to read any more of it. I told her we’d find the answers online. She ended up getting help with it from her brother (who had been forced to read the book at school the previous year) and from a friend.

I’ve seen some of the other books on the school curriculum. Many of them are like this. In the name of “realism,” these works preach hopelessness and darkness.

They are lies!

So, you might ask, why does it matter if our children are being fed lies? They’re just stories, right?

What do stories matter?

Stores teach us about how the world is. They teach us despair, or they teach us hope. In particular, they teach us about the nature of hope and when it is appropriate to have it.

So why is hope—that fragile, little flutter at the bottom of Pandora’s jar—so important?

Because hope needs to be hoped before miracles can be requested.

In life, some things will go badly. True. Some things will go well. But what about everything in between? What about those moments when hope, trust, dare I say, faith, is required to make the difference between a dark ending and a happy one?

If we have been taught that hope and dreams are a pointless fantasy, a waste of time, we might never take the step of faith necessary to turn a dark ending into a joyful one.

Think I am being unrealistic, and my head’s in the clouds? Let me give a few examples.

Example One:

I heard a story on the radio the other day. A woman named Trisha is dying of cancer. She has an eight year old son named Wesley and no one else. No close friends. No relatives. No hope for her son.

Trisha met another Trisha…the angel who ministered to her in the hospital in the form of her nurse. When the news came that her illness was terminal, Trisha worked up the courage to do something astonishing. She asked her nurse: “When I die, will you take my son?”

The nurse went home and spoke to her husband and her four children. They said yes. They not only agreed to take Wesley, they took both Wesley and Trisha into their home, caring for them both as Trisha’s illness grows worse.

What if Trisha, laying in her bed in pain, had not had the faith, the hope, to ask her nurse this question? What would have become of her little boy?

If Trish believed the “realism” preached by Steinbeck and other “realists”, she would never have had the courage to ask her nurse for help.

Example Two:

Don Ritchie is an Australian who lives across from a famous suicide spot, a cliff known as The Gap. At least once a week, someone comes to commit suicide there.

Don and his wife keep an eye out the window. If they see someone at the edge, Don strolls out there. He smiles and talks to them. He offers them a cup of tea.

Sometimes, they come in for tea. Sometimes, they just go home. On a few occasions, he’s had to hold someone, while his wife called the police. Sometimes, the person jumps anyway.

Don and his wife figure they’ve saved around a hundred and sixty lives.

What if Don had believed that hopes and dreams are dross, and he never walked out there? What if he had spent the years standing in his living room, shaking his head and cursing the fact that he bought a house in such an unlucky place?

There are people living lives, perhaps children born who would not have been, merely because Don did not give up on those caught by despair.

Example Three:

Andrea Pauline was a student at the University of Colorado. She traveled to Uganda to study microfinancing for a semester. While she was there, she discovered that some of the local orphan children were being abused.

Andrea refused to leave the country until the government did something. She received death threats. She would not back down.

The government of Uganda took the forty-some children away from their caretakers—and gave them to Andrea. She and her sister now run an orphanage in Uganda called Musana (Sunshine). They have over a hundred children. (Matthew West was inspired by her story to write the song Do Somethinghttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_RjndG0IX8 )

What if Andrea had believed the things preached by Of Mice and Men and The Pearl?

What if she had come home to America and cried into her pillow over the sad plight of those children back in Africa? What if she pent her time putting plaintive posts on Facebook about how the sad state of the world and how blue it made her feel?

Over a hundred children, living a better life, because one teenage girl refused to give up hope.

This is what the Superversive Literary Movement is for—to whisper to the future Trisha’s, Don’s, and Andrea’s that miracles are possible.

That hope is not a cheat.

The goal of the Superversive is to bring hope, where there is no hope; to bring courage, where without courage, hope would never be manifested.

The goal of the Superversive is to be light to a benighted world.

The goal of the Superversive is:

To tell the truth.

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The Superversive in Film: Ozamu Tezuka’s “Metropolis”

In 2001, the anime adaptation of Fritz Lang’s 1927 classic Metropolis released in Japan. It came to the West some time later, and–having watched both–I find the adaptation to a more powerful story because it relies even more on the bedrock of Western culture (Christianity) than the original.

The difference is the establishment of a reason for the erection of these skyscrapers and the industrial complex that drives that powerbase: the explicit attempt to create a second Tower of Babel. If you are at all familiar with that story, then you already know how this is going to end.

What matters here is the execution. Instead of our protagonist being the villain’s son, he’s an outsider who visits the titular city alongside his uncle (who’s there on a case) that gets wrapped up in a mess of a plot over a child-like gynoid that’s central to the villain’s plans. The brewing revolution, with ready revolutionaries, from the original is carried over and developed further into a vital subplot whose conclusion ignites the climax.

All of which serves to underpin a consistent thread that, as with the original, the industrialization that the city presents (and represents) is dehumanizing to everyone captured by it. Only our protagonist, being an outsider, retains the human humility necessary to see the folly in all of the plotting going on and implores with the one other character immediately able to stop it to do so- and, at the last moment, succeeds.

The story goes to the effort to show how the apparent peace and prosperity of the city and its inhabitants comes at the cost of subverting the population’s dignity, which they return in kind to the elites preying upon them as well as to the robots who often are the means of this dehumanization, which has exactly the effects that are known to happen to a culture over time: a downward spiral of degeneracy into savagery and despair as the real needs of one and all are unmet as they should, symbolized by the story’s setting degenerating into ever-meaner locations and ever-more-desperate maskings thereof before the pressure is too much as everything (literally and otherwise) blows apart. Fortunately, our hero’s essential innocence allows him the means to see through this tragedy and plant the seed of a better tomorrow.

While there’s no confounding of language, the result is the ruin of the attempt and its abandonment by the survivors in favor of reconciliation and reformation into something that this renewed humility in the (surviving) people can accomplish without dehumanizing themselves, their creations, or each other. As both an homage to the original that equals, if not surpasses, Lang’s film as well as on its own merits this is a story that ends in a bittersweet, but, hopeful mood after seeing great amounts of hubris result in self-destruction as pride goes before a fall. Recommended.

If you would like to see for yourself, you can buy a copy of Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis at Amazon. The soundtrack is also worth getting a physical copy of, as this playlist shows.