Too Damn Close for Comfort
I scratched my scheduled blog post for this month, deciding that I must speak from the heart, so here goes.
I have related before just how hard it was to write my upcoming novel BOMBINGHAM: A Day of Reckoning. I started out almost two years ago with a storyline that I thought was good and would be interesting and very appropriate for the times. Readers had asked for more from the heroine of my first novel, Magic City Murder Déjà vu, Lt. Fay Findlay and her SCU team and so I set out to write a good detective story. The seed was Birmingham’s ugly past of terror in the mid-twentieth century on people of color. The KKK set off more than fifty bombs in just more than three years in homes, churches, and meeting places where civil rights leaders met, lived, and worshiped, trying to dissuade them from protesting and working to end Jim Crow laws in Birmingham and throughout the south. The reign of terror earned Birmingham the moniker Bombingham in several national news stories. I struggled using that in my title but ultimately decided that though never forgotten, we had moved beyond that and I wanted to expose readers from outside the area of what Birmingham is like today.
On January 29, 1998 another bombing thrust Birmingham into the national spotlight again after decades of peace and reconciliation following the terrorism of the civil rights movement. At 7:33 AM on that fateful morning, terrorist Eric Rudolph remotely detonated a bomb he had planted in front of the New Woman All Women Clinic on 10th Avenue South. Rudolph was watching from up the street and when the police officer that was working as off-duty security at the clinic discovered the bomb, he activated the remote control that killed the officer instantly and severely injured the nurse that had just arrived to work. The bombing was linked to previous bombs in Atlanta at the Olympic Games, another clinic there and a gay nightclub. He was arrested in 2003 and is now in prison.
These tragic crimes provided the historical backdrop for my story and some of the characters, but my story was one of fiction, or so I thought. As I began to do research two years ago, I was appalled at how brazenly open hate groups were. Groups that proudly honored the KKK and Eric Rudolph and people like him. The deeper I dug, the more depressing it was. These groups and individuals were not hiding in the deep recesses but instead they were loud and proud, promoting white supremacy and other various forms of hate. They aligned with the Nazi regime of Germany in WW2 and the KKK. What I had planned to be a couple of months of research turned into more than two years.
I finally finished the book in late summer, 2020 and sent it to my publisher for edits and proofreading, etc. I was glad that it was done, and I felt it was good story. Edits were completed just before Christmas and we were ready to go to print for the advance copies so that we could release the book fully on June 1, 2021. Our plan was that perhaps the pandemic would be in a place that might allow book signings and other in-person promotions by then. Everything is on schedule and I continue to work on my next book. Then January 6, 2021 came.
SPOILER ALERT: The bad guys in Bombingham are a loose knit group hell bent on overthrowing our government. It is a plan that has been in the making since the civil rights era. I watched in horror as our Capitol was breached. I saw armed terrorists marching through the hallowed halls carrying Confederate Battle flags and Nazi flags. Although it was not EXACTLY like my fictional story, it was way too damn close for comfort. I watched as most of American’s did. I heard from friends from all over the world that also could not believe what they were seeing. As I write this, arrests are continuing from those acts and the investigation is ramping up to identify who was complicit and how such an act was made possible. Our President has been impeached for inciting the riot that culminated in the insurgence. The FBI has issued warnings to all 50 states that the unrest is not over, and more violence is expected across the nation in coming days. Had someone pitched me this scenario for inclusion in the book, I would have dismissed it as “too unrealistic”’ yet here we are.
My prayer is that we will soon return to time when such heinous acts appear only in FICTIONAL stories. I believe in prayer, but only prayers with feet. That means that if pray to end hunger, it only works if you feed someone who is hungry. For this prayer to work, we all need to do something. Anything. We can start by being KIND to each other, even when the recipient of your kindness may not deserve it. We can enforce laws and restore order, but the only thing that will overcome HATE is LOVE.