What are the pros and cons of publishing a political thriller during a time when political discourse has become so vicious?
The cons are easy to identify. First, people have political fatigue from being bombarded with polarizing political messages every day. I’ve even seen a few reviews of Rule of Law by readers who were reluctant to pick up the book because they were so tired of politics, and who could blame them?
Second, there is the potential for people’s political biases to distort the story. If the story is realistic (and I hope it is), people will be looking for real life parallels. Who does the president represent? Which fictional justices on the Supreme Court represent which real world justices? The danger here is that people will react strongly against the book if they perceive that my “message” is not consistent with where they stand. After all, Hollywood has become so political, authors must be as well—right?
Third, because the events are so close to real life, there is a danger that what happens in the real world might make the book’s plot outdated or, on the other hand, track so close to the book that it looks like I intentionally exploited current events to sell my novel. In fact, after the story was written, a SEAL team raid in Yemen did result in loss of life and people wondered if the mission had been compromised (which is exactly what happens in the opening chapters of Rule of Law. I addressed that in my author’s note:
I did not know when I wrote this story that its premise would soon unfold in real life. In January 2017, a SEAL team raid in Yemen resulted in a tragic loss of life. There were reports that the raid may have been compromised.
Though this is a work of fiction, the issues in this book are real. We owe it to our brothers and sisters in the military to think deeply about these topics.
Well, with all those cons, it would make one wonder why I would venture into such politically charged waters. One of my main reasons is this—I believe that stories can allow us to think about important issues in a context where our normal biases do not automatically kick in and spit out the “right” answer. I’ve heard it said that while works of fiction are by definition not literally true, they help us address and process “true truth.”
By creating an entirely fictional world inhabited by characters who bear no real resemblance to our current politicians, I want to help readers think about some big issues we face as a nation. How much power should the president have? What limits are there on the president’s ability to order military action or drone strikes under the auspices of the CIA? Is he (or she) subject to the law like everyone else? What happens when we use the CIA to fight shadow wars with drones and special forces? What about the civilian casualties? And most importantly, are we slowly allowing the war on terror to reshape our values as a nation? We must be careful that in destroying the devil, we don’t become one of his demons.
What do you want readers to take away after reading rule of law?
Appreciation for what our SEAL teams do. Inspiration to fight for justice. And information—sometimes disturbing information—about the way our foreign policy and shadow wars are actually conducted.
On the spiritual side, I want to remind them that God will give us the courage and strength even in our darkest days to do what He has called us to do. The same power that brought Jesus back from the dead is alive in us. Ephesians 1:19-20.
As a suspense writer who’s a christian, in what ways does your faith impact how you write stories with crime?
The Bible is full of stories of crime and contains lots of “legal thriller” themes as well. We live in a fallen world and God’s great grace and redemption are displayed most powerfully in these tragic circumstances. “Where sin abounds, grace abounds more.” Romans 5:20.
Jesus is our advocate and one of our callings is to seek justice and advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. That is part of what my protagonist is doing in this story.
In a broader sense, great sacrifice demonstrates great love. My commitment as a Christian who writes about crime and some of the darker sides of the human nature is not to glamorize this sinfulness but to instead use it to demonstrate God’s power to redeem even hopeless situations.
You’re a pastor, lawyer, and novelist — penning “christian legal thrillers” seems the ideal intersection of those three facets of your life. do your three lives cross over much — that is, do your constituents just think of you one way or another?
I agree that writing Christian legal thrillers is the ideal intersection of my “lives” as pastor, lawyer and author. I believe I can write more realistic legal thrillers because I am still in the arena—trying cases in court and experiencing the kinds of emotions, victories and defeats that my characters experience.
I would also say that my three lives collide a fair amount. My writing is inspired by cases I’ve handled. My wife reads my initial manuscripts and gives me feedback. My daughter and I practice law together. My law partner is an elder in my church. My sermons are influenced by the storytelling tools I’ve learned as an author and the persuasive skills I’ve developed as a lawyer. Everything bleeds together and feeds off everything else.
As for my constituents, they probably just think of me according to the role I play in their lives. To my church members, I’m a pastor; to my clients, a lawyer; and to my readers, an author. In today’s specialized society, it seems like it should be hard to juggle all three. But if you look at it historically, it was not at all unusual for one person to fulfill numerous roles. I think it helps me to be better at each one. As a pastor, I know what my church members go through in the “secular” world each week. As a lawyer, I can help bring a spiritual perspective to bear on my client’s biggest challenges. And as a writer, I can draw from both of those other wells for inspiration, experience and ideas.
Randy Singer is a critically acclaimed, award-winning author and veteran trial attorney. He has penned more than 10 legal thrillers and was recently a finalist with John Grisham and Michael Connelly for the inaugural Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction sponsored by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal. Randy runs his own law practice and has been named to Virginia Business magazine’s select list of “Legal Elite” litigation attorneys. In addition to his law practice and writing, Randy serves as teaching pastor for Trinity Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He also teaches classes in advocacy and civil litigation at Regent Law School and, through his church, is involved with ministry opportunities in India. He and his wife, Rhonda, live in Virginia Beach. They have two grown children.
Visit Randy Singer’s author profile here: https://www.familyfiction.com/authors/randy-singer
Rule of Law