Ike Locates Spine, Notifies AuthorIn my new novel, Bootlicker, a young reporter exposes the dark secret that links a racist U.S. senator and the man poised to become South Carolina’s first black congressman since the Civil War.
Journalist Dan Patragno shows little regard for professional ethics as he begins to unravel the story of Ike Washington’s ride aboard Sen. Lander McCauley’s blood-stained coattails. McCauley holds Ike in disdain, but, as a practical politician, counts him as a sure vote and ready ally, no matter the job.
During one climactic scene just before Election Day, Ike vows to declare his independence from McCauley. Can he actually do this after decades of bootlicking? What would he say? And how would the old senator react?
When the thought first occurred, I didn’t know the answers. That sounds funny, since I’m the author. It all started when I interviewed Dan, then Ike and then the senator, which probably sounds even weirder, since they’re not real. Before you recommend professional help, know that I routinely take time out while writing to talk to my characters.
No, we don’t huddle in a corner table at Starbucks, scaring customers and aggravating the baristas. In fact, the one-on-none Q&A plays out in my head and on the computer. The way it works is, I draw up questions at various points, then pose them to the characters. I persuade myself that I’m Ike or Dan or whomever, and then type out the answers, raw and uncensored. It is challenging, as the exercise requires relinquishing control and allowing the players to manage the team for awhile.
But I did it. I closed my eyes and asked the grizzled, racist senator how he’d react if Ike said he wasn’t taking orders anymore. McCauley replied:
Ike’s weak, weak and greedy. That’s why I stuck with him so long. I ran with a crowd that did some rough things in the old days - maybe I don’t agree with them now – but we did ’em because we believed in something, values, a way of life. He did what he did for himself. For Ike Washington. He sold out his own folks.
I said that Ike would object. He’d say he’d been forced, and the senator scoffed.
Ain’t that a hoot. He liked lookin’ good and havin’ money. Let him try to deny it. That Ike is too dirty to come clean. His stain don’t come out.
I listened hard and turned to Ike. I told him what McCauley had said, and asked for his side of the story. He had plenty to say, starting with the fact that he’d finally found his spine.
About the authorSteve Piacente (@wordsprof) has been a professional writer since graduating from American University in 1976. In 2010, he self-published the award-winning Bella, the story of a widow’s quest to uncover the truth about her husband’s death on an Afghan battlefield. Bootlicker (available Sept. 1) is the prequel. Steve started as a sportswriter at the Naples Daily News, switched to news at the Lakeland Ledger, and returned to D.C. in 1985 as correspondent for the Tampa Tribune. In 1989, the native New Yorker became correspondent for the Charleston (SC) Post & Courier. He is now deputy communications director at a federal agency in Washington, D.C., and teaches journalism classes at AU. Contact Steve at email@example.com. Bella is available at http://amzn.to/catchingon
About the bookBOOK DETAILS
Fiction, 336 pages
9 to 1 Press
An unholy union exists between a racist U.S. senator and the candidate poised to become South
Carolina’s first black congressman since the Civil War.
The year is 1959, the setting, rural South Carolina. Poor, black teenager Ike Washington stumbles on a Klan lynching led by a white judge. Caught, he must choose: join the dead man or begin hustling black support the ambitious judge needs to advance. In trade, Ike is handed a life of comfort and power. Decades later, as he is poised to become the first black SC congressman since Reconstruction, guiltwracked Ike winds up alone in the same forest, a long rope in his fist. Rookie reporter Dan Patragno uncovers the truth just before Election Day.
(From the publisist)