As I am closing in on the final pieces of my upcoming novel, UnCivil War: A Modern Day Race War in the United States, the nerves are in high gear. I don't much worry about the opinions that others will toss at me. I already know I will be called a racist (from both the black and white communities most likely), a bleeding heart liberal, a conservative nutjob, and everything in between. That comes with the territory, and since I know who I am as a person, I can let that stuff roll off me. (Not that it doesn't sting, but it does go with the territory as a writer.)
Nope, my concern is if I have created a cohesive story. I really warred with this one. What I did not want to do was turn this into a "war" story a la Tom Clancy. I wanted it to be about a worst case scenario that could rip this country apart. No matter where you fall on the issues of race in this country, I am hoping that most people do not want to see us fracture and come apart. (We did that in 1861 and I would rather us not repeat such things.)
I know this is not the stuff my zombie fans are waiting for, but this story has been brewing in my head since the early 90s and the Rodney King Riots. The premise is simple: an organized group moves in and channels the anger of a city that is rioting after another young black (African-American if you prefer, I honestly don't know which is correct anymore) is shot and killed by a police officer. The officer is acquitted and the riot starts. This group moves in and has the rioters TAKE the city instead of torch and trash it. This spurs all sorts of political and media reaction and (in my opinion) ends with a chilling series of events that leave you wondering if the United States goes the way of the Roman Empire.
What follows is another excerpt. It will be upsetting to some (maybe). This is still a rather tame section as far as the language is concerned, but I hope it makes you want to know more.
Benny Richards pulled on his goggles and tugged the drawstrings for his hooded sweatshirt tight. He tapped his pocket to ensure all his “gear” was ready. Taking one last look at the television, he felt his heart race a bit. They were rioting downtown. He never missed a riot if he could help it. He might even see about upgrading to a better flat screen while he was out.
Leaving his studio apartment, his phone buzzed. It was work. Like he was gonna come in to the copier shop today. Besides, if what he’d seen on television was correct, the copy store was likely to get some of the riot overflow. The windows were as good as broke. In fact, he smiled behind his bandana, maybe he would throw the first brick.
Taking the stairs three at a time, he bounded down the four flights and out onto the street. Up the hill, he could see the smoke. He’d been in so many protests that he thought he might actually be getting immune to tear gas. He started up the hill at a fast walk. Running would only draw attention, and he wanted to get to the action before he had to deal with the police.
As he neared, he could hear the soothing buzz of an angry crowd. He paused for a minute and scratched his head. For a moment he’d forgotten what this one was about. That’s right, he thought, some black kid got shot robbing a bank or something. He briefly considered the possibility that he might not be wanted at this little demonstration, but quickly dismissed it. People who are pissed love anybody willing to take their side, or in Benny’s case, at least acting like they are. Benny just wanted to break stuff. He could care less about the cause as long as there was some breaking and burning going on.
He thumbed his iPod for some good thrash metal and resumed his fast walk to the scene of the mayhem. Just as he crested the hill, a group of ten or so black guys came in to view.
“Fuck the Seattle Police!” Benny yelled. He pulled the brick from his pocket—he always brought his first ‘throwing’ brick—and chucked it at the largest window in sight.
The group stopped and seemed to have a quick meeting of the minds. Cool, Benny thought, I can clique up with some brothers. Better to run with a pack, plus, if the cops show, I won’t be as likely of a target.
The group started walking his way and Benny thumbed down the volume on his iPod. “S’up, fellas?” They continued walking his direction, but there was something in their faces that caused Benny to pause. They looked…pissed. At him!
Without warning, the group broke into a sprint. Benny stood stock still. His legs refused to listen to the voice in his head that screamed for him to run. So this is what a deer in the headlights feels like, his inner-voice scoffed.
The group hit him in a bum’s rush that sent Benny sprawling. He’d been in a few mosh pits. There was a cardinal rule; if you ever lost your footing, the first thing you do is cover your head. That didn’t help for long. As the kicks continued and things inside him broke or ruptured, Benny’s arms couldn’t stay wrapped around his head any longer. As he lost consciousness, his last thoughts were, What did I ever do to these guys?