Virgins and Martys
by Earl Merkel
I'm Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is Virgins and Martyrs by Earl Merkel.
Is it possible to write a book about a bombing at a family planning clinic and keep your ideology out of it? Think about it, do you have to have to have a position, capital "P," when you touch things like abortion in your fiction? What if you just want to have a horribly explosive nexus for future events?
I would have said no, you have to make your own position clear, but now I'm willing to admit I may have been wrong. I never assumed that Earl Merkel was anything but pro choice, because in the first scene his tough gal detective Aria Quynn investigates a bombing at a clinic. It's a terrifically written scene, and anti choice equals crazy fanatics, right? Then I got introduced to some of his other characters, particularly the worldly and world weary nun Sister Benedicta. Well, she's got plenty to say on the topic that isn't ranting and inflammatory. Will this fictional character change my mind personally? Never. But I found myself willing to listen to her, and to Earl.
To be clear, this isn't a book about reproductive freedom. It's a book about faith. Along with the clinic bombing, we have a teenager who seems to be displaying the stigmata. Well, that has to be fake. Or does it? Trying to make sense of what's going on in her little Gulf coast Florida town is Aria Quynn, who is a cop first and everything else a distant second. Who can she trust? Her ex partner? He seems to have been a corrupt cop. The TV reporter who keeps popping up? Seriously, who trusts TV journalists? And in the wake of the bombing, the layers of feds, homeland security, personal security, FBI, all with an axe to grind and a back to stab. These are the people who are supposed to take care of us, but for the large part they are mostly concerned with taking care of themselves.
Based on a couple of things that Earl Merkel said to me, I think he's probably not pro-choice. I didn't ask him. I liked the book and I knew it would color my perception. And ultimately, this is a mystery novel, not a daily planner. It's not important to this book. What is important is: you have to believe in something, and what you decide to believe in — that's who you are, isn't it?
Hear my interview with Earl Merkel on Fiction Nation, on Take Five, XM 155 on Wednesday, August 13th at 7:00am, on Thursday, August 14th at midnight, on Friday August 15th at 11:00pm, on Saturday August 16th at 6pm, on Sunday August 17th at 10:00am and 8:00pm, and on Monday August 18th at 12:00 midnight. You can also hear Fiction Nation on Sonic Theater, XM 163 on Thursday August 14th at 3:00 pm in its half-hour format. All times EDT.