My novel, The Magic Bullet was finished last year but it’s been on hold while I published an anthology of my short fiction, Shrapnel: Short Stories. I’m working on the novel right now, performing an edit and formatting the manuscript in preparation for publication, hopefully before the holidays, ideally in mid-November.
Though it is, on the surface, a thriller… The Magic Bullet is also a modern morality play with a definite twist, a predictable twist to be sure, but no less shocking for all its transparency. It’s the action-packed story of a decorated veteran who comes home from the war in Korea and, on the promise of high wages and a job that won’t bore him to death, signs up for work in “corporate security” overseas. What he finds is a career… and an awareness that he’s caught in a dangerous but remarkably comfortable web, a vocation that he refers to as “…the spook life.” It’s a calling that sometimes terrifies, but always rewards him, first as a mercenary… and when his incredible skill as a marksman is proven, other and more lucrative opportunities appear and expand. Already engaged in foreign interventions as a contractor for the fledgling CIA, word of his remarkable skill makes him attractive to others as well. A referral and a favor for a friend involves him with an organized crime family in New York City.
Primarily set in the seemingly innocent era between the mid-1950s following the Korean War and the messy prelude to the war in Vietnam in the mid-1960s, The Magic Bullet gives us a closer look at the Cold War, which tended to heat up every now and again in quiet little corners of the world. So-called “little wars” and violent interventions were justified by their authors as a sincere attempt to forestall what most perceived as an inevitable World War III between the Soviet Union and the United States of America, the latest iteration of a “war to end all wars…” and a nuclear holocaust.
But the road to hell and back again, as has been often and famously suggested, is paved with such sincere intention.
The CIA, from the outset, was a small and very influential group of men in our government, men who were connected to all the best and brightest leaders in government and industry. They possessed within their charter for secrecy, incredible, inordinate power, and quite without oversite. In time and in the name of “freedom and democracy” they sanctioned and enabled secret operations that pulled the trigger on assassinations and coups d’etat around the world. They toppled governments and launched endless, lesser, and undeclared wars in seemingly inconsequential places. They funded revolutions in faraway lands, inspired their counterparts in other nations with their overarching zeal and the power of American wealth, and they armed and aided any and all who were willing to fight with them against the perceived “menace” of Communism with a capital “C”. In so doing, they cared little about the people with whom they allied, the means to their ends, nor did they consider the petty, cruel tyrants who rose up to fill the vacuum of chaos they created in the name of order. In their red, white, and blue perspective, they maintained a delicate balance in an unsteady world and felt entirely justified in their actions, no matter how extreme. In the beginning, these men were generally “idealistic realists,” individuals who viewed the present and the future through an uncompromising prism, one that bisected the world into two distinct camps in perpetual conflict one with another.
Black and white, right and wrong, good and evil, “us” and “them”.
But the conflict was a struggle in a real, more complicated world that was not ordered in simple terms, but was colored instead in endless and confusing shades of grey. In pursuit of peace, they created a world of justified violence and chaos. Unable, at times, to do those distasteful and criminal acts they felt were necessary to their cause, they hired other men, violent men, men without the boundaries and strictures of conscience to do their dirty work for them. Whether they realized the consequences or not, in so doing, they’d unleashed a monster. Eventually, they quite forgot who they were and why they had even begun their bloody crusade. Eventually, it was all about power and it all culminated in an unthinkable, unpardonable sin… a line crossed… from which none could ever again return.
An epic, exciting, engaging story and generously spiced with action and drama unfolding across a multitude of settings in nations across the globe, The Magic Bullet is also a confession, the story of a man who became, eventually, a willing participant who played a crucial role in this unfolding tragedy. The story of his life is the story of national transgressions in the name of extravagant virtue. It’s about institutional hypocrisy and the unreasonable dichotomies of human justifications for violence. It’s also about a man who is literally and utterly seduced by the trappings of wealth and power.
It’s about a man with a terrible secret who’s ready to let it go.