In WashPost, 'Archconservative' Authors Stand Up for Terrorist-Thumping Thrillers

The Washington Post tackled the topic of political thrillers on Sunday: "Red Spy, Blue Spy: Thrillers reflect partisan politics of 21st century America." Contributor Kevin Nance argued that "The fact that readers consume thriller novels as fantasy, rather than real life, gives authors on the right a kind of home-field advantage."

Nance compares authors Brad Thor and Vince Flynn on the right to David Baldacci and Scott Turow on the left, although Turow colorfully rejected the idea of too much politics ruining your product (he cited Sixties musicians):

If somebody’s busy clobbering you with a political message — even one you agree with — I think it often hinders the other purposes of art. Not long ago, for example, I went to a concert by Crosby, Stills & Nash, whose political views I tend to share, and always have. But their new material was so political that I turned to my date and said, ‘Their next song is going to be a hymn to Obamacare.’ In fiction, certainly, if somebody’s giving you cardboard characters in order to advance a political agenda, it’s going to be a bad novel, period.”

But Nance points out Turow's next thriller has a political message from the left. Trail of the Gemini "is about a big-city mayoral candidate accused of murder by a billionaire who, for his own reasons, saturates the local airwaves with attack ads. It’s a clear reference to the current flood of soft-money advertising funded by a small number of superrich people in the wake of the Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United ruling."

“It’s not inadvertent that it gives a pretty clear picture of what happens when somebody with a lot of money decides they want to say anything about a candidate in the course of a political campaign,” Turow admits. “In the novel, it actually changes the outcome of the election. That’s a pretty frank political message.”

Brad Thor stuck up for a little butt-kicking patriotic fiction as good for the soul:

“One of the core beliefs of conservatism is that you have to take responsibility for your actions, and if you commit an act of evil, you need to be punished for that,” says Thor, whose series hero, a butt-kicking former Navy SEAL-turned-counterterrorism agent named Scot Harvath, once elicited information from a captured Islamic terrorist by applying a power drill to the man’s kneecap. (Harvath’s most recent outing was in this year’s “Black List,” published by Atria Books.) “There’s a certain catharsis the reader gets from being able to pull the monster out from under the bed, beat up the monster and then live to fight another day.”

Meanwhile, David Baldacci insisted "I write in a world of gray, not black and white...I don’t like to judge people until I’ve walked in their shoes. It takes a lot to drive people to these horrific acts of violence. And unless we try to understand what drives people to do such things, we’ll never be in a position where we can stop some of it. If we understand the environment that spawns that type of behavior, then we can work toward making sure that environment doesn’t exist anymore.” Vince Flynn wasn't going to let that argument stand:

Thor’s Atria stable mate Vince Flynn, whose novels featuring a heat-packing CIA agent named Mitch Rapp regularly debut at or near the top of the bestseller lists, scoffs at such reasoning. “Look how we went after the Ku Klux Klan in the 1950s and ’60s,” says Flynn, who describes himself as socially liberal but an archconservative on national security. “We didn’t sit here as northerners and say, ‘You know what, I don’t understand their culture — they were raised in a different part of the country, so I’m uncomfortable judging these people.’ Bulls---. Evil is evil. Those sadistic bastards chained black people to trees and killed them. The KKK was immoral and corrupt, and we didn’t need to understand them. We just needed to stop them.” Likewise, he says, “I think we need to kill all the terrorists, and I don’t apologize for that.”

...“After 9/11, a national magazine said they would not review Vince’s book that year because it was too upsetting,” recalls Emily Bestler, who edits both Flynn and Thor at Atria. “[Our reaction]was one of astonishment, because after 9/11, his sales soared, I think because readers were seeking a way of dealing with the problem through fiction. For a lot of people, they’re not reading these books because that’s how they would vote, or because they would apply the drill to the kneecap. They’re reading the books because they’re entertaining. I know a lot of liberals who enjoy these books, because they tell me, ‘They’re such a guilty pleasure.’ You don’t have to agree with them to enjoy them.”


 

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis