The books in my Nick Hoffman series have all been born in various ways. Sometimes a book started with the idea of a new character entering the academic world Nick inhabits. Sometimes while I was on a book tour, I heard some juicy gossip at a university I embroidered into my own plot. Sometimes I’d be in a cafe or other public place and would overhear part of an intriguing conversation; I’d start filling in the blanks and my mind would set off like the TGV, the high speed French train.
But my 25th book’s origins were unique because they came from multiple sources and they seemed to come insistently. They came from the news. They came from newspapers and news web sites around the country. The came from web broadcasts. They came from reports on all kinds of political blogs.
It all started around four years ago when I started seeing stories about little towns like Neenah, Wisconsin. It’s home to only 25,000 people and in the past seven years has had only two murders, but today it’s the proud owner of a thirty-ton armored combat vehicle which can protect anyone inside against mines.
That’s right, landmines. They’ve never been a problem in Neenah or anywhere else in the United States, but that’s besides the point. The Pentagon has been like Santa Claus for police departments across the country, showering them with armored vehicles, aircraft, machine guns, grenade launchers and more — as if war were about to break out at any minute. As if every single police captain in the country were Carrie on Homeland ravenous for drones, ravenous to take out terrorists now.
What’s the difference now between police officers and soldiers when they’re almost armed the same and trained the same?
As the New York Times reported recently, “Recruiting videos feature clips of officers storming into homes with smoke grenades and firing automatic weapons. In Springdale, Ark., a police recruiting video is dominated by SWAT clips, including officers throwing a flash grenade and creeping through a field in camouflage.”
If you argue that our police forces have to be safe at all costs, it’s hard to disagree. But groups on both sides of the political spectrum maintain that the militarization of American police forces has gone way too far. When the ACLU and the Heritage Foundation speak with one voice, you know we’re facing a real crisis.
That dangerous militarization is one of the subjects of Assault With a Deadly Lie, the first book I ever felt urged to write because of current events that seemed to be spiraling dangerously out of control. The idea came to me way before the events in Ferguson opened a national conversation about the possibility that we might be headed toward living in a police state. And this book has already opened the door for my next novel of suspense where the stakes will be even higher than they are here. I’ve got my title, my opening scene, and a fiendish villain worse than anyone who’s stalked the pages of my series before.