NIGHTFALL vs. The Headlines

Is NIGHTFALL ripped from the headlines?

Well, maybe clipped out neatly. I did consciously select the topic of police shootings as the backdrop to the book, but I didn’t envision the launch coming a month before a Minnesota gubernatorial election. A double dose of Real World.

I’ve answered some questions about NIGHTFALL (set for launch in late September) below:

Q: Why police shootings as a subject for your book?

A: Because I’m an idiot. Who else would tackle an incendiary topic like that?

Q: Seriously.

A: First and foremost, because I believed police shootings could form the basis for a compelling story. I didn’t set out to further a political or social agenda.

Q: But you do get into political and social issues.

A: Oh, yes.

Q: So where do your sympathies lie?

A: That’s the same question Pen has to confront in the book. Everybody is after her to take sides. I think you have to look at it two ways: First, there are individual cases. “Taking sides” in an individual case, based on information from the media, is hazardous in the extreme. We can develop opinions as to whether the process in a given case is fair or not, but we have a legal process. At some point, we have to rely on the prosecutors, attorneys, judges, and juries.

Q: So that’s it? The public has nothing to say?

A: Hardly. On another level, there are policy considerations. These are issues the public should be involved in, and there are definitely things that can be done to improve the situation. You have to ask, systemically, what can we do to prevent these tragic and sometimes outrageous incidents? How can we improve community outreach and understanding? How can we make sure everybody is held accountable? How can we improve police training? How can we improve police interactions with the mentally ill? Too often, we confuse these two levels of discussion, and of course it’s the individual cases that trigger the most emotion.

Q: So how does NIGHTFALL treat these issues?

A: These issues are not the story. They’re the backdrop. They’re part of the story. I look at how people react when they get involved in these controversies. I also look at how the community as a whole reacts to police shootings. But I also look at a darker side of the entire picture.

Q: Which is?

A: NIGHTFALL looks at how the community divisions, prejudices, and passions associated with police shootings can be exploited by the unscrupulous, especially with an election coming up soon. There is a pretty heinous plot going on in the book, something that I hope will never happen in real life. But there is no question that in the real world, tragic incidents are cynically exploited all the time, by people with a personal, social, or political agenda.