WU contributor Ray Rhamey has just released—and is giving away—his new novel, a speculative thriller titled Gundown. He’s with us now to tell us more about it.
Q: What’s the premise of your new book?
Actually, I think there are two. One is an organizing principle for creating a community of people who work to help one another and to make ours a better society. The other is that there are viable approaches to personal self-defense, gun control, and bettering our criminal justice system that are very different from what we experience today.
Q: What would you like people to know about the book itself?
First, that I’m giving away free ebook editions to anyone who wants one—this is permanent giveaway, not promotional. I also want to send paperback copies to thought leaders and influencers in government, the gun industry, and the media. To pay for that, I have a GoFundMe page (gofundme.com/gundown) that includes the free download links. The idea is to generate fresh new thinking on guns, self-defense, and crime, especially today’s gridlock on gun safety.
Second, things readers will “experience” in Gundown include state-subsidized defensive weapons, an approach to getting lethal firearms off the street; an understanding of the Fifth Amendment that requires an accused to testify; an “advocacy” system of justice to replace the adversarial system; and criminal justice that imprisons only violent offenders. I call them “thought-starters.”
Q: What do your characters have to overcome in this story? What challenge do you set before them?
The two primary protagonists (one male, one female) have to overcome internal resistance to changing their ways of thinking about the alternatives in the world of Gundown that deal with the issues they face. To survive and thrive, they must open themselves to new ways of doing things that run counter to their thinking and emotions.
There are external challenges, too—the male protagonist has to survive being sentenced to a hellhole prison, and then dealing with the murder of a man he admires. The female co-protagonist has to deal with finding a safe place and way to live for her and her six-year-old daughter in a world that is increasingly violent, including a vicious attack by a corrupt cop.
Q: What unique challenges did this book pose for you, if any?
I’m sure I won’t have succeeded in this for some readers, but it was to address the issues without being didactic or preachy. My aim is for readers to experience the effect of these alternative ways of doing things. I worked to simply immerse the reader in what the “real” people in the story think and feel in encountering the world of Gundown.
To quote one reader’s review (for an earlier but much the same version),
“It’s both an action-packed thriller and a rational dissection of our legal system. This is a fast-paced yet thought-provoking book, muscular in style and ingenious in worldview.”
If that’s true for most readers, I’ve done what I set out to do.
Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of having written this book?
To have readers appreciate both characters/story and the ideas that are dramatized. Another reader said,
“These ideas seem so reasonable that they make you wonder why they couldn’t be tried.”
I’ve worked on this story through many versions for almost 20 years (the last iteration was We the Enemy), and I feel it has grown and improved to the point where I feel it does the job as best as I’ll be able to manage. I am subject to my limitations as a writer and a thinker, and so is the book—but isn’t that true for all of us? It has also been rewarding to be able to reach out to Writer Unboxed people such as Don Maass and Sharon Bially, to both of whom I owe many thanks for their advice and counsel.
For what it’s worth,