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John Sandford, Politics, and Extremism

John Sandford has always been both an author I enjoy and one who fascinates me from the political perspective. His writing is aware of politics, and often revolves around politics, but few of his protagonists have any interest in discussing their political views beyond the immediate. Perhaps this reflects the author. Who knows?

Lucas Davenport shoots and kills people, a lot. He’s a cop. There’s also a strong thread of police corruption in those books. Nobody is a hero just because they wear a badge.

Here’s the blurb for The Empress File, from the Kidd books:

One stifling summer night in Longstreet, Mississippi, fourteen-year-old Darrell Clark ran home thinking about two things: the ice cream he couldn’t wait to eat and an algorithm he was working on, a way to generate real time fractal terrain on his Macintosh computer. The cops who shot him in the back, mistaking him for a purse snatcher, found the ice cream in the paper bag on the ground next to Darrell. They’d never know anything about computers, or about the events they had just set in motion.

When the predictable cover-up occurs, a group of blacks, led by Marvel Atkins, decide the time for action has come. The city government must go. Through Darrell’s computer, Marvel, with the incredible liquid eyes, links up with Kidd, who takes on jobs that may be a little beyond the law. She lays out the objective, but he makes the plan. The mayor, city council, city attorney are all corrupt. The firehouse is the center for drug dealing, and the recreation director skims money like algae from the municipal swimming pool. And then there’s Duane Hill, the dogcatcher/enforcer who uses Dobermans to get his way. Kidd will simply find the crack in the machine and work it until the city comes down like a house of Tarot Cards.

Written in 1991. I haven’t reread it in a while so I’m not making any claims about anything other than to say that Sandford is keenly aware of the state of the world.

So: The Investigator. I read most of Sandford’s books eventually, once they hit paperback or from the library, and I added this one to my queue without knowing much about it. To my surprise, the antagonist group turned out to be an anti-immigrant militia. I could nitpick the depiction; for example, there’s a little bit more weight given to the economic anxiety theory than I’d have liked. On the other hand, Sandford did his research. He treats the militias as a real threat, he understands the distributed nature of the beast, and most interestingly he understands the military to extremism pipeline. I don’t know if he’s read Kathleen Bellow’s Bring the War Home, but he might have.

There are a couple of threads in there that lead me to think we’ll see some of those militia members again in this series. Even if we don’t, I have to be pleased that a book with this plot hit #1 on the NYT bestseller list.

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