Sunday, May 11, 2008

Barbara Fister's "In the Wind"

Barbara Fister is the author of two mysteries, On Edge, and the newly released In the Wind.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to In the Wind and reported the following:
Excerpt from page 99:

The man I recognized as an undercover cop held up one of the flyers. “Why is this college providing a forum for a right-wing hate group?” He looked around for support, and a rumble of agreement came from the protestors. The provost opened his mouth to respond, but Folkstone interrupted.

“That’s not true. We’re not a hate group.” His voice was high-pitched and a little jittery with earnestness. “On the contrary, we applaud the efforts of native peoples who struggle to maintain their identity in the face of one-world globalism. All we’re asking for is the same right to our racial identity. It’s the law that is racist. Repatriation rights are limited to non-Europeans.” That caused an irritated reaction from the crowd, and he seemed to gain momentum from it. “The fact is, Europeans reached these shores long before Columbus. Those bones have been identified by scientists as being of Caucasian ancestry. The government wants to deny the historical facts by burying the evidence. This is a pattern—” He was drowned out by boos.

“How are these remains being handled?” a woman called out, her voice angry and accusatory. “Are they being treated as objects of study, pawed over by scientists?”

The provost looked at Nancy, who seemed to shrink for a moment before she climbed up two steps and announced firmly, “No on both counts. We’ve handled them with the respect they deserve. Until we receive the court’s decision, they are being kept under lock and key.”

This exchange would give Ford Madox Ford a feel for the book’s themes. In the Wind explores the parallels between threats to civil liberties in the name of security during the Vietnam war era and today. The story focuses on the hunt for a Native American who once belonged to a radical group and is accused of killing an FBI agent in 1972. Anni Koskinen, a former cop, ends up working for the woman’s defense team at the request of the dead agent’s son, a close friend who has grown disillusioned with the Bureau and the politicized way the investigation is being handled.

In this scene, the plot thickens as a White Supremacist group holds a press conference to lay claim to recently-discovered Native American remains in order to publicize their eccentric beliefs. Supporters of the accused fugitive use the event to draw attention to their cause. As Anni arrives, she recognizes one of the protesters: an undercover cop. He has been reassigned from narcotics to surveillance of dissidents - which has been known to happen. It’s not the main storyline, but is consistent with a common theme: how our fears shape our response to issues.

Ironically, the crime fiction genre draws on our anxiety, just as policy makers do, but fiction can give our fears a nuanced meaning that is often more truthful than what we hear on the news.
Read an excerpt from In the Wind, and learn more about the author and her work at Barbara Fister's website and her blog.

--Marshal Zeringue