Thursday 20 November 2008

Empire of Lies

Andrew Klavan is a first-rate thriller writer, whose work I have admired for a long time. Years ago, he wrote a number of fast-paced novels under the pen-name Keith Peterson and I remember enjoying one which was called The Scarred Man. As a screenwriter, he was responsible for adapting Simon Brett’s non-series psychological suspense novel A Shock to the System and more recently he’s produced a number of highly successful blockbusters, including True Crime. True Crime is a classic race-against-time story, which handles conventional material in an adroit and compelling way.

I therefore fell upon his latest book, Empire of Lies, with a great deal of enthusiasm. The main character is Jason Harrow, who has got over a wild past and become a Christian conservative leading a respectable and principled life. But he is dragged out of his comfort zone by a call from a former lover and soon finds himself plunged into a terrorist plot.

I relish the idea that Klavan is hostile to political correctness, and I like the idea that he rebels against the notion that literature is a no-go area for people who hold conservative views. He argues on his blog for conservatives to express their values with ‘courage, openness and honesty.’ Fair enough. But I must admit that I did not warm to Empire of Lies as much as I have to previous Klavans. The story-line did not grab me, and I felt that possibly he was allowing his personal views to intrude into the story to too great an extent. So, a bit of a let-down as far as I was concerned. But it’s only fair to add that various other people have responded very positively to this novel. And one thing is for sure. Klavan is an interesting and intelligent writer and I shall certainly read him again.


Philip Amos said...

I must rather take issue with one aspect of this, Martin. Political correctness can go too far, and poltical incorrectness, especially as expressed by the satirist or comedian, can be a useful balance at times. But Klavan has made his political and social views very clear in more than a few articles and interviews, and I would question whether 'political incorrectness' is the term for what he puts forth. He garnered quite a bit of publicity from his extended comparison of George W. Bush with Batman in the movie The Dark Knight, not a bad indication that Klavan has a Manichaean view of the world, and this comes across in his articles as 'conservative' (for which read right-wing) Christian Americans of the sort commonly found in West Texas and the mid-West on the one hand against everyone else on the other. I do not think that 'politically incorrect' is an adequate term for his arguments in favour of the use of torture, nor his arguments for the suspension of civil and human rights, nor his argument that poor people are only ever so because they choose to be. I think his arguments for the restoration of a patriarchal society and family structure and the subordination of women go way beyond mere political incorrectness. He is much given to stating that 'conservatives' in the States are oppressed, a ludicrous ploy also popular with the Christian right-wing, but there's rather a lot of them, they've been ruling the roost these past eight years, as he well knows, and it hardly surprises me that, in as much as this novel reflects the views he expresses in his articles, he has a pretty good following. I don't think of political incorrectness as we customarily understand it as a dangerous thing, but Klavan's ideas are something of a very different order.

Anonymous said...

Fairly early on in my blogging days I followed a blog called Brandywine Books, run by two people. One of them was a real fan of Klavan/Peterson and wrote good reviews of the books (the blogger was so excited when he found out they were one and the same!). As a result I bought several of the books, but have not read any of them in the intervening few years. I really should though, especially as you now recommend them so heartily.

Martin Edwards said...

Very interesting, Philip. Empire of Lies was the first Klavan I've read in which his political views seemed a bit obtrusive. Having said that, whatever a writer's views, I'm mainly interested in how well they write.

Anonymous said...

Philip, your remarks about Klavan make me realise why he is so popular at the particular blog where I read the positive comments and reviews.

That Dark Knight movie was a load of old rubbish I thought. I saw it on holiday this summer at the Hollywood Bowl ;-), and it was still rubbish. I was bored and repelled by it.