There are a lot of things that annoy me. Flies annoy me, leftovers annoy me; often I annoy me. But there is something that really upsets me; the upbeat, happy people who offer advice on how to be better, happier, richer or achieve whatever-your-heart-desires. These people tend to be attractive, high-energy, smiling people who may or may not have a clue about any of the nonsense they offer to the unsuspecting. They are more than likely happy people who, for whatever reason, life has “just worked out.” That is hard to accept if you’re an important person who wants everyone to follow your advice—it can’t be just stupid luck that your happy and rich. It must be because you know more shit than the next person and now, from the goodness of your heart, you’re willing (maybe at a small price) to share it.
There are a lot of these people in religion; especially since someone dreamed up the prosperity gospel. This seems to be based on a premise that it’s okay for me to be rich and a man of God because it is God’s will; and if you want to be rich, you should give me money–God wants you to. Now that last part seems a little difficult to follow for me, but apparently it is completely logical to a large number of folks. My bible school background left me believing that rich people were not on the “A list” in heaven—but I lived among hypocrites so contradictions were normal.
I wrote about someone in The Bootlegger’s Legacy who found religion and soon became wealthy, preaching a form of the prosperity gospel. His name was Mike Allen. Mike was the son of the notorious bootlegger of the title. In a lot of ways his venture into religion was more about saving his marriage to the most beautiful person in the whole world; but once he started, he discovered something else that was even more appealing—adoration.
Love has induced some of the most bizarre behavior in human beings. In most cases this involves one person who loves or is loved. But adoration with hundreds or thousands of people who not only love but worship you, must be an awesome experience. Most of us can only imagine. We have celebrities, politicians, self-help gurus and, of course, ministers who seem to be addicted to this worshipful, adoration from the masses. I’m somewhat of a private person so having hordes of people loving me feels more like a threat than something wonderful. But it must be a powerful feeling to have “followers”, who hang on your every word and toss money at you. Would it be possible to be in that position and not take advantage of it? My guess, would be —no.
In TBL, Mike soon succumbs to his baser instincts and decides sex with his young, attractive worshipers was an entitlement being offered because he was such a wonderful, worthy person. Sin, under those circumstances was measured on a sliding scale. This is the same person who had suffered great emotional trauma because of his father’s sexcapades, but, as if often the case, this was different. Mike’s journey from an insecure, troubled businessman who was only looking for a small amount of financial success and a way to keep his most attractive wife; into a domineering, overly confident minister of a faith, which he knew little about, would have made a good book all by itself. However, it is only a small part of TBL—but a critical part.
On occasion I have mentioned this somewhat strange feeling I have in that the characters themselves are directing the flow of the book—okay, I know that is not true; but it does feel that way. As I write about a character they take on a whole personality, as the story progresses that character will react to the other characters and events in the story in ways that make sense for that character. Mike had always been insecure in himself. He never felt comfortable with who he was and whether he was loved or not. This had a lot to do with his father, the bootlegger, and is at the heart of the plot line of the book. He was insecure in his relationships with his father, mother and his wife. His only secure relationship was with his best friend, Joe. Who he abandoned once he discovered crowd adoration, and accumulated massive wealth.
While the main plot of TBL is a treasure hunt with a backstory on how the treasure came about and was hidden; the sub-plot is about the collapse of a life-long friendship between two flawed people. Each was looking for something different to fill an empty life. They found that something, but also lost an important part of what had made them who they were; a friendship. A friendship they took for granted until it was gone.
Probably a stupid thing to say; but I like The Bootlegger’s Legacy—duh; it’s my book? Yeah, I know. Also it was my first book and maybe my best. Technically it might not be edited as well as the others—but this was a great story. My later books are mostly murder mysteries—which I enjoy writing. TBL is a different kind of story about people and their histories. I think TBL was an accidental novel—if I had planned this, it would not have happened. Maybe that is why I think it is good (sorry if that sounds like bragging). It just flowed as I wrote it. The characters allowed me to tell their story; and I’m glad I did.
PS. You might not know this but TBL is actually a prequel to the Pacheco & Chino series. When I wrote TBL I didn’t know I was going to write P&C. Ray Pacheco first appears in TBL and much of the background from that book helps in understanding some of the events in P&C’s first book Dog Gone Lies.
Thanks for being a reader!