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Redemption Song

I’ll be a featured reader at the upcoming @FogLitFestival in Saint John in a couple of weeks. This gig got me thinking about the protagonist in my suspense-thriller series Donovan: Thief For Hire. My guy Donovan is a contract thief. He travels around the world, stealing things for folks, no questions asked, nor given. He has a unique take on what comprises ‘conscience’, and it is with this advantage that Donovan is able to steal from rich and poor, good and bad people, without worrying about this impact this has on his victims.

At some point in Book 1, Three Wrongs,

Donovan realizes he doesn’t want to do bad things any more. Unsure of what it is he does want to do, he explores this notion of keeping on, while making an effort to no longer break the law. Implicit in this effort is the idea that he (concurrently) no longer wants to hurt anyone—good or bad—nor does he want to continue to isolate himself, emotionally, from others.

I’m smiling to myself, because, at this point, I realize it is absolutely not in my best interests (as a writer) to have Donovan’s efforts at redemption happen overnight. Else, where would my series go? Then again, I’m finishing Book 4 presently, so it’s apparent redemption can take time.

As an aside, do you notice how effortlessly my brain slips from reality to fiction and back? Oh, Donovan is real, all right; he merely has challenges appearing to anyone else in the human race! But more on that another day. Let’s go back to discussing redemption in my fiction.

In Three Wrongs, Donovan is cold, calculating. Successful at shutting himself off from relationships, he has time and energy to travel the world, his focus on making money. With no social life, a barely-furnished apartment in Montreal, a city he seldom returns to, and a growing collection of enemies—isn’t it funny that he steals to augment the collections of others, while this act of stealing augments his personal collections of money and enemies?—his sole purpose is to squeeze money from strangers and stash it away. And for what? He doesn’t know, because he hasn’t taken to time to explore what other reasons there may be for walking this earth.

But then, something happens. Unwillingly, Donovan develops a relationship. Not coincidentally, it arrives with a burgeoning conscience. I really enjoyed, by the way, presenting his crise de conscience during rush hour on a crowded NYC sidewalk. Complications ensue, as you can imagine.

In Book 2: AMACAT,

Donovan begins by having retired from the art of theft. But life, certainly not life as suspense-thriller readers know it, doesn’t like to leave well enough alone. Three completely different forces compel him to employ the skills he—let’s be honest—hasn’t forgotten, in order to help others. Has Donovan become a good Samaritan? A white knight? Not exactly, as you may guess.

By Book 3: Steal It All,

the relationships component of his life has exploded. He seems to be buddies with everyone. Has he forgotten his old ways; turned over the proverbial leaf? Really, life is more complicated than that. So, why not have a nice, messy fictional life as well? And so it goes. Donovan backslides, just a bit. This is the darkest novel in the series, and isn’t it in the darkest hours that the soul is tested?

But; relationships. I believe the relationships we have with each other help to keep us on an even moral keel. They provide balance, relevance. Perspective. We look around us and can see what makes sense to the little neighbourhood we inhabit. So we course-correct. Sometimes this adjustment (toward the light? Maybe) is altruistic. We want to be good, so we look around, see what that word ‘good’ means to those we care about, and model that behaviour. Sometimes, we do it from fear. Fear of the loss of things we value: things, money. Or fear of the loss of people who have entered our lives and changed us irrevocably.

Which brings us back to redemption. Has Donovan found redemption? Does he even know what it will look like, once he thinks he’s found it? Now that he’s accepted the concept of being in relationships, will his version of redemption stand up to scrutiny by those he now cares about?

As you read this, please note the wealth of questions I ask, while concurrently shrugging their answers off so blithely. That’s because redemption is hard, dude. It’s hard, choosing between the ‘right’ thing and a pot load of money. It’s complicated, worrying about whether to kill someone who’s trying to kill you back. Life is no easy, nor is the baggage attached to it. Good thing, or I’d have nothing to write about.

AMACAT drops in print in the fall of 2015. Steal It All drops as an eBook shortly after that.

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