Author’s ‘Extreme’ Thriller

Book Delves Into Religious Extremism

Posted February 14, 2005 at 2:31pm

An initial glance at William Bates’ first novel, “A Good Day to Die,” might lead a savvy reader to believe it was a work of political parable in reaction to the religious issues that were raised in the 2004 presidential race.

Bates is quick to point out, however, that this book is not an overt political statement stemming from the recent election; in fact, it was finished before the 2004 race formally began.

“None of the characters are based on real people — the disclaimer that comes before the TV shows,” Bates said. However, he added that some realism is necessary to draw in the reader, and he used “as many facts based in real life to get them to believe it could happen.”

The book explores the consequences of mixing religious extremism and government. Bates calls it “taking a lot of things to the extreme for a little escapism.”

Religion and the Internet both played central roles in the 2004 contest, but they create a life-and-death drama in this political thriller.

“It’s a nice apocalyptic story that involves the demise of the Capitol,” Bates said with a smile.

The book’s protagonist, Tyler Griffin, is a well-meaning private detective who uncovers a plot to overthrow the government and turn the United States into a religious state.

A trio of fundamentalist friends attempts this over a period of decades as they each evolve into national figures. Tom Weatherby is a conservative Senator with national notoriety, known for holding “voluntary” prayer breakfasts for his staff each morning. Lucas Cash is the mysterious director of the FBI, while John Wright is the president of the United States, masquerading as an atheist to stir up religious backlash around the country.

The three engage in a more than decades-long plot to bring religion back into American public life, but they commit heinous sins along the way in the name of their faith.

The overall theme explores the intertwining of religion, politics and the Internet and how all three can be used for evil purposes as well as good. Bates said exploring the role of the Internet was a more overriding theme, but the religion issue kept “popping up” as he wrote.

“It’s been something that’s always fascinated me — the quirks between government and religion,” he said.

The book does not shun faith, though; as the villains act in the name of Christianity, so do some of the heroes.

“The central theme is, ‘Is religion a personal or public issue?’” Bates said. “Those who believe it’s a personal issue are trying to save the day. Those who believe it’s a public issue are not.”

Bates decided to write the novel in between jobs several years ago. “This seemed like a productive use of my time as I waited for the phone to ring or an interview to come,” he said.

Today he works in Congressional outreach for the Council on Competitiveness and lives on Capitol Hill with his wife and two young sons. He previously worked on technology issues for Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and also worked as a lobbyist and political consultant.

Although he is not sure when he will find the time for another fiction effort, readers can expect more from him in the future.

“I don’t think John Grisham has anything to worry about — not yet anyway.”

The Trover Shop will host a book signing and discussion with Bates from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The bookstore is at 221 Pennsylvania Ave. SE.