What’s in a name?
The manuscript of my fifth novel in the Monastery Valley series is at the editor’s desk. It’s perhaps the ninth or tenth draft–I lose count after six or so–and it’s working title expresses the main story and sub-plots: The Posse, the Hotshots, and the Miracle. Without spoiling the story, I want to share how I came up with that title.
Briefly, the main story of number 5, like all my books, is inspired by events in the news–in this case, the takeover of federal land by right-wing extremists affiliated with the Posse Comitatus. The Posse is named after a law passed by Congress in 1878–at the end of Reconstruction–explicitly banning the use of Army or Navy personnel to enforce the law within the United States. It was a reaction against Reconstruction, during which the Union Army was used in some states to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment (which freed the slaves and allowed for penalties against states that prevented freed slaves from voting). The “unreconstructed” (vengeful) supporters of the Confederacy hated Reconstruction and did all they could to weaken the federal government in retaliation for it.
In the late 1960s, Henry Beach, from Portland, OR, founded the modern Posse Comitatus (the Latin name means “power of the county”). Beach’s extreme anti-Semitic, racist, and anti-government views included the belief that there is no legitimate government higher than the county, and that the county sheriff is the highest authority in the land. Beach wrote that if any local sheriff were to allow federal authorities to come into the county and impose regulations, “He shall be removed by the Posse to the most populated intersection of streets in the township and at high noon be hung by the neck, the body remaining until sundown as an example to those who would subvert the law.” Note: Beach founded the Posse in 1969. Yep, 1969.
In The Posse, the Hotshots, and the Miracle, against the extreme threat posed by the heavily armed Posse members–whom Deputy Andi Pelton must confront to prevent violence–a summer wildfire threatens St. Brendan’s Monastery high on Mount Adams. St. Brendan’s is Monastery Valley’s namesake. As many of you know, “hotshots” are twenty-person teams of elite wild land fire fighters deployed on the most dangerous fires. But before the hotshots arrive, even as she works to contain the Posse’s danger, Deputy Pelton needs to mobilize the community to build a fire line to protect the monastery–in case the hotshots can’t get there in time.
The premise of the novel is that wildfire and heavily armed protesters have something in common: The capacity to do great violence to a community. Poised against that violence is the character of the community and its leaders.
Okay, that’s enough for the “Posse” and the “hotshots.” What about the “miracle”? I’ll save that one–maybe you’ll read the book when it comes out. Suffice it to say, this isn’t a “walking on water” kind of miracle. It’s the sort that can happen when folks in a small community face a daunting challenge and must eke out a way to confront it.
The Posse, the Hotshots, and the Miracle will be released late in 2020, or very early in 2021. Watch this space!