Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Killer in the Wind

Maybe it was the dark house on the edge of town, the murderer waiting for me inside, but I thought about the ghosts that night, that last April night before they all came back to haunt me… - the opening of A Killer in the Wind

Andrew Klavan,” author Stephen King has said, “is the most original American novelist of crime and suspense since Cornell Woolrich.” If you’re not familiar with Klavan, you should be, and if you’re not already a fan, you will be.

He is the author of internationally bestselling crime novels like True Crime, made into a film by Clint Eastwood, and Don’t Say A Word, also a film, starring Michael Douglas. He has been nominated for the Mystery Writers of America’s prestigious Edgar Award five times, winning twice. Two of his many other books include Empire of Lies, which features – gasp! – an unapologetically Christian protagonist and an Islamic terrorist conspiracy, and The Identity Man, which explores themes of identity and redemption beneath its crime thriller veneer.

He has recently begun writing thrillers for the vast, impressionable YA or Young Adult audience as well, including the bestselling Homelanders series, which follows a patriotic teenager’s battle against jihadists (in a literary genre devoid of them, overrun as it is with vampires and zombies). That series too is being developed for film.

As a screenwriter, Klavan wrote the great little 1990 film A Shock to the System, which starred Michael Caine, and 2008’s One Missed Call, starring Ed Burns. As a thoughtful essayist on the state of the culture, he is a contributing editor to City Journal, and his articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and elsewhere. An occasional guest on Glenn Beck, Hannity and Red Eye, Klavan also blogs regularly for PJ Media and his video series “Klavan on the Culture” can be found at or on YouTube.

To refer to his books by the limiting labels “thrillers” or “crime novels” doesn’t do them justice. Yes, Klavan writes page-turners that do indeed thrill, with flawed, tough-guy heroes, real-world bad guys, a dark sensibility and a surprisingly comic touch. But his books are also of unusually (for this genre) high literary quality and packed with grander themes and big ideas. [Full disclosure: Drew Klavan is a friend of mine, so don’t take my word for it; pick up any of his novels for yourself and try to resist being hooked along for the ride.]

Try, for example, Klavan’s latest thriller, A Killer in the Wind, a ridiculously fast-paced, noir-ish psychological suspense thriller about Dan Champion, a small-town detective who chases down small-time lowlifes while half-heartedly romancing a waitress at the local bar – until one day, his nightmarish past returns to haunt him. A few years earlier, working vice for the NYPD, Champion had uncovered a sex slavery ring run by a faceless – literally – kingpin known as the Fat Woman. Obsessed with taking her down, he infiltrated that perverse world and broke the case, but in the process played judge, jury, and executioner, costing him his job. Not only that, but the obsession left him drug-addicted and stalked by hallucinations of a dead child and a beautiful woman he can never have.

Now, just when he’s finally putting those old demons behind him, the disgraced ex-cop is called one night to examine the body of a woman who washes ashore. It’s the same woman from the fevered dreams of his withdrawal from drug addiction – the woman that captured his heart but who, he had come to accept, didn’t actually exist.

The mystery deepens and darkens when Champion becomes the target of a trained torturer and vengeful killer who wants to make sure he never uncovers the truth about Champion’s dream lover and the dead child. There’s no way out for Champion except to confront the killer, the Fat Woman, and his demons. In this novel as in his others, Klavan isn’t afraid to carry you into dark depths, but the ride is always gripping and entertaining.

On another level in his novels, Klavan manages to address conservative themes – the individual against a corrupt media and an oppressive government; the role of faith on both the personal and civilizational scales; the existence and conflict of good and evil – often without seeming overtly political. His stories are seducing many readers into examining their own world view without them even realizing it. Factor in his lighthearted “Klavan on the Culture” videos, and it becomes clear that both as a novelist and an essayist, not only is Andrew Klavan one of the most thoughtful conservative cultural critics, he may be our side’s most accessible and most influential one. To get a taste for his range of thoughts on the state of the culture, as well as some insight into Klavan’s own journey from atheist and Berkley leftist to passionate defender of conservative values, check out his 2008 appearance on “Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson.”

As I’ve written before on FrontPage Mag, we lost the last election because the left long ago won the culture. Everywhere we turn, the left controls the narrative. As David Horowitz says, politics is about emotion, not reason. Too many voters aren’t swayed any longer, if they ever were, by graphs and facts; but they are seduced, inspired and changed by compelling, thought-provoking stories. What conservatives need now in order to win is storytellers, whether they are politicians or novelists, speechwriters or screenwriters, showrunners or songwriters. The way to draw people to our message is through powerful, riveting stories that convey our values and that address themes the left refuses to question. In other words, in order to take back the culture, what we need is, quite simply, more Andrew Klavans.

(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 3/11/13)