I wrote two posts on Motivation, one on the protagonist and one on the antagonist. They were well-received. But I think at the heart of any novel, especially in the genre I write in, good vs evil stands out as a core tenet or theme. I know it does in my writing, both in my inspirational blog: www.simplethoughtsfromacomplicatedmindsortof.com and in my fiction.
Two of my favorite books that speak to good vs evil are Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and The Stand by Stephen King. I’ve read and reread them several times and never fail to gain something new from each reading.
In my mind, Lord of the Flies is one of the best book ever written, but at the same time, it is a horrible book. You see, the plot is kids crash land on an island offering food to eat, water to drink, and shade from the sun. Yet, the premise is that without structure and societal rules, man, in this case, the boys, are left to their own devices and embrace evil: power and greed, and they kill each other, even those who were once friends. I believe good will always win over evil. It is my faith and my hope that humanity is better than this, even in children. If you’ve read my work, you see my characters triumph over evil and good wins out.
The Stand looks at the same. Something contagious escapes from a lab and spreads faster and more effective than a chain letter (paraphrasing King), leaving only those immune to the contagion to live. Quickly, sides are taken, and it becomes Good vs Evil. In the end, good wins out.
To illustrate the point, I use one of my books. In my book, Blaze In, Blaze Out, Detective O’Connor has a conversation with Brian. It is late at night and only the two of them are up, and it dawns on O’Connor that once again, someone is coming for him and, in doing so, threatens the lives of the four boys in his and Detective Graff’s care. The hunting and fishing trip O’Connor, Graff, and the four boys are on takes a deadly turn. I apologize for the formatting. Cutting and pasting doesn’t work well with this platform.
From Blaze In, Blaze Out
He spotted the Oreos on the counter. He pulled out a plate from the cupboard. He popped one of the Oreos into his mouth and placed five others onto the plate. He opened the refrigerator, took out the milk and filled his glass. Bobby would not have been happy with him because of the refined sugar thing, but Randy would have joined him.
Brian smiled and carried the glass of milk and the plate of cookies into the living room and sat on the couch facing the empty fireplace. He set the glass and plate on the table, grabbed a blanket from the back of the couch, covered his legs with it, and began dunking and then eating the cookies.
He had managed to dunk and swallow two before he nearly pissed himself.
“Are you going to share?”
Brian jumped. A splash of milk landed on the blanket and the remaining cookies fell off the plate, one falling onto the floor.
“Jesus, Pat!” Brian hissed. “I never saw you.”
“Shhh, don’t wake everyone up,” O’Connor whispered with a chuckle.
“What are you doing up?”
O’Connor sat in the dark corner in a stuffed chair that didn’t look comfortable. Probably why he chose it, Brian thought. Pat stretched his legs out in front of him, placing them on the little ottoman that matched the chair.
Once his eyes adjusted to the dark, Brian noticed that O’Connor had never changed out of the clothes he had worn that day. He also noticed that O’Connor gripped his Beretta, but kept it on his thigh. His finger was off the trigger.
“I don’t sleep much.”
“You scared the shit out of me,” Brian whispered.
“You were too into your milk and cookies to notice me.” He chuckled, and knowing the semi-constant haranguing Bobby gave him about eating too many sweets, especially cookies, he said, “What would Bobby say?”
Brian grinned and said, “He’s not here. What happens when we hunt stays where we hunt.”
He popped a cookie into his mouth, chewed it, swallowed and smiled at O’Connor.
“If you’re ever on a date, don’t eat Oreos. Your teeth look disgusting.”
“You’re a shit,” Brian laughed. “Seriously, what are you doing up?”
“When I’m on the job, I don’t sleep much.”
“You’re on vacation,” Brian retorted.
“I might be on vacation, but I’m still on the job, so I don’t sleep much.”
Brian shook his head and said, “Your job sucks.”
O’Connor smiled, yawned, and then said, “Someone’s gotta do it.”
“Sure as hell won’t be me.”
O’Connor chuckled and said, “Never figured you to be a cop. No way.”
Somewhat offended, Brian said, “Why not?”
“Because you have too good a heart. You do the things I’ve done, you end up with the things I’ve got. It changes you. I don’t wish that on anyone, especially you.”
“But you help people. Those guys in California. You and Paul freed them. You helped us in Arizona. You were there the day my brother was shot and killed.”
O’Connor sighed, scratched his arm with his gun still in hand and said, “But I couldn’t save him, Bri. I’m sorry about that.”
Brian took a gulp of milk after the last cookie disappeared, and he set the glass on the plate, the plate on the table, and tucked his feet under him.
“I don’t think anyone could have. It all happened so fast. He died in Big Gav’s arms. Did you know that?”
“If Bobby wouldn’t have sprinted to the field and tackled Mario and Cem, they would have died too. I’m surprised more weren’t killed.” He shrugged and said, “Me.”
He looked off into the darkness of the cabin and said in a soft voice, “Besides, I’ve done some pretty serious shit too.”
“In self-defense. Bri, if you hadn’t done what you did, you wouldn’t be sitting here talking to me, and George, Brett, and probably Two wouldn’t be around, either. You did what you had to do.”
Brian shrugged and looked away, unable to make eye contact.
O’Connor noticed that neither of Brian’s hands shook. That surprised him, given what they were talking about.
“Are you okay, Brian? With everything? Are you happy?”
Brian shrugged and said, “Mostly.”
“Mostly,” Brian repeated.
“You and your dad are in a rough patch.”
Brian shrugged, his chin ending up on his chest, and it had nothing to do with being tired.
He almost told O’Connor about the conversation he overheard Jeremy having with Two and Brett.
He was going to go into the study to use the computer to print off a paper he had written, but stopped when he heard Jeremy.
“I want to ask you a question. I know you are close to Brian.”
That statement caused Brian to slow down. Brett had been ahead of him heading to the study, unaware that Brian was behind him. He must have heard Jeremy also. Brian sped up to listen more closely.
“I love him, Dad,” Brett said as he walked in.
“Me, too,” Two said. “He’s a cool big brother. I never had one.”
“Yeah, but now you have six,” Brett said with a laugh.
“I know you both love Brian. I don’t want to make either of you uncomfortable, but have either of you done anything sexual with him? You know, experimenting like he and Bobby have done?”
Brett, whose temper could reach a flash point in seconds said, “The answer to that is no. I love Brian, and honestly, if he wanted to do anything with me, I wouldn’t hesitate. Not for a second. I’ve even hinted at it. But he turned me down.”
“Are you serious?” Two has asked Brett. Then he must have turned to Jeremy, and said, “I haven’t done anything with him and he’s done nothing with me.”
“We’re done,” Brett had said. “Come on, Two. And one more thing, Dad. Brian and Bobby love each other. They still do. Brian loves Bobby. He always will. What they’ve done and whatever they might do in the future is out of love. There isn’t anything wrong with that.”
They must have started out of the room when they stopped talking. Brian retreated down the hallway, but he did hear Brett say, “You talk about wanting Brian to trust you. It’s pretty obvious that you don’t trust him.”
“Brett . . .”
“You don’t. Bri already feels that you don’t love him. He doesn’t think you like him all that much, either. How could you, if you can’t trust him?”
Brian had made it to the family room doorway and made it look like he was just coming out of that room.
Neither Brett nor Two had ever mentioned that conversation, but it was a conversation Brian would never forget.
O’Connor watched Brian struggle. He could almost hear the gears turning in his head.
“What are you thinking about?”
Brian shook his head, and said, “Dad and I will work it out.” He said it, but he didn’t necessarily believe it. And if he did, he understood it would take considerable time.
“I hope so. He loves you, Bri.”
Brian snorted. He couldn’t help it.
“Don’t doubt that.”
Brian shook his head, not willing to talk about it any further.
O’Connor didn’t want to get into it right then and there, but he’d circle back to it at some point. He changed subjects and said, “I stand by what I said. You wouldn’t make a good cop because you have too good a heart. I know Brett wants to be a doctor, and that’s a good choice for him. He’s so damn smart. I worry about George and Two. They’re thinking of going into law enforcement. Both of them, and you and Brett, have been involved with too much. You’ve seen too much. Jamie, Paul and I want you to be kids, to grow up slowly, and not be involved in the crap we’ve . . . I’ve been involved with.”
Brian shrugged and said, “Too late for that.”
O’Connor leaned forward and set his Berretta on the ottoman and said, “If I could take it all back, I would. If there was a way to go back and make sure you guys didn’t have to do what you had to do, I would do it in a heartbeat.”
“Had to do?” Brian shook his head.
“Yes, had to do. Bri, think back to that psycho asshat in your woods last winter. If you wouldn’t have stopped him, he might have gotten into your house and who knows what he would have done.”
“But I want you to remember something, and this is important.” He paused, stared intently at Brian and said, “Instead of killing him, you only wounded him.” He repeated, “You wounded him, but you didn’t kill him. You made a decision, a choice to spare him.”
Brian brushed a tear off his cheek and said, “But in Arizona . . .”
O’Connor didn’t let him finish. He said, “You made another choice. That choice was just as good and necessary as the decision you made in the woods. You protected Brett, George, and Two. You protected yourself. If you hadn’t made that choice, the four of you wouldn’t be here. I’d be talking to a ghost.”
“But maybe I didn’t have to kill them. Those two men.” Brian stopped, shook his head, and looked away from O’Connor, then turned back and said, “I watched them die. I shot them.”
“And Brian, if you wouldn’t have, Brett, George, Two, and you would be dead. Graff, the FBI, and I are absolutely certain of it. Those men had murdered many others before they came after you. They had rap sheets the length of your leg. They were criminals. They came to kill you, and you stopped them before they could. And, look at you. The scars you have. The glasses you have to wear. The drops you have to put in your eyes. You know if you hadn’t shot them, they would have killed you, Brett, George and Two.”
To O’Connor, even in the dark, and in the shadows of the living room, the look on Brian’s face was at least neutral, if not hopeful.
“Brett and George told Graff and me what happened at the Morning Star ranch. They told us that you had covered them. Again, protecting your brothers.”
He paused to let that sink in.
“Up on that mesa, you purposely hid Brett behind that boulder, didn’t you?”
“You deliberately sent Two with Rebecca because you didn’t want him up on that mesa with you guys, didn’t you?”
Brian nodded again.
“And you purposely passed up taking a drink of water so Brett and George could have more. You put yourself in jeopardy of dehydration to keep Brett and George safe.”
“I stand by what I said. Brian Evans, you have a good heart. You don’t deserve the crap that you went through this past year or two. None of you do. But especially you. I believe that with all my heart.”
“Thanks.” It came out as a whisper. A bit choked, but out it came.
“Bri, I love you. I love you and George and Brett as if you were my own sons. I’m jealous of Jeremy and Vicky. You three are special to me. I’m not saying that your other brothers aren’t. It’s just that I spend more time with you guys, so I know you better.”
Brian smiled and said, “Michael is pretty special.”
“Two worships the ground you walk on, Bri. Watching the two of you together is special. Not quite like it is between you and Bobby, but the relationship you have with Two is special.”
Fear flashed in Brian’s eyes and he said, “Pat, Michael and I . . . we don’t . . . we never-”
“Shit, Bri, I know that. Everyone knows that. You’re Two’s big brother. That’s all I meant.”
Brian relaxed, but glanced at O’Connor furtively.
“Hey, you and Bobby had a special relationship. I hope someday, you two will again. I have nothing but love and respect for both of you. Believe that.”
“You don’t think it’s weird?”
“I don’t necessarily understand it because I’m not wired that way. But I know one thing. Love is never weird, Bri. Never.”
Brian didn’t know what to say to that. It was different talking to the Doc about stuff. Brian didn’t know him and he wasn’t friends with him. O’Connor was a friend, so it was harder.
“So, I’m going to ask you again. Are you okay?”
Brian sighed, thought for a minute, and said, “I’m getting there.” He smiled, lifted up both hands at O’Connor and said, “No shakes.”
O’Connor smiled at him and said, “That’s a start.”
O’Connor’s question: Are you okay? is a loaded one. The same question could have been asked of Ralph in Lord of the Flies, and I don’t think his answer would be any different from Brian’s. Both of them have a lot of baggage to unpack and demons to wrestle with. But at the core is their own internal battle with good vs evil.
Purposely, I wrote Brian’s character out of strength in my belief that good triumphs over evil. Brian is a complicated mess. He has a good heart, and is intentional in what he sets out to do. Deep down, he realizes his decisions and his choices come with a great cost to his heart and soul, as the battle between good vs evil sometimes causes.
If you are interested in any of my work, I’ve given you a brief blurb and link for your convenience.
Blaze In, Blaze Out: A Literary Titan Gold Book Award Winner! A Reader’s Ready Recommended Read! A BestThriller’s Editor’s Pick!
Eiselmann and O’Connor thought the conviction of Dmitry Andruko, the head of a Ukrainian crime family, meant the end. It was only the beginning. They forgot that revenge knows no boundaries, vindictiveness knows no restraints, and ruthlessness never worries about collateral damage. Andruko hired contract killers to go after and kill O’Connor and Eiselmann. The killers can be anyone and be anywhere. They can strike at any time. They care nothing of collateral damage. Andruko believes a target is a target, and in the end, the target must die. https://amzn.to/34lNllP
Betrayed: A PenCraft 1st Place Winner for Thriller-Fiction! A Maxy Award Runner-Up for Mystery/Suspense! A Literary Titan Silver Book Award Winner! A Reader’s Ready Recommended Read Award Winner! A Reader’s Favorite Honorable Mention Award Winner for Fiction-Crime-Mystery!
Betrayed is Now Available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback! https://amzn.to/3AfUUpS
A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, but no one is talking. A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old boy. Greed can be all-consuming, and seeing is not believing. No one can be trusted, and the hunters become the hunted. https://amzn.to/2EKHudx
Spiral Into Darkness: Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards!
He blends in. He is successful, intelligent, and methodical. So far, he has murdered eight people. There is no discernible pattern. There are no clues. There are no leads. The only thing the FBI and local police have to go on is the method of death: two bullets to the face- gruesome and meant to send a message. But it’s difficult to understand any message coming from a dark and damaged mind. Two adopted boys, struggling in their own world, do not know they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement. https://amzn.to/2RBWvTm
Caught in a Web: A PenCraft Literary Award Winner! Named “One of the Best Thrillers of 2018!” by BestThrillers.com
Caught in a Web is also available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback! http://bit.ly/2WO3kka
They found the bodies of high school and middle school kids dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. A violent gang, MS-13, controls the drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors. They send Ricardo Fuentes to find out who is cutting in on their business, shut it down and teach them a lesson. But he has an ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay. Detectives Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the drugs, shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills anyone else. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696
The Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they live in separate parts of the country, the lives of Kelliher, 11-year-old Brett McGovern, and 11-year-old George Tokay are separate pieces of a puzzle. The two boys become interwoven with the same thread Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their futures grow dark as each search for a way out. https://amzn.to/34nXBH5
Book One, Stolen Lives: Editor’s Pick by BestThrillers! Literary Titan Gold Book Award Winner! A Crime Thriller finalist in the 2021 Best Thriller Book Awards!
Two thirteen-year-old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they will end up like the other kids they found- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. To make the investigation that much tougher, Kelliher suspects that one of his team members might be involved. https://amzn.to/3oMo4qZ
Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives:
The boys are home, but now they have to fit back in with their families and friends. Their parents and the FBI thought the boys were safe. They were until people began dying. Now the hunt is on for six dangerous and desperate men who vow revenge. With no leads and nothing to go on, the FBI can only sit back and wait. A dangerous game that threatens not only the boys, but their families. https://amzn.to/2RAYIk2
Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
Three dangerous men with nothing to lose offer a handsome reward to anyone willing to kill fourteen-year-old Brett McGovern. He does not know that he, his younger brother, and a friend are targets. More than anyone, these three men vow to kill George, whom they blame for forcing them to run and hide. A fun vacation turns into a nightmare and ends where it started, back on the Navajo Nation Reservation, high on a mesa held sacred by George and his grandfather. Outnumbered and outgunned, George will make the ultimate sacrifice to protect his adoptive father and his adoptive brothers- but can he? Without knowing who these men are? Or where they are? Without knowing whom to trust? Is he prepared for betrayal that leads to his heartbreak and death? http://bit.ly/SplinteredLives