As the twenty-first century enters its second decade, foreign wars, the lingering recession and a caustic political environment are taking their toll on Americans. But the party hasn't ended for Aidan Cole and his friends, a band of savvy -- if cynical -- New York journalists and bloggers who thrive at the intersection of media and celebrity. At wine-sodden dinner parties or in dimly lit downtown bars, their frenetic talk -- of scoops and page views, sexual adventures and trendy restaurants -- continues unabated. Then, without warning, the specter of terrorism reenters their lives. A bomb rips through the deserted floor of a midtown office tower. Middle Eastern terrorists are immediately suspected. But four days later, with no arrests and a city on edge, an anonymous email arrives in Aidan's in-box. Attached is the photograph of an attractive young white woman, along with a chilling message: "This is Paige Roderick. She's the one responsible."
So begins an extraordinary journey into the dark soul of modern America -- from a back-to-the-land community in the Smoky Mountains to a Weather Underground-like bomb factory in Vermont; from Fishers Island, isolated getaway of the wealthy elite, to the hip lofts of Manhattan's Meatpacking District. American Subversive is David Goodwillie's sharp and penetrating take on the paranoia of our times -- and its real, untold dangers. In examining the connection between our collective apathy and the roots of insurrection, Goodwillie has crafted an intoxicating story of two young Americans grasping for a foothold in a culture -- and a country -- that's crumbling around them.
David Goodwillie is the author of the acclaimed memoir Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time. He has also played professional baseball, worked as a private investigator, and was an expert at Sotheby's auction house. A graduate of Kenyon College, he lives in New York City. American Subversive is his first novel.
Simon and Schuster
Author: David Goodwillie
Interview with David Goodwillie
How did you come up with the idea of American Subversive?
David Goodwillie: I am a fiction writer, a novelist and I have always wanted to write a book that was political that had ideas behind it, even if it was going to be a thriller. I guess it starts as a reaction to the Iraq war, as an American I was looking around, very frustrated by the apathy surrounding the war. There were people, my generation, who didn't really care about things, they were living in their own little bubbles and not getting out and expressing any feeling or resentment. I wanted to get the feeling across and write a good story, as well.
I came up with these two characters that were on the opposite ends of the American spectrum: Paige Roderick and Aidan Cole. Paige Roderick's brother had died in Iraq and she becomes politically radicalised, she almost cares too much about the world.
Aidan Cole is a gossip blogger and a failed journalist, in New York City; he doesn't care about anything other than his own little orbit and the New York scene. I wanted these two, very different, Americans; a woman who cares too much about the world and a guy who doesn't care about anything, to come together somehow and bring each other in.
It is a political book, but it is not a book about parties necessarily, it is a book about apathy versus engagement.
What is the best thing about creating a care-free character like Aidan Cole?
David Goodwillie: He is my age; he lives in New York and he is in the media, so it's a world I know a lot about. There is always something going on in New York, there are ten parties a night and you can get lost in the way of the city. The character of Aidan is quite lost in his life, he is having the time of his life, but at the same time he is not getting anything accomplished. He has moved far away from the person the wants to be.
How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?
David Goodwillie: Yes, some of that. Aidan is a character that I know well, I know people that are a lot like him, brilliant people that are not necessarily living up to their potential. Paige's character is not from New York, she is from North Carolina from a military family and she is everything that I'm not. Some of it is from real life, some of it is made up.
In saying that, what research was involved in Paige Roderick's character?
David Goodwillie: Paige becomes a political radical, she starts living underground, under an assumed identity and she gets in a lot of trouble before running off with this small cell of domestic terrorists, who are bent on changing the political climate through violence. This really used to happen in the United States and a lot of other countries in the 1960's and 70's. Groups like the Weather Underground and several others used violence as a mean of political gain.
I went and I interviewed and talked to some of the older radicals because I wanted to find out, not necessarily where they were and what was going on in their lives but more of what the feeling of living underground felt like, the anxieties and the worrying of the door being knocked down and being arrested. I wanted to capture these fears as much as I could in my novel. I talked to a bunch of them and I needed to project that onto a current situation because the book takes place in 2010, the feeling should be the same even though the time period is different.
Can you talk about the difficulties behind a male writing from a female's perspective, in regards to Paige Roderick's character?
David Goodwillie: I enjoyed this a great deal, my first book was a memoir and with most writers unless you are someone who is really funny, once you write one memoir at a younger age, you want to move away from that and prove yourself in a novel or different setting. Paige was as far from my life as I can imagine and I really sunk my teeth into writing from a woman's perspective. I ended up really enjoying it and I think some of the best parts of the book are the parts Paige is in. It is a bit of a struggle because as a male you can't presume you know everything about a woman, but that is apart of talented writing.