When I started writing the “Good Fight Series” I never planned on Fear & Hope. One of those odd things happened; it was a patronizing pronouncement that couldn’t go unanswered:
"You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
Barack Obama, San Francisco Fundraiser, April 2008
When I first heard this in 2008, I was irked. That someone raised in Hawaii, Indonesia, and Illinois as well as educated in the rarefied atmosphere of Columbia University and Harvard Law wouldn’t know anything about Western Pennsylvania was no surprise but I wasn’t prompted to action; a politician said this in what he thought was a private moment in a California fundraiser, telling the audience what he thought they wanted to hear. In the spring of 2012, just as I was finishing Loud & Clear, in the midst of another election cycle, sycophants bandied about the 2008 Pennsylvania quote as an example of a politician speaking truth. It was as if the disrespectful, uninformed comment had taken on the aspect of validity. It is time for redress.
I’ve lived in California for over twenty years so I am well aware of the misconceptions Obama was seeking to validate but I did 'come of age’ in Western Pennsylvania during the 1970s steel industry collapse and I never forgot where I came from. It is undeniable there were great tragedies spawned by this collapse that caused a lot of bitterness. But, love him or hate him, Mr. Obama never lived there, doesn’t understand the people, and failed to understand or address the relevant points: the cause of the collapse was never mentioned, the fact that there were equal parts of triumph in the tragedy was not acknowledged, and the fiber of people’s character was dismissed as ‘clinging’. That characterization is so far from the truth that an answer is in order.
Fear & Hope is meant to be that answer. I realized in the spring of 2012 that I created all the backstory needed for Fear & Hope in my earlier novels: Marx & Ford and Loud & Clear. All I needed to do was use those characters as well as that backstory, revisit my youth, and tell the tale in the form of historical fiction. When you hold in Fear & Hope in your hands you'll see the result.
I hope you come to feel the anxieties, hopes, and dreams of Philip, Ruth and Liam or, failing that, at least gain understanding of their environment and character. This novel is meant, first of all, to entertain because the Western Pennsylvania tragedies and triumphs are one heck of story. But it is also, in some small measure, meant to both rebuff Mr. Obama’s pompous marginalization and point out the cautionary tales of high cost mistakes made then that are being repeated today.