Robert Liparulo is a journalist whose work has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Consumer’s Digest, and New Man. His first published novel, a supernatural thriller called Comes a Horseman , was released last fall by WestBow Press. Stan Guthrie sat down with him. This is Part 2. Part 1 appeared last week.
Your book describes a secret society. Tell me about it.
In the book, there’s an organization that watches for the anti-Christ. It’s basically an old organization that was part of a Gnostic cult. They ultimately believe the world is evil. They believe that the destruction of the world actually benefits God, [and] is a way of rising to meet God. They understand the Bible very well. They claim to be a Christian organization. They know that the Anti-Christ was to bring about the destruction of the world. In their twisted theology, they wanted to usher in the age of the Anti-Christ, which will destroy the world. So they set up a society that watched for the Anti-Christ and with the intention of not just watching for him but helping him. There’s this powerful organization of business leaders, world leaders, who are watching for the Anti-Christ with all this money waiting for them. And over the years they would vote on candidates. In the book, there’s a candidate they believe . . . is the Anti-Christ. And so they’re putting their support behind him.
In researching this, I was looking for a real organization like that. I just assumed there has to be somebody like that. I called a research guy I know who’s actually at the Vatican and he knew of organizations throughout history that had been doing this kind of thing. So he gave me some names and I just started pursuing those names and it got to a point where instead of people being helpful, they got real reticent about anything—and I knew I was getting close. And so I kept pushing. I got a call from one of my earlier contacts at like 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and he said, “You’ve gone too far. Stop it”—and hung up. I went into the office the next day and there was a message on my machine that had an electronically altered voice that said, “Stop it.” It was very clear what they were wanting me to stop.
So I just basically stopped. But I used the electronic voice in the book, so I got something out of it. I wasn’t able to find what I wanted. And if they’re as secretive as I speculate in the book, then I would have never found them anyway. But as a former journalist, I wanted to try.
Despite all the interest in secret societies from novels such as The Da Vinci Code, I’m a skeptic. I’m a journalist and I’m against conspiracy theories. How do you see all that?
You know, I am, too. I’m against the concept that anybody is that organized. I think there are organizations like that, just the same way that there are Shriners or Kiwanis. I don’t know if they’re quite as organized or as powerful as I’m claiming in the book, which is part of the fiction element of the book. I don’t think there’s a Catholic conspiracy and the Catholic Church has hidden things. It’s a big world, though. As a fiction writer, I like to just keep my options open to what’s out there. But who knows? I tend to be a skeptic, too. The whole idea that people can be that organized or the government can get really organized and know everything—come on, they can’t even figure out the tax law. So it’s one of those things that I think definitely has to go into the realm of fiction.
So what are your next projects going to be?
The next one is called Germ. It’s about a renegade biologist who develops the world’s most lethal virus. A group of unlikely compatriots rushes to stop him from unleashing his hideous brainchild. Germ’s tagline, which conveys the nastiness of the virus, is “Pray the assassins get you first.”
Where do you come up with these ideas?
I have no idea. I’m a voracious reader. I read everything. Often what happens is, I’ll read the first two paragraphs of an article, and I’ll think I know where this article is going, and it totally goes somewhere else. But I’m thinking, “Hey that’s a story,” because I thought it was going that way.
When is it coming out?
It will be probably in October. I’ve already started the one that will come out in 2007. It’s called Lunatic Fringe. It examines the whole concept of vigilante justice. For a lot of people, if you saw a pedophile and you knew how heinous his crimes were, and then you heard one of the fathers of his victim killed him, there’d be a little part of you thinking, “Okay.” I want to explore if that is valid justice.
Is Comes a Horseman part of a new trend of Christian novels that can win acceptance among Christians and in the wider culture?
It’s not a crossover book. I think it’s a book that can hit both markets, the [American Booksellers Association] and the CBA [formerly Christian Booksellers Association] market, equally well without either side being offended by anything that’s in it. The time for that is right. I do think this is going to be a trend. If it becomes the kind of trend where Christian writers are pandering to the secular crowd, that will be wrong. I don’t think any kind of pandering is right, and I don’t think it’s honest.
Equally as bad would be to write this kind of book and then pull it back and then say, “Oh well, let’s put the prayer warrior in it.” Maybe those who did change the way they would have written will look at it and say, “That’s okay now; a door is opening.” I don’t necessarily think that door was open 10 years ago. Of course, I wish it were 10 years ago. It would have been nice if I were doing this 10 year ago.