Award-winning journalist and talented author, Steve Piacente, has kindly agreed to guest post about his inspiration for his upcoming release, Bootlicker, the prequel to his debut release, Bella.
About The Author:
Steve Piacente (@wordsprof) has been a professional writer since graduating from American University in 1976. In 2010, he self-published the award-winning Bella, the story of a widow’s quest to uncover the truth about her husband’s death on an Afghan battlefield. Bootlicker is the prequel. Steve started as a sportswriter at the Naples Daily News, switched to news at the Lakeland Ledger, and returned to D.C. in 1985 as correspondent for the Tampa Tribune. In 1989, the native New Yorker became correspondent for the Charleston (SC) Post & Courier. He is now deputy communications director at a federal agency in Washington, D.C., and teaches journalism classes at AU. Contact Steve at email@example.com.
Bella is available at http://amzn.to/catchingon
Bootlicker is available at http://bit.ly/BuyBoot
By Steve Piacente
When readers ask about the inspiration for Bootlicker, I take my time answering. The story concerns a dark secret that binds the man about to become South Carolina’s first black congressman since the Civil War to a racist and violent U.S. senator.
The senator, who began as a judge, is his boss and mentor. Their relationship dates back decades, to a horrific incident that defined the senator’s first role in this man’s life: enslaver.
The senator’s name is Mac McCauley. The future congressman is Ike Washington. They are not intended to be fictional representations of the real South Carolinians who held the positions of senator and congressman during this era.
Here’s what’s true: Sen. Strom Thurmond represented South Carolina for almost 50 years. Thurmond ran for president in 1948 as a “Dixiecrat,” and vowed there were “not enough troops in the Army to force the Southern people … to admit the Negro race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes and into our churches.” After he died in 2003, it was learned that Thurmond had fathered a mixed-race daughter.
It is also true that in 1992, South Carolina held an extraordinary election that ended with Jim Clyburn seated as the state’s first black congressman since Reconstruction. Clyburn, son of a minister, rose to chair the Congressional Black Caucus and is today the number three Democrat in the U.S. House.
That is where fact ends and fiction begins.
During 10 years as Washington correspondent for the Charleston paper, I wondered how Thurmond, despite his enormous popularity back home, had managed to keep winning once blacks came to political power. I asked consultants, strategists, university professors and more. No one had a solid answer, so I let my imagination run wild, concocting a fantastic scenario in which a young black man is forced to become a racist senator’s secret liaison throughout black South Carolina.
As time goes on, I thought it would be compelling to see the young man catch his own case of political fever. In Bootlicker, Ike’s family has money and respect. The days of forcing him to cooperate evaporate, making him and McCauley the unlikeliest of allies. By 1992, Ike is ready to assume his place in history.
But there is the guilt - an ever-present, all consuming guilt - and Ike’s knowledge that he rose to power on the judge’s bloody coattails, and helped the white-robed murderer rise from judge to congressman, and then to United States senator.
The fictional saga of Ike and McCauley is less about race than about choices and character. The book is about guilt and the tricky path to redemption. It will take readers where TV cameras are never invited, to back rooms where decisions are made, futures are decided, and the line between right and wrong is not so easily defined.
Now that you know the story, how do you judge Ike Washington?
How do you think the voters will judge him when a young reporter reveals his secret just before Election Day?
Most of all, how will Ike judge himself after everyone else has spoken? Can he win and assume the role of congressman, or will he forever wear the label whispered by his critics? It was this label that became the title:
Author: Steve Piacente
In the summer of 1959, two black teens hoping to sneak a beer in the South Carolina woods chance on a lynching led by the local judge. One bolts. The other, Ike Washington, freezes and winds up with a choice: join the man about to die, or begin hustling black support the judge needs to advance in politics. In return, he will enjoy a life of power and comfort. In a year of heightened political sensitivities, Bootlicker goes where C-SPAN is never invited – to back rooms where deals are cut, futures are plotted, and where right and wrong are not so easily defined. Bootlicker is for women intrigued by powerful men, men intrigued by the path to power, and all who thought they understood politics.
Find Bootlicker Online:
Author: Steve Piacente
Isabel Moss knew she might lose her husband when he went off to war.
When the call came, she was almost ready.
What stopped her cold was the second call…
Find Bella Online:
Happy reading until next time!