Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Author Stuart Archer Cohen drops by... (& a Giveaway!)

The Army of the Republic: A NovelReaders, please join me welcoming Stuart Archer Cohen , author of The Army of the Republic who's guest blogging here today!

This book (Picador Trade Paperback; October 2009) is set in a dark alternate America – one that we have seen actual glimmers of over the past few tumultuous years. It is run by a corrupt government with designs to privatize public resources, and to silence dissent with a ruthless secret security force. But as the plans of greedy politicians and their corporate cronies begin to see the light of day, and dissenters are abducted and silenced, the citizens can no longer ignore the writing on the wall.


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Why I Wrote The Army of the Republic


Like a lot of novelists, I usually write about things that won’t leave me alone.  You have to really be interested in something to spend a few years with it every day, pursuing it around a dozen curves and into a hundred dead ends, only to have it disappear just when you think you’ve got it.

The idea of revolution had been kicking around in my head and my journals ever since my first trip to Central and South America in 1984, a fact that wasn’t looked on very kindly by the Salvadoran military when they arrested me and translated everything I had on my first eventful trip south.  I remember that incident clearly, especially being blindfolded and interrogated for eight hours at the San Salvador jail, and thinking, “This guy with the black shoes . . . ” (I could see a tiny slit of the floor through the bottom of the blindfold) “He seems nice, just a cop doing his job, but that one with the brown loafers, he’s bad news.  He’s one of those death-squad guys.” And that perception, correct or incorrect, of the mixture of perfectly decent people and rather evil people, thrown together by a bad situation, stayed with me.

A lot of other questions from my early South American trips stayed with me.  Was it ever justified to kill for a better world?  And how in the world did a bunch of college students and young professionals, which is what revolutionaries usually are, ever acquire the will and the skills to take on their own country?  As I watched the drift of our country towards an authoritarian Corporate state that reminded me of some of the governments I’d seen in Latin America, I felt a deeper and deeper urgency to address those questions for an American audience.  I began the rough draft in 2004, finishing the book in about three years.

The research was much more difficult than I’d anticipated.  I accumulated a shelf full of interesting books: how to form a new identity, improvised explosives, surveillance and body guarding.  Also many thick books in Spanish about Argentine urban guerrillas of the 70’s, which I rounded out with interviews in Buenos Aires.  In addition to that, I talked to organizers of the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, student activists, 1960’s activists, CIA people and assorted others.  Unlike the research for my previous novel, which came together in a few exhilarating weeks, the research for AOR was difficult and, at times, disturbing.

I heard a CIA “janitor” describing his disposal of a rogue death-squad leader in Central America, as well as an Argentine revolutionary recounting his part in a legendary prison break in Patagonia, which culminated in his freedom and his wife’s execution by the military.  When the subject is Revolution, heroism is invariably mixed with pain, and it’s hard to ask people to recount some of the most fearsome moments of their lives.  Some simply don’t want to talk about it, some revel in the past.  For others, the past is never quite past.  I chanced into a Montonero memorial service in Buenos Aires for a comrade who’d been murdered by the military 30 years before.  All the people were in their 50s, or older, and there was a feeling of great sadness there, even after all that time.  I remember them doing a little invocation I’d read about, where they said his name, then “Presente! Para ahora, y para siempre!” and it was deeply moving, just as a simple human cry of idealism and loss.

There’s another, deeper element than politics in The Army of the Republic, though.  What struck me about revolution is the way it so often pits on generation against another.  For that reason, the book became not simply about ideas, but about a family divided against itself. At the book’s heart is the Sands family, fabulously wealthy and deeply dysfunctional.  James Sands, Regime crony and billionaire, revels in the brilliance and entrepreneurship that has enabled him to build a massive corporation.  His wife, Ann, is appalled at his vanished idealism, while his son is outraged at his corruption and determined to bring him back to his earlier roots, by destroying him, if necessary.  The Sands family is a metaphor for the American family in the 21st century, pitted Conservative vs. Liberal, Right vs. Left, Corporate vs. Citizen, confused and angry and wondering how things went so wrong.

I’m not sure how many of the questions I began with in 2004 I ever really answered.  Is it justified to kill for a better world?  Maybe, sometimes.  Not very often.  I did finish the book with a new sense of America, of the fragility of its dreams and of a certain nobility beneath its coarse, superficial surface.  In the end, that’s what the book is really about, rather than revolution or politics or the love that holds it together.  I suppose that’s what I was trying to understand when I began writing it.

Stuart Archer Cohen lives in Juneau, Alaska, with his wife and two sons.  He owns Invisible World, an international company importing wool, silk, alpaca and cashmere from Asia and South America.  His previous two novels, Invisible World and 17 Stone Angels, have been translated into ten languages.  His extensive travels in Latin America proved part of the research and background for The Army of the Republic.
And here's even a video of the author himself, talking about this book, which is high among my TBR pile! You can find more about Stuart and his other thought-provoking books at http://stuartarchercohen.com/.




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GIVEAWAY

The Prize

A copy of this book will go to one lucky reader.

To Enter
  • Just say why you want to read this book, simple!
  • You must include your email address at the end of your comment, so you can be notified should you be chosen as a winner. Use the format abc AT xyz DOT com, to avoid spammers
  • Readers who've won here in the last 3 months are welcome to leave a comment, but are otherwise not eligible.
For Extra Entries

Please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do.

Deadline   Midnight CST of Feb 12, 2010.

Eligibility  US & Can only.

Please read the Disclaimer. Good luck!
Note - This book was received for review/feature consideration.
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42 comments :

  1. Please count me in.

    simplystacieblog at gmail dot com

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  2. Email subscriber

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  3. Facebook friend- Stacie Gareau Vaughan

    simplystacieblog at gmail dot com

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  4. Interesting plot for this. I really enjoyed the book, "The Unicorporated Man", with its future where every aspect of life has been taken over by corporations. And the classic Rollerball, with its corporate influence over life. This sounds like an interesting new take on the "genre".

    winelover19 at gmail dot com

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  5. I'd like this book. Thanks for the giveaway.

    s.mickelson at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  6. I would like it if my class could study this novel along aside American Libre (fiction) and Blackwater (non-fiction) and explore the role of the government and explore possible ramifications of "The War on Terror".
    enyl(at)inbox(dot)com

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  7. E-mail subscriber.
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  10. RT http://twitter.com/maynekitty/status/7749062308
    follow u on twitter
    subscribe on google reader

    I live in the south so any book with title Army of the Republic interests me.

    Just kidding. Love this type of book. I remember reading IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE by Sinclair Lewis when I was younger....gets u to thinking.


    maynekitty [at] live [dot] com

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  11. i would love to read this thanks minsthins at optonline dot net

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  12. It is really a very nice book that I read and it teaches Happiness means feeling HAPPY NOW, Thinking only of things that make me feel Happy.
    R4i卡

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  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  14. I would love to read this book because I have always been interested in history and it's wars. After learning about the Corrupt Bargain in my AP U.S. History class, I have been interesting in corrupt governments. I think everyone has a different view of what a corrupt government is like and I would love to read Stuart Archer Cohen's view of a corrupt government.

    Email: anfisa93 at gmail dot com

    Thanks for the giveaway!

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  15. Thank you so much for hosting this giveaway. sharonaquilino at hotmail dot com

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  16. My favorite class in college was a course in utopia/dystopia, and this sounds like it'd be a great read.

    lauragiveaways AT gmail DOT com
    (email also available in profile)

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  17. I subscribe to your email updates.

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  18. I follow you on Twitter and tweeted:
    http://twitter.com/couponlover16/status/8045513943

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  19. Revolution has been on my mind also, are we heading towards another American Revolution? Would love to read this one.
    copperllama at yahoo dot com

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  26. 1/22 tweet:
    http://twitter.com/couponlover16/status/8069242838

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  27. probably more possible than people think - our country is only a little over 200 years old. sounds interesting

    misaacmom at gmail dot com

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  28. subscribe via email

    misaacmom at gmail dot com

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  29. 1/27 tweet:
    http://twitter.com/couponlover16/status/8286108245

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  30. 1/28 tweet:
    http://twitter.com/couponlover16/status/8326503521

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  31. greedy politicians and their corporate cronies-sounds interesting!

    tiramisu392 (at) yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  32. i love books about greedy politicians.
    ppoverboard(at)aol(dot)com

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  33. I just think it sounds like the author really did his research and it would be an interesting read!
    Thanks for the chance!
    mannasweeps (at))) gmaildotcom

    ReplyDelete
  34. I am a Subscriber.
    librarypat AT comcast DOT net

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  35. It seems you have hit on several concerns that many of us share. This should be an interesting read.

    librarypat AT comcast DOT net

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  36. I think this is a very timely book considering some of the things that are happening right now. I would love to read this as the book seems to share similar concerns.

    sweepyhead at gmail dot com

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  37. This looks gripping! Thanks for the giveaway.

    s.mickelson at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  38. I love to read deep thinking books such as this one! Please enter my name in your draw. Thanks.
    wandanamgreb(at)gmail(dot)com

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  39. I just became a follower of your blog.
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  40. I want to read this book
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