Deep as the Marrow is about a lot of things. Obviously, on the surface, it’s about the fallout from the President’s plan to legalize drugs. This is the type of proposal that offends the entire political spectrum—right, left, middle…everyone. Well, almost everyone. The right calls him Satan, the left calls him genocidal, certain government agencies see their appropriations shriveling, and the drug lords see their $300+ billion a year in profits evaporating. They all agree: Somebody’s got to do something about this guy.
But that’s what Alfred Hitchcock called “the maguffin.” At its heart, Deep as the Marrow is about bonding…about the damn near insoluble bond that can form between an adult and child—maybe it’s a parent, maybe it’s a stranger, but there’s something in the genetic structure of many of us that reaches out to a helpless little one and draws him or her close, and God help anyone who tries to hurt that little one. That’s what happens in Marrow…someone who’s not supposed to care bonds like Krazy Glue with a kidnapped child, and a nasty international plot starts to unravel.
But let’s get back to that maguffin.
When it comes to priorities in writing, a good story is first on my list. I will sacrifice style and ego and just about everything else to put across my story in the most effective possible way. But…I also like to use a story to explore my passions. One of my passions is individual sovereignty. I believe everyone owns his or her own life, therefore everyone owns his or her own body. Follow that premise to its logical conclusion, and you must say that therefore no one—not one someone, not a billion someones—has a right to tell you what you must or must not put into your body.
But still…drugs suck…drugs are poison. I got stomach cramps thinking about writing a novel that advocated legalizing poison. So I did what I do with all my novels: I researched the subject. And you know what I found? We as a nation spend sixty billion [not million—billion (that’s nine zeroes after the sixty)]—dollars a year trying to keep our fellow Americans (land of the free and all that) from getting high. And what’s the result? You can buy pot. Heroin, coke, PCP, whatever you want in every city and town across the nation.
How many years of failure does it take before we admit that this tactic isn’t working? It’s like trying to rid your house of cockroaches by crawling around the kitchen floor with a brick, mashing every one you see. Not only are you making a mess of your floor, but the cockroaches are multiplying like mad behind the floorboards. When a tactic—a very expensive tactic—fails year after year after year, isn’t it time somebody said, “You know, maybe this isn’t the right approach. Maybe we should try something different.”
That’s mainly what President Winston says. We’ve got 300,000 of our fellow Americans jailed for the “crime” of polluting their own bloodstream. Some are in for life for growing marijuana—I kid you not: life—while the average murderer and rapist is out in seven years. Think about that.
Think about what we could do with a fraction of that 60 billion dollars to educate people against drugs. The message should be: Don’t avoid them because they’re illegal, avoid them because they wreck the pleasure centers of your brain. That message has difficulty overcoming the rebellious appeal of an illegal substance. But rob drugs of their outlaw glamor, make them legally available like liquor or tobacco, and you can make real progress against drugs. Dig:
In 1965, 42% of Americans smoked; by 2006 the rate was down to 20.8%. That’s largely due to education. Hammer home the damage drugs do to the neurotransmitter systems of the brain, to the cells that allow us to experience pleasure; show that after a while the only pleasure you’re able to feel is from drugs, and larger and larger doses of them. Food, wine, love, sex…eventually they all take a back seat to the drug high. And new studies show that the brain never really comes all the way back. Even years after you’ve cleaned up, life just isn’t the same.
Sorry to run on like that. The subject is one of my hot buttons. In a nutshell, I think the best way to beat drugs is to make them legal.
Rest assured, Deep as the Marrow is not a polemic. It’s not about legalizing drugs. It’s a thriller about a father’s quest to find his kidnapped daughter and the help that rises from a most unlikely source. One of the lead characters, Poppy, has generated an amount of email second only to Repairman Jack. Plus the novel earned one of the best one-line blurbs ever from the Associated Press:
“Truly inspired in conception and perfect in execution.”
It’s a very cool book, if I do say so myself. I loved writing it and it remains one of my favorites—because along the way I fell in love with Poppy. I think you will too.
Still available in print, I believe. The ebook in all formats can be found here.