I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone a number of times in the more than two dozen novels that I wrote, a scene here, a chapter there. But with my award-winning thriller, Freedom’s Hand, I authored the entire book from a location far away from my comfort zone. All of my other stories were ones that I wanted to write. Freedom’s Hand was a story I had to write, and as Yoda might say, “Easy to write it was not.”

Some of the scenes in Freedom’s Hand were even farther than far away from my comfort zone, with the one that I present below perhaps the farthest. But first, some background. The story takes place about fifty years after the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. A violent white supremacist group, led by a man known only as the Commander, has erected an Auschwitz-style concentration camp in the desert of the American southwest, where his minions have imprisoned all minorities in order to torture and kill them. In flashbacks, beginning with his childhood, we experience what made him like he is. As a “young man” named Martin he attends a neo-Nazi rally in suburban Chicago to hear a speech from the group’s leader, Robert Earle Wesley. This is reminiscent of the rally led by neo-Nazi George Lincoln Rockwell in Skokie, IL, a town with many Holocaust survivors, in the late ’70s. Here is the latter part of that scene.


Auschwitz gate: “Work sets you free.”

Wesley never minced words. His speeches—those that were allowed to last beyond five minutes—eventually disintegrated into rambling, mindless diatribes. But there was no prelude, no warm-up to what he wanted people to hear.

“Consider the Jew,” he began, his voice steady. “Money-changing money-grubbing money-lending money-making money-stealing money-manipulating. Money money money! You can hardly think of anything else when you think of the Jew. They did it way back then, before the time of the only Son of God—which they still maintain is a big white lie, except at Christmastime when they sell you all the gifts you put under the tree for mommy and little Suzie and the postman. They do it now, controlling, wheeling and dealing—corporations, silent partnerships, holding companies. I’m talking about everything that is big dollars. Mortgage money for the house you can’t afford to buy; the money you can’t borrow for the small business you always dreamed of; the school money their kids go to college on while yours can’t. Forget the worldwide conspiracy! Everyone knows that. We’re Americans, talking about America. So what’s the problem? I said it before: consider the Jew.”

“You son-of-a-bitch!” an elderly man shouted. “They let him talk like this here!”

“It’s the same thing the last mishoogana used to say!” another added. “In parks and on street corners and in beer halls, they let the last mishoogana say the same things!”

“Hey Wesley, fuck you!” younger hecklers cried.

American Nazi leader George Lincoln Rockwell.

His voice rising unperturbed above the others, Wesley continued: “Why is it that someone so good at taking all your money can be so ignorant and cowardly? I said ignorant and cowardly! Proof? Consider this: you are one of a hundred people taken out to a field by ten men with guns. They tell you to take off your clothes and line you up by a ditch. There are bodies in the ditch—people who have been shot. They’re going to blow you away! So what do you do, since you’re already a dead man? You turn and fight! Ten to one, that’s your advantage. So they kill forty, or fifty, of you before you kill them. So what? You fought back, you lived, and they think twice about doing it again!

“But what did the Jew do? Did he think they put him on a train to tour the countryside? Did he think the ditch was to defecate in? Did he really believe he was going to take a shower? Did he think the smoke was from a barbecue? If he thought any of this, then he could only be ignorant. But if he stood by the ditch and looked at the bodies and knew he was a dead man but did nothing except watch his knees shake, then he is a coward. He is a race of cowards!”

“You want to see cowards, Wesley, you come down here!” a young JDL member cried. “We’ll show you about Jewish cowards!”

“Never again, you Nazi bastard!” a girl with him shouted. “Never again!”

More fights broke out. JDL people pushed past police but were driven back by snapping dogs. An old woman with numbers on her arm fainted and was carried off.

A protest at the Skokie rally.

The young man listened intently now. No longer concerned with the people around him, he worked his way closer to the bandstand. Johnny Garrett, backing away from a fight that had broken out next to him, just now noticed what his friend was doing. “Martin!” he called. “Hey Martin, where the hell are you going?” But the throng separated them.

His followers stared coldly at the fist-waving gallery as Wesley, his façade of calm breaking down, went on: “George Lincoln Rockwell had the most sensible plan. After he ran for president and became president, he was going to gas all the Jews in this country and send all the nee-groes in boats back to Africa. It was a good plan, but not enough! To just send the nee-groes back, after what they did to this country? A slap on the wrist, bed without dinner, nothing more!

“At the high end of crimes against our country and against decency, there is the Jew. At the bottom end, squirming in the primordial slime that first spat out his ape ancestors—his, not ours—is the nee-gro. This is the pimp, the thing who prostitutes your daughter and other innocents; the pusher who sells them the poison in the schools and playgrounds; the junkie who robs and murders for the next fix. The welfare state exists solely for the nee-gro. Your tax dollars, the money you can barely afford, pay to feed and clothe and rehabilitate the nee-gro in the penitentiary, which are full of him, so he can come out a couple of years later and do the same thing to your wife and daughter that he did to the last person’s!”

The crowd raged around the bandstand. Wesley ducked a bottle thrown by a black youth. More fights erupted. The police, being pushed closer to the dogs, considered calling this carnival a threat to public safety and shutting it down.

Holocaust victims.

The flow, and his own efforts, carried the young man to within ten yards of the bandstand. He saw only Wesley now, heard only his words, and nothing of the engulfing clamor. Everything, everything the man had said made sense to him.

For the first time in his life, he had been moved.

“Statistics prove that the low, rudimentary intelligence of the nee-gro is a hereditary thing . . .” Wesley went on.

“I’ll break your head, motherfucker!” a black man shouted. “You wanna try me?”

“There it is!” Wesley announced triumphantly. “Immediate proof. The beating of the chest, the fist-waving from the trees, the Tarzan cry. Motherfucker. His war cry; the root of his spoken language. Motherfucker!”

Uncontrollable frenzy; a brown-shirt, separated from his peers, was dragged to the ground under fists and feet. A dog bloodied the arm of a young woman then in turn was impaled on the end of a picket sign turned weapon. The brown-shirts clambered onto the tenuous sanctuary of the bandstand, tightening around their leader, who went on screaming into the microphone.

A branded survivor.

“You want to send your children to the school in the neighborhood where you choose to live. You work hard for the privilege! Then they tell you to bus your children to the schools where the nee-groes live! So maybe some of the good white intelligence will rub off on the nee-gro child. But can you teach a maggot to read the alphabet or count to fifty? So what happens? Your child learns nothing there, because they have nee-groes teaching nee-groes, or because your child is fighting every day to stay alive in this den of would-be junkies and prostitutes!”

The young man never thought words could be expressed so well. His vapid, confusing life suddenly had meaning. Answers to long-held questions became clear. His body trembled from the revelation; he continued pushing closer to the godhead.

Sirens wailed from somewhere. Police, threatened, began clubbing people on both sides. A burly captain climbed onto the bandstand and grabbed the microphone from Wesley.

“All right, you people back away!” he bellowed. “This thing is over. We have tear gas and will use it if forced to. Everybody go home!” He lowered the microphone and glared at Wesley. “You! Take your Gestapo assholes and get the hell out of here! You son-of-a-bitch! That’s enough trouble for one day.”

Wesley’s smile was biting. “You’re violating our right to freedom of speech,” he said in a deliberate quavering voice.

The fever of violence had spread to them all. “I’ll violate the side of your fucking head,” the policeman warned, “if you don’t move. Now! I’ll give you protection to your vehicles, that’s all. Any more shit, I just might let them tear you apart!”

They had stopped the words, but the young man still heard them and would continue to hear them. He saw them rush Wesley off, in a different direction. He would not reach the man; not today. But he would find him. He had to find him.

Because now, for the first time, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life.

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