I started reading Killing Floor by Lee Child the other day and was confused at the beginning by criticism of the president. Part of this was because I had recently read Michael Connelly’s latest couple books and he didn’t criticize some unnamed and possibly fictional president. He criticized Donald Trump. So my thought process was a little muddled trying to reason if this book published in 1997 was criticizing Bill Clinton for something extremely esoteric or if it was criticizing a fictional president.
After around 300 or so more pages of reading I got my answer. It was all part of the plot. I just reached the big reveal that connects what seems like random internal monologue with the overarching plot of the novel and I was like damn. I have been thinking about that since I started reading the novel. I wrote it off as being of its time and something that a reader in 2021 wasn’t going to be able to understand as we are now too far from the events being mentioned, but the events being mentioned are part of the novel’s plot and that was a beautiful thing to watch come together.
That doesn’t always happen with reading. A lot of books are more of a mess than one would think a book should be. There are plots and themes brought up and dropped unceremoniously. I have finished a great number of books and thought but what about this or what about that, but here before me was a beautiful oh there it is moment. Everything came full circle and suddenly made sense.
If you want to know how much I was stewing on this criticism of an unnamed president I called my father to ask if he remembered Bill Clinton cutting funding to a Coast Guard operation in 1996 and making it part of his campaign strategy. I mentioned that this unnamed president didn’t sound a lot like Bill Clinton as he was balancing the budget through cutting government spending where as Bill Clinton was more of a tax and spend type of guy.
This is also why I say novels can teach us just as much about history as anything else. Here I am reading a book that is very late 90’s and Googling and researching an era I lived through along the way, because even with that big reveal Killing Floor is very late 90’s. There is also the racist town mayor of a small Georgia town who is stuck in the past. His age is given as 75 which means he was born in 1921 which also means that he was well into adulthood when segregation was ended and we are talking about the Deep South so he was likely well well into his adulthood and political career. For him to be stuck in the past it isn’t that far past.