In Search of One-Word Themes

The first novel in the Ambrose Lincoln trilogy.
The first novel in the Ambrose Lincoln trilogy.

MY PARTNER STEPHEN WOODFIN asked an intriguing question in a recent blog. He wanted to know if we writers can boil the theme of each of our novels down to a single word.

I had never tried.

I thought I would.

***

The Book: Secrets of the Dead

The Story:  Ambrose Lincoln is one of the government’s prized operatives, a trained assassin, a man whose past is continually erased by mind control tactic and shock treatments.
His days have no meaning. He no longer fears death. As far as he is concerned, a man without a memory is a man who’s already dead.

From Germany come rumors of a mad man threatening to rule Europe and maybe the world. On the Night of Broken Glass, his browns shirts and storm troopers move into Baden-Baden and begin their methodical termination of the Jews.

In America, so far away, the violence is nothing more than a protest over a Jewish boy who murdered a German diplomat because the Third Reich had removed and maybe killed his family. It was simply a case of vandalism that got out of hand. No one is concerned, and the American government wants to keep it that way. No one in Washington wants to go to war with Hitler, and President Roosevelt continues to preach neutrality.

But word is leaked that one Jewish photographer took pictures of the rampage of brutality and murder that night. He was killed, but his daughter is in hiding with the film. Ambrose Lincoln is dispatched to Baden-Baden with one charge. He defies the German occupation to find the film and bring it back. It will tell the truth. It will uncover the lies. The photographs will reveal to the world the sadistic threat that exists for everyone if Hitler’s mad march isn’t stopped. His mission is to uncover the deadly secrets that his own government doesn’t want him to find, secrets that can change history.

THE ONE WORD THEME: DEFIANCE

***

The Book: Conspiracy of Lies

The Story: It was the race for the bomb. America was at war a long way from home. Hitler’s war machine was storming across Europe. Russia feared the German threat and secretly wanted to become a world power, more feared than it already was. All three nations knew that whoever split the atom and developed the Atomic Bomb first would rule the world.

A stealth operation within the U. S. Government dispatched their man with no memory to Los Alamos where physicists, chemists, and scholars were frantically trying to build the bomb. Ambrose Lincoln was himself a human experiment, a man whose mind had been erased by electronic shock treatments because the rogue operation believed he could be more effective if he wasn’t shackled by fears and memories of the past. It would be his duty to uncover and silence those who were stealing America’s most vital secrets and selling them to Russia and Germany.

If he fails the United States might well lose the war, and Lincoln finds himself embedded in a conspiracy of lies where nothing is as it seems to be.

ONE WORD THEME: DOOMED

***

The Book: Deadline News

The Story: During the early days of the 1930s, a publisher and his young daughter become the conscience of a little town whose peace and serenity have been shattered by a brutal murder.  Everyone’s a suspect. But no one has a motive. The publisher only wants to turn out his weekly newspaper on time but discovers himself digging deep through the secret layers of the town to find love he thought had abandoned him forever and a killer that no jury would ever convict.

Deadline News tears open old wounds and creates new ones as the town is forced to face the misfortune of its past while praying its last prayer for a better tomorrow.

ONE WORD THEME: SUSPICION

***

The Book: Wicked Little Lies

The Story:  Wicked Little Lies is a chilling, fearful tale of a small town that has smoldered too long in the fires of jealousy and selfish greed, then is finally blown apart by lies, gossip and violent death. The story cuts deep into the anger and anguish that boils deep inside the congregation of a Presbyterian Church, as the pastor battles back against gossip – or maybe the truths – of those who are committed to having him removed from the pulpit at any cost. All are caught in a crossfire of vengeance that is fought behind closed doors with sex, bribery, blackmail, and murder.

The preacher is a god. He’s the devil himself. Gossip convicts him. Gossip anoints him. But can the preacher stand strong enough to survive the impact of one wicked little lie that will condemn his soul?

Friends are forever wedged apart by the turmoil. Generations of conflict erupt with violence. And a maddening horror grips the lives of innocents who become as demonic as the Satan they curse with their nightly prayers.

ONE WORD THEME: VENGEANCE

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