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A Time to Stand
By Jerry Clinton Oliver
Morris Publishing
PB, 152 pgs. US$8
ISBN: 978-1-60702-279-4

Out of small things

By Steven Martinovich
web posted September 7, 2009

A Time to StandBig government types in the White House may be no godsend for the American people but they seem to do wonders for self-published, anti-government novels industry. Events like Waco and Ruby Ridge and Bill Clinton's political agenda – real and imagined – spawned countless of novels fantasizing either a successful new War for Independence or Alamo-like stands. Though we're still only months into the era of Barack Obama, it would appear that we're on the brink of yet another explosion of these novels.

Since it was published during the final year of the Bush administration and features a corrupt Republican president, Jerry Clinton Oliver's entertaining A Time to Stand technically isn't part of the next wave of novels but the themes are the same. Featuring the mayor of a small Oklahoma town also named, perhaps only coincidently, Jerry Oliver, the novel tells the story of a federal government in a bureaucratic war of control with its own citizens. With the small town of Temple the government may have bitten off more than it could chew. Set in a near future where the nation's unemployment rate is skyrocketing, the economy is collapsing and it is fighting three foreign wars, this is an America on the edge of chaos.

Oliver, the writer and the novel's mayor, has had an interesting career. Both became mayor of Temple, Oklahoma after a lengthy career working in the nation's military and intelligence apparatus. Oliver's fictional counterpart one day receives a visit from an EPA bureaucrat who tells him in no uncertain terms that the small town's water treatment plant will need to be replaced at a cost of millions – something that Temple doesn't have thanks to job losses and a shrinking population. After an earlier slight from the EPA and state and federal politicians who do nothing to help the town, the residents consider an extreme response to the situation: succession.

Naturally this provokes a response from a federal government desperate to keep control of the nation's citizenry. One advisor to the president sees the secessionist movement as the perfect antidote to his boss's low approval ratings and attempts to spin the Temple story into one of domestic terrorism. Another is sympathetic to the concerns of small towns and does what he can to diffuse the situation though events seem to be racing out of anyone's control. Temple becomes a football for the police, military and intelligence communities to battle each other for supremacy in federal pecking order.

Of course, Mayor Oliver goes into proverbial battle with friends of his own including his assistant Londa, an intrepid reporter named Scott, local police and political officials, and militia members from across the country. The residents of the town are tired of federal intrusion into local matters, ones which cost the community badly needed jobs, and an attitude reminiscent of George III prior to the American Revolution. As events move to their natural conclusion, Oliver – previously a figure of some mystery to the town's residents – becomes their trusted leader.

Outside of the usual grammatical and spelling tics which are present in self-published efforts, A Time to Stand could be problematic for readers on two grounds. The first is pacing; weighing in at a slim 152 pages, the novel essentially takes place over a period of a few weeks and moves through events extraordinarily quickly – though one could argue that era-changing explosions like those in the novel usually do cause dominos to fall quickly. The second issue could be a little more challenging and it is the question of plausibility. It is difficult to believe for example, particularly given the polarized nature of American politics, a near universal support of Americans for Temple's actions let alone sympathetic treatment from the nation's media. Given some of the events of the novel, those are some of the more realistic things contained in Oliver's efforts.

Yet A Time to Stand does succeed as a work of escapist literature and thought exercise. After all, how many Americans really thought their nation was in a real war with Britain after the battle at Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts, on April 19, 1775? It's also clear that Oliver's decades of service with the federal government informs his work, balancing out the more fanciful aspects of the novel. While it's unlikely that we'll be experiencing a second American revolution, even with Obama in office, Oliver's effort and the increased sales of these types of novels does signal a growing dissatisfaction with the power and scope of the federal government. It's doubtless that too many readers of A Time to Stand wouldn't mind Oliver picking up his pen and continuing on the story of his fictional counterpart's adventure to its ultimate conclusion. ESR

Steven Martinovich is the editor-in-chief of Enter Stage Right.

Buy A Time to Stand at the author's web site.


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