The International Thriller Writers has nominated Andrew’s YA thriller If We Survive for its best young adult novel of 2013. The novel follows teenager Will Peterson and some friends as they journey to Central America on a mission of mercy only to be caught behind enemy lines during a violent Communist revolution. The award ceremony will be in New York City on July 13 at ITW’s annual ThrillerFest.
I will be traveling part of this week and through Easter. I hope you have wonderful holidays. For those looking for something to read, I’m reprinting part of my Christmas essay below, “Our Culture and Christ.”
All art — all storytelling, picture-making, music — is an attempt to record and communicate the experience of being human. There are no words for this experience. Only metaphor and imagery and music will do. All peoples leave these traces of themselves. It’s their way of saying not just “We were here,” but “We were here — and this is what it was like.”
The special significance of western art — its special urgency — derives from the fact that westerners have a unique belief that the experience of being human, while by definition subjective, is nonetheless a reflection of an objective truth: moral truth. We believe that a human life can embody the ideas of God.
We believe this because our minds, our outlook, our culture were all formed under the pervasive influence of Christianity — the pervasive influence of Jesus Christ.
The oldest extant fragment of the canonical New Testament we have is a parchment the size of a cell phone that bears portions of the confrontation between Jesus and Pontius Pilate. During that confrontation, the Jewish preacher tells the Roman procurator that he has come to testify to the Truth and that all who are of the Truth will hear his voice. To this, Pilate responds — derisively, one imagines — “What is Truth?” Jesus doesn’t answer him here, but he has already given his answer earlier in the same gospel: “I am.” “I am the way, the truth and the life.”
This statement is the fruition of Jewish thought at the very end of the first great cycle of Jewish civilization. The God of the Jews had spoken his name to Moses: I AM THAT I AM. Which is to say that the very fact of being — existence itself — is a person. That person created man in his image. And so, in theory at least, a man might live into that image, might express the personality of his creator and become the immortal moral truth of existence in the flesh. This is who Christ is.
Europe was molded by belief in him. Christianity transformed both the customs of the continent’s German tribes and the classical modes of thought and expression they ultimately inherited. So in Christendom, art’s age-old mission of expressing human experience became also something else, something more: an attempt to paint the human shadow of the great I AM.
Or… not. As the gospel suggests, the outlook of Pilate inevitably remains embodied in the western project. It is part of the story. There is the voice that says, “I am the truth” — the Christly voice that says our conscience matters, that we reflect the godhead, that just as there is a starry sky above, there is a moral law within. But there is also the Pilate voice saying, “What is truth?” implying that subjective human experience is forever open to question, that there can be no ultimate morality, that everything we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.
The history of western culture from Hamlet to The Sopranos is the history of minds in the toils of that Christ-Pilate dynamic. Whether it’s Nietzsche standing in for Pilate or it’s Woody Allen, whether it’s Dostoevsky batting for Christ or it’s Tolkien, the question is the same. Is there an ultimate moral reality that guides human life or is it as Hamlet said, and “there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so”?
Hamlet spoke those words when he was pretending to be insane. Many of today’s atheist intellectuals reiterate them while pretending to be sane. The Pilate-like moral relativism and multi-culturalism these academics espouse are aspects of a self-contradictory pose. They declare that nothing is true but that nothing is true, that nothing is real but that nothing is real. The position, as Shakespeare knew, is not only crazy, it’s make-believe crazy, because no one actually believes it.
But while the post-modernist position is absurd and untenable, it’s correct in its premise: you can’t make the argument for moral truth without God. If our conscience matters, it can only be because existence is a person and we are made in that person’s image. It can only be because our lives naturally strive toward Christ.
This underlying knowledge — this inescapable sense of Christ’s reality, toward which we move even through our constant questioning and doubt — is what makes the stories and music and paintings of the west so uniquely great and beautiful and profound.
Book Three in Andrew’s popular Homelanders series of thrillers for young adults has now been published in Germany. The book, published in the U.S. as “The Truth of the Matter,” was translated by Birgit Herbst and released by Thienemann publishers as “Todliche Wahrheit,” which means the deadly truth. The four book series follows the adventures of Charlie West, who goes to sleep in his own bed one night and wakes up strapped to a chair being tortured by terrorists. The books have been published in the U.K., Israel, Italy and elsewhere and have been optioned by Summit Entertainment for film.
My pal and colleague Mark Tapson, who writes on the culture for Acculturated.com among other places, provided an exceptionally kind introduction to my speech at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s Wednesday Morning Club this past week. Someone was video taping the speech, I noticed, so if it’s posted somewhere eventually, I’ll link to it. Meanwhile, a version of Mark’s introduction was published at FrontPageMag.com, including some kindly praise for my latest novel A Killer in the Wind:
To refer to his books by the limiting labels “thrillers” or “crime novels” doesn’t do them justice. Yes, Klavan writes page-turners that do indeed thrill, with flawed, tough-guy heroes, real-world bad guys, a dark sensibility and a surprisingly comic touch. But his books are also of unusually (for this genre) high literary quality and packed with grander themes and big ideas. [Full disclosure: Drew Klavan is a friend of mine, so don’t take my word for it; pick up any of his novels for yourself and try to resist being hooked along for the ride.]
Try, for example, Klavan’s latest thriller, A Killer in the Wind, a ridiculously fast-paced, noir-ish psychological suspense thriller about Dan Champion, a small-town detective who chases down small-time lowlifes while half-heartedly romancing a waitress at the local bar – until one day, his nightmarish past returns to haunt him. A few years earlier, working vice for the NYPD, Champion had uncovered a sex slavery ring run by a faceless – literally – kingpin known as the Fat Woman. Obsessed with taking her down, he infiltrated that perverse world and broke the case, but in the process played judge, jury, and executioner, costing him his job. Not only that, but the obsession left him drug-addicted and stalked by hallucinations of a dead child and a beautiful woman he can never have.
Now, just when he’s finally putting those old demons behind him, the disgraced ex-cop is called one night to examine the body of a woman who washes ashore. It’s the same woman from the fevered dreams of his withdrawal from drug addiction – the woman that captured his heart but who, he had come to accept, didn’t actually exist.
The mystery deepens and darkens when Champion becomes the target of a trained torturer and vengeful killer who wants to make sure he never uncovers the truth about Champion’s dream lover and the dead child. There’s no way out for Champion except to confront the killer, the Fat Woman, and his demons. In this novel as in his others, Klavan isn’t afraid to carry you into dark depths, but the ride is always gripping and entertaining.
Read the whole thing here.