A revolution is waged against a totalitarian government in this novel of a dystopian near-future America from a #1 New York Times–bestselling author.
In the heart of Philadelphia, insurgent Andrew Durant has been nursing a festering rage. And he’s not alone. Through underground networks, he’s found himself among a secret thousands, building an army called the Minute Men. They’re readying themselves for war to reclaim what was once America.
In the nation now known as the Democracy, independent thought is a thing of the past. The Constitution is waste paper. A conscienceless president has been appointed by the military—for life. The government has co-opted farmland crops. Citizens are divided between two classes: wealthy corporations and the destitute. Areas of the country devastated by war or natural disaster remain unchecked. On behalf of national security, neighbors are instructed to spy on one another. Exposing those who are undemocratic is law. And all dissenters are eliminated.
Durant, the chosen agent for the poverty-stricken rural Democracy, finds himself increasingly isolated and afraid. Mobilizing revolutionaries has become a dangerous tactic; the Minute Men have their own traitors, infiltrators assigned to undo everything Durant and his men are fighting to conquer. Now, the rebels have only their beliefs left to trust.
A stunning dystopian vision in the tradition of George Orwell’s 1984 and Ayn Rand’s Anthem, The Devil’s Advocate is author Taylor Caldwell’s “tour de force” (Kirkus Reviews). More than a half-century after its original publication, this “courageous book” is timelier than ever (Chicago Sunday Tribune).
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Taylor Caldwell including rare images from the author’s estate.
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The Devil's Advocate
By Taylor Caldwell
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1952 Taylor Caldwell
All rights reserved.
There was no sound of traffic in the room, the prisoner's exhausted mind told him. The Guards who held him let him stand a moment on the threshold, so that the brilliant lights that shattered into his bloodied eyes could further daze him. But he had no thoughts left at all, except one grim one: they can kill me, and it's all they can do. It was a thought firm and unbroken in spite of two hours of torture, that remained far back in his consciousness. The only other thought that came to him consciously was that because there was no sound of traffic from Forty-second Street outside this great and blazing room must be underground.
Then this thought, this vague and semi-conscious one, went away as he looked about him. The Guards held him roughly. His right arm had been smashed by a club; it wasn't hurting much as yet though he knew the pain would soon come. Blood was clotted on his cheek and forehead; one of his eyes had swollen shut. His legs had been beaten, and he sagged on them. He could hear his own breath, ragged and loud, in the silence of this terrible room, from which no one had ever returned alive.
Andrew Durant's head rang from the blows he had just recently received. One of his ears was deafened, and he felt a trickle of blood running down his neck. The fingers of his left hand had been cunningly burned; the agony in them was worse than the original fire. But, as he looked about the room, feeling the horrible nausea in the pit of his stomach, he was not afraid. They could do little more to him in their efforts to force him to betray his friends. He would just keep on fainting until he died, and that would be the end.
The immense room was furnished lavishly in the manner of a prince's office, like, thought Andrew Durant, Mussolini's office far back in the nineteen-thirties when that monstrous dictator had ruled Italy. His old grandfather had told him. Joseph Durant had actually seen that room after the tyrant had been murdered. He had described it to Andrew. It must have looked like this — rich carpets on the floor, magnificent paintings on the walls, glittering chandeliers dripping prisms and blades of light from the high ceiling, soft red leather couches arranged comfortably behind that enormous mahogany desk, red and green leather chairs, deep and inviting, scattered about, vases of fresh flowers on big tables, several bookcases filled with fine leather-backed books, and a white marble fireplace in which a low fire burned to keep out the damp of the spring night. Tyrants, thought Andrew Durant grimly, always arrange things for their comfort. They love ease and pleasure, the smell of fires and flowers and leather, while they urge austerity, devotion and sacrifice upon their multitudes of victims.
The room came clearer and clearer into focus. Now Andrew saw the big Guards at the door, murderous Neanderthal men in dark-green uniforms decorated with red loops of braid at the shoulders: the Picked Guards, the èlite police of The Democracy, the special and pampered pets of The Democracy. Their organization had been founded by the Chief Magistrate of Section 7, Arthur Carlson, and it was under his entire control, not affiliated with the Military, superior to the Military, and contemptuous of the Military, and accountable to no one but the Magistrate. Not even the dread Federal Bureau of Home Security was so feared by the people as the Picked Guards, who were all chosen for their intelligence, their ruthlessness, and their ability to act in a crisis on their own initiative. Carefully recruited, they were given a two years' course at Government expense in order to cultivate their natural gifts of wit and cunning and intellect. Andrew looked at the Guards in this room and hated them with fresh strength. The Picked Guards, the many tens of thousands of them, were the denial to the sentiment that men of mind would eventually save America.
Then Durant no longer looked at the Guards. He saw that the room had several occupants. One was his friend, James Christian, bloody and broken as he was bloody and broken. James was sitting on the edge of a chair, his white shirt torn and red, his face almost a pulp. But James was not sagging. He was looking fixedly at the man who sat behind the desk in his dark-green uniform of the Guards. Now Durant looked at him also, and though he knew who this man was he had never seen him before. He had seen his photograph in secret, furtive places, by the spurt of a match, the glow of a flashlight, the burning of a dim lamp. This was Arthur Carlson, the Chief Magistrate of Section 7, a man whose death was endlessly plotted, a man who would one day, perhaps, die by a bullet fired by a Minute Man.
Arthur Carlson was a tall thin man in his middle fifties, aristocratic, quiet, soft-spoken and invariably courteous even to those he tortured, prosecuted or arrested. His family had been a wealthy New York one, until the third, or perhaps the fourth, World War. He had once been an editor of the New York Tribune and Gazette, and he had, from the first, written very brilliant essays deriding the Constitution of the United States as an "anachronistic document, unsuited to modern times." He had taken the Articles one by one and had disposed of them by irony, by contempt, by suave invective, by devastating derision. He had upheld The Democracy with fanaticism and fire, as opposed to the outmoded "ideal" of democratic government. Within four years he had been called to Washington and appointed Assistant Secretary of State. After the assassination, under very mysterious auspices, of the old and confused Secretary, Mr. Albert Cunningham, Arthur Carlson had been made Secretary in his stead. He had held this position for five years, and then the President, who was no longer elected by the people but elected by a captive Senate for life, had sent him to New York as the Chief Magistrate, with absolute power over the lives of fifteen million people.
He had returned to a New York which was ominously restive and muttering, with demented gangs murdering each other on the streets, with assassinations of minor officials proceeding by night and day, with crowds of maddened women screaming in the subways, with hordes surging up and down the island, armed and desperate, applying fire to public buildings and then melting away like ghosts. He had returned to New York just as one of the larger docks had been blown up, and the thunder of it had reached his ears. The city, riotous and uncontrollable, was not the place for a weak or nervous man. Arthur Carlson was neither. Within two months he had restored complete order. Except for the faceless Minute Men whom he had been empowered to destroy, the Minute Men who were springing up all over the nation, armed, swift, terrible, and without mercy, New York had been subjugated.
So, thought Durant, swaying a little in the grip of his Guards, this was Arthur Carlson, this calm and serious gentleman sitting behind his desk in his perfectly tailored dark-green uniform with the red shoulder stripes. If he was a frightful man, it was not evident. He had a long and thoughtful face, like a scholar's, with slender and well-cut features. His eyes, a deep and piercing blue, were almost gentle. His mouth, broad and thin, was stern but contemplative. He had thin blond-gray hair, so fine and so neat that it appeared painted on his skull. He had the hands of a scholar, tapering and white. He was smoking a cigaret in a gold holder, but he sat upright like a soldier, his broad flat shoulders erect and unbending. Near him sat two men in uniform, but Durant dismissed them after one glance. They were not important. Only Arthur Carlson, whom the Minute Men were sworn to assassinate, was important. The others were only officers in the Army of The Democracy, professional soldiers both stupid and nameless. Arthur Carlson changed these, these generals and these lackeys, every two months, and sent them off to conduct what was now confusedly only called the War, and replaced them with other generals. For there was always a War. There was always an Enemy, somewhere in the world, which must be crushed. That was the fixed pattern of the times.
So intent was Andrew Durant upon Arthur Carlson that he forgot even his friend, James Christian, for it had been evident, after the first glance, that Christian had not been broken. If he had, he would not have been here in this room.
The Chief Magistrate spoke, and his voice was grave and even gracious: "Andrew Durant?"
The Guards thrust Andrew farther into the room and flung him into a chair near James Christian. Andrew hardly was aware of him, so fascinated was he by this frightful man who, among all the frightful men who had enslaved America, was surely the worst. Here he was, and he, Andrew, who had taken the oath to kill him when and if he could, was unarmed, torn by torture and fire, probably doomed to die within a very few minutes.
A Guard slapped him viciously across the face. "Answer His Honor, the Chief Magistrate!" he shouted.
Andrew felt James Christian turn to him convulsively, but he did not glance at him. He just stared savagely at Arthur Carlson and did not answer.
The Magistrate shrugged, and smiled slightly. "Never mind," he said. He took up a paper on his gleaming desk, and read aloud, musingly: "Andrew Durant, Attorney. Address: 340 East Fifty-seventh Street. Educated at the American State University in Washington. Admitted to the bar. Age: thirty. Member of the Soldiers of America, in good standing. Superior intelligence. Wife, Maria, and two children, aged four and five. Recommended by the Capitol Authority as a faithful reliable citizen. Record clean of all disloyalty. Mother died resisting arrest. Father, Joseph, wanted for incitement to riot and revolution. Family of Catholic origin. No education in religion, as forbidden by The Democracy. Under the auspices of the Soldiers of America, is prospering very well, and has been recommended for a judgeship."
The Magistrate put down the paper and smiled again. "An excellent record. Only one mar: a report that Andrew Durant belongs to the Minute Men, a dangerous, subversive, traitorous organization which has sworn to overthrow the majesty of The Democracy."
He looked at Durant. "Well?" he asked gently. "I understand that you have not denied this, when presented with the facts this morning. This report states that you were not surprised when you, and nine others of your revolutionary and criminal organization, were arrested last night."
Andrew tried to speak. But he had received a blow in the mouth which had removed three of his teeth, only an hour ago, and his mouth was filled with blood. He coughed, and a dark fluid ran from his mouth. Then he could speak. "I deny nothing," he said. He turned to James Christian with bitter apprehension, but Christian gave him a smile from his broken lips. Andrew sighed, straightened a little in his chair.
"But eight of the others talked quite freely," said the Magistrate, almost with reproach. "Only you, and this other criminal, have refused to reveal the names of your other friends. The Guards are out searching for many of them now, and will doubtless find them."
"No," said Andrew. "We have a system of warnings. You won't find them."
The Guard beside him lifted his fist, but the Magistrate said, with fine disgust: "No. You'll only knock him insensible, and we wish him to remain conscious. For, Durant, you will talk. It is only a matter of time. We have your wife and children in custody."
From the very beginning Andrew had known this would happen some day. He had been warned, and had been given his opportunity to withdraw from the Minute Men. He had consulted his wife, his beloved, black-haired Maria, and she had upbraided him for his hesitation. "You have been trained for this all your life, Andy, and you dare not betray your country and your God, not even for me or the children." Yes, he had known. During the torture he had thought of his little boys and his wife, and he had prayed that his friends might take them and hide them. But the murderers had been quicker than his friends. Andrew's black eyes flickered; he bent his head and a few matted and bloody strands of his dark hair fell over his forehead. He clenched his left fist. His right was numb, but threads of pure anguish were creeping up his arm. Andrew, his head hanging, prayed for Maria and the boys, and if it was with despair it was not with weakening. What were their lives, and his, if America could be saved eventually? If he spoke, now, he might rescue them from horrible death, but America would be the lesser for his betrayal.
He turned his head and looked at James Christian, who also had a wife and three children. They had not been able to make Christian speak. Christian's eyes were shining at his friend with resolution and a mute appeal for courage.
Andrew lifted his head and spoke hoarsely: "It doesn't matter. Kill them, if you want to. Kill me, too. But I'll never speak, and you know it."
The Magistrate's face darkened, but he said nothing. Instead, he watched Andrew. He saw the hatred in the younger man's eyes, and the strength. He began to tap the table thoughtfully. At last he sighed.
"Very stupid of you, Durant. You have intelligence and fortitude. You could be a valuable member of our organization, rich, and with considerable power. I admire men like you. Devoted and loyal, even if loyal to a traitorous rabble of ignorant criminals and revolutionaries. Perhaps, during your schooling at the expense of The Democracy, you were corrupted by some teacher of subversive inclinations, who turned you from your country and indoctrinated you with lies. We are prepared to deal very lightly with you, and your friend, Christian, here, if you'll both only come to your senses and understand what you have done to your country, and how you have betrayed her. A period of some discipline, perhaps, in a State prison, where you'll be reeducated and confirmed in devotion and loyalty to America. And then, who knows? a time of trial, and then whatever you wish."
Quiet and peace and comparative safety with Maria and the boys. A post of distinction, somewhere, where he'd be as merciful, and as careful, as possible. A house in the country. Maria hated the city. Perhaps even a vineyard, and some cows and flowers and the laughter of his children. Andrew became rigid. The laughter of his children! What children laughed these days, anywhere in America? His children would never laugh, so long as The Democracy was in power. It was for their laughter that he was prepared to die, their future laughter when America would be free. If, in his dying, they died also, it was not too terrible. They would all meet again, somewhere, somehow, out of the reach of The Democracy. And, if they did not, and there was no God, as The Democracy asserted, better endless darkness and endless sleep than no laughter, and only fear and hatred and despair.
"No," said Andrew Durant. His voice was stronger now. "I don't want my children to live under The Democracy. I prefer them to die." He added, with profound bitterness: "They ought not to have been born. But I hoped that when they were still young, all of you, all you murderers and torturers and liars and tyrants, would have been killed. If the time hasn't come yet, then I, my wife and children, prefer to die when you order it, than to live."
Again the Magistrate regarded him with a long silence. Then he stood up, and the Guards came to attention, and the bloated-faced generals, who rose with him. He went to the windows, and imperatively motioned Andrew and Christian to come forward. Andrew tried to stand up, but his legs refused to help him. The Guards dragged him to his feet, and wrenched Christian up from his chair.
The Magistrate pulled aside the rich blue draperies, and the Guards thrust Durant and Christian to the big windows. There was a small courtyard outside, lit by the moon and blinding floodlights. Eight men, sagging, half-conscious, had been bound to stakes, eight men who had spoken under torture, eight men who were Minute Men, and Andrew's friends. Twelve feet from them stood eight Guards in khaki, with upraised guns. An officer stood near by. The room was not underground at all, but soundproof.
Andrew looked once, and then turned to Christian, and received again that strong smile of courage. Then Andrew turned to the window again. The officer raised his hand, the guns roared, and the men roped to the stakes died. Clouds of smoke spiralled up to the very windows. Andrew sickened, but his swollen lips came together tightly. He prayed for the souls of those who had been weak. He felt no anger against them. It was just that some men had a threshold beyond which fortitude could not rise, no matter what their resolution. Every man had his price, and it was not necessarily money or bribes or offers of mercy. Sometimes too much sensitiveness, too much tiredness, too much hopelessness, made them betray. The hideousness of living, itself, could break a man's spirit where even torture could not. The curtains dropped with a silken heaviness and shut out the sight of the courtyard.
Excerpted from The Devil's Advocate by Taylor Caldwell. Copyright © 1952 Taylor Caldwell. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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