Independent Press Award Winner 2018 for Debut Fiction!
“A deftly crafted and inherently engaging read from cover to cover, Wild World is an extraordinary and impressively entertaining read from beginning to end …” —Midwest Book Review
“(Wild World) is so very pertinent to our time that reading it brings into sharp focus those flaws in our present political condition: change is not only possible, but inevitable.” —San Francisco Review of Books
"Wild World is a crime novel, a love story and a mystery all rolled into one… well written and keeps your attention." —Peace Corps Journal
“An intricate and captivating read throughout…. with the kind of narrative twists that prove wholly addictive…Wild World proves an extraordinarily powerful debut from Peter Rush.” —Book Viral
Peter S. Rush brings the ‘70s to vivid life in his stunning and timely debut novel.
Set against the backdrop of the protest era of the early 1970s, Wild World is a gripping novel about one tenacious young man whose fervor for social justice holds unexpected consequences for his own life.
In the spring of 1970, Steve Logan, like thousands of other college students across America, takes to the streets to protest authority and the Vietnam War. Fueled by a strong sense of moral justice, he wants to make the world better—a belief his girlfriend Roxy, a medical student, passionately shares. Weeks before his graduation, Steve’s life is upended when National Guard troops kill four students at Kent State University. Then, he meets a reform-minded cop who convinces Steve that to change the system, he has to get involved.
Eager to make a difference, Steve decides to give up law school and join the city’s police department. While the rookie cop with an Ivy League degree knows that change is difficult, the reality of fighting the establishment soon overwhelms him. His education makes him an outsider, and his honesty makes him a threat to the corrupt cops who use the power of their badge to inflict brutality and extort. His college friends think he’s a traitor to the cause and even Roxy, the woman he loves, has begun to pull away.
But Steve isn’t going to give up. Devising a dangerous plan to radically shake up the system, he begins to collect the evidence to take the corrupt cops down . . . unless they take him out first.
|Publisher:||Prior Manor Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.65(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
FOUR DEAD IN OHIO
When Steve Logan stepped into the sunlight that Monday, he began to make small decisions that would change his life. He felt a very different vibe on the Brown University campus. The mellow spring weekend had turned to an eerie chill. Students were pouring out of classrooms, not in their normal sleepy stroll but in panic and confusion. The action passed in slow-motion chaos as a knot grew in Steve's stomach. What didn't he know?
He grabbed a thin, intense kid with black glasses who looked like he was on the path to Faunce House, the student union. "What's going on?"
"They're killing kids on campus." The boy's acned face was a mixture of fear and incomprehension. He stood perfectly still, looking at the ground.
"What? Where? Here?"
"Kent someplace — shooting protesters. It's on the news."
Steve released the boy, who ran toward the student center without looking back. Killing kids on campus ... anti-war demonstrations had been growing since Nixon had invaded Cambodia but. ... It had to be a mistake. As Logan sprinted toward his apartment, his long brown hair trailing like a pennant, he thought how Nixon had increased the venom about college protesters. But shooting kids on campus? He stretched his legs, glad for the power he'd built through lacrosse, as the trees flew by — it was one more block. He had to get home to Roxy.
He dug deeper into his training for more speed. This was fucked up. It couldn't be true. It had to be something else — an assassination or madman with a gun.
Taking two steps at a time up, he flew to the third floor of the wooden New England floor-through. Roxy Fisher, wearing a white peasant blouse, was sitting in the maroon salvaged chair in the living room under a full-wall mural, whose screaming, clashing colors reflected the turmoil Steve felt. Her lips were drawn tightly, and small tears were running from her eyes. Steve bent and kissed her on the cheek, wiping her tears with his shirt.
His roommates, Cal Metcalf IV, a thin, over-achieving Boston prep-school kid, and Andy Powers, with his blond afro, were sitting on the sagging couch. They were watching Walter Cronkite on a small black-and-white tv on the table next to three empty Narragansett bottles. Steve inhaled deeply to catch his breath as he listened.
Today at Kent State University in Ohio, four students were killed and nine wounded when students attacked the National Guard troops as they were trying to prevent the students from taking over administration buildings. The National Guard said they were in fear of their lives by the mob.
"Shit. Shit! Kids are attacking armed troops? We had a half a million at Woodstock last summer and no violence," Cal said, his face lined with sweat.
"A million march on Washington to end this fucking war. No violence. A bunch of kids at nowhere U, and the National Guard in full battle gear shoots them down. This is fucked up," Andy yelled at the television in his Long Island accent.
Roxy rose. "I can't believe I'm watching this. She buried herself in Steve's chest. "Is this the start of the revolution?"
Steve quietly stroked her head, trying to comprehend the scene on the television. He watched the Vietnam War — body counts — death on TV every night — it was destroying the country. His father's generation — the World War II veterans — didn't understand why his generation hated this war.
Steve tried to explain to his father that there wasn't a Pearl Harbor — the Vietnamese didn't attack. There were no front lines, no war objectives, just drafting kids as cannon fodder to fight little men in black pajamas. Nixon just expanded the endless war, dividing the country more than ever. And now body counts had come to the college campus. He felt the country had, without warning, begun devouring its young. College students like Steve and his roommates, students who should be making the world a better place.
He felt sick, like when the box on the schoolroom wall had announced President Kennedy was dead. These were just kids, like them, protesting just like them, not thinking of the consequences. Murdered by American troops?
Roxy turned and stared at the tv, small tears still seeping from her eyes. She was so vulnerable. Steve wanted to protect her because she had recently lost her father and sister, and her relationship with her mother was badly frayed. She leaned back against him and he surrounded her shoulders with his arms. He could smell the baby shampoo in her hair. Could he leave her for law school? He felt her quiver in his arms, and he pulled her tighter.
"Roxy, you're from Ohio. Is that some radical hotbed?" Cal looked over his glasses at her.
"Baloney with mustard on rye is radical. Why not Berkeley or Columbia?" She turned her head to Steve, and he could feel her rising sadness. He wanted to go back to yesterday, to Spring Weekend with Judy Collins singing on the green and Roxy's head in his lap. It was all so peaceful. How had the country come to this? The Vietnam War was wrong, and protesting was now punishable by death.
"Shut up," Cal snapped. "Let's hear the rest."
The students were unarmed, and observers said they posed no direct threat to the Guardsmen. It is reported that two of the dead were students on their way to class, who were not part of any demonstration. Two male and two female students were killed. Over sixty rounds of ammunition were fired at the unarmed students. Officials are questioning why the Guardsmen were issued live ammunition and who gave the order to fire.
The students were protesting President Nixon's speech on April 30th, announcing the invasion of Cambodia by U.S. forces, further widening the war in Southeast Asia. Governor James Rhodes justified the shooting, calling the protesters, "un-American, bent on destroying higher education in Ohio."
The television replayed tear gas and troops with fixed bayonets marching across the campus as students scattered in every direction. Steve imagined Cal fleeing in fear as the bullets cracked and Andy gasping for air as the tear gas cut off his oxygen. And he was pulling Roxy to safety while she wanted to confront the troops. It happened at Kent State to kids just like them. It could have been in Providence or any other college town. The country would not be the same — it couldn't go back. But where was forward?
Andy paced in a circle, his mustache flexing as he tightened his jaw and his blond afro seeming to grow. Finally, he pulled up and spat out, "They trained a generation of killers of women and children in Vietnam. Now it's come home. Maybe they will napalm this place and put us all out of our misery." The longest hairs of his handlebar mustache quivered as he spoke.
Students around the nation are calling for strikes on campus in solidarity with the students killed at Kent State.
Andy stood with his thick arm raised and shouted at the television, "That's right! We've got to shut it down!"
Cal jumped to his feet, fist raised.
"I'm so afraid. What's going to happen next?" Roxy's body tensed. Steve felt cold at the anger in the room. Was all he had been taught about America wrong? These were executions like in some Third World dictatorship. He always believed in the heroes, the good guys with white hats. Too many Westerns and war movies? No, he knew his history, and this was bullshit — just plain wrong. Was this the beginning of the revolution? Kids against kids — young against the old? But what would he do? He stroked Roxy's shoulder. Her moist eyes were set with determination, and he moved a strand of her dark hair from her face to behind her ear. Who were they? He had thought of politics in the abstract, like most people. But this time, it was very real to him and her. They weren't going to be spectators as the country went up in flames.
"We can't just watch this on TV," Roxy said. "Are you going to stay with me?"
Her green eyes danced under her raised eyebrows. He squeezed her hand. "Yes."
Cal and Andy were chanting at the tube, "Shut it down! Shut it down! Shut it down!"
Roxy pulled Steve's arms to her chest. These deaths had changed the stakes. He wasn't afraid but confused. Yesterday, life had been perfect. He wanted to take her away to live in a cabin in the woods or on some commune. But that wasn't going to happen. He wasn't going to run; he had to live up to his expectations. Life had seemed sorted out, with graduation only weeks away and law school. Now she wanted him to stay. So he was without a plan or a defined goal, questioning everything he thought he knew.
What was today about? Assassinations, riots, Black Panthers, peace marches, and Woodstock. Graduation at the end of the month had been the goal, but now he didn't know what would come next.
"Yes," he said trying to imagine some heroic gesture. "We can do anything."
Roxy smiled her liquid warmth, and he pulled her tightly to his chest, not wanting to ever let her go. What he was watching was wrong, he knew that, but what could he do to make it right? They turned and joined the chant. "Shut it down! Shut it down!"
What would he, could he do?
WHAT ABOUT ME
It was night, and the campus green, peaceful with dozing students one week before, was vibrating with excitement and emotions as Steve, Roxy, and their friends entered through the arch. Some students were standing with candles in more of a religious vigil. Professors huddled in a conclave by Manning Hall, an imitation Greek temple. Steve knew many had marched against the war in the fall. He guessed others felt violated now that the government had dared to introduce violence into their secure, sacred campus world. Signs read Stop the war and Hell no. We won't go. Many banners simply bore the word Peace, and the Peace symbol waved above the crowd. Steve and Roxy chanted with the other young men and women, "Stop the war! Shut it down! Stop the war! Shut it down!"
There was a raised podium overlooking the green. Professor Whitney, in his usual wrinkled khaki pants and plaid sport coat with leather elbow patches, jumped up on the stand and began tapping a bullhorn. Steve had met Whit in October, when he and Roxy had hitchhiked to Washington for an anti-war demonstration. It hadn't been an intimate first date.
Whitney shouted into the microphone, his voice raising an octave. "The faculty protests the undeclared war in Indochina and the shooting of students at Kent State University and has voted to suspend the remainder of the normal academic year." The crowd cheered. "Strike activities will include continuing workshops, discussion groups, peaceful demonstrations, mass meetings with important speakers, and educational efforts beyond the immediate university community. The strike is being directed by a twenty-one-member Steering Committee of students, graduate students, and faculty members.
"The administration has agreed to these demands, and finals and the remainder of the school year have been cancelled."
The crowd cheered and chanted, "Hell no! We won't go! On strike! Shut it down! Hell no! We won't go. On strike! Shut it down!" He held up his hands.
"There will be a march Thursday morning at ten a.m. downtown to the state capitol building to exercise our rights as American citizens for peaceful assembly. We ask all of you to tell your friends to join us. Other schools in town — Rhode Island School of Design, Providence College, Roger Williams — as well as some schools from Massachusetts will be in town to demonstrate our revulsion with the Nixon administration, this immoral war, and the police-state mentality. We will be peaceful, but we will be heard."
The crowd cheered, but Roxy was coiled tightly as she moved forward in the crowd. Steve moved with her feeling her, anger in him yet reluctant to give it voice.
"Peaceful? Peaceful my ass," she shouted. "They shot those kids for nothing. Murdered them in cold blood! Four kids dead at Kent State. The troops are occupying twenty-one campuses across the country. Bayonets at the library — pigs on campus."
Whitney continued, "This is a mass movement. Already, over four hundred colleges and universities are on strike. And it's spreading to high schools. Our march will coincide with those around the country. We'll need marshals, and we will have to follow a designated route. We'll gather on the green at nine a.m." He started making his way off the podium.
Roxy pushed forward and grabbed the bullhorn from him. Steve watched her transform; her eyes seemed to glow in the night as she looked out over the crowd. Her beautiful face was taut and determined. Her sweet voice was now hard, commanding attention.
"The march may be peaceful, but don't forget, they were peaceful at Kent State, and students like you and me were murdered in cold blood." The crowd cheered. "We are facing murderers who kill women and children every day in Vietnam and now Cambodia." The crowd cheered louder. "You can't trust them." Her face turned a shade darker. The crowd's cheers grew louder. Steve was filled with pride as a hint of fear crept across him. She had moved in with him in January; what else did he not know about her? But he felt her rage and chanted louder.
"We have to be brave and willing to die for our cause. They can't kill all of us." She raised her clenched fist in the Black Power salute. Steve saluted her back as their eyes met and the crowd cheered wildly.
"On strike! Shut it down! On strike! Shut it down! Hell no! We won't go! Hell no! We won't go!"
Coach Jackson stood in the locker room after practice in the converted poorhouse, the lacrosse team, in shorts and t-shirts, sitting on benches. He was a successful coach who had brought the program from nowhere to its current status as one of the best in the country. But he hadn't brought it all the way yet. He paced as he spoke, the little nervous twitch of his shoulder betraying his emotion. Steve had been flattered when he was first recruited; he was just a blue-collar kid from Long Island. Coach had always been tough on Steve, never really connecting with him on a personal level.
Steve looked around the solemn locker room at teammates who had struggled since February to get here. Andy seemed deep in thought. Bill Draper, a kid from Long Island who shared the same love of Jones Beach as Steve, sat pulling on his dark mutton chops as if counting the pros and cons.
"Men, you have worked hard to get here. I know the school has canceled the remainder of the year, but you owe it to yourselves to play this game. You are undefeated in the Ivy League." He looked around the room, knowing that a few voices would influence the rest. "Th is is for the Ivy League championship. Th is is what you have worked for since February. You seniors, you will never get another chance like this in your lives. You owe it to yourselves," Coach finished. Steve could tell that he wanted to continue like Vince Lombardi. Coach always complained that his athletes were more likely to discuss the existential nature of man or Nietzsche than listen to him.
"Coach, we'll have a team meeting," Steve said, fixing his long hair into a ponytail with a rubber band. A week ago, there was no decision to be made. Now Steve had to lead the discussion that wasn't about winning or losing.
Coach nodded. "This opportunity will not come around again." He pulled Steve to the side. "You and Andy are captains. Make sure they do the right thing," he ordered. "The war isn't going to end tomorrow, and canceling this game isn't going to change anything," he said in a conspiratorial tone. It was a voice he had never used with Steve, who knew the question wasn't about the strike or protests but about Coach's reputation — not showing up for a championship game.
Locking eyes, Coach put on his earnest recruiting face. "I have faith in you."
"We'll make the right decision." Steve knew no one at school cared if the team won or lost. This was a personal decision by the players and about the sacrifices they had already made.
"Good," he said and put on his plaid fedora. He was careful not to slam the door as he exited.
Steve nodded to Andy and looked around the room at his teammates. Bill was pulling on his droopy mustache. "Gentlemen, this is our decision. For some of you, the decision will be difficult. It is for me. What's happening in the world is now part of our world, whether we like it or not."
"What's the point of it? It's just a game." A sophomore from Baltimore was the first to speak. "We're talking about people dying. Being killed — on campuses, in Vietnam — and we think a silly game is important. We closed the campus for a reason. And all activities, including this game, should be canceled as well."
Excerpted from "Wild World"
Copyright © 2017 Peter S. Rush.
Excerpted by permission of Prior Manor Press.
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