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Change is Possible - an Editorial Review of "Wild World"

Book Blurb:

Beverly Hills Book Awards Winner 2018 for Social/Political Change and Northeast Regional Fiction!

Independent Press Award Winner 2018 for New Fiction (Debut)!

“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

Set against the backdrop of the protest era of the 1970s, an idealistic Brown University grad postpones law school to be near his girlfriend and takes a job in Providence as a police officer - but when he discovers corruption in the department, his determination to overturn the system holds unexpected consequences for his own life.

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Author Bio:

Peter S. Rush is a graduate of Brown University and University of Florida. He has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, Peace Corps volunteer and police officer. He is current CEO of a global management firm. He is the author of the award winning debut novel "Wild World."

Editorial Review:

In the course of what appears to have been a rich and varied career Peter S. Rush has been many things, and these include his time as a student at Browns College, a stint as a volunteer in the Peace Corps, time spent as a Journalist and a period of time as a serving Police Officer. All of these life experiences he has clearly brought to bear on his debut novel - 'Wild World' , a 'coming of age' morality tale which incorporates a wide variety of themes. There is young love, the shattering of innocence and the appearance of a more worldly cynicism replacing the idealistic 'ivory tower' naivety of adolescence. There is crime and corruption in places both low and high and an ongoing investigation mystery and a crime drama. On one level, 'Wild World' is a disturbing blend of 'Love Story' and 'Serpico' [indeed, 'Wild World' would make a good film!], but there is much more than this that is present in this atmospheric tale that is packed in every chapter with cultural references, portraying an extremely troubled decade in recent American history. Even the chapter headings themselves are the titles of well known songs of the time. Readers of a certain age will find the book full of memories and associations. Rush uses as a springboard for 'Wild World' the events of May 4th 1970 on the campus of Kent State University, when National Guardsmen shot dead four University students, an event which sent collective seismic waves of shock through American Society as a whole.

In her book 'Kent State', the writer Deborah Wiles writes: ''When the State silences freedom of assembly and freedom to dissent, it silences the people it is sworn to protect.'' The eminent writer and poet Richard Brautigan noted in equally sombre but more poetically expressed vein that: ''I read 'The Chronicle' this morning as if I were stepping into voluntary quicksand and watched the news go over my shoes with forty four more days of Spring.'' - With Vietnam ''the country is devouring its young'' and here is yet another example! The protagonist of ''Wild World'', Steve Logan, is one of thousands to be directly affected by the events on the Campus of Kent State on May 4th 1970. In the Spring of that year young Steve, a Long Islander, must have been fairly typical of the student body in the United States of America at large. He clearly shares the same common hatred of the War in Vietnam [and the ways and means of avoiding the draft], the same liberal ideologies, the same shared taste in music and an enjoyment derived from smoking pot. He is also, and most importantly, hopelessly and head over heels in love with a highly idealistic girl called Roxy Fisher, studying to be a doctor, a fellow inmate in what many would consider to be an 'ivory tower' and divorced and protected from the reality and harshness of the world. The momentous news of Kent State comes to Steve, to Roxy, to many of their friends, as a call to arms; one that has called him away from his intention to study at Law School and a search for a new purpose in life, to be useful and a force for good in these troubled and unjust times; to find meaning. He is just a few weeks short of completing his time at College, now declared closed until the next academic year. A peaceful protest march is met with police aggression and President Nixon has extended the unpopular foreign war to include Cambodia. Steve's search for a purpose and a state of heightened radicalism leads him to a meeting held by a sergeant named Durk who is crusading for change and reform within the New York Police Department itself:

''You want to change how things are?'' Durk asks of his sceptical and occasionally hostile audience, ''You have to get involved. It's easy to talk about change, but to actually make the system change you have to get your hands dirty, take risks. You have to have skin in the game.'' Steve seeks him out after the meeting and Durk is quite clear in the words he selects. ''Before I was a pain in the ass they could ignore. Now I'm in their face. Sunlight is the best's not enough to 'turn on, tune in, and drop out'. You have to be in it.''

The man has put fire in Steve's belly, has given him a motive and resolve; and a target! He shelves his plans for Law School at Georgetown and enrolls for the Providence Police Academy: a smart ass college kid with a starting salary of ten thousand dollars a year. He will attempt to live in two worlds at the same time; the comfort of the hippie student lifestyle ''the Ivy League bubble' as he rather contemptuously terms it, [for Steve has a self righteous and often sanctimonious streak in him] of his girlfriend Roxy, who still has two years to complete before Medical School at Harvard, and the raw and dangerous life as a Cop on the force, where the Colonel and the Captain and most of the blue collar force are already institutionally biased against him and where he will fail to make friends and influence people. Increasingly - and this is very much one of the major themes of the book - he finds life on the fringes of two very different societies very difficult as he becomes increasingly alienated by both these very different groups until the situation becomes intolerable; a man without an effective anchor in his quest ''to bring some disinfectant'' to the Police Department. In December, Academy completed, Steve the smart ass rookie cop is assigned to actual police duties.

Increasingly, Steve encounters small and seemingly inconsequential examples of police harassment of the general public and equally small seeming corruption. Rizzo, a particularly unpleasant cop soon to make detective and who has taken a special dislike to Steve, is challenged by him over a blatant failure to pay for a meal. He has also been handed an envelope by the owner. Rizzo is typically sneering in his reply: '' Listen kid: You've got the uniform; you don't pay for things. They like having us around. And they know if they ain't our friend, then shit happens. Lots of things can go wrong with a business; parking tickets, trash, break-ins.......Let me give you a little advice, kid. You don't fit in here, don't do anything to stand out. Keep your head down and do your job.....keep your nose clean. That's it. With time, things blow over.''

This, of course, is not just advice, it is also a threat; and not just from Rizzo. The advice comes from the Department as a whole, united in their dislike of and distaste for Steve the smart ass College kid. Nonetheless, his eyes and ears increasingly attuned to malfeasance, Steve makes a note of each incident as it occurs, as they increasingly do as the weeks pass! His relationship with his beloved Roxy at home distinctly cools, her reaction to his stories of work either disgusting or tedious. The casual use of drugs and the way it is lying around the apartment worries him as the Captain is capable of arranging a raid to get at him through Roxy. The situation is not improved when his younger brother Tommy shows up from Florida and turns out to be a successful drug dealer! At work he is subjected to mundane tasks more and more that also, on occasion, place him in actual danger. Shortly after, Rizzo, now a detective, puts several hundred dollar bills in Steve's top pocket after a drugs bust as a reward for the part he played in the raid. Steve is considered to be the ideal choice as a resident cop at the Central School where violence, principally of a racial nature, is on the increase. Officially he is a substitute teacher, but everyone, staff and students alike, know him for what he is, a cop. In time he comes to quite enjoy his posting to the School and discerns talent and promise in many of the troubled students; a young black student named Norvell Thompson, for example, a leader of sorts. He will come to play a decisive role in Steve's ultimate rupture with the police. His relationship with Roxy and his previous friends continue to deteriorate, soured by the fact that they now see him as part of the Establishment, 'working for the man'. For his part he is increasingly irritated by the views and attitudes of Roxy and his old friends. ''they are living in this Ivy League bubble where parents pay the bill and the kids pretend to have all the answers.'' He is not a law enforcer, he tells Roxy. he is ''a garbage man, picking up the human garbage and keeping it away from this hill.'' Perhaps, says Roxy, it would be better for him to move out. His explanations and justifications for his new life and the changes in him that this has created seem to ring hollow when he tells her: ''There's shit I don't tell you. It's the ugly side of life. You read about it or hear news reports, but it's different up close, when you're dealing with it. I'm trying to do something better. I know I chase it, but what did I know?'' Shortly after, Captain Lynch, chief of his tormentors, sends him a message by raiding Roxy's apartment.

What did he know, indeed? The more time he spends with the force and on patrol, the more he witnesses, and notes, examples of graft and corruption at a grassroots level. But, inexorably, he is being led to even greater evidence of wrongs that stretch all the way to the top. His life takes a change as, perilously and at great danger to himself, he sets about collecting evidence and records this scrupulously; evidence of the illegal acquisition of property and real estate and of the collusion at the highest level of the local police and the College authorities, 'The College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations''. He even burgles the Dean's Office. He casts around for possible allies in making this information known. A sympathetic College Professor provides him with details of a suitable contact in the F.B.I. Amongst the police he can rely on absolutely no one, but perhaps a journalist and police reporter on 'The Providence Journal' named Larry Sutton might be of use. Such a story might even earn Sutton a Pulitzer Prize! Working with the Force deteriorates as his private and domestic life is also thrown into chaos. He is savagely attacked and beaten in the locker room after one shift by 'the Enforcers' [ he had been warned that this could happen!] and he is assigned solitary and dangerous night foot patrols in dangerous areas such as 'The Projects', knowing that no one will respond to calls for help on his radio. It is on one of these that he runs foul of a leading member of the Boston Mafia. His involvement in two further high profile incidents, one that leads him to be clearly visible on National Television and the other involving an actual death, leads him to the inescapable concxlusion that his course with the Force is spent. He collates his evidence [including the ten thousand dollars he has accrued in 'payments'] and calls in his contacts. Steve knows now that it is time to leave the force, to leave Roxy - at least for the moment. His life is held to be cheap and of little account, time to make himself scarce!

Steve Logan has freely elected to inhabit two separate planets in his quest to do good, assuming that he will always feel relaxed and at comfort in the one and creating good where good was needed in the other. Very quickly he is dismayed by the one and both disgusted and enraged with the Police Department, his balance and harmony is gone. This is what he now feels about the previous life he had once so happily enbraced:

''Looking around the room, he could hear students fervently arranging facts and solving the problems of the world while sitting in the safety of a College campus. Pontificating about equal justice as written by the great philosophers, their ideas were dreams, lofty dreams. Don't bother with the boring details or getting your hands dirty. He had protested the War, but now was trying to do something more. He was once part of this world - he had enjoyed it, believed in the completeness of it. But his world had moved on to deal with the unpleasant truths of the grown up world.''

A morality and coming of age tale indeed! But his other world, the world he had elected to join, was bleak, dark and grimy, its problems seemingly incurable. With 'Wild World' Rush tells a gripping and heartbreaking tale that effectively catches the 'zeitgeist' of a troubled and tumultous period. It is an impressive achievement and the author is to be congratulated.


“Wild World” by Peter S Rush receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company



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